Friday, July 18, 2014

Stress & Regressions



We'll be starting up therapy again this weekend with our old therapist.  I feel a sense of relief knowing some help is coming.  This week has been really hard with both of our kids.  We went camping last weekend, which was absolutely fantastic, but adjusting back to routine and home is a challenge for my kids.  And then I realized last night how much extra stress Chris and I have been under this week, and obviously that affects our kids as well.  We've been talking about some big stuff lately and making some big life decisions and I know by now that my kids pick up on that stuff and it stresses them out, too. 

It always helps to figure out the reason for my kids' regressions.  It just makes me feel better, I guess, if I can pinpoint a cause.

I'm praying that therapy really helps us all.  I'm also thinking that E starts kindergarten next month and I think that's going to bring a whole new set of challenges with him, so I feel a bit of urgency to get J-Man to a better place before all of that hits. 

This verse has been hitting me this week, "But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and are saved."  (Hebrews 10.39)  In the midst of the struggles and the overwhelming-ness, we don't shrink back.  We have faith and the Lord will help us.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Forever & Always



Last night I sort of facilitated a discussion between my boys so they could discuss what was frustrating them about each other.  I felt like it was a healthy teaching time for me to show them how to express their feelings and needs, how to apologize, and how to solve the problem.  J-Man was super frustrated that E doesn't like him in his room and isn't great at sharing toys with him.  E was mad that J-Man has been making fun of him for some things.  I encouraged them both to explain to each other what was upsetting them.  I had them apologize to each other.  And we discussed how we could make those things better for each other.

But then the conversation took a turn with one of my boys.  He said, "The real reason why I'm angry is because my birthparents couldn't take care of me."

Gut wrench.

These are the types of conversations that take place at random times when you least expect it.  And they always break your heart a bit.  For your child and all he's had to come through already in life.

I took my son into his room, just the two of us, and repeated what he said to me, just trying to let him know he could talk more about that if he wanted.

"I wish my birthparents could've taken care of me.  And I wish you guys could've taken care of me, too."

That was the first time I've seen those conflicting loyalties with this child.  So natural, right?  There's a natural longing for those first parents, but also a feeling of loving your adoptive parents and wanting them too.  It's healthy, really.  To be able to want both instead of one or the other.

I just acknowledged what he said again.

"My birthmom was my forever mom."

I responded, "Well, she was your first mom.  I'm your forever mom."

He seemed to be helped by the "first mom" wording.

"But my first mom WAS my forever mom before."

Wow, right?  That's a huge thought for a little guy.  She WAS my forever mom.  She was supposed to be my forever mom.  What if you're not here forever either? 

"She was your first mom and I'm your forever mom."

"Yeah, you're my forever and always mom."

"Yeah."

Big conversations.  Big concepts.  I know that my job as an adoptive mom is to be there for those conversations.  To create an environment where my kids know they can express those feelings to me, where they feel safe to talk about those topics.  My job is to listen and to validate their feelings and let them know it's okay to have those feelings.  And my job is to reassure them that this family is FOREVER.  No matter what.  Forever and always.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Stories



This is the first picture we ever received of E.  He's 4 months old here.  I can't even handle the cuteness!
 
I learned in the TBRI training I recently attended that age 5 is a big age for kids developmentally and it is an age where they begin to process more fully their stories.  We are definitely seeing this with E.  While we have always told him his story, he's becoming much more interested in it lately.  Before he came to us I made a scrapbook/lifebook of his life and then added to it pictures of our trip to Ethiopia to get him.  We have looked at this at times during his life, but lately he's been grabbing it almost every day and asking me to read it to him.  It's interesting to see his desire to know; to know where he came from and how he came to be ours. 

I'm really glad I have that lifebook for him.  I can tell it's really helping him process things.  I just ordered a new lifebook for J-Man that I made through a photo website.  J-Man has his really intense story that we used in EMDR therapy and he has a little baby photo album I made him, but I felt he was a little jealous of E's book because I took a lot of care to make that and it has words in it to really tell his story.  I felt like J-Man needed something more similar to that.

I think that lifebooks are so very important for kids from hard places.  Years ago I read the idea of a 3-picture-story.  I love this idea because lifebooks can seem overwhelming and time-consuming to parents (especially parents with newly placed children) and the 3-picture-story is so quick and easy.  I did these for both of my boys after we brought them home.  All you do is find 3 pictures that sum up your child's story.  The 3 pictures are:

1.)  The earliest picture you have of your child.  This can be them with birthfamily, with first foster family, a baby picture, or just the youngest picture you have.

2.)  "The handoff".  This is a picture ideally of the previous caregiver handing the child to you.  It can also be a picture of the day you met, the day your child was placed with you, a first picture of you with your child.

3.)  Your family.  Parents and children together.  Forever family.

Pretty easy, right?  Just put those 3 pictures on a piece of paper and go through it with your child with simple explanations of each picture.  You may not have the exact pictures I mentioned above, but as you can see there are a lot of options that will work.  Do the best you can with what you have.  You could also draw a picture of your child as a baby if you just don't have any photos that will work.

What have you done to help your child understand his/her story?  Please share your ideas with all of us!



Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Going Camping

This was about 3 years ago!

We are planning a camping trip soon!  We recently bought a new tent.  People, it's an 8 person tent!  Yes, there are only 4 people in our family.  But last time we went in a 6 person tent we borrowed from my parents, we felt really cramped.  Put 4 people in there with a little luggage and you CAN'T MOVE.  I know, I know, that's sort of the M.O. of tent camping, but we wanted some more space.  Space.  That's sort of our family watchword lately.  Chris and I are coming to accept the fact that we have really wild boys.  They have a lot of energy, they get loud, and they do things on big scales.  So for us to survive all of that, we've realized we require some space.  This was largely determined by our spending a year and a half in a tiny apartment with no backyard!  Too much.  It was just too much.

Anyway.  We bought an 8 person tent.  It's huge.  My 6-foot-tall self can stand up in the center. 

We'll just be heading up into the mountains near where we live.  The boys have been getting into fishing lately so we'll fish in a little creek up there and we'll hike to a lake.  Ah, doesn't that sound nice?

We don't take many trips partly because of financial reasons and partly because my husband owns his own business and therefore doesn't get any time off.  He's been the only employee since he started his business.  And he works until 8 pm on Fridays and starts work at 6 am on Mondays.  Not very conducive to travel.  BUT, he recently hired a guy who will sub for him on occasion.  Hallelujah!  So he can take off the occasional Friday evening and we can head out of town.

We've been talking more lately about the importance of traditions and family experiences.  I think traditions and fun family times are important for all kids, but especially for kids who were adopted.  I feel like our kids need a little extra to cement that feeling of connectedness and family, to help them fully know that they are part of something.  So we'll be heading up to the mountains soon.  It's nothing extravagant, yet it also is.  I struggle in the tension of "live simply so that others may simply live" and giving my kids experiences and memories that ground them as part of a family.  I think it's good to live in that tension.  I don't want to live too extravagantly when there are people who don't even have access to clean water.  Yet I want to help my kids in whatever ways they need to feel solid and joyful, and connected.  Does that make sense?  I guess it's good to just keep struggling with that tension and keep living in it and trying to figure it out.

Thoughts?  Or ways you save money but still have fun times as a family?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Structure

 

I am not a scheduled person, ya'll.  I'm kind of random and I get bored easily.  I like to switch things up. 

Yet, I have kids who need schedules and structure.  "High nurture, high structure" is the parenting philosophy that Deborah Gray lays out in her book Attaching in Adoption.  High structure is hard for me to do, but my kids need it.

At this point I have a 5-year-old and a 4 1/2-year-old who are both home with me fulltime.  E will start half-day kindergarten next month (woah, that's really soon!), but J-Man will continue to stay home with me and "homeschool" for preschool.  We've decided to keep him home another year instead of putting him in preschool so I will teach him some things at home and we'll probably sign him up for sports or other activities. 

Anyway, I realized the other day that most of my kids' day consists of free play.  I believe in the power of play, especially for kids from hard places.  I believe play is learning, therapy, healing, connection all rolled into one.  However, I realize they would do better with a little more structure.  They end up bored a lot of times and that makes them get into mischief or just bug each other. 

So I revised my very loose schedule that previously hung on the fridge!  I filled in some gaps.  I blocked out some "preschool" time. 

I'm still not sticking to it completely, but my days feel more structured and I feel better about it.

Here's the still-loose, but less-loose schedule I've now stuck on my fridge:

7   Everyone up.  Really, my kids are usually up between 6 and 6:30, but I've trained them that I will come out at 7.  Yay me.  They are supposed to turn on the tv or play quietly until 7.  I usually try to get up by 6:30 and read my Bible or devotional before coming out to face the day at 7.

7:20  Breakfast & Coffee.  Coffee is crucial here, people.  J-Man wakes up hungry so I have to feed him right away.

7:40  TV.  I try to limit my kids' tv time to an hour a day.  I relax on that rule on the weekends and a little more often in the summer.  So if they haven't watched an hour yet, they will usually turn on the tv after breakfast.  If I slept through my Bible reading time, I will sometimes steal away to do this now.

8:30   Get dressed and brush teeth.  This is for me and the kids.

9-11:15   Preschool.   This is the time of day I want to start making the most structured.  My husband gets home from work around 9:30 (he works odd hours and split shifts) and so this time of day tends to be all of us wandering around the house, trying to check off our own to do lists, or trying to figure out what to do.  This has needed to change.  So I want to start structuring more outside play, workbooks, art, and computer games in here.  We also have snack around 9:30.

11:30  Lunch.  

12   Clean up.  

12:30  Quiet time.  Mom does chores.   Some days my boys still take naps, but every day they spend about a hour playing quietly in their rooms.  This is a sanity saver in our house.  For all of us.  I typically rest during this time, but I think I'm ready to make a switch with that.  I would like to make this my chore time, my get my crap done time, so that I'm not so scattered when my kids are up and so that my evenings are free to hang out with my husband.

2 Snack.

2:30-4   Errands.  I've been doing all my errands by myself when my husband's home, but I think I need to start just making my kids come with me sometimes.  Structure, right?  Of course, I don't run errands every day so this might be chore time for my kids, too.  I think I need to start giving them some more household responsibilities. 

4:30   Make Dinner.

5:30  Eat Dinner.

6   Playtime.

7   Bath. 

7:30  Read, Bed.  Parents Relax.   If my kids haven't napped, I put them to bed around 7:45, but if they have napped, I'll let them stay up till about 8:15.  Then I want to focus more on relaxing with Chris instead of trying to get stuff done once they go to bed!

So there you have it.  It's still rough and there are some up-in-the-air ideas, but I feel better about having a little more structure for the kids.

How about you?  Do you stick to a schedule or is your day more free flow?



Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Good and The Terrible

 
Happy Saturday!  My husband has an unexpected day off today so we have enjoyed some donuts and lounging around.  I hope you had a good 4th of July.
 
Chris and E made some healthy homemade ice cream yesterday.  Here's the recipe cause it was a delicious healthy treat if you want to try it!  E was pretty into the whole thing.
 


I had an extremely difficult afternoon with J-Man.  I want to put that out there in the interest of being real.  Yesterday morning was nice, yesterday evening was nice.  But the middle part was absolutely terrible.  Chris and I decided we'll be calling on Monday to get us back into therapy.  Maybe we needed that episode to confirm in our minds that it's time to get back into a professional therapy situation.  (Sometimes I wonder if I'm sharing too much information on here regarding my kids, but I also want to show the reality of needing professional help.  Most adoptive families I know are receiving therapy services for their children.  There's no shame in that.  I've learned that if you need help, you have to get help.  There's just no point in trying to figure it out on your own.  It takes a village, right?  And sometimes that village looks different.  Sometimes it's family, friends, support groups, and therapy.  We all just have to find OUR village that works for OUR family.)

Back to the good part of the 4th...we headed over to my parents' house for swimming, BBQ, ice cream, and fireworks.  The boys were so anxious for fireworks that we headed out front around 7:30.  Poor Chris really wanted to have some fireworks left for when it got dark, but his boys aren't quite that patient.  To buy some time, they first made a plan...



Then E did what E is good at...organizing!


While J-Man did this...


The show was quite lovely.


And even better once it got a little dark.


I'm realizing more lately the importance of traditions and fun family experiences for all kids, but especially for kids who were adopted.  These are the things that cement that feeling of family and belonging.  When we do something as simple as making homemade ice cream year after year, our kids receive a feeling of FAMILY.  They feel connected and a part of something.  That is simply priceless.

To end the evening, we came home to find our dog Lloyd had gotten so scared of the fireworks that he had escaped.  Our boys were really sad and really worried.  Thank the Lord, we found him roaming the neighborhood this morning!


Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Fourth!

a year ago

Happy 4th of July!

We live in a place where it will be 104 degrees today so the only way to really survive the 4th is to find a pool and get in it.

Since my family has gone dairy free we will be trying a new dairy free ice cream recipe today that sounds delicious!  We'll be swimming and barbequing with my parents and then we'll do some fireworks with the kids. 

I hope you find time to relax and celebrate today.  And I hope you don't melt! 

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