Being Sheep

"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep."John 10:14-15

Friday, December 7, 2012

More Conversations


Sometimes conversations with Nathan take a very unexpected turn.



"Nathan, Christmas is coming!"

"It is?!"

"Yes! And do you know what we celebrate on Christmas? We celebrate that Jesus was born! Come, look over here--it's baby Jesus! This is Jesus' mommy. She took good care of him. She loved him so much! She cuddled him and fed him milk, and kept him clean and warm."

"I don't like that lady. She's bad. I don't like her." 


--------


He cuddled in my lap after a long rage, he gazed into my eyes and smiled as I sang:

You are my sunshine
My little sunshine
You make me happy
When skies are gray

You'll never know, dear
How much I love you

Please don't take
My sunshine away


And afterward he said, "Someone is going to take my mommy away."



Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Converstions

About a month ago, I showed Nathan the scrapbook I made for him of all the pictures we have before his adoption and of our trip to Ethiopia. When he saw the pictures of his crib at the orphanage, he got very upset and said, "I was sad in that crib. I yelled and yelled for you, but you were lost."


-----


Last night Nathan was cuddling in my lap after being quite upset about something and I started telling him "his story".

"Once upon a time there was a mommy and a daddy and an Alex and a David. One day they looked around their house and said, 'Oh no! No one sleeps in this room!' and 'Oh no! No one sits at this spot at the table!' They knew that someone was missing!" 

The story of course ends with the mommy and the daddy getting on a great big airplane and flying all the way to Ethiopia, where they find their baby Nathan!

After the story he was still smiling and then asked, "Where was Alex when he was a baby?"

"Well, he was here in (our state)."

"And where was David?"

"Well, he was here too."

Alex then mentioned that he was in my tummy before he was born, and Nathan of course wanted to know whose tummy David was in, and whose tummy he was in.

After discussing all this he went off to play. On his way out of the room he turned and said, "I was very mad when I was a baby."

"Why were you mad, buddy?"

"Because I was missing you."


Oh, my sweet boy. He's having so many deep thoughts, and starting to be able to label his feelings and just beginning to understand why he's feeling some of what he's feeling. Baby steps.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Special Needs

Steve and I had a chance to do a bit of Christmas shopping on Black Friday, thanks to a dear friend who watched our boys for a couple of hours. We went to only one store and it was mid-morning, so it wasn't terribly crazy.

As we stood in line, we couldn't help but hear the conversation of two ladies behind us. They were discussing whether or not one of them wanted another child.

She said, "I just don't know if we really want another. I mean, we have a boy and a girl. It's perfect. They're completely healthy. What if we have another one and it has special needs? I mean, I know we'd love it, but why take that risk?"

And it just made me sad. Not because I can't understand realizing it is incredibly difficult to have a child with special needs, but because this woman's fear that it could possibly happen would make her choose not to have another child.

I am not one to say everyone needs to have as many children as possible, that everyone should have lots of children, or that choosing to be "done" having kids is necessarily a bad thing. However, the idea that one shouldn't have another child just in case he or she "has special needs" makes me sad.

There was no way for us to know that Nathan would have so many needs when he came home. Of course we knew a lot about attachment difficulties, we knew it was a risk, but he was only 8 months old. We really had no idea how much trouble he would have adjusting to life in our family and attaching to Steve and I.

But would I do it all over again? Absolutely. Not without much fear and trembling, but absolutely would I adopt him even if I knew ahead of time everything we would go through.

Being Nathan's mom has brought so very many blessings to my life:

I found out I'm pretty darn strong,
I've learned to love a child so fiercely, even when he detests me.
I've learned to rely on God more than I ever have before.
It's taught me that I can fire people when needed. "I'm sorry, this therapy is just not meeting our needs."
I'm learning to ask for help when I need it.
I've watched Alex and David be amazing big brothers, even when Nathan hurts them.
I've seen my husband be such a caring dad. I've fallen in love with him all over again.
I've learned that my marriage can withstand a lot of trial and come out stronger afterward.
I've had a front seat to this little guy's healing, and it's a beautiful thing.

So many tears, hard work, determination, and patience have gone into each and every one of the hugs, kisses, and smiles I can coax out of this boy. And that makes each one all the more awesome.

What if I'd missed it because of fear? What if I'd said, "I don't know if I really can handle a child with 'special needs'?" Sure, my life would be easier in many ways. I'd never know what I was missing.

But then again, I wouldn't know what I was missing. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Anxious Attachment

We have noticed for quite some time that N prefers men to women. He's more calm, more himself, less scared when he's with a man rather than a woman. We can only speculate why this is, but before he was in our family most of the adults in his life were women, so our assumption is that he mainly has a fear that any connection he has with a woman will mean he loses the connection he's made with me, his mama. He's still terrified of having a true and healthy attachment with me, but at the same time craves that attachment.

This past week N had his first dental appointment for a cleaning. After talking it over, we decided that N's daddy should bring him to his appointment, since that would reduce the amount of anxiety he has just due to being with me.

I was very nervous about bringing him, so I was thrilled that S made it work out in his schedule to be the one to bring him. I pictured 30 minutes (or more) of screaming and fighting, ending with a lecture from the dentist and many stares as I left the building--screaming and kicking toddler in tow.

We love our dentist office, and I know they really would have handled it well, but that fear was there anyway--and even if the staff handles it well, you know the other patients would be assuming the worst: that I just don't know how to discipline this child and that he's horribly spoiled. And I must admit, years ago I would have thought the same thing if I witnessed it with someone else.

But anyway, the morning of the appointment N was in a frenzy. Everything was upsetting, he just couldn't get regulated no matter what I tried. I ended up putting his compression vest on him, wrapping his arms with ace bandages, and 'helping' him jump on the mini trampoline about 5 minutes before he needed to leave.

So off he went with Daddy to the dentist. He was fine. S put his compression vest on him and used gentle pressure on his legs to give him some proprioceptive input. He was nervous with the female hygienist, but still cooperative. Completely, 100% fine with the male dentist. Came home with a balloon, stickers, a new toothbrush and a big smile.

And I was thrilled. But a little sad. Because I'm certain that had I brought him, he would have fought with me,  the hygienist, and the dentist.

And so it goes with an anxiously attached child. He wants the attachment, the love and bonding; he craves it deeply--he can never get enough, no matter how much I give. And yet at the same time he fights it tooth and nail, so it ends up looking to everyone else like there's something wrong with me. Since he's not like this with others, there must be something about me, I must be doing something wrong. And that's a hard thing to deal with, to remind myself that I'm not doing anything wrong (I mean yes, I make mistakes, but you know what I mean...), that I need to just keep on loving. Keep on caring, keep on putting our relationship first. Because the only thing that will truly help his behavior is for him to feel safe. I know he's safe, everybody around us knows he's safe, but he does not. And the fear will stay until he knows. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

One of those days

It was one of those days. A day that I could barely keep my head above water. A miserable day.

My two older (home schooled) boys spent the night at a friend's last night and then the friend's mom brought them all to their art class this morning. It was a huge blessing to me that they could go to art class without me dragging N along, getting there on time, then trying to entertain N for the 2 hours the older boys were in class.

I had visions of a lovely morning; just me and my little guy. I made a grocery list so we could get the shopping done first thing, then we were going to play together and just have a nice relaxing morning since I didn't have to worry about school for the other kids.

But instead of shopping, I spent most of the morning holding a raging little boy. It started when he didn't want to go potty. Then he didn't want to get dressed or eat breakfast. Then he looked straight at me and dumped his entire bowl of cheerios on the floor. Then screamed the entire time I cleaned it up. Then screamed even more when I said we were not going to the store. I did not want to bring him in public in his very unregulated state!

He spent over an hour screaming about not going to the store. He eventually calmed down and politely asked to watch a show, which I allowed. But as soon as the show was over he screamed again for over an hour because the show was over, because he wanted daddy, because he wanted to go to the store.... and so on.

About 10 minutes before lunch he calmed down, then was able to eat lunch happily with us. After a long nap, he awoke in still a bad mood and screamed some more over random things.

I was exhausted. I managed to get dinner on the table, and wrote out a grocery list for my husband (he's awesome!) who offered to take N with him to get the grocery shopping done.

As discouraging as today was, I remember back about 2 years ago. N would scream for 3 or 4 hours each night, waking up many times. He'd then scream for another 3 or 4 hours during each day, taking 30 or more minutes to fall asleep for a nap each time. Nothing we did helped, no one had any suggestions other than to keep doing the bonding/attachment stuff we were doing with him. We felt helpless and hopeless.

I'm amazed that today--a day of only about 3-4 hours of screaming, is a rare day. Lately most tantrums last only 10-15 minutes at their longest, and many of Karyn Purvis' trust-based parenting techniques work well to stop a tantrum from escalating further.

So I will choose to rejoice in healing. I will rejoice in improvements. I will rejoice that he likes me now, even loves me, and that we're able to handle days like today.

I pray that God continues to heal this little guy's heart. He needs peace.

 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Try Again! (Empowered to Connect 2)

My disclaimer: everything I write is based on my experience with my son. Some of the things we are doing or have done may work for others and their child(ren), but some things won't. Obviously all kids are different and are going to respond differently! I highly encourage anyone with a child from a "hard place" to do your own research and talk with a professional if necessary. Here is a good place to start.



My little N immediately responds to something he doesn't like with either violence or screaming. Of course, they do usually go together....

"Can I play Lego Rockband?"

"Yes, you can--right after your nap!"

"I WANT IT NOW!!!" (Insert screaming, hitting, throwing, etc.)

We have that conversation a million times a day. We try to say yes as much as possible to what he asks for (another Trust-Based Parenting technique), but there are some things I can't agree to right then. If I do agree to let him play the Wii for 15 minutes or a half hour or whatever, he'll throw the same fit when he's done as he'd throw if I'd said no. Which makes the day very difficult. And long.

So anyway, one of the things Karyn Purvis recommends is to have kids try it again. If you ask them to come and they don't, then they can try it again.

"N, can you come here?"

"NO!!!"

"Oh, let's try that again. What do you say when Mama asks you to come? You say, 'Ok, Mom!' So let's try it!

"N, can you come here?"

"Ok, Mom!"

Now of course there are often times when we have many minutes of screaming/raging before we can accomplish a re-do, but we're trying to be very consistent about re-doing every single time it's necessary.

Responds with screaming? Re-do from the beginning. Starts hitting? Re-do from the beginning. ("We use our nice words, not hitting.") Grabs a toy or book from his brother? Re-do from the beginning.

And ya know what? Since we've been so consistent about it for the last few weeks, his behavior is much better. At first it was awful; I felt like we were constantly doing re-do's, and when we weren't, N was screaming because he didn't want to! But he's starting to realize that he gets his way much faster when he simply uses his kind words, and often I only have to remind him once or twice to try it again.

We're getting there. One teeny tiny baby step at a time. :)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Empowered to Connect 1


There is so much to say about the Empowered to Connect conference S and I attended this past weekend. There's obviously no way I can relate all that I learned there, but I want to write about what specifically impacted us and is helping us to better understand and help our children. (Yes, I said childREN. This is not only about our adopted son and his behaviors.)

Karyn Purvis was the main speaker at this conference, and we think she's awesome! She has such compassion for kids from "hard places," and has done so much work not only to help these kids, but to empower parents to be able to help their kids.

Karyn lists six risk factors for attachment problems and sensory processing disorder. Because the risk factors are the same, many children struggle with both problems.

Risk factors:

  1. Stressful pregnancy
  2. Difficult birth and/or prematurity/NICU
  3. Early hospitalization
  4. Abuse
  5. Neglect
  6. Trauma

N, our adopted almost three-year-old, has four or five of these risk factors. One of our biological sons has two of these risk factors, the other has three. As we've walked this journey with N, we've realized more and more how much of what we've learned applies to our other kids also.

What hit me the hardest at this conference was realizing just how many of N's behaviors are rooted in fear.

Why does he immediately flip out if he hears the word no?
Why does he scream if another child is given the first snack?
Why does he feel such an intense need to be completely in control of every situation and of every person around him?
Why can't he let his brothers give Mom a hug without shoving himself in between us?

In a word--fear.

All of these situations immediately send him into "Fight, Flight, or Freeze" mode. While in this mode it's almost impossible for him to think rationally. He's operating on the understanding that if he doesn't get his way, he's going to die.

As Karyn said, "If a child is a control freak, it's because his world was so out of control he thought he would die."

I know this sounds a little dramatic, but it's true. N honestly doesn't have the ability to trust yet that it's okay to let Mom and Dad be in control. He will get enough love and attention, he will always get enough food, Mom still loves him even if she hugs his brother.

Remembering that his rages and controlling behaviors are fear-related has helped me get less frustrated. I'm better able to keep things in perspective, to have compassion. Though the rages are still very exhausting, I'm certainly handling it better!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Surprises

It shouldn't surprise me anymore. I should know to expect it. But it still catches me off-guard. I want to believe that when the amazing happens, it means we've turned a corner. That things will be better from now on.

And the truth is, amazing things are happening. But for every amazing, there is retaliation. For every time of wonderful bonding, there's "Will you still love me if....?"


Last night while I was folding laundry on the couch, little N came over to me, placed his head on my lap and said, "I want my mommy."

Oh, my! Of course I couldn't turn that down!

So I pulled him into my lap. He snuggled right in to me. And I mean really snuggled. I held him close, kissed his head, rubbed his arms and legs. And he only wanted more. I rubbed his back, he asked me to rub his belly.

He let me. I kept gently massaging his skin and I asked one of my other boys to bring the lotion. I rubbed lotion into his dry skin (something he has hated since day one), and I cuddled him close.

He wanted me, and only me. He just kept on cuddling, molding his body to mine, burrowing his face into me. He didn't want to stop.

It was beautiful. And amazing. And peaceful.

It lasted about an hour.

Then this morning we had almost two hours of violent raging.

As I said, I know to expect it, but it still surprised me a bit. I am hopeful though--hopeful that healing is happening, however slow it may be.

I am confident we are doing the right thing.

Two steps forward, one step back. That's still progress! 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Attachment Disorders and Relationships With God

The more I think about it, the more I realize that most of us have an "attachment disorder" in our relationship with God.

My son has really struggled in his attachment, specifically to me. I have loved him consistently, rocked and cuddled him, kissed his owies, changed his diapers, giggled with him, and so much more. Though I've certainly made mistakes, I've always loved him.

And yet, he still doesn't really like me. He's terrified of losing me, but it definitely seems he's terrified of that not because he loves me so much, but because I'm the only mama he's got.

His experience in life has shown that mamas don't stick around. Mamas love you, but after a while they go away and don't come back.

Little N definitely seems to believe that at some point I'm going to go away and not come back. He does everything in his power to see what will make me go away or stop loving him.

He'll tell me one day that he hates me and that I'm stupid. He'll hit, kick, bite. He'll hurt his brothers. He'll scream all day long. He'll turn everything possible into a conflict.

But other days? He'll hug and kiss me. He'll tell me he loves me. He'll pat my arm and tell me I'm a good mommy. He'll cuddle with me.

And I think a lot of us (including me) tend to be like that with God. On Sunday mornings we love him. He's wonderful! We tell him how good he is, we get warma nd fuzzy feelings about him. We'll snuggle right up next to him. We're pretty sure he's awesome and we're ready to let him take some control of our lives.

But then it's Monday morning. Or maybe we make it all the way to Tuesday. We're not so sure anymore. Is God really that good? Can we really trust him? Do we really want to open up our hearts to him only to find he's not really that good or trustworthy after all? Or maybe he exists only in our imaginations?

Kids from orphanages or other unstable environments frequently struggle with letting anyone else be in control. The only way they've survived so far, at least in their minds, is by staying in control, by not trusting anyone else, by putting up as many brick walls as necessary to keep people out.

The only way for these kids to heal, to truly have a healthy attachment with their parents, is to let go of that control. To learn that their mom or dad is trustworthy, to learn that they don't have to take care of everything anymore, to learn that their parents love them unconditionally.

The only way we can grow in our relationship with God is to let go of our control, to learn that God is trustworthy, that we don't have to take care of everything anymore,  to learn that God loves us unconditionally. No matter what we do or say, he's waiting with open arms. We can fight it all we want, we can believe it's not true, but that doesn't change the truth of God's unfailing, amazing love for us.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Stupid!

"You're stupid! I hate you!"

"That's ok, because I love you."

"NO NO NO!!! That's stupid! You're stupid!"

"I'll always love you, no matter what."



"I HATE YOU!!!"

"But I love you."

I'm pretty sure my little guy thinks he's a teenager. He's certainly trying to get a reaction, and it makes him so mad when he doesn't get the reaction he wanted. Shortly after this episode though, he calmed down and was very receptive to hugs and love from his mama. Taking it one day at a time...

Monday, July 23, 2012

Monday

Well, I'm pretty bad at actually blogging right now. I just am so burned out and tired these days that I sometimes can't muster up the emotional energy to put it all out there for others to read.

Our days are still filled with struggle. If you had told me two years ago that we'd still be struggling as much as we are, I don't think I could have continued to press on and do what I needed to do: to help my son heal, to be there for my other kids and my husband, and to take care of myself so I can keep caring for others. If you had asked me two years ago how long I thought the "adjustment" process would take, I probably would have said maybe about 6 more months? Certainly once we've been home for a year things will be back to a "new normal". It's a good thing I can't see the future. :)

But two years out we are still having many difficulties each day. Some days are much better than others. And then there are the weekends when Daddy is home. Things are usually pretty good then. N is always better when Daddy is around, plus we can tag-team and both of us can get a break. But then Monday rolls around....

Today is Monday. Today did not start out in a tantrum over what he wants to wear (yes, it sounds silly--but usually I don't even care what he wears, he just doesn't want me to agree with him on anything), which was a nice change. It started out with a minor fit about where we would sit for N to have his "baba milk", the milk bottle he gets three times a day. (Yes, he's almost three and still gets three bottles a day. Yes, I realize that's not normal. But it is what he needs. He missed out on getting the cuddles and rocking and nursing/bottle for many months, so we're making up for lost time.) He'll often tell me what he wants and it goes something like this:

N: "Can we sit on the couch for my baba milk?"
Me: "Sure! I'll be right there."
I pour the milk, head to the living room and proceed to sit on the couch.
N: "NOOOOOOO!!!!!" Scream, shriek, dramatically fall to the floor, kick legs, and possibly start throwing whatever is within reach if Mom can't get to him in time.
Me: "What is wrong?"
N: "I DON'T WANT YOU TO SIT THERE! I WANT TO SIT ON THE CHAIR!"
Me: "Well, we don't need to throw a fit about it. Take a deep breath. Good job. Now, where do you want to sit? Ok. What good words are you going to use?" (Sometimes this process takes an hour or more, today it only took a few minutes for the first tantrum of the day.)
N: "I please sit on the chair?"
Me: "Sure thing. Good job using your words. High five!"

Rinse and repeat with meals, snacks, what he wants to play, whether he wants the green or the yellow cup, what TV show he wants, etc.

Admittedly, there are plenty of times I don't want to use that "playful engagement" tone of voice. I think that if some people could see me now they'd be thinking 'look at that horrible mother. If only she'd do _________ her child would be fine.'

But most people who would say that have no clue about trauma, attachment disorders, PTSD, or sensory processing disorder.

Side note: So next time you see a toddler throwing the world's loudest tantrum in the store, hold off on the judgement. Maybe offer to help the parent carry her groceries to the car, or even just give her a kind look. You never know what someone is really going through. And sometimes you really have to buy milk, even when you know the possible consequences. 

It is nap time right now at my house, and my world feels at peace. But I never know who my child will be when he wakes up. Will he be happy and cuddly and tell me how much he loves me? Or will he loudly insist I don't love him, tell me he doesn't like me, refuse a hug or a cuddle, and throw a tantrum over nothing at all?

So slowly we will truck along. I will trust that God is still God, and he's still got it under control when I so often don't.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Crash and Bump!

We are continually working to figure out new ways to help our little guy regulate, to get through his days, to heal. This is no easy feat! When so many days are filled with violent tantrums and rages, it is hard to think about adding anything to the 'to-do' list.

Why not set him in his room, or in time-out, or somewhere safe until he calms down while I go about my business? Because in the long run that does more damage than good. N has very little (if any) ability to self-regulate or self-soothe, which means he needs us right there with him to talk him through the process.

"You're ok. You're safe. Mama loves you. You may not hit your brother, you need to sit with Mama until you calm down. Ok, take a deep breath. Good job! Now another."

Etc. We're getting to the point where most of his fits don't last hours anymore, but we have frequent days where he will calm down only to start again a few minutes later. And that will go through the entire day.

In addition to him not being able to self-soothe/self-regulate, because of his attachment disorder we work very hard to not "banish" him anywhere away from the family. If we do have to separate him from us, it's where he can still see and hear us, not off in another room altogether. The problem of course, is that he's too big to stay in a crib, playpen, high chair, etc. He can easily get himself out of all of those things. The best way to keep everyone in the family safe (including N), is to physically restrain him. Now, of course I don't mean hurting him at all. I mean holding him in a way that he can't hurt himself or anyone else. Trust me, it's for his own safety as much as for anyone else's!

This week our occupational therapist is going to teach me how to do a brushing technique on N. Here is a brief explanation on it. Do not try this without being trained by a professional though; doing it incorrectly could cause harm. I'm really excited to see if this will help N. I've heard many good things about it, and I'm really hoping it works! It may be difficult to fit in the required 5-6 sessions every day, but if it helps I'll do just about anything!

We just ordered a weighted blanket for N to sleep with. It sounds like this could really help him with sleep issues, being calmer through the day, etc. Once it arrives and we try it out, I'll report exactly what we bought and how it's worked for N.

The big project I'm working on right now is a "crash and bump room".  While watching one of Karyn Purvis' lectures on sensory integration disorder (she's awesome, by the way!), she spoke of doing this for some of the kids she worked with. She basically set up an obstacle course involving climbing up slides, jumping on a miniature trampoline, crawling through a tunnel, etc, and had the kids go through it a few times throughout the day.

We've been blessed with a large house, and have some space in our basement that's really not being used for anything right now. S and I plan to do a "crash and bump room" on a budget. I've been searching Craigslist and just tonight he went to purchase two used climbers from someone in our area. One will go outside for N to play on whenever he wants, the other will be used in our CBR. ;)

I still need to buy a miniature trampoline, preferably one with a bar to hold onto, and if I can get it I would like one of those tiny seesaws. I think all 3 of my boys would really enjoy doing this obstacle course, and I can't wait to get it all set up! It should really help N stay regulated throughout the day, and I think my middle son will be helped by it also. Once we have some things set up I will post pictures!

The other big purchase coming up will be a tricycle for him; the hard work of pedaling himself along will be very good for him. Last year I had thought he might be ready for the tiny little two-wheeler with training wheels that we already have, but there's just no way he's ready for that yet--and I don't think he'll be ready any time soon. So we'd like to get a tricycle that has a parent handle on the back so we can push him a bit if needed, and also help him steer. Since his method of steering is to let the trike go wherever it wants. ;)

Thanks everyone for all your prayers and support. It means more than you know.

~J

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Journey

Every time I sit down to blog lately I can't seem to say what I want without either

a) Sounding way more whiny or depressed than I'm actually feeling
or
b) Sharing things that are just too private to throw out there for the entire Internet ;)


Some of N's behaviors aren't things I can write in detail about for the general public. Who wants the world to know everything you did or said as a toddler, especially as it relates to how you processed your adoption?

I want to be very careful to respect N's privacy, but also be truthful about both the good and the bad of adoption. It's so easy to talk about only one or the other: "Adoption is a wonderful, beautiful thing that will change your life forever! You will immediately fall in love with your new child, and he will immediately fall in love with you!" or "Adoption is horrible! You never know what sort of needs your child will has, he's likely to come home and start setting fires or standing over you with a knife while you sleep."

Well, obviously those are two completely opposite extremes. :) Everyone's experience is going to be different. I can't tell anyone what it will be like to adopt an older baby/young toddler. I can tell you what we experienced, but not what everyone will experience. I can tell you things to watch out for, things to be prepared for, and so on, but your experience is not likely to be the same as mine.

We've had N for almost two years now, and I will say that these two years have been very different from what I was anticipating. The first few months didn't surprise me. While there was no way to predict the amount of screaming, the extreme anxiety, etc, N would have, we knew it was certainly a possibility. But when we'd reached almost a full year home and things were no longer getting better; in fact, some things were getting worse, we realized there was more going on than just N needing more time to adjust. And I was surprised at that. I never expected that my baby adopted at 9 months old would have a severe attachment disorder.

We started seeking out the help of a therapist, and certainly have made a lot of progress since then. We're now seeing a new attachment therapist (this is the same one I spoke of in my previous post), which is going very well. We're also doing occupational therapy to help N with his sensory processing disorder. We only started the OT a few weeks ago, as there was a waiting list to get in. Though at first we weren't sure it would work out because the therapist didn't understand N's specific needs related to his attachment disorder, it's going well now and I hope it will help N a lot.

I'm planning to post soon about the sensory things we're working on, and I hope to be able to report major progress in that area!

One big concern of mine, especially lately, has been my two older kids. They have really struggled with the massive amounts of screaming and raging from their little brother. When 3-4 hours of a day can be taken up in dealing with a violent and screaming two year old, the other boys haven't gotten as much attention as I wanted to give them.

Through our attachment therapist, we found an awesome support group for them to join for kids who have adopted siblings with challenging behaviors. We fit that description! And the boys have loved it. It's helped them to know that other kids are dealing with the same issues, it's been a safe place for them to express some of their feelings, and we've had some great discussions about what they talked about during the sessions.

Yesterday though, my fears were really put to rest. Though I still am trying to be very aware of their feelings, giving them plenty of attention, etc, I realized just how well they're really handling it all.

They asked what the occupational therapy is for exactly, and we had a long discussion about sensory processing disorder: what it is, how it can happen, what it looks like for N. They both expressed that they wished he didn't have that, but then said, "Hey, how can we help?" Proud Mama!! They immediately went to play in the noodle box with N, and of course that made it much more interesting for N to do.

Later, when I asked them to help N get his shoes on to go outside, I came back from switching laundry and my nine year old said, "Well Mom, we decided he should probably go barefoot. Ya know, that way he will feel the sensations of the grass on his feet. We thought it might help."

Yeah, they're pretty awesome kids. And though this hasn't been an easy journey, the most rewarding journeys usually aren't the easy ones. :)

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Going Crazy

Sorry this is sort of a rambling post, but I'm posting it anyway. ;)

I tell ya, sometimes I think I'm going insane. It can't be possible that my two year old is saying some of the things he says. It can't be possible that my two year old is exhibiting some of the behaviors I'm seeing. Very few others see it, and it makes me wonder if I'm imagining things. Sometimes S and I just look at each other. "Did you just hear what I heard? Did you see that, too?"

We are seeing a new attachment therapist. She is excellent, and being very proactive about things. Our other therapist helped us make some progress at the beginning, but we felt it was no longer helping. (Obviously a long story there.) We have seen this new therapist three times now, and I believe it's going to be a great fit.

The downside? It takes over an hour to drive to her office. However, there was no one closer that had the same experience as her, and we know the drive is worth it if it helps. She is also recommending some occupational therapy to help N with his sensory integration difficulties. He didn't have any of the "normal" signs of this problem that I had been looking for, so we never considered it a real issue. After doing a long survey for sensory issues, we see that he does have some problems in that area, and the therapist believes he will benefit from the occupational therapy.

We also want to set up a thorough development assessment for N, just to have it done and see if there are any specific areas we need to work on. It will be interesting since we don't know his exact age, but it's close enough that the info should help us. We know he's extremely smart, but he's definitely emotionally behind (which is to be expected).

I did have a revelation the other night on the way home from therapy. The new therapist (we'll call her L) asked me several times how I'm handling N's extreme needs--trust me, they're extreme--as well as home schooling and everything else. And I gave my usual vague answer of "Oh, S gives me a break when I need it, and it's not so bad, and... etc." I realized that I'm so used to kind of blowing off that sort of question without thinking about it at the time. It's not an intentional, conscious thing, but I want to come across like a good mom. Like I've got it mostly together, like we're struggling but I'm handling things just fine.

And I realized I probably shouldn't do that when it's the therapist who is trying to help N and our whole family. So I've got some things to work on in that area. In case you were thinking I'm a perfect mom who is handling everything really well, you now know that you were wrong. (Ok, maybe I don't come across as Supermom like I intended.) ;)

There are some mornings where the only prayer I can pray is, "God, get me out of bed. Help me to get up, get moving, and love my boy today. Help me just get up." And then, "Ok, I'm up. Now please get us through until nap time. Please. I'm begging you. 5 hours and counting." etc.

L compared N to a dried-up sponge. He needs so much attention right now, so much physical contact, but it's never enough. No matter how much we're giving him we can't fill that sponge. And it's so true. No matter what, it won't be enough. As soon as he gets what he's asking for, we have another problem. He wants something else, or isn't happy with what you gave him for some reason. He needs this, he needs that. If I'm not paying enough attention to him, he will do something to get it.

Trying to home school has been a challenge. This last week we've been trying to get more done in the morning's before N's nap, so that I have some down time while he's asleep. Before, we were trying to fit so much in during his nap, that he'd usually wake up right as we were finishing with school, and that just wasn't working for me. N loves (I mean LOVES) to color, so we got him this cool new art desk that has a spot for his paper, coloring books, crayons, markers, etc. It's super cute, and I was sure he'd love it! We put it right by the boys' desks in our school room, and right next to where I sit, so he'd be right by me while I taught the boys. I hoped we'd get a good 20 minutes or so out of him coloring happily, since he often will color that long during the day.

What I didn't anticipate was his anger that I was reading to the older boys, or teaching them something, and therefore paying more attention to them than I was to him. Even though he was close enough that he could touch me, it wasn't enough. I was giving someone else attention, and he found that to be a threat. He cried, he whined, he wanted to sit in my lap, he wanted to move the desk around the room. When I turned my head for a moment, he used a marker to color a line across my teacher's guide.

Clearly, this wasn't going to work. So the next day I took a book into the living room with me. The boys found spots to sit, and I gathered N and his toys and had him sit right by me on the couch. His response? Screams of,

"No Mommy! No read! You not read right now! You read my story!" and so on and so forth.

The other night he was trying to give orders to his daddy. S replied with, "No, Daddy and Mommy are in charge. Not N." He screamed,

"Mommy says I'm in charge right now!!"

Good times over here. ;)

But to put it honestly, we're struggling. It's difficult on everyone in the house right now, and we struggle with feelings of frustration, loneliness, etc. I have some wonderful friends who really care about us and have been praying for us, and I'm so thankful. But it's easy to feel that we're alone in this journey, since no one really sees the behaviors but us. Out and about he'll be a very charming little boy, but that's not the same boy we see at home.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Attachment Disorder at Our House

It shows itself in his shrieking with rage, "No! No! No!" when I say I love him. It's him backing up to give a hug, being unable to give one back.

It's hitting me in the face right after we've had some wonderful bonding time.

It's a fear and distrust of all women.

It's throwing screaming, kicking, flailing, hitting temper tantrums when anyone says no.

It's asking to be held and then screaming because Mom is holding him.

It's a constant need to be the center of attention. Screaming because it's someone else's birthday, or because brother is sitting on Mom's lap.

It's immediate crying and clinging as though the world might end when Mom stands up to leave the room.

It's refusal to make eye contact for more than a few seconds.

It's screaming because he doesn't want a bottle. Then calming as soon as the bottle is in his mouth.

It's waking up in the middle of the night absolutely hysterical.

It's asking for everything. Even the ceiling. And then crying or screaming more when Mom can't give it to him.

It's hard to give a child the ceiling.

But if I could give him the ceiling he would quickly decide he didn't want it anymore. He'd want something else entirely.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Tough Times

He screamed all day. He screamed because he wanted something. He screamed because I gave him what he asked for. He screamed because he didn't like his lunch, he didn't want to take a nap, he didn't want to wake up from his nap. He didn't want to play with toys, or read a book, or play in the basement with his brothers. He just screamed.

He kicked and flailed and smacked my face a few times. He told me his list of people that he wanted to hit.

"I want to hit Mommy. I want to hit Daddy. I want to hit...." (Yeah, he's two.)

He screamed some more. I cried. I turned the TV on in desperation an hour before my hubby was supposed to be home and he calmed long enough for me to calm myself. All in all he spent a good 3+ hours of the day just screaming in my arms.

Then Daddy came home and he flipped the happiness switch on. He was happy to see Daddy! Everything was great! Dinner was great! Playing was great! Toys were great! He laughed and made funny faces and entertained everyone!

I hate attachment disorders.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Pro-Life or Anti-Abortion?

I don't care how you vote. I don't care what your feelings on Planned Parenthood are. Holding up signs or shouting at pregnant women as they walk into a clinic won't convince me either. Your opinion on sex education? Nope. How many times you've watched the video 180 done by Ray Comfort? Still no.

None of those will convince me that you are "Pro-Life".

Do you care about kids that are already born? Are you doing anything to help the 147 MILLION orphans throughout the world? Are you helping any of the nearly 500,000 kids in the foster care system in the United States? Perhaps considering adopting one of the 100,000 kids available for adoption right now in the US? Maybe you can't adopt, but are supporting a family who is?

Maybe you volunteer at your local soup kitchen, or give out Christmas presents to needy families. Maybe you're sponsoring children in a foreign country who would otherwise have no access to eduction or medical care.

Doing any of those makes you Pro-Life.

Being anti-abortion does not make you pro-life.