The Aftermath!!

So we are 4 days after mom’s little meltdown and where are we now……right back at the beginning!! We have the explosive disorder child once again screaming that he hates his life and wants to kill himself until someone new asks him why and he answers “oh I don’t want to hurt myself!”, we have one of our PTSD kid’s growling and hissing like a cat, and our sociopath stands back watching for his next victim or opportunity to escalate the house.

In other words life goes on! Yep that sums it up perfectly! The meltdowns continue, the heightened observation of those in the home continues, the abundantly clear mark of trauma is everywhere we look. As I step over the ear muffs, the weight head cushion, and very soft sensory blanket I am reminded that yes I can have my emotions build up to the point of exploding, yes I can become frustrated or overwhelmed, and yes I am human!!

So where do we go from here???? Well I can tell you my cycle of, “I am a horrible adoptive mother to these traumatized children”, response which is to seek answers!

You read that right! Now I spend every spare moment seeking out new skills, seeking out new forms of treatment, and looking for emotional support from my close network! I have turned to God and He has taken the overwhelmed feeling away, He has shown me grace for the 5 millionth time and now I am seeking his will in our lives by doing my part to improve our situation!!

I don’t know exactly what it is that I am trying to find, well yeah I do…..Where is Hermione and her never ending knowledge of how to fix things with her swish and flick of a wand???? Really this is what I am seeking. However, I know in my heart of hearts, that God has not given anyone the power to wisk away my worries, heartache, and sometimes pain as I work with these kids that deserve SSOO much more than they have been given.

I know that my Voldemort comes in several intangible forms, with the biggest one being trauma!! Yeah that means I live with the trauma of having to hold my children as they flail like I am killing them, cower like I have beaten them before, and screaming as though I am ripping their flesh off! Yeah it is traumatic, for me mostly! The child is exhibiting his or her ingrained defense mechanisms, but for those of us that have opened our hearts and homes to these kids it is traumatic!

The difference is that we know how to handle our trauma in a healthy way! We know that the child is not behaving this way because of our actions, but when they feel the emotions of embarrassment, frustration, anxiety, they go back to what they know. They become consumed with these feelings and their fight or flight response is telling them they are in danger.

This is the tricky part…..if a stranger is going after my child I want them to behave this way!!! I want them to kick and scream and flail and what ever it takes to draw attention to get them help!! Right?? Well how do we help them to learn that it is not okay to behave this way with mom and dad when their emotions are the exact same!!!!

This is where we have worked to bring God into their lives in a very tangible way! Sounds weird I know, but God is in control and He is directing our lives! God has protected them to this point and brought them to our lives to be a part of their world to protect them, to love them through the meltdowns, and to help them to make new neuropathways. We have to remain calm and loving even through the trauma!!

This is only an achievable goal with God’s provision! I will not be able to reach this goal on my own strength! I do not have all this strength and understanding to be able to help this kids. I have to work through their trauma and healing!!

This is very challenging and makes a huge impact on me. I look at life from a different angle than most. I see all the hurt, anxiety, and pressure that most have experienced. I see the automatic response! I see the emotional side of life. I see the frustration of not being able to control it all! Maybe that is the real issue!! I am not in control, God is!!

Stuff!!! STUFF!!! Everywhere I look!!!

The last couple of months have just been rough in so many ways!! I miss the people that we were able to be around. I miss the kids being able to go off to school and be around other kids. Most of all, I miss Misty and I being able to go do metal work, work on our hobbies, work out of the house, or even go on a lunch date. However, the most maddening to me, since the kids are home 99.9% of the time, is there stuff everywhere!!

It doesn’t help that when a couple of our kids came to us as a foster placements, they had so much stuff from people feeling sorry for them, that a moving van would have been a better way for their stuff to arrive (I’m being dramatic of course). I feel like we have tried so many ways to try to get a handle on everything, but nothing seems to work.

I have read books, I have read blog posts, I have scoured the internet, but nothing seems to phase the youngest 3 in my house. As I go about my daily business, my OCD goes crazy!! Socks here, Lego’s there, books, crayons, and shoes seem to be everywhere. Negative consequences, special time, privileges, a new toy or book, working with them, a labeled place for their items. Nothing is worth their effort!

I keep searching and hoping that one day I will find something that clicks, or that they will mature to a point where things will change. For now though, I will combat my OCD with reminding myself that if God saw me for what I really am, rather that the redeeming saving blood of Christ. I would try his patience.

COMPLETELY INADEQUATE

So that is the title of my life!! No matter what relationship, no matter the situation, and no matter the task ……. I am 100% inadequate!

This is beyond hard to live with. No matter how hard I try, no matter how much I give, it is never enough!! So where does that leave me….tired, frustrated, heartbroken, anxious, annoyed, grouchy, angry, and I guess lashing out!!

I know I can’t do this alone! I know I need my saviors support to do this, but truthfully I feel alone! And so isolated that my isolated is unable to be found. Does that even make sense?

So what do you do when your family is sending you away because you are so negative, short fussed, and just angry?

I hit my knees! I grovel, I go through my entire grieving cycle, (just like one of the kids) and then I cry. How did I end up here again?? I often ask myself why I am doing this over and over again…..

The answer is not one I like. It is not one that I want to brag about. In fact, it is that I get to the point that I do try to do this alone! I loose sight of my savior and I spend 100% of my energy spinning my wheels. I try to fix the unfixable, I work oh so hard to undo the trauma that I didn’t cause, and I forget who called me to this life!!

I forget that my savior is here with me and that he is providing for not just me, but each and every one of my children in ways that no one on Earth can. We manage to meet every need, not every want or desire, but every need. So often that has nothing to do with money or items, but it is completely about love, time, and energy!

My world starts to crumble when I try to do it all! I don’t let my husband be a part of my team, but instead I force him to be a spectator. I deny my older children the opportunity to make a difference in our little ones lives because mom can do it. My expectations of our therapist become so unobtainable that I begin to loose confidence in their ability to make an impact when it is really me that is unable to impact my kids because I have put so many plates spinning that no one can keep up ……except God.

I am living proof each and every day that God will give you more than you can handle! God will put more on with each step away I take, until I crumble at his feet. God just wants me to keep my focus on Him! And when I wander he works to bring me back!

That is grace!! That is unfailingly love! That is the kind of love that I beg to be able to show my kids even though they crush my heart several times a day. I want them to know that I am here for them no matter what! That yeah I may be upset with their choices, but I am still here!

“Your so amazing!” …. if you only knew!

When I hear people praising me and our family for fostering I instantly begin thinking….if you only knew the daily thoughts, and pleaing for God to end this heartache and frustration! What would they think then?

Yeah, to those not in the trenches we look like we have it all together, but they aren’t in the battle field of toothbrushing😩, picking up your dirty underwear that don’t belong on the dinner table🤯, and the no we don’t steal sugar by the handfuls from the pantry😡 battle fields! Would they still be saying the same praises?

We recently had a friend refer to us as super heroes and I instantly envisioned my cape as a trail of paper scraps, with my mask of dirty underwear, and an oversized toothbrush as my wand! Isn’t that a vision!

The only thing we excelled at was taking the first step! It is very scary, but we didn’t do it alone! We had each other!!

One of the most frequent responses we hear from others that are talking with us about fostering is they don’t want it to affect their kids! They are not alone in this worry! It is often scary to think of all the craziness we have put our kids through, but …… you know what?????? My kids can handle almost anything!! Our kids can use their past experiences to handle anything that God sends their way! And the best part is that I know they can handle it. That’s right! I don’t have to worry about them constantly because they can relate to so much more than even most adults can.

My children have learned to be so compassionate, but able to see the line between helping and being abused by others. They know that line between helping and enabling. (I don’t even know if I have that line down yet!) And guess what? My kids are willing to step up and make a difference in the lives of those that are at a point in which they are willing to change. My kids know what it’s like to be at the bottom of the pit, how hard it is to get out of the pit, and how amazing it is to be there to help others! Isn’t that what we all want for kids!

So take that first step people!! Get out there and make a difference not only in the lives of foster children, but in your own children’s lives as well!

Besides, …… I can’t be the only person feeling this way!! Join me in the chaos and love that fostering and adoption can bring!

Cycling…..round and around we go!!

Jon and Ozzy after finishing the last mountain bike race from last season! This is the cycling we should be experiencing!!

So here we are in the middle of the Covid-19 chaos and, to be honest, it feels like we have multiple little tornadoes that keep starting up within the swaying of our sinking ship! Yeah that sounds psycho and let me tell you I FEEL PSYCHO!

In a world where we have little to no control of things going on outside our home, I find that I have little control I have over things inside my home as well! Okay that sounds a little dramatic, but if we step back and look at our children and their past trauma that is still affecting them it is 100% true!

I had no control over the horrific trauma that my children have endured and honestly I am just along for the ride as they work through their past trauma. Now for some of you that are reading this and have not stepped out in faith yet to be a foster parent or to adopt a child into your family from the foster system this may sound COMPLETELY crazy…..

However, living with trauma in your home (even if you are not the one who has caused the trauma!!) is one of the most challenging, overwhelming, heartbreaking, rewarding, amazing, and awe inspiring adventures you can have. I honestly feel that while this is a crazy ride it is one that I would never want to miss out on!

Now does that mean that I don’t have times that I long for the empty nest that I would have now if I wasn’t on this adventure, no I am human …. I think! Of course there are times that I long to be alone and spend time with just my husband, go to the bathroom without a fight breaking out, or someone being pushed into full on meltdown over not getting to do what they want! Who wouldn’t!!!! Right????

I guess I need to get back to my point of this post….

While we are not in control of our children’s cycle, which leads to the above stated feelings, I am in control of how I respond and how I let their cycle affect me!!

As I write this post I have an 11 year old standing in the same room screaming that he wants to kill himself and that he hates his life (he is in his anger phase). The meltdown cycle often resembles that of the grieving process: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Currently we are experiencing the anger response by screaming that he wants to kill himself, however I know that soon his words will change to something along the line of “it was an accident that I threw the rock at my brother so I shouldn’t have to stand in a time in!” or maybe even something like “it’s his fault because he was sitting where I was going to through my rock and so he should have to to do the punishment not me!”

Yet again one more cycle that we are experiencing several times over each day. Now we have what unfortunately is becoming a common cycle of will there be school on campus or will I be responsible for teaching the lesson plans the teachers have put out for us to use. Here at the Aguilar house we have made the OH SO HARD decision to home school our circus of flying monkey’s. I say this half excited that I get to teach because it is one of my joys, however, teaching with trauma and heartache means that I am more than a little overwhelmed.

In my logical mind I am overwhelmed by the prospect of attempting to teach my kids, but in my Momma heart I am ecstatic! I know my children better than just about anyone, which means I know how to reach them, and have more time than a teacher with 29 other students. I also know just how challenging this will be! I know what will definitely trigger a meltdown, or stir up feelings. However, who better to work through these challenges than their protector, provider, and safe place? I know that this will allow them to work through not only common events in life, but also their feelings on family and their personal history that a teacher just is not able to fully grasp. We are choosing to make this a part of our journey! You heard me right, we are choosing to battle through our childs’ past trauma to reach the end goal of being a rock star human that can make it in this crazy world!

So let the wheels, gears, emotions, and tears keep rolling as we partake on yet another new twist in our family’s journey in life!

Indifferent!

We have a 14 year old adopted son with Autism Spectrum Disorder type 2 that is pushing me over the edge!!! We have other kids with the same diagnosis and I have survived their growth through this age however, I do think I will make it this time.

We have worked through hours of therapy, every technique suggested, and more meltdowns than is humanly possible. Currently we are working with the indifference strategy, no matter what he does we are to be indifferent. I am struggling with this in every fiber of my body!!!! We have been doing this for over a month and honestly I just can’t do this anymore! If we saw one twinkle of it making a difference I would stick to my guns but when I continue to get looks like he is going to attack me or that I am abusing him when he doesn’t get the extra the others have earned it is beyond hard!

This is the battle I have been through with my heart over this strategy. How can I show him love if I am indifferent….well when I do show him love he is indifferent about it. Hum, but how will he know how special he is…..well if he isn’t being treated special he melts down so does it help to treat him special? Not really.

I understand that I am not a therapist or specialist but how is acting like him going to improve the situation? Well let me tell you something…it took a good month, but on Sunday when dad elected to play Xbox with the boys this particular 14 year old was not eligible. Bingo finally we see that he does care about something!

Now as I sit here on Tuesday and it took him 3 1/2 hours to answer two math problems and 10 history questions (yes you heard me right 12 problems in 3 1/2 hours!) and that small nerve we hit on Sunday is no longer sensitive! Now what? Well we are continuing this indifferent journey and once again my heart struggles! Being indifferent is not what God has made me to be!

As I talked with my mentor today I had my eyes opened once again! I needed a reminder that I do not see my children the way God sees them. This was an aha moment for sure! God knows my struggles and He knows their struggles. God knows my heart and He knows my children’s hearts. I need to turn to Him for guidance and the ability to see my children as He does! I truly want to see them as gifts when I am on that 4th hour of working on 13 problems! I want to see joy in the indifferent response from my 14 year old when he receives a gift!

I guess I just wait for the change! It is coming just SSOOO slowly!

Welp This is The New Normal!

So here we are at Monday once again and we are all into our new routine of getting through breakfast and clearing off the table for the five computers to be set up. It already feels like the normal school day grind.

To think just two short weeks ago this feeling felt so unobtainable….this got me thinking. What else has become our norm that at one point in our life felt like an unobtainable dream?

This took a little bit of thought and a whole lot of coffee,  but I have found those things that have become my new normal.

The biggest one that I so often overlook is… I never wanted to be a mom let alone a mom to 8 amazing children. I always looked forward to quiet days and doing everything for just me. Now I live every second of my life for these children which only two I gave birth to.

I think this is so easily over looked and … well under appreciated. Yes I often hear we are saints and while it is nice to hear (not really because I don’t do a great job most times), I don’t think that people really know what it is like to raise children who have lived through trauma. They don’t understand the overwhelmingness that day to day life can cause these children and in turn cause my anxiety and panic to sky rocket!

Little things like going to the library….. ABSOLUTE TORCHER!! This was one of my favorite places growing up! The world was all right there for me to discover! (Insert my longing sigh here!) Now it is a panic attack inducing environment. The options, the layout, the people, the excitement, the list goes on and on! This is a trauma history child’s biggest dreams and struggles all wrapped into one! “You mean I can only check out 15 items!” Or my favorite “No mom, this 15 page graphic novel will be the only book I need for the next two weeks!” While for me it was my peaceful place for these kids it is simply overwhelming!

Back to being a mom of eight. I have always loved to solve problems however, I never thought I would be faced with how to accomplish 11 people’s laundry for the week in the time frame of less expensive energy use, how to make an amazing dinner for 11 with next to no cost, how to provide for the special needs of each child, etc. These have become my daily puzzles, vastly different from managing 6 patients on my own, or managing the entire Family and Birthing Center for the day. Isn’t it funny how God uses us in weird ways?

Really think about it, what do you consider your gift? How does God use that gift? My gift has been used in ways no one could expect! I now work to solve how to reach kids that are mine, but aren’t responding to “normal” techniques! This is from the woman that was never having kids!

In short God knew I was ment to be the mom to these rascals and all my skills and training in my none mom life have lead me to be the mom I am today. I have been equipped to handle meltdowns, selfharming behaviors, selfregulation in sexual forms, and death threats from a 12 year old. I would have never expected the phrases, “bubbles” to be a constant utterance to keep children from assaulting each other or “Did you die?” when someone needs attention and fakes an injury to be a part of my normal vocabulary. It is though! It is our normal and at times used more often than even “I love you” as we work through the cycles of these kids. Their emotional cycles have become our norms. We have learned to accept, adjust to, and heck even love these kids during their tough phases and rejoice with them in their happy phases. THIS IS OUR NORMAL!!

When is Enough, Enough!

No, this is not a Covid 19 extended social distancing rant! This is a “what more do you flying monkeys expect from me….” post!

Yes we have been stuck in this house together for DAYS however, a little gratitude from the flying monkeys at this residence would be Earth shattering in a good way.

We have tried to make the best of the situation, working to meet every little monkey’s needs in the best way possible….even squeezing a 14 foot trampoline into 14 foot back yard (yes it is wall to wall trampoline which makes the HVAC units shimmy when they jump, and this momma prays for everything that can break).

Yes the dog even jumps with them!!

So today the flying monkeys are in meltdown because boys want to play cars in the dirt while girls want to jump. Typical right! But now we have all the older adults in the home being pushed to choose sides (which never ends well)! So after a 45 minute meltdown from one of the girls because everyone hates her, and because she feels so unloved because not everyone took her side. I had the joy of walking her through the fact that the issue isn’t that she was treated horrid. That due to the need to stop jumping for safety or that she had been disrespectful with her choices of how she chose to respond to her father, older brother, and anyone who got in her way, and that everyone loves her just as much now as we did the day before the trampoline came into the door.

After this 30 minute exercise of roleplaying, behavior mirroring, and co-regulation exercises, the little flying monkey decides nothing ever happened……

DEEP BREATH, smell the chocolate cake, hold that smell for 3 seconds, and now blow out the candles. Repeat!

Yeah so as I sit on the couch with the two girls arguing about who will sit next to mom, I am reminded that the hours I have spent working on this afternoons show of femininity are already completely forgotten. I am trying to let the flying monkeys return to their queen as though nothing happened however, I am frustrated and simply tired!

These are the moments that I just don’t want to continue this battle! It will not make a difference today, tomorrow, or next year…….but one day when her daughter is having the “worst day of her life” I can only pray that she will in that moment of anger, frustration, and exhaustion remember the way I handled the issue today. Hopefully she will handle her situation similar, and then call me to let me know how frustrated she is.

So cute when her attitude is in check!!

Oh the Ways We Teach!!

I know that right now, one of the hot topics in our world is teaching our kiddos. However, as foster/adoptive parents to children with trauma. We have been teaching for a while now!

Because our children have a traumatic past I have often voiced that we teach like Dr. Seuss! I have taught children by climbing in the shower with my clothes on to direct their hands to bathe themselves, I have taught 12 year old’s how to whipe after using the restroom (very awkward for all parties involved), and I have taught that the role of “mom” doesn’t mean that I will physically beat you (even though I have thought that I can see why someone would want to beat you).

I have learned that rhythm is a gateway to feelings, learning, and self-regulation. Honestly I have made myself sick rocking a child who is holding a book about feelings trying to read the book as it moves forward and backwards! 🤢 I have sat next to a 12 year old at the dinner table that craps himself to help him feel in control and not responded. 🤢 And I have tried my hardest to not laugh at the bipolar 10 year old, that in his emotional swing, is threatening to beat my head in with a chair at the loudest level his Italian voice could go!!

Sure it is crazy when we stop and look back at the ways we have thought out of the box to help those special kids God has brought into our lives, but I also feel to a point that it is normal.

It is our normal, to walking into a restaurant holding both hands of the child that is known to swipe all the cups off the edge of the table as he walks by. It is our normal, to know where all the exits are so that we can carry our 12 and 13 year old out of the room when it becomes too much. It is normal, to issue prompts to use skills while listening to church sermons or walking through a line at a potluck. Sure, all kids need reminders to not use their hands, but not many require reminders that they do not need to fill their pockets (literally to be eaten a week later) while walking past the food.

We have used map keys to teach long division, we have used blankets to swaddle teenagers and then stay close enough to use co-regulation to slow their breathing down, we have used picture roadmaps in the shower, and the list goes on. Basically we have learned that every child in every situation learns differently and that we need to be ready to think out of the box to meet those needs.

We just chuckle when a therapist says “you know this is going to sound weird, but why don’t we try….”. We have heard that we should only use blue lights, blue clothes, and blue walls as blue is a soothing color, we should only communicate in a whisper with our child, we should call the whole family into a child’s bedroom and take turns screaming, we should only communicate in the third person, and the list goes on.

We live with therapy equipment at the ready, and heaven for bid we go more than 30 minutes from home without headphones and a headweight to aid in regulating while on the drive or at our destination. We have paid for a weeks stay at a condo in Vegas to go to the strip less than than 4 hours total and to spend the rest of our time with the dark curtains pulled watching 5 seasons of NCIS so that the youngest two children feel safe.

I guess the big point I wanted to make is you know the kids in your care better than just about anyone…. don’t doubt yourself on how to reach them. You know what their history has been. You also know, that no matter what you do, their future may be as a mechanic rather than a college graduate. Don’t let this period of time turn into another dent in your relationship because they just won’t do the work the teacher has assigned! Instead teach them to their strengths and if the only lesson they learn over the next month is that you love them and they are safe then heck that is a win! TAKE IT!!!

Blessed …. is that even possible?

I have definitely been in the spot in our journey where I question God frequently, “Am I blessed?” , “If this is blessed I would hate to see cursed!!”, and “why have you chosen me for this blessing, I would have rather been blessed with a curse”.

I know….as a Christian this is not the way to be in a relationship with my Savior. However, if I am honest, and that is what God has called us to be, this is exactly how it has felt!! As I work to control my response to the child that has cleaned the bathroom, however her shirt is shoved behind the toilet with stool hidden in it, or I am going over the same three questions that are to be answered on the less than two pages of information for the last five hours hearing from my child that the answer is not in the reading when the answers are italicized!

How can this be the blessed life we are promised as Christians??? How do I continue to choose this life when it is so overwhelming on a daily basis?

The answer is so simple, that often I over look it’s massive meaning!!! The answer is in the sexually abused child asking dad for a hug because she is anxious for the first time since coming into your home over six months ago. The answer is in the 18 year old that has been so neglected that he has had to dig for food for his blind mother and himself in the dumpster handling the shortage Covid 19 has caused without hoarding food or panicking when the answer is simply we don’t have the food items we routinely have.

We continue, even in chaos, to choose to live this life (because it is SO MUCH more than a job) for these simple little changes in the lives of these children. It doesn’t seem like much, but to change a child’s perspective about the life they live is very important and empowering their future.

Pastor Will preached this week on Colossians 1:12 and in this we are given the inheritance of the SAINTS….. I know when I hear the word Saint I instantly think that I am so far away from being a saint that there is no way I will make it in this life time…. but Paul reminds us that we are all ready a Saint! We need to reach out and take that role!!

You know what is even crazier than thinking I should be a Saint? It is that by CHOOSING to live this life I am following after Jesus which has made me a Saint already! Let that sink in…..we are already Saints.

By being God’s chosen to inherit the inheritance of the Saints we are welcomed into the Kingdom of Light. We know as Christians that we have to go to the source of the light to be in the pureness of heaven.

I often think that these children have been dwelling in the deepest parts of the darkness. The transition into our homes for these kids are like walking out of a movie theater right into the brightness of day light. It hurts our eyes and our heads, it is disorienting, it is often scary, and absolutely overwhelming!

We are the BLESSED CHOSEN SAINTS that receive the privilege of walking with these children as they move out of the Kingdom of Darkness and with our guidance and support they might just become a Saint in the Kingdom of Light! Now that is a true blessing!