So today has finally arrived and all the kids are done with school! Um, why did this happen again? Oh yeah I haven’t moved to the equator and year round school! So let the craziness commence!
Grocery shopping half way done, it seems like there is never enough when they are all home. Plans for library trips, working at Nana’s on the garden, bike rides, and summer therapy groups are under way.
Today’s plans include…… wait for it ……surviving! Yep today everyone is hyper, sad about leaving friends, and excited to be done for the year! Today will require a lot of standing our ground on house rules that don’t change because it is summer, interfering when emotions start rising, and calming the whole room down to gain control.
What kind of fun are you all planning this summer? What challenges are you facing? How can we help you get through this transition?
Support is super important!!! I know it is hard to find at times and often we feel like no one understands, but trust me you are not the only person, family, temporary placement, or foster home going through your struggles!
We have family and friends that are there for us, however it is hard for them to relate, but other foster families or families with special needs children seem to get it.
Honestly when I tell my family I have held children for hours while they cried for no reason they don’t really get it. Sure they are sympathetic and try to give support, however how can they provide support when they haven’t been there before. How do they know it is sweaty, fatiguing, heartbreaking, and rewarding all at the same time!
If you have ever been there you know what I am talking about! To most it is overwhelming and to much to handle, however it usually occurs when our kiddos start feel out of control or have been reminded of past trauma! Our first kiddo would scream for five hours for no reason and NOTHING would make him stop. Now 11 years later I can see that he was so neglected that any touch, verbal communication, or sensory input from others was completely overwhelming! He was trying to tell us it was too much, but it was normal day to day life!
How can we protect and provide safety when everything is scarring him? It took many years of consistancy, support, and oh so much research to get through to him (ok it seems like there are times that we are right back at square one). People who have not been through all of these traumatic crying for help really don’t get just how challenging these kids are.
We now just how alone this life can feel and how overwhelming the isolation can be! Our goal is to help everyone out there know that they are not alone because raising kids with traumatic past is a very hard job and we want you to know you are not alone in this journey through the good, the bad, the ugly, and the amazing!
As our year comes to an end I am trying to get through to one of our young men who continues to be physically and verbally disrespectful to his teachers and school staff. Blaze is our most challenging autistic who is the king of finding loopholes so that he can get out of whatever it is he doesn’t want to do. I have been working with him and his therapist for months on how he talks to his teachers, how he addresses his school work, and how he addresses people in his life when he is not hearing what he wants to hear.
Today I had an epiphany of getting into his world and letting him see how his behaviors have been. I started asking him about the character a hero shows when he has interactions and Blaze quickly recapped that they treat everyone nicely even when people are rude, they try to help not harm people, and they are always willing to learn.
Next I asked him to tell me the characteristics of villain and again Blaze was quick to voice that villains are rude, disrespectful to everyone even if they are trying to help them, and they will go out of their way to get out of doing things they don’t want to do.
Hum doesn’t that sound a lot like the kid I described above! I then asked if his behaviors are more like the hero or the villain. He thought for a minute and then said, well I guess I have been more like the villain. I gave him time to let that percolate as we call it on his team. He thought for a while and said “yeah I have been a pretty decent villain, but I really wanted to be the hero”. I asked what was keeping him from being the hero and he was able to voice that his anger always takes over.
Lightbulb moment I start talking about the Hulk. I asked him how the doctor was able to keep Hulk away even when he is upset? Blaze answered “he works really hard to only let the Hulk out when he needs him. He has learned to manage his anger”. I took that and ran…….. so why can’t you use the skills you have learned to keep your Hulk hidden?
A few minutes pass and Blaze honestly answered, “I haven’t tried”. Ok so we are down at square one right! Now I have to be very careful on how we rebuild this picture for him. So we go over how the doctor moves away from people that make him angry and we talk about how he can ask to take a break when he is frustrated in class or at home. We talked about the doctor choosing to fight the urge to be Hulk and using deep breathing, guided imagery, and even sensory or distraction to keep his anger and rage in check.
Again the percolator is starting to bubble. As we sat there a few minutes Blaze started just listing the things that he could do to improve the situation. The conversation ended with a lot of praise, but that now the work really begins because he now needs to focus on harnessing his anger and rage instead of letting it harness him.
We have always used the hero or villain approach to tattling as it is something that most kids can relate to. Now we can use those same cue words with Blaze and not draw a lot of attention from the other children. I will keep everyone posted on the successfulness of this theory later on!
These words rock me to my core! I have never been a sports type of person, however my husband and children are. Sucks to be me and the other 2 kiddos that don’t sport! Yesterday was end of season hockey tournament day which is literally hockey from 7am to 11:30pm. Our family did not have 15U players so we got to leave at 8pm which was a blessing because the kids that did not play were starting to struggle. (Who wouldn’t be right?)
I have to send up many thanks and acknowledge the many blessings we received yesterday! No one was lost or injured during our day. We didn’t even have a major meltdown!
We had 4 kids that played their hearts out on and off the rink! We had 2 kids that hiked over 3 miles while the others skated, and 1 little girl that made some great connections with another safe and loving family! There was oh so much munching going on (not so good for my weight loss journey)!
We all enjoyed the many pleasures of family visiting, watching kids grow on the rink, and overall show good sportsmanship! (Ozzy really took the loss in the playoffs very hard!! We will have to work on showing his disappointment in loosing without being a poor sport!)
Overall we were blessed beyond words, however today we face the fallout of the 12+ hour day! So what do we expect for the day? Well…..
Extremely cranky and short fussed children that struggle to get along on a good day let alone on a day with absolutely no reserve! I know that sounds a lot like every child that has endured our hockey day, however the intensity of these episodes are much more intense than a child without issues.
We have throwing things, we have extremely rude comments that are amend straight at trigger points of those around them, destruction of belongings, and spiteful choices. At some point someone will be swaddled and we will continue to work on behaviors.
I can tell you this momma bear is ready to hibernate for sure! My amazing husband allowed me a decent nap as I attempted to recover from yesterday! The longer my day has gone on the more I am having joint pain (as expected with Rheumatoid Arthritis), body aches, and a decreased desire to work on anything including the 9 loads of laundry!
I have to admit that I truly want to focus on the blessings and how we are thriving with our house full of cranky munchkins but I will be the very first person to loathe the idea of hockey tournament day as it creates it own havoc in our already edgy existence, however it is worth it when we see Aaron get on his goalie gear and start to head to the rink in confidence, when we see Jon having one of his very few social interactions with his peers, watching Ozzy get his first goal of the day, and see Lilly working hard to get to the puck before the other players.
I am so grateful for all the loving individuals that put the hockey season on for our community, however I pray that they get to rest and recover before working on the new season that is right around the corner!
This is another one of those topics that sounds somewhat simple, however when you look at it threw the lens of trauma, fostering, and the adopted child it takes on an entirely new meaning and an entirely more complex process!
As any foster/adopt parent can attest it is very difficult to ask a child to completely give up their culture to adapt to our families views and cultures. We are trained from early on to learn about the child’s culture and then find ways to adopt it into our family culture (even if for a temporary time). This can be a very touchy task especially in our family, which is a blend of 5 families at the moment. Often I find myself searching for ways to “tweak” the holiday to incorporate many families and leave room for new traditions to be made, all without stepping on individual toes!
An example of this is last years decision to move away from tradition Christmas tree by 100%! Our Christmas tree was super hero themed and was on a patriotic tree!
A very different tree for our overly different family! The kids loved the red, white, and blue with all the super hero toys we could get to put on the tree, super hero masks and all.
So I hate to break it to you, but the holidays are not the only challenging behavior changes that we will face with this calling! We have kids that have learned to live in a constant state of fight or flight. What does that mean for us?
During one of earlier traings on behaviors we were given a great image of our roles in these children’s lives! Draw a picture of the human brain and add several pieces of tape that runs over itself several times pilling up. Now we mark a different section of the brain that represents the positive behaviors the child needs to exhibit. We work on teaching skills to the child and each time you review a skill, the child attempts to use the skill, and the first few times the skill is actually used you take a piece of tape off your pile and keeping the starting point the same, we end at the new point in the brain.
This visual and kinetic action of the process we are working on helps not only the children but ourselves focus on the goal. We have used this process with our oldest autistic son who struggles to make the dots connect. This task allowed our son to see and actively mark the attempts he is making to meet his goal!
It is said that it takes 66 days to make a new habit, although this isn’t a super speedy process it is lightening speed compared to how agonizingly long it takes for a trauma victim to break the old habit holds and create a new habit! The child needs to feel safe and you have to earn there trust before you can even begin to acknowledge the poor behaviors and then be willing to look at new skills! It can take days, months, and years before they finally feel safe enough to get past their trauma. I don’t know about you all, but I would gladly trade for 66 days!
I guess the big point is that you need to stay the course! Research shows that a child will interact with you more quickly if your body posture remains relaxed during every interaction with the child. This is extremely challenging! The first rule of Therapeutic Fostering is “don’t respond! No matter how frustrated, angry, hurt, or emotional you are!” Yeah let me tell you from this Irish mother don’t respond is not something I naturally do and I fail at this task each and every day!
I can’t say I am perfect or even some what proficient in this task, however I continue to work hard at this goal. I am very happy to report I am doing this more and more, working through as many situations as possible without responding!😏
How important is consistency in our daily world? It is HUGE! Little things like dinner time, like after school appointments, and like assigned seats at the table. Any little change is detected and alerted to by these kids like an overactive metal detector! So how do we handle their over exaggerated responses?
When it is something we know is coming ahead of time we will start preparing them for the change if the child can handle the change without fixating on the change ruining the days leading up to the change. Yep we have some that will dwell on the change to the point of becoming physically aggressive because it is coming and something will be changing.
The difficulty comes when the change will affect the child that has to have time to come to terms with the change and the child that will implode if the change is talked about early. How do we keep peace in these situations? Well it definitely is not easy!
We have to be very creative in how we look at and address these situations. Often times I am able to pull the child that needs to know early aside and go over the upcoming change, however reminding him that he needs to keep the change quiet because the others are not going to take it well. This is usually the answer, however it is a double edged sword in which we are putting into his hands that trust and may be used if the opportunity presents it’s self.
When there is no time for change the entire picture is different. We focus on the reason for the change and what will happen instead. This isn’t always easy and will result in the increase of stress for me! I work hard to keep everyone moving and using as many tools as is possible! Remember your supports or distractions!
So here we are approaching the dreaded summer time. This is the time of year that I long for a year round school, however they don’t exist where we live except homeschooling and I am not even able to go there! I love teaching and watching children grasp new topics, however when it comes to teaching our special needs kids, I just can’t!
I often ask myself what am I going to do and how will I handle this year? Each year I try to make the best plan to provide the family with a smooth, enjoyable summer, however it just never happens! All the plans for movies, games, activities, camping trips, and adventures get interrupted with therapies, meltdowns, and horrible choices that change how what the family participates in!
Already my plans for a garden are about a month delayed, we continue to work towards the goal of getting the Plasmacam up and running, which seems to be a never ending struggle due to the learning curve, and our goal of camping appears to be moving further and further away from reality! So where do I go from here?
Crazy! Absolutely CRAZY! I am already telling myself that I will disappoint the kids this year, which is not a lie by any stretch of the imagination! I know I can’t meet their expectations, but I can meet their needs. One thing I will have to do is look at my own expectations for summer and adjust them as much as possible!
I wish I could tell you that your Mother’s Day will be a story book day with lots of gratitude and happy moments…… however we have to remember that we are attempting to raise children that have been physically and emotionally harmed by their mom’s. And even though they see us physically they still live with hurt and heartache when they hear “Mom/Mother”.
I have learned over the years that Mother’s and Father’s Day are full of heartache and challenges, however if I walk into this day knowing that the behaviors we see are not meant for me personally I can almost make it! Occasionally they are meant for me when the child sees me as the one that has taken him/her from their mom and oh that is a whole nother post!
This year was a little different! Our newest placement was eager to give flowers from our amazing church family and as usual was very “cuddly” with panic when I was out of her sight.
Good right, in away it is overwhelming because she was so needy. But I think the hardest ones to handle is the last three we adopted. It has been 6 months since we adopted them and they still call us Misty and Ray. Yesterday was very hard for them. They were very withdrawn and asked a few times about how their mom is doing. They know in their brains she was not able to care for them, however in their hearts they are struggling because they always took care of her. Yeah you read that right! They cared for their mom not the other way around!
How do we make connections with them when they are still stuck in those old relationships emotionally?
Well it isn’t very easy, especially if we have our hearts set on the perfect Mother’s Day. On these days we need to put on our trauma support hat and help them to survive when they are being overwhelmed with emotions and past hurts. I know my husband worked to make the day a better day, however there is only so much he can do. My biological children bought me yellow roses which are more than special to me! The day wasn’t a total disaster, but it sure wasn’t Hallmark quality!
Yesterday we walked the gammit of clingy, withdrawn, absolutely angry with nothing helping to refocus their emotions, and lashing out at anyone that gets close! We continued to text each other about not taking on the kids issues or behaviors because boy is it challenging in the moment. We often whisper to each other “not my monkey, not my circus” which is really an indering statement.
I guess overall it was a day that meet the bare requirements of everyone clothed, no one dieing, and working through some emotions. What more can I ask for?
I am attempting to recover ….. from what was a pretty great day until ….. all the kids arrived home from school and you could actually feel the the edginess in the air.
As the afternoon unfolded it was clear that we were going to have to hang on and ride out the storm! Our newest placement had been on the brink of a meltdown for most of the day. She was hiding from social interactions, hiding from her classwork, and working hard to hide her feelings.
Everyone was starting to struggle when my phone rang …. it was a previous placement wanting to check in and talk with her. As soon as I told this little one that she had a call she just slipped into her cycle …… for those of you who are blessed to not live with children that have been through trauma I will explain …. her eyes fixated on a point on the wall and glazed over as she began her chant “no, no, no, no ,no” getting louder with every no.
This is our first round of meltdowns with her so I start trying all the old tricks, writing words on her back with my finger, increasing to rubbing, increasing stimulation to scratching with no change.
Not enough stimulation input so next we turn to swaddling in a big blanket to provide all over pressure. Progress!! She looks in my direction and she is seeing me again …. ok so now we start the waiting game.
As I am holding her as she loudly chants “let me go” over and over, I begin to assess the other children’s response. A little edgy, however able to use their unique coping skills to get through. One is focusing on cooking, one is picking up the room, one is handing out ear protection, and one is continuing his never ending journey from one end of the house to the other with his ear protection on.
At this point we were thriving! Hard to believe that when you have a child who is cycling from too much emotion, the rest of the family could be thriving, but yet here we were in the midst of what to many seems utter chaos and our little family was stepping up to weather the storm.
After she had completley emptied her bucket of emotions you could feel her entire body start to relax. I then slowly introduced her to the recovery phase. I slowly wipe her face with a cool washcloth starting with gentle dabbing initially. As she continues to come out of her meltdown we remove the blanket, continue to cool her off with the washcloth, and one of the kids that frequently experience meltdowns brings in a snack.
For the first time in 11 years of caring for children that have been through trauma this little girl turned to me and said “thank you for staying with me. I hate to be alone”. Hum so much to work through and so many little things that we take for granted and to her it was the fact that she was getting to work through her emotions and not be left alone during her vulnerable state. That is huge for a forty year old let alone a 7 year old that has been through more than most grown adults.
Yes our lifestyle is not for everyone, (heck there are times it is not for me) but in that moment it all seemed worth it. Here is a precious child of God that has been through too many hurts, too many feelings, too many losses, too many …… too many’s for many lifetimes. If holding her while she pours out her heart is the only thing I do for her during her time here then that is what I will do.
We have been hearing a lot about thriving and surviving lately, however in a recent video I watched from FatheringAutism I have been introduced to a new level and that is coasting. I definitely know that we have had periods in which we have survived (I think we lived here the most) and we are learning to thrive (which is amazing and challenging all at once) and unfortunately we have spent all too much time just coasting.
While coasting is better than surviving it is not meant to be the place we park our circus! Coasting is a place to catch your breathe, build up a little energy, and move on to thriving. Thriving is hard and is very purposeful. I personally feel that in order to thrive I must choose to be purposeful in my activities, words, relationships, and need to find support so that we can get help. (Incert no, no, no, no, no, here as my emotional bucket overflows!)
When it gets to the point that I need help or I need support my reserves are gone! Not just dwindling, but dust on the wind in a dust devil GONE! Trust me I suck at asking for help! I am the fixer not the one needing to be fixed, however I am learning that I must keep myself going or I am no good to anyone. What does that look like when you have a house full of special needs kids? Well it looks a lot like other families. Yeah our kids respond differently to social interactions, loud sounds, touch, taste, smells, food textures, oh sorry I lost track of myself, however they are kids after all and I am just a parent. It gets better and boy oh boy can it get worse, however as I posted about before we aren’t superheroes and we need support just like any other family.
Walking the path that God has put us on is not easy! Taking in God’s most treasured children who have lived through so much trauma is …. well …. traumatizing at times!
I want to be really real with you, this journey is not for the faint hearted, HOWEVER IT IS FOR THE FEW THAT ARE WILLING TO BE USED BY THE LORD!
If you would have asked me if this was ever in my plans or future you would have received a loud blurting laugh with a no answer!
I was that weird girl in middle school that knew I was going to be an accountant! I love numbers because they are always consistent. No matter what country you are in 2+2 will always equal 4! In high school my life was so overwhelming as I struggled to find me that I was literally striving to be a hermit. I was never marrying (24 years married and loving it beyond words), never having children (ha, ha, ha) and was going to be working on ranches riding the line (checking the fences for holes) and herding cattle when needed moving from ranch to ranch to explore the country in my own weird way.
My amazing husband was the one who started to lead me to the Lord in a very real way. Church was a big part of his life living so close to his Hispanic family that was very active in the Catholic Church. He knew once we had kids that he wanted to be a Godly father and husband.
My childhood experiences with God and church did not have as strong of a foundation. My mom had a true belief in the Lord, but my father was very leery of religion and churches, so as I put it I dabbled at a couple of churches growing up. My bestfriend is mormon and her family was a HUGE part of my childhood and Mrs. Bring is one of my “mother idols” that I strive to duplicate! I had a TOTALLY different perspective than my husband on church and a relationship with God.
As we both grew in our faith, marriage, and as parents we were called by God to reach out to children in our very community in need! What an amazing calling right! I mean who wouldn’t want to live out James 1:27 (NIV) “Religon that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
I had heard this verse many times and had never paid much attention to the “keep oneself from being polluted by the world” portion.
Let me tell you bringing these children into your home is absolutely inviting pollutants of the world into your life in ways that you may have otherwise been able to avoid, however we have learned on this journey how to keep it at arms length!
We have always said we wanted to work with kids that were the most in need, however we drew the line at sexual abuse and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD). God just laughed and sent us Jon!
From the moment he walked through my door I saw the facial markers for FASD, after all I was a trained OB nurse who looks for these signs in every baby that is born. I knew from the very beginning that I needed to fight for this child who not only was severely neglected during the most crucial period of his developmental life (birth through toddler), but also he suffered attacks during his very physical development that would cause him issues that even if he was pulled from his parents at day one and placed in the world’s most loving and nurturing environment, he would still struggle with impulse control issues, anger issues, learning disabilities, and struggle through even the most basic social interactions!
Looking back at my life you would think I would have already learned to stop saying that I am never doing, moving, or taking in anything! BUT NO! I have never learned this lesson. So throughout our soon to be 11 years of fostering I have always said “we don’t take sexually abuse cases, (naively) because we have other child that we don’t want to put at risk”.
HELLO!!! Everytime a child that was therapeutic walked through our door we were opening up our children to trauma. There I said it! I have been putting my children at risk for more trauma with every child that walks through our door…. however we have also given them some amazing lessons on life, the world, and people that all too many people never get to learn.
My children know how to handle some very difficult personalities, have learned that not all responses are personal attacks on them instead they are often cries for help, and above all they have learned to not judge others because they know what it is like to be judged!
I have been blessed, amazed, and taken back at how our children will go to the individual that is struggling out of a group of hundreds of people, connect with them, deescalate them, and work to bring them in to acceptance. Even if it means being tough on their friends when they struggle to accept! Our older child will definitely hold their friends, Christian or not, accountable! I don’t have to worry about their ability to protect themselves on all levels (yes even physically unfortunately) because of the many children we have had through our doors.
So as we are bringing this season of our lives to a close God says hold on… I have one more for you! You guessed it, here is a child that needs to learn that not all men are going to rape you, harm you, and degrade you! I know my husband and boys are upto the challenge but here we are crossing off our final we draw the line at…!
I guess the main point is if you are going to take the LEAP to serve God in any form, don’t limit yourself, because he will bring you your fears in a very visceral way and carry you through them kicking and screaming sometimes! 11 years ago when Jon screamed his way into our hearts trust me the nurse inside me that knew how hard a child’s life was with FASD I was definitely scream at God “I can’t do this! I can’t handle this on top of work, homeschooling, Bachelors program, and church commitments! How do you expect me to do it all?”
Proverbs 20:24 (NIV) “A man’s steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand his own way?”
So we keep moving forward in our daily lives doing our best to be patient, respectful, and above all consistent…… so why is it we are struggling so badly with one of our kiddos?
Our 13 year old with autism is genetically predisposed to high cholesterol and diabetes. His labs just aren’t improving no matter what we do! We have all sweets on lock down and portion control with low fat everything (which has been more than a fight, however instead it has been an on going battle). We know he sneaks anything he can find but yesterday was …. well …. beyond words!
We had about 8 left over JoJo fries from an event that I had put in the garage refrigerator door and forgot about them. So we are about 9 days in the fridge at this point. So something was missing and in front of the therapist my husband checks the 13 year olds pockets and he pulls out about 5 of the JoJo fries that are warm! I ask him why he had those in his pocket and when he got them because he has not been alone in the garage today…… the answer made my skin crawl….. “I grabbed them yesterday and have had them in my pockets since”!!!!
Incert the turning green mom who is struggling to not vomit here! The caseworker asks him if he has been eating them and he answered yes. Again I am grossed out!
So what do we do with this? We have been working very hard to keep him improving and working on teaching healthy life styles chose so his future will be improved, however it seems that we are just pushing him to sneak food! I reviewed that this is the reason we have to restrict his portions. Being a nurse I reviewed why we store foods in the cold refrigerator and what it is like to have food poisoning. As you probably said when you read this …. it did nothing!
How do we keep him safe and healthy? We are struggling to do what is right in the situation! I have turned it all over to God several times but in my human weakness I continue to take it back feeling completely unequipped to handle this situation and that it’s not God’s problem but mine! I know this is crazy, but it is where I go!
It’s Monday morning and believe it or not we had a very amazing weekend! I am in awe of how our weekend went very smoothly with only one or two issues with one of the boys.
We went to Chino to my Mom’s house on Saturday and we worked hard at getting our garden ready for planting, moved the kids chicks out to the chicken coop, and started making progress on reviving my Stepfather’s metal sign business!
Sunday was a day of rejoicing with our Lord, getting our laundry completed for the week, and I road a bike for the first time in over 20 years! It was a beautiful day spent with many fun memories and lots of smiles.
And then came Monday ……. kids not getting moving making other kids late for school, and kids fixating on the clouds since it relates to the evening hockey games! I woke up this morning to instant stress!
It is so frustrating and annoying how our family can go from being so happy and gelled to then overnight it seems to all fall apart. What am I missing??
How do kids that were all laughs and smiles one day turn into buckets of anxiety and stress for each of them. I can only say it is the struggles of the last month of school! Here we are working towards the last day, however the impending change in routine is already making a great ripple in their little worlds that no parent can stop.
The kids just want to be heading to Nana’s house to start pulling apart palettes, grinding on the signs that are made, continue to watch the chickens, and play with all the dogs. Helping them to see it is not that long until it is time for all this to occur is by no means an easy task. We have highlighted the last day for each child’s school on the calendar, we have been diligently marking the days off, we have made a fun list of tasks that need to be done, and we have made a list of activities that they all have a desire to attend.
Now our biggest stress is that they will think everything would be done on one day! One of our biggest challenges comes with summer. Keeping all the special needs children feeling safe and in control while not causing issues with the other. We can plan camping trips and skills groups, however there is always that one kiddo that slips through the cracks and ends up just being for summer. We have multiple library trips and therapy appointments, but I still worry that one of the kids will be left out!
So here we go again living in survival mode throughout the final month. How are you all going through the last month and what do you all have planned for summer?