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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Holiday Triggers

Off and on we've experienced kiddo struggling during various holidays.

She's done so well over time that it's not always the same one or the same reaction, but there is generally obvious anxiety, even if it doesn't result in meltdowns.

Sometimes it does result in meltdowns, but whether those occur or not, I try to be sensitive to those holiday triggers that are all too common for trauma kids.

Acting out isn't a behavior problem though, it's a way to communicate the fear and turmoil they're feeling. It's difficult to articulate and many times, the child doesn't even realize the holiday is what triggered the problem.

Fathers Day and Mothers Day have been 2 of the harder holidays for kiddo.

It's logical though.

Imagine being a little kid and while you're still little, your father leaves.

Fast forward a year or two and the abuse starts.....your mother isn't able to keep you safe.  Eventually Social Services steps in and removes you from the only mother and father you've ever known.

Hard enough even if you stop there.

Now picture you moving to a different home. You're told you're safe there.  Abuse starts a year or two later.

Now you've lost the next set of parents you had.

Of course by the time you end up with your forever family, you're just waiting for the other shoe to fall.

Not only do you worry about if they'll always be who they say they will and if you'll always be safe, but you're expected to be all nice and stuff for fathers day and mothers day and give them gifts and love.

No! Why would somebody with that background trust it.  Why wouldn't they think with pain to the past and mothers and fathers day trigger those memories of the past, the mothers and fathers that weren't able to be there for them.

One year for Fathers Day, we made the mistake of going to the beach for the weekend.  Oddly, it wasn't intentional to schedule it for Fathers Day, but just landed that way.

It was horrible.  Total trigger city.

Vacations were difficult early on. Kiddo thought she didn't deserve good things happening to her and vacations were a stressor, worrying if she was behaving well enough to deserve all that fun. Add to that, the knowledge of Fathers Day.....already there is distrust of men in general, now you are suppose to pretend that everything is normal, that you haven't lost so much before this point, that you don't remember the good moments with the past families....you pretend you don't remember the bad moments with the past families....both hurt in their own way.

The next Mothers Day, I had to constantly remind myself not to be upset with her.  She didn't wish me a Happy Mothers Day. She didn't make me a card or anything. It was just another day. I wanted that normal day that a mom usually has, but demanding would be useless and meaningless.  Waiting and not having an expectation would help and be healing for her.

Now, time is creeping up and she's mentioned being away of Mothers Day around the corner.

With the healing that's gone on over the past year or two, it'll be interesting to see how she handles that trigger.

I'm not mentioning the day though.  I am preparing myself and telling myself not to have expectations, even though she "says" she's making something for me.

The first Mothers Day here, the adoption wasn't final. We were sorta in our honeymoon stage, meltdowns, but not fully attached yet at that point. Regardless, I'll treasure that card she made that said I'm the best mom ever.

While she said what she thought she should at that point, I'm accepting the challenge for that to be what I am to her.

We're now attached, but she still has insecurities.  It may be a long time before we have a complete year of holidays and no triggers, but that's okay.

I will understand and accept my childs feelings.

I will also realize there is no right or wrong way to celebrate a holiday.  ie. Christmas....we use to love to feed the hungry on Christmas. Kiddo is triggered by crowds and noise, we changed that tradition. We used to visit family on Christmas. We stay home now. It's just for us.  We have zero expectations of a "perfect" day.

Guess what? When we decided it was okay not to be perfect, that's exactly what the day is!! Maybe not perfect in other peoples eyes, but perfect for us.


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Food and Family Progress

It came on so subtly that I almost didn't realize how much progress we've seen lately.

Back in October, hubs had a dispute with kiddos bff's mom.  The mom forbid bff from being facebook friends with hubs.  Kiddo was so upset about the absurdity of it that she immediately went on her facebook page and defriended bff's mom.  She said if BFF can't talk to daddy, I'm not talking to her momma!

Then another night, we went to a really good restaurant that we hadn't been to since kiddo moved in. Kiddo loved it and loved the mashed potatoes so much that she passed me a bite.

Completely unheard of.

Her sharing food?

Yeah, she wanted me to taste how yummy it was, instead of stressing that somebody would eat her food, like has been the norm the entire time she's been here.

Last month, BFF's mom and I got in a dispute. BFF's mom defriended ME this time.  Whatever!

Kiddo was the first to notice it and she got so angry that she defriended the BFF.  I told her that her and BFF had nothing to do with the issues and she didn't need to do that, but she was in protective mode. She wanted me to see that she had my back.   She doesn't let anybody speak ill of her momma and daddy.

She said "besides, it's not like BFF and I talk anymore, I'm tired of rejection and being used".

Another recent instance was Friday on the way to school.  On the way to school kiddo pulled out a baby bell cheese wheel that she'd gotten from the fridge to snack on on the way to school.  I noticed and we were talking about how much we love them and I said I wished I'd thought of that. She pulled the other one out (she'd brought two) and handed me one.

What?! Sharing food is one thing, but now it's also her last one!?

I'm so proud of how far she's come.

She's starting to finally feel safe.

She knows she's loved and that we want to support and help her, hence having our backs when others treat us unkindly.

She knows we'll feed her no matter what now and she's starting to not "protect her food".

She also has let me help her with homework a few times in the last month or so.

It's little things, a little at a time, but then I realize how much in such a short time and I'm overwhelmed with the love I feel for her and how proud I feel of her for being so resilient, for being willing to learn to trust and love and for trusting us to be the parents she deserves to have.

Standardized Testing

 I hate SOL's.  They are so not a representation of who a child is and yet, so much weight is put on it.  Kiddo was suppose to have her first one today.

We've told that child at least a zillion times that we don't believe in the SOL's (she does know we very much believe in a great education and giving her all at school, just not concerned about the silly test).

We've reassured her over and over again to just go in and do her best, not stress and no matter the score, she's loved.

Yesterday her and I had a little talk and I wrote her a letter in more detail. I told her I didn't want her feeling like I was lecturing about school, so I put my thoughts on paper, but short version was not to stress, it's just not that important in the scheme of things.

I also reitterated that school itself is very important, it's just not about the tests.  It's about using what you learn to deal with life.  She is so resilient and proven so with all that she's had happen in the past, so of course we have high expectations.

She giggled at a few points of the letter  (like my example of having to be respectful to adults not having to do with submission but learning not to let emotions rule and learning to problem solve)

I had even signed the slip about testing saying not to re-test her if she didn't pass the test.  My idea behind that was to show her that it wasn't a big enough issue to make it worth spending a ton of time on.  She requested I redo it to let her re-test. She said if she got a 399 and suppose to get 400, she'd WANT to take it again and pass, that she knew she could do it.  I couldn't have been prouder at that moment.

I'm so proud of all she's done and I never want her feeling like one day at school means the whole year was a waste. She's so afraid if she fails the test that she will have to go to summer school and that'd mean no Tybee Island.  I explained that's not the case.

All that said, imagine what some of these kids that have all this anxiety over the test thought today. Kiddo came home this afternoon and they didn't get to take the test.  Of all the weird things, their server went down and she couldn't take the test.

She seems to be taking it well, but if I was prepared for a big day and and the day didn't happen, it'd probably be anxiety ridden.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Goodwill Find

Kiddo had money burning a hole in her pocket and asked me to take her out shopping. We stopped at the flea market, with no luck and then off to Goodwill, where she spent almost to the penny what she had on silly stuff.

As we were in the line though, something CRAZY caught our eye.  She asked me to see the price because she'd put everything back for it.  It was $48. She had nowhere near that.  She begged me to buy it for her.  I didn't have the money either.

She talked all the way home about it, asking me if I was sure we couldn't get it.

It was cool.

It was awesome.

It was strange.

I wanted it too.

When we got home, she was talking a million miles a minute and telling daddy-o all about it.  He asked me about it and I showed him on e-bay. He asked what I thought about it. I told him I wanted the thing too, but the problem is, I'm not spending $48 for something she's going to put in her room that we all love and not get to enjoy it.

Yeah, he thought it was crazy.

He loved it too.

That day, hubs went to the grocery store and kiddo begged him to stop by Goodwill and pick it up.  He didn't. We agreed to each other that if it was there the next day, we'd get it, but not make an impulse purchase on something so silly.  She didn't know this though.

Later that night, I asked if she wanted to play Mario with me.  She declined.  It made for the perfect setup.

Next morning, hubs runs out real quick to get that item at the store he forgot.  She hadn't forgotten her request though and asked if he'd run to Goodwill.  He raised his eyebrows at her and laughed.

When he came home from the store, he snuck the prized possession into the living room and brought the item from the grocery store in. She said "daddy, where is it?".

Kiddo and I had to run out for a minute and daddy said "Whatever you do, don't look in the seat of the truck, take the trailblazer".  She was convinced he had it there.  As we went out the door, she said "why would he say that, knowing that'd tempt me?".  Since I knew he was playing and it was already in the living room, I played along and said "If you look, I promise I will not tell".

Of course it wasn't there.

When we came back home, she told him there wasn't anything in the truck. He said it was suppose to be, so she ran out and brought in the meds he'd accidentally left behind and said "really?"

Finally.....

an hour or so later, we FINALLY got her to agree to come watch a family movie with us in the living room....Aliens....which is appropriate considering.

We're sitting there and a few minutes in, the squeal......

she notices....



Yeah, an alien lava lamp.
Right at $200 on ebay.

She wondered aloud how long it had been there. Not answering, but playing, I said "Hummmm, maybe somebody should have played Mario with me last night".   She assumed that meant it had been there since the day before.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Easter 2016

Easter Weekend kiddo sprained her ankle again.

We still had an amazing time though.  We spent Saturday evening at the emergency room.  Sunday, she was feeling fine though and willing to still go out. We offered to stay home if she wasn't up to going out with her ankle, but she said she could handle it.

We went to the winery for brunch, after the Easter Bunny visited.

The Easter Bunny goes entirely too crazy around here!

Thanks to facebook, yet, a different way of displaying the goods!


I was so proud of her for not gorging on chocolate before we went this year. I'm doubly proud that 2 days ago, there was still candy left (and I'd tried to make sure the bunny didn't go nuts on sweets)

Holidays were triggering early on, but have gotten so pleasant through the years.  Oh, and she looked beautiful in the dress that was her initial Easter dress.  We gave this to her early for her Spring pics at school (at her request). She likes it better than the new Easter dress (as do we)


Last Easter she was in a cast, this Easter, she was in a wrap.  This part is not a tradition we care to keep, the relaxing family time we had, however, I do like.

Reminiscing

Back in 2012, on kiddos 11th birthday to be exact, we'd just had a conversation with an agency about potentially changing agencies because we weren't making headway where we were and we were near the point of giving up.

That agency called our agency to get a copy of our home study and within 15 minutes, our worker sent us a profile on 2 girls. No photos, but a general description of an 11 year old girl and her 7 year old sister.

We only wanted to adopt one child, but for some reason we said yes, please submit our home study.  We laughed and said how funny it was that we got that profile 15 minutes after the agency we were talking with requested info from them.

A couple days later, the girls case worker asked for additional information on us and provided some more.  We were still in. It was pretty big stuff, but seemed pretty situational and not something we couldn't handle.

6 weeks later, we hadn't heard back yet.  Our worker said the girls had been matched.  (we later found out that wasn't true)

Then toward the end of September 2012, a friend sent me a link to an adoptuskids profile. It was our child. She labeled it "This is your child, call her worker now".  I opened up the profile and I literally gasped and just felt like I was looking at my child. I can't even explain the difference. I immediately called hubs and told him about her and he agreed that we should submit interest and I submitted interest on adoptuskids and asked our worker to send our home study.

I had a feeling, but wasn't 100% certain, that this was the oldest child in that sibling set.  (I later found out I was right)

That night I was sitting in the bank line, literally crying because my parents weren't alive and how much I knew they'd love her.  Why on earth I was thinking of their reaction to a child we'd submitted interest on, when I never had before.  I could see so clearly my dad's face and how thrilled he'd be.  I could always imaging mom a little because she liked kids in general, but dad had a special place in his heart for redhaired girls and used to talk about how he'd spoil my red haired daughter one day. She's not the only redhead we had applied for, so I know it wasn't just the hair.

The very next day, her case worker called mine and requested we set something up for them to come to our house and discuss her further and see if we'd be a good match.  The case worker was so quick because she already had our home study and some questions answered from when we submitted on kiddos birthday.

The reason for the delay was that the girls had been separated since then, due to some issues that had come up.  Short version....trauma bonded bad!  The search for family had been temporarily postponed while they came up with new needs list.

Interview was set up for moms birthday. I knew in my heart that was a good sign.

10 days later, we went to the case workers office to review even more info, then to the residential center that kiddo was in to discuss needs with the therapist as well.

We got lost on the way to RTC. Our GPS took us to Car Max on the other side of town instead.  We were terrified that the case worker and therapist would think we bailed. We were even more terrified that kiddo knew we were coming and may have thought yet another family let her down. (thankfully we later found out they hadn't told her yet until we saw rest of her file)

We got there and talked about kiddos needs and told them yes, we were interested in becoming her parents. They asked if we'd like to meet her briefly and gave us our photo book back to share with her and give to her if we wanted to proceed after meeting her.

I remember so clearly that first moment we saw her. She took my breath away.  I was near tears for what all she'd been through and to see that beautiful girl.  Her beautiful, scared, wide but trying eyes, ,the bedhead of messy hair, but oh, so beautiful, The too big blue flowered dress/gown (still haven't figured out which it was) and too big off brand tennis shoes and no shoelaces (we later found out the no shoelaces was due to suicide risk and nobody is allowed jewelry, shoelaces or belts there). She sat at the end of the table, and we were on one side along with her therapist and the case workers were on the other side.

About 5 minutes in (it was a short 15 minute meeting), kiddo moved and sat beside me. We looked at the profile book together and she seemed interested and willing in one day coming home with us.

During that visit, she made it clear that the dog was her #1 reason for being willing to live with us (a home without a dog isn't a home in her book), that she was excited about the cat, her room and pool and had never really had her own cat before, that she wanted a husky one day (we got Lucifer as her adoption present, but it took several months after finalization before we found him) and that she liked country music, along the lines of Taylor Swift. She loved that her and I both had red hair and people wouldn't question if she was adopted.

She was so shy and adorable and looked so small in those way too big clothes. In reality, she wasn't a ton smaller than your typical 11 year old, the clothes and demeanor just made her seem so young, like a child playing dress up in clothes meant to be taken to the thrift shop.

It was almost 2 weeks later when we had our first playdate. We were told that she would not be willing to go off with us alone because of her past on the first playdate and it would be a very long transition period.

When we went to have our playdate, we took some cards to play in their common area.  Therapist said kiddo said she really liked how we talked to her and that she felt safe and would prefer that we take her our instead, unsupervised.  We were thrilled.  It was a great playdate. We took that adorable, tiny underweight 11 year old out for pizza and walked around the wall. Then we got her an ice cream cone on the way back. She said the food was horrible at residential and that she'd lost so much weight because she wouldn't eat.

Our child had clothes that weren't age appropriate (think old lady clothes), way too big for her and no coat at all, so one of our visits was shopping. She loved that we went to Kohls. Apparently she has been used to budget that didn't allow her to pick clothes, so she loved picking. We just got her a couple things to last until she moved in and had her point out things so we could be working on finding things to fill her closet with. We didn't want to spend our visits shopping, except for enough for her to have clothes to wear for those visits that would keep her warm that late in the year.

She called me several times at work in between playdates.  She wasn't quite ready to call daddy, too many men let her down and scared her, but it came with time. She always had a message for him and talked about her excitement of our next visit.

The 2nd overnight visit, they wanted to schedule on a different date from me. I had a different date in mind because of my work schedule. The therapist said not to change my work schedule, to have hubs come pick her up alone and bring her home, that this would be a test of how much she's progressed and if the progress is real, because she'd have to be willing to ride in a car with a man, alone, for over 3 1/2 hours.  She was a champion and they came by the office on the way thru town to see me.

The plan was still a long transition, potentially as long as February, but while it seemed so long to all of us, 7 short weeks (long weeks to us and kiddo) later, she moved into our homes forever.  She'd moved into our hearts so much sooner though.

By our 6th visit, we were all in tears each time we had to take her back and it got worse every time.

We kept begging for everybody to approve her moving in before Christmas, so she could have her family for Christmas and not be in RTC for the holidays.  Her therapist agreed and talked to the case worker and didn't let kiddo know in case it didn't happen.  Kiddo had 3 Santa visits during visits with us and the one she called "the real one" she asked him to make sure she got to move in before Christmas, she wanted her forever family that year for Christmas.

Her therapist called one day because she was in tears and wanted to move home. We hadn't long got the date of move in. It felt so good to tell her that.

On December 13, 2012, our child moved in forever. We spent our first Christmas together that year, the first of many.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

School Update

well, the verdict is in and a plan is in place

It's been decided by all that kiddo is definitely smart, probably smarter than average, truth be told.

The conflict was whether the issue was laziness or trauma.

The school and us had 3 meetings and community resources at the school were involved in one.  It was decided to treat it as trauma, not laziness.

We suspect she is triggered in class and shutting down. She has issues with this from time to time and we do know this part for sure.  What wasn't for sure was whether this is what was preventing her from doing assignments.

There is a person assigned to kiddo to help.  She will be getting with kiddo discreetly between classes from time to time to check assignments and organization.

But the best part, is kiddo has been provided a color coded card. She's to put it on her desk so teachers know when she's likely to be triggered so they can ensure she hears instructions. She also has a card code for "I need to get out for a few minutes and get regulated".

It'll be interesting to see how this goes on.

Also, if this works well, the plan will automatically transition to high school with her. There will be nothing required on our part to get this done.