Saturday, October 19, 2013

Play Dough - the Natural Way

Homemade play dough brings back memories from rainy days in my childhood.  My mummy made all our play dough. When I think back it seems she made most of our play things.  It amazes me how much time must have been invested in the things that we owned as kids.  I'm simply not that crafty and have never even aspired to attempt homemade dolls, stuffed animals, activity books, puppets, or even bean bags.

I get inspired occasionally and then I do something really simple like this Play Dough.

You don't have to be a talented crafter or have lots of specialty ingredients.  Its just flour, water, salt, oil and cream of tartar and some coloring.

You might not have Cream of Tartar, you can make it anyway. It won't keep it's beautiful smooth feeling for quite as long, but it will still provide hours of educational fun for you little kiddos.
I like to use natural coloring agents, cause I am just like that, yah know.
I don't actually have any dyes in my pantry, so when I got inspired to make play dough I HAD to come up with an alternative.

Beet Powder = Pretty Pink
Turmeric Spice = Bright Golden Yellow
Spirulina Powder =  An Earthy Sage Green

Turmeric is easy to find in your local grocery store, if it isn't already in your spice cabinet.  The other powders you might have to order.  I get them from either Mountain Rose Herbs  or  My Spice Sage.  I use these powders to color food items that need an extra pop of color, since I don't use food dyes.

Mummy never used beet root, turmeric or spirulina powder to color our play dough when I was kid. She used the drops from those little McCormick squirt bottles, and you can use that too, if you wish. You might even leave it uncolored, and that's okay too.

I remember that sometimes Mummy would add extracts to make them smell nice.  Lemon, Strawberry, Vanilla....  

One day she made us a brown playdough and added Root Beer Extract to it.  It smelled so good, I remember closing my eyes and holding it in the palm of my hand inhaling that smell.  It reminded me of celebration because we had root beer only on birthdays or extra special events.
I am sure you know what I did next. Right?  
I tasted it, and I was so disappointed because it was perfectly awful. It didn't hurt me cause this is non-toxic dough, but it was horribly salty. I never ever tasted play dough again.
Funny, maybe that is the reason I never add scents when I make play dough.

My son told me today that  I  should have used coconut oil instead of olive oil "cause it smells nicer".  That is great idea and I will do that next time. 

 Natural Play Dough  

1 cup flour
1 cup water
1/2 cup salt
1 Tbl. of Cream of Tartar
1 Tbl. oil
1 tsp natural coloring like turmeric, beet root, or spirulina

Whisk it all together in a heavy stainless steel pan and cook over medium heat till it starts to come together into a thick mass. 

 Continue to cook, pressing and flipping it with your spoon, or your fingers if your like me. Just be warned, it is Hot!

 When thoroughly cooked, flip it onto the counter top and knead the dough until it is very smooth.  Let cool for a bit and then its ready for play.  

For storage, just seal the dough in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator. It will last for several months.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Fall comes....

The sense of time slipping through my fingers leaves a strange ache inside.
The realization that my baby is three…

….. that it is October and all the summer flowers are gone except a few of the bravest and heartiest.
The leaves are changing color, and rustling in the wind outside my window.

... and summer is GONE. It hits me with an abruptness that feels rude. I can't quite grasp it, even though I know it's true.
I don’t think I knew we had summer this year. And how did I miss it?
I hate the sense of loss that I feel.... life seemed to be on hold ....but was really slipping silently away.
Now I wake to nights of cool eveningair, the occasional gentle rain andscattered thunder storms and the snuggles that happen because of these storms.
White linen curtainssway in the breeze revealing the pale flash of lightning in the dark night sky and a little afro puff is tucked under my chin accompanied by the sweet scent of coconut andmango hair cream .
There are little heels pressed into my stomach, Lex is “staying safe’ in Mommy’sbed. We listen to the distant rumble of thunder together. Its joy and pain all mingled together.
I want to stop time!

I want to be greedy with these moments and heap them uparound myself and hang onto them forever.
I am not a sentimental person, and these emotions take me by surprise. Somehow, I can't say how, I know it's good and I relax into it and savor it along with the edge of pain and the knot in my throat.
Is this the silver lining? The good that has come from places of deep darkness?
This change in me...
.... in the way the world looks from this new vantage point?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Unthinkable- As Reality

Days turned to weeks, then those weeks became months.

Life here has shifted in earthquake proportions. You will find us currently in a phase of rebuilding our lives.  You might say we are still digging through the ruins, learning how to live again.  Grieving loss, juxtaposed against the relief of peace & safety.

During the past six weeks I have begun this particular post and deleted it more times than I can remember.
 I’ve needed that time to reorient myself with my own life.

There is no easy way to sum up the last six months.   The hardest part is that anything I write can, and quite likely will, be used against me.   I might legitimately plead the fifth.  But I can’t seem to make peace with that option because I've committed to being honest and open, especially concerning adoption, most specifically our adoptions. 

For me that starts with the acknowledgement that

 ALL adoption starts with LOSS and that loss is tremendous and needs to be honored with gentleness.
Adoptions aren't all alike any more than people are all alike. If you can understand the loss portion that is attached to adoptions it will make it much easier to understand some of the rough portions that frequently come along with adoption. Though there may be similarities and stories may have commonalities each adoption comes with its own package of uniqueness. 

Some adoptions are relatively uneventful and beautiful and others are heartrendingly difficult and nightmarish. Just because you have one, or the other, or something in between, doesn't mean that that is what everyone else is experiencing.

Our own two adoptions are a study in contrasts-
our first adoption,  Nicholas, came home to us as a toddler - deeply wounded through extensive abuse and neglect, though we didn't know this at the time of adoption and unfortunately were not properly equipped.

our second adoption,  Alexis- came home to us as a newborn - less than 24hrs old, a super tiny baby bundle with all the promise of new life waiting to be lived.

Comparing our own two adoptions is like trying to compare oranges and orca whales.  

I wish with all my heart that Nicholas might have found his way into our home just like Alexis did  I wish that I could rewrite his early years and erase all that damage and remove all the pain he has experienced.  For seven years I clung tightly to the hope that, even if this weren't possible, we would make it through. I believed doggedly that we would find healing and he would be able to normalize.

I am comforted with the knowledge that we have done our very best for Nicholas.  We all worked hard to make life together work, to educate ourselves, to get him the help he needed, at all costs.  We did all that we could to adapt, nurture, and facilitate healing. In the end, our very best was STILL not enough. 

Nicholas continued to spiral out of control, getting worse and worse and more and more dangerous.

Our options became smaller and smaller and we grasped frantically at all possibilities.  In the end, after two failed out-of-home placements, I found myself once again on the phone in desperation because I had to pick him up because he was endangering other children and at the same time I couldn’t bring him home and place our other kids in danger. 

Countless hours were spent on the phone with therapists, attorneys, treatment facilities…. But…  we still ended up in the sheriff’s office with every other option exhausted.

May 31, Nicholas entered state care through a JJ officer.  Our parting was calm, and for him unemotional, his complete lack of normal emotional response will haunt me for the rest of my life.

Within 24 hrs, a home investigation was begun on our family. The standard questioning/interrogation of ourselves and our kids. From there we had multiple interactions with attorneys, social workers, court hearings, and finally,
court rulings.  This has been a very difficult and emotional time for all of us and for three months I have lived on the very edge never knowing what the next day might hold.  I am so grateful  for the protection that was hedged about us during this time and for the friends that covered us in prayer and interceded on our behalf.

Aug 5th the case was closed with the signing of relinquishment papers.

Nicholas is no longer our child and we won’t know anything more about what is going on his life. The last thing that I know is that he is in a therapeutic home where he is the only child receiving high level intervention, including 20 hours a week of in home counseling from a specialist. This is in addition to office visits with other specialists on a routine basis.  These are things we could never have provided for him.  I hold on to hope that this hard choice might be the next stepping stone on his road to healing.

Letting go doesn't mean giving up... it means accepting that some things weren't meant to be. - Lisa Brooks

Still there is certainly overwhelming defeat hanging above us in this place where we admit in every way that we aren't the right home for Nicholas and that he needs more than we can offer.

From the outside looking in, it may appear that disruption/dissolution is an easy answer to a tough situation.  I can only speak from my experience and say that this has been the hardest and most painful thing I have ever done in my entire life.

We are now rebuilding our lives, our family, and our marriage. There is a lot of healing ahead for everyone. I have been reminded on several occasions that the story isn't finished and hope is not lost.

"The greatest courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing HEART. "  - Robert Green Ingersole

That is my hope and prayer for our whole family!

Friday, March 01, 2013

The Goodness of Life - A Nature Walk

We've unearthed times to linger and soak up the goodness of life with Tea Time, and Nature Walks and Nature Study and Artist Study.
We are having fun!  

The boys say it has been the best school week we have had in.... a very long time, and I agree whole heartily.

On Thursday we had a fabulous nature walk and I even remembered the camera. It was everything we needed and then some.

We found the first Jasmine blooms, just opened.  A promise of spring and a breath of sweetness.

It has rained a lot during the past two weeks and A. was overjoyed to discover many different mushroom varieties.

 L. was his attentive audience, and clapped for joy with each new discover. He enjoyed bringing them to her as much as she enjoyed seeing them! It was heart warming...healing.

We found deer tracks and various other signs and tokens of wild life.

We enjoyed birds near and far, gathered feathers and investigated empty bird nests.
I love the outdoors, the fresh air and the space for the kiddos to run off all that energy, and make discoveries.

There are brand new buds just opening on the wild plums, and blackberry branches.

I was informed with much enthusiasm about the mossy carpets that "would be perfect for a picnic". We settled for a picture, and a promise of a picnic one day, very soon.

 Usually, we bring specimen home to paint or draw in our nature notebooks.  This week the boys came home with their pockets full and made displays, decorated my bookshelves and had a rather hard time deciding what to use for this week's entry.  I can tell they have really missed these special times and it is so good to be back in this place again.

It was fun to see what each one noticed and to hear their joy in each item.

Keep us in your prayers this weekend, it is overwhelming and I am not one bit ready to do this!

K and A are having a lovely weekend, safe, protected and happy. I am comforted to know that they are with some of the best people in the whole wide world and I am super grateful, too!  It makes this easier, and so much better in many ways!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Embracing Brokeness and Imperfection

My mind flits backwards and stops again on a moment in my life as a 12 year old. Probably because it illustrates who I was, in contrast to who I thought I have now become.

Once again, I am 12 years old and I stand in the kitchen holding a pan of brownies that somehow went dreadfully wrong.  I am irrationally crushed. So much of my identity is tied up in this area of my life. For this, I am praised and I gather that praise almost greedily, trying hard to fill an empty spot deep inside and to make sense of my life.

I held that pan, devastated because I had failed. I looked at the clock as it ticked quietly on the wall and I calculated.
Yes, I could do it, and I would!

I dumped the entire pan in the trash, covered it up well and started over.
No one would know, it would be 30, maybe even 45 min. before anyone arrived and my tragedy would be unknown, my face saved.

It worked that time, things went smoothly, perfect glossy brownies with a crackled surface were coming out of the oven at just the right time.  They were all that I hoped, and they didn't come from a box!
But I carried a secret, I wasn't as perfect, as I pretended. It haunted me.  My imperfection, my secret, my mascaraed.

This little insignificant incident became important. Over the next years this story would repeat itself in many different situations, until I began to joke that somehow I had spent my teen years believing that the best course of action is
"If at first you don't succeed, remove all evidence that you tried."

It bound me up tight inside.  I feared trying things where I thought I might fail. I was shattered if I failed or even felt like I failed.  I tried to stick close to the things I did well. I spent inordinate amounts of time internally mastering everything before attempting anything.

And then...
I married a man who knows how to laugh at himself and does so frequently. He is comfortable winging it on his own, and goes for help later, IF things don't work out.
He tells other people his crazy moves, his mistakes, and missteps.  He Laughs about them.
I envied that!  Slowly I started to be more daring, to take myself less seriously, to embrace failure as a good learning tool and not a catastrophic event.

I still get scared, I still get choked up with fear of failure when I am pushed out of my comfort zone before I think I am ready.
I still hate failing, looking stupid, and messing up.

But......I thought............ I really thought I had come a very, long way.
I thought I had learned something about what it means to embrace my own imperfections, my humanity and to understand at a deep heart level  that perfect isn't were things are at.  That's a God job, and I will never, never make that level in a million years.

But now I'm twelve again and I am standing by the counter, and everything in my wants to erase, cover up, runaway, forget, pretend and start over.

I don't want to feel this pain.
I don't want to feel this anger.
I don't want to think about what it means.
I don't want to ask the hard questions, and I don't even know if I want the answers.
Really, I just want a clean paper, I want to remove the evidence that I tried.  And God knows, I have tried harder at this then anything in my entire life.
It still wasn't enough, it still didn't work, not even part way.  I don't know how to make peace with that right now.

My head and my heart don't say the same thing. I know "the right answers".  I can quote the liturgy as well as the next well-churched girl. But those little cliches and nice pat answers aren't going to cut it.

This is like the brownies, I am irrationally crushed. It is an identity issue, and it's hitting me in deep, dark hidden places.

But I know deep inside that I have changed because even though it is excruciating I am and will make an effort not to hide, not to erase.
I will hold this in my hand, when I really want to bury it and run away.
I will face the hurt, the anger,the imperfection, the disappointment, the brokenness and healing will come, eventually.
Tear Soup  isn't made overnight, and that is what I am making right now.  Even though I would rather be making something else.  I hadn't planned on this, I haven't studied for this, I don't know how to do this....but I am un-clenching my hand.

“When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow.” ― Shauna NiequistBittersweet

Sunday, February 17, 2013

In which life goes on

Its been a really weird week.  It strange to have everything change so very abruptly.  Not bad, just strange.  I don't think I really realized just how much time and energy I was really expending. I was spending about five hours a week to and from and in therapy. Plus in home therapy that seemed like it never ended. Hours have opened up and our days are running so differently, the biggest difference is that peace reins and .........

what do I do with all this goodness?  Well... I just go on and get sick.  

Stresses removed and my body simply crashed.  I have been dead tired all week. I have tried to carve out at least 9-10 hours of sleep a day, and I still feel like I was running on about four hours.  Nuts!

It's not like I can just call a break and hang out in bed.  The life we created doesn't exactly lend itself to nicely to that sort of thing, especially right now.

Our four goats have all recently kidded. So there is new kids and milking.

We were also in the middle of  meat processing and that had to be finished, too. 

Plus running low on feed and the animals have to eat, regardless of how I happen to feel on any particular day.

Not to mention people food, I think we were out of everything, AGAIN!  So I made a trip to the Feed Mill one day, the Farmer's Market the next day and finished up at Aldi's on Friday night while the boys enjoyed a birthday party with one of their favorite people in life.

I won't lie, it's been a tough week.  But I think I am pulling out of it and feeling more normal again (whatever that is).
I hate dragging myself out the door in the mornings, but what is weird is that once I am out I don't really mind.  

I  find myself breathing in the cold air and smiling, admiring the sunrise, and morning noises.

I don't hate this life at all, even though I find it frequently inconvenient. 

I like that my kids can create and explore.  I like that they really know where basic things come from and how much work it really takes to see things through from the beginning to the end.
But there are days here and there were I contemplate the joys of a suburban life style.  :-) 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

A New Chapter

It’s been more than 72 hours now since we said our good-bye’s and drove away, leaving N to begin his extended residential treatment program.  It's not the one we thought he would be going to, but we feel it's right for him, for us.

All the paperwork completed,
 belongings transferred,
 the signing on dotted lines here
 and here
 and here.

It has been five long months since we started working toward this end. So many emails, endless phone calls, paperwork, doctor visits, psychologist, psychiatrists, and counselors, combined with unending prayers and countless tears.

 I woke up this morning knowing that I didn’t have to brace myself and jump back into the routine of crazy.  This isn’t just a respite break……………. this is for real.

 I can’t explain the relief, I feel a weight lifted that I would say is physical, if I didn’t know that that is impossible.  But the sense of physical weight being removed is there.

This realization of the reality of a long term break hits me again and again, I whisper a “Thank you, God” sometimes through blurry eyes.

I knew in my head that God heard our desperate prayers, but sometimes I doubted.  Oh sometimes, far more often than I would like to admit,  I felt like I had fallen into an invisible hole and had been forgotten.  Other times I felt like there was rock on my chest that was slowly squeezing the life out of me, that it was only a matter of time. I felt like nobody knew, they didn’t understand that I was literally dying with each breathe I drew.

 To go from those feelings of desperation and hopelessness back into the sunshine, unfettered and free  is almost beyond imagination.
But here I am, and I can’t begin to explain what I feel.

 I can breathe again,
 I can relax,
 I am not on high alert.
The difference is staggering.

The change in our home atmosphere has shifted dramatically, and instantly.  Several times dh and I have whispered to each other, “Do you see?”  “Did you notice?” and even we are speechless and left wondering, “Is it really possible for one child to make that much difference?”   It IS, sad but true!

I hate the well meaning questions, and I don’t feel like being with people. I suppose I am afraid to be completely honest.  Several phone calls, and church this morning.
  “Are you okay?”
 “How are you making out, you have been in my thoughts a lot?”

I am still tired, but really……………….. I am freakin awesome people!!!!!!

 For instance, last night I slept for 10 hours like a baby!  We All slept with our bedrooms doors wide open and unlocked every single night so far, just because we could!

I suppose my real feelings are mirrored in my almost 11 yr old. He came to me asking, “Am I supposed to be sad?” To which I answered, “Honey, you aren’t supposed to be anything you aren’t.  Everything has been so crazy, there isn’t one right way to feel. How do you Really feel inside?” With eyes on the floor he answers,  “Really happy, and glad. But I just keep thinking that I should feel bad because I would feel really feel bad if it was A. or L. I feel bad that I don't feel bad.”

Yeah, I know…………I know…………and sometimes those feelings of guilt wash over me, too.  Plus, of course, the next thought for me that goes something like.  “If they (house parents/workers in residential facility) can do _____ then what is wrong with me?”   Uh, huh! Yeah.  I know.

I just hug him tight, and hug myself, too.  I whisper to both of us that “God knows what He is doing and after everything that has gone down, it makes sense to feel glad, relieved, happy, and grateful. It also makes sense to feel guilty, too.  I reminded him (and me) that N was happy to go.  He was excited and he didn’t feel bad when he said goodbye either.”

Little Mr. A. isn’t quite that old yet. He is cool with just being happy and not worrying if that is okay or not.  He has hugged me repeatedly saying, “I am so happy and I don’t know why, but this day is just a good day for everyone.” or “I am so happy my door doesn’t have to be locked, it just makes me sing and I feel like hugging everyone.” Hug away my friend, we all need it!!!!

I know it isn’t over yet, that thought lurks at the back of my mind and haunts me.
I don’t know what the end results are going to be, the ride isn’t finished and how I wish I had a permanent answer.

But for now, for this very moment, the pressure has been relieved.  We have space to heal around here, to normalize, to breathe and smile and sing and dance and enjoy family life.

So this is me being happy, 
living in this here very moment 
with abandonment and joy. 

If you think this is weird, or psycho, let me guess,
You have not lived with an individual who has a diagnosis of RAD, ODD, severe CD, and ADHD.  You might not even know what those letters stand for.  : )  Lucky you! I am happy for you, I really am!