Reflecting

I was reading an article where a child had been adopted to replace a child who had died.  The thought of that makes me cringe.
No person can replace another person.    And it is of utmost importance that we as parents don’t make decisions towards adoption if we are thinking a new child will replace somebody we lost.
As I continued to read, the little girl who was adopted asked her mother if she would have adopted her, had her other daughter not died.  The mother was offended by the question.

Our kids are going to ask us all kinds of questions, and we need to be prepared to answer them with respect and kindness.

Reading this caused me to reflect on something that happened in our own family a few years ago.
My daughter was newly home.  In her last adoptive family she had horses.  As I was rocking her, she looked at me sadly and said, “I would have rather had a horse.”

You know, I probably would have rather had a horse too, if at 11 years old I had just been through my third family,  only to lose my horse by being sent to yet another family!

I felt compassion for her.  I told her that I understood how she felt.
As parents, we can’t just fix grief in a nice little package of cliche’.
I could have said, “People are more important than animals” or “You are in your new forever family.”  Ummm. yea. That would have gone over like a lead balloon.

The one thing that we did not do, even though it was suggested to us, was to buy her a horse.
I wasn’t able to put into words why. But it just seemed like the wrong thing to do.
Today, as I read that article, the thought process became very clear.
We didn’t buy her a horse, because you can’t replace one horse with another, just like you cannot replace people with other people.

She suffered a loss. It was the loss of a friend; her horse.
To just give her another one would have been a cheap attempt to solve a problem that wasn’t about the horse.

Her problem had to do with not being able to stay in a family and identify with and attach to people!

So, we worked on relationship.  We worked hard and she did too.
And over time, she learned to trust us.

A year later, as I was rocking her, out of the blue she said, “Mama, I love you more than a horse!”
“Why thank you sweetie!”

Those words were precious to my heart.
They were more than just a nice thing to say. She meant what she said. She was saying that she was able to connect with people once again and not hide in  giving all her affections to animals.

That is a real victory.

Our children are going to ask questions and say things that might make us feel uncomfortable or even defensive.  We need to be very aware of WHY we might feel that way, and work past it.  They have every right to ask, the WHY questions.  And they deserve kind and loving answers that will help in the process of healing their hearts.

Support Group

Our support group is starting back up after a 2 month rest.
If you are interested, we meet in Wylie Texas on the 2nd Thursday of each month.
We will be having a discussion about adding an extra day in the month so we can meet twice a month.

Support groups can be vital lifelines of help and fellowship for adoptive families.

To check out the location, go to the Speaking and Support Group Page.

Understanding The Severely Neglected Child

Understanding The  Severely Neglected Child

All of our girls suffered terrible neglect, some longer than others, but two of them in particular developed survival skills that were entrenched in their little souls to the point that it seemed they were clutching those survival skills  with all their might, terrified for any changes to be made.  While they both wanted to have a mommy and daddy, sisters and brothers, it also terrified them.
A child who has been raised as a “street child”, is not going to come into a well meaning home and just “blend in” as one of the kids.  The concepts of normal family life will be so different to them, that even if they are from this country, it will seem like a completely foreign culture to them.
This is the child who has had no voice.  This is the child who wasn’t just unwanted or abused, this is the child who wasn’t noticed. It was as if they never were.

When this child begins to see that needs can be met by a mom and dad, they might really like it, and  pull away from it at the same time.  The pain of realizing what they have missed can be overwhelming for them.  Grief takes hold, and as parents we may need to hang on for a long and bumpy ride of anger, distress, grief, rage, and more, as our children settle in and allow themselves to trust.

Giving our children a voice, saying things to them like, “Tell me what you need. I want to provide for you what you need.”  Is so foreign to them.  If you stay steady, and keep at it, your child will learn to find an appropriate voice.

One of our daughters was a street child for a long time. Her youngest memories were of stealing food by going into other people’s homes.
I remember when she had been home about six months that we were eating at a Fast Food Restaurant.  In the back was  a huge dumpster.  She said, “I bet there is a lot of good food in there!”  “We used to get food that way sometimes.”

Some of our children come home with life experiences that we will have never had, and will never have in our lifetime.
We need to understand that the idea of trying to parent this type of child in a traditional way will cause harm and distress to all.
A street child takes care of number one; themselves. They do not suddenly become a son or daughter because they have been adopted.  All those street smarts come home with them along with a warped view of what parents are.
They will quickly find out that parents are not vending machines.  Parents are not money trees.  Families work together.  This may be a good thing, and they may want some of it, but they also may reject other parts of typical family life.

I remember one of our daugthers saying, “I have to do the dishes?” “What am I, some sort of slave?”
“No sweetie, you are no slave, you are a family member! Our guests to not do our dishes.  And by doing dishes, that shows you are not a guest, but a cherished family member!”
Put everything into a positive light, drawing your child to want to do what you are trying to teach him to do.

Teaching hygiene when a child is used to using leaves or only having one pair of underwear for a week and no toilet paper can be a real challenge for us sanitized overly clean Americans.   Our fascination with clean sheets, pajamas, toothbrushes and washed hair can be overwhelming for a new child; especially if they have survived on their own for a long time.

Be careful not to get frustrated with them.  Teach them through example and with the goal of relationship in all areas of family life.  They will learn, but they will learn better as you listen to them, understand them and then show them a better way.  They will see it as a better way, as they gain respect for you through relationship.  Think of things in long term blocks of time, then you won’t be frustrated when your child cannot wipe properly after being home a few months.

Do not throw a bunch of rules  and consequences at them.  You may wake to find them gone.  Always be willing to relax or firm up what you are doing.  Don’t be so lax that your children don’t grow. But don’t be so firm that they cannot achieve and then feel they can never please you.

Somebody once asked “I am bringing two teenagers home from Ukraine, does anybody have any advice to give for our first weeks home?”
I was shocked to see responses like,
“Don’t give them an inch or they’ll take a mile!”
“Lock everything up!”
“Show them who is boss from day one!”
“Lay down the Law!”
Not one response was to love them unconditionally or to be understanding and tender towards them, as they will be grieving the loss of all they have known.
There was no response like, “Prepare comfort foods for them so they can have something familiar” or “Have movies for them to watch in their language, so when they feel like they are going crazy hearing nothing but English, they can relax and hear their native tongue.”
Relationship builds on tender loving care.
A good way to start the relationship process all wrong, is to think, you can control and be the boss of the traumatized child.  They need tender guidance from us.  We need to reach their hearts so that they will want to follow.  We must give them reason to trust.

Do your best not to view your child’s worth by their outward behaviors.  Do not let your own fears cause you to have thoughts towards your child that will not build them up.
Work hard to guide them and encourage them.  Those first words of encouragement might bounce off of a very wounded heart, but as you continue to encourage, that little heart will start to receive those words and process them.
Soon, a little hand will slip into your hand, and you will have your child’s heart, for life.
They will be fragile for a long, long time. Handle with care.

So Many Things We Are Learning!

The last couple of weeks have been a time of learning and pain.  Our Sweetie 4, has been suffering through some turmoil.  There have been times these last two weeks where we have changed the scenery more than once a day!   Our last post placement report was completed, and she was thrilled about that.
However, she has been struggling in a new way about her history.

Grief, reprocesses as our children get older. They work  to understand things at a whole new level.  Now that Sweetie 4 is 14,
she is understanding  what happened to her in a deeper way.
That can cause a new turmoil within.  And it did.
Oh, how I wish we had been able to take her home much younger.
She didn’t come home until 11!

Along with new understanding , she is also processing that her sister is going to marry!  She is in the wedding, and will be seeing people from her past.  To say she is scared would be an understatement.
I think this will be a great experience for her.

During our conversations with her sister, we found out that Sweetie 4 never really understood Russian that well. She was fluent in Chuvash. That explains why all of our study in Russian this year was not that fruitful!
Chuvash is a dialect spoken in the Chuvashian region of Russia. Sweetie 4 was not educated in Russian until she went to the orphanage.

We had been talking about how she couldn’t remember anything in her old language, so I decided to look up Chuvash online.   I found on you tube, a video of the Gospel of Luke in Chuvash, and then found a similar program to Rosetta Stone in Chuvash!
It arrived yesterday and she was thrilled!
She was really excited to say that she remembered some of the numbers. 🙂

We are praying that she will continue to process her grief in a healthy way, and settle back into family life, knowing she is loved and cherished.
Today was great! She had a wonderful time with extended family and  had a wonderful water fight with her daddy. 🙂
water fight 2 water fight

Love our Sweetie!

A Compilation of Humor Over The Years

A compilation of our lives together.

Here are some things I have recorded over the last several years:

We were talking about some church issues with the girlies.

We attend a Reformed Church, so one thing I asked the girls:

“What does reformed mean?”

Kristina , as always, excited to answer: “It means like, everybody there has problems!” Like, we go to “Reform Church”….

So trying to keep a straight face I ask, “So what is your problem?”

Kristina  said, ” HELLO! Like I have a wooden leg!

 

Many of you know that Olga  is a double amputee and wears prosthetic legs:

This is what she said this a.m.

This a.m., Mike and I were talking about a decision we needed to make. Olga was listening in and then said, “I’d hate to be in your feet!”

I told the girlies on Friday I think it would be fun to introduce them to “Arachnophobia”…..

Stevie said, “Mommy, I don’t think Kristina  would like it….

“why not”?

She is afraid of  terrorists!

 

At first I didn’t get it…. then she says

Iraq, HELLO!

I took the girls out shopping to find some simple items we needed. It turned into one of those go to a million stores events.

When we got home, Olga  was hugging her daddy and said, “We are EXHAUSTED Daddy!”

His very correct reply was, “You should have let your fingers do the walking and then you wouldn’t be so tired!”

She drolly rolled her eyes and looked at me and said, “Really mother, how do you put up with such a man?”

TEACHING MATH TO Kristina,

Ok, so I’m teaching common denominators. She knows how it works, but can’t seem to understand why it works.

So I drew some pies on the board. 1/2 and 2/16.

I showed her the difference on the pies and then asked, “So would you rather have 1/2 (8/16) of a pie, or 2/16 of a pie?

She sheepishly said, “2/16?”

I asked her “why 2/16?”

She said, “Because I don’t really like pie!”

I guess she understands!

This a.m. I was cooking breakfast and talking to the kids, and talking to Mike all at the same time. Typical a.m. events.

Stevie  was on the computer establishing a name for LegoLand. I noticed she put the wrong birth year and corrected it.

She said, “Oh, man I’m so stupid”…. which I didn’t hear… so I didn’t respond.

About 2 minutes later she came over and said, “Oh mother! You are SUPPOSED to correct me!”

“Correct you for what?”

I said “I’m stupid”…..

“Well, you know you’re not!”

Yea, but you’re supposed to tell me that.

Ok, “you’re not stupid.”

Then I got a big hug.

This a.m. Stevie  had SUCCESS! We have had a chicken escape artist that was going to meet its doom if we couldn’t keep it fenced.

She came in doing a happy dance this A.M. singing:

“block the hole, keep in the chicken”

“block the hole keep the chicken in the fence”

“Block the hole keep in the chicken”

“Light a candle everything’s all right!”

(to the tune of shut de’ door keep out de devil)

an old song

We went to the zoo yesterday and checked out the Reptile Pavillion. There were some very active snakes, and some had been shedding skin.

This a.m. Kristina  came to me with a little skin peeling off her nose from our lake adventure on Sunday afternoon.

She said, “Mommy, if my nose is peeling, does that mean I’m growing?”

Today Kristina  started working on her knitting. After about 30 minutes she said, “I can’t wait till this grows up to be a blanket!”

Kristina  has this habit of pretending her fake leg is real, so if it gets bumped or I step on her toes on her fake leg, she says OUCH!

The other day, she said, “there’s a staple in my foot!” So I said, “well, pull it out”. She did and said, OWWWW THAT HURT! I looked down and the staple was in her real foot. oops.

Yesterday it stopped raining hard and Kristina  was dying to go outside. She looked out the window and said, “Its not raining hard mama, its just drippling!”

 

This a.m. I was snuggling with Stevie.

She said, “Mama, do you want to see me get my cereal in less than a minute without using my hands?”

I was up for the challenge, so I said, “Sure!”

She said, “Mama, get me some cereal QUICK!”

 

“If somebody strikes you, turn the other cheek!” This was part of our little talk this a.m. along with Love your Neighbor as yourself……

So I said, you would never want somebody to strike you, so you should never strike anybody else.

Kristina  said,”Oh, I thought turn the other cheek meant, if somebody hits you on the cheek you turn and hit their cheek right back!”

Studying The Bill of Rights:

We were getting ready to study the Bill of Rights. When we were going over them, the right to bear arms came up.

I asked the girlies: What does it mean, “You have the right to own, keep and bear arms?”

The answers:

You have the right to have babies with arms! (bear)

You have the right to keep your arms. Nobody can take them away.

If somebody cuts your arms off, you can own them by keeping them.

If your arms don’t have hair; it is ok, you can keep them.

Here are a few more rights:

The right to petition for grievances in Fair and Honest Judgement:

“To tell the judge what you think of him.”

It means you can go to the judge and they will be unjust.

The right to privacy in homes:

The condition of being out of the sight and hearing of all other people.

IT means that you want to be left alone.

The right to free speech and press:

You can say what you want to say

It means the right to speak free without getting pressed.

The right to freedom from arbitrary government regulation and control:

You can do whatever you want.

The right to bargain for goods and services in a free market:

To be able to get what you want at the store.

The right to trial by jury and innocent until proven guilty means:

You get together with them and tell them if you are guilty or not.

This was a really fun school day for mom.

 

We were studying Proverbs 2 last night and Daddy asked the girlies. “Why does the book of Proverbs refer to “wisdom” as “she”? Stevie  raised her hand and said, “Because Girls are wiser than boys!”

We were learning about the life cycle of the insect. The stages they go through to turn into a butterfly or moth, and we even went out and found a chrysalis to put in a jar and watch it turn into a butterfly.

So the girls are doing their comprehension questions. Kristina blurted out, “I can’t find anywhere in my book where it says insects go through menopause!”

 

Yesterday on the evening news there was a story on teen pregnancy.

Olga was sitting next to me and I left it on, and figured I’d see what she “gleaned”.

After the story was over, the news Anchor said, “We have NO IDEA why this is happening!”

Olga looked at me with a shocked look and said, “Does that man not know about sex?”

Stevie was cleaning out her fish tank today. I overheard her tell her fish rather matter of factly, “If you don’t swim into my hand right now, I’m going to have to ground you and take some of your pretty rocks away!”

I asked her, “Are you talking to your fish?”

Yes, mom, the net has a hole in it.

I threw my back out once again, so I asked the girls if they wanted to play Cinderella. They said yes! So I had them clean the floor with wash cloths and Murphy’s OIL soap. It didn’t take but 10 minutes.

After they were done, I said, “Thank you so much my sweet princesses!” Kristina
piped up and said, “I don’t want to be the kind of princess who scrubs floors, I want to be the kind that wears pretty dresses and doesn’t do any work!”

We have been studying ancient Egypt. Today we had a creative writing assignment where the girls had to pretend they at one time lived in ancient Egypt.

Stevie’s  started with:

I helped to bury King Tut… I put him in a Jakcyl jar. I put him in a Falcon jar. I put him in a Baboon Jar. etc………..

I was laughing so hard I couldn’t finish grading her paper.

Olga  was asking about having babies today. I told her when her brothers were born, the doctor held them up and said, “It’s a boy!” She said, “how do you know if a baby is a boy or a girl?”

Stevie  piped up from the other room and said, “girls have hair and boys are bald!”

The girlies were watching “The 10 Commandments”.

The intermission section showed up and Stevie  said, “Oh, that is so all the actors and actresses can go to the bathroom!” LOL

Yesterday we went to the hospital for checkups.

Kristina  has grown and we had to take her leg down stairs to add some height to her prosthetic leg. She has grown over an inch!

After she put it back on, the dr. asked, “How do you feel?” She said, “I feel like a grown up woman!

We had been talking about dogs and the different kinds there are.  The next day we were waiting in the car while daddy went in to get donuts.   I saw a man walking his dog and said, “Look, there is an Australian Shepherd!”  Olga  said, “Yes, and he has a dog too!”

We attended a wedding and the usher stuck his arm out. Stevie  took his arm and we walked behind.  When we sat down, Kristina  said, “Well, I will wait to take a man’s arm until I’m grown up!  I asked her, “and when will that be?”  She said, “I’ll wait until I’m 10!”

When Stevie first came home, Marcus gave her all his old stuffed animals to play with.  She of course, had to decide if they were girls or boys.  She would sniff each one and say, “This is a girl, this is a girl, this is a girl.”  She got to Marcus’s favorite Teddy Bear that he used to keep in his back pack for Scout Campouts….. She took one sniff of that bear and said, “This one is a boy!”

 

Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus was a carpenter. Olga said, “that means he made carpets” 🙂

 

Kristina said, “Wow, that man plays a really good God”. (speaking of Robert Powell) 🙂

 

Tonight I was making dinner for the family. It was time to serve, so I sent Stevie out with Daddy’s dinner and dinner for our employee.

She came back in and said, “Daddy is off running an errand.”

I said, “Oh dear. I wish he had told me he was going, I would have saved his dinner.”

In her finest accent she said, “Don’t we all wish that of our men!”

 

I couldn’t stop laughing last night when

Kristina came weeping…..

“I’m so mad at Olga!”

I said, “Why, what happened?”

She was sobbing….”She says she needs her PRIVACY!”

So I asked, “Where is she?”

“In the Bathroom!” boo-hoo!

Well, don’t you think it is normal to want privacy in the bathroom?

“She never wanted privacy before? Now she does, EVER SINCE SHE GOT BREASTS!”

“Now she doesn’t want me in the bathroom with her!”

“I wish sisters didn’t get breasts until they were 30 !!!!! “

I just love Kristina. 🙂

 

So fast forward to today:

Olga and I went out for our mother daughter date.

We got back from the store and I had my super secret stash of Boston baked beans. The girls saw them and had their hands out…..

 

I said “You don’t want these, they are BEANS!”

 

They still had their hands out and I said,

“Are you sure you want these? They are magic breast growing beans!” LOL

Kristina  said, “I’ll take 2!”

Stevie  said, “Give me the big ones!”

Hmmmm. 🙂

 

Today Stevie said, “Mom, I know how Kristina can get over her fear of dancing in public and how I can get over my fear of public speaking!

 

“How Stevie?”

 

Adopt 14 children! It would be public speaking just to ask for the bread to be passed! And Kristina  would be dancing in front of all those people!

The girlies are diagramming sentences.

The sentence was: Gorillas and Chimpanzees are apes.

Kristina  got it wrong, having “girlies as the subject”, so I re read the sentence to her.

Her reply:

“Oh, I thought it said, “Girlies ARE chimpanzees and apes.” LOL

 

Stevie  was 5 and her brother was tickling her. She couldn’t pronounce her r’s very well so she said, “Be Cafull, I bwuise like a gwape!”

 

Another time when Kristina had surgery she called the nurse button. A man answered and she said, “Who is this? I’m trying to call a girl nurse!

She didn’t want to tell the man she had to go to the bathroom.

 

We studied the reformation recently and watched a video on Martin Luther. I quizzed the girls a couple of days later… “who was Martin Luther?”

Kristina  said, “I know, I know!” He was a German, A German…… A GERMAN SHEPHERD! 🙂

Kristina  saw her old prosthetist that she had when she was 5. He was walking down the hall and stopped her and said, “Hey Kristina, do you remember me?

She studied his face and said, yes, I think I do, but you look different. He said, “it is probably my beard!” She said, “No, you are old now.”

 

Kristina was looking on the Calendar and noticed it is “Ash Wednesday”. She asked what it was. After the explanation about what Lent is, and people “give up” certain things during this season and focus on Easter…. she said,

“I know, I’ll give up school!

 

Today we were starting Language Arts. We were having our oral lesson and I asked “How do you look up a word in the Dictionary”?

Kristina piped up, “That’s easy! You just open it up! It is full of words! 🙂

 

The other day, Gramma sent each girl  a Valentine’s Day Card and it was signed….

“God Loves You”,

Love, Gramma and Grampa

(Olga has overheard gramma now and then say, we are all god or I am god)

Olga looked at that and said, “If Gramma thinks she is god, then why didn’t she just sign it “I Love You”.

 

You know you live in the Country when your daughter sees the price of a new skirt and says,”Gee mom! You could buy a goat for that!” 🙂

 

When Kristina was 6 she was watching “My Fair Lady” . She loved the movie. It amazes me how much she catches onto for such a young girl. (the other 2 girls lost interest and went to play in their room, Dad was asleep, and I was sort of napping, so she was watching it alone.) Well, we were at the part of the movie where the man sings “I’m Getting Married In the Morning”. It is a LONG song and dance routine. After his zillionth verse about “getting married in the morning”, “get me to the church on time”……..

Kristina blurted out,”FOR PETE’S SAKE, GET TO THE CHURCH AND GET MARRIED ALREADY!” GOSH!

Before bedtime:

Stella: “I feel like I’m starving!”
Me: “Get something to eat.”
Stella: “I’m not hungry.”
Me.: What am I supposed to do with that?
Stella: “I don’t know, you’re the mom, you know everything. 🙂
Me: “You’re thirsty, get a drink of water!”

 

“Mom, not next weekend but the weekend after can you make blueberry muffins for breakfast?”

Sure…. but why not next weekend?

“Because I have kitchen duty that week.

 

LOL

 

Stella came in the house all hunched over.  I asked her, “are you ok?”  “Why are you bent over like that?  It isn’t good for your back.  Can you show me how to stand straight?”  She straightened up one side but the other side was still hunched over…..

 

I said, “what is wrong with your shoulder?”

She smiled and pulled out an egg that she was holding under her armpit!  She was wanting to see if she could hatch it.  “Mom, she’s going to give me ‘shaken teenager syndrome’!”

Stevie said this as Stella was picking her up to give her a morning hug….

My back has been really hurting. Stevie offered to help me with laundry right before bedtime…. I said, “You are MY GIRL!”

She said,
“Well, DUH! I’m not the next door neighbor’s girl! 🙂

 

Stella: “Quick mom, get a picture before Stevie throws me off!” LOL
Stevie :” Mama, Do you know I love you?”
Yes.
Stevie”  It is one of my passions, right next to cats”. 🙂

 

Me- “Stella, it is time to do the dishes!”
Stella- “Can I wait a while?”
Me-  “Why?”
Stella- “Because the weather is bad and if there is a tornado, it would be a waste of time to do dishes!”
Me- “do the dishes”.  🙂

 

Stevie to Stella- “Stop worrying about tornados, God is in control!”
Stella to Stevie-  “That is true, and if the Lord wants us to die, He’ll kill us”.

 

Kristina twirls through the room and runs into me, (ow) then she twirls some more and runs into me again. OW!
“I’m not doing to bad for somebody twirling with their eyes closed!” ??? 🙂

 

Stevie at 9:55 a.m. She just woke up… “I had a TERRIBLE time sleeping!” Really, you just woke up. “Yea, but I slept all night on a pencil and a flashlight!”

 

Stella  to Stevie- “Hey Stevie, let’s pretend you’re my older sister and we have to study and do chores!!!! 🙂

Stevie- ummm, there’s no pretending about it! 🙂

For Mike’s Bday, I gave him 2 dvd’s… Courageous and Contagion.Stella jumped up and down and said, “Can we watch Contagious????” LOL

Stevie- “I will bow down and call you blessed if I don’t have to do Language Arts today.” Glad I don’t need affirmation.

It’s Stella’s turn to go out with Daddy. He called looking for the discount card for a favorite restaurant. I have it. So he said, “Maybe we’ll just go to Wendy’s then.” I heard Stella say, “Let me talk to mommy.” She gets on the phone and says, “Mama Help Me! You gotta talk to daddy! I hate Wendys!” ROFL…..I could hear Mike cracking up in the background. I think they went to Taco Bell instead.
Let’s just say, she won’t be without opinion when she grows up. 🙂
When Olga and I went to the hospital, it was the first day of Lent.  I have not had a coke for a long time, and didn’t realize it was Ash Wednesday.  When I realized it, I told Erika, “Oh no! I drank coke on Lent!”  She said, “That’s ok mama, you have given up your health for Lent!” 🙂
Olga to Stevie:
Wouldn’t you like to own a German Shepherd?
Stevie to Olga:
Olga, owning a person is ILLEGAL!

 

Stevie and I were on a drive and she was talking about a musician’s hair…. She described it as “Ancient….. Soooo  20th century!”
I had to laugh at that one. 🙂

 

Kristina’s  leg is sore from jumping on a trampoline it was all read and not getting better.
We went to see the prosthetist today.
He said, “So you jumped on a trampoline with your leg on?
She said, “Ummm. How ELSE am I supposed to jump????”  LOL

 

Stella and I were role playing.  I was pretending to be her and she as me.
She even put her glasses on the end of her nose and said, “Look at me!” 🙂
SO I was pretending I wanted dessert before eating my dinner. I was really putting on a show and she said, “Look at me!”  “Ok, you can have dessert sweetie!”
I had to stop my acting and say, “Stella! That is NOT a good mommy idea!” and she started laughing hysterically!
(you would have had to have been there) 🙂
Stevie, “What did you have for lunch?”
Stella, “I had Roman Numerals.”
Stevie, puzzled look….. “Stella, that is math!”
Ste;;a, “Oh, I mean Ramen Noodles”.

Olga was describing her cleaning job she does for her daddy.  She said, “First I clean the sinks and mirrors, then the toilet, and then the “baby toilet”.  Everybody was puzzled.  What baby toilet?

It was the smaller toilet on the wall.  (the urinal) LOL  We let her know it was not a baby toilet and she nearly died! EWWWW! I cleaned That????
Olga has a birthday coming up in less than 3 weeks.  I was going to surprise her with a facebook account.  But I wanted to get it all set up, so that when she went to the computer she would have lots of birthday wishes and all her her settings would already be completed for privacy etc.

 

She just happened to be on the other computer checking her email, while I was “stealthfully” creating her account.  And then, I heard this giggling.  Then more giggling.
And then I figured it out.
Every time I adjusted something or added something, she was getting an email notification!  I forgot about that setting! LOL
I was thinking about making her wait until her birthday…. but since she already knows…..Happy EARLY birthday Miss Olga!  You are my girl! 🙂
Sometimes we have to just stay and be….. today was supposed to be “Bright Lights” group.  Olga, Stevie and Kristina went.  Miss Stella needed to stay with mama for some mama time. She had planned to go, but it was quickly evident that she needed to stay home.  So I took the other girls down the street and dropped them off at the Bright Light’s location and came back home with Miss Stella.
We sat down to have our talk about what had happened and she listened quite well.  I am proud of her for that!  We really DID have a great talk. Right before we were done, she was looking intently in my eyes and I said, “Sweetie, Don’t be a dull bulb! Be a Bright Light! ”  And she burst out laughing!”Mama, you are so funny!” 🙂

Stella- “Mom, my toe is hurting!” (pointing to her ankle)

Mom- “Which toe?”
Stella- “The one I’m pointing at!”
Mom” Ummm, that is an ankle.”
Stella- “Ok, so I don’t have all my body parts down yet…. My ankle hurts. “
Stella was doing a simple review sheet just to keep her up on her facts.  The instructions were : Add 8 to each of the following numbers.
9, 19, 26,42, 34 27 etc.
She added it all right:
98,198,268,428,348,278..  
Tonight we were at our old house cleaning and there was a ruckus going on down the street. I think I heard the N word! Yikes!
On the way home Kristina said, “Mama, I think that may have been a gang!”  I said Maybe….
Stella asked, “What is a gang?”
Kristina said, “It is when people beat other people up to get in the gang, and they hang out and spread confetti everywhere!”
Mama- “Kristina, do you mean graffitti?”
Kristina- “Oh yes, graffitti!”
Then Stella asked, “What is the N word?”  I told her.
She said, “Is that a bad word? I thought that was a kind of acandy bar!”

Kristina always makes the morning coffee and then comes in to wake us up. First she comes to me and we have a quiet time for a few minutes and talk about our dreams… then she goes over to daddy’s side. He ALWAYS pretends to be asleep and she taps him on the shoulder. And then in “What about Bob” form, she jumps on him and says “Cocka-doodle-doo!”….. and he wakes up. 🙂
This a.m. daddy said, “I’ll cherish these moments for the rest of my natural life!”
Kristina  replied in a droll little tone, “And what do you think is so natural about it?”
This morning Stevie was diagramming a command sentence where the subject is understood. (YOU)
Instead she wrote ( U )….. and then there was an “R”   instead of are.
She said she was diagramming in TEXT!  No, dear, I don’t think so. LOL

 

Olga was talking to her sister and I overheard her say, “Don’t Hypervillinate”!   
Today I put spare ribs in the crock pot for a late dinner.  We had our 2nd support group meeting and I wasn’t going to be home until after 8:30.
I bought the kind with the bone in.  When I got home, Olga said, “That sure was a lot of work! It burned my fingers!”
She had deboned every single spare rib and there was a big pot of shredded pork!   LOL
Poor girl. 🙂
I THOUGHT we had gotten through April Fools without a hitch….And then, I went to get in bed. I hopped right back out. Something was seriously wrong with the mattress! Couldn’t see anything and got back in again. OUCH, something weird! I investigated further and to the delight of two giggling girls, I pulled a prosthetic LEG from underneath the mattress! LOL
Thanks Kristina and Stella. 🙂

 

Tonight during Family devotions, we were reading out loud the accounts of the Resurrection in each of the 4 gospels.
Somebody mispronounced a few names:
Mary Magdalene was read “Mary Magical” and Salome, was read “Salami!”  LOL
Stevie overheard Stella saying to Kristina, “Let’s pretend we are sisters, not real sisters, but adopted sisters, and that we are really close and love each other and everything….”

 

Stevie said, “what is pretend about that?”
I thought I was so talented at the gas pump.  2 x’s in a row it shut off right at the 75.00 even mark. We always strive for that .00…..  and the last two times I didn’t even have to try!  I called Mike to tell him of my gas pump talent and I was informed that the pump shuts off automatically at 75.00.  I just never knew that because gas has never been so expensive! Not sure if that is funny or not! 🙂
This morning Mike was getting ready to leave for church.   (Stella and I are home sick today)
He couldn’t locate his wallet.  He said, “The last time I remember having it, was when I  made Steve change.”  Steve is our friend.
So I asked, “Where were you when you did that?”
Mike said, “In the yard by the wood pile. “
Stella with a surprised look says, “You made Steve change his clothes outside??”

Last night during Family Worship, Kristina prayed that she wouldn’t lie.  That perked mama’s radar abit.  Then, this a.m. when we got up, she prayed again that she wouldn’t lie….radar up…..

After prayer I took her aside and asked, “Sweetie, is there anything you need to tell me?”

She looked puzzled…. “No mama.”

“Are you having trouble lying?”

again…. puzzled look…. “no mama”

 

Then why are you praying about lying?

“Oh, because I don’t want to, so I pray that I won’t and I don’t!”Gotta love that little girl of mine! 🙂

Things I NEVER Thought I’d Have To Say!

As a mom, I never dreamed of the things I would need to tell my children over the years…..

Here are a few including some from years ago with the boys:

 

No, you may not go outside naked!

Please don’t ever throw the rabbit over the fence!

Don’t make guns out of your peanut butter sandwiches!

Don’t fish for your brother!

Please Take Tim’s Cabbage Patch Doll OFF of the noose!

Please don’t spread your arms and say “It is finished!”

Your brother said “Gunnery”?

Ok, don’t say “gunnery”!

Don’t put dresses on the Tom Cat.

Don’t EVER tell big boys your brother is going to beat them up!

You Traded our brother’s CRANE for Tooth paste and a tooth brush??

You’ll choke if you swallow Brussel’s Sprouts whole!

No we do not climb on the school roof!

Please take your glasses off before you fight!

Do not put beans in your ears OR your nose!

Please don’t take the baby’s pacifier.

Don’t hold your doll by the neck or the foot!

What do you mean you went door to door to tell jokes and made 35 Cents!

I know you want to be different, but you actually look like everybody else who THINKS

they are looking different!

Medians are NOT for driving over, just because there is a driveway on the other side!

YES we got new furniture! Why did we wait so long? Did you see our old furniture???

We had to wait until you went to college. 🙂

You better take her on a date, she flew all the way from Maryland to see you!

If your sister is bleeding in the driveway, it is best to come and tell mommy, not just come in for a hug.

Don’t wrestle the goat!

Didn’t you see your sister laying next to you on the floor while you were blowing bubbles

in the mirror?

NO! Daddy does NOT act like a rooster.

Please don’t baptize the duck!

Yes, mommy and daddy are married.

Don’t cry sweetie, Mommy and Daddy have been married a LONG time!

Please keep your leg by the bed at night, then you won’t lose it!

Be careful, your toe is about to fall off!

No it is not ok to walk barefoot just because you can’t feel anything.

BE CAREFUL… .Don’t fall! Please!

NO YOU CANNOT drive! You’re 12!

YOU WHAT??? When did he let you drive????

Don’t forget to pack your legs.

We can drop your leg off tomorrow and pick it up on Friday.

Please don’t kiss the goat.

I’m sorry I didn’t see you laying there!

Please don’t tell people our food had a name, it will ruin their appetite.

NO you SHOULDN’T have removed your leg and layed it on the sidewalk and hid behind the mailbox to scare the nice lady!

You don’t have cancer, that is a mosquito bite!

No you may NOT hide your sisters leg! Body parts are off limits!

You said the “S” word???

Oh yea….. Stupid is NOT nice to say! nor is Shut Up for that matter.

NO S words are nice to say!

Ok, you can say, sweet and smile…..
Please don’t pee in the field next door!
Please don’t pick up daddy. You’ll hurt your back!
No I’m not dead, I’m sleeping!
Midol is the answer!
No you didn’t miss your snack. That is communion.

Your teacher was wrong…. YOU CAN LEARN!

No, it was not your fault that they abandoned you.

No, we are not going to sell you for your body parts.

Yes, Sarah is still alive!

I bet you look just like her. 🙂

I can’t imagine the pain in your heart.

Hi, My name is Mrs. Minich…. I’m here to keep you safe.

Do you have any questions before we go home?

This is your sister Stevie, would you like to order some french fries?

I don’t know all the answers, but God does.

Can you trust me just a smidge?

AND:  We will Never, EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER give up! EVER! 🙂

and another EVER after that one.

Trying Differenly Rather Than Harder

I highly recommend this book by Diane Malbin M.S.W.
http://www.fascets.org/

Transitions

This is a time of year for transitions.  Many of us are winding down our school years and getting ready for Summer activity.  For children with trauma backgrounds,  transitions are hard.
I have been wanting to write about this, and I’m glad I waited a few days before writing, because we wound up having to help Sweetie 4 through some transition.

We seemed  to have  run into a perfect storm over here during this time of year.  Anniversaries combined with teen age girl angst and transitions can bring out behaviors that are unwanted by her and by us.
She was STUCK.

As I was focusing in on what to do, it clearly came to mind some of the things we had let slide.

1. Nutrition
At 14, it is harder to make sure proper nutrients are taken in.  Letting things slide like breakfast, or allowing unhealthy snacks instead of healthy protein has been happening over here too much!

2.  Supplements

I am a strong believer in fish oil and vitamins.  We also use some herbs and was letting that slide.

3.  Schedule

We have been going to bed later and starting school later.
Dinner has been late, or sandwiches for about 2 weeks.
There have been reasons, but it doesn’t matter.  For a child from a trauma background, some things cannot be allowed to slide.

HMMMM>>>>  Anybody see a pattern here?
ME!  My lack of being diligent to make sure my part is done is a contributing factor here!

Back to transitions:

Apparently I start to get lax during these times too!  I need to be aware of my own habits so I don’t cause my child to not feel safe.
We had some very sad situations arise that involved our local extended family and friends.  Two deaths occurred that were very untimely.  So for me to be grieving  on top of all the transition added to her dysregulation.
It is not bad for her to see us grieve, this is real life. It was just the first time for her and she didn’t know how to respond.

So needless to say,  we have pulled the reigns in and are getting ourselves regulated and ready for Summer Transition Time!

One of the best ways to get ready for change is to begin to talk about it ahead of time in a positive way.
“In the Summer, we are going to have so much fun!”
Include your children in the ideas and plans  so they feel they have a part in it.

Make a schedule and KEEP IT! (preaching to self here)
Do not have completely unplanned days.  This is not good for a child who is  prone to dysregulation.
Have a wake up time, bed time, even if they are later for summer.
Make sure to have meals and snacks planned.
Have a routine of game time,  reading time, play time, park time,
swimming time, work out time, etc.

We have plans for specific arts and crafts during the summer as well as swimming , volunteering and play dates at specific times each week.  That way she knows:
On Monday we go to the Library, on Tuesday we volunteer with dogs, on Wednesday we have swim/picnic day … etc.
Don’t forget to include daily clean up rituals, and time for reading and rest, so that things can remain orderly.

If you need to, write out a schedule and put it on the fridge for all to see.  Let the children check off on the list if this helps them, so they know what to expect.

I believe that staying focused during the summer, helps with the transition back to school which is so structured.
Structure helps our children with felt safety, and we need to keep that structure in our homes to help with the transition from school to home.  (this includes winding down home schooling and switching to a summer schedule also.)

Residual Fears

Today I took Miss Sweetie 4  grocery shopping with me. When we were finished putting the groceries in the car, I asked  her to put the basket in the basket area and I’d drive over and meet her there.
I pulled up and she was all smiles getting into the car.

That smile reminded me of the first time I saw her in the parking lot at Walmart waiting to be picked up to start a new life.

I asked her, “Can I ask you a question and you must answer totally honest?”
She said, “Ok”.
“When I was driving up and you were putting the basket away, were you worried I wouldn’t stop? Were you worried I would drive on by and leave you?”
Her answer…. “Yes. But just a teensie weensie, not like before.” 🙂

Even still, she has her little doubts.
I told her,”Lets practice this every time we go to the store until it doesn’t happen again OK?”
She said, OK and then I got some serious snuggle time.

Folks, these are thoughts our children born to us never have.
They don’t worry that we are a few minutes late that we aren’t coming at all. They don’t worry that they will be abandoned, ever!

When a child is abandoned and rejected, it effects them greatly!
And it takes time for them to fully trust again.

I am thrilled she answered me honestly and that my gut instinct was correct.

Love that girl!

Reflections On 3 Years 2 Months 23 Days and More…

Today our sweet social worker came over for our very last post placement report to Russia.  She has been doing our post placement reports and home studies since 2003.

When we found out about our fourth daughter, Sweetie 4,  three and a half  years ago, we talked with our social worker on the phone, and the overall conversation was good, but serious.
She wanted us to seriously contemplate what we were about to do.
Sweetie 4 was going through her second disruption  after coming to America.

We knew that in bringing Sweetie 4 home , there would be some new challenges.  Any time a child comes home, the dynamics of the family changes forever.  No child comes home to the same family, because family dynamics change with each new addition.

We learned so much with each sweetie coming home; each of them so vastly different from each other.

With Sweetie 1, we learned about ways to keep her busy and keep her off guard.  She was used to being in charge of her little life, and we had to help her learn to trust us, and to be a little girl, resting in our safety.  She was used to going from home to home to home, and we were just another stop on her journey; so she thought. 🙂

Our Sweetie 2, was just terrific.  She was very hurt from a disruption, and from abuse, but she was such a strong little one.  She was so open to being loved, and quite easy to love really.  She didn’t understand English very well and we learned all about explaining things and not assuming she understood us.  I learned how to go into her world to help draw her into mine.  Cooking Ukrainian foods  and giving her control of the blankets in the house were very important to make her feel safe.

Sweetie 3,  came directly from Ukraine!
She progressed quickly because  she was so  motivated to love and blend into the family. She didn’t look back.  She loved having new parents and sisters.  She has been soaking up love the whole time she has been home and it has been an amazing experience watching her turn into a fine young lady.

Five years later, Sweetie 4 came home.   We had plenty of experience in the adoption world under our belts including going to special training and being a part of a very large online support group over the years.  We had already adopted from overseas, from disruption, from foster care and now we were adopting from disruption again.
But this was a different child, and she had come over to the U.S. much older.  She also had been adopted twice.
This was serious.

We  prayed, and considered all the information we were given.  We asked questions of ourselves and our children to see if we were going to be a team.
You see, a family IS a team, and everybody needs to be on board when bringing somebody new home.
The situation is quite different from having a baby.
An adopted child comes with a previous life, and brings that life into your home, with all of its unpacked bags.  Even if they come as a newborn, they have still had 9 months, developing in the life of another mother.  They know her voice, her heart beat, her habits, and her stresses.
For our daughter, she wasn’t a newborn, but 11 years old.

We called our social worker and told her we were going to go for it. We felt we could be parents to one more child; this child.

When we got the call to go and pick her up, it was very sudden. I had just 1 day to be in NC from Texas.   I also had to wait in NC for all the proper ICPC paperwork to go through  before returning to Texas.

When I arrived, Sweetie 4 was waiting in the back of a car in the parking lot at Walmart.  It was awful.  I hate the idea of picking up a child, of all places, at Walmart!
She  was all smiles, but I could tell she was so very scared.
Who wouldn’t be?
I reassured her that I was going to keep her safe, and that she would be ok.
Children are so vulnerable to the decisions that parents make.
It breaks my heart. She had no choice about being born to alcoholic parents. She had no choice about going to an orphanage.  She felt she didn’t have a choice in her first adoption at nine.  She had to choose between leaving her mommy, hoping she would come for her, and losing her brother and sister, the only sure people in her life,  to a new life America.    She bravely, at 9 years old,  chose America.

Because things didn’t go well in her first home, understatement…
because things went terribly wrong  in her first home, her fears escalated.
Her biggest fears came true.  She lost her brother and sister;  no contact allowed.  She tried to be brave when sent away to a new home. Sadly there were complications with the next adoption.

Sweetie 4 was victim to a set of extreme circumstances that began before she was born.  It was not her fault.
After all, there is only so much a child can take.
New country, new language, new parents, loss of birth parents,
loss of siblings, loss of adoptive parents, loss of adoptive parents again….and now another new set of parents.     US.

She put on that  brave face (mask).  Honestly, what choice did she have?    At eleven years old we were her 3rd official set of adoptive parents.  Why should she trust us?

We didn’t dare say something cliche’ like “Welcome to your forever family!”  That didn’t exist in her world.
The only sure thing that existed in her world was rejection and pain, and in her mind, we were the next set of people placed in her life to torment  and reject her.
In her mind, surely she must deserve this type of experience because obviously there is something very, very wrong and bad about her.
She felt black inside.
And in spite of how she felt, our brave girl put on a smile and forged forward onto an airplane with a me, another well meaning stranger in her life, and started over.

Up Up and Away! Into Unknown Territory…..

It was unknown territory for both of us.    Yet, I had a peace in my spirit, in the very deepest part of my being, that this was right.
Mike had that very same peace, as did the girls.
We knew it would not be easy, but knowing it wouldn’t be easy and experiencing those “not easy” moments are vastly different.

Knowing what to do or what you think you will do in a very stressful situation because of your training  is very helpful, but those training scenarios do not give you the “feel” of fear and adrenaline as your brain is bombarded with emotion and doubt.

Training is VERY VERY important, because it is your tool box.  But it is equally  important to learn how to access that toolbox when you are in the midst of your own dysregulation due to stress.  A locked tool box does nobody any good!

I am so thankful that we could see deep inside of Sweetie 4, a desire to do well.  It was just very well hidden behind a wall of anger, frustration and self loathing.

I remember telling her one day that she really needs to love herself because you really can’t love others properly if you don’t properly love yourself!  That concept was so foreign to her.

We knew the only way to reach her was to focus on relationship and not behaviors, because you cannot become a respected  authority in the life of a child with whom you have no relationship.

This is where BCLC (Beyond Consequences Logic and Control) helped us so very much.  BCLC focuses on connecting relationship first.
We had our whole lives to work through the rest, but relationship is number 1!
Isn’t it that way with God?  He wants to have relationship with us, and until we come alive in Christ, we are in rebellion towards God.
When we come alive, in relationship, God doesn’t start giving us a list of what to change in our lives.  He loves us and we love Him and those changes occur as we pursue relationship.

To our real surprise, Sweetie 4 began to respond relatively quickly.
We had told ourselves not to have expectations early on, not even for the first two years at the soonest.   Instead, we found ourselves surprisingly falling in love with our sweet little girl and she with us.

We had many, many days of trial and error, climbing up trees, head banging, screaming, slamming, threatening, hiding things,  including scissors and knives.  Some days seemed surreal.  But God…..

He didn’t walk us to this point to abandon us, and we know he doesn’t change His mind.  We trusted him and pressed forward.
It was quite obvious to us that God had some work to do on us too.
Just as with all the other families in her life, there was work to be done .

We had many days of soul searching and trying things that worked with one child but didn’t work with this child.  She was different.  Her hurts were different.  Her pain was different.

I am so thankful for Sweetie 1, because she prepared us for Sweetie 4 in the area of behavior.  And I am so thankful for Sweeties 2 and 3 because they prepared us for Sweetie 4 for in the area of  language and culture changes.

As her first anniversary approached, she was literally terrified we were going to send her away.  It was palpable in the air.  She lashed out in a big way, and she and I wound up in the car going for a drive;
her convinced I was taking her to a psych unit and me trying to convince her that she was ok, and didn’t need a psych unit.  But in her previous family she had been taken to one, and it was an awful experience for  her.
She was reacting to some very, very deep hurts and I had every confidence she could overcome them, not by erasing them, or pretending they didn’t exist, but by facing them and not allowing them to rule her life.
When a person has been through some of the extreme things this daughter has been through, how could she not have some extreme behaviors?  She was reacting in my opinion normally, to very abnormal circumstances!

We succeeded in that trip around town, as  we headed to the park, and oredered a coke to sip, to connect, in a very special way.

Some would think we should have punished her for the things she said or for what she did.  Some would have figured there is no hope.
But God…..

We knew better. We could see a little butterfly ready to emerge from that cocoon.  We could feel it.  She was doing well in many areas, even though it was 3 steps forward 2 steps back, then 20 steps forward  21 steps back, and then when we worked through that, a HUGE jump forward both emotionally and intellectually.  She could concentrate better, give eye contact, give and receive love and more.

She was responding to LOVE.  She was responding to REAL and Unconditional love.  Some people say that Love is not enough.
But Love is enough, if it is real love.
We only have one word in our language for Love.   But there are many different types of “love”.
True love is a verb.  It is an action word that means you choose to love and do what is best for another without expectation. It is laying ones life down for another.
It is much easier to love when you are loved back.  This kind of love requires much prayer and is found in the prayers and tears of compassion over the brokenness of another.

In our second year of being home, contact was made through Email with her biological sister who was now out of the first adoptive home.   There were careful emails exchanged to make sure that Sweetie 4 and her sister would not be further hurt.
After being confident that we could move forward, they exchanged letters first.
It was so precious to see Sweetie write that first letter to her sister.
“I am sorry. I broke our family apart. It was my fault.”
I didn’t interfere. This was how she felt.   I let her send that letter, feeling so sorry that she carried such a huge burden.
After she mailed it, I told her that it was not her fault, and we had some very good talks, but it would have been wrong for me to try to correct her letter to her sister.

Her sister wrote back, and responded exactly how I had hoped she would.  “It wasn’t your fault, you were just a little girl.”

I am so thankful that Sweetie 4 and her sister were able to reunite.
It was a precious time.  And they have continued to stay in contact, getting together and doing face time on the computer.
What a blessing to help Sweetie 4 reconcile the past with the present.

This year, we took our first trip out of state besides Oklahoma, to attend the graduation of our oldest grand daughter.  We had a wonderful time together and Sweetie 4 thoroughly enjoyed herself, as did the rest of us.

She also had her very first sleep over at her brother and sister in law’s house.  She was able to help with her little nephews for an entire day and loved every minute of it.

Sweetie has processed a lot this year especially, and we have learned how best to help her when she gets dysregulated. Each child is different, so what might make one child relax might cause another to escalate.  We worked really hard together to see what worked best.
We were then able to give her tools to help her.

One of the things that works well for her is to request permission to cool down in her room.  It just takes her about 5 minutes, but that time is crucial for her to gain control of herself.
If we were to try and talk with her before that alone time, she would escalate.  If we were to try and have her sit close to us it would escalate, and on more than one occasion I was on the receiving end of her frustration.

The best thing we did was make sure she had the space she needed to not feel closed in.    This is her tool, “Mom, Dad, I need to go and cool off, may I go to my room?”

You would think in a dysregulated moment she couldn’t do that, but she has learned through calm role play and do overs what to do.
We will ALWAYS say YES for this request.  It is what is best for her.

What she is not allowed to do is disrespectfully walk away. It took her a while to get it, but she has it now.

We are so proud of her!

So as I write this, I am writing out there to encourage those of you who are walking a similar path.  Our children have been broken from their histories, but they don’t remain broken, they do get better, and learn to put their past in perspective and not allow it to control who they are today.

That is where all of our Sweeties are today. They are happy and continuing to progress  towards a happy, healthy adulthood.

Having four teenage girls in the house is delightful (most of the time 🙂  )  Seriously. It is .

And as I look back on our last 10 plus years, I am fully comforted and aware that my early childhood experiences that I didn’t get for so long, were intended for my good and the good of my girls. They were there for me to draw from, to give me compassion, to allow me to have a better understanding and to help us all to heal together.

TODAY IS….

Our last post placement report meeting!!!!

YEA!!!!!!

A SPANKING Post

I don’t usually write about this topic.  But today, I felt compelled to.

I have been wanting to write a post regarding a behavior that a majority of families in the U.S. practice.  In fact, within the church it is RARE to find a family who does not use Spanking as a tool to deter unwanted behaviors in our children.

Spanking and yelling were the primary tools my parents used to raise us.  If we did something wrong, we were yelled at, and then spanked in anger.

There are books out there that talk about doing this in “love”.
There are detailed books out there that give specific instruction, even going so far as to say if you do NOT spank, you do NOT love your children.

As a Christian parent, coming from a background steeped in physical punishment and fear based parenting, I wanted to do things differently with my children.

At the time when my boys were very little, I had actually never heard of not spanking.  The popular teaching of the day was to never use your hands, because your hands were to be instruments of love.
To spank you should use a wooden spoon or spatula.  This would make it so that your child didn’t fear you.

I  had no information given to me at that time that suggested spanking was not good. Even in the public schools, spanking was used by principals across the nation.

The other popular teachings had to do with scripture in Proverbs.
I call them the “Spanking verses”.    They were used to tell well meaning parents that if they didn’t spank their children, they would send them to hell.  They would not grow up to follow the Lord and they would become criminals and fools.

I remember when the boys were little, I had such guilt about spanking them, and most of the time I didn’t.  But there were times that I did give them a swat on the behind; and then I cried and  would feel terrible guilt.  I desperately did not want to repeat what had been done to me as a child.

As time went on, I began to read scripture for myself, and found that gentle and tender parenting was birthed in scripture.
We spent more time teaching and talking and less time using punishments.  Our relationships blossomed, and instead of anger and rebellion that was warned about in those books, we had happy young men who were serving the Lord.

When the girls came, we knew that we would have to do things very differently, especially since they had backgrounds fraught with abuse.

Over time, as I processed my own personal childhood experiences, and studied ways to parent differently, we found ourselves on a different parenting path.  It began with our boys, and became a comfortable norm with our girls.

Today, I had some time to think as I was driving to and fro  for several hours to attend the funeral of a dear friend’s son.
I love long drives because they allow me to think without distraction.

When we are parenting children from trauma backgrounds,  we really need to know ourselves well and the reasons we get upset.
We need to know that we must be strong and loving to our children and remember to not take things personally.

We were committed to never spank our girls, yet with our first daughter, there were a few times where we actually gave her a swat out of desperation.
What failures we felt like!
How could a 7 or 8  year old bring a grown person to resort to swatting her?
She didn’t.
It was us.   Old habits die hard.
Was she being rebellious or showing us disrespect?  Yes she was.
But we had to learn new ways to parent her, continuing the journey we started with our boys.
We had to BURY the spanking tool.
We had to BURY the punishment paradigm and work on a relationship paradigm.
We knew what to do. We just had to do it, and be convinced that it would be what was best.  Those old sermons swirling around in one’s heart after years of bad teaching can have an effect.

First,  we had to realize that if we were allowing “buttons to be pushed”, then we needed to put those buttons away.
She wasn’t intentionally pushing buttons.
I hear that all the time.  “They were pushing my buttons” and the child is blamed if a parent gets angry.
The truth is, we get angry because we get frustrated.  Something inside of us reacts because, “We would have never gotten away with something like that!”  or “Our parents would have knocked us into next week if we had done THAT!”

Buttons.
PUT. THEM. AWAY.

We have learned to put them away.  And we are much happier for it.
If one of our children is having a hard time, we do not own it.  It belongs to her.   We help her through it, instead of becoming enmeshed IN it.

And we do not use YELLING as an alternative to physical punishment, or punishment itself.
Natural consequences work very well to teach life lessons.
Natural consequences are not made up; they occur in every day life.
If I don’t pay the electric bill, the electricity gets turned off.

For our children, if they lose their allowance through carelessness, they don’t have spending money.   If they don’t collect the eggs, there are no eggs for breakfast.  If they don’t get their clothing into the laundry basket, they don’t have clean clothing.
There is no anger;  just life lessons.

I remember a long time ago when our youngest son had lied, this is how we handled it….

He had told a worker at Dairy Queen that he put his quarter into the game and won a free Sundae.  The truth was, he hadn’t, but they couldn’t prove it, and he got his free Sundae.

For almost a year, anytime I suggested Dairy Queen, he didn’t want to go, as he was eaten up with guilt.
Finally one day, he confessed that he had lied to the lady at Dairy Queen.
We hugged him and told him how proud we were of him for telling us what happened.  We drove him to Dairy Queen so he could pay for the Sundae and apologize to the manager.
It was a  precious life lesson for him to face the truth and clear his conscience.
At first the manager didn’t want to take his money, but we insisted she allow him to pay for it.   She came and sat down in the booth and told him he was allowed to come to her store any time and how much she appreciated his honesty.

For our girls, we have had some incidents where they have confessed to telling a lie, and our response is the same. “We are so proud of you for telling the truth!”
They don’t need to be shamed.  They need to be led to want to do what is right.

No Spanking Needed.  No Lecture Needed.
No Yelling Needed.

Proverbs 15 :1-   “A Soft Answer Turns Away Wrath”.
Romans 2:4-  It’s your kindness that leads us to repentance…

There is now wonderful information available to counter act all those “parenting books” that we didn’t agree with so long ago that were so popular.
We have been able to educate ourselves with refreshing truth that is backed up by scripture.  Tender and gentle parenting, love and kindness goes a long way.  Relationship based parenting, works!

We ask ourselves, is what we are doing bringing us into closer relationship or is it causing division.  We always want to parent in a way that foster closer relationships.  And that builds TRUST.
TRUST BASED RELATIONAL PARENTING works!

The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis
Beyond Consequences Logic and Control  by Heather Forbes/ Post
They Rod and They Staff They Comfort Me  by  Samuel Martin
Heartfelt Discipline  by Clay Clarkson

Happy Mother’s Day part 2

100_8923Yesterday came as a total and complete surprise to me.   I am so full of joy today.  The Lord has been so good to us, and His mercy and grace were evident in our family yesterday.

Our sweeties have been home for more than 10, 8, 7 and 3 years.
What a blessing they have been in our lives, teaching us to depend upon the Lord for every breath of life. 🙂
They have brought us great joy, and caused us to do deep soul searching about priorities, self, serving, parenting and more.

Yesterday, I woke with sweetie 1 not feeling very well.  She had a fever and a head ache and I just had the head ache.
Since we live very close by to church, I ran down there to help my husband teach Sunday School and then came back home to stay with Sweetie 1.
Sweetie 4 waited with me to go to church a little later, and while we were alone, she wished me “Happy Mother’s Day” and then pulled out a beautifully wrapped gift she had carefully chosen.
To say I was in shock was an understatement!
She used black tissue paper and then created a lovely flower petal vase with a flower arrangement on the package. It was so pretty and thoughtful!

100_8883She has worked through some things the past few years, and I wonder if celebrating last week at Chuck E. Cheese let off some of that pressure build for the big day?
I don’t know.
I just know that her efforts were beautiful and genuine.

After the rest of the family came home, we had a lovely salad for lunch and then Sweetie 1 presented a gift. She has never presented a gift and doesn’t like holidays that much. Today was different.
I don’t expect gifts…. if you expect something, it isn’t a gift anyway, right?
I was so surprised, and she picked a perfect gift.
Then Sweetie 2 had made a beautiful card and I received a necklace she had picked out.  It too was perfect. 🙂
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And sweetie 3 wrote a beautiful tribute and blessed us with pictures.

I am in awe of these girls and how they blessed me so very much yesterday.

Our boys called and visited and I even received a beautiful home made scrub from my daughter in law.  The beautifully written cards and thoughtful calls all made me feel so blessed.

If you are in the trenches of trauma….. hang on and keep moving in the direction of unconditional love, acceptance and healing.
It  will  happen!

You are sewing the seeds of success for the future!100_8901

Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day to Each and Every One of You!

For many children from hard places, Mother’s day is a bewildering time. They are supposed to be happy to celebrate their mamas and at the same time are reminded of the mama who is gone. Some of our children have had multiple mamas.
Mother’s day is a mixed emotional bag!

Relax and enjoy your day, and accept that some of our children will not be emotionally able to have joy.
But our jobs as mamas doesn’t end because it is Mother’s Day.
If they are struggling, we need to be there for them to comfort them, and support them.
We need to be the ones to reach out and offer grace and mercy.

With that in mind. Get up early and have a good soak in the tub.
Make a lovely breakfast for your family, if they are unable to do that for you.
Model to them what you would like them to do for you.
They’ll catch on…..

Bring JOY to your family tomorrow. Let your children know you love them.
And don’t let any sadness or bitterness seep in because of unfulfilled expectations.
Every Day is Mother’s Day.

Peering Over The Edge

Peering Over The Edge

 originally written in May 2013


In my
last post,I wrote about why traumatized children cling to chaos.  Today, I’d like to write a little bit more about our experience this past week.  It was a journey into chaos and the journey back out.  Please join me. 🙂
As many who read my blog know, our newest daughter, home 2 years and 2 months, came to us through some very difficult circumstances.  She was full of fear, anger, resentment, misunderstanding, and much more when she came into our lives.  We know that the Lord called us to bring our darling home, and and that He also promises to walk with us as we trust Him.  And walk with us He has!


As I write this, my girls are getting ready for Friday Night at the Movies.   They are laughing and cheerful.
This was not the case much of this week.  Instead, chaos came to visit, and tried to stay.  It would have been easy to allow it, or join in by buying into fear, buying into the negativity of trauma, and doubting that healing really does take place. It would have been easy to say, kids with this much trauma can’t heal, or obvious FASD issues make healing futile.  Those are lies.


As I have said before in other posts, when somebody takes many steps backwards, they are getting ready to lunge forwards in healing.
But why the downward spiral?  I touched on some of this yesterday, but would like paint a clearer picture. 


I know that our sweetie has seen the “Grand Canyon”.  Not the real Grand Canyon, but,  if the Grand Canyon could represent all that is wonderful and right about the world she lives in, and all that will be wonderful and right about her future…. she has peered over the cliff and seen it.


Getting there has been hard work, and that was just the rim.  Getting a glimpse of the canyon, was a fearful experience for her. Why?
The reason is, because even in the world of normal, problems are still there.  Bad things still happen to people, and there are hard things to solve.  We learn to walk through them,  and conquer them.
She chose  to cling to the old familiar…. chaos..
This past week, a perfect storm brewed and came to a head.  As our social worker Kathi put it,


“This sounds like the perfect storm of hope, fear, anger, need, and trauma. It is all that Purvis and Post and Forbes talk about in one huge dose.”
    And she was right.

It was a huge dose.  But remembering to stay present, stay calm, presenting a united front (tidal wave) of unconditional love brought the Perfect Storm to a halt!   I love the words of Christ in Scripture when he calms the stormy sea, “Peace! Be Still!”.

We rested last night, and made some plans to bring our sweetie closer for a little while.  That means, going back to a more therapeutic parenting style, as some of her fears have returned.  The explosions in Texas and the Bombings in Boston had a huge effect on her fear level.  To a child with a trauma background, it can feel like their entire world is collapsing.
The memories of the past rushed in and reared their ugly head and before we knew it, she was a big mass of anger and fear.

We must remember  that an angry child is a fearful child.  If we only dealt with the obvious anger and not the root of what was causing it, it would be like pulling the top of a weed off and expecting it not to come back.

Instead, we addressed the entire problem.  But we had to start from a place of love in ourselves, not fear of the future or what may happen.

It is hard to look past the behaviors into the root cause.  But there is peace there. And in being at peace, we can help our children who are suffering, through a crisis.


Today, our sweetie is doing really well. We have definitely made her world smaller and will continue on that trajectory for the forseeable future, until she feels completely safe once again. She is relaxing in our love for her, and in our conversations, she fully understands that the life she can have, living in a healthy, peaceful way, is attainable!

 It doesn’t mean the past never happened, it just means that how you interpret it, and deal with it, comes from a strength within that will turn all things into life lessons to achieve something better.

You don’t have to let your past dictate your future.
And you don’t have to let your fears overcome you and rule over you. These are the lessons we learned this week.


We also were reminded in a very practical way, that LOVE NEVER FAILS, and love never gives up. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever!
I can see her hiking in that Canyon someday, with great confidence. 🙂

Focusing on Relationship

relationship
I wanted to write a little bit about focusing on relationship and not behavior.
This is one of the hardest things to explain, especially to hurting parents.

Questions might be, “Do you mean you want me to reward bad behavior?”
Of course not.

But there is a cycle we can get stuck in, and as the adult, you can either stay IN
what Heather Forbes refers as “A Negative Feedback Loop”, or you can choose to get off of the crazy train, and help your child heal.

It doesn’t happen over night, and it DOES take time.

For what ever reason your child might spin into a meltdown,  it is most excellent
if you do not follow in suit.  Instead, take a deep breath and work to connect with your child.
If there is a mess to be cleaned up, it can wait.
IT MUST WAIT, because a dysregulated child isn’t going to be able to rectify the mess.

Instead, sit with your child and just be with them.  Do your best to get close to them, but if they are unable to be close at the moment, sit near.  Speak in a soothing tone, until you sense that they are calming.  You will know the right moment when you can connect with them by touching their hand and they don’t pull it away, or by looking in their eyes and they don’t gaze away.
Gently and lovingly speak to them telling them they are safe.
“What’s going on sweetie?”
Sometimes they may know, as a memory was triggered, but sometimes they may not, especially if their trauma was pre verbal and they only “feel” with no cognitive memory.

I believe the latter is much more difficult to deal with, because there is no explanation.
Many people think the earlier the adoption the better…. I don’t find this to be necessarily true.

Once you have made emotional connection with your child, loved on them with your words of comfort, you can THEN return to deal with the mess.
Don’t be harsh, instead use any of the tools you can, including humor.

“Looks like we have a mess to clean up!”.  And then do it together!
Your child will most likely be remorseful.  Reassure them, and then when you are all finished,  reassure them more.
During a period of regulation, not necessarily right after, so you don’t take “too long” and lose their attention span, have a time of teaching where you can discuss better ways to handle big feelings.
Give them some choices for tools and have them practice them.
1. deep breathing
2. request to sit in room (older children)
3. go for a walk
4. magic mustache
5. jump up and down
and more…..

When that next time of dysregulation comes, just gently remind them of the tools they have to use.
It may take several times before they use the tools, but they WILL use them!  And eventually it will become habit for them.  Those behaviors that you were so worried about, and we not focusing on, will start to disappear and much healthier behaviors will begin to show up!

The negative feedback loop patterns will be further and further apart and certainly less intense!  And your relationship will improve!

I remember when one of our daughters was about 6, she had been successfully using her “tool box” to keep regulated.  One day during a math lesson, she began to act out. 🙂
I mentioned getting our toolboxes  out to find a tool and she instantly crossed her arms and looked at me saying, “My toolbox is locked and I can’t find the key!”   LOL

She did find the key, and we worked through her frustration together.

Accept your children for who they are and respect where they have come from.
Work hard to build relationship first.  Do not negate gentle teaching, which is discipline,  at the right moment, and unconditionally LOVE your children.

You will be surprised how unwanted behaviors begin to diminish and the real child begins to show up, all due to felt safety.  Make your child “feel” safe, and they will drop their guard for you to find the tender hearted, delightful child that they really are.

No matter how long you have been home, months or years, until you work on relationship first, struggle will continue, and you will feel defeated as a parent.

Such a simple tweak, can make all the difference in the world!

Easy. No.   Worth it! You bet!
Don’t forget what success looks like!
What-success-looks-like

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Playfulness

I think sometimes one of the harder aspects of parenting is having the energy to play with our children, especially children who have trauma backgrounds.

Time spent  with them can be taxing and exhausting, causing us to be weary and too tired to play!

But one of the huge benefits of playfulness with our children, is it brings about connection, communication, facilitates attachment and calms them.
Yes! Play can calm a dysregulated child!  And that is a huge benefit to us, as parents! 🙂

One of our sweeties seemed to just be rather grumpy for a couple of days.  It wasn’t anything awful and she really wasn’t disrespectful, she just seemed weary.  It could be the end of school blues, or stresses  with a busy schedule.  I don’t know.
But instead of having a serious talk, I engaged her in some fun play. I spontaneously had her put her work  down and we did some fun hand games,  and then we danced together, just being goofy.
She laughed and laughed.
And you know what?  That edge was gone, she initiated hugs from me yesterday and then again all day today.
It is like she has her joy back.

I think sometimes we can forget that our minds need to rest,  and they also need to process what we have taken in.
Playing games is a perfect way for that to happen!

I remember when our boys were little I used to give them a very long lunch.  They could rough house, play soccer, or just play together.  I was always amazed at how they seemed to process what they were learning in school  or just general family life, through play.
Our girls do the same thing.
I remember a few years ago Sweetie 4 said at lunch time, “I know! Let’s pretend we are sisters and that we  were adopted, and that we are home schooled and that we love each other and everything!”
Her sisters really started laughing at that one. 🙂

Here are some ideas for playing with your children, young or old.

1.   Basket ball
2.   Blowing bubbles
3.   Dancing to music
4.   Hand games
5.   Hide and go seek
6.   Freeze tag
7.   Hula Hoops
8.    Play dough
9.   Legos
10.  Blowing up Balloons and popping them
11. Swimming together (diving for rings)
12.  Going on a scavenger hunt

Playful engagement is really important. It makes our children feel “LIKED”.
We need to feel liked.
Today, before the girls left for dog training, I packed them each a lunch, leaving a playful note of truth in each bag. 🙂
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What are your ideas for playful engagement?

 

Identity

identity-theft-protection
The question came up about whether adopted children lose their “identity”.
This was a discussion among professionals.  And I think it is a good question.
A long with that question was whether changing names was  a good idea or not,
and whether information should be open or closed.

I would like to explore some of that from an adoptive moms perspective, and also from the perspective of my girls.

We have done our best, as an American family living in Texas, to help our children keep their original heritage alive.  But honestly, I am not really sure how much of what we are keeping alive is their actual “heritage” that they would remember at all.
The reason?  They never really experienced their “heritage” other than language.
They  did speak Russian, living in Eastern Ukraine, but they never went outside of the walls of an institution!  There was no travel to see beautiful sights, or the ballet, or the hearing of great books from famous authors.
There was no real “Christmas” or “Easter” or Birthdays for that matter.
Every day was the same.
EACH AND EVERY DAY.
Even though this is true, we have done our best to educate our girls on the origins of their birth country, and to help them keep their Russian skills up.
We take them regularly to the Euro Deli in our area so they can have foods that might be familiar.
We celebrate Orthodox Christmas with Ukrainian traditions, and recognize other Ukrainian holidays.  We cook Russian and Ukrainian foods regularly.
They are proud of where they have come from.
And they are also proud to be Americans.

Because of this conversation, it got me to thinking about America.  Honestly, there are great variations within our own country!  I am a California Transplant, living in Texas.
There are big differences between California and Texas.  Here, children say, “Yes sir and Yes Maam!”  Not necessarily so in CA.  Clothing is quite different, and speech is very different.  But I have learned to embrace both places.
I am proud of my California Heritage and proud of where I live today.
I am a blend of both societies, and on one hand I could say that I don’t fit completely into either anymore.  But that has not caused me to lose my identity.  It has just enriched it!

How we see our own identity,  can be greatly effected by our upbringing.
Of course if there is loss, there will be crisis in identity, but it does not mean identity is destroyed.  It is just deeper, with more layers and it makes us even more interesting! 🙂

Our daughters like that they are from a different country, and they like that they are family.
They feel special both ways. 🙂

Each of them had different names at one time.  Many people have a real problem with names being changed.  I can see that and understand it on one side, and I can also see the other side of getting a new name for a new start.

We had no intention of changing our daughter’s name when she came home at 5. She insisted on changing it.
When we would call her, she wouldn’t answer unless we used the name she picked.  We finally decided that she needed the change, so when we finalized the adoption, her new name was given to her; the one she chose.

When our second daughter came, she found out that her sister got to pick a name, so she picked one too.  It was actually perfect for her, and she LOVES her name.

Our third daughter, was in Ukraine and we had to go and get her.  We decided since we had to have a name for the adoption, we would give her a choice to keep her name, or to have an American name, or an American name close to her last name.  She picked the American name that was close to her last name, and loves it.
For each of them, we included their other names as middle names.
With our last daughter, her name had been changed after her second adoption and we were her third.
We were not about to change her name.  She was much older at 11.  However, we did give her the option of her original name.  She said no.
So she has a variation of that name that her 2nd family gave her.

Each of our girls were very happy with their names until this year.
Our Sweetie 1 has decided to call herself a blend of her original name and the other name she chose.  She is experimenting, and that is OK.
So we are calling her, her new nick name and she loves it.

It is normal to want “identity”, adopted or not.  I went through a stent in Jr. High where I wanted to be called by my middle name because I thought it was much cooler than my first name.  That didn’t last very long because everybody would forget. 🙂
I believe our daughter is experimenting much like I did.

I think we can get lost on “heritage” and “names” and forget that our children
are individuals who need to be accepted for who they are and honored for who they are.
Their identity is not lost in becoming American or having a name changed.
Identity is lost when they are not accepted for who they are or how they look!

There is also the issue of birth family knowledge.  Adoptions can be open or closed.
International adoptions are even more complicated, not just by distance, but by circumstance and culture.
We have the names of our children’s birth parents and we know a little about them.
We have shared what we know.  Our girls have seen their parents hand writing in our paperwork.    For now, that is all we have to give to them.
One of our daughters has a picture of her with her birth mom.  She keeps that picture by her bed. 🙂
Our youngest daughter has a picture of her baby brother who was adopted by Russians.
She doesn’t have any pictures of her parents, but we have been on Google Earth and visited the village she grew up in!  Google Earth is quite cool! 🙂

Being open about our girls’ origins helps them to have a strong self identity.
They are proud of where they came from and proud to be a family together.

Our children’s identities are deep and vast and wonderful and they have opportunity to write their own story on the tapestry of life.  Those identities will be beautiful threads
woven into history, and they will not be lost. 🙂

an addition:
It is important for all of us to remember that looking up history, does not change who we are.   There are no magic answers that will be life changing and bring dissatisfaction to satisfaction.  It is important to remember that if we are unhappy with our circumstances,
looking into our history is not going to make us happy.  We have to make peace with the present in order to have a clear look at the past.
Our joy and satisfaction is found in the Lord.  We must be at peace within ourselves
that we are where we are supposed to be.
There is peace in the fact that God is in control; even in the little things.

THOUGHTS ABOUT FASD

My daughter was in her high school health class, and the teacher asked
“Does anybody know what FAS stands for?”
My daughter raised her hand and answered, “Fetal Alcohol Syndrome”.
The teacher asked her how she knew.
Her answer was, “I heard it from my family.”

We were hearing about this at breakfast this a.m.
She then very humorously asked, “Ok mom, which ones of us have FAS?”
“Just  name  names!”

Mike and I looked at each other and smiled.  I was laughing inside.
Why?
FAS in NOT funny.  Alcohol is a terrible trauma to the brain of a developing baby that
can cause lifelong problems.  In the most serious of cases it can cause damage to the other organs of the body too.

I smiled because though our daughters’ lives have been touched by the effects of Alcohol,
we also know that the brain CAN and DOES heal.
That does not mean things will be perfect, and we will never know what things would have been like had alcohol not been a factor, but it doesn’t matter!

Did I say that?  IT DOESN’T MATTER!

Yes.

The reason I say that is that we have no spare time to mourn what is lost.  We have no spare time to commiserate and wallow in pity, and for some of us parents even, self pity.

There is WORK to be done! Much work! And with GREAT HOPE for the future, armed with a true understanding that things are not the same, we press forward and love our children through.
Children CAN learn.  They CAN find self control.  They CAN heal.
But they need our support and understanding to get there.

I remember when our sons were little, and we had some very extreme difficulties due to the effects of prematurity.Honestly, looking back, we had some more difficult times with   our son than we have had with our daughters from hard places.  I felt hopeless for a while, especially when his repetitive behaviors were non stop to the point a neighbor came over and asked us why we don’t just get rid of him!  I am not kidding. :/ That neighbor caused me to think about my calling!
That hopelessness lasted  a short while, because I could either fight for my son to improve and do his best, or I could the be obstacle in his way to keep him from growing.
I didn’t want to be that obstacle, so putting emotion aside, we forged toward a goal together.
Today, that son, whom everybody believed was developmentally delayed, mentally delayed and behaviorally challenged, is a husband, father and teacher.  Even though he wasn’t reading at 11 years old…. He is now a college graduate and a certified teacher.

He had brain damage. Severe brain damage.  If HE can do it! Anybody can do it!

And so, with the girls coming home , we just didn’t worry so much about FAS.

We knew that two of them for sure had lengthy exposure, and our youngest daughter was exposed in utero and after she was born.  She was nursing on a drunk mother. 🙁

It took one of our girls 5 years to learn her times tables, and 2 of them, if they don’t keep up with certain types of math, forget it altogether and have to relearn it.
However, they have both learned to read and write well!
If we didn’t try hard to do math, they might never succeed in that area, and they must have some success in order to understand a bank account or even possibly go to college.
So we tried many different ways to learn math concepts, and found ones that worked.

The brain can make new connections! This is the good news on brain science!
Just as the brain can be damaged by alcohol exposure, the brain can develop new connections, if we help our children through nurture,  and mental exercise.

Kids from trauma backgrounds learn things a little differently.  Commonly,  they do not understand cause effect.
We know for our youngest daughter, this has been her biggest challenge.
She has had to learn by repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat….. not because she is bad and won’t learn, but because that is how she is designed to learn.
Accepting that, makes those repeats easier for me. 🙂
YES! ACCEPTING WHAT IS… helps me to parent better!

Sweetie 4’s baby chicken died this a.m.  I know that for her, she will have to go through the process of sadness, picking out a little box and burying the baby bird, then praying for him; basically conducting her own funeral, before she can study. 🙂
So, I am in here writing, and she is out there having a little funeral.
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When she comes in, she will then be able to concentrate on her work.
If I told her she needed to do her work first, it wouldn’t happen.
That is how she is designed.  So I work with her instead of against her.

When we need to help our children make changes, redo’s work really well.
Each time there is a redo, a connection is made in the brain on how to do something
differently.  And by our own modeling behavior, changes occur for our children. Over time, behaviors we have worked to achieve, have become a  habit and the right way of doing something or responding   automatically happens now. 🙂
(of course not 100% of the time, or we would be talking about perfection, and none of us are perfect)

As parents, we have more of an effect on our children than we might think.
If we choose to see our children’s abilities and help them to achieve  even though they  struggle, we will see them achieve much!  And we will all celebrate what they CAN do.
If we focus on the negatives and the “dis-abilities”,  we will be the motivation killer that
results in under achievement.

Honestly, I am so glad that we had the variety pack of boys that we did, before the girls came home.
We had some difficult times working through prematurity, seizure activity, brain damage, cerebral palsy, dyslexia, general learning disabilities and more…..

They prepared us for our girls. 🙂

Accepting our children for who they are, and not seeing them through the eyes of a diagnosis will go far in helping them achieve all they can be, because our children are deep and interesting and mysterious and complicated, not just a one faceted diagnosis!

If WE as adults never stop learning and growing, why do we think our children won’t continue to learn and grow well past the age of 18??  We shouldn’t sell ourselves short!

I am still learning new things, and to cease to learn is to cease to live!
Don’t parent from fear.  Don’t think you have just a short time and then you are done.  It isn’t true.
Use the time you have with your children wisely.  Encourage them and give them the tools they need for a continued life learning!  Your influence will continue well past the age of 18, if you establish that positive, loving relationship with them now.

Joy In The Journey

I was watching an old video of my daughter when we were waiting to come back from NC and had to wait for ICPC paperwork to come through.
She was so little, sweet, scared, trying to impress, and more.
I look back at those precious two weeks and think…..
WOW!  Where would she be if we hadn’t said yes?
Where would she be ?
Right now, I just checked on her and she is fast asleep in her bed
snuggling with her stuffed horse.
I love her so much.  SO MUCH! 🙂
AliChristie

Out On A Date

IMG_0355Today is Sweetie 3’s 8th Familyversary!

Where has the time gone???   She is so precious.
Sweetie 3 has brought us nothing but incredible JOY, since the very first day we met her.
Happy Familyversay!

To Celebrate or To Not Celebrate

That is a big question for those of us with children who come to us with trauma, baggage behavior issues and more.
When our girls were really little, with just 2 of them home, I actually considered not having a Christmas tree or having a big celebration because it seemed the “tree in the living room” was causing some real stressors with the girls and they were acting out.

I went to Mike and shared with him my thoughts, and he said, “You cannot escape Christmas, it is everywhere. Instead, we need to help them through it.”

Those were WISE WORDS!
While one of those original two daughters does not necessarily care for holidays that much, she still enjoys herself and visits with those who come over.
For her, she has permission to politely excuse herself to rest if she feels the need.
Yesterday she took advantage of that for about 1/2 hour and came out refreshed and ready to visit some more!

Some keys for getting through Holidays with our kids is not OVER DOING, and not STRESSING ourselves.
Get prepared, but be relaxed in that preparation.
Involve your children in the preparation.

We have a huge family.  Four of our children are married, and have children of their own.
Yesterday, we had 21 immediate family members over for Easter.
Nine of them were 7 and under.
2 of our grandsons have come from extreme trauma, and one of our grand daughters
has special needs.
With all of our girls, and grand kids together, we had a miraculously wonderful time.

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We kept the children busy.  And our girls were instrumental in helping them play.
We planned an egg hunt that would be challenging for older kids and easy enough for younger ones so nobody got frustrated.  There was plenty for all.

We had a buffet meal, where everybody could eat, but it was low key. Not super formal where manners would be noticed and scrutinized by others.

Everybody who wanted to was able to participate in the Egg hunt and age didn’t matter.
I think my sons enjoyed hiding all the eggs just as much as the kids enjoyed finding them. 🙂

We also had an alternate activity for all those little boys.
We had a Pirate Treasure Hunt.  This isn’t holiday related. Just for fun.
So whoever was obsessing about Easter Eggs could enjoy something else!

The girls, drew picture clues on scrolls and hid them in various parts of the yard.  Each clue led to a new scroll.
They divided the boys into teams and then they went on a pirate treasure hunt.  It led them to the Chicken coop and goat barn, the swing and the teeter totter before leading them to the  garden where there was a buried treasure 10 steps from the tree.

Oh the squeals of delight when they were able to dig in the dirt and find the treasure box!

I thought back to that time when I was ready to not celebrate holidays, and I’m glad we chose something different.
One of the keys is to prepare our children ahead of time for what is going to happen.
Include them in the planning so they feel a sense of appropriate control, (not IN control but not without voice) giving them voice so they can express what they are thinking or how they feel.

One of our girls really struggles with Easter, and all her memories go back to 4 Easters ago, her first in the U.S. when she was told she was too old to participate in an Easter Egg Hunt.
She has had one ever since, but she still can’t help going back to that memory.

I am hoping that we have finally broken through that this year, and rewritten on her heart a memory that will take over those other sad ones.
But if we didn’t try, that memory might remain there permanently.

It has been less and less each year, and I am praying that next year will be even better than this year.

Our celebrations are both Christ Focused and then just celebrations with fun.
We cannot ignore the obvious cultural celebrations, but learn how to manage them in a right perspective.

I wish I had understood letting our kids take a “people break” a long time ago for one of our girls.  She would get overwhelmed and I wasn’t sure what to do.
Since she has been able to take a break as needed, she doesn’t mind the holidays so much any more. 🙂

Starting our children out when they are not used to celebrations can be tricky, especially if you do not celebrate at home.  It might be a good idea, if you do not have celebrations at home, to start them.  That way, you can teach your children in the comfort of your home, what the celebrations are about, and what to expect.  That way, if you travel to family, they won’t be so overwhelmed with unknown expectations.
Also, be careful not to have too high of expectations when going to somebody else’s home.
Make sure your relatives know that your child may not be at their age level and you will do your best to help them, but they need to be prepared for plan B…. (exit stage left if needed) 🙂
Sometimes you can exit and then come back later, after things are settled and you have regulated your child.
We are fortunate to have most celebrations at home. This makes it much easier if somebody needs a sensory break.  If you don’t have that luxury, a sensory break can be taken in the car, or another part of the house prepared for that purpose, or just going for a walk.
When you are walking or relaxing, you can reassure your child that they are safe and that you love them.  And then talk to them about what will happen next.
“Next we are going to have dessert.  Would you like dessert?”  Or  “Next we are going to play a game! Would you like daddy to play a game with you? Or do you think you can play with your cousins?”
This gives them a voice to say how much they can handle.

It is a LONG process to work through.  And with holidays being special, they don’t come very often.  This can be a big benefit, because you can “Practice” before they come!
And then, when the holiday is here, they will know what to expect!

I’m so glad I listened to my husband and didn’t take down that tree!

 

 

Easter Time

Happy Resurrection Day!!!

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Today

What a day!
Spring is in the air…. It is BEAUTIFUL, Humid and GREEN!
It is also “Trauma Season”.
Last year when our social worker was talking to us, she said
“Sweetie 4 has so many anniversaries for trauma, it is year round.”

It is true that Sweetie 4 has endured so much hardship in her life, and there are specific things that have happened at different times during the year.
She is learning how to deal with her trauma, but sometimes, PTSD comes and rears its ugly head, and she feels lost and alone.

Sweetie 4 has been home for 3 years now.  We have had such incredible improvements
I cannot describe them here.  But at the same time, PTSD does visit.
Today was one of those days.

She was finished with having to deal with “people” for the rest of her life. 🙂
You know what?  Sometimes it is just HARD to deal with people.
What she didn’t understand, was SHE was the one who was being difficult.

She asked me, “What am I doing that is so wrong???”
(She was being disrespectful)
I modeled to her, what she was doing, and it actually caused a fear reaction.
So it was probably not the best type of “modeling” to do. 🙂
Still learning!
She went into a mode of protection and it took a while for us to coax her out of it.
But not too long.  She came out of it, and was remorseful.
She was able to understand when we spoke to her about not allowing PTSD to
tell her lies.  We have talked about this often.
She received that, and we talked about how to deal with feelings that are not accurate.
It was a good day! A tiring day…But a REWARDING day! 🙂

Grief Revisited

Grief Revisited
Originally written April 2014

Grief is a process that sometimes comes in waves.  You will be doing just fine and then it hits you once again.  You had a tragedy in your family long ago, or more recently.  Suddenly, grief is upon you and the emotions are there once again because there is something new to process and examine.

I am the same age that my father was when he died.  It is strange being the same age. It has made me go back and think about him more lately.  It makes me miss him, and wonder what he would have been like as an older man.
Sometimes I miss Mike’s dad Ed so very much.  I felt close to him.  His death was a shock and sometimes I go back on my blog and read his comments.  He was a wonderful man.
As an adult, these times come upon me, and they are just out of no where.  It isn’t something you can really “control”.  However, I CAN control how I deal with grief.  I can choose to do something nice for another older person, or make sure I visit a sick friend, because you never know….

There is also grief that is felt when our nation is attacked.  I have had that grief a few times. It is an overwhelming sadness and the question of why?  It feels like your innocence has been ripped away and that you really are not safe.
That is how it feels! But it isn’t the truth.

For our children who have come from very difficult, complicated backgrounds, grief can come and revisit, even when they have been doing  well. It doesn’t mean they aren’t doing well, grief visits periodically, unannounced.
Some might call it PTSD, because something might remind them of a loss from before, and the emotions are there, raw and real, once again. And when grief pays a visit, sometimes they don’t handle it so well.

I could sense we were going to have one of those moments with Miss Sweetie 4.  She has really grown up a lot in the past 6 months.  She has matured, and become much more fluent in her ability to speak and express herself.  But she is still working on appropriate behaviors when grief comes upon her.

As a young lady who fully understands where babies come from, how parents are to commit to that baby for life, and how it feels when they don’t, Sweetie 4 had some things to work through these last few days.  Her frustration of not seeing her brother and sister, wondering about other siblings, if her mother was still alive and more have been on her heart.  She has mentioned it in a healthy way and we have prayed.
But today, she took out her grief in a less healthy way.  She expressed it through anger.
But what happened along with it, as we lay on the bed together was DIFFERENT.
She was able to say what was on her heart.
It came out rough…. but it was real.
“You are not my real mother, you are my step mother.”  “My real mother lives in Russia!”
Once again, she is processing what happened to her at a new level.  Each of our girls has had to go through this level of thinking.  “What happened to me?” “Why didn’t they do better?”
“Why were they so violent?”  “Was I not worth it?”   These are grief questions.  They are birthed in sorrow and sadness.  And it is O.K.

“No, I’m not your step mother, and I am very REAL…. but I am your adoptive mother.”
Do you know that there is a difference between those 3 kinds of moms?
Your birth mother gave birth to you.  It must be very hard to not have her in your life.  It must be so sad to think that you had to be taken away, and that her life was destroyed with alcohol and violence.
But you need to know that it is right and ok for you to love her.  She is your mother too.

A step mother is the wife of your father.  Sometimes she “steps in” and helps to finish raising children.  Sometimes step mothers have great relationships with their step children, and sometimes not.  However, she is not an adoptive mother.

Mama and Papa adopted you. That means it is as IF I did give birth to you. Our names are on your
birth certificate as if we were there. In my heart, I feel that very way.  And I know this for sure, because I did give birth to your brothers and I love you just as I love them.

Because you are adopted you have an INHERITANCE!  That means you are a Minich and in every way a family member in good standing, who will always have a family name.  It is a good inheritance.
God adopts us as His children.  He has 1 one first born son: Jesus Christ.  But we are  joint heirs with Christ.  God does not have step children. We are His children, period.
Mama doesn’t have step children either.  You are a joint heir with all your siblings.

I listened to her as she shared what was on her heart.  We then talked about appropriate ways to express our sadness or frustration, and to remember our history.  Has she learned this in the past? Yes.  She just needed a reminder. And she will probably need one again. 🙂

The cool thing about Sweetie 4 is  that she really, really wants to do well.  Sometimes she gets stuck.
But it isn’t the same as before.  She collects herself together pretty quickly and thinks things through in the end, coming to repentance and asking forgiveness.

As a side note:  I did find it interesting that her previous two adoptive families did not come up.
She has been with us now for over two years, and I think those experiences are fading into the background.  The memories are less and less.  Most memories now are appropriately going back to Russia, or what we did last year. 🙂

Keeping Short Accounts

Keeping Short Accounts
originally written April 2013


Have you ever heard the saying, “Keep Short Accounts”?

Many times it is used in reference to marriage.  Don’t hold grudges or keep lists of the wrongs or seeming wrongs your spouse has committed towards you.

It is the same with our children, especially children who have come from hard places, or trauma backgrounds.
Children from tough backgrounds many times come with a tough exterior due to such personal trauma and pain, it is unimaginable.  They are very frightened of being hurt again, but that fear does not look like fear to us. It looks more like defiance and anger.  It may even be defiance and anger, but we must remember that it is rooted in fear.

When we feel vulnerable ourselves, sometimes we can lose our focus and fall into a mindset that can be very destructive.  We choose to remember in  our hearts  how hurt we are, how we have been wronged, how the words spoken to us in anger pierced us or crushed our feelings , and then, we fall into the trap of unforgiveness, bitterness and keeping records of wrongs.

What happens next?  Fear begins to set in and we begin to parent according to our own fears instead of parenting from a place of love.
Fear tells us that our children will not heal.
Fear tells us that they will not make it in the real world.
Fear tells us that when they are older, they won’t go to college, grow up, become productive adults and more.

Those records, written on our hearts come to us when our child acts out, and we catalogue the charges against our children deep within our souls.
This cannot be!

Not only is it unhealthy and destructive to relationship.  It is unbiblical!

In First Corinthians 13:1-7

1If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it;a but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
4Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
Did you see that is scripture?  I underlined it…. remember it! Notice it says “every circumstance”?
That means every!

If we find ourselves keeping records in our hearts, we are not responding to our children from a place of love, but actually from a place of self protection and selfishness. (fear)

These are hard words to hear.  I have to tell them to myself too. 🙂

If we don’t give our children a fresh start, or clean slate emotionally, or allow them to try again, when they have failed, we will be holding them back.  If we have them blackmailed emotionally, knowing that we are holding past behaviors over their heads to be brought out at our choice moment, we will not be pursuing to create relationship but to destroy it. It may be unintentional, but the result will be destruction and continued disintegration of the relationship.
And it is so easy to fall into that trap.

Just like the best intentions to have a great marriage can fail, the best intentions to have a great parent child relationship can fail.
The good news is:  Just like you can be the change to bring a marriage together from failure, you can also be the change to bring a parent child relationship together successfully.

We need to practice rejoicing when our children do well, and look at them as God looks at them and us.
When we sin, God sees us through Jesus Christ.  He sees us as forgiven. He sees us as sons.
God does not hold our sins up before us over and over…. there is an accuser that does that.  Let’s represent Christ to our kids,  not the accuser!
In the case of a child who is not in faith;  just as God pursued us with intense love, to the point, he sent His son,  we need to pursue our children with that  kind of love.  Entrust them to the Lord, pray for them,  love them!  Seek relationship!

A Picture Of Grace Based Parenting part 2

A Picture of Grace Based Paretenting pt 2 “What Happens Next?”  originally written April 2013

Yesterday, I wrote this post <—- (linked)   about Miss Sweetie 4. 🙂

Today, I want to cover “What Happens Next?”

What happens after there is repentance and calm has come back into the home?  What happens next,  when a child exhibits old behaviors, or  you are in the throws of young child parenting or newly parenting traumatized, older, children?

BCLC or grace based parenting requires two sides of the discipline coin to be successful.  The first side, I wrote about yesterday in the post mentioned above, and have written extensively through out this blog regarding the same things.

The other side of the coin has to do with equipping our children with the tools needed to succeed the next time they feel overwhelmed or upset about something.

One of the leading questions you can ask your child is, “What happened last night when you were so upset? Do you know why you climbed up that tree?”  They may not know! Be prepared for that answer, and accept it as true.
The next step would be to say, “How do you think you can handle it differently next time?” Preparing them,  that in life, there will be disappointments, discouragements, disagreements and more.  Explain in detail  how you are not perfect, and neither are they. We never will be perfect here on this earth, and we will make mistakes.

If they come up with a strategy, that is fantastic! But don’t expect them to do this right away if they are new to having to think outside of their comfort zone.
This gives you opportunity to speak into their heart.  Offer a time when you were young and over reacted to something in your life. This puts you on the same team and reduces their level of shame. (I’ll use one from my own childhood)

“I was so angry, so angry!  I went into my closet and hid.  I thought of bad words and then I bit my own hand! ”
“That seems so silly to me now!”
I shared this with my daughter and she laughed.  “You did that?”
“Yep.  Mama did that!”
“And it didn’t help me. All it did was make me feel guilty, because I knew it was wrong!”
“Mama doesn’t do that anymore.”
“Would you like some ideas for tools so you don’t let yourself get out of control when you are angry?”

And then, you can come up with some ideas together!
Sometimes writing down how you are feeling helps.  For a littler one, drawing a picture.

 

Maybe coming and sitting by you and squeezing your hand, squeezing a kush ball or singing a song, playing the piano, getting a drink of water, taking deep breaths in rhythm with mom, (Alli likes the breathing one),  playing basket ball, exercising, thinking about a funny joke…and more…..This is the other side of that discipline coin; teaching “self discipline” and “self control”.  (all of these are successful self control tools)
For me, as a mama, if I am feeling like I am going to lose control myself, instantly making myself look at how I am feeling and then using humor with my child has diffused more situations than I can count over the years.
“Wow! Mama said, “Don’t be disrespectful, disrespectfully!”  oops! 🙂

As our children learn to get those tools out and practice using them, they will get better and better at using them in the heat of the moment, preventing a melt down.
New butterflies emerge from their cocoons when those cocoons look like there is no life in them at all!

And they soar!

I love hearing success stories… would anybody like to share?

A Picture of Grace Based Parenting Part 1

A Picture of Grace Based Parenting Part 1
Originally written April 2013

Miss Sweetie 4 has been doing so awesome…. Every time,  when it has been a long time since any kind of meltdown or disobedience, I forget that she is still very newly home.  When I am reminded, like last night, I run the equation in my head.  She came home at 11. 11/11ths of her life was total chaos and destruction.  She has been home 2 years.  What fraction of her life has been chaos? What fraction has been healthy?

11/13ths… chaos.  2/13ths healthy.  You can ‘t even reduce that to lowest terms yet! 🙂

This really helps me to keep things in perspective.

Sweetie 4 loves animals of all kinds. Yesterday for our special time she asked if we could look at the “Russian Hamsters” at the pet store.  I honored her request with the knowledge we would not be coming home with a hamster. 🙂  She oohed and awed at them for a while, did some cage pricing and then we went on our way.

We had a wonderful time while we were out, and just had a really great conversation.

Sometimes, she gets things in her mind and gets determined to find a way to make it happen!

She asked her daddy if she could get a hamster.  He said, he didn’t think she was ready to care for an animal inside the house.  This made her pretty upset.  She knows she has pets outside, but she was dissatisfied.  She wants one inside.

She mentioned a bird, a snake and now a hamster.

She was brooding over the answer a little bit, and then got overwhelmed and went to lie on her bed.

I went in to check on her after a few minutes, and she had the covers over her head and was not budging.  She didn’t want dinner. Didn’t want anything but a hamster!

“I know you are disappointed about the hamster.”

So, I went into the other room and left her door open.  She could hear Sweetie 2 and  and I singing songs while making dinner.  She could hear laughter and she could hear joy.

I knew she wanted in her heart to join in, but she stayed on her bed.  And then…. she went outside and climbed the tree. HIGH.  She has not done that in nearly 2 years.I went outside and asked her to come down.  “Do you realize, you broke your pinky promise?”

She immediately came down.  She went back into her room and I gently said, “We love you sweetie.”

“I know you are disappointed, but you need to really think about what daddy has said.”

I sang a little soft song to her, and then I put my hand on her and just prayed for her.

Tears began to flow. I quietly said that I was going to go and finish dinner. “We would love for you to join us.”

(Daddy had to leave with Sweetie 4 for a special time)

She came out with tears of regret.  “Mama, I am so sorry I broke my pinky promise! I can’t believe I broke my pinky promise! I was also wrong to get so angry!  I was so wrong!”

“Will you forgive me?”  And she fell into my arms with true sorrow and repentance.

“OH YES I WILL!”

I told her that she needs to forgive herself too, and let the Lord carry that burden.

Then we talked a little more about hamsters and why we don’t think this is a good time for one.She understood and received our instruction without anger.

We also talked just a little bit about dissatisfaction.  Why do we think we have a “need” for something?  “What are we trying to fill inside by getting another animal?”

That took some thinking.  And she had some very good insights!

“Animals don’t hurt you or reject you.”

But God has created us to be in relationship with people! And even though people do hurt us and reject us, they are also capable of great love and mutual relationship!  An animal cannot fulfill that kind of relationship.

She waited up for Daddy and Sweetie 4 to come home and then apologized to her daddy too.

It was beautiful.

We renewed our pinky promise. 🙂

 

Today, there has been no mention of hamsters, birds, snakes or other animals…. there was just happiness.

(Our gentle modeling, forced her to have to look at her own behaviors. She was faced with being the one who was angry. She was faced with being the one who broke her promise and  she was faced with being the one who was on her bed pulling away from relationship. She didn’t like it.)

This is how BCLC  (Beyond Consequences Logic and Control, or Grace Based Parenting works.

Our kids feel safe when we are in control. They feel safe and secure when we make a decision, even one they don’t agree with  and stay the course in a fair and just manner.

There was no need to consequence her.  She was ashamed of her own behavior already. She needed mercy and understanding, but not caving in to her demands.

What Are They Trying To Tell Us?

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What is going on with our  kids when try to get attention in inappropriate ways when we are talking on the phone or to another adult?
Interpreting their behavior is very important to solving the problem!
If we assume they are trying to annoy us, it will lead to frustration and unmet need.

Children who come from difficult backgrounds have many behaviors that are perplexing indeed.  The question is, What are they trying to tell us when it comes to hard to identify behaviors?

One of the most difficult and  painful things our children may have gone through, is that they were not noticed.  The child who  has suffered from severe neglect, was voiceless.
They were overlooked, ignored; their needs were not met, and it was as if they didn’t exist.

When our children come home to us, they finally have “attention” and the relish it.  They don’t want that feeling of being “noticed” to go away.
“Somebody thinks I am precious!”
“Somebody laughed when I said something funny!
“Somebody noticed that I skinned my knee!”
They voice a need and it is met.  They begin to feel the awesomeness of being “noticed”.
And then…. the phone rings, or another adult comes over; panic sets in.

Honestly, I think these kids are afraid of being “invisible” once again, so they need to make sure that we know they are there.

I distinctly remember several years ago when our first daughter was 4. She was still in her foster family and they had come over to visit. We were all playing cards and she was in the living room lining up stuffed animals and singing to them  louder and LOUDER and then slightly looking over her shoulder to see if we were listening.
She NEEDED to have that connection/attention but didn’t know how to properly get it.
We did go over and tell her that she was really entertaining those animals well! She smiled and then calmed her voice, and eventually came over to “visit” the card game.
After her adoption, she often needed to be in the middle of us talking , just to make sure we still knew she was there.
“You are so entertaining! “Can you sit here just a minute while we finish talking, and then we’ll talk?”
And we would keep things short, as a 5 year old just can’t wait a long time.
She needed us to pay attention to her, and we needed to meet that unfulfilled need.
For her,  it was LIFE. Her life was on the line.
A child who has been severely neglected and has never had a voice, needs to be given that voice, and they need to know that we know they are there.
It is terribly fearful for them to think they might be forgotten again.
With that in mind, it changes how we view what they are doing, and then we can work to really help them heal and know that they are precious, cherished and loved.

There will be situations where you need your child to be quiet, especially if you are trying to take an important call.
Prepare them ahead of time.  Let them know that you are going to need them to be real quiet for a few minutes so that you can make that call.  You can even tell them what it is about if you think it will help them to know that you are not forgetting them.
I used to keep a jar of M&M’s by the phone.
If it rang, the kids would all run and sit by the counter where the phone was, and I would give them 1 M&M at  a time, while I talked on the phone, offering warm expressions to them , so they knew I hadn’t forgotten them. 🙂
If you can’t prepared them ahead of time, excuse yourself for a minute from the call and explain to your children what you are doing and let them know you need to talk on the phone for a minute, but you’ll be right back with them as soon as you can.

Welcome them into your lap to sit quietly, or hold their little hand.  Make funny faces,  and offer them a snack.
It is so much easier in modern times to do these things compared to a long time ago when I was tethered to a land line!

There may be that time when your little one is first home, that some conversations may have to be cut short, so that your child can stay regulated. This is ok.  You will continue to work on ways to help them know they are safe and not forgotten, and things will improve!

It doesn’t take long, if you know what your are dealing with.

For the parent who might not consider the child’s overwhelming need to be “heard”, it can be exasperating to have a child speaking loudly, or singing loudly while you are trying to talk on the phone.  It can lead to a parent’s own meltdown,and cause hurt for your child.
There is NOTHING WRONG with needing that attention.  There is nothing wrong with wanting relationship and protecting what you perceive to be losing!

But , those behaviors need to be tweaked so all can function peacefully, including parents who need to speak to each other or on the phone.

Children who have had no voice, need to know that they will never be forgotten again.
They need to know that they are cherished and loved, even if you have to talk to the Electric Company.

Don’t forget that a child who comes from a traumatic background, is going to need those extra layers of security for a long, long time.
Our patience is soooo needed!

Happy Parenting!

“Be The Flashlight”

 

“Be The Flashlight”

originally written August 23, 2010

I was thinking over a few conversations related to a Heather Forbes- Bryan Post- Beyond Consequences Logic and Control mindset.
Some of the discussion included statements like  “They are off”, or “There is just something wrong!”

I think sometimes, what we are afraid of, we attack. So, here is yet another post, to bring out some of the benefits that I think one could get in a BCLC approach to parenting, and a few observations of my own.

No one approach is perfect, unless of course it perfectly lines up with the Word of God.
It is our personal responsibility as parents to ANY child, to be the parent God has called us to be, not just the easy one, but the troubled and difficult one too.

Scripture calls for us to Love. It calls for parents, to not exasperate or embitter their children. I know there are times where I have done the very thing scripture tells me not to do. It is wrong, and as a Christian, I see it as sin.

I am thankful to the wonderful wisdom I have been able to glean from, both from the pulpit, from books, from scripture, and from parents who have walked before me.
There is a rich treasury, a wealth of knowledge to be had and understood.

If I want to know about raising girls in particular, I might find my good friend who has raised girls and has a close relationship with her girls, to pick her brain and see what she did right. For boys, the same thing.

When it comes to the traumatized or adopted child, I might pick a different brain, because the circumstances and situations are very, and VASTLY different.

The toddler who screams NO! in rebellion, may look exactly like the toddler who screams NO! in fear.  But how you parent the fearful toddler, vs. the rebel of a toddler is vastly different…. YET, many things can be the same.
(how’s that for a wishy washy statement) LOL

BCLC is not about changing your child so they can fit into your family. It is about changing YOU so you can reach your child.

Really, as I was reading Colossians 3:18– yesterday, there is a part of chapter 3 that says, “Wives, submit to your husbands as is fitting in the Lord, Husbands love your wives and treat them gently, do not provoke your children to exasperation lest they become discouraged, children obey your parents as it pleases the Lord…… What ever you do, work heartily for the Lord and not for men!

It was interesting to me that each relationship mentioned was to be pleasing to the Lord.

In not exasperating my children and  treating them gently, I do please the Lord. In Proverbs there is the famous vs. that says, “A soft answer turns away wrath”. It is so true. Why is it so hard for us to die to ourselves and follow it?

One of the things that the BCLC paradigm presents is using a soft answer to DE-Escalate situations with traumatized children.

It is curious, how some will get upset because they want the RIGHT to not be gentle and tender, when their child isn’t gentle and tender. It is more of an “eye for an eye” kind of parenting. Only the strongest and fittest survive that kind of house hold… or do they?
Tenderness and Discipline are not mutually exclusive statements.

One of my favorite parts of the BCLC approach is that Love Never Fails. It doesn’t.
I was listening to a Margaret Becker song this a.m. called “Never for Nothing”.
It isn’t for naught when you love somebody and receive nothing back.

Eventually, that nut will crack, that hard shell will crack, that heart of stone will turn into a heart of flesh, but it takes TIME…..
And if you never saw it in your lifetime, that doesn’t mean it was for naught.

When our children who come from such awful backgrounds are brought into our homes, their hearts are closed to such a bright light. That light of love, reflecting on them closes their eyes and hearts. It is too bright! And they can’t see their way out of a very dark place.

If we would stop shining the light IN their face, and BECOME the light, shining on the narrow path to  to lead them  out of the darkness and into the marvelous light, they may be able to open their eyes and follow us. They may even hold our little flashlight hand along the way. 🙂
They may need to take baby steps, allowing their eyes to adjust slowly, or they may run, to a new reality of love, compassion, acceptance and relationship. But it is up to us to adjust for THEM, not them for US.

Model that light to them. Don’t shine it in their face. Walk in the path and direction you want them to walk, and point the light at the goal! Let them peer at what is to come…. and comfort them in their fear.

As they begin to see, that little window of tolerance that is mentioned so much in BCLC will begin to open, and then it will open WIDE! And then, you can be all the more tender and loving and gentle with the special gifts that God has given you.

So would you rather be this?

OR This?

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