I named this year my “Year of Hope”, not knowing that there would be many days when hope was all that I would have left.
The past year has seen us hit rock bottom in many ways. It has been the most exhausting and dark time that we have ever experienced as a family, and, I think especially for me as an individual.
I have had lots of people question me recently about when this all started with Nicholas. What happened?
It hasn't been smooth from the start (seven years ago). I probably should have talked a lot sooner. I should have asked more questions. I should have admitted that I was freaked out of my mind before we ever even finalized the adoption.
It sounds crazy, but I thought there was something wrong with me. I rationalized a lot of stuff away. There was so much I didn't know………so many warning signs that screamed… but I didn't know, and I couldn't read them, I was illiterate in this field.
During the first four years we faced a LOT of unusual issues with Nicholas. Being blissfully ignorant I embraced it all and believed with all my heart that this stuff would go away with love, structure, and discipline.
It has to be God, because without even knowing it we did do a lot of things right, and we DID make relational progress and growth was happening. Our training and consistency and structure did make a difference, it just wasn't enough.
In 2010 Alexis’ joined our family, as a two day old newborn. Seeing the love and nurturing of a baby seemed to opened up all of Nick’s past issues of neglect and abuse in a whole new way.
At first this seemed like a good thing, and we felt that now maybe we could make some real progress. It seemed hopeful, he had finally reached a place after the previous four years that he was able to open his heart to us like never before and share his painful memories.
We HAD done well, we had built enough trust that he felt safe enough to share all the pain.
But he has not been able to process all of this in a positive way and he spun into huge regression and a rapid, crazy downward spiral.
We are thankful for the information that found its way into our hands, for a diagnosis (Reactive Attachment Disorder) that pointed us towards additional help, for friends and family who held us up in prayer. And for two very special couples who educated themselves and have taken turns providing a much needed 2-3 day respite for us each month. Still it hasn't been enough, nothing has been enough.
Nicholas has had much counseling, and therapy, combined with the best parenting that we are capable of, (and boy, have we learned a lot). But we are faced with what we have always known. We are not enough. Only God can change Nicholas’s heart, heal his wounds, and restore what has been lost.
We have continued to face intense difficulties everyday for many, many months. Due to various issues, including the safety and well being of the other kids, we have been forced to move toward some type of out-of-home placement. We have explored many different avenues and options and will continue to do so over the next weeks and months.
Right now, Nicholas has an opportunity to go to a Christian Therapeutic Wilderness Camp School for a year and a half, possibly two years. There is a waiting list, and placement is not available until March.
I still have hope for Nicholas. It’s that whole “faith like a child” thing… he is still young, his heart is still green, and now is the time.
This is the best option that we have available to us, and it comes after several other doors have closed to us nearly crushing all our hope.
We will continue to leave our hearts and lives open to God’s leading as we pursue this residential program. Currently, it looks like he will be returning home to us after camp, but only God knows what lies ahead. Right now we can only hope for the very best, and ask that God will draw Nicholas to Himself and make the path ahead clear for us.
We really believe that this may be where God can really reach his heart. In Oct Duane said, , "You know, everything is a power struggle with Nick. His ultimate power struggle is that we cannot make him work on his problems, and so far he is winning. I think Nick would work on his issues but he is so entangled and embroiled with power struggles that he can't go there because that would be letting us win and, to him that means he would lose."
We feel that this may be the perfect opportunity for him to be able to work on his issues without having to feel like he is losing to us. We don’t expect it to cure EVERYTHING, but we have big hopes that we will see healing and growing in significant ways. Even more importantly we are praying that he will surrender his life to Jesus, the great healer.
March (or April) seem so very far away. I am trying to just take one day at a time. There are so many details that have to still fall into place, including the astronomical costs.
Some days I am not sure I can make it for three more months. Other days I am absolutely sure that I can’t make it. But there is grace, more than I can even conceive and I am learning what it means to take one day at a time. Sometimes just fifteen minutes at a time.
Having Nicholas in our family has (literally) led us down roads that I would never have even known existed. It has steered me to people and relationships that I will forever cherish. It has made me aware of injustice, prejudice and oppression that I never saw before.
For That I am Thankful!
In reality, I think maybe I am trying to grasp at some little bitty fragment of normalcy by making this tradition of yearly family portraits happen. As if I needed any more insanity, right?
Yearly family portraits aren't exactly our family tradition. We have omitted any family portraits for more than two years. Yikes!
But here we are, we MADE it happen!
Of course, there was the drama of getting everyone out the door intact and in somewhat coordinating outfits. But we Did it, and now we Have family pictures. (don't ask it it was worth it for at least a couple years) :-)
Lil' Lex couldn't figure out why she had to keep smiling for this crazy person. The Daddy even bribed the baby to sit still with Skittles from a vending machine. Gasp!
We smile, the lights flash and history is recorded on glossy paper. The photographer gushes about what a beautiful and perfect family we are. I just smile and swallow hard, and wish it were that easy.
I love these guys to death!
As you can see, even Skittles aren't enough anymore!
So we ended with kisses and hugs with the awesome Daddy!
This post is going to be one big emotional splat, and splat isn't pretty, (unless you are really into abstract art).
It would be great if I would edit my post, but my life isn't edited right now, and you get this, "As Is".
I am fighting hard each day
and outside I am doing good, sometimes even really great.
Many times my responses are the kind of thing that shocks even me, in a very good sort of way.
I am handling situations/responses in truly therapeutic fashion. I haven't raised my voice in weeks, I don't think I have yelled at Anyone for Anything in over three months. (That is kinda big because all this trauma had made me fall off the calm and controlled wagon for a while.)
That's all great and wonderful! but honestly my life really sucks right now, badly............
I am fighting frequent headaches,
and my old stomach pain issues are back to haunt me.
I cry like nobody's business, and it isn't PMS.
It's STRESS and I don't have any solutions.
I know I need more breaks, but I don't know how to make that happen.
I need more sleep, and I don't know how to make that happen,
and yeah, exercise, too.
In therapy, we are "spinning our wheels" as the therapist so aptly put it.
And naturally, I happen to be getting the majority of the splatter aimed straight at me.
There have been positive things, I grant, though few and far between.
I HAVE NOT GIVEN UP, and my life is not all bad.
I do have so much to be thankful for, and I AM trying to remember this during this tough time. Excerpts from my grateful list in the past 4 days:
Cool breezes on my face wafting through my window as I write
Embraces from my man that linger and remind me I am loved
Grace to smile with gentle loving eyes in the midst of outrage (I promise that is God, not me)
Tea with cream and honey
Baby lisping brand new words
Bowls of wild muscadines picked by my freckle faced duet
Quiet moments after 8 or 9PM
A praise CD that draws me to worship
A caring friend who drops of dinner on therapy day
A hot shower
Extra Dark Chocolate by Lindt
A prayer shared over the phone
Sunlight streaming through the screen door
Laughter, and running boy feet pounding through the house
Snuggles with Itty Bit in the early morning hours
Pears, dripping sweet juice
One dish crockpot dinner
A song of grace
An emailed prayer of blessing
Obviously taken during our last respite break, I am not super woman and I don't look that put together everyday. Except in my dreams, then I have it all together, of course.
Wow, my last post really brought out some controversial feelings from quite a few people. Not that that is bad, just surprising.
Just for the record, I still believe that God is the ultimate answer and that He is in control. I also believe that God uses physical hands and feet and brains to minister to people. I really don't believe that God would want us to "only read the Bible".
I haven't really shared the depth of what we have been living with and going through. Given this fact, I realize that all this may seem extreme and crazy. Actually, it is both of those things, our lives ARE extreme and crazy right now in more ways than one. We needed/need help desperately if we are going to pull out of this intact.
It is only God that gets me through these days and I am keenly aware of this, and I promise you that carrying out the concepts I am learning is NOT easy. This is HARD, HARD stuff and I have no idea if/when it will get easier.
Therapy on Monday went so well, and as warned, it has been a REALLY hard week around here. I am jotting notes in a journal about each day and it was good for me to read back over the week and put puzzle pieces together that I had missed in the middle of all the mayhem.
We finally have extra security in place to keep everyone/everything safe, and that is a huge relief.
I am EXHAUSTED in every way, even though today was definitely our calmest day this week. I think/hope that we are through most of the aftermath, but I am not sure that I am quite ready to head into round two.
Many of you have been praying for us frequently. I appreciate your thoughts and your prayers more than you will every know. Some of you took the time to write me lengthy emails of encouragement and I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for the love that I felt through you. Tears welled in my eyes more than once as I felt your warmth and love. Thank you for being Christ to me in these difficult days.
Reactive Attachment Disorder in adoptions of young children is one of those things.
I have been buried in books for the past several weeks. Desperation is driving me to educate myself still further in the realm of attachment and its disorders.
I love to study. I like understanding all the whys and hows of a subject. I just wish this were as simple and enjoyable as “the art of the perfect pastry shell” or “artisan/farmstead cheeses” or “heirloom garden vegetables”. Things with Happy Endings or Scientific Equations, that if followed carefully will always produce the desired result. Working with people isn't quite so easy, you have that issue of free will, choice, and personality and results aren't guaranteed.
The longer I read, the more I think this is actually a study of the brain.
Attachment and/or the lack thereof, accompanied by therapy and therapeutic parenting,
it's all related to the brain and brain development and early childhood trauma and its drastic effects.
I am learning, and committing myself to this thing called "therapeutic parenting". But just for the record, I will happily take normal standard parenting any do of the week, hands down and no questions asked.
I am discovering that most of what I am learning in the realm of therapeutic parenting is pretty good and (gasp) actually works and minimizes our huge blowups. I don’t have any clue what the long term results will be for Mr. RADish. I do know that it is changing me. If nothing else, it helps me stay sane and calm and all the other good stuff that therapeutic parents are supposed to be so good at. I am learning how to put the fun back into parenting in the middle of all the craziness that each day brings, I am learning how to out-crazy the crazy.
I have a *stack of books on my nightstand and ½ of them have a plethora of pencil markings and notes, the other half are waiting for more of the same.
But tonight I am NOT reading, I am too mad to sit quietly and read. Why on earth has it taken years………… to finally have this material in my hands. It really torques me that I wasn't able to implement this wealth of information years ago when I was searching for answers. He was so young then. I knew something was wrong and I didn't know what.
It's true, I got SOME help and SOME answers, and we made SOME definite progress. But, I can't help wondering if we would be at a different place now, if I had been able to understand all of this from the get go.
I have a whole shelf of adoption related materials that barely brushed or didn't touch these issues at all. I have scoured the internet, and bought armloads of books. So what changed? Well, things have gotten drastic and we finally had a diagnosis which pointed me in a definite direction.
Now that I am here, I honestly believe that every parent who EVER adopts should be pointed to attachment literature. Attachment is such a HUGE issue in EVERY adoption, no matter what age the age of the child, domestic or foreign, state or private. Not every situation will be like ours happens to be, but the information would be a tremendous asset regardless.
What I find the most frustrating is that I HAD made a definite point to talk with a lot of people who should have/could have pointed me in the right direction years ago when we first began our adoption journey. I asked tons of questions. I requested recommended reading lists. I asked for input and direction from those families and individuals that I knew who had walked this path before us. NONE of them gave me any valuable input on attachment or attachment issues.
I actually confronted two of them and asked why they hadn't shared their realities that were painful and offered helpful info with me when I sat in their living room some eight years ago as we started this journey. Or, even afterwards as we began to walk this path and knew we had some issues to work through. (and yes, these families had worked through/were in the middle of tough stuff, as I have since discovered)
They both said they were afraid it would scare us out of adoption. Really?
Instead of scaring us, you would rather have us go raving insane, with no clue what we are up against. Searching madly for answers to things that we couldn't even begin to understand? You thought it would be better for us to “learn the hard way” after we were already stuck and couldn't just opt out? Man, it makes my blood boil.
We have hit rock bottom so hard in so very many ways. I never in my wildest dreams would have imagined us were we have been, and I still don’t know where it is all going to end. I am poignantly aware that our story will almost assuredly not look anything like I would like or dream.
I feel that I am making peace with this reality(at least today) and I am learning to be okay with it on a daily basis. It isn't at all the way I would have written my story but after all it isn't really my story, it’s HIS story. That doesn't make it any less painful, or any less crazy but it adds just a wee bit of perspective and that really, really helps.
I was reading some blogs this afternoon, trying to regain some sanity and I found this blog, and wow did it speak to me.
"I will never forget the day when my child completely destroyed the house (like she did almost daily sometimes in our first two years together), but on this day, one of the things she threw was a snow globe that I knew I should have long put away. It was important to me though, and I just couldn't box it up. There it was shattered on the floor - glitter, liquid, and mini shards of glass everywhere. I sat slumped in a corner of my living room. I didn't cry. I was too spent to cry. I looked around at my house and could not believe how I had become accustomed to living. I felt very, very alone. I don't remember how it unfolded exactly - if I called one of my friends or if they called me or maybe they just showed up. What I do remember is sitting there on the floor feeling awful when two of my closest friends came in the door carrying groceries for me. Their kindness overwhelmed me, and I didn't even know what to say. I had not lost my friends. I was so embarrassed to have them in my house right then though - for them to see the level of destruction and aggression that had become my norm..................................
.....................We protect ourselves due to shame, and it stops us from being vulnerable. Yet, it's vulnerability that brings us closer to one another. It deepens our relationships and lessens our shame when we are accepted, understood, and treated with care. I don't know about you, but vulnerability, when the other reaches back to us with kindness, is one of those things that gives me goosebumps! It is worth it!"
It's true, it is super hard for me to crack open the reality of our lives and how not perfect things really are, partly because my shattered dreams are hard for me to embrace. Anyway, her blog led me to another blog and a post called We Must See Past What It Seems.
Here is just a tiny snippet,
"I had faith that someday he would recover….but man oh man it was lonely…I wished every single day that I could just walk around with a sign like this….
….because on the outside…I looked like I had EVERYTHING GOING FOR ME…I looked like I might just have a perfect life….but I was hiding a very painful secret….
It was humiliating and exhausting and horrible, really."
and my eyes ran with tears because I know this feeling in my own way as we struggle to embrace what it means to live with RAD.
She is my therapy. I discovered her through a blog, from a blog.
I watched Chaos to Healing last month and lots of her youtube movies since then, and this week I convinced D to watch Chaos to Healing with me. (little victory dance go'in on) :-)
If you have a child of trama in your home (or work with a child(ren) of trama) you will find Christine very encouraging and helpful. Do yourself and your kids a big favor and check out Chaos to Healing.
Sometimes hope comes in a way(s) that we don't expect....
The good that has been desired and sought, hoped for and followed after, does not come as we expected it to come.
Were we had hoped to be surprised by joy, we are surprised by pain.
I was reminded again today that we haven't been promised an easy path, only a present companion.
photo courtesy of Keishon
I whisper thank you for His presence, His peace, His unending love, and for Hope.
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Job 13:15 Though he slay me, I will hope in him Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope
Life is rather messy right now.
It is spring and so much is happening on the farm.
Farm babies and farm & garden projects
and friends here for days on end, my relatives here for a week, and then unexpectedly more overnight guests, a school farm tour, a Passover celebration with friends,
and meat processing and.......
Yes, I am tired. Everything around me is in some level of uproar, or semi to complete disorder and my insides are in just exactly that shape.
Of course, there is the daily dealings with Reactive Attachment Disorder.
Our adventures in the last year with RAD are not ones that fit under the heading of "joyous adventures" but they are certainly daily adventures.
The other night I was thinking that this blog address should be scrapped for something a bit less upbeat, and a bit more realistic. Who knew that one child could so completely turn your life upside down and backwards and inside out.
I keep telling myself desperately that there is hope and it will get better and I keep believing we are making progress. I begin to really believe myself and then I am slammed back down with a reality check and destruction like a wake following his footsteps and lurking like a shadow in the corners. Then I am not so sure, but still I think (I hope) we are making progress even if it is 3 steps forward and two steps backward.
Once again, I grab my notebook and I write desperately, listing my thanks, just being grateful, and hanging on to hope. It gets me through these days. Small things really, but good things, happy things.
the first yellow iris
foaming white milk
a tender embrace from the strong arms of my man
apricot hair lotion and sweet baby curls
grace to smile
dark chocolate with currants
a hot shower
mounds of clean laundry fresh from the line
It's Valentines Day and I am not making paper heart notes or baking something special for all my men. Instead, I am waiting in the waiting room of a hospital while my son is wheeled into an operating room and the anesthesia takes over his little body and doctor's work on his arm. No, this is not exactly what anyone was planning yesterday.
It seems like forever ago, that moment just before 3PM yesterday when I heard him scream and I found him sitting in the driveway holding his arm, the dirt bike lying beside him.
The bike was fine, the boy was not. Later on while x-rays were being taken Keishon commented that it looked just like a grasshoppers leg complete with a claw for a hand. It really did look awful and I didn't need the x-rays to confirm that it was broken. There was no question about whether or not it was broken and that is why we went straight to the orthopedic clinic. Keishon was so brave and strong. He was in an awful LOT of pain but he was a real little man. Everyone (including me) was totally amazed.
I had hoped they would set it in the doctor's office but they doctor's felt sure it would need a pin and so scheduled surgery.
We prayed about that and that prayer was answered. He didn't end up needing a pin and they didn't do surgery like they expected though they were all prepared for it and he still had anesthesia.
We see very little of doctors, or they of us. I should have expected the little trip we had, but I forget just how unusual we really are. The shocked faces of the nurses and me repeating multiple times, to multiple individuals:
"No, he doesn't have any medical records."
"No, he has never seen a doctor before"
"No, he has never has had medications"
"I don't know if he is allergic/sensitive to any drugs, he hasn't ever had any."
"No, he hasn't ever taken any prescription meds" (Wait, a second, didn't I already just say this twice a moment ago?)
"No, he hasn't had any immunizations"
"No, We don't have a family doctor"
"That is correct. He has never been to a pediatrician, or family doctor, or a hospital"
The nurse shrugs her shoulders and says, "Well, I guess he is pretty healthy." and I almost laugh outloud.
I think it is confirmed, I should get "The World's Weirdest Mom" Prize today.
Seriously, how weird is this mom? I guess he is still alive, right? And, he does seem healthy enough.
Even through his pain Keishon was rather entertained by these conversations and astutely observed that they kept asking the same thing over again. I explained that they most likely didn't really believe me. Given his limited world view he wanted to know why they would think he needed to see a doctor before breaking his arm. :-)
And now it is all over. We are home again, and I am exhausted .
Mr. man is displaying a bright green cast and doing quite well. He is drinking lots of mullein tea and taking handfuls of Complete Tissue & Bone Formula. Last night he slept much better and woke up to reclaim his big brother status.
I would like very much to pack up the dirt bikes and send them back to where they came from. Surprisingly, I am out numbered, none of the men/boys think that this is at all necessary.
"Simple living is about living deliberately. Simple living is
not about austerity, or frugality, or income level. It's about being fully
aware of why you are living your particular life, and knowing that life is one
you have chosen thoughtfully. Simple living is about designing our lives to
coincide with our ideals."
- Janet Luhrs -
I stood at the sink tonight with all the dinner dishes
around me and Little Miss sitting amid it all and I wondered why it is
that suddenly we stopped doing things like washing dishes by hand, rinsing,
drying, talking and bonding, and just plain sharing life together.
Several months ago my dishwasher decided it had lived a long life and washed quite enough dishes. Without warning it went out with a
bang and nearly scared me to death.
In a trice my man was beside me, sure that he had just heard the report of a gun right there in our little kitchen.
Ever since that night, I've been washing dishes, or more
accurately, "we" have been washing dishes.
I don't always do them myself and I almost never do them alone. The boys help and naturally, Lex always wants
to be right in the middle of it.
Do you remember doing dishes two people at a time? Standing at the sink
shoulder to shoulder, one washing, one drying and all the time talking about
the day or your interests? Aren't times like this the times when bonding
Maybe family ties and home relationships were stronger before we had all these
lovely time saving devices. We hurry through our “chores” so that we can
rush on and “relax” in front of the computer (or maybe the tv) and stay there
for hours on end, everyone engrossed in their own thing, no one talking, just
simply glued to the screen.
It is not that I think dishwashers (or any other time saving appliance or invention) is inherently wrong. Not at all. In fact I am very grateful for many of them, but I do think maybe….
just maybe, they aren't all
that we think they are. Maybe the time we are saving is simply being
wasted and doing dishes with a child might actually be worth far more than the
minutes the dishwasher saves us.
Next time you go into the kitchen, instead of popping the dishes
in the dishwasher, try it.
Stop and fill up your sink with warm water and soapy bubbles, turn
on some quiet music, and use the time you are washing dishes to talk with your
kids or if you are are alone to simply think and pray, and relax.
It isn't so very quite here when I do dishes. There
isn’t a lot of relaxing happening. But there is plenty of splashing and
giggles and conversation, sometimes interspersed with short little prayers. I am trying to learn this, trying to make prayer a fiber woven through my days and moments. Prayers like the ones Ann Voskamp wrote about so beautifully.
Someday there will be more quiet moments in my
life, and I am told that then I will miss these loud and often chaotic times.
I think that's true, and yet somedays I still find
myself dreaming of quietness and tidy floors.