The Mite and the Hydra

Last week’s reading at Mass was about the widow’s mite.  You know the parable: when the poor widow gives all she had at church. And how that offering is worth more, relatively, than the great riches offered by the wealthy man. So often the take away there is focused on how we should give til it hurts, financially. Encouraging us to generosity without fear. In some (questionable) speeches and books it’s portrayed as the sure formula to riches rebounding to you; based on the “God will return a hundredfold…” concept. Well. Yes. God will. But if you think that means that God will immediately return a literal hundred bucks into your wallet if you drop a dollar into the basket……then I will just have to disagree. And change the subject.

But, I have been mulling this over, all week.  I need to sort the tiny threads that are floating about my tired busy distractible mind. Hearing this parable, again, I started to think about how I, and so many moms I know, are just overrun. I know, hard to see that connection to the widow’s mite.  Hang with me.

In our insanely busy modern life, our insanely busy modern days are just slammed. And so many moms are just feeling that they can’t keep up and maybe, maybe, they are somehow failing a bit. Ok, just to be clear, I am now switching to all about me, me me. Because lately, my days are so slamming hectic and I pour out every single bit of energy I’ve got into the kids, the doing, the driving, the tending, the putting out fires, the driving, the soothing, the analyzing, the driving, the doing the doing the doing the doing. And then, every night, I fall into bed after 16-18+ hours of ninety to nothing……..and I feel like, maybe, I failed. Again. Like I gave it my all and fell short. Or, at least fumbled. I fumble it all. Every (literally) blessed day.Then my tunnel vision often kicks in. It’s all I can see. The fumbles and the task list. Then those two things can swiftly make up my entire sense of the day.

The list, that Hydra. It’s beating me. It’s just the same as that mythical monster, one head gets cut off, task finished, and another two spring up in it’s place.  And sometimes I want to cry or cuss because I really feel like I’m giving my all. Everything I’ve got. And it’s not enough.

Or …is it?

Last week I went to confession. It’d been weeks and weeks since I’d been able to go due to soccer games and events and…the list! No time. Literally. The Hydra eating up my time. Hydra heads popping out all over, gaping maws open.   Without confession, regularly, I get smudgy and start fumbling more and more. I cuss more and more. I feel overwhelmed. Which makes me cuss and get resentful.

So confession helped. It always always does, of course. It’s a balm. Peace. Breathing. Meeting with the priest, I started in on my other list: my fail list.  We talked. The priest told me I had forgotten; I had forgotten that I was “dear to God.” That I could breathe. I was giving my ALL.  I was giving my all. And while I felt like it wasn’t worth much (fail fumble…the hydra hissing at me)….it was worth more than I could know.

I’ve been thinking this week (self-indulgently? It could  happen...)…perhaps, perhaps, my offering is something of a “mite?”

In a vision that comes from a different perspective – a divine love – my meager offerings might be worth much more than I count. I am not a ‘widow.’ And yet, I am.  I am poor in my ability to do much, well, or enough, ever. I am poor in true love of others and patience and humility and detachment. But, even so…I was reminded that if I give my all – what I can do out of love – then it is, STILL, worth much.

Ah. Breathe. Perhaps this notion is indulgent.  But I tell you, it’s like opening a window and sucking in fresh air.  It’s ok to recenter and do what I can. That’s enough. And, that, that knowledge that lets my breathe and slash the list to a proportionate size….that is my hundredfold return. It’s not in my wallet. It’s in my deepest core. Worth so much more.

The hydra waits for me to forget, I know. But, if I can, I will work to remember the widow’s mite. My limits, they are what they are though I work, and will, to expand them. My “I can do this much” is poor and not so much.

My mite, however, can be worth much.  My mite is worth the love I put in it, not the success or task number accomplished. Hydra, slain.

Eyes Open, Marking the good: Teen Americana

Once again, I must do a post on Marking the Good.  I have posted in this series before, here, and here, and here.  The upshot of this series of posts is that all too often we (meaning, me) get too wrapped up in the hectic mill of the chaotic days and even more, trapped in the cycle of cynical.  Well, it’s a trap for me at any rate.  When you’re parenting a child with special needs and or a tough background, it’s a high risk trap: that cynical thing.  So, in order to attempt to stem that tide, now and then I look up and post some good news.

We have just had a very big event in the house, a very big event for our Marta.  Even though it’s early in the school year, our high school just had Homecoming (schedules can be wacky things, set the year prior).  About two weeks ago I got a phone call from Marta’s teacher and she wanted to let me know that our Marta had been voted as the sophomore class pick for Homecoming Court.  (Each class picks and votes in a girl to be part of the hoopla, to represent their class/grade).  Well, this year, they picked Marta.  Really!  And, because I am cynical, I had them check it out to make sure that in no way was the vote tinged with joking or malicious intent.  Now, don’t judge me.  It’s that protective thing – and you’d do the same thing in my shoes I betcha.   Anyhow, it was legit!  And so, a few weeks ago, Marta came home, lit up about “select me” to be on Homecoming.

So, we buckled up for the bumpy roller coaster ride!

Why bumpy? Why a roller coaster?  Because while this was out of the blue and exciting and kind of amazing…it also meant that we faced two big things: anxiety and ‘feeding the monster.”  Anxiety, because Marta is FILLED with anxiety over new things and needs to feel she can control every tiny detail and so on.  “Feeding the monster” because she already feels she is something of the school “Princess” and that everyone “selects” her.  So…..I wasn’t sure how to offset all that, nor was her teacher.  So, we all agreed to just RIDE THE WAVE.  (To mix all my metaphors through this whole post. It’s early, I’m not fully caffeinated..leave me be.)

So, we did.  There was a lot of crazy.  There was a LOT of excitement.  There was a lot of anxiety.  For two weeks.  And last night was the big event.  It was Homecoming on the football field at halftime! All the girls primped: the specially made dress (seamstress, fittings, oh my), the friend doing her hair after school, the sparkly shoes, the makeup by her sister, the nerves, the pictures, the buddy to escort her (Sweet boy, super nice friend).   Turns out it was POURING about an hour before the game.  Nerves worry worry (for everyone!).  Then it cleared and just left the hottest steamiest summer night of the  year.  Which is great, except for the hairdo’s….oh well.  Slice of life!  Anyhow, Marta carried it off very well. She was a nervous wreck.  She was SO excited and so happy but also so shy about being on the field that we could barely get her to look up!  Good thing we got some cute pics before!

The great thing about this whole roller coaster surfing tsunami (there, now I’ve really done it..) is that Marta felt like a million bucks.  Her sweet wonderful friends at that school made T-shirts that spelled out “We love Marta!”  How great is that?

Love these girls! So great!

Really, how great is that?  Yes, it made me both grin and blink a few tears at the same time.  And as I hustled over to the stands as the whole Homecoming court walked out onto the field, I got a spot smack in the center and handed the camera to Tom so I could shout and clap and yell with the best view.  I had her Tshirt brigade to my left and my littles by my side and her big sister and Hannah’s friends to my right.  All of them, us, standing on the bleachers, shouting and hooting and yelling for Marta.  She laughed, lit up, and looked down, again and again.

And I watched her big sis, my eldest daughter, scream for her sister and I blinked.  Because they have a complicated, jealous both ways, relationship.  And I was so proud of her too.  And I watched and grinned with my little boys and my other girls as we all yelled and clapped.  And I watched the students genuinely shout and clap for our Marta.  And it kind of made me shake my head in wonder.

This complicated tiny girl…she has a way of drawing people to her.  And it makes me laugh and ponder.  And this one night, she got the amazing chance to be a princess.  I usually hate all this kind of high school drama and hoopla.  But last night, and this time, I was grateful.  Because only here, in this special school, in our little town, would this girl  – who came  here a few years ago from around the world – be able to soak in and experience this uber-American teen experience.  And it made her feel like a million bucks.

Was it a rollercoaster? Oh. Yeah.  But, overall, a great ride!  And every time we jokingly call her a new (temporary?) nickname…..she grins a megawatt smile.  Just like a Princess….

Eyes Open: Marking the Reading Good

So, I have done a few posts on “marking the good.” I call these posts “Eyes Open” because too often I run around with my hair on fire and I forget to open my eyes to see the goodness abounding or the small flickering glimmer.  So, now and then I luck out and it runs smack into me.  

The other day (I would’ve put this up sooner, but again, hair on fire, crazy busy w/ the freight train slow savor of summer) this bit of good literally barreled into me as I stood, per usual, folding clothes.  Marta rushed over to me from her room, carrying a book I had handed her just the day before.

This book was one where had she rolled her eyes at me.  I had been on a jag of pulling books and old homeschool materials out of the bookshelves, working up a lather on getting the kids to ‘get busy’ during summer.  The freaky slow simmering fire drill of many kids loafing around the house, bored or soon to be bored, or not nearly  bored enough because they were finding ways to maim themselves was already on my nerves.  So I had started a minor rampage through the house.  When she protested against that idea, stating firmly that there was no homework for her over the summer I just grinned a big grin and said “Oh yeah!”  And when she said her teacher only said “Read” during the summer months I said, “Okay!” and loaded her up with a few books to take.  Like, five small ones.  If I had dumped all of the books I might have in mind on her small self she would just shut down.  I got a glare and a sigh and a big eye roll.  Then she disappeared and the books with her.

I forgot all about it, went about my day or two putting out fires, folding laundry, cooking, swapping laundry, cooking, picking up towels, folding laundry and cooking.  But, as I was, um, folding laundry and thinking about what to cook for dinner, Marta came darting over to me, holding out a book with a grin and jabbering.  I had to slow her down, take the book and examine it and then grin at her.  I asked her to tell me about the book.  She did. I asked her if she read it.

She said, “Yes! Very good book! Black girl, very sad, last {page of} book very nice, so nice very happy.  Black people white people girls very friends.  Very good book!”  I dropped my laundry, I hugged her tight and told her how cool that was!!!

Now, I don’t want to make too much of this….ok, forget that, this is big.  Huge.  I know that she read more of the key words and skipped a few others. I  know that she looked at the pictures to help decode the story.  But, um, I believe that way back when I was a “Miss” that was still called ‘reading!’  That is the whole process: decoding, using cues, figuring out  meaning through context, bringing it all together to  make sense.  And, that, that is exactly what she did.  My Marta, read a book and followed a story arc.  I don’t think she was or has read this book before.  Not by me.  (Adrienne? {-her teacher} Let me know if you see this…).  So, you could quibble and say, she didn’t read every word and understand every single word.  But here’s the deal: Marta read the book, she understood the story.  She got excited about it.  She totally related to that scared little girl, which is a whole ‘nother post, I know.  Still.  Let me say that again: She got excited about it.  I mean, LIT up.  Which lit me up.  We knuckle bumped, we high fived, we hugged and grinned stupidly at each other.  And I was simply thrilled; as much as she was.  Seriously.

So, I am proud of her.  I want to go on record and mark that good. It’s SO good.  Reading is power.  No  matter who or what, thats the bottom line.  Reading opens up your world.  It empowers, excites, helps.  It’s huge.

So what’s next? I don’t know. {Yes, I do: more laundry and cooking and reading!}  But I do know I promptly got on Amazon and ordered all the copies (used, this is an old series) of the Scholastic First Biographies I could find.  I’m excited. I’m marking the good with a big shout out.  It’s an” Eyes Open to Read!”

Top three books about ADHD

Whew, so the week got away from me! We’ve had a fair lot of kid fallout this week, mostly with one dis-regulated, stressed out teen.  So, the posting took a back seat to dealing with all that.  However, I’m here now and so I want to post this quickly.

On this post, here, I wrote about ADHD for the first time in my blog.  I wrote specifically about the stigma attached to the label.  I did not write about all the many layers to ADHD and the different aspects that go hand in hand with consideration of it: the diagnosing of it, the approaches to it, how it works in school and the family and life in general.  You see, if I was going to address all my thoughts on all those things, I’d have to write a book!  But,  happily for you all, there are many, many books out there already.  Great resources abound! Not so great ones do too…so read wisely.  But, do read.  Do the homework.  ADHD is worth a little effort.  Whether you live with it yourself or love one who does, it helps so much to learn a bit about it.  It makes it just a little easier to understand; and that understanding, every drop of it, is critical to overall quality of life.

To that end, I’m listing MY top three resource books on ADHD.  This is MY personal list, my choices.  There is NO official list, anywhere, of the best of the best of these.  Believe me, I’ve looked. I’m a consumate researcher, perhaps even a compulsive one.  That urge to research and find out all that I can about anything I’m dealing with is perhaps my own control freak urge…but it works for me.  Thus, I now have a mini library on quite a few topics.  ADHD has been a topic of research in our library for eight years.  I’ve read many many theories and help books.  I’ve even seen shifts in the theories.  All told, it’s an overwhelming crop of resources.  Check for yourself, google it.

So, for what it’s worth, these three books, below, are (IMHO) the best sources for getting a handle on ADHD: the good and the difficult, the whole bag.  They have a breadth and an easy to understand way of explaining what ADHD is and why; but they don’t talk down to you or oversimplify either.  They have a good scope – addressing ways that help and ways that hinder.  No one has the time to read everything, facing that flood of information can instantly stop many in their tracks.  So, for me, these three books are the top three, most helpful books I’ve read over eight years of dealing with ADHD in my family.

Check ’em out (and if you click on the picture it will take you to Amazon):

This book, ADHD, Living without Brakes, is a great concise overview of ADHD.  It explains the behavior(s) of those with ADHD in an easy to grasp and remember kind of way.  This book gives a great overview that pulls lots of research together and goes over it simply.  It’s sort of the best primer on ADHD that I’ve found.  It’s positive but not preachy; it’s realistic but not a stigmatized downer.  It’s pricey for it’s size, but it packs a worthwhile punch in information.  It’s sort of ADHD 101.  (Also good for handing out to teachers and/or family members who cannot figure out why your kid does what he/she does).


This book, Scattered, by Gabor Mate kind of took me by surprise.  A good friend had recommended it and I’d kind of stalled her on reading it.  I was busy, I didn’t think it really was going to be anything I hadn’t read before, etc etc.  Then she mentioned that the author also co-wrote this book, (which I also HIGHLY recommend for parenting kids as they grow, especially into teens, most excellent).  So, with that, I figured it was worth a look.

Turns out, it was SO much worth that look that I ordered two more copies of it, gave one to my son’s teacher and also ordered it on audio download so my husband could listen to it in the car. Yeah.  That good.  And kind of radical in that this was an approach that jived up with my recent sea changes in parenting.  This book goes into the physiological underpinnings of ADHD, in depth, but then it pulls out and explains (from the author’s first hand experience of having ADHD  himself) the hows and why’s of many behaviors and also gives real suggestions on how to work to address the child/adult as a whole  person with this way of functioning.  Meaning, if you can understand some of the whys underlying the behaviors, it’s easier and more targeted to get to either working with them or through them; conversely it’s an eye opener to appreciate some of the remarkable traits common to ADHD as well.  Instead of trying to parse out only the tough symptoms and treat each one, it takes the bigger view of what’s underneath and why.  Because that, the source, is where a more comprehensive approach needs to start.

And, yup, a good part of it comes down to attachment.  Go figure.  Not in every aspect.  But in  more than has been discussed before.  Which then leads me to my next book, one of my top parenting books, ever:

This book, The Connected Child,  is one of the best parenting books I’ve got.  And I’ve got  a LOT of great parenting books.  It is most commonly known, I believe, in adoption circles, and in the land of therapeutic parenting.  Who knew that it also applied to ADHD?  Well, it doesn’t list ADHD as it’s topic.  So don’t be all confused if you get the book and look in the index for ADHD…  But, if you have a child with ADHD, this book can make a huge difference in your understanding of that child.  Whether biological or adopted, this book can help you connect to your child.  Sounds simple…simplistic even?  Au contraire!  Not at all, and it is an intentional way of parenting that can do wonders for any child, biological, adopted, with needs or not.  So, this is not officially an ADHD book.  But it totally jives up w/ Mate’s book, Scattered, above, and it so IS an ADHD book.  In fact, the two rather function as a set, in a way, they complement each other…particularly as applied to living with ADHD.  So it’s on my short list.

Last note: None of these books advocate or oppose any one way of working with ADHD.  There is no ONE approach to dealing with it.  It is a complex thing, goods and toughs,  and takes a multi-layered approach.  And, {now stepping up on my own personal soapbox} anyone who says it’s “this way or the highway“?  Run, don’t walk, from that.  There is no one way to address this.  No magic bullet.  It’s an individual approach to dealing with things that need some help.  Some things work, some don’t.  In fact, it’s moving target…because things change.  So, best to read as much as you can so you’re informed and know options and some whys and hows.  Information is always better.  Try the books!

Stupidity of stigmas

Stigmas.  Let’s talk about them.

You see, I have one basic thought about them: they are stupid.  Mostly, I think they are rooted in ignorance.  But, they launch all sorts of badness, from minor irritation to downright evil.  {And, as it’s lent, lets not forget the correlating word: stigmata.  Think there’s  a whole bunch to say about that? Oh, yeah.  But that’s  whole ‘nother post.}

I’ll try hard to keep this mostly short;  you’re welcome.  I have multiple kids with multiple issues and/or needs.  And if you want to get on your high horse,  yes, we all have special needs.  Ya da, ya da.  I’m not getting quite that philosophical here, however.  I’m gonna keep this post focused to the stigma of labels.  We all know the damage of labels on kids and people, in general.  Well, yes.  Of course.  But, what I also want to note is that those labels can be a tremendous help and marker of real issues.  Real issues that warrant some attention and caring…not only knee jerk reactions or attitudes.

Let me be more specific, as this is SUCH a big topic.  Let’s look at ADHD.  Oh yeah.  That one.  The label diagnosis that makes some folks scoff, look down their nose, and say, “Well, its nothing that a good spanking won’t fix, if  you ask me.”  Happily, I didn’t.  Ask you, that is.  It’s also a label that some will say enables them to let their kids run wild, be bad and don’t you dare call them out for it, because, you know, “Poor Johnny has ADHD, he can’t help it.”  Well, sometimes, he can’t.  But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have to learn to live with the consequences of  his behavior and work mightily to learn how to live in this world with the standard boundaries and rules that are in place.

But so too, those “labels,” by which I mean, the actual terms themselves…they are informative. They inform ME why my kid might respond a certain way; different from another of my kids.  They inform me to some of the behavioral challenges: what we need to work on, work with, work around.  Instead of resenting my kid for acting out or having a  hard time staying still when needed, or whatever (because yes, sometimes I do/have, I am that petty) I can remember that there is real cause underneath some of the behaviors.  Not to totally excuse them a la “Johnny” above, but rather to understand what we are working with.  I get to see them with a more informed eye.  That’s what labels and terms can do; if only we stop putting a stigma on basic information.

We must say the term(s) without a whisper.

If our kid has ADHD, then we need to be able to say it without  having to whisper it.  It’s the elephant in the room.  Why not treat it as a matter of course?  I live in the south.  Shockingly enough to me, sometimes I’ll still hear a whispered, “He’s black….”  SIGGGHHHHH.  Yuh.  And? So?  I hear it with ADHD too.  “She has ADHD….” Why do we have to whisper facts?  It’s stupid.  It’s unfair. It’s a stigma.

He has ADHD.  He is black.  He is white.  She has brown hair.  She has ADHD.  He was adopted.  She is Korean, African, Hispanic.

Stop the whispering.

Now, don’t flame me.  I’m not saying we have to preface every encounter with slinging our kids business, or anyone’s, out before us.  Discretion is a lovely thing.  But as soon you have to whisper it….it’s now a stigma.

If you can say it out loud, without pause and whisper, you send a powerful message to the listener but also to your kid.  Yeah, she has ADHD.  And, she has brown hair, too.  We all DO have needs, and quirks and I could make a case that many if not most of us have some form of dis-ability.  Not that I’m saying we have to shout our foibles or lay ourselves bare to scrutiny at all times…or do so for our kids.  But I’m saying that we all have ‘stuff.’ And we do ourselves, our kids, and our society a huge disservice if we grab that ‘stuff’ and use it as an excuse to be or do less than we are able. We also do our kids, our culture, a huge disservice if we keep whispering about facts.  If we  continue to stigmatize basic diagnoses, or facts, like ADHD, then we kind of cripple our kids.  We make them less-than.

These kids (and adults) are so not “less-than.”  In fact, in some ways they are ‘more-than.”  Their brains fire faster and make connections that most can’t even begin to reach.  They just do so in leaps, fast and sometimes furious, and then they move on to the next distraction/interest while the rest of us are still catching up.  I’m not saying it’s an easy thing.  ADHD is a complex layered issue; requiring complex layered multiple approaches to deal with it.

I’ve got more to say in other posts. I’ve not talked about it for years. Maybe not ever. It’s time.  I’ve got books to list and thoughts to process.  Because I have two kids with ADHD.  It’s real.  It’s hard and it’s also got it’s own goods.  But it’s not just that they “need a good whoopin” or that “we aren’t good enough parents” or that “they are just problem kids.”  They are not stupid, far from it.  The stigma.  It’s stupid. It’s asinine.

No more whispering.  They have ADHD.  They are great kids. They have ADHD.  I love them.

*Fail on the short post thing.  As ever.  Surely you’re not surprised.*

Turn Key in Adoption: Forgiveness

So, I’ve written about turn key’s in adoption, specifically in adoption adjustment and attachment.  If you’ve read my blog  you know that I talk now and then about various keys or concepts in the adjustment process; the turn keys are the ones that seem to really matter.  At least they do ’round here.  If I was really organized, I’d  have them all on a separate page about adjustment  in adoption.  But I’m not that good a housekeeper, even on blog.  In the meantime, if you want to check out the other posts in this series, go here, go here, go here, here, here, here, here, and here.  Whew.  I didn’t realize I’d written all those posts over the past few years.  Guess this is something we just keep dealing with and I keep processing.  Um, yup, yup it is.  If you are parenting an older adopted child and/or a child with hard history or issues,  you might well be in the trenches too.  If you are, read on.  I’ve been thinking and that means I gotta write.

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about attachment lately, due to the awesome Empowered to Connect Conference and ongoing discussions with Coffeedoc.  But also, just the intensity of parenting these past few months has been kind of insane.  I’ve also had some great conversations with friends lately, one more recently got me thinking out loud and hence, this post.

Anyhow, attachment in adoption is a long, nuanced process.  Adjustment to a new family for a child is a long, nuanced process.  It takes much much longer than most folks realize.  Indeed, it’s a lifetime, isn’t it?  Well, yes, of course it is.  And, to stay thematic, there are turnkeys to that process. These are some critical components that can help the process along.  These keys can open doors, to the heart of a new child, to the blending of a family.  But one of the keys, one of the most important keys to attachment in the whole adoption process is a key that is for the mom.  Ok, it’s for the new child and for the sibs and the dad, the whole family.  But, the blingy diamond studded key to this is maybe, especially,  for the mom.  That key is FORGIVENESS.

Ok, set down those flame throwers.  Hang on. Now, attachment is a two way street.  And it’s so SO SO easy to forget that.  We adoptive parents turn cartwheels trying to heal and help our new kids, to check off the copious list of attachment markers and tools.  Are we nurturing, feeding, tutoring, clothing, rocking, walking, singing, playing, holding (and on and on) this new child?  Can we sit out the storm and hold them through their grief, weather their rage, calm the fury, be present through it all?  Can we help them feel safe, can we help them feel heard, can we help them trust?  Yeah, it’s a big list, in more ways than one!  And each and every one of those items on that list is so big, so important.  And each one is critical in helping these kids attach to us, to their new family, their new lives – to bridge from their past to the future in the now.

But the one factor that doesn’t get talked about too much is the attachment flip side.  It’s the dark side of attachment when you’re adjusting to an older child or a child from hard places or with tough behaviors.  It’s so easy to have the best motives and intentions.  It’s so easy to get caught up in the honeymoon of a baby or toddler or new older kid and the romance of it all.  But you know, that honeymoon ends and the romance fades and real life  happens.  Sometimes after, oh, twenty minutes.  Some of you might get a little more lead time.  But sooner (20 mins) or later (20 months), real life hits ya.  And you realize, maybe this isn’t exactly what you expected.  Sure, sure, you read the books.  You took the classes.  You heard the experts and knew the possibilities.  But, a raging storming angry grieving child in a textbook is quite a very different thing than a raging storming LOUD angry crashing grieving child that is turning YOUR ACTUAL household upside down.  And who continues to suck the time and attention and sometimes very air out of a room with their need and the seeming impossibility  of meeting it.

That’s precisely when you need to go looking for your keys.  Take a deep breath, look at your key ring.  Remember, touch that kid, tears are ok, food and dinner is safety.  But, look closer.  There is a small but shiny, flashy diamond key on your key ring.  See it? Grab tight.  Look at it again.  It’s the key of FORGIVING.  Because, ya know….that’s YOUR key.  For you.

You have to forgive that kid.

It’s easy to forget that, though it sounds shocking to say it out loud.  (And don’t flame me, ok? Try to understand where I’m coming from, read the blog backwards if you must).  But that hurt scared little kid, or big teen, didn’t ASK to have this change, this adoption, this move, those hurts, those losses, those disabilities, that complicated brain chemistry, that rage, this new family…you.  I don’t think anyone stands in a cosmic line asking to be handed a big bag of trauma and loss, please, and then “Please, sir, can I have some more?” discombobulation, dislocation, and grief.  Even so, those things are no picnic to be instantly parenting either.  Thus, there is a chasm.  And the only way to cross it is to bridge it….with forgiving.  You, for YOU, have to forgive that kid for the uproar and commotion that is happening in your family.  You have to forgive her for her lack of ability to cope.  You have to forgive him for the tailspin that you are in, due to the dance you two are slamming.

You have to forgive him, not because he needs forgiveness, but because YOU need forgiveness.  You need to lift that burden of responsibility OFF your new child.  And off of you.  Neither one of  you would choose this tough path.  I betcha you’d both rather just instantly fall madly in love with each other and go have ice cream as you feed the ducks in the park.  Well, that’s for Spielberg and  the movies.  What’s true is that you cannot love what or who you cannot forgive.  And you can’t like the one you can’t forgive.  That’s how it’s set up.  That’s the deal.

But ah, forgiveness….?

It heals.


That’s how it’s set up.  That’s the deal.  So, if you can’t intellectually do it, pray for the grace to do it.  It’ll come.  You may have to do it over and over and over.  I hope and pray that my family forgives me over and over and over.  I need it that often.  And, because they are my family, I expect them to try.  And because this new little (or bigger) one is your new family, because you COMMITTED to them, then you need to try too.  That’s how it’s set up.  That’s the deal.

We forgive each other.  And if we turn that key, then the door to healing and love and even like…and maybe even attachment…it opens wide.

Because it’s mean. That’s why.

This video is worth the watch.  Even if you don’t have kids who have special needs…in this  culture that is so hard and so harsh, we need to remember this.  We need to take a stand for what is right and against what is wrong.  I have issues with this term.  I have kids who have special needs, say what you will about the term. I have kids who fall ALL the way up and down any spectrum you wanna hand out.  That’s the beauty of  having a big old family.

But, the hard truth is that our culture is changing for the worse on many fronts and it’s hidden in bling and lightening fast flash.  And our sordid facebook/kardashian cultural decline is impacting a wider swath of our children than we realize.   My own Cyber/Facebook screed coming at a later date…..meantime, watch this, watch the whole thing.  And brava to this young girl for taking a stand and for eloquently making a difference.

Take a look, you’ll be glad  you did:

h/t to Love that Max

Conference day

So today is the day and I’m at the Empowered to Connect conference!

Let me say I was kind of nervous to come, but also really looking forward to it! Dr. Purvis is amazing. Really. And while I thought I was coming to refresh my brain cells and knowledge base about my child from hard places….i’m finding that I’m seeing the connections ever more to a couple of my kids who have other tough behaviors and issues. These kids have been home since infancy but have some difficult behaviors and over time it’s oh so easy to fall into the trap of worn down burnout. But, as you know and as I know…that is a mistake. And this conference is a refresher course on what can be done to help, in small simple but profound ways. This conference is a reminder to always connect – to not forget to try. Because their hearts still cry out for it. As does mine.

Thanks so much for helping make this happen tom! Plus, bonus points, I just got to say hello to a rock star blogger and mom: Lisa from “One Thankful Mom.”. Make my day! Shes just as beautiful and nice in person as you’d guess. Lovely.

Great day. Gonna be tired. Totally worth it.

Summer school brainstorming: special needs

All-righty then, it’s been a crashing busy week and I have so many posts and thoughts tumbling through my brain, but truly no time to sit and type them out.  But, fair warning, they are stewing….

So…in the meantime, I want to cast out a line and see what can be reeled in.I need some brainstorming help, because summer is upon us. Summer means swimming, sleeping in, boating, naps, wet beach towels, sunlight past seven, popsicles, books, movies, tomatoes, caprese salad, sleeping on the lake, cicadas, chores, afternoon booming downpours for ten minutes then done, t shirts, shorts, flip flops every day.

But summer also means I need to create multiple schedule and routine templates so my kids don’t drift into that mean-spirited snappy boredom of “not enough to do.”  Now, I’m already working on a few camps (only half day though) and we’ve plans for swimming daily if possible and I’m working up heftier chore/responsibilities etc.  But what has got me stumped a bit is the summer school work.  For most of my kids, they will have specific summer assignments sent home to prep for next fall’s classes; reading, maybe a paper.  And this isn’t the place where I want to debate all that practice, I could do a whole ‘nother post on it (but if  you must know, I used to hate all that summer work and now I think it’s great and good for them). 

But here is where I need help:  Marta.  She needs, must have, some summer school work.  Or she will lose ground. She has special needs and still her english level and vocabulary comprehension is very low.  Her reading is improving, which is great, maybe around first grade almost…though the comprehension of the english vocabulary she is reading isn’t there.  This all makes it a bit jumbly to figure out what will be a good, gentle, encouraging way to have her be able to some independent work this summer and also be challenged enough to make progress, overall and/or in her english.   Almost all of her homework from school had to be done with me sitting next to her, helping her through the phonics worksheets and such, she did better with the math.  I would hope to be able to have a combo of helping and also independent.  She is not a big reader, despite having a nook color to excite her and many many books, of all types, around the house.  The problem is finding books that are at her level that are not too “babyish.”  But the upshot is she must have schoolwork, daily, or she will lose ground.

I know, I was a homeschooler forever.  But I wasn’t a homeschooler of kids with cognitive disability and thus am a newbie in the resources area for that.  So, any of you teachers or mom’s with kids who learn differently or have different abilities /cognition….any ideas? Resources? What’s worked for you? I will be heading to Parent Teacher Store probably today, but I need a plan.  Marta {no, all of them, it’s true} function(s) happiest with a routine in place and so I need to get that summer work routine happening and figured out, now, so we can have some structure to the days.  It helps make the whole house happier, for all the kids and mom. So….

  • Resources for summer school work?
  • What’s worked great for you during summer?
  • What did you love for your kids who are working behind their age level?
  • What did you NOT love?
  • What do you think she might love or I might?
  • Where did you get it, make it, find it?
  • Any other tips?

It’s summer! I want to focus on relaxing some, reading, swimming, eating fresh berries and tomatoes from the farm stand or garden, some personal projects (painting, quilt?), hanging with my kids without the bored squabbling.  Is that too much to hope for? I think it should not be…, this is my fast friday beating of the bushes, virtually.  Little help?


>Ok, so the blog’s been all solemn lately, with serious posts.
Just so you all don’t think I need an intervention or something, here’s something to brighten the mood for today.

Saw this at the great site, Love that Max, and well, this video says it all and makes me smile.
And yeah, it’s cheery and STILL apt for this season of lent.
Yup, lent isn’t only about the tough bits, it’s a season of cheer in a weird way…because we can see and smell the rain, Easter, just around the bend.

>Turn-keys: Christmas Edition


The christmas key {find it here}, who knew? Cool huh?

So, it’s still Christmas.  Which means we are still celebrating, but we are still also working on sidestepping triggers and trying to craft a happy successful holiday.  Today many of my kids head back to school (just over half of them) and I’m reviewing our holiday break.
So I think it’s time for an updated turn key post – holiday style.
For another link in a similar vein, go here, to the always wonderful and insightful Thankful Mom.  She inspires me always, and is a good online buddy.  I know we’d chat for days over coffee if only we lived closer!

Anyhow, so this Christmas we had a much better holiday than last year.  Which kind of blows my mind.  Because last  year was so very hard.  It was full of drama and trauma drama triggers and grief and rage and crying and all such things.  We should have expected it, I suppose.  But somehow, even as you are treading water in the new deep end of parenting with kids who have special needs and hard backgrounds…you (or I did) think that the  “magic of Christmas” will carry you through.  Um, not so much.  Instead, what happens is your discombobulated, hypervigilant, disregulated child(ren) only become more so.

All that is to say, this year, we went searching and thinking in advance for some keys to avoid some of those pitfalls.  We are getting slowly smarter, in that we don’t expect hopes and wishes to carry us over bumpy ground.  This year we opened up our toolboxes and tried to think in advance.  We lowered our expectations and prayed like mad.  And guess what? We have had a much more successful Christmas holiday! I’m not saying it was perfect, because I’m not crazy or stupid.  But I’m saying, it was better.  I’m saying that we even had some real progress, for which I am terribly grateful.  We all are.  I’m saying, Christmas was full of some subtle but very big gifts.

There were a few keys, turn-keys if you will, to the progress.
One of the keys is a given, it is time.  Simply put, she has been home now 17 months and she has one Christmas under her belt.  It was not all new.  That is huge.  For a hypervigilant kid, to know precisely what is going to happen, when and how is absolutely critical.  It pains me to think how hard last year was for her, knowing her intense need for routine and fear of change.  This year, however, we had something to build on, and that allowed her to relax somewhat and even enjoy bits of the holiday that repeated from last year.  This year she had ornaments that were repeats from last year, and it tickled her to put each of them on the tree….just like the other kids.

Another holiday key was again the scheduling in advance.  We laid out the schedule in advance, the days were clearly marked and spelled out, so she knew exactly what to expect and when.  We had to go over it again and again, but that is standard and so we did.  It helped.  And we piggybacked it on the key of time, reminding her that we did it this way, the same, last year.

We did a lot of direct assignment of tasks.  Giving her tasks that contributed and helped her feel both part of the preparation and also productive.  Sitting around bored is a killer.  Tasks are good, if well considered.

We did a lot of checking in.  Checking in with her as the day(s) went on, with a word of encouragement or praise and a quick hug and smile with connected eyes.  Such simple things, so easy to forget and so critical to the ongoing mood regulation.

Perhaps the biggest best key this year was Christmas specific: gifts.  She got to give every one in the family a gift.  Sounds like an “of course, doh” kind of thing, right?
Not at all.
Stupidly, last year we were all just so overwhelmed by all the changes that we kind of gave a pass to the kids on giving gifts to each other, individually.
I mean, when you have eight kids, that adds up to a huge logistical nightmare of trekking to stores and buying and wrapping and sorting and oh my goodness I start to swoon just typing about it…….
In fact, this year I advocated with my husband for the large-family classic mode of drawing a name between the sibs, one name/one present.  He wisely enough thought about it and said, “No, I think they should all give gifts to each other.”  At which point I promptly got a massive migraine.  Then he (again, wisely…he may be many things, but he’s not stupid) said, “And I’ll take them, I’ll be in charge of it.”  At which point I promptly gave him a big smooch.
Anyhow, being able to go and pick out a small gift for each member of the family…wrap it, put it under the tree, and then watch it being opened…was just a hugely important thing to her.  No surprise I suppose, it is the joy of giving.  And it enabled her to really participate in Christmas, for the first time in a way that she understood.

So this year, Marta got to get presents but also give them.  And that, perhaps, was the greatest turn-key under our tree this year.  It was the one all fancy, above, that helped us all have a much more relaxed and happy Christmas.  It was a tool and a key, yes, but even more so, it was a gift to us all – literally and figuratively.  It was a key to healing, which is the greatest gift, once again, that any of us can be given.
Attachment only comes, truly, with time and healing and I will gather any and every key I can find to unlock it and bring it closer.  Those keys, they are gifts of gold to me.  They are gifts of family.

>I am her

>So I have a jumble of thoughts crowding and pushing around my brain. A tangle of them, if you will.  Which means, once again, I have to type them to sort them out.  But they seem to have some measure of need to be brought to light and examined, here, in this forum; my blog. Maybe so that others can help me understand them more clearly, I’m not sure.  But, here goes and fair warning.

With several of my kids, but especially with my newest to the tribe, it can be hard to connect.  For me.  That doesn’t make me proud, in fact in humbles me, embarrases me and shames me; it brings me quite literally to my knees.
I desire to connect.
I desire to feel that squooshy goodness of warm loving feelings, and fierce mama love towards them.
But all too often, many days, it’s kind of, um, missing.  And it’s all too easy to blame the kid.
This kid. That kid.  Her.
And it’s all to easy to say, “She’s difficult.  She’s so needy.  She’s attention seeking, again. She’s/he’s whining.  She’s angry, again, over nothing.”  I know, awful, isn’t it?? And it’s all too easy to harrumph and sigh and throw a quick roll of eyes as I march over to meet the need, once again, resenting this imposition on my activity, my attention, my time.  Me me me.  Yeah, it’s not only you who noticed…me.  It’s all about me.  Sigh.
But, in a whole ‘nother way, that – densely – I am only just being willing to admit: it really is all about me once again.  And not in a good way, if there can EVER be a good way to that (No, there can’t.  So in an even worse way).

Ack, see a jumble.  Sorry.  Stay with me.
You see, I realize that all the things that make me most crazed about this girl in particular, ok, any and or all of my kids….are the things that are JUST. LIKE. ME.
I know, there’s that old adage: “The things you hate most in another person, are your own worst habits.” Or something like that, but that’s the gist.
Gah.  I hate that!
Truth hurts, eh?

Yeh, this truth hurts….especially when you are trying to bond and grow into love with a young kid from hard places and trauma responses and survival skills.  Those ingrained behaviors that  you think are so foreign to you and your neat tidy family….maybe aren’t so much, maybe aren’t so foreign after all.  Those annoying behaviors might be just more intensified and or frequented mimics of the very things that you do too, or ok, I do too.
But, think about it.  That might be.
I’m thinking about it.
It is.

I am  her.
I am the same girl who wants to crawl up into my husband’s lap after a tough day, and doesn’t always like to share that attention.
I am the same girl who wants to make sure someone, maybe lots of someones, know if I’m in a bad mood.  Or very tired.  Or angry.
I am the same girl who wants to make sure the dad sees her hurt leg, and looks at it, and preferably kisses it and hugs her.
I am the same girl who wants to lean against someone if her head hurts.
I am the same girl who gets frustrated and sometimes snitty if she is misunderstood.
I am the same girl who wants to have what she likes for dinner, and will kind of eat less if she doesn’t.
I am the same girl who needs a lot of sleep and if I don’t get it, might just get frazzled the next day and sigh and fuss and roll her eyes at reasonable requests.
I am the same girl who can cry when just so frazzled, when it’s too much and she’s past the point of coping.
I am the same girl who can be hypervigilant, because she wants to control….everything.
I am the same girl who wants desperately to be understood, and to understand, especially when she isn’t.

I might not use my skills for manipulation (which, if I say so myself, are rather impressive), so much anymore; but I’m older and I don’t really need those skills because I’m in charge and call most of the shots.
I might be able to withstand most discomfort now, but I’m older and have learned that most things pass.
I might be able to tolerate annoying sounds or people, for a little longer anyhow, because I have loved them from babyhood.
I might be able to trust because I know these people intimately; through and through over so many years (Heck, I can know what they will do many times before they do).

So, this is all to say….it humbles me that the very one that I fuss about because I am slow to connect….she is me.  I am her.
I don’t know whether this means I need to forgive myself for these traits, or her.  Or both of us.
Because I certainly want to be loved and believe I am lovable.
Isn’t it only fair that she does and is too?

I can only guess that, once again, God gave me this child, this one, so that I can learn to love better.
And I pray, every day, to be able to love better, more truly, less selfishly.

God gives me extra lessons, because I am such a hard case, a slow learner, and my selfish heart needs to see the hard truth:  

I am not so loveable, so much of the time.
I am sure I make so many crazy, sorry Tom, kids.
But, if I claim that love….so can she.

Because I am her.
She is me.
She has the same stake, the same claim.
We gave it to her.
God gave it to her.
She deserves it as much as anyone, certainly as much as me.
I daresay more so.

>Meeting: Adoption adjustment

>There is a scene in a movie that I can’t get out of my head.
The movie is “What dreams May Come.”
Many absolutely despise this movie, and as a Catholic there is clearly questionable theology throughout….but even so, I liked the movie. It was a visual feast, from the oil paintings of the wife to the Bosch-like horrific visions of hell. But those things aren’t what keeps sticking in my head lately.

It’s the hell scene.
Now, disregard the dicey theology here. Go the essence of it: the meetup.

Robin Williams goes to hell to find his wife.
He GOES to hell and when she is incapable of seeing him, mired in her own pain and unable look up and out of herself (which IS hell)...then he sits there.
He sits with her.
He can’t talk with her, really, she can’t hear him.
He can’t just bodily lift her up and move her out of this place.
He meets her where she is.
Read that again:
He meets her where she is.

And it’s the meeting her where she is that gives her the rung to hold onto, him, and to look up, to blink to awareness of what’s real, for just a moment.

Now, hang with me here.
(And again, I realize that many think this is the worst movie of all time. I get it, be that as it may, this scene has been rattling in my brain – thus blog post).
You moms and folks who are trying to live with a kid from hard places…
You moms and families who are working through an older child adoption, especially teenage…
You moms who have kids who have trauma backgrounds and/or various special needs….
Think about that.
Because we all know that “meeting up” is one of the only ways to help.
We have to meet them where they are…at that moment.
Often, more than often, it’s a mini slice o’ hell.

And we have to go there too.
Because they can’t get out of there on their own.
Kids who have attachment issues, trauma triggers, who can’t regulate their triggered emotions and reactions…they can’t just get out of that personal hell.
We have to go to them.
Which means, we have to go to them, and often go through hell to do it, and yup, sit there a spell with them.
Because they are just kids, or teens even, but kids.

And that can sound so very lofty.
We think, at the start, and say with a trill, “Yes, darling, I will go to hell and back for you!”
But, um, ya know…going to hell and back?
Well it is, um, HELL.
It’s exhausting and makes you (ok, me) want to cry and say “Forget it, I’m done.
I have family and friends sometimes say “Can’t you just tell ’em to toughen up? I mean, cmon!!”
Now as a mom of eight, my standard M.O. is not too much coddling– if kids are crying and such and I know that bone is not poking through skin and a hospital rush isn’t imminent, I say “You’re fine, you’ll be ok.
Thus, my other kids, pals, and family might well expect me to fall into that mode.
However, this is different, exhaustingly so…….I sigh and say, “Well, I wish I could. But nope. Can’t.
Because even though sometimes I try to selfishly avoid and tiptoe around whatever acting out or somatic fallout or whatever is playing out…..if it’s a trigger response (and not just moody teen)…then you can’t ignore it, you can’t go around it, or over it, (isn’t there a kiddy song like that??) you have to go through it.
You have go to it, meet it, and go through it…with them.
Again, sounds all noble, right?
Um, not.
It’s usually messy and causes fallout with the other kids and even between the parental unit types, even for yourself.
Because it’s hell.
But unless you go sit there and BE with them, somehow, it’s not gonna get better.
It might get worse.

So. Ya gotta go.
Meet them.
Wherever they are.

Maybe then, they will blink a bit and be able look up and to breathe a bit.
And then maybe you can both step out of hell, back into the “heaven in our hands”….. back into family.

>Older Child Adoption Adjustment: Niches

>You know, this world of older child adoption is weird.  Ok, I guess the world of adoption itself can be strange and ok, ok, the world of parenting in general has it’s oddities.  Ok ok ok….maybe it’s just my kids and our house.  Ok ok ok ok! It’s me!  It’s always me.  Geez!
 I’m weird, and a dorky goofball who has to overthink things and even so Still can’t figure them out to my satisfaction.
Hence, I have to post and blather on so you all can take pity on me and throw me a bone and pitch in some ideas.
So, now that we know what we are dealing with today, are we ready to move forward with today’s post?  Yes?  Ok, then….

I’ve been thinking about how to talk about this…not because it’s all so profound or important, but as you might gather from my disclaimer in the paragraph above, it’s all about me and I’m stewing about this but it’s a delicate subject.  It’s also the same subject that I have a chronic, just-below-the-surface rant simmering.  I’ll spare you that, you can go here for my lead in on that one if you can’t stand the curiosity.
But in the past few days or weeks, I’ve decided that it comes down to niches.

Yup, that’s right: niches.

What I mean by that, is that I think we all want a niche.  We are surely all so doggone quick to slot everyone else into a niche, aren’t we? Well, I sure am…..really I think we all do it all the time, I know I do consciously or not.  Sue me.  It’s true.  It’s kind of how we make sense in a shorthand way of our world…that’s my theory anyhow, today at least, and I’m sticking to it.
Anyhow…..I think this slotting of things and folks into niches is not just the slick snobbery or critique that it seems on the surface.  I think it has a lot to do with the yearning to connect.  I think it is probably socially quite primal.  Us, them, other….and while my thoughts on “other” do factor in here, they are also sometimes a rant and also really too big for this post.  Another post, another day.  Lucky you.  But, today I want to talk about the inclusive side or concept of niches.
Meaning, today I want to talk about one particular niche: older child adoption.
And I’m telling ya: this niche…it’s kinda lonely.
This niche has little sub-niches.  Honestly, being a very visual gal, I see it almost as sort of a cave/niche (yeah, blog) system.  There is this big sheltered cave: adoptive families, and then there are the big warm welcoming cozy caves connected to that: the domestic, the international, the babies, the toddlers caves, the various countries….heck  you’ve already got a nice little cozy cave city to check out and circulate through and set down and stay a spell (as they say here in the south).

But then back in the beyond of these nice cozy lit up niches and caves, carved and polished smooth and well fortified with gleaming information and supports, are some other niches that are smaller, not as many are back there hanging out, and if they are, it’s so busy and so tough or so unique that there isnt’ a whole lotta room, in fact, I’d say they don’t even really see each other too much.
And one of those niches is a newly carved out niche, and it fits a family of ten it seems…..but it’s far from being polished and it’s got rough walls and a few nice smooth spots of support but really, it’s feels kind of empty; kind of smallish.
That’s our niche.
That’s my niche.
It’s the niche of “older international adoption of teen with developmental delays.”

See how fast that niche cleared out? See how all of those who were kind of peeking in quickly withdrew and moved on? Not because they were mean or threatened or uncaring…but just because they instantly saw, um, no common ground there.  Hard to sit down and get comfy and compare notes or stories or tools because they don’t have that toolkit.
When I add in, “and with a background from hard places“….well, that just scares most anyone else off too.  Not everyone….this gal is one of the bravest women I’ve seen in the blogosphere.  I love her.  Her niche is overlapping mine, close enough that I find comfort there too.  Go see.
As one of the gals from our agency put it, when I asked if they had any connections to folks in the same or similar boat…”um, noooo, that’s a pretty singular niche.”
So, that’s why I’m thinking of niches.
Because I want to compare notes with brighter minds who’ve gone before me, who have tools and ideas for this niche and our particular snags that surely would be common if there were others in this niche too.

I want to connect with others who have adopted a teen (preferably internationally so we can talk about language acquisition) who has developmental delays.

Now I can also go off on one of my numbered rants about the loneliness of being in this niche, and not being able to say it out loud.  Having to whisper “developmental delays” out of some sort of weird political correctness just chafes me.  It is what it is.  It’s not a judgement, it’s not a slur.  It’s objective and shouldn’t be a stigma and if you saw her smile you would never think otherwise.  She’s a teen, with all that entails.
She is a moody hormonal teenage girl who has a caring bossy sweet devout selfish intense stubborn sensitive nature.
Like, um, most teenage girls.
She is exhausting and good.
Like most teenage girls.
She is manipulative and wants to get her way and preferably go shopping as often as possible.
Like most teenage girls.
She has developmental delays and we didn’t raise her from birth and thus learn all about this for the past 13+ years, only for the past year, so that is why my map is limited, and my toolbox is sparse.  It’s why it can be lonely for us all, working with that.  It’s frustrating and glorious both on any given day.  Maybe often even at the same time.

But this niche is lonely…I don’t know anyone else in this niche.
I wish I did.
And yeah, before you get all lofty, we still venture out to all the other niches because our family walks through and fits many many different niches and labels and communities.  We live in them all. Messily.
I don’t even want to leave this niche; I want company.   I want to make this niche beautiful with the companionship and shiny ideas and successes of others who’ve rested here too.
I’m not sure they are out there.
If you are, and you happen upon this blog, please drop me a line and say hello.
Our niche is actually a pretty friendly place.

Actually, I lied up there.  Misspoke, perhaps.  But I would love to leave this niche.  I would love to only have wide open streets with sunshine and walk away from every harder stony niche forever.
But that’s not gonna happen in this life.  Because we create our own niches to define our comfort zones…it’s when the niches are thrust upon us or we into them, alone, unwilling, that we find ourselves, ok, myself, out of sorts and feeling lonely.
So, I think the trick is to stop whispering.
To move that niche if it’s darker or not comfy or lonely.
 Really, I suppose….If it’s my/our niche then we define it and we open it up to company and ideas and other contributions of beauty and support and I learn to see and create the beauty within it.
So I will continue to wish for companions in this niche, but I’m trying to move it to the sun….and maybe, here in the blogosphere someone else will see  a sunny niche where real life is said out loud, not in a hushed whisper, and decide to stop by and stay and visit for a spell.

>Go Girl Go…


Do we like Suess books and sun?
Why yes we do, every one!

Marta has been working very hard on her reading and Dr. Suess has been one of the mainstays of her effort: specifically, this book and also her chuckle of this week, The Foot Book. Below, we have some really great progress on “Go Dog Go!”


>This is a post about detours.


And apropos of this theme, I have a detour before I start blathering on about detours:

As I’ve been stewing about this post, this subject…a great lot of um, stuff (this is a G rated blog, right? right) has hit the fan in the Ethiopian adoption world. And I have a fair bit of thoughts about it rumbling through my brain…but those are for another post(s). {New requirements, across the board, for all families to travel twice – complicated and difficult and possibly good in the long run but a huge hurdle in the short for so many} For the moment, I offer my condolences and my ears to hear and heart to hurt for all of the children and families affected – for the cold slap in the face of worry that this news brings. But again, it’s too easy to slide into the tempest of this news and start fretting aloud and repeating everyone else’s words, and those who are in it, right now. And I’m not. I don’t own those words. So I won’t go there, not today. Maybe another day, ya never know! But I will probably also go off on a tangent or two…as I said, this just opens up so much fodder for pondering and processing, for me anyhow, which means, of course, for you!

Back to current post:

Anyhooo. As I said, I’ve been stewing about detours. It’s hard to write all this because it’s close. It carves right under that spot in your chest, right in tight to your heart and lungs. So if you cut too close you kind of gasp and can’t breath, and you hold your breath as you talk closer to it, so that you can be really careful. Because you need to protect your own heart and also the hearts and breathing of the ones you love. I don’t know, it’s hard to make this make sense. I know I’m not making sense, and yet, this disclaimer must be put out first. Because its a raw spot. But it’s also a spot that needs to toughen up, heal, move forward and that only happens by bringing it out to the light and looking at it, and thus, this post.

Right. Now that most have clicked away out of confusion and impatience, it’s just us friends. Hey there.

So. A few times in my life, parenting life mostly, I have had some detours.
Scratch that: Ok, any life, my life, yours, we all have detours because no life goes as we initially plan it. Then it would be dull and boring and unsatisfying.

But I’m talking about the hard turn detours. The ones that have you ending up somewhere you never dreamed, parenting wise. Others have written beautifully about all this. I don’t seem to be able to (again, hence this post). Probably the best known piece on this is here, known as “Welcome to Holland.”

So, I’ve been to Holland, figuratively speaking. And you know, while the place has it has it’s beauties, it’s still a tough landing. And we have found ourselves detoured there once again, recently. And you know, this “Holland” is a complicated place. And like all control freaks (me), that detour thing?… makes you (ok, me) want to kick and fuss and whine.

Because I don’t like detours….because they weren’t in “THE PLAN.” And that PLAN, well, we are, were, supposed to follow it. I mean, I had it all mapped out, you know? Knew where the bumps were, the turns, the scenic spots. Knew the time to get to our destination, and the best roads to follow. Heck, had even traveled it once or twice before. And when you are sent on a detour, even to somewhere with it’s own intrinsic beauty, well, we control freaks kind of um, freak out a bit. Maybe we get frantic, or very quiet, or very deeply indigo blue. Maybe we stop trusting. Maybe we question if we ever did. Or do. Maybe we stop looking out, because the view has changed. And we get stuck with the rut of “but.” As in, “But it was supposed to be Italy, not Holland.” Or, “But, it was supposed to be in the PLAN, page 42.”
And maybe it takes some time to realize that those detours are for us.
Those detours are for us.
Those detours are given to us by God himself.
Not as a punishment (because they are challenging, sometimes very hard, so it is easy to mistake them as such).
But as a gift.
A gift.
To call us back to Him.
To love Him better, right now.
To call us out of ourselves.

To save us from ourselves.
Those detours are not to deprive us/me of Italy.
That detour, this Holland, is to break our/my grasp on my own deadly vision: Us. Ok, me.
Finally, I realize that my struggle with this detour is me.
Of course.
It has been ever so painfully shown to me (thank you Fr. Luke, ouch) that struggle is in my unwillingness to look….beyond my own miserable me. My plan. My day. My feelings and desires and needs. Those very things are what drag me into the indigo abyss. And that is not where I wanted to be or choose to stay.
And I forgot my prayer.
I – not so long ago – literally prayed this: “Save me from myself, Oh God, send me a child, the one you choose.”
I forgot.
And He did what I asked.
Eight times.
Oh, dear, how could I forget that prayer?

This detour is for us. For me.
It all just IS for the child — They haven’t detoured. I have.
And they are waiting, pretty patiently for the most part, for us/me to step off the plane and start walking with them.
Really. Not grudgingly. Not counting the steps.
They are waiting to show me Holland. Again. Or – their Italia.

This blog, this post, helped me realize that it’s ok to get frustrated with the detours.
But it’s also ok to say the heck with it all, and we can make our own “Italy” right here.
I knew that, right?
Yeah, on the good days.
But I keep forgetting.

But, you know what?
I want to go to Italy.
I love Italy!
And who says we have to be stuck anywhere…..because detours are all about seeing new places with new eyes.
And I want to create some Viva Italia, starting now.

>M is for Mountain


flikr photo by raspberryfairy
We are kind of being buried by an avalanche of letters here.
Or, maybe it’s just me.
Stumbling over a landslide of large letter boulders and formations…
Climbing across acronyms and peering through words, condensed into letters, that somehow take on a whole ‘nother life in their meanings and connotations.
No, we are not just learning our letters, “A, B, C.”
Though we are learning our letters, on that level, with multiple kiddos….and that is a lovely thing.
We are learning all new letter sets, and these letter combos have, or take on, a life of their own.
In some ways, and some instances, these letter sets and acronyms are very helpful, insightful even.
And in some ways, they redirect in the wrong way.
They are purported as helpful but in fact they direct your attention away from what is important and off to that ever so enticing realm of speculation and worry and discrimination and stigma.
I know, this is so vague. In a way it has to be, due to all that discrimination and misinformation and stigma. But it just sets me afire to think about all that and any of it lobbed at my kids. So I get a little protective (and then get all bent out of shape that I even HAVE to be). Because really, these are NOT in ANY WAY qualitative words and letter sets. They may well be descriptive, especially if you take the time to look at the objective definitions of the terms. But then again, they sometimes are a catch all…and are not all that precise after all.
I know, at this point you’re thinking, “Just what the heck are you talking about?” But then again, I suspect some of you might be nodding your heads, you know exactly what I’m talking about because you are living it too. You know some of these fun combos: ADD ADHD BP SPED LD DSLX ODD MR ID CD SZD ED IEP IQ MDD ESL ELL …buried yet? Blinded by the letters? Maybe you want to shout out loud sometimes too? Maybe you want to know that you’re not scrambling across all these letters, through these rocky hills, alone.
Well, that’s what I want to know.
Anyone out there?
Because if I just keep this all tight, close in, then I go into the indigo blues and I feel like a big faker of a mom in the know.  And yes, that does make it all about me, and that’s wrong on so many levels. But it’s right on the one level that I know: this forum. I think I can trust this blog and the folks I know who see it. This blog has connected me with amazing wonderful folks, moms, people.
And I think it can again. . People who can let me know that they know some of those letters, with their child. And they have been there, done that. I have been there, done that, with many many of those letter sets. But there are new ones too. And those are the ones that it would be nice to compare notes about, maybe.
We moms, we tend to unite, to get behind and give a tug or a shove or a nudge when needed. We brainstorm and compare ideas on what worked and what didn’t. And as I’ve gone through the many years of raising kids, that assistance has been invaluable (if a little late, ahem, Jean). So, as I am once again wandering a new road – left turn – I know better now. I know to reach out and shout to see if anyone else is here.
I’m all ears.
And I always read that you shouldn’t cross the mountains alone, take a buddy.
And these acronym mountains, how to cross through them as a parent, with school and life in general?
I think I need a sherpa.

>Getting sucked into American Idol

>Yeah, I’m procrastinating from getting a jump on my Monday morning…I know, I know. 

OK, I normally really don’t watch American Idol.  I admit, I have been known to veg out with television after some long days: House, Amazing Race, Biggest Loser.  I can get sucked in.  But American Idol, while a favorite with my girls, is something that I find almost painful to watch, at least in the beginning of the season when they are doing first cuts.  It’s hard for me to watch the really really bad performances; I feel SO bad for the contestant as they are performing and then as they stand there being shredded by the judges.  It’s almost a physical “ow” watching.  So I don’t.

But my Chris tipped me off about this girl.  Said I would be interested in her and she was good and I would want to see how she did.  He was right.  See for yourself.  I love this and will root for her; not only a family I can get behind, but her head and heart are in the right place and she has a great voice.  And she picked a great song.  I hope she goes far. 

>Ordinary Heroes?

>They are all around us.  Unexpected, surprising…heroes.  
You hope for them, you pray for them.  And then, there they are and you kind of stand there with your mouth open in amazement.  I do, anyhow. 

Two young girls.  My girls.  These are their heroes, mine, ours.  
I’m talking about the teachers, the school principals, the aides, the special ed teams.
I’m finding these folks who are willing to go the extra mile, think outside the box…and they amaze me.
My gratitude for them is kind of unspeakable.
And some of them I’ve known, or thought I did, for a while, years even.
Some of them are new to me; but I’m so glad to meet them and start working with them. 

And the most important part is that these folks, the reason they are heroes??
It’s that they defy the stereotypes.
I’m talking about those horror stories that are hyped in the media and played out in stupid sophomoric movies: the public school ones, the Catholic school ones.  You’ve all seen them, I have too.  We’ve been soaked in them.

And it’s all too easy to buy into them, just a little bit.  Maybe I did.  Maybe I shouldn’t have, but I did.  I was kind of worried about what the public schools would be like as I approached them about my girls.  What sort of things and folks would I find in searching out resources for the special needs that we have?  Would I be able to get the Catholic school, the Sisters and teachers, to step outside their comfort zone of a small private school? The kind of school with strict historic ways and boundaries?  Could those boundaries be pushed?
I didn’t know.

But I can now say, that I have been delightfully surprised, thrilled with the amazing people I’ve been meeting and getting to know.  These are the folks who are working with my two girls, so far, who are helping us all break down some barriers and think outside the box for some great kids who don’t fit the ‘standard mold,” if there is one.  These folks, are helping my girls get into school, get BACK into school….and to succeed.

I’ve homeschooled a long time. I love homeschool and always will be a proponent of it, but it’s a per kid per year per circumstance decision. But homeschool isn’t working for these two, now.  So, it’s been hard to find the right fit.  And there will be adjusting to be done, to be sure.

But these folks, and their willingness to be open to working with my girls, with us….they are breaking stereotypes, they defy them.  They are ordinary, or actually, extraordinary, heroes.
We are so grateful, for them all:

Nora.  Right there.  Saints among us. 
Sister Peter Marie, Ms. Freeman, Sister Peter Verona, Mr. Linville, Ms. Rosenblatt, Ms. Wehby, Ms. Christy, Coach, Father Gideon at SJV….and of course, Miss Deb.

Mr. Turner, Ms. DeVore, Mr. Verner, Ms. Blair, Ms. Oglesby at RSM

 And Mrs. Swafford, Ms. Ingham, Ms. Ashley, Ms Thomas, Ms. Apple at Howard.  

You are all heroes.  Extra-ordinary folks doing an amazing job.  Breaking stereotypes, opening eyes.  Quiet ones, maybe.  But heroes in my/our eyes!
My girls are back in school again, a new start for them.

A start offered, “whatever it takes;” one done with extraordinary kindness and willingness to help.
Outside the box. 
These folks have brought huge grins and, literally, claps of happiness from my girls.
To be back in school, ‘regular’ school.
It means everything. 



Sandro Chia, 1981

So.  Feeling a bit like Sisyphus.  By which I mean, I feel like I’m pushing a big boulder uphill; but without the great physique.  Maybe I’ve got a teeny bit of the determination.  But, yeah, the boulder….it’s big…and sliding.

Had first meeting today.  No door was shut in my face.  Yet.  But it surely wasn’t opened either.  Already numerous objections and concerns brought forth, and of the intangible variety.  The problem of other parents and reactions and ‘integrity’ of school.  The problem of funding resources on an official level.  Bureaucracy.  You all know how much we love that around here.  So, a little down this afternoon….but not out.  Because it’s not a ‘no’ until it’s a NO. Until then we will knock on doors and make the calls and examine the angles.

The blues of this though, is that is shouldn’t be this way.  If it’s a legal thing, maybe. If it’s a money thing, maybe.  But if it’s a ‘we haven’t done that’ thing, or a “people won’t like it” thing….then it makes us/me dig in.  Push.  Slip. Push.  Wait.  Push. 

For today I will wait; I trust that my concerns will be looked into.  But I’m cynical enough to think that it won’t be the answer I want.  But for the moment, I will try to wait a few days.  And hold that boulder steady. 

>Gearing up


So this week I am gearing up.  No, not for Christmas, don’t be ridiculous! I don’t go into overdrive on that until four days before the big day.  We’ve got plenty of time!  Nope, I’m gearing up for a week of meetings with schools.  I’ve been brainstorming with a few good friends (Nora, you’re the best) and consulting with therapists and tutors.  And this week, I’ve got meetings for both Marta and Sbird regarding school and how to meet their needs.

When you have a kid, or two or three, who don’t fit the regulation mold or requirements for regular standard issue schools, you have to plot and plan on how to make things work.  You have to consult brainstorm and pray to figure out solutions that are positive and scenarios that will support your kid’s needs and how they can learn where they are at.  ADHD, school delays, language barriers…this is just a few of the hurdles.  And so, as a mom, you “put on your cape,” strap on your armor, and you set up meetings.  You go prepared to be charming, persuasive, as well as firm and clear headed.  You brace for battle and hope for miracles.

And so I am.  I will be praying through this week, hoping for great solutions and brave hearts and minds, willing to try something new and different.  If you have a mind to pray, I’d appreciate prayers for this as well (if you remember in the midst of the festive preparations).  And while I hate to beg again for prayers, we have so often, I will.  Because I have some research to sift through, others to present to those in charge.  Because I will go to the mat for my kid(s).  I will beat the bushes for tutors and helpers and beat on principal’s doors (nicely but firmly).  I will try to open some eyes to new possibilities, not only for my kids but to open a few doors that have been shut too long.

It would be a miracle but we need some new options after the new year.  And this week, I’m gonna see if we can’t make some  headway into making one, or a few, of those become real.  And that would be the best Christmas present of all.

>Break Out


I’ve been stewing about some things lately. You know what that means: a jumbly rambling possibly ranting post. Fair warning.

It’s just that I’m getting tired. Not physically tired, psychically tired.  Emotionally and intellectually tired.   I’m just dipping my toes into a new pool of sorts. And while we’ve lived with some of this for, oh, seven years or so….the more formal social and educational aspect of this is hitting closer to home now.

Now that I’ve thoroughly confused you, I want to say it out loud. But this term, this subject, is loaded. It is rife with taboos and thorns and unwritten rules, as well as rules written at length and all but incomprehensible. And even more, all too often, with ignorance from folks on the outside looking in (And hey, I’ll admit, that used to be me).  Yes, I’m talking about “special needs.”

Special Needs.

Yeah, such a simple little set of words.
But OH MY GOODNESS, so very loaded.
Now, I could do a post and be like the “Church Lady” and point out what we all already know:

Dana Carvey, the Church Lady

Each and every one of us is “special needs” in the sense that we are all SPECIAL, and have our own quirks and strengths and so on.
And I do believe that.

But this post is about another aspect of “special needs.”
And it’s that I am tired of the taboos.
I am tired of not being able to say things out loud, for fear of stigma.
I am tired of when I do say it, somehow voices drop to a whisper, or I get an “Oh….ahh” and a quick look away kind of response.
Or worse, a well meaning defense of my kid saying “No way, that can’t be right.”

This is all making me want to strap on my mom armor and go to battle.
I have two, possibly three, kids who have special needs. Yeah, I could say, “different needs” or something like that. But I am tired and too old to be tiptoeing through the ever shifting sands of pc (or, more accurately: ‘sc’, socially correct) verbage.  I mean they have needs that are, big or small, outside the standard box.

Disclaimer ahead: So, to be clear, in this post, I am talking about kids who don’t fit the mold of standard track education or behaviors or medical issues. Special needs comes in all different forms and levels and severity, so I cannot speak to those needs that are not ours and would not try to. I can speak to what we are working with, in our home, with my kids. Disclaimer over.

What I want to throw out there (And maybe it’s naive, and I hope the special ed/needs community doesn’t flame me): Why the taboo?
Why do we have to whisper about this stuff?
Why is there such stigma?
Why does it have to be?
Why do well meaning folks instantly say, “No, that can’t be right?” as if, if it IS accurate, then somehow that child is less than they were perceived prior to the new knowledge?
Nothing changes with this knowledge.
The child, my child, is not a different person if we know more about them and how their mind works.

Their “worth” is in no way based on how they learn or if they have glitches or if they cannot.

It’s fine tuning.

Special needs information is not an appraisal of value or rank, it’s information gathering; it is problem solving. It’s fine tuning; academic approaches, behavioral needs, medical stuff….it’s figuring out what works best for them and why.  Period.

And I want to start talking out loud about some of the issues we are working through.
And I fear I cannot online due to the possibility of hurting my child somehow, somewhere, someday.
I want to try to open up to other families who might be dealing with some of these issues to share tips and ideas.
Even here, even now, I have to hedge a bit, worry about protecting them.
But the beauty of this blog world is the connection. I have been repeatedly amazed and grateful for the prayers and the help and the advice and the simple feeling of not being alone…due to this blog community. And I suspect there might be other families that have children who have medical, educational, behavior issues that are out there.

Heck there is an alphabet jungle out there of issues, we have a small forest of them in my house. Is it wrong to want to use resources, to connect to help my kids? To help me? I don’t think so.

I hope that maybe other moms might be tired of not being able to talk about this part of their family life. I hope that other moms might be tired of their kids being slotted into a stereotype due to a possible “label” or some small bit of information. That small bit of information, that acronym, or term, is a tiny (or, sometimes, large) facet of who they really are – the wholeness of their person.

Are there any moms out there who are tired of pushing against the tide of perception?
I am.

I want to break out.
I want to talk about my kids.
I want to talk about all my kids.
I want to have conversations about special needs – without the stigma.
I want to shout: having a different approach or way of learning or brain wiring doesn’t make you less.
It’s different. Less common maybe.
It takes some brainstorming, a lot sometimes.
Don’t slot my kid, don’t presume.
They may really have that issue, and it’s a little scary.
They may not, but then they probably have another one to work on.
But that very thing (the one that’s not ‘pc’ to talk about outright), might just be one of their strengths as well, depending on how you look at it.

But, let’s break the taboo.
Let’s start saying these things out loud.

If you can’t speak of it, name it, it has so much more power, but the wrong kind.
And that breaks my heart.
But it also makes me angry because it’s wrong.
We have to advocate and be strong for these kids especially.
So I guess I’m talking. Armor on.
Because they deserve it.
Because they are beautiful.
And I’m their mom.