Reaching out for help

So hard to remember this!

There are definitely times that we must reach out for help! This is not always easy, however it is something that we all need….even if it may not seem like help right at that moment!

I have been there…..more than once……I am falling apart and I am reaching out for help in this moment. This is not something that happens regularly, however when it happens I have been blessed to have amazing therapists that are there to help!

So I hit my breaking point on Wednesday afternoon! I had my 13 year old that has been over the top fixated on his own wants and makes it unsafe for him to do things out in the neighborhood with his peers and my 10 year old that continues to scream save me and help me when you get close even when nothing is going on! These two definitely take a lot of energy to keep up with. The more I am faced with these two alone the more I am getting frustrated and emotional. So I was home alone with all the kids and these two start on their trips! Aaron is next to me screaming that he is being abused as I am trying to calm him by rubbing his hair and providing some stimulation. Blaze is upset that it is his sisters birthday and family friends are coming for dinner; I know what your thinking, “why would that upset him”, well he can’t be trusted to be out of sight and hearing with other children so he is on the kick that I am the worst parent that ever lived.

I found myself in tears, with my heart racing, and feeling trapped in the room with two abusers. I was panicking so I reached out to our rockstar therapist. I told him I was ready to call crisis because of these two children and their behaviors! It is not that they are just choosing to be jerks (I hope anyways), but it is more that they are calling out for help. They are not getting their needs meet and I am not at a place where I can meet them, and that is okay.

Did you hear me? It is okay to not be able to meet their needs every second of every day! I am personally giving you permission to reach your limit, to not be the person to meet every single need of your foster/adoptive children, and above all to be human! I don’t know about you, but having someone tell me these statements changed my world!

I had called our therapist in tears because I had reached my breaking point! This was a shocker to him as I rarely reach this point, yet there I was, breaking down into tears and being someone to sa please come help me. (See your not alone!) Our plan was to get us respite! (I am blessed that our clinic can reach out and find respite for our kids on fairly short notice.) I felt major relief in the knowledge that these two children would be heading to respite on Saturday and we would be able to breathe.

So that help for my future needs to be met, but what about the needs at that second. I was nicely reminded that Aaron needs love and attention even when he is not able to verbalize it, so even though he is crying and stating that he is being abused he truly is needing to be loved and have some affection shown to him. I was also reminded that Blaze is acting out because he knows we are sticking to our word and he will not get his way when the other families arrive. Bill reminded me to stay the course and keep walking the path before me and to not let them in to my head. We discussed a few helpful tips to keep me moving until Saturday, however the biggest piece for me was someone was listening to just me and there was such a peace to have someone hear me and acknowledge my struggles. I knew what to do, I just needed to hear that I am not alone and I am doing the right thing eventhough it is beyond difficult AT THIS MOMENT. Wait…..it was only a moment….what…. it felt like a month long crisis in that moment, but today looking back at the event it was truly only a moment.

If there is any one piece of advise that has made the biggest impact in our lives is finding people that can be your emergency call. Don’t get me wrong Ray is amazing and we tag team ALL THE TIME, EVERY DAY, but there are times that an outsider just makes a bigger impact in that moment. So many times I am pointed back to God in these moments because no one on their own decides to take on these traumatized children (if they do a psych eval is in order), however I am never alone because God has called us to this amazing ministry. Even when our therapist said “stay the course” it is pointing me back to the fact that I am following God’s plan and I need to be reminded of that periodically. Find your emergency backup that points you in the forward direction for your walk with God and the children.

Following God’s plan isn’t all these moments of heartache and panic, because there are plenty of funny times such as Lilly in her potato sack dress will cooking dinner. She comes to me and says “Misty I found my prom dress!”

One of the biggest challenges we face is……

Ray just working his distraction skills with a Aaron while they wait for a doctor’s appointment!

As foster/adoptive parents we spend a lot of time waiting for God…..and therapists ….and DCS….and court…well we spend a lot of time waiting and today I found a great saying,”if God has you waiting be like a waitress and spend your time serving”.

WOW, this really got me thinking, well how can I serve while I am sitting waiting for a visit or waiting for the therapist to arrive? Often we are in prime locations to pray for those around us who are truly in a place of need! Think about it…… we are blessed (and yes I do mean blessed) to walk amongst the broken hearted, the weary, and the lost.

We have heard and read of Jesus ministering to prostitutes, widows, orphans, the outcasts and we walk amongst them each and everyday in every stop we make for our children! Just think of how your life would have been affected if Jesus in the flesh ministered to you, met your needs, calmed your fears! CAN YOU EVEN IMAGINE?????

We are uniquely placed to be able to reach out to the lost, lonely, and hurting, we are in a place that we can go before God on their behalf even if we don’t know all the details. Just think of the impact we can make on the lives of those individuals that are in need and eventually that will make a huge impact on our community!

Often times we are faced with this struggle of the behaviors our children exhibit and it feels as though we are fully consumed by these behaviors and choices, however it is really isolating and often times we have to look through many layers of emotions and choices before our service to God is truly seen. Personally our kiddos struggle with their feelings around clinics and therapist, because if we are honest it is a place were they have struggled to be a part of their family and often times watched it be yanked away from them leaving them lost and full of emotions that they are struggling to handle. I typically spend my time at the clinics working to keep my child safe; safe from their emotions, safe from self harming (it is shocking what they can do with a finger nail), and above all distracted from their demoralizing thoughts.

Aaron was so young and so petrified as going to the doctor was a first time in his life. Distraction was an absolute to keep his focus off the stress he was experiencing!

I guess my point to this post is if you find yourself waiting then be the server, however if you feel as though everything you do is not pointing to God, remember that we weren’t called into the average mission field with dirt, fixing empty buildings, or making meals for families that are going through a tough season. We need to remember that often times our calling and lives are very messy and need to make a difference in ways that many will never understand nor appreciate!

Remember Jason Gray’s song, “With Every Act of Love,”

“God put a million, million doors in the world
For His love to walk through
One of those doors is you
I said, God put a million, million doors in the world
For His love to walk through
One of those doors is you

We bring the kingdom come
(Oh oh oh-oh oh oh oh)
With every act of love
Jesus, help us carry You
Alive in us, Your light shines through
With every act of love
We bring the kingdom”

How do you guard your heart and open it to trauma exposed kids all at the same time?

Great guidance!

That is the real question isn’t it? The New International Version of the bible states in Proverbs 4:23, “above all else, guard your heart. For everything you do flows from it.” I posted this on Facebook recently and an amazing friend replied “open your heart, but use your brain”.

This got me thinking…..we do open our hearts to more evil than the average home. How do we keep our hearts protected? Recently this same amazing friend shared another blogger with me. Littleearthingblog wrote “Jesus Didn’t Call Me to Raise a Nice Christian Family” and boy oh boy do they get it! They talk about the challenges of raising these special children in our homes and how today’s churches are not prepared for our families.

This does not mean that we shutout God and Christians, but instead we guard our hearts against those around us who don’t understand, by keeping our distance. This sounds so weird I know! We have been in crisis moments when well meaning parents will ask if they need to call the police or ask if we have been reported to DCS. Yes I understand they mean well, but it truly isn’t helping. Or the well meaning older woman that lectured me in Sam’s Club all those years ago because the child that has issues swallowing solid food is freaking out that I said no to a mashed potato sample since he vomits everytime he has attempted to eat them at home.

While I pray my heart is open to do God’s work, I still know that I have to guard it as well by not letting the evil that these children have faced take residence within my heart and hurt that comes from individuals within our communities that think they are standing up for our children’s rights without knowing anything about their past or needs.

Yes we do need to guard our hearts from the sexual abuse our young child lived through, the physical abuse our older children endured for several years before being rescued, and through the daily interactions with a child that has learned to survive she needs to steal, pick through the garbage for food, and to protect herself from emotional pain by putting up walls or causing distractions, we also must accept this input from the community.

Those brave families that have joined us in taking this step to follow God unfortunately do follow into a world of isolation for the most part. Sure we have some AMAZING therapist in our lives, but they are supposed to only be available on business hours and to keep their distance outside of therapy, some oh so LOVING church family’s that continue to reach out even when all they can do is pray, and CONNECTIONS with previous caseworkers that know more than all the others the horror of our children’s previous lives. We have been blessed to create some lasting relationships with our therapist and DCS Caseworkers that have gone way beyond business hours and the usual support they are required to provide!

While we strive to get our children the “usual” childhood experiences we know that it comes at a price! We can’t take a child that verbally and physically assults adults in authority to a Sunday school class that is being taught by well meaning parents or grandparents.  First off they are not trained to handle the behaviors they will be faced with, or the quick responses that they will have to have to stay safe. We have been blessed to be in a church family that has a children’s church director that has been teaching children like ours for all of our children’s lives and a few of the teachers are retired law enforcement so it has opened the door to so many “usual” activities that our children usually miss out on.

I guess the point of this whole post is …… we need mentors that can show us how to walk this path of opening our hearts to child in need with crazy ways of showing they have needs, while protecting our hearts from their behaviors and the hurt they have experienced.

A Truely Godly Man

He is always bringing a smile to my face!

I know I don’t brag about my husband as much as I should, but he is pretty amazing! I am preparing to have surgery on July 8th and he’s being very supportive.

As I type this he is in a Bass Pro Shop with 8 children while I wait to get all my preop testing done. I personally get a little twitchy when I think of taking all 8 to a store alone, but he does it without a complaint! He is amazing!

I am having a gastric bypass so I am on a very strict diet of protein shakes, water, broth, and sugar free J-ello, and he makes my shakes when I ask allowing me to not have to face food that I am craving.

Ray has been following God’s leading in our family since it became a family! Ray has worked hard and always sacrificed his needs and wants to meet the needs of traumatized children. Ray loves working with special needs children and seeing smiles on their faces, the light bulb moments when he helps a child understand a concept at school, and when his kids at home reach their goal.

Ray has helped me through more heartache than any one person should endure, but he has also guided towards the positive and good things in our life! He is my partner nlin chaos and compliments my personality and skills in only a way that God can provide!

He is a blessing from the Lord and I try to honor that daily, however there are definitely times we don’t jive, but by both giving we manage to find the common ground again!

Reconnecting

One of the great, but challenging parts of this life choices is when you reconnect with family and friends that have never been around your special children.

Today we are taking our six adopted children to meet my Aunt and Uncle from Utah. Sitting here waiting to leave comes with it’s own rollercoaster ride of emotions.

I know you all know what I am talking about…. will they understand my life choices and what they mean to our family, will the children behave (you know not steal, hit, verbally abuse each other, or become overwhelmed and attempt to run away), and will we have to leave in a whirlwind of chaos that leaves a sour taste in their mouths for our family.

Logically I know I can’t control every event we attend and every action of my children, but I do know I can control little things like taking sensory tools (have ear muffs and head weight will travel), taking items that bring comfort (yes that darn pink blanket that has haunted our existence), and talking through expectations prior to leaving!

So knowing this doesn’t really slow down or decrease the rollercoaster I am on, however it is nice to meet up with family and reconnect, even if there is a heck of a ride ahead of you.

Okay so we meet up and it went great! No major meltdowns and no family running away or making excuses to lay down! I count this as a win! I didn’t get a lot of time to visit because I was running distraction with the kids, but it still went well. Everyone enjoyed their time and as always our placement got to spend the entire time with Grandpa whom she loves (she is attached to him making sure he drinks, and has everything he could possibly need!).

My rollercoaster of emotions calmed down as dinner was ending and we had to rush home to meet another family who needs a break from their placement.  Overall it was wonderful and this part of my family has at least had the joy of breaking bread with our diverse family! Now if we can ever get to Utah then maybe we would have a little more time to talk!

FRUSTRATION!!!

So three of our boys are raising money for mountain bike season. No biggy right? UM yeah….. so as usual nothing in our house is normal and we are faced with more chaos!

So due to my Stepfather’s dementia and his care providers schedule for watching him getting their cars to the actual car wash is impossible, however they wanted to support the kid’s anyway. Great plan made to wash the cars at my Mom’s house and here we are washing the cars with a power washer and two autistic boys and the other boy who is overly fixated on the power washer! I am going to give you a few minutes for those visual images to sink in a little!

Yeah it’s as fun as it sounds! Trying to get the 18 year old to understand that if you clean the windows first you get them dirty again when you power spray the part below!

I have tried three times to get him to understand, however all that happens is the typical long conversation on what is right to him! Breathe mom breathe! Then on the fourth attempt to explain we have a break through and he finally sees that his clean window is now spotted from the sprayer!

LIGHT BULB!!!!

It’s never easy or cut and dry with these kiddos, however it is a blessing to watch them grow and learn (even if it is the hard way!). As we continue to grow and learn about our kiddos we are being stretched to have increased patience and understanding. They didn’t choose to be the victim, they didn’t choose to survive trauma, and above all else they didn’t choose to have Autism.

The Things We Give Up For Our Adopted Children!

So I know that EVERYONE is aware that having children in your life results in giving up something…. something that we love and feel attached to. Or events in your life you always wanted or felt you deserved to be apart of.

Here we are the night before our daughters wedding in Indiana and we are stuck here in Arizona. This is one of those things that I feel we were entitled to, however because we have our adopted kiddos, getting clear across the country is impossible.

Flying is out of the question due to the cost and just the thought of taking our children through security is enough to make me nauseous! All the people, the lines, the rules would be more than they could handle!

Driving is out also, again the cost is overwhelming (cheaper than flying, but just barely). Plus traveling across country is again a good way to have fistfights, meltdowns, and multiple reports of child abuse as we work to calm a child that is needing sensory input or just to scream. (Yes, we have had well meaning parents call the police because our son is screaming bloody murder because the stump he wanted to sit on was already occupied!)

So, now I am faced with missing a very important day in the life of my biological daughter because her adopted siblings can’t handle life. This is once again, where I feel like I have let her down. She deserves to have her mother and father at her wedding!

I can hear my daughter now, reminding me that it is ok that we are not there, and that she knows we care. It is heartbreaking that we are missing a very special day in her life, but uplifting as well! We have raised her to make the most out of what God has given her and she knows that she is loved unconditionally!

Respite … a Necessary Evil

Snow on our highest peak in Northern Arizona in LATE MAY! Another necessary evil!

Today is drop off day and everyone is edgy. I am edgy because there is so much to do and the kids are edgy because it is a change in routine. For MANY years we avoided respite because it is such a disruption to routine and at times the thought of getting respite when we are barely hanging on by finger tips was virtually adding rocks to our backpacks to see if we can handle it! However after many … suggestions from our family therapist we have started embracing respite more frequently!

Does it still seem not worth it? Um sometimes no because you know the day they come home is like trying to disarm a nuclear bomb … while on a stagecoach …. heading for a canyon. As we have used it more frequently and the kids are able to get into some kind of a routine it does seem a little easier.

Yes they will still be short with everyone around them, yes we will still need them to remain close so they don’t physically assault each other, and yes at least one will be puking due to being completely overwhelmed!

No I will not feel like I have just walked out of a day spa, like I have been on a vacation, or like my cup has been refilled. What I do feel is that I am able to survive the bumps of reuniting the masses and my marriage is so much strong for those few days of uninterrupted attention.

What do we do during our respite time? We often take time to make an amazing dinner, watch movies that are not animated, do not have superheroes, or children as the main cast members. We complete the laundry, finish projects that littles think they can help with but really can’t, and go to stores that have breakable. I know we are walking on the wild side!

I used to think I was broken or something was seriously wrong with me because I never felt “filled up” after a break and our team was very adamant that we “need to find time to fill your bucket”. One 4th of July I was talking with a dear friend that has worked her way through the ranks of fostering and adopting kids with needs and I asked her straight out if she always felt “filled up”. Her reply really hit me with wisdom that I needed …”no I don’t feel full (well except for the dread of getting everyone back into the home safely), but I feel as though I have been able to meet a few of my needs and often it looks like normal chores”. I truly needed to hear that!

Once I was able to look at the entire respite piece of my life in a much different light I was finally able to see why it was so important! I have needs just as important as these children and yes I deserve to fill them just as I work to fill theirs! Yeah I guess it is “filling my cup” in that my needs are getting met, however it is not the joy I was wanting (I was wanting that brand new woman who can conquer the world feeling), I can however see it is the “filling up” I need!

The Molgellon Rim on the way to Show Low WITHOUT the kids!

Cleaning House with Our Motley Bunch

My calm down place!

Well we are trying to get some “spring cleaning” as the kids say, done (I call it, this is enough and if I have to pick up your stuff it’s going to the dump day)! This may sound like a pretty average family event, however if you haven’t figured out yet we are anything but average!

How do I explain the mood and activities within our home today …. well as I messaged Ray it is like we are in the circus, as a ringleader and the tent is on fire, the animals need to be rescued, and the clowns are working to figure out the door. All of the clowns are working independently going off on their own tangents most of which are trying to open the doors, while three are focused on roasting marshmallows. Yeah that is pretty close to it!

I have a 9 year old girl that is “deep cleaning” a 3 foot wide 6 foot long strip of tile between the kitchen and the dining room. An 11 year old boy that is moving everything out of the livingroom to vacuum it. A 7 year old randomly whipping down walls. And as if this isn’t weird enough I have a 10 year old that is rotating between each of the others with his arms crossed rocking from side to side with his teeth sticking out.

And our three that are roasting marshmallows are… a 13 year old sitting at the top of the stairs listening for the work to be done, an 18 year old who all of a sudden has to “clean his room”, and the final 13 year old hiding in a chair around the corner where no one can see him reading his library book.

Believe it or not this was supposed to be productive and eventually it was. I mean by no means are we eating off our clean strip of floor, but things were done! We accomplished the annual cleaning of the decorative cookie jars and crystal that is stored above the stove in the kitchen and we got most of the laundry done. (18 years old and having clean laundry is no where on his radar! insert eye roll here)

As I sit and ponder this crazy circus that we call home I am faced with questions like, how will this 18 year old ever make it on his own if he can’t remember he needs clean clothes, he is struggling learning to drive, and he has no concept of timely unless we enforce it (like showing up 45 minutes early for an interview that is less than 5 minutes away!). Then it is how will our two 13 year old’s ever make it because they become so fixated it is not safe (you know like so concentrated on what he is having for dinner that at 11am he is walking into moving traffic or the other one having to be escorted out of a classroom during a fire drill because he had to get through this class before he could play football at lunch)!

As any parent I wonder what the future holds for our children, but like oh so many parents with children that have disabilities, the future is even more uncertain! We have 2 kids on DDD and 2 that have not qualified and are definitely not able to make it on their own! I am working to figure out how to help these kids learn skills for the future, but I can’t make them learn and even the 18 year old is not willing to learn!

Basically our house is like the movie Instant Family, but multiplied by 3! I think the big question is what does our future hold? Will our kiddos with special needs every be able to live independently (even if that means living independently in a group home!) And I think the bigger question is will we ever stop! We have said we are done several times, however there is always just one more.

And yes we live in a crazy circus and these are our monkeys  (as hard as that is to say on the hard days) and no matter how chaotic it is this is our life! We complain a lot and we work hard to make a difference in our kiddos, however we are only human and events like post visit meltdowns, heartache because biological mom let them down again, and the biggest piece to our crazy puzzle is WE STILL NEED RESPITE!

Some times it is letting the kids do “chores” without my corrections, because hey, at least we have a clean strip where the 9 year old mopped, the other children are reading, getting calm time, and the livingroom needed a deep cleaning! Right????? Most of all I needed to sit, zone out for half a minute, and …. well …. wait for the crazy clowns to figure out that they just need to turn the door knob!

It’s the Little Things

The smiles from these little gatherings are amazing!

So we are almost done with week two of summer and no one has died…well literally, because the kids tell me they are being bored to death frequently… and to top it off we have had very few meltdowns!

We have had a ton of little things that have been making a huge difference! The kids (all 6 of them) played in Nana’s little plastic kiddy pool with water guns and were spoiled by their all amazing therapist who took each kid to Sonic for a treat during his time with them. (He really is a saint he visited Sonic 4 different times in a 3 hour period!)

Our three day camping trip that brought so much laughter and smiles…. and frustrations and memories of happiness and anger.

Why did we have to leave?????

This week one of our support groups for families with special children met, and the kids enjoyed a little country town and animals or “creatures” as one of our kiddos calls them. It was so wonderful to be with other families that know what it is like, and truly support each other when the children are rocking, grunting, and appearing to be angry when they are overstimulated. We need to make shirts that say “stemming happens and we let it”.

Pam Nugent graciously opens her land for our special kids to come together and make memories with their friends!

We added a trip to the library where upwards of 30 books were checked out, however for the first time ever no one fought to get books that aren’t allowed (13 year olds should not be checking out picture books) and everyone actually enjoyed their time at the library! Now we just need to keep track of the massive stack of books!!!

I guess my biggest thing is we just have to let things happen instead of forcing them, and we are blessed to overall have a good two weeks! Now, I know we have 6 more to go and a ton of hurdles to clear between now and school starting. However, if we just breathe we might make it! Maybe and no guarantees, but there is a chance!