I’m Baaaaack!

So….its been quiet a while since I have posted. No real excuses, blogging just fell off my priority list. Life got busy and went on without me realizing how long it had been. I forgot the reasons I started this in the first place. Then I was reading this month’s book club book (only just started so I can’t say if it is good or not) This Road We Traveled by Jane Kirkpatrick and one line really stuck out to me. The granddaughter is asking the grandma to write her autobiography and she says this: “I want to know when trouble found you and how you got out of it. That’ll help me when I get into trouble.”

And it hit me, THAT’S why I do this. To both shine a light into my world and get support for myself (and sometimes to remind myself of things) and to be a window into this world for others. So hopefully, I’ll be back more (once a week is my goal right now). Now I definitely DON’T have an the answers!!! But as I learned a couple weekends ago at an FASD mom’s retreat (which was amazing!) simply sharing your struggles and having someone identify that they too have those struggles lifts the burden a bit. We were never meant to do life alone.

As we are living life day in and day out, sometimes I forget that we have unique challenges. I forget about the FASD, the past trauma stuff and expect the kids to act like “normal” kids. Most of the time they are amazing. They really are great kids. But sometimes my expectations for them are not realistic and I need to keep reminding myself of that at times. Sometimes the stuff that comes with adoption that happens outside of my realm of influence really impact the kids and its hard. From not being able to schedule a visit with bio-siblings in 2 years to reminders of birth family when classmates have similar names to questions about history, and birth family, and “What are they doing now, mom?” that I simply don’t know (and probably won’t ever know the answer to). I tell them this and suggest we pray for them because God knows or write a letter for the Birth mom Box (not sure if i have touched on this at all, maybe I will in an upcoming post. If i don’t, someone remind me!)

I love this crazy little family we have made. I love the fact that while Skye is struggling with sassiness and refusal in school she comes home and we try to solve the problems. I love that it finally feels like it is us AND her fighting against the world as opposed to us fighting her. I love that Cayla is at the stage where she is soaking up every single drop of knowledge that she can. I love that she thinks I know everything and have the answers. I love that Preston is blossoming into a little social butterfly, that during our evening walks multiple kids call his name to say hi. I love that he is confident enough in himself to be the only one clapping at a song at church. I love that Joel and I are working together, learning as we go, and making date nights a priority (even if it is just a Costco run).

I’m sure there will be a LOT of stuff to write about in the coming months with the holidays and such. So hopefully you will hear from me again.

1 funny story and 1 realization 

Ok first for the funny story. So Joel and I aren’t super lovey dovey romantic all the time. I mean we love each other and the kids know but not big into romantic gestures. Well the other day Joel brought home some roses for me. When he was giving them to me I heard Cayla and Preston in the background using quiet little voices full of awe “They’re getting married again!!!” They were so excited it was hard to have to tell them that we only get married once but love each other always. 

  

Ok now on to the realization. Spring has officially hit our area with warmer (not warm enough for me!) temps so we have been getting out more. I have come to the realization that our children are outside children. On days we go to the park or play outside they are funny and happy and just good times had by all. If it is rainy or we don’t go out even with the fun stuff we have in our house we just pick and pick at each other! And by “we” I mean the kids, mostly. So here’s hoping the weather stays nice and we can be outside all the time soon!

You never know what to expect!

One of my favorite parts of the journey for the past 18 months is watching my children really coming into themselves. They went from well mannered guests to the testing and acting out phase (which is not really over, probably won’t ever be as they are, you know, kids) to growing into their own person. Watching their personalities, their likes and interests form is such a joyful thing. To know that they feel safe enough to just be them, just be kids is encouraging. 

The child that has made the most noticeable changes in this area is Cayla. She is a hoot!!!! Honestly, when she gets ready to talk you really don’t know what’s going to come out. She is always so serious so you have to steel yourself from laughing no matter what (and sometimes fail). 

For example, this morning Cayla was playing nicely and quietly in her room and then went quickly to the bathroom. She pulled me aside after to tell me “Mom, I had a lot of candy and cake in my room and I ate it all and now I have diarrhea” I was amused and concerned about how I could miss that much food hoarding. I mean we hadn’t had cake in months! I asked her to show me and she showed me a puzzle of food and said she “ate” it. Lol!!! 

I wrote this post about a week ago and then some shizz hit the fan and I thought it was too rosy for what we were going through. I’m glad I decided to still post it bc life can change quickly but it’s good to know enough to enjoy the good!

18 months

Today marks 18 months exactly since my family has been complete. 18 months ago Cayla and Preston moved in to our home and joined their sister Skye who had moved in 2 weeks prior. This time 18 months ago we were unpacking bags and moving things into rooms. We were wading through the mom/dad or Katie/Joel territory. We were blissfully unaware of some of the challenges that lay ahead. We were excited, terrified and every emotion in between. We were, for all intents and purposes, 5 relative strangers living in the same house playing family and hoping to one day BE a family. 

Today we are all more tired, joyful, reflective, and most of all we ARE a family. A family that still has a lot of work to do. A family that has mountains to climb and valleys to wade through. A family that I wouldn’t trade for anything. A family that will utilize the supports available to make our family stronger. 

So in honor of our 18 month family-versary I will be sleeping in late and hanging with Joel and some friends. Nope, not the kids. Last night til Sunday afternoon the kids are with some amazing supports. Former foster parents and respite providers that love our kids, that pour stability and safety into their lives and have since before I knew the kids existed. Part of this life that it took us a while to realize is that it is hard and exhausting. Trying to fill your child full of the love and safety and life skills that they missed out on for up to 7 years is hard. To be able to do that we need breaks (as all parents do). Joel and I are blessed that there are systems in place and people that support us to allow this to happen on a regular basis. So if you are reading this and you are someone that has provided relief or respite or just a listening ear to share the burden: Thank you! 

Introducing the Mental Health Day

Shock of all shocks I am someone who views mental health as of equal importance to physical health. I understand all too well the impact of mental health issues. My kids come from hardships that are more likely to lead to mental health concerns than a typical childhood. As such we often talk about mental health openly and in kid friendly ways. Today Joel and I are introducing something new to my kids, the concept of a mental health day.

Everyone knows that when you are physically sick you stay home. If you puking you call in to work and school and no one bats an eye. Physical sickness is not the only thing my kids and I will experience. There will be times when we are “sick” or “ill” but our bodies are physically fine. I do not want my children to hide, ignore, or feel shame for this fact. It’s just a fact of lives. Many lives other than ours experience this too. When you are mentally struggling there are things to do that help, just as there are remedies for the flu.

Let me back up. This week Skye has been having a tough time. Clingy and tearful and overall anxious. It came to a head last night when she broke down into tears about me breaking a promise. I had mentioned we may be able to do something and then we didn’t. I know many kids do this when they are disappointed. Mine do as well some times, but this time was different. Skye was able to let me know that something else was going on. We together figured out that when she thinks someone broke a promise she wonders if they will keep other promises (think always keeping her safe, or always being there for her). So it’s not about the event. The old day treatment therapist in me wanted to hold firm the line and see this as manipulation. Which technically it is I guess. But the mom in me saw it for what it was also, a cry for help. Skye can’t yet use her words to fully explain her anxieties, and may never be able to. It is up to Joel and I as parents to give her the words and actions to take when she doesn’t know what to do.

Skye and I talked about safety and the difference between wants and needs. None of this helped her scared feelings, as logic never really alleviates trauma responses. Something that does is being cocooned. Keeping those that you love close and spending safe and relaxing time together. Basically, bringing people closer together to reassure that they will be there. Today skye did not need to learn
multiplication or the proper spelling and use of the word studious or other such academic pursuits. She did not need to attempt to navigate the confusing pre-pubescent social world of her peers. She needed her mom. She needed me to show her that I love her and care for her. She needed to learn tools to help when she feels this way in the future. She needed a mental health day. So I called the school and said she wasn’t feeling well. She asked why I lied and I explained that I didn’t. That her physical body was fine but her mental self was struggling. That they are both different forms of health and important. We planned a day of lunch and shopping. Preston is in school in the morning and has his PCA this afternoon and Cayla is in school so today is a rare day where I actually CAN spend the day with her. Would I rather be home catching up on cleaning and rest? Yes. Do I regret my choice? NO! Cleaning and resting can wait, kids can’t.

I am fully aware that this might not be always possible and Skye’s mental health may be struggling on more days than not. Joel and I talked about 1 or (at most) 2 mental health days per kid per school year (they don’t know). We will use them if other things have failed. For example so far this week with Skye we have tried spending one-on-one quality time, offering reassurance, giving specific jobs, writing notes to send to school, extra cuddles and hugs, ect all to no avail. Some days we will try all these things and still have to send Skye to school because school is important. But luckily today is not one of those days. Today Skye and I can spend some
much needed mom/daughter time and get ready for her birthday (another source of stress for her)

I’m sure that as children my kids will attempt to manipulate this luxury (as I did as a child, sorry mom…) but it is up to Joel and I to know or kids enough to spot the difference. I pray we will be able to cut through things to see what’s at the core. To be honest it is hard for me sometimes. The old day treatment therapist rears her head and reminds me about consistency and such. Last night it was actually Joel that saw it wasn’t about the ice cream (the broken promise) and that Skye needed some mom time. Sometimes as a parent mental health training works against you! I’m so glad to be partnering with an amazing man on this crazy journey.

Car Ride Conversations

Today is one of our two therapy days during the week. We have missed some lately with the holidays and various sicknesses so it had been a while since we last went. Therapy is split into 2 days so no one child has to miss too much school.

Anyway we had some interesting conversations this morning. Here are just some short snip its:

P: What are those big sticky upy rocks? (pointing to a cemetery)

This led to a conversation about heaven and dying where much hilarity ensued

P: Can we eat in Heaven?

Me: Umm, no one is really sure but you won’t be hungry for sure.

C: So when we die we still live?

Me: Yes, kind of. If you have Jesus in your heart after you die your soul (the part that is inside and makes cayla cayla) goes to heaven and Jesus gives you a new body. But you can’t hang out or talk to the people still on earth anymore.

C: oh that is sad

Me: It is kind of sad, but it’s happy when you know that anyone who has Jesus in their hearts will be in heaven when they die so you will see them again.

P (getting a TON out of this deep theological discussion): I want to be sonic when I grow up.

Me: Well that’s an interesting idea. You can maybe get a job where you dress up as sonic but you will always be preston.

Random time listening to music

P: Can you swim in space

C: Ya and if you get dizzy you can put your hand on your head and count to 10

Me: it’s kind of like swimming but with no water.

Kids pretending to be in space for a while

C: Did your parents die?

Me: What? No. My parents are Papa and Grandma

C: Oh

More music

C (Talking to Preston although he doesn’t realize it): Sometimes people decide to not work on things and break up.

Me: What are you talking about Cayla?

C: You know, divorce

Me (Thinking WTH?): Yep sometimes people decide to not be together anymore

C: Why?

Me (Thinking about how we have had this conversation a million times): You know how sometimes it’s hard to be calm and talk about how you feel? Like if Preston stole your toys it would be hard to remember to stay calm and use your words? Well sometimes this is hard for grownups too.

C: Ya, that’s hard.

Me: Yep it’s tough. That’s why daddy and I are working really hard to help you learn to take breaks when you need it and calm down and use your words. Some grownups don’t know how to do that.

C: Oh like you did!

Me (Thinking, hmmm which time Cayla): When?

C: When you stood in the hallway because you were mad and then came back to my room and we talked about it. I was being naughty and said mean things. (Yep, now I remember, it was when C called me a B***h)

Me: Yep, that made me feel really angry so I needed to take a break.

C: Is that why you and dad don’t fight? Because you use your words?

Me (Secretly high fiving myself as Joel and I try SOOO hard not to argue in front of the kids): Kind of, daddy and I disagree and argue sometimes but we always use our words and be respectful

P: Mom what is this called? (Pointing to his new twins windbreaker)

Me: A windbreaker

P: Will you and dad stop working on it?

Me: Nope, never

*turning up the music bc I don’t know how much more deep and then not deep conversations I can have!

It is so interesting to get into their viewpoints and see what they remember. The B***h incident was easily a year ago but cayla remembered it like it was yesterday.

2014 Review and Update #1

Wow, it has been a LONG time since I posted. One of my goals in the new year is to be more regular in updating this blog. It is a good way to keep connected with others both near and far, but it also serves as a record of the changes my family is going through. When I look back at posts from a year ago it reminds me that we are always growing and learning. So this post will be a pretty random update about everything that has happened since the last post and I will work on getting more regular with updates.

  • My Momcation: In the middle of December I took a vacation, just me. It was weird and awesome. I first flew out to DC to visit with a friend for a couple of days before taking the train to NYC to meet up with my mom and my sister for a girls week there. We had planned a girls week to celebrate my sister getting back from the Peace Corps, where she was gone for 2+ years. I saw them over thanksgiving, but it is really hard to catch up and hang out when you have 3 littles to take care of. The trip was AMAZING! It filled up my soul with the patience and grace that had been missing in my interactions with my kids the past month (I was feeling burnt out). I was really worried about how to kids would behave while I was gone. I’m home with them 24/7 so it was a big change. We planned it so the kids could stay home and our amazing PCA wold come to get them ready for school and pick them up and Joel would take over the evenings and weekends. I prepared them A LOT (maybe too much) for me leaving. I got the girls each a necklace and gave a stuffed animal to Preston for him to take care of for me while I was gone. We also made flat stanley versions of each of them for me to take and I regularly sent home pictures of their flats doing different things. The week went fast but I was ready to come home! I am so a small town girl, the big cities were fun but intense. I couldn’t help but wondering how parents of kids with special needs raise them in NYC. It is so big and so chaotic and intense and crowded. My kids need their space and calmness.
  • Christmas: Oh we had such a fun Christmas this year and really surprised the kids! A little backstory, we don’t do Santa here. We talk about how Santa was a real person a long time ago (St. Nick) and how other families like to pretend that he is still around giving presents but moms and dads are Santa. The reason we do this is simple. In building trust with our kids we told them we would never lie to them. There are times when I say, “I can’t tell you”, or “That’s adult business”, but we don’t outright tell the kids things that are not true. I don’t think there is anything wrong with doing that, just with my kids it is more important that they trust me than have that childlike wonder at this point in their lives. ANYWAY….this year we got some small toys and clothes for the kids but their big present was turning the basement into a gym. Now we have 2 trampolines, a balance beam, a punching bag, a spinner, and 2 gymnastics mats along with huge building blocks. We kept it a surprise until Christmas eve when Skye woke up when Joel and I were setting up the gym. She did a GREAT job of keeping it a secret until AFTER we opened all the presents upstairs. We told Cayla and Preston to grab some toys and we would play with them downstairs where we had more room. They were all so surprised! We have been using it a TON (until the next thing happened)
  • Epic Flu Epidemic of 2014/2015: In the week between Christmas and New Years our house got influenza. Well, not the actual house like the walls and stuff, but the people in it.  Skye was spending some time with an awesome friend who called and said her temp was 103 so we went to pick her up. The next day Preston was sick too so we went to the doctor who confirmed that it was influenza. Then Cayla has a weird 10 minute fever and Joel and I got a little sick. It was the first time all three kids had been sick at the same time and it was intense to say the least. On the bright side, the kids were great patients and mostly slept and vegged out. Skye even let me take care of her! The first night she was sick I was checking her temp really late at night and she said “I’m glad you adopted me, you know how to take care of sick kids”. My heart just melted. Since she has gotten better things have been a bit weird and she has been acting distant. I think it was hard for her to let me take care of her.

I can’t think of anything else, but I labeled this Update #1 in case a remember more to update on. Here’s to a great 2015!