Friday, September 19, 2014

Just a Day in the Life

After an evening of hourly wakings from a baby girl who just can't seem to adjust to the back and forth schedule between her parents and her foster parents, at 5:41 am I am awakened to "MOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMM" in a tone as if it were a swear word at a volume that could wake the dead.  I jump up and run to try to quiet the Jake Monster before he wakes the other half dozen people in the house.

I check his diaper, hand him his "nuh" which is his word for pacifier, cover him, rub his back and say a prayer that he'll sleep for at least one more hour.  This prayer goes unanswered.  This little dude wakes every morning and hits the ground running.  I try desperately to snuggle him in my bed, then the couch as he asks for "guy" which is Bob the Builder".  We settle in for about .2 seconds before he then needs a banana and water.  At this point I just give up.  We get the day moving, he chases me around for about two hours as I try to tackle Mount Laundry and spot clean the super sticky spots on the floor before the mornings social worker meeting.

I race around, brush my teeth, Jacob throws whatever he can find into the toilet, unrolls an entire roll of toilet paper and finds a pair of scissors.  We head downstairs to get dressed.  I pull on the "Keep Calm and Jacob on" tshirt some sweet friends made me to remind me to keep a sense of humor and stay calm, knowing I will need it for this day.

Social workers are due at the house at 9 a.m. and I continue to sprint clean and get everyone up for the day.  I look at the clock.  It is 8:48.  Plenty of time to throw in some toaster waffles and rush everyone out of bed and to get dressed.  There is a knock at the door.  My heart sinks.  I open it and the monthly check in begins.  We sit down at the table while Jacob begins to literally climb the walls and tantrum.  I pull him into my lap as we discuss monthly fostering stuff.  I look down to realize he's now crapped MY pants.  Awesome.  I try to laugh it off and excuse myself to change my pants and his and wash up.  I return to the table as two more babies begin to beckon.  I feel my heart racing.

I am grateful for these particular two workers as they couldn't be more sweet and understanding.  Just as we begin to wrap up a little early, I sigh thinking I have a few minutes to catch up before the next meeting, Early Intervention at 9:30.  9:15 there is a knock on the door.  I try to breathe and race to butter waffles.  Thankfully our speech therapist was late and so the meeting couldn't begin, giving me time to get everyone settled.  I sat down to realize the smoothie I'd made myself was now covering my two year old son.  I clean him up and grab Lily, I sit her in my lap, and you'd think a person certain couldn't have their pants pooped by two other people, but it happened.  I change myself and Lily and we get on with the meeting.

Jacob's behavior continues to escalate, he's throwing chairs, rolling all over the floor and basically just going mad.  I make mental note of the leftover sangria in the fridge.  We discuss Jacob's wonderful speech gains...then we discuss his behavior.  I melt into a puddle...frustrated, exhausted and defeated.  Our therapist assures me we can help him through this and that I need to give myself a bit more grace.  I put Jacob in his crib just so I can breathe for a moment.  (He struggles most when we have visitors).

She then reminds me that sometimes we have to change up our tactics with kids who aren't "typical"  I cry again and tell her I have no idea what typical even is.  She sympathizes.  We wrap up our meeting, the next social worker arrives to pick foster girl up for her visit.  I grab her to put her seat....and wouldn't you know, poop ALL DOWN MY SIDE.  (Mental note:  NO more Giant Eagle diapers)  I send her off, but not before running barefoot down the driveway with something I'd forgotten to put in the diaper bag.

I come inside and begin lunch.  I get everyone seated.  I can feel tears welling, I remind myself it is almost nap time.  I serve lunch, on paper plates because good gracious I cannot keep up with the dishes.  All babies are secured in high chairs and older kids are happily eating.  I run to pee for the first time since 6 a.m.  When I return to the kitchen I find that Jake has taken his entire plate of organic quinoa pasta and shown me just what he thinks of such things by throwing it in every direction within eight feet of his high chair and has decided his yogurt cup would make a lovely hat.

I scoop him up, wipe him off and decide nap time is now.  I put him in his crib, partly because he is exhausted, and partly, if I am being honest, for his safety and for mine.  I turn on his sound machine, rub his back and go into my room and SOB.  I give myself five minutes to cry and then I return to the kitchen where Luke has cleaned up every.single.noodle.  I didn't say a word, but he knew I was on the brink.  I hug him and cry some more.  He's such a great kid.

I get Lily to bed, my sister shows up with two dogs, the two dogs entertain the big kids outside and my sister cleans my kitchen while I just sit down for a minute.  My rear end no sooner hit the couch, and Jake was screaming.  I went in, comforted him, although again if I am being honest, I had to force myself.  I really wanted to run far away.  I fought the urge to go out and kiss the UPS man for delivering two cases of diapers to my door, I have been trying to keep up with cloth diapers, but let's be real.

My sister leaves, the kids put in a movie and I contemplate getting Jacob out of bed, but ultimately decide that for my own mental health I need at least an hour.  I turn a movie on for him but he screams like he is on fire anyhow.  I do everything I can to console him.  He won't be consoled.  I think again about that sangria in the fridge.  I choke down my melted smoothie from early this morning.  (A kale smoothie is barely palatable at room temperature but once you put all the ingredients into it, you can't bear to dump it until you remember that your two year old had been painting himself with it hours prior)

I finally decide that in order to be able to parent these children for the rest of the day I need to just take a break.  My break consisted of going to the basement and sitting next to the dryer (to drown out everything else) and matching fifty seven billion socks.  I loathe matching socks yet somehow today I found GREAT joy in doing so.  I'd like to tell you I sat there and thought deep spiritual thoughts, but I LITERALLY thought NO thoughts.  I head back upstairs to deal with everything feeling much more grounded.

I get to the living room and find that my big kids thought it would be a good idea to crumble mini wheats and scatter them all over the kitchen/living room area that my sister JUST swept.  I sit down on the floor, I take deep breaths and count to ten.  I ask the children to just clean it up.  I don't care who did it or why, please just clean it up.

Howard walks in, can see the exhaustion on my face and scoops Jacob out of bed and takes him outside,  I will skip the grease fire, broken dish, spilled milk (which tears may or may not have been shed over), prayers to Jesus to "just come back", pondering of "what the HELL have I done", thrown food at dinner, high chair protest, pee puddle incident, loose toad in the house and head right to the part where I may or may not have finished that sangria directly from the bottle while I cleaned up dinner and ran for the hills like a prisoner busting out of prison to Target.  A couple hours out of the house with no one getting any bodily fluids on me, asking me to wipe anything, whining for food, or smacking each other, let alone touching each other, and a cup of coffee gave me new perspective.

I now sit here in my bed, MacBook in my lap watching Jimmy Fallon's lip sync battle, a glass of sweet tea, and everyone is sleeping.  Tomorrow is a new day.  I think we shall go to the park.  :)  I didn't yell ONE time despite all the crap (literally) I shall count today a wild success.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Empowered to Connect

Many of us go into this adoption thing knowing adoption is hard, but the extent to that difficulty is often not grasped. It wasn't for me. I knew that both of our adopted kiddos had suffered trauma, I knew it was going to take patience and love, but a couple of weeks ago, if you asked me if you should adopt, I'd probably have told you "not in a million years".

Both of our kids come to us with differing traumas, but traumas none the less. I won't share their stories here because I believe those are theirs to tell, but adoption is born of loss so suffice it to say that even if you are in the delivery room to welcome your adopted child into the world, they've still suffered a trauma.

Our sweet two year olds are tough. We're dealing with language delays, sensory processing issues, impulse control, and a WHOLE heap of anger and aggression. I've been more than exhausted in learning how to deal with them as all of my tried and true parenting techniques just aren't working. Time outs make behavior worse and they feed completely on my level of stress. Stress has been high and to say life with these two precious ones has been tough, would be an understatement.

I hate to admit it but there have been times that I've wondered what on earth I've done to my family. I yearn for the old days of only three kids. ;) Then God gently reminds me that this is NOTHING I've done and that He is in control. I waver between thinking we've been reckless in our family growing and knowing we're following His call. I've been weary, and while my heart knows these sweet blessings have suffered a trauma and they are the victims here, I've struggled with viewing myself as the victim. What seems like willful disobedience has become more than I can handle. I needed help. My compassion for my babies was waning and I was beginning to wonder if they were just doomed to be "jerks" their whole life.

I was blessed to join some amazing friends who are also on the same foster/adopt journey and head to the Empowered to Connect Conference this past weekend. I've read Dr. Purvis' book "The Connected Child" and it was fantastic, but getting to sit in that room and see it in action was such an immense privilege and blessing that it is tough to put into words. I am still processing much of what I learned this weekend but I will tell you that I've come back with a new sense of hope and a renewed compassion for our kids...all of them.

If you have a child who has suffered any kind of trauma in life I highly recommend Dr. Purvis' resources. She is like the "Hurt Child Whisperer". She was unable to personally be at the conference as she is battling cancer at present but her staff was amazing and I will never be able to thank her enough for her help. Restoring hope to my weary heart is a gift I can't even describe.

I've learned so much about the biology and science behind the kids' behavior, and I am now continually reminding myself that "anger covers fear" so all of that anger is coming from a kid who just desperately wants to feel safe. He's coming from a place of such primal fear and he is doing what he knows to do to survive. Just in the last 48 hours I have implemented SOME of Dr. Purvis' suggestions into our home and I can tell you that there is more joy and peace than I would have imagined. It takes a lot of work and intentionality but I am so grateful to know that healing will come for these kids. We've taken a bit of a "step backwards" and are just working on making sure our kids FEEL safe. I am learning not to enter a battle for control with my children as it isn't worth the win. I hope to share in segments more of what I learned at the conference to show my fellow adoptive/foster moms out there that there IS hope and there ARE answers. We can do this!

So do not let my words discourage you if you are following the call to adopt...but please educate yourself on the needs your child WILL have. I was so naive. I really thought that MY adopted kids would be fine, my parenting of my older three has been relatively easy so CLEARLY I am a good parent, but the truth is...we all need work. Time for a shift in parenting. We need to be more real with pre adoptive parents so they are more prepared for what they will face and equip them with the resources to find the answers they will seek! I am feeling a strong call to help make this happen in my area, so stay tuned! :)