Friday 31 December 2010

Archived Post 2010 - Another Year

Each year I stress to my kids the importance of the meaning of Christmas, the importance of giving over receiving, that the reason that we celebrate has to do with our faith and not our wallets. I think that we manage to strike a good balance between giving and receiving for the most part.

This year as I look back on the last few weeks, I find myself overwhelmed with the consumer nature of the holiday season. Buy, buy, buy is all we here for weeks on end. It is all about having more, a bigger this and a better that.

Perhaps it is because I was sick over Christmas and all the gifts could not be opened fast enough for me so that I could go back to bed. Perhaps it was because there has been a lot of behaviour these last few weeks and I was tired or perhaps it is because the gifts are really not that important to me anymore. Yes, the love of my life bought me all 9 seasons of Little House on the Prairie on DVD which thrills me to no end and I will love watching every minute of it but I did not need it. My children did not need another book or lego set and they ignored many of the smaller less flashy treats that were found in their stockings. In fact at this very moment they are outside playing in the quickly melting snow and having the time of their lives without a single store bought thing to play with.

It makes we think that we could do with a whole lot less.

In fact I know we could do with a whole lot less.

In the days before Christmas I delivered one of our Christmas hampers and I had the privilege of meeting the Mom who was receiving the gifts. It was awkward for her but I could see the gratitude in her eyes. She was grateful for all that had been done for her, she was thankful that she had gifts to share with her children on Christmas morning and she said she humbled by the out pouring of love from strangers.

It reminded me of just how very blessed I am to be a middle class stay at home Mom, sure we struggle to make ends meet and there are no big extras in our lives but we choose this. We choose to have less so that I can be home. For so many there is no choice, no choice of this job or that one, steak or pork for dinner, daycare or not daycare. There are no choices because jobs are hard to find, steak is to expensive and without daycare there would be no working, without working there would be no food. I am among the privileged who do not have to make those choices.

I am grateful that another year draws to a close I have be reminded of what is important rather than worrying about what I might not have.

Wednesday 29 December 2010

Archived Post 2010 - Raging Boy

Kevin is sitting stoned faced across from me, he is mad at the world, he is mad a at me. He is disappointed that I will not send him back and angered by the fact that I am not falling for his old tricks. He threw a cork at me and hit me right in the mouth, he has a good arm and I have a very fat lip. He has rarely hurt me and I know that he did not realize just how very much a cork could hurt when you hit someone in the mouth with it. Regardless of that though he is out control this week and I am so tired of picking up the pieces.

 I am not sure that we will make it alive through the next 9 days till he goes back to school, I have searched ebay for a straight jacket but they seem to be sold out at every shop, perhaps there was a Christmas vacation run on them. Adults everywhere are buying them to so that they can avoid the rest of Christmas vacation.

Thursday 16 December 2010

Archived Post 2010 - Not for the faint of heart.

Parenting traumatized kids is not for the faint of heart or for those who are can not switch it up on the fly. Today was a long day and when I say long day I mean between the hours 5pm and 8pm. I received a phone call saying that Kevin was in trouble on the bus again at 4 and then the bus was late.

He got in trouble with me because he decked another kid. He has been hitting a lot lately. In this case he did not even hit the kid who was giving him a hard time, he hit another kid who told him to shut-up. Anyway, I was not the most therapeutic parent at first because I went with the anger  that I was feeling rather than waiting till calmed down before I dealt with him. After I yelled at him then I sat down and debriefed with Kevin about how he was feeling when I was angry and at him. We talked through that awhile and then used his feelings to discuss the choices he has been making. After lots of  talking he was able to be honest about how he is feeling on the bus and what a hard time he is having. There was a lot of learning going on.

Let's be clear here  - I do not for a minute recommend yelling at your kids but if you do it, after you have apologised to them and their siblings it can be a good chance to discuss feelings and what happens when other people are angry. Yelling is triggering for both my kids, it is not a good place to go but it is where I went because oh my goodness, stop flippin punching everyone who looks at you! I am not feeling very patient with this behaviour at the moment even though there are 6 million reasons that they are acting like this right now. ( yes they, I will save Randall's antics for another post)

After about an hour of talking we hugged he moved on to homework, he could not do it and hysterical sobbed through it. The he cried because he could not find the book I suggested he look for. Then he tried to pick a fight with whomever might take the bait and stormed away from the dinner table numerous times. Finally he got sent to bed but not before he punched me a few times and we ended up standing outside waiting for him to cool down so that we could all be safe. I talked him through it calmly, yelling when he is raging gets us... oh yeah, nowhere. So even though he was punching me and I had to carry all 75lbs of him outside I just stood in front of the door telling him that he needed to be calm and to stop hurting me. He did and came inside and got ready for bed without further incident.

There is a lot of healing that comes from talking about the "big feelings" that my kids are having but each and every time it happens there is some serious fear about sharing those very deep and scary feelings. It is interesting because I am noticing that I can really push Kevin to talk to me about how he is feeling, it is not easy but we can go there. Randall is not even close to being able to go there, he just gets mad and storms off or bursts into tears and will talk about his thoughts or emotions.

As frustrating as dealing with Kevin can be, I can see a difference in how he deals with things and just how very far he has come. He works through his feelings more quickly and is much more willing to talk about what is going in his head and his heart. When we first met him there was no way that we could of had a night like tonight and have end as well as it did by the time bedtime rolled around.

Randall is moving a whole lot slower but he will get there, I am feeling positive at the moment, don't burst my bubble.

Friday 10 December 2010

Archived Post 2010 - Stealers and liars and ragers, oh my

Kevin is having a rough go right now. I started about 10 days ago. I could spend my time trying to analyze his behaviours and establish which of the many possible triggers caused this hellish spiral  that we are all enduring but there is really no point in that. He tried to rage last night, we managed to keep him relatively calm and then I locked us in the bathroom together until he was calm enough to let me hold him which was what he really needed from me.

As I type this he is sitting on the floor in front of me with some paper writing about his feelings. He is not at all interested in telling me what is wrong but I know from experience with him that he will be so much better he talks about it. I thought if he wrote it out we might get a bit of springboard to work from.

He did talk to me on Sunday for quiet some time about how he is still very afraid that we will stop loving him and send him away. We talked for a long time about that and about his birth mom and the poor choices that she made. It is a lot for a 10 year old to process. I am still not completely honest with him about some of the choices that she made and how she put a variety of other things ahead of him and his siblings. He is to young to understand that but at the same time I can not and will not let him think for one single minute that he did anything to cause her to stop loving him.

I have been feeling pretty down this week because I just am not up to playing this game with both of the boys at the same time, I would just really like some time where they were both calm and regulated. I went to meet the new therapist who is working with Randall and I on some of the harder stuff that Randall seems to need to work through and in talking about him I talked about how much I dread going back into these hard cycles with the boys.

 I know what they are like and I know how difficult they can be.

After I left there I ran into a dear friend who said something that really resonated for me as I moaned about going back to this place with Kevin. She said "you have not been to this place with him, you have been to other places like it but not to this one" and you know what she is right. Calvin and I have never been here before and it is different. While we were talking I compared the experiences to countries last year we were in Iraq and there was a war going on, this year we are in Saudi Arabia, landscape looks the same but it is a totally different place.

I am good with different, I think. Let me get through tonight and then I will let you know.

Thursday 2 December 2010

Archived Post 2010 - Ten things my son needs to learn.

Dear Kevin,

There are a few things that you really need to learn about me sooner rather than later.

1. I am not stupid.
2. There is little that you can do that I have not already tried.
3. I rarely got caught, you will not be as lucky.
4. Your teachers are on my side because I work at your school.
5. When I say that you are to buy book and not poster at the school book fair I mean a book and not a poster. When you proudly show me the poster you bought do not be at all surprised when I make you take it back and get a book instead. Bursting into tears is not a good solution.
6. When I ask you not to climb into the stacks of tires ( as tempting as they are) while we are at Costco waiting forever and a day for them to put our tires on DO NOT CLIMB INTO THE STACKS OF TIRES.
7. Repeating yourself over and over gets you know nowhere with me, did you hear me, nowhere.
8. I love you and all the quirky and funny things you do but if you don't stop playing with the toothpaste in the downstairs bathroom and leaving it all over the sink I am going to make you brush your teeth with baking soda.
9. I would strongly suggest that you stop dawdling over your cereal/oatmeal/toast in the morning when we are in a hurry because frankly I am tired of telling you to hurry up.
10. When I am tired and grouchy and I tell you that I would suggest you be quiet and do what I say because otherwise my head might explode and that would not be pretty.


Friday 12 November 2010

Archived Post 2010 - Graffiti

Written on the bathroom wall at school

I had sex. Fri. Oct 9, 2010. Randall.

I kid you not, he wrote it on the wall in the bathroom and signed his name. He has a lot to learn about the art of graffiti if he plans to do it more often. No I am not to worried about what he wrote or that he wrote on the bathroom wall. I am sure that he was just copying something else he saw in some other bathroom stall. He thought it would be funny and it might of been if he had not done it in the boys bathroom at school.

I really wished that I could take a picture but I thought asking the principal if he could wait to wash it off so I could take picture might make me appear a little bit too crazy.

PS - Yes Oct 9 was a Saturday so clearly he was not keeping track very carefully.

PPS -  Yesterday he was learning about gestures in french class and offfered to show the class a gesture he knew, then he gave everyone the finger.

Tuesday 9 November 2010

Archived Post 2010 - But that is not what I said!

Breakfast at our house this morning included this conversation

Randall, where is the straw for your water bottle

Gee Mom, I don't know.

Well that's interesting Randall because I am sure that it was in the bottle when you left for school yesterday.

I ummm, uhhh, lost it.

How did you lose it?

I took it out and put it on  my desk and it rolled off and at the end of the day I looked and looked for it but I could not find it anywhere.

Randall, would you please explain to me why the straw for your water bottle was on you desk.

Because I was chewing on it! ( said with exasperation because he clearly has the world's dumbest parents)

I did not know that your straw was made of chewing gum.

It isn't

Well it must be because you are chewing it, did it taste like mint or bubble gum?

Randall starts to shout, "THAT IS NOT WHAT I SAID!"  at which point we all begin to laugh at our drama queen and he stomps off threatening his giggling brother on the way

I will skip all the gnashing of teeth and wailing that followed on Randall's part because he did not like where the conversation went after that.

Then much to Randall's discontent I wrote the following note in his agenda:

Please know that Randall does not have a drink today due to some poor choices that he has made, please feel free to limit his trips to the water fountain.

The hour before school was really long, I can only imagine what the 4 hours after school are going to be like.

Wednesday 3 November 2010

Archived Post 2010 - It's a love/hate relationship.

I love attachment.
I hate attachment.

I love that my children are developing bonds to us, the people who will always be there for them. I love that they are learning to trust us, to feel safe with us and to love us.

I hate the nightmare that is getting to the place that they need to be in order to do all those things. I hate that in order to learn to love us they must grieve all that they have lost in their short lives. They have experienced more loss than many people experience in a lifetime.

Randall continues to struggle and fight us at every turn, It has been a long month with him, in fact it has been a long 6 months ( as many of you well know). He has ended his last 2 days in tears and been sent to bed early because he is unable to stop arguing and being rude when he is in trouble. He began is day today in tears because he refused to wash his hands after going to the bathroom. It was a long morning. Then he left for school. I will see him at lunch hand I am dreading what I am going to hear from his morning teacher because more days than not she stops me in the hall to talk about his behaviour. He is not hitting so I guess that is a plus but he is threatening and teasing and being rude. Rude seems to be his behaviour of choice this week

I love attachment.
I hate attachment.

As hard as Randall is at the moment Kevin is managing to keep my hopeful, he is in a word, wonderful. Do not get me wrong he is not perfect. In the past week he has spray painted the inside of the toilet black with black hairspray, ignored my instructions numerous times, had a tantrum over his lunch, talked back and worked hard to annoy his father but he is not raging. He responds when he gets in trouble, he is remorseful, he makes amends and accepts his consequences without argument and does them.

Kevin keeps me hopeful. Kevin who used to rage and try to break anything he could get his hands on. Kevin who did everything he could to make us stop loving him, to make us give up on him. If we can see the light at the end of the tunnel with Kevin than surely we can get there with Randall  right. (don't rain on my parade, I need all the hope I can get right now)

That is what is giving me hope this week, that and the fact that they go to school everyday and I get a break.

Wednesday 22 September 2010

Archived Post 2010 - Today hope is a 4 letter word.

I don't have much hope today. I have a little more than I had yesterday but it is only marginally more and only because after having a meltdown yesterday morning I found people to help me through it, made some choices and then went to bed knowing that today is a new day.

After I wrote yesterdays post I was feeling overwhelmed by what has been going on with Randall. I decided to email Randall s therapists and see what they thought/could say and in doing that I was really honest about how I was feeling in that moment. Which turned out to be a really good thing because then we talked about how I was feeling and what I needed to do and that gave me some perspective.

I am scared.

I am scared that Randall will not attach to me. It has been 2 years and everyone told me he was going to be the easy kid. Kevin was the hard kid and yet he is attaching, he has made huge strides, making those strides with him makes me feel proud. I feel proud that we took this really tough kid and helped him to turn that around. I am proud that we have success story of what can happen with older child adoption and at the same time I also terrified that we have a worst case scenario on our hands as well.

Twice yesterday Randall said things that caused me seriously consider that he may never get to the place were he trusts me enough to let me in. I can not figure him out, I can not find the pattern and help him to change as I did with Kevin.

Hope is 4 letter word today.

I don't have much hope and I am working on being okay with that for now. I am taking a huge step back from parenting Fudge and letting Jack take over for a bit which works in some ways and not in others because I am the one that is home. I have bought goodnights and given the boys an alarm clock and I will not be pulled into the struggle over wet beds and water drinking any longer. I do need to not start each day with a fight.

I have a plan and that will help me cope but at this exact moment I am still scared and I do not have very much hope that things are really going to change. I am terrified of all the what ifs.

I feel defeated. It is hard to feel this way. It is hard to admit that I feel this way and that an 8 year old has made me feel it. But I do and I know that I am not the first and I will not be last.

Tuesday 21 September 2010

Archived Post 2010 - So done

As Corey ( a blogger who no longer blogs but will forever be my hero)  would say, Oh  my freaking head!

The behaviour around here had sucked this last week. Kevin has been a brat to Jack and is some serious trouble over his rage on Saturday which I was not here to witness but I have been told that at one point he was trying to throw chairs at Jack and Jack does have a broken toe. Kevin is showing remorse and is being sweet as pie in an attempt to make amends. When I yelled at him yesterday because I was mad at his brother he just took it, apologised and fixed his typical little boy mistake. Amazing progress for him, he is healing his moving on, it is good.

Randall on the other hand is going to send me to the loony bin. His favourite thing to do is to be defiant by drinking water in the night to make himself wet his bed. We have tried everything from ignoring to punishing to taking things away and charging him for the running of the washer everyday. Nothing has worked. He still drinks water and lies about it even though the evidence is to the contrary and he gets busted each and every time.

Yesterday however takes the cake. His bed was so wet that his pillow was dripping ( gross I know) and yet he was adamant that the only thing he had to drink was a glass of milk at dinner. It was total crap and I knew it but he was adamant. So adamant that he convinced Jack that it was the truth and then Jack and I started to argue because I was not letting Randall off the hook on this one. I made threats about keeping him home to make him tell the truth and Jack disagreed with me saying that maybe there was something wrong, maybe he was telling the truth. I finally gave in and sent the child to school.

He came home from school and I talked and talked at him about how his choices sucked, he was hurting me and that it did not matter what he did we loved him and he was not going anywhere. He told me liked drinking water and so then we had a whole discussion about how we can not always do the things we like and there are things that I like that I can not do ( we have had this discussion 600 times already). There were a few moments where I got really frustrated but mostly it was a pretty calm discussion. He apologised at dinner after I apologised to Kevin for getting mad at him over nothing important.

I moved on, I thought maybe I was wrong, I thought maybe there was something up that we were missing. I made sure there was no way he could of easily had a drink last night. His bed was wet this morning. The first words out of his mouth were but I didn't have a drink. To make a long story short he admitted that everything he said yesterday was lie.

I was speechless, that is rarity for me. I am past angry, I am so angry that  I am silent because I am afraid that I will say something that I will later regret to the little angel. I can not even wrap my mind around the fact that he would let it all get that far and then all of a sudden admit to it as though it is was the most normal thing ever.

I lied as a kid, lied like a trooper but I remember lying to avoid getting in trouble and I worked hard to keep track of the lies so I would not get caught later. But Randall is not lying to avoid trouble, he is lying to make trouble and he totally knows what he is doing. Frankly I am not sure that I know what to do about it. A raging child is easy compared to this.

Anyone got anything that has worked with their little monsters angels?

Friday 17 September 2010

Archived Post 2010 - Why shaming Kevin at school will not work.

Shame is a big part of life. We all feel it and we all know how to make someone else feel it. It is normal BUT it can be harming as well. Kids who have experienced trauma ( most adopted kids have some and it all varies but it is there) have a really difficult time with shame and for many of them it can push them into fight or flight mode at the drop of a hat. Kevin is one of those kids, we have worked really hard with him to teach him that is ok, that it is a normal emotion and that we can work through it.

The problem is other adults routinely use shame as a way of getting children to comply, this is especially apparent at school. As a teacher it was something I would do with a kid to make them realise the error of their ways, I was not trying to guilt them into apologising but instead just trying to get them to make amends and develop some empathy. This does not work with either of my kids. This year the following letter was given to Kevin's teachers and I thought that it might be useful to other Mama's to so here it is.

Dear Teachers,

There are a few things that we need to remember about Kevin and his needs as a child who has experienced trauma and multiple transitions in his short life.

- Shame is a significant issue and trigger for Kevin, using it to make him be compliant will not work, it will just escalate his behaviour. If he perceives that he is being shamed over his behaviour by adults or children he will react. It may take hours but there will be a reaction.
- Making his world smaller to keep other kids safe will only escalate his behaviours if he is made to feel more shame by other kids or staff. (this is the fear that he vocalizes the most at home about what happens at school, if all the kids know I am in place X because of my behaviour they will tease me and hurt me. )
- Each failure and loss that Kevin experiences at school affects his emotional and mental health and thus affects his behaviour.
- Although Kevin is 10 his emotional age is significantly lower and as a result he is often unable to verbalize his feelings and the things that trigger his reactions because he is only just learning this skill. We do not expect a child of 3 or 4 years of age to be able to tell us why they are having a tantrum instead we try to help them contain their emotions and then help them to make amends for their actions.

Kevin needs to be able to succeed at school, we need to work together to meet all of his needs just as we would for any child who presented with significant special needs. Although Calvin’s special needs are invisible that does not make them any less significant.

Some strategies for working with Kevin are:
- Watching for his escalating behaviours and intervening as soon as he appears to be having a conflict rather than waiting for the kids to get an adult to help
- Being aware that change in his routines ( supply teachers, community good byes, special events) cause him stress and his stress comes out as behaviour.
- Directing him to a calming activity when he appears to begin being overwhelmed by a situation - colouring and books are good things that give him space to calm himself down.
- Kevin needs a great deal of structure to be successful. When he is already feeling overwhelmed activities like P.E. and recess can push him over the edge.
- Asking him to leave an activity and move to something else when you notice that other children are pushing his buttons.
- Acknowledging his feelings in a situation even if it appears as though nothing of significance has happened and that he has over reacted
Kevin says “ I was mad because they were staring at me”,
Adult responds “ Wow Kevin that must of made you feel really uncomfortable. Can you tell me about what else happened?”
This sort of response is far more effective because Kevin really does struggle with issues that would seem insignificant for other children his age.

- If Kevin runs and hides after a negative behaviour he is responding to a deep fear or trauma trigger, he will not be successful if you put him back into the classroom without first giving him lots of time and space to regroup.

Please remember that Kevin works really hard to keep it together at school and just because he seems to of bounced back from an issue does not mean that there will not be more behaviour later as a result of that same issue. Kevin can always come home if things are harder than he seems able to handle, in fact we would prefer that he came home before he escalated to the point of hurting another child. He understands that when he is feeling lots of “big feelings” he needs some space to pull himself together. Home is a safe place for that to happen.

Thanks for your continued support in making school successful for Kevin


Sunday 29 August 2010

Archived post 2010 - Can I add these skills to my resume?

Oh the skills I have learned being a Mom.
I can now...
- pick a sliver out of the hand of a child who is screaming as though I am trying to cut off his ears.
- smell withheld poop from across the room
- carry 3 plates plus utensils while adding food to the plates from a buffet table
- fold laundry, talk on the phone and glare at the children to stop whatever it is that they are doing wrong.
- find lost shoes in a hay field.
- take close up pictures of a grasshopper laying eggs
- get up, showered, dressed and make a cup of coffee in less then 10 minutes
- tell when my child is lying to me
- have the courage to admit that I make mistakes as a parent.
- drive the car, yell at the kids and carry on a conversation with my husband.
- entertain bored kids with a few napkins, a pen and straw wrapper.
- make a good meal out of  2 cans of chickpeas, an onion, rice, lemon juice, cumin and curry powder
- patch drywall
- teach other people new skills ( read teach kids to do all the household chores I hate)
and last but not least
- I can smell a wet bed from 3 rooms away.

No one ever told me about all the things I would learn, to bad none of them are really skills I could use to get a job doing anything other than being a parent (not that I want a job or anything).

Tuesday 24 August 2010

Archived Post 2010 - Openess in Adoption from Foster Care with Siblings

"Here come my brothers!" E shouted with excitement as Randall and Kevin walked up the hill toward him.
" Let's go play in the fort" E exclaimed again and off the 3 of them ran to play together chattering away to one another, all of them equally thrilled to be together. To an outsider they look like any other sibling group but they are not like any other group of siblings because they are not growing up in the same home.

E is Kevin and Randall's younger biological sibling. He was not adopted by us but by a family with whom he was placed as an infant. Kevin and Randall  also lived with this family for a time but Kevin and Randall  are a handful ( or 6) and the 3 of them together was not manageable. When we first met the boys we did not understand what the problem was, then we go to know them and now Jack says " Mother Teresa and Ghandi could not of handled the 3 of them together." He is right, they are a handful.

When they boys file was  presented to us we were asked to be open to remaining in contact with the foster family who had adopted their brother and the family that had their older sister as well. We agreed not really knowing what that would mean or how it might work out.

We thought at the time ( and still do) that the more people that our children have in their lives who love them the better off they would be. We were open to having relationships with their siblings families, we had no idea what that would mean but we were open to it.

When you adopt children from foster care there are less options for open adoptions than there are when you adopt children privately as infants. Kids who are in foster care are usually there because there first parents where unable to meet there needs and in some cases where the perpetrators of abuse. It is hard to know what the right choice to make is in regards in birth family access is, there is no easy answer.

Our kids have no access to their birth mother, we send her cards and photos twice a year and we talk about of her often. Kevin is moving forward and understands why that is the case,Randall does not. It is further complicated for our children as they are part of a sibling group, they have an older sister ( T.) still in care, their brother (E.) and a younger sister who still lives their birth mom. Their older sister has visits with their birth mom while the 3 boys do not and have not seen her in over 2 years. She also sees their younger sister and this is hard for the boys as they do not have relationship with her at all.

We work hard to get all 4 siblings together when we can but it is hard given that T is almost 13 and not in a family situation where developing new relationships is easy. It is a much different story with their little brothers family though, we have become family to one another through our children's shared biology. They parented my sons for over a year before me and although the boys moved on I am thrilled that we have become such great friends.

I can only speak from personal experience in regards to my own kids but I know that having an open relationship with their siblings makes their lives richer and mine too. I have come to love T,  E and his parents and I am thankful that they are interested in having the boys remain a part of their sons life because we are richer for having them all in ours.

If you adopt from foster care do not be afraid to include your children's birth family when possible, it can be a blessing. .

Saturday 10 July 2010

Archived Post 2010 - Healing is a not a straight line.

Healing is not a straight line. Healing does not always mean moving forwards, sometimes you have to move backward before you can go forward again. My children are healing and I know that things take time,  but oh my patience has been tried this week and I have not dealt with all situations as a therapeutic parent should, there has been much yelling on my part. I regret that but I am not beating myself up over it either because it happens and there is learning that comes from hearing your Mom apologise to you for her choices.

We have had a long week of taking more steps backward than forward. I am hoping that I can find the energy to write a thoughtful post about it tomorrow morning but let`s just say someone has stopped eating, is hiding food, is lying, being sneaky and generally going out of his way to make me angry. Guesses as to who that might b? Someone else is acting as sweet as pie when others around and then turning and ignoring me when we are alone and being defiant and generally acting like a poop. Any guesses as to who that might be? Let me give you a hint it is not Jack.

That all being said we did have fun at the cottage this week, we enjoyed the lake and the company and aside from some behaviour issues ( that we have brought home with us) both of the boys seem to of had a great time.

I am too tired to say much more than that, the AC is on in my bedroom and that is where I am headed, there is no AC anywhere else in our house  and we are still at the tail end of a heat wave, I think it is officially over but it is still hot.

Friday 25 June 2010

Archived Post 2010 - Feeling a little raw

I am feeling a little raw this morning, raw as in emotional, not as in undercooked.

Kevin has had an amazing few weeks and although I am cursing the goodness by saying it aloud it has been fabulous. Even though I yelled at him long and loud on Saturday and made all sorts of useless threats about taking away toys he managed to keep it together and have a fantastic week. He also got an award at school this week for achievement and I thought his head was going to explode he was so proud of himself.

I just saw pictures of my niece who just finished grade 8 and it made me cry. She is growing up, all kids do but in this case they are so very far away and there is no way that I will be able to see them anytime soon and going more than a year in between visits is really hard for me. It is a complicated tale of family dynamics that I will not launch into here but the reality is that if I do not get on a plane and go there I will not see her or her brothers and that makes me sad because we do not have the money for plane tickets this year and it may be awhile before we do.

On Tuesday night our family was honoured by the agency where our children's therapists work, for all the work we have done together. It took every ounce of self control that I had not to cry my eyes out because oh my God is has been hard sometimes and it continues to be really  sometimes. When I signed up for this I never knew just how hard and exhausting it would get. It was so nice to be acknowledged and to know that others are seeing just how very hard we are working to make this all come together, to make a group of four very different people become a family.

Randall is, well he's Randall  he is about 4 developmentally at the moment and oh so very 4. If I start telling you about his last week I will be here all day but quick highlights include, choking someone at school, taking 10 of his asthma pills at once because they taste like candy and he thought it would be a good idea, admitting that he only ever tells the truth to Dad, telling me that I do not love him enough, punching a kid in the head over a pencil, yelling, screaming and generally just being miserable. Hopefully things will calm down, today is the last day of school and once we get through the next few days hopefully things will be easier for him as we adjust to summer routines.

Kevin will be 10 Sunday, I am spending every waking moment in the next 2 days setting up for summer camp and then on Monday running it for 3 days and then I will be cleaning it all up. Oh and there is a party tomorrow night which I am looking forward to as it will be a much needed social night and Jack is going to hang out with his friends tonight in another town far enough away that he is spending the night. On Sunday we are going to the water slides with the siblings to celebrate Kevin's birthday and I still have to plan a picnic, make cupcakes, wrap presents and find time to do it in the little bit of time that I may have between now and then.

That all being said I will not  be around much till after the 30th, don't have to much fun without me, ok.

And before I could even hit publishRandall let the dogs out of their crates, one dog went downstairs, drank water and threw up, again. This went on last week, then she seemed better so we cancelled the vet appt. on Wed and now that I have zero time she is throwing up again, back to rice and hamburger for her and perhaps she needs to stop being so obsessive about licking herself because I know that it is the hair in her belly that is causing all the problems.

Friday 18 June 2010

Archived Post 2010 - Why therapeutic parenting helps

Life around here right now is chaos to say the very least. I am busy trying to get ready to run a day camp program, Kevin's birthday is coming, school is ending, Father's Day is Sunday, Kevin is "graduating" from therapy, we are all going to be honoured for our work as a family at an AGM on Tuesday and Kevin is expected to read his book about feelings that he wrote at therapy this year, the dog has been sick... oh yeah and the the boys met us in early July. So it would not be hard to choose a reason for the boys to be disregulated and let me tell you, disregulated they are.

So what's my point, my point is that how I deal with that disregulation either makes or breaks our day. If I can not stay calm and regulated there is no way that my kids can. If I can be therapeutic in my interventions with them than we have a good chance of making it through our days with some actual learning taking place and perhaps even a little healing.

There have been so many moments in the last 24 hours that I could tell you all about like, the child who could for the life of him could not figure out how to put a sheet on his brothers bed, or the boy who who got around the no drinking water after dinner rule by having a huge glass of water moments before dinner so that he would still wet his bed. There was the child who cheated on a test at school and the child who thought it would be a good idea to try to sneak toys to school yet again and a child who hit his father when he was mad at his brother.

There are no shortage of moments that I could of dealt with by yelling and just issuing a consequence, a quick solution to what might appear to be just a misbehaving child but little would be learned from a quick solution and in many ways it would just reinforce their negative beliefs about themselves and their attachment to me. I not saying that there is no consequences for their actions but I am saying that it is not the first place we should go because it serves no purpose.

Let me walk you through a conversation this morning with Kevin to illustrate my point:

We were running behind this morning and so I went to get Kevin's bag so I could pack it for him to help get them to the bus on time. I opened his bag and low and behold there were a number of toys inside. They are not allowed to take toys to school and so the conversation begins and let me tell you there were a few not therapeutic comments involved on my part as I got frustrated but I manged to pull it back together, this was a long conversation but I will just give you the highlights which are still pretty long

R: Kevin, why are there toys in your bag.
K: silence and angry eyes.
R: Well K, you know that when you take toys to school they will be taken away from you when you get caught. So I guess you are telling me that you are not interested in having them as your toys any and we can either put them in the garbage or give them away.
K: more silence
R: I would like you to answer me
K: I do so want them
R: Well then why were they in your bag
K:  They were there because I wanted to take them to school
R: But you know that you are not allowed to take toys to school because they often get lost, broken or are a distraction to you in the classroom. So it seems to me that you must really not like these toys, oh wait this stuffed dog does not belong to you, it isRandall's dog and this dinosaur must be something you really don't care about so it won't be so hard for you to give it away. I guess that is the choice you made when you put them in your bag this morning.
K: angry eyes and more silence.
R: When did you put these in your bag? ( repeated a number of times)
K: When you were outside with the dogs.
R: Oh so while I was watching the dogs you thought it would be a good idea to do something that you know that would get you in trouble, well that was a good plan
K: ( shouting) No
R:  There is no reason to shout at me. I think that maybe you decided to break the rules because you saw that your brother was in trouble this morning and he was getting a lot of attention from me and you know that if break the rules you will get my attention too.
K: silence
R: I also think that sometimes you think that you might want just try to break a rule just to see if you get caught. Perhaps you were taking these toys to school as a way to let us know that you do not care about them or the fact that someone else bought them for you because they thought that you would really like them. I think maybe you want me to know that you do not care that those people care about you and buy you things that they know you would like. Would you like to call them and talk to them about that, I could get you the phone. ( In hindsight I would not of said this because it is really shaming him into valuing relationships that he has little investment in at this point because they are with people he does not see everyday, to bad I can't take it back now.)
K: NO!
At this point things went back forth for a bit along these same lines and then I had to get Randall out the door.
Then I came back and moved along a different path.
R: I want to know what you were feeling and thinking this morning when you decided to put those toys in your bag. I do not want you to turn on the tears and hear you say that it is because you don't like the rule or because I am the meanest mom ever and everyone else gets to do it. I want to know how you were feeling and what you were thinking. I am going to start doing the dishes and you can sit right there and when you are ready to tell me you let me know.

(This next part actually this took about 10 minute with gaps of silence in between as I went back to the dishes a number of times but I will just type it all at once. )

K: Mom, I took them because I wanted to make you mad, because I like making you mad.
R: well I have no doubt that you like to make me angry sometimes and I think that maybe that is a piece of what was happening but I want to know what your thought was and how you were feeling when you did it.
K: I don't like your rule and I do not want to follow it.
R: Well I am sorry that you do not like the rule, I am not changing it and I want to know what you were thinking in that moment that you put that those toys in your bag and I want to  know how you felt.
K: I was thinking that maybe this time I would be able to get away with it, maybe you would not check my bag and maybe I would not get caught.
R: and how were you feeling
K: It made me feel happy
R: So when you break the rules it makes you feel happy?
K: yes
R: wow, thanks for being so honest.

When he gets home from school today we will break conversation all down again and talk about how he feels. It is really important to give him some distance from the situation before we talk about it again though because if we keep talking in the moment he bound to give up on me at some point and rage because he is done talking about it and he does not know any other way to get out of a situation that makes him feel uncomfortable.

 He will have to make amends to Randall for taking his toys. He will have a consequence of some sort, I originally said no trampoline this afternoon but I think that I am going to retract that and change it, we will see how open he is to talking about his feelings after school and then I will decide.

I did not yell, I did not punish him or shame him into submission ( well there was that one comment) and I got a very truthful statement from him about how he feels when he breaks the rules. Now we can deal with the feelings and although it took a long time ( 35 minutes or so) it was far more productive than just getting mad and throwing the toys away.

Friday 21 May 2010

Archived Post 2010 - Sadness and gratitude.

Esssie said this in her last post "I have not cried once in the past three years, but I came darn close that day. I have choked on it, I have cut off my own oxygen supply. I have done everything possible other than cauterize my own tear ducts. Because if I cried I would have to acknowledge how really really bad things were. If I did that, I would have to do something about it. And there are not too many choices in the "doing something about it" category. So no matter what has happened, however frustrated, angry, depressed, guilty, furious, whatever feeling whisked through I have forced it to keep going on. Totally unhealthy. Really bad. I know."

I know how she feels, every fiber of being knows how she feels because some days I feel as if I let myself cry over it I will never stop. I do cry, I steal a moment here and there usually when I am alone and the boys are at at school. I started to cry last night when I told Jack about Randall s conversation with me at dinner because it breaks my heart that I have to explain to an eight year old who I love that another person, a person who created him and carried him in her did not value him as a person. She did not love him enough and nurture him enough and coo at him like a mother should to their infant. He was not cherished, he was not protected, he was neglected and that neglect will have a profound impact on the rest of his life. When I think I about that I need to cry.

My son, yes my son, can throw watering cans at me, he can hit me and kick me and tell me to fuck off. He can scream at me that I do not love him enough and that I do not care about him when I follow through on a consequence and yet I do still love him. He hurts me over and over again and I have not rejected him. Why do I keep on loving him when he hurts me over and over again? I keep loving him because the woman who created him did not love him enough, she left him alone, she did not play with him or meet his needs, she got high and drunk and left him to fend for himself and when he was found walking down the street in his pajama's looking for food he was taken away from her and she did not love him enough to put him first. When I think about those things I need to cry.

When I watch my children learn to play, when I watch them have tea parties and catch dragon flies, I get sad. I get sad  because they should have been doing all those things their whole lives and instead they are just learning to do them now. When I watch them learn to play I need to cry.

When my children allow themselves to cry when they are hurt, when they wear my hairspray and deodorant to smell like me, when they scream at me one minute and then ask for a hug ten seconds later I pause and remember that they are healing and attaching.  I need to cry then too.

 I want to cry for my sons and for the countless children in the world whose childhoods are taken away from them by abusive and neglectful parents, I want to cry for them all but I start now I might never stop. Helping children heal is the hardest job in the world. I can't think to much about what I do though because if the tears start I might not be able to stop them. When all children of the world are nurtured, cared for and seen for the beautiful gift that they are I will be able to stop feeling like I need to cry for them.

If you are nurturing a child who was broken by another person let me thank you because you are making difference in their life even though some days it feels as though it is the most thankless job. You may never see the difference you make for that child but you are making a difference with each and every moment that you keep loving them.

Thank you for your courage and commitment to making a difference in the life of a child.

Thursday 20 May 2010

Archived Post 2010 - Broken hearts

The day did not get any better and as Kevin was outside pulling weeds ( because he made the choice to make a small job take forever and have a good old screaming tantrum in the middle )> Randall and I sat down for dinner.

It was a yummy meal, Randall looked at me and said " Mom, how come birth mom did not want any more". After I put my heart back together I tried to talk him through just how that happened and how she got to keep 1 child but the other 4 had to go into care and how 3 were adopted and one was not.

 It is way to much for an eight year old to comprehend even when you tell them in kid terms and leave out all the brutal neglect and abuse. I did the best I could, then Kevin came in part way through and and added his 2 cents and then I got the behaviour from him that goes along with talking about birth mom, silliness, reprimanded, hiding then apologetic and looking for cuddles. We all moved on and went to bed but it was hard for them and for me.

This is only the 2nd time in 2 years he has had a real conversation with me about her. He is slowly but surely working all of this out, I wish he did not have to though.

Friday 14 May 2010

Archived Post 2010 - A Therapy Primer

As a society one of the biggest mistakes that we make is to tell people to pull up their socks and get on with life. Sometimes life is really hard, things go wrong, people get hurt and the last thing that we need to do is minimize a persons suffering. It is hard for a lot of adults to admit that they need help. It is hard for adults to admit that they can not just pull up their socks and move on, that the pain is to great and that they need someone to help them.

Let me tell you this now, I will say it as many times as you need to hear. Therapy is a really, really good thing.

I have heard all the excuses in the book that people have to avoid going to therapy. They are really good excuses....
I tried it, it didn't work.
or how about - They asked me to swing naked from the chandelier to help with my depression and I just could not do it.
or - I can't afford it.
or - we went 3 times and nothing got any better.
or - it won't help, I just need a thicker skin.
or - they won't understand what it is like to parent a kid with ____ ( RAD, ADHD, Autism, etc.)

Let me say it again, therapy is a really, really good thing.

There are a few things that you need to remember though ( I am not an expert but I have been in therapy a really long time and my husband is a therapist)

- you may not click with the first therapist you try, you may have to try out a whole bunch of them before you find the right one who you feel comfortable with and who can help you with your issues.

- There are lots of types of therapy and not all therapists are trained in all methods, most specialize in one or two things. If you want to talk about trauma and PTSD do not go to someone who specialized in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy unless they also have trauma experience and skills. Do not be afraid to question someones training because not everyone is honest.

- Yes it can get really expensive, really quickly. We find the money. We eat out less, we rent movies instead of going to the theater and we are generally really frugal about a lot of things to find the money for us both to have our own therapists. I go every three weeks, that is enough for me at this point in my life, when I was in university and depressed I went every week, sometimes twice ( I still have debt from those years)

- Many therapists have a sliding scale, talk about your money woes, be honest and see if they are able to help you out. It may seem like a lot of money per hour but remember it is about the same amount of money your mechanic charges for an hour of work. Therapists go to school a long time and are always taking courses to improve their skills, they do not make a lot money, trust me.

- Therapy is not just for kids or really broken adults, many people benefit from therapy once they find the right therapist. Sometimes it is a short term thing and other times it takes years. Few things can be dealt with in less than about 10 sessions though because you need to build a relationship with the therapist, work through the issue and then bring closure to the relationship.

Let me say it again, therapy is a really, really good thing.

There are lots of people out their who say that they are specialists in one type of therapy or another. I thought I would fill you in on some that language because it can get a bit overwhelming.

Certified Counsellor - not all therapists are PhD's, some have a master's degree but they should belong to college or governing body. It is different in every state and province but look into how it works where you live and ask if they are members of the local college/governing body for their field. Social workers can be counsellors in some places and they belong to a different college than psychotherapists... it can get really confusing with all the different systems but check credentials of whomever you see.

EMDR - Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing  is a method of psychotherapy that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma. EMDR is a set of standardized protocols that incorporates elements from many different treatment approaches. To date, EMDR has helped an estimated two million people of all ages relieve many types of psychological stress - taken from EMDR International Assoc. Homepage

CBT - Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a therapy type that encourages the client to become aware of the behaviours that reinforce psychological distress. It is useful with issues like anxiety ( and related issues), OCD and panic disorder. You can find more information here

Gestalt Therapy - focuses on gaining an awareness of emotions and behaviors in the present rather than in the past. The therapist does not interpret experiences for the patient, instead the therapist and patient work together to help the patient understand themselves. There are many aspect to Gestalt and you may hear it referred to as the "two chair" method. You can find more information here

Therapy for you to do with your child
Our kids often need therapy, it is much more useful if you attend all therapy sessions with your child. There are many reasons for this that a good therapist can explain to you but it is about attachment and your child's relationship with you, not with the therapist. If you can not find someone who will encourage your active participation then keep looking until you do.

Attachment Therapy - Is a really great thing to do with your kids if they have attachment issues. (This is not holding therapy. If someone wants to do that with you and your kids please run screaming from the room) There are lots of great ways to foster attachment with kids and none of them involve any holding except having your child sit on your lap sometimes. Dyadic Developmental Therapy is great place to start with and then you can look for therapists who are trained in that method or similar methods within your community.

 Art/Music/Therapy -  these use a medium to get the therapeutic process going. You can find more information on Art and Music therapy by following those links. I have grouped them together here but they both have very different approaches and very different outcomes.

Play Therapy - A therapy style that speaks to children in the language they speak best, play. It is useful for kids with a variety of issues including trauma.  There are lots of different techniques used in play therapy including sand tray, puppetry and story telling. You can find a longer definition here

Do not be afraid of therapy, it can be a really, really good thing and just like everything else in the world, there are bad therapists out there. Do not let them shade your view because there are also lots of great ones who can help.

Let me say it again, therapy is a really, really good thing.

Tuesday 11 May 2010

Archived Post 2010 - Don't mess with the Mama

Jack often says to the boys, don't mess with the Mama, it works, they get the point and  stop whatever it is that they are doing, usually talking back. Kevin is finally learning that this phrase can be applied to lots of things, when I say I am going to do something I am going to follow through and I don't really care what you throw at me in the process, you are not going to win. Don't mess with the Mama.

Last night while we were eating supper I looked over at Kevin's still packed lunch bag ( they are supposed to unpack them when they get home) and asked him if he had eaten his lunch. He said he had and I believed him (duh), then we rushed around to get ready for Scouts. I had meant to ask him to unpack his lunch bag but I got distracted and by the time we got home fromScouts I had forgotten all about the lunch bag. I put the boys to bed and then Jack called out to me from downstairs. Grumbling about having to get up from the chair I finally just sat in I went to the top of the stairs, Jack holds up a thermos and says " it's full" we discuss and discover that it is Kevin's.

I was pissed.

I don't really care that he did not eat his lunch, I care that he lied to me. Knowing that the boys were not yet asleep and were listening to Jack and I talk, I went back to their room and informed Kevin that he was busted and he would be having stew for breakfast and left it at that.

He got up this morning, he was happy and loving. We went downstairs and I told him to have a seat at the table and eat his stew.  He ate it without a fuss. Stew is not his favourite meal but I am big believer in eating what you are served  ( I make exceptions for things they really hate but a mild dislike of something means that you are still eating it.). After he finished we calmly discussed what the problem was and he understood that I was more annoyed by the lie than the behaviour and he agreed that there would of been other ways to solve the problem. Then he joined us for breakfast, asked for a bowl of yogurt, I said no, we are having oatmeal, he agreed to have some oatmeal ( also not something he enjoys) as long as it was just a little. He ate it, was in a good mood and went off to school happy as can be.

A year ago these events would have resulted in a tantrum.
A year ago I would of had to fight my way through this with him.
A year ago I would of probably not been able to get him to join us for breakfast because he would still he sitting there with that bowl of food.

Don't mess with the Mama, she doesn't give up because healing comes with not giving up.

Thursday 29 April 2010

Archived Post 2010 - Learning to be a regular kid is a funny thing

Sometimes attachment is a funny thing.
Sometimes when one child shows they are beginning to attach to you the other child needs to start testing you out too
Randall is a much tougher egg than any of us any realised.
We now believe that he was much more profoundly affected by neglect that we ever thought.
He has a great spirit though, a strong spirit and I believe with all my heart that he will heal in the all same ways that his brother is healing.
On the way to healing he does stuff like this
that would be make-up on the bathroom wall.
In fact it was all over the bathroom including on the inside of the toilet.
Luckily for him and I, Jack found it first, cleaned up most of it and then told me.
We giggled, got Randall up to talk to him about what on earth would make him put makeup all over the bathroom
He said he was drawing with my make-up.
because he wanted to.
Remember older adopted kids often show many regressive behaviours when attaching to their parents.
So I am thrilled to have a child acting like a toddler who draws on my walls with my make-up because it means that he is learning to love us.

PS I think it is a pretty cute face but he willing be washing it off the wall after school.

Tuesday 27 April 2010

Archived Post 2010 - Self Care

One of the hardest things about being a parent is making sure that your all of your needs ( physical, emotional, spiritual) are met along with those of all the other members of your family. Often parents put themselves at the bottom of the list because there are just not enough hours in the day to get it all done.
Here is a perfect example, my jeans never got hemmed and my socks don't match. Now for some folks this may just be a quirky style for me it is a lack of time to meet my needs. I don't really care about my clothes so this is not a huge issue but for some people it might just be the thing that put them over the edge.

When we first got the boys there were a lot of conversations with other people about what it was like to all of a sudden have 2 very needy kids and little idea of how to actually help them. When people asked how I was coping I used to make comments like " I drink more wine now", "I let the dog lick Randall so I can give him drowsy allergy meds before bed" and " I look really forward to Mondays because they go back to school on Mondays". All of those things were true. As that first year progressed and things got harder we realised that we were quickly getting burned out and needed some help. We were coping but some days just barely it seemed and I really did not want to get depressed ( a path I am very familiar with)

We got some help. The boys were still on adoption probation then, so some of the help came from our local agency. We had respite for 3 hours every 10 days or so. It was not tons but it was enough for us to get out together or stay home and get stuff done. It worked. I don't know that we would of made it through the first year without it.

That support stopped last summer but I am still very aware of my needs and the needs that Jack and I have to be together without the kids sometimes. So we work really hard to make that time, this is one of the reasons that we do not homeschool even though sometimes I think we should. It is hard to make time to be together and it is hard to carve out time alone but I need it and so we find ways.

Now that we do not have a sitter to watch the boys and only a few friends who can handle them we have to be a little creative in our time management. Here are some of the things that we do to make sure that I get some time alone and that P and I get some time together.

- Our boys are in bed by 8pm and they stay there until 7:30am, this is not up for negotiation. Children need lots of sleep and parents need time to talk and decompress. You are in bed and that is where you will stay.
- Jack gets up with the boys on Saturday mornings so I can have one morning where I do not have to worry about breakfast and such. Then they watch cartoons/movies together.
- Sometimes Jack and I meet and have lunch out while the boys are at school.
- When I go into the city for therapy I make sure that I also make plans to have lunch with a friend and I enjoy that day just for me. It happens about every 3 weeks and if it is the summer I make Jack book time off or I pawn the boys off on a unsuspecting friend.
- Jack and I arrange to do things on our own that interest us personally or professionally and we give each other a lot of notice so that the other person can be home with the kids. Sometimes this fails because Jack is a therapist and thus has client emergencies but it usually works.
- I make time for things that make me feel good like a long bubble bath, reading or writing. These things usually happen when the boys are in bed or early in the morning. There is time but it has to be carved out, it has to exist for my sanity. I make this time and ignore the housework.
- I go to bed at 10 unless there is reason that we are all up late. I need to have enough sleep. I am useless if I tired and grouchy.
- I get up 30 minutes before everyone else so that I can have a cup of coffee and read blogs before the kids get up.
- I work in the garden, sometimes I make my kids help. It feeds my soul and the food feeds us too.
- I make sure I eat. I don't always make the best food choices ( I love fries) but I do make sure that I eat a fairly balanced diet because hunger leads to grumpy Mama.

All of that being said you must find time for you so that you can be a great parent. You can not be a great parent if you are tired, hungry or emotionally drained. You can not be a great parent if you always feel as though your children and dancing on your last nerve. You can not be a great parent if you work yourself to an early grave. You need to take care of you because then you can be a better parent to your children who really do need a lot from you each and every day.

Yes this means that everything does not get done. My house is usually messy, there is always laundry to put away and there are always dishes on the counter but I think I would rather have a messy house and be happy than a clean house and be exhausted.

Tuesday 30 March 2010

Archived Post 2010 - Adoption 101 or what no one ever told me.

A conversation was started last week by Living with RAD about the journey of adoption and how we live and survive in world that somedays overwhelms us and that many of us had no idea we had signed up for. A number of other bloggers have weighed in over the past few days.

I wanted to weigh in as well but in a different sort of way. When I started this journey with Jack, two years ago I had no idea just how hard it would be. I did not know that my life would be filled with anger, rage, poop, sadness, longing, fear and developmental  and cognitive delays that could of been prevented.

I knew it would be hard but no one told me it would be this hard.

No one told me because no one I spoke to had ever adopted kids like ours. There is not worker at our local agency who has adopted older kids. There is no one in my town and none of my friends had done it either. We stumbled through as best we could for the first 6 months. We had hope that it would get easier. It didn't.

We got therapy for Kevin ( Jack and I already had are own therapists), we learned about Beyond Consequences, we started using it. We read every book we could find and then one day I found J and through J her Mom. L saved me. Reading her blog was like looking into my living room and seeing my life from the outside. I learned that I was not alone. There were other parents waging the same battles that we were each and everyday.

Bloggers became my lifeline, I started spending hours reading and learning from other parents experiences. I started to see that they might be a light some where in this darkness that was parenting these children. I shifted and changed along with my children, learning to be the kind of parent that they needed. There were no instructions, it was all trial and error and most days I am still flying by the seat of my pants. I have learned so much from other parents and from their blogs along the way.

If you are new to this parenting journey may I suggest that you get your hands on the following:

Wounded Children Healing Homes - I can not say enough good things about this book. Kari turned me on to it and then Jayne ( one of the authors) left a comment on my blog. It is the first time that I have seen a book that talks about all the things we have all been saying about Adoption this week. It goes through just as brutally hard this can be while providing hope and help for the future with your children. I think it should be required reading.
Beyond Consequences - I talk about Heather a lot here. It helps you to understand your kids, it provide amazing insight into why the behaviours exist.
Deborah Gray, Daniel Hughes, Gregory Keck, and Denise Best are all amazing authors who provide hope, insight and some light for the journey.
When you know what a theraputic parent is, go and meet Christine, watch her videos, absorb her brillance.

Know that if you are just starting out on your adoption journey, half way through or feeling like you are drowning that you are not alone. There are lots of us out here, we have lived through intense challenges with our children. We continue to have new challenges, we are learnig and growing and changing.

I will not tell you that it is getting easier because that would be a lie but I can tell you that I am better person and parent than I was two years ago when I started this journey. I find hope in the little things and if I can get these two children to adulthood with some sanity still in tact then I will of been successful.

Archived Post 2010 - 10 tips to Toilet Train an 8 year old.

This is by far the most popular post I ever wrote in all my years of blogging!

Yes I said an 8 year old.

In the world of older child adoption toileting issues are very common and not something that is talked about very much. It is very real and very challenging for many adoptive families because it is not something that they can really talk about with other parents. We have been through this, we have worked hard, we sought medical interventions and although we are not free of the issue we are well through the worst of it. I thought I would talk about it here because I know that there are a lot of parents who are dealing with the same issues and after a lot of mistakes I have learned a few things.

When we first learned about our boys one of the first things that we heard was that Kevin had "soiling" issues andRandall rarely made it to the bathroom on time and had a lot of "accidents", (those were the terms that were used by the social workers who presented the boys file to us). We did not think that it was a significant issue but we would soon discover that we were wrong. Because the boys had very different issues and for very different reasons I will discuss them separately.

Kevin came into care when he was 5. He had been neglected, his biological father had bowel issues (which we only just found out) and he had experienced a lot of trauma. When Kevin was apprehended it was discovered that he was a "poop holder", meaning he would not got to the toilet when needed, instead he would hold his bowel movements until they began to leak out. This is a common behaviour among traumatized children and one that often leads to more trauma because the issue is not understood or openly discussed.

I was pretty sure that I could handle this, I had toilet trained a lot of little kids and I was sure this was just an issue of time and love - HA, I was so wrong. Kevin wore pull-ups every day in an attempt to control the mess and one of the first things we did was get him out of them. Then we used them as a threat when he did not comply with the toileting routine. That was a mistake. He also had a lovely habit or putting feces on his hands and wiping it on whatever was closest. It was awful. I began to understand that this was not something that was going to go away with a little love and training.

Here is what has worked  for us in regards to the challenge of encopresis (poop holding) in older children

1.  Buy them a large supply of underwear and keep multiple pairs in the bathroom where they are easily accessed by the child. Do not put your child is diapers or pull ups.

2. Create a schedule for sitting, in the summer it was after each meal and during the school year it was breakfast, after school and dinner. We always had to come straight home from school because Calvin had held it all day and was usually desperate.

3. Talk to your doctor, get your child on a daily stool softener, it may need to be given for as a long as a year. Prolonged stool holding causes damage to the bowel and the nerves of the anus, it is a medical problem and it often gets to the point that the child is unable to maintain any control because they actually do feel the urge to go. Chronic constipation becomes a secondary issue.

4. No Consequences for toilet issues. When your child soils their clothes have them clean up but do not assign any other consequence ( it does not work, trust me). Be vigilant, do not let them sit in soiled clothes because they will happily stay in them thinking that they are going to get some attention, negative attention is attention to a traumatized child. When I even thought that the odour in the room might be from Kevin he was escorted to the bathroom and his underwear were changed. Praising Kevin got us no where, if his underwear were clean I would apologise for making a mistake and move on.

5. Clean up is his responsibility. We used facecloths for clean up, underwear were washed out by Kevin and put into a bucket or washer with the rinsed out face cloths. This was supervised activity as he could not be trusted to be in the bathroom alone but no comments were made ( well not once I learned better), I just stood there. When he was finished I released him to go back to his task.

6. Talk to them about how your body feels when you have relieved yourself and about how that feels. Do not be shy, this is not something they understand and they need to learn it.

7. Teach them how to wipe their bottom. We had a lot of success with flushable wipes, it was easier for him to get himself clean.

8. Diet makes a difference. High fiber, whole grains, little refined sugar and lots of water. If the stool is softer it is easier to keep it moving.

9. Remember that many children who have experienced trauma use this as a coping strategy, do not be surprised when you have a week of good days and then it starts happening again. Sometimes anxiety or anger can cause a child to begin soiling again after a long period of success.

10. Be Patient, let me say that again Be Patient. It took us well over a year to get to a place that we had a lot of success and even then there were still steps backward. We came very close to major surgery in an attempt to correct the issues. It will 2 years this summer and we still use stool softeners everyday and probably will for some time to come.

Randall was a different story, he held his poop to but not like his brother did and it was easier to deal with because it had not become a medical issue with him. Randall was mostly just to busy to stop playing and go to the bathroom. Dealing with a boy who won't stop to go pee is a lot easier. He was having fun and frankly he just did not care if he was wet.

Do numbers 1, 2 4,6 and 10 from the above listand then buy a watch with an alarm. Set that watch to ring every hour. Put it on. Each and every time that it beeps you send that child to go to the bathroom. In summer we let him go outside which was a huge incentive for a little boy. Make him go all the time, make him be successful because he has no other choice. Carry lots of extra clothes when you are out of the house and when he says he has to go drop everything at find a toilet.

And here are things that I did that I regret because they did not work and I am sure that I will hear about them later when the boys are telling the world about all the mistakes I made.

1. Do not punish them for accidents/soiling/doing it on purpose. They clean it up, where ever it is and move on. Sometimes things get ruined, throw them away, explain it, talk about, pitch it and move on.

2. Do not shame them by saying that no other kid there age does this. No other kid they know has had the life they have had.

3. Do not lose your temper because they have had an accident at a friends house and you are embarrassed.

4. Do not put them back in diapers or pull ups or threaten to do so.

5. Do not expect that this going to be quick process, it may take years.

6. Do not let siblings shame one another about toileting issues at home or in public. In our house that results in consequence for the child doing the teasing.

7. Do not let your child manipulate you into believing things to distract you from the issue - oh well it happened because so and so was in the bathroom and I could not get it in - this was usually a lie in our house and attempt to distract the adults from the poop on the wall.

8. Do not let your guard down, it is an invitation for them to walk all over it.

9. Do not use a reward system, it is to hard for them to be successful in many cases and they just get discouraged.

10. Well I think I only made 9 mistakes because I can't think of another one.

Hang in there, be patient and know that you are not alone.

Wednesday 17 March 2010

Archived Post 2010 - Half way there.

We are half way through March Break and we are all still alive. The boys are outside playing the yard with nerf guns ( yes I let my kids play with nerf guns, there are plenty of things they are not allowed and we live in the country so shooting foam arrows at tress is okay with me) and have been all afternoon. We are going out to Jack's son house for dinner tonight because he is leaving the country for 7 months and I would like the boys to have a little less energy than they currently do when we get there. Tired is sometimes a good thing and I know that once we get there the TV will go on and they will stare blankly for a few hours so running around now is a good plan.

I listened to the last of my Beyond Consequences (BC) parenting classes this afternoon and some of the things that Heather talked about as parents chatted in really resonated for me. One was remembering that the behaviour we see  in our kids is usually a fear response

BC is different from a lot of other parenting strategies ( for kids who have had trauma and have attachment issues) because the belief is that all the behaviour that we see comes form the fear that the child has deep within themselves that they are ________ ( worthless, unlovable, stupid, etc.). The solution changing the behaviours is addressing the fears and working through those emotions in a loving way.

Here is a perfect example from this morning, Kevin looked sad at breakfast I asked him what was wrong and he said that he had a bad dream last night. I asked him what it was about and he said that he dreamt that I was gone. I assured him I was not going anywhere and then Randall barged into the converation and it ended. A little later I assured him again quietly in his ear that I was here to stay and he shouted out " You wear bikini underwear" I corrected his language and pulled him back to what I said. I said it again and had him repeat it, gave him a kiss and moved on.

 I knew that he had actually heard me but he was so scared that he had put his fear out there that he needed to misbehave to take away from the fact that I was addressing his fear and making it a little less powerful. I knew this and did not react to the behaviour in the way that he expected, instead I just corrected him and moved on. He has been loving, affectionate and looking for reassurance all day but he has not been angry or disregulated wghich is what would of happened if I had gotten drawn into the behaviour that he was showing me earlier. We would of had a crappy day and I can bet that he would of worked at misbehaving until he raged and got all the emotions out that way.

The second thing that really stood out for me was her take on video games. When the boys moved in they were both addicted to game boys, Randall much more than Kevin but they both enjoyed getting lost in them whenever they could. Jack and I slowly weaned them off and by the time school had started they were not being played at all except for when we were in the car for more than 1 hour. It worked well and we started to see Randall learning to do other things like read comics and play board games. We allowed them to play computer games on the weekends but started to notice that Kevin would disassociate when he was playing and would always have an accident. Randall became a whining machine always asking when he could play and how long he could play for.  Eventually the computer was taken away as well.

Randall still longs for them, he asks to play and is always on us to let him have one but he is a happier kid without them. There is less arguing, whining and disassociating. I have heard/read and strongly believe that kids who have experienced significant trauma use video games to escape from the world, it is a coping mechanism. It allows them to hide and not interact and I am not willing to let that happen, my kids need to learn to function in the world.

Heather also believes that it is an escape, a way to move into a world were they can be really successful and not have to deal with all their feelings. I could not agree more.

I am not saying that you should take your kids video games away, I am just saying this works for us.

PS - I wrote this post this afternoon but saved it as a draft. I just got home from dinner out and a tough goodbye for Jack and the boys. 2 little boys who think that the big brother they love may never come back even though we tell them he will. Why the heck should they believe us, everyone else who leaves never comes back. Kevin raged on the way home and we had to pull the car over twice, he had a good cry on my shoulder the second time and then made it home but he is one angry and confused little guy. He is finally in bed althoughRandall has a few new bruises and scratches from Kevin trying to hurt him, Randall likes to ramp it up when he knows that Kevin is angry - not a good plan because he always gets hurt, one day he will get it.

Wednesday 10 February 2010

Archived Post 2010 - Insensitive

Kevin had 2 great days at school, he is coping well and teachers seems to realise that when he says he needs help) he needs it right NOW! All good. We went to therapy today and he is not paying me back (yet) for making him work hard there. He played outside with Randall and no one came in tears. A good day.

I opened his agenda a few minutes ago a found a notice from his afternoon teacher

Personal Time Line Project

Please answer the following questions so that we can create timelines for our measurement unit (I am parapharsing the letter intro). We will use these timelines to calculate elapsed time, duration of events and amount of time between events.

1) When did your child learn to walk?
2) When did your child learn to talk?
3) When did your child get his or her first tooth?
4) What were 3 important family eventsand when did they take place?
5) What were 3 significant world events that occured your child's first decade and when did they take place?

You and your child may wish to select photographs to provide visual representations for the time line.

Yours in  Catholic Eduction
The Clueless and Insensitive Afternoon Teacher.

- added in pen to Kevin's note - Can be done as a research project of you're not sure of some of the info.

Can you tell that I am a little bit unhappy. Let's take the 2 adopted kids in this class and make them stand out a little bit more. Kevin who was adopted from foster care at 8 and another who was adopted from Ukraine as a toddler. There is already bullying going on in the school about adoption ( not just in their room) but let's make those kids stand out a little bit more because my goodness they don't already stand out enough. This will really make Kevin feel as though he fits in, when he is one of 2 children in the room who does not know 3 or 4 of the 5 questions and has no pictures. When the significant events in his life are moving from foster home to foster home and finally being adopted.

He is not participating in this and if she is not willing to change her plans he will be coming home at lunch each and every day until she is finished.

I am a teacher, I would never for a minute try something like this in class where I knew there was already tension and stress for kids whose families where not like everyone else's.