Monday, January 13, 2014

Riding and Healing

"R" started therapeutic horseback riding this year with a local program and lights up when she has the chance to go to the barn.  There are 25 horses at the barn and she loves to feed them and groom her assigned horse and she has no fear of these big creatures.  She is preparing for the Special Olympics equestrian team for the spring of this year and is very excited.

Since finding her love of horses we began reading some book series together about horses.  In one of the books they talked about imprinting new foals when they are born.  Imprinting is when you spend lots of time with a new foal after it is born to get it used to having its hooves touched, ears touched and a blanket put on its back ect..   After you have mastered a imprinting session you give a reward and encouragement to the new foal.  When working with a horse who is older and is not "broke" you have to be patient and teach that horse that you are not the type of owner that will hurt this horse. You have to earn the trust of the horse, sometimes it requires just simply sitting and being present in a non demanding, threatening way. This can take a long time to earn back the trust of the horse because they don't easily forget those who have wronged them.

I think in some ways our relationship with our children who have been through trauma is the same.  We have a responsibility to Imprint new thinking into our children that they are safe and loved and that they do not need to fear certain situations. We have a responsibility to be patient and kind and understanding and teaching our children that they will not be hurt by us and they can trust us so we can make them feel safe and calm in their environment.

I don't have it all figured out, and I have made lots of mistakes along the way in the past 3 years, but I keep moving forward and my hearts desire is that 3 years from now I can say we have made great strides in the world of healing for "R".

Monday, August 19, 2013

Through a year of storms

I haven’t written on my blog for almost a year.  Sometimes life throws us curve balls and this past year has been a constant curve for me. 

So the last 11 months has gone something like this.  I started a new job, “R” struggled through her first year of middle school with an average of 3 emails or calls a week due to behavior issues, we had multiple visits from law enforcement and a few visits to the ER for mental health evaluations.  I have been hit, kicked, spit on, bruised, scratched and verbally assaulted. My car has been scratched, food issues presented, She has begun self-harming, threatening to take her life, manipulating adults, lying, and running away.   Our marriage is rocky, our dog is stressed our home is battered, and we added in a bunch of new therapies to try and help our girl heal. She turned 12 and the hormones hit like a rocket adding to the RAD gave us a whopper of a summer to deal with and now here we are getting ready for back to school and to begin the cycle again.

I am frequently asked how I do it?  Do I think this is God’s will? How do I manage this child with all these disabilities and mental health issues and how do I take the abuse she gives me? How do I continue to love her?  Do I blame God for this?  I struggle to answer these questions, because I don’t WANT to handle it, I don’t WANT to be hit and hurt, and I don’t WANT to be the mom of a child with severe mental disabilities, I don’t WANT to deal with the school, and staff and therapies, I struggle to love her, I struggle to be therapeutic all the time, but I AM and I DO.  So, I just do the best I can every day.  At times it is lonely and at times I fail and at times I just cry and wish the world would disappear around me.

I am human and have on more than one occasion wanted to quit, to give up to throw in the towel and say that we are not the right fit for this kid.  Does she need to be in residential care, does she need long term rehab, can she function in a family long term with other kids?  She tells me she hates me and wishes I was dead, and there are days I wish I was to, so I didn’t have to listen to the screaming and the tantrums and the pain she is expressing. 

I love music, it is therapy for my soul.  It speaks to me in ways many other things cannot. I was introduced to this song a few years ago and it was on my IPOD, I hadn’t heard it in awhile and I came upon it again at just the time that I needed in my life.  When I was feeling drained and weary and fighting storm after storm in our lives.




 This song spoke volume's into my life.  I thank God that he has put me in this position to parent this child. It is tough, tougher than anything I have ever done in my life, but I thank God that he has entrusted me with her care.  I thank God that through all the storms and rain that I can still thank him for my life and hers.  Why me?  I don’t know, but God does.  God orchestrated every detail of her living with us and being adopted down to the day she was adopted in the middle of a horrible snow storm.  God wanted her to be with us.   This little girl is in God’s hands and I am simply his vessel to reach her. Through all the pain she endures and entrusts me to take on, I will continue to praise the one who put her in our lives. If anything I believe I am closer to God now than I was prior to meeting "R" and need him more than ever as we go through this journey. I just hope that through all of this I show Jesus to her and that I bring Him glory through the way I help her heal and raise her.







Monday, September 24, 2012

A Mama's heart

Dear "R",

I love you.  I am so sorry for the hurt that you had to endure when you were little.  I wish that I could have swept you away and protected you like a mama bird. I know it must have been so scary to hear the things you did and see the things you did and not know why you didn't get what you needed as a little girl.

I know it was hard moving around to all your different homes.  You must have been so scared and confused by all the changes, smells, people and the rules at each house. You must have been so confused when you were seperated from your siblings and I am sorry for that loss.

When we met you we knew that you were suppose to be a part of our family.  God planned many things out that made is possible for you to be with us.  We fell in love with you right away from your silly talk to your bouncy personality.  We didn't adopt you to "save" you or "rescue" you we adopted you because we wanted a child and you were the super kid who we chose for our family, how cool is that.  I know you have a birth family and they are important to you.  We just want to be an extra part of that family and love you to.

I know lately you haven't felt like loving us.  You have shown us with lots of tantrums and hurtful words. I see it when you kick me and hit me that you are afraid. I know you don't trust me to take care of you.   I know you are feeling scared that if you love us we might give you up.  I know you feel worried that all your behaviors would give us reason to do that.   I see how scared you get because you think you are a "bad girl" and that you don't deserve a family.  I am afraid for you when you say you want to hurt yourself that makes me so sad.

"R" you do deserve a family.  God made you and he doesn't make junk.  You are beautiful and smart and kind.  You deserve a family and so much more.  I know all of this is really hard work.   It is for us as well. Just take small baby steps forward and I will be there with open arms to love you and protect you.  

I assure you beautiful girl that no matter what you throw our way, and it has been a lot, that you are not losing this family.  No matter how much you push us away and say you don't want us that I know deep inside you really do. You keep working hard and we will keep working hard and together we will find a way to heal your broken heart.

With all my love,


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Love like Jesus

I haven't been writing for awhile and that is mostly because we have been in a time of turmoil in our lives.  Our "R" has been struggling with intense behaviors for the past several months and I have been struggling with managing these behaviors.  Most days do not go by without disrespect, swearing, screaming, spitting and hitting.  I have struggled so immensely with loving her. I want to love her, but how can you love someone who treats you so badly and doesn't respect you?  How can you hug someone who is kicking you and spitting on you?  How do you say "I love you" when she is screaming I hate you back.

I was thinking about what Jesus would do and how he would react to the things that "R" is doing and it brought me to the verse in 1 Corinthians chapter 13: 1-6 the Love Passage.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.  Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
I have to admit that this passage though I have heard it a thousand times convicted me in a tremendous way tonight.  I have not been as loving and as accepting as I should be or as patient.  I have struggled to be slow to anger with her and constantly think about her previous wrongs.
Her behaviors are extreme and they are tiring, but they are behaviors done from a place of fear and  she really needs my unconditional love and devotion more than she needs my anger and frustration.  I need to see her from the place I saw her when we first met and see her the way that Jesus sees her and not through my human eyes.
So as we work with our kids that push our very last nerve and we struggle with loving  a child that feels unlovable think about the verse above and that our kids are in a place of fear and need our love to help them feel more regulated and accepted.



Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day

This is my third Mother’s day.  I actually dread Mother’s day because before I was a mom it reminded me that I was not one, and I was sad and frankly jealous of all my friends who were and I wanted to enjoy the day with all the other moms.  Now, I dread Mother’s day because  it causes my “R” to really struggle with her emotions.  She is afraid of the feelings that she has about the idea of having a mom who cares and what that means and how to show she cares.   She struggles immensely with having attention focused somewhere else and not on her. So she can't "allow" that attention to go elsewhere.

My first Mother’s day she did not recognize at all, in fact she gave me an art project she made at school and then she took it back and said she wanted to give it to someone else instead.  She completely ignored me the rest of the day.  My second Mother’s day she threw several tantrums and refused to allow any part of the day be acknowledged as having anything to do with a mother.

Do you blame her?  I mean really….. for her whole life before moving in with us she didn’t know what it meant to have a mother that you celebrated.  “Mother” was not a good word and it was scary and unpredictable and unstable.   Why would you celebrate that?

So, I braced myself and expected the worst for this year. In fact I have not written in a while because our life has been in turmoil.  She has been raging and tantruming for weeks now and they have been out of control.  Counseling sessions increased and patience needed at every turn.   She was hurting so bad inside and I could not help her.  I could only hold on until the storm ended and she felt safe again.   There were days I was not sure if I could hold on and was not sure if the storm was going to end and we were talking about what choices we had to help her.    However a week ago she did start to settle again and seemed to take a turn in her healing.  A small step forward and I will take it.  Every step brings us closer to the goal of healing. 

So here we are at year three.  I was prepared for yet another Mother’s Day let down, but to my surprise I was embraced by my girl this morning who was excited about sharing the gifts she got for me.  She has loved on me today…. Real love.   This to me was way more special than any gift she could have gotten me.   It has been a day of tantrum free enjoyment, and I have enjoyed her as well.
I couldn't have asked for a better Mother's Day than this.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Small Moments....big changes

It is in those small moments that I see glimpses of healing. Things that would seem so ordinary to other families and kids that are huge milestones in our family.

“R” has Sensory Integration Disorder along with all her other diagnosis. This makes it extremely hard for her to regulate her senses. The two senses that bother her the most are sounds and touch. She is particularly sensitive to clothing. Clothing with embroidery or heavy seaming are very difficult for her. Anything that is in her eyes “itchy”, and up until this week refused to put on a pair of jeans. Now, when I say refuse we are talking full blown screaming and crying fit with a bit of hyperventilation if a pair of jeans is on her body. We learned this the hard way when I had picked out our outfits for our first family photo shoot in August 2010 and she had a major meltdown 10 minutes before leaving the house. We almost didn’t make the photo shoot.

Fast forward to this week and many other attempts at jeans over the past 1.5 years. “R” asked to try on jeans at the store. I tried to be casual about it but I was thinking “holy smokes” and “I don’t want to deal with a meltdown in the changing room”. However, if she was asking I wanted to give it a try. She did try the jeans on and liked one pair A LOT and another she started to freak out about, to which I pretty much ripped them off her body to avoid a meltdown.

She has worn her new jeans twice this week, she loves them. I told her we could get more if we find the right “feel” she is looking for.

This is a victory for us, a small glimpse into the healing that has been taking place over the past few years. When I don’t see day to day changes I have to remind myself to look for the small moments that can be a reflection of big change.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

RAD Parenting is like Construction work

If you like watching home improvement shows, you may have come across the show Holmes on Homes. It is one of my favorite home improvement shows to watch. It is a show based on a contractor who goes in and fixes mistakes that other contractors made and most of the time are fairly significant issues. To the naked eye you cannot tell that something is wrong, everything looks great cosmetically but as time goes on little things start to pop up that make the home owner concerned that the work was not done correctly, or they spring a leak or have no heat whatever the case may be, but on the surface all looks fantastic.

Holmes comes in and rips down the walls and finds often , short cuts taken, shotty work, and sometimes serious defects in the structure of the home due to neglect by the prior contractor.

When parenting a RAD child it is a lot like being Holmes from the show I just described. On the outside our kid’s seem all put together and capable and functional and nothing seems wrong. It is when we start to rip down the layers that we start to find the underlying damage caused by inexperienced and sometimes abusive caregivers. The work to repair the damage is extensive and will take time.

Parenting a RAD child and helping them to heal is not a weekend do-it-yourself job. It takes time and effort and experience and commitment to the task at hand. Helping to tear out all the old messy work that was done and re-build with a strong foundation in trust, love and safety is so important for these kids. This is a job that will takes years and sometime’s a lifetime to finish and you still may be finding work to do daily even when you think you are done.

I learned watching this show that repair work is much harder than just starting new. Actually it is really hard ,and sometimes you have to just work with what is already there and make due the best you can. A new stronger beam may need to be butted up against the old one instead of taking the old one out because the old one is holding up the foundation and can’t be removed. You can make things better and structurally sounder but the old beam will always be there.

I think that is a lot like our kids. We can come along side of them and help to build new trusts, and boundries, safety and hopes and dreams but the old memories and hurts will always be there along side the new and we have to allow them to process through that and let the new beam take the weight of their burden as the old beam crumbles away.

My “R” has so many levels and they run so deep that there are days I am still finding new fears and history out after 2 years. Her outbursts and rage toward me are a reflection of her still being under construction.   I have committed to therapeutic parenting her to the best of my ability. I have not been great at this in the past year and I am working to repair that. So I put together a tool belt with all the things I will need daily to help me to be the best contractor to help repair my “R” and help her to have a successful life.

My RAD Toolbelt

A measuring tape of Patience
A can of Empathy
A Roll of Playfulness
A bottle of Love

Tools including:
Self control
Quiet in control voice

Each morning I am working on strapping on my toolbelt so that I can face the day head on and help my "R" to be fully restored.  I look forward to seeing the finished product some day.