Tag Archives: parenting

Happy 5th Birthday Austin!

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Happy 5th Birthday Austin!

Each year I write a birthday letter to my sweet boy.  This year’s letter is a bit late in coming, but it has finally arrived!

To my favorite boy in the whole wide world,

I am so in love with you, and I am so proud of you!  You are such a compassionate, helpful, funny boy and I’m so glad you are my son.  I have watched you take such care of those who are smaller than you—helping out babies and toddlers, being an amazing friend and trying to care for them.  I have watched you show concern and care for others—stoping to pray for people we see who need help, kissing my “boo boos,” and offering hugs to everyone.  I have watched you blossom into a funny and fun loving boy—telling jokes, laughing with others, and including others.  I have watched you stick up for yourself—asking for help when needed and talking out conflicts that arise.  I have watched as you have learned to talk about your feelings and how  to cope with them—even when doing so exasperates you.  (“I don’t have any more deep breaths!” you’ve been known to say on more than one occasion.)  I have watched you learn empathy and compassion for others.  I have watched you face tough transitions this year and handle them like a champ.  I am so thankful that I get to be your mommy!

This year was a year of so many changes and big events in our lives.  Only a few months into your fourth year we celebrated your adoption!  We had been together for over 2 years, but I am so happy that we are “officially” a forever family.  You are truly a gift from God, and I am so thankful he brought us together.  It is not lost on me that the joy of your adoption also comes with a significant loss.  My heart breaks for that loss, for the pain that it brings with it, both now and in the future.  I want you to know that it’s ok to feel that pain and grief, that it doesn’t threaten the bonds of our family.  It’s ok to be sad and angry about that loss, know that those feelings are normal and natural.  Know also that I will always love you.  There is nothing that could ever change that.  Nothing.  I will love you when you are sweet and adorable and hilarious.  I will love you when you are tired and overwhelmed and confused.  I will love you when you are angry and raging and lashing out at the world.  I will love you when you are silly and wild and scaring me to death with your latest dare-devil stunt.  I will love you when you are scared and confused and frustrated.  I will love you when you have soaked me with water or shaving cream or food.  I will love you forever.

Less than a week after your adoption we headed out of New York and moved to Illinois!  A whole  avalanche of changes was headed your way.  You went to a new school and a new daycare.  You moved into a new home with new neighbors.  You discovered the joy of living in a house instead of an apartment and began exploring the backyard and the neighborhood.  You spent time with family you had barely met before and learned about the joys of aunts and uncles and cousins and grandma.  You learned of new parks and lakes and discovered the joys of Dairy Queen ice cream cones.  Throughout all these changes you were a champ.  You showed such resilience and grew so much closer as you began to trust in our relationship in a brand new way.

It has been so incredible to see your personality emerge even more this year as you became more confident, comfortable, and verbal.  I have loved watching you pretend and be creative.  One of my favorite times is when you decided to put on a show for us—you pushed back an imaginary curtain while you said “curtain open, curtain open,” then you picked up your microphone and Bible and pretended to read us a story, then you sang a few songs, pushed the imaginary curtain closed, and said “curtain closed, curtain closed.”  You love playing with blocks and have developed a talent for building car washes and gas stations for your toy cars.  You LOVE stuffed animals and have a collection of probably a hundred different bears, dogs, cats, bunnies, and various other creatures.  You try to take as many of them to daycare with you as possible, much to the chagrin of the daycare staff.  Two of your stuffed animals are as big as you —Big Doggy and Big Teddy.  I joke that Big Doggy is your therapy dog because you always want him when you are upset.  You are an amazing helper and love to clean.  You have made good friends and begun to interact with other kids in new, exciting ways.  You have a great memory and often want to talk through things that happened months ago.  You have been doing so well in swim lessons—after we moved they had your class go to the diving board and jump off.  Most kids were scared and needed someone to pick them up and drop them in.  Not you.  You are fearless.  You just leaped off that diving board and ran back for more!  You love reading books and riding your bike or pulling a wagon.  You love cooking—you can bake cupcakes all by yourself (apart from using the oven) and love to help cook whatever is for dinner. And iPad—you love watching iPad a little too much.  You are the cutest boy ever—you’re so adorable with your sparkling eyes and one dimple.  When you laugh your joy is infectious.  Unless of course you’re laughing because you just soaked me with the garden hose.  Then your joy is not so infectious.  But I still love you.

I am so amazed at how far you have come—you are learning and growing and impressing me with new skills all the time.  I know it’s hard sometimes.  Being a little kid is hard sometimes.  Being a little kid who struggles with the weight of trauma, special needs, and delays is incredibly hard.  I know we grown ups don’t get it all the time.  But you have so many people who love you and are cheering for you!  And you have a mommy who will fight for you like a crazy, scary momma-bear every day.  Because you matter.  You are important and valuable.  You are brave and strong.  You are helpful and caring.  You are loving and smart.  You are funny and sweet.  And I love you.  I pray that God will give you the confidence to know these things about yourself, to be confident in who you are, to be confident in my love for you, and especially in his love and care for you.

Here are a few pictures of our amazing year together.

Each year I interview you for your birthday and celebrate all the special, unique things about you.  Here is your time capsule from 2016!

Mommy: What do you want to be when you grow up?

Austin:  A school bus driver or a school bus.

Mommy:  Do you want to get married when you grow up?

Austin: Yes, I like married.

Mommy:  Do you want to have kids one day?

Austin: (Puts his hand on his face) No!

Mommy:  What is your favorite thing about yourself?

Austin:  I’m a boy.

Mommy: What is your favorite thing to do at school?

Austin: Play.

Mommy: What do you like to play with?

Austin: A train.

Mommy:  What do you like to do for fun?

Austin:  Watch iPad. Play with Play Doh.

Mommy:  What is your favorite thing about mommy?

Austin:  I love you.

Mommy:  I love you too.

Austin:  I like to eat with you.

Mommy:  Who are your best friends?

Austin: Donald Duck

Mommy: What is your favorite holiday?

Austin:  Family night

Mommy: If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Austin:  To get that racetrack (a toy he’s been asking for)

Mommy:  Anywhere you want to visit?

Austin: Church, but I’ll be too big for it.

Mommy:  You won’t be too big for church.

Austin: Yeah, because I’ll get too big for my class one day.

Mommy: Oh, ok.  Is there anywhere you’d like to go on vacation?

Austin: To visit Nana.

Mommy: What is your favorite memory of last year?

Austin:  Going to the airport to get Nana.  Moving to our new house.

Mommy: What is one thing you really want to do this year?

Austin: Get that race track.

Mommy:  What is something else you want to do?

Austin: (proceeds with a 15 minute conversation about the race track, the number of cars included with the race track, the elevator on the race track, the potential for someone stealing the race track, the amount of money he has saved up to buy the race track, etc.)

Mommy: What is something you want to do, not a toy you want to have?

Austin: Go to a pool party.

 

What is your favorite . . .

Toy:  Cars, my airplane

Drink: Root beer floats

Food: Cheeseburger and french fries and apple sauce

Activity: Going to the water park

Song: “Tooty Ta” and “Wheels on the Bus”

TV Show: Paw Patrol

Movie: Despicable Me

Book: Paw Patrol books

Sport: Swimming

Ice Cream: Twist

Color: White and Brown

Candy: Peanut M-n-M’s and Reeses Peanut Butter Cups

Stuffed Animal: Skye

Game: “The Elsa Game” aka Frozen Slides

One heck of a night

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It’s been a tough night. Not enough nap leads to epic meltdowns. Combine that with the fact that no one else on Little Man’s soccer team showed up for the game tonight, so they combined the teams and promised them a short game followed by snack. Only there was no snack, because our team’s snack parent didn’t show up and the other team chose not to share. I had just talked him through a 45 min game by promising snack. Ugh.

This led to a 1 hour fit with so much self-harming behavior I had to put his helmet on. First time since I’ve had Little Man that I’ve had to do that. It only intensified his anger, but at least his head was safe. The rest of his body, not so much.

Finally when he calmed down and was playing I sat down next to him. He kept acting out. Sometimes me just being near him causes this behavior, so I went in the other room. He started calling for me. “Mommy, come sit.” Then he said two pretty epic things. “Don’t be mad. I’ll be nice.”

People, this is huge. Not just that he emotionally processed that, but that HE DID IT VERBALLY!!!! Little Man has never before used language in that way. He’s never before said either of those things. And this is the first time I’ve heard him craft sentences of his own instead of mimicking or slightly altering what he hears others say.

Needless to say, I came and sat. Of course 2 minutes later he was acting out again, but I’m counting every victory.

The Merry Go Round of Crazy

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I mentioned in my last post that there was lots I needed to catch everyone up on.  The past 2 1/2 weeks have been so crazy — so much stuff going in Little Man’s world and in mine.  It all started with a visit to a pediatric specialist at the Center for Development, Behavior, and Genetics.  That translates to a specialist that works with kids with a variety of special needs.  He’s crazy hard to get into–appointments often take a year to make.  However a year ago, when Little Man was still with bio mom, there was some concern that he might have Autism, and so an appointment was scheduled.  And now the time had come for that appointment.  We actually came back from vacation a day early to make this–it’s that big of a deal.

Since I’ve had Little Man it’s been clear to everyone involved that he doesn’t have Autism.  However he does have a whole list of other issues and troubling behaviors.  So this was a very helpful appointment.  Some of the things he was diagnosed with were no shock–developmental language disorder, at risk for learning disability, and severe problems with impulse control, explosiveness, and aggression.  Others were a bit of a surprise, but not too intimidating–probable ADHD.

But then there was one other diagnosis.  The one at the top of his chart.  I’m not going to make it public yet, because I’m not sure I’ve bought into this diagnosis.  But let me tell you, it’s bad.  Like, really bad.  In fact, when I did my home study they had to ask me about a long list of challenging behaviors, medical conditions, mental health issues, and special needs.  I said I’d take kids with severe learning disabilities or special needs.  I said I’d take kids who started fires.  This is the ONE THING I said I couldn’t handle.  The place where I drew the line.

God has a great sense of humor, huh?

I received a copy of the doctor’s full report and it was full of lots of things I just had to laugh at.  Like “He can be very sweet, but is also prone to violent and aggressive outbursts.  Many things trigger him very quickly”  And “He actually exhibits quite a lot of attention-seeking and limit testing behavior with his foster mother.  She is quite skilled in her responses to this behavior.”  Well, thanks.

That week I actually had three different appointments for Little Man.  Two days later I took him into the clinic for a follow-up appointment for a health problem he’s been having.  We saw my favorite doctor there-she’s awesome.  Little Man was displaying a few challenging behaviors.  Most of the time he was pretty good.  But then he started throwing a chair.  Nurses came in, afraid that someone was getting hurt and the doctor needed help.  Welcome to my world, folks.  Anyway, Little Man was fine and at the end of the visit the doctor told me “I wish I could bring you in to train the other foster parents–you’re great.”  Did I mention how much I love her?  So much better than the snooty doctor who stepped in the door one time and before even saying hello told me I needed to teach my son that his behavior wasn’t acceptable.  (Oh, is that what I’m supposed to do?  I thought I was supposed to encourage the yelling, hitting, and throwing.)

The next day I had an appointment to determine if Little Man was still eligible for services as he transitions out of EI and into the school district system (since he just turned 3).  It was an interesting meeting–two people from the school district, his special needs preschool teacher, his EI coordinator, his caseworker, bio mom on the phone, and myself.  The preschool teacher started bragging on how far he’s come in the past few months and that he’s doing so great.  But I had come to the meeting with my report from the specialist he saw on Monday.  And when they passed it around, everyone’s jaws hit the floor.  For real.  His caseworker said “I had no idea it was this bad.”  Maybe she wasn’t getting my desperate e-mails.  Who knows.  His teacher was shocked.  Apparently he spends a lot more time acting out at home than at school.  But his EI coordinator listened to my descriptions of his behavior and said “That is exactly what he was behaving like when I was doing in-home services with him before.”  Well, at least someone else has seen it.  They clearly saw his need for continued services and assigned him to everything the doctor had recommended.  Win.

As I was leaving the meeting, his caseworker walked out with me and we were able to have a good conversation.  She apologized for not knowing Little Man’s needs were so severe and promised to raise him to the next level of care (which means I’ll receive a higher reimbursement and can start a college fund for him as well as buying some of the therapeutic tools and toys he needs).  I laughed, “Yeah,” I said “my definition of a good day had drastically changed–the other night he hit me several times, bit me, pulled my hair, and pinched me, but it really was a good night.”

Then she started talking about mom and I asked her about some of the things she’d said in the meeting.  I wanted to know if mom was really making progress on getting Little Man back–because that’s how the caseworker was speaking to her during the meeting.  In the process of answering that question it came out that mom does not, in fact, have other children.  I was told multiple times by other caseworkers and by Little Man’s lawyer that mom had several other children who had all been freed for adoption and that meant he was on the path for adoption as well.  Now I was finding out that wasn’t true.  Apparently dad has other kids that have been freed for adoption, but mom has no other kids.  Woah.  That is a huge difference.  I felt like the ground had been ripped out from underneath me.  The caseworker shared some other info about his court case that had occurred the day before (I didn’t even know he had one), things going on with mom’s progress, and we made a plan to meet at my home for her visit the following week.

The beginning of the next week she came out for the visit.  She sat on my couch and observed Little Man and was completely shocked.  For real words that came out of her mouth:  “Is he always like this?”  “You should think long and hard about whether you want to adopt him, because I can’t promise he’ll ever get any better.”  Not so encouraging.  I know she’s just doing her job, and she needs to protect him against someone who says yes and then after adopting decides they can’t handle it.  But seriously people, if your biological kid was diagnosed with special needs would you just send them back?

In the midst of all this craziness we also had Little Man’s epic birthday party, I met with a social worker at the specialist’s office to discuss ways to handle his challenging behaviors, my computer completely crashed–losing about 3 months worth of work and being out of commission for nearly 2 weeks, I enrolled Little Man in his new special needs preschool program and took him for a tour, and dealt with an incredibly infuriating screaming episode in the middle of a nice sit-down restaurant.  (Seriously, Little Man, I refuse to accept defeat and stay at home or the park for the rest of my life–you need to learn how to behave in public, sincerely Mommy.)

So, if you’ve been wondering what’s going on in the world of Little Man, the answer is A LOT.  A lot that is super overwhelming.  But there’s been so much that’s super rewarding too.  Like . . .

* My baby, who could only speak about 5 words three months ago, is now talking up a storm.  He can speak in complete sentences and is learning new words and phrases every day!

* And he is not just looking at books anymore.  He is “reading” them.  For reals.  He picks up “Go Dog, Go” and carefully turns each page and says words and sentences that are on that page.  “I like it!  I like that hat!”  How magical is that!!

* He has decided that he now loves being at our home.  (I’m sure all the amazing toys his friends got him for his birthday are helping that!)

* He overheard “Do You Wanna Build a Snowman” in church and it’s new favorite song.  He sings along and does the motions–his favorite part is the “tick tock” part, with “Don’t touch me!” coming in as a close second!

* He also has decided he loves being at church.  No more crying when we start heading that way.  Instead he’ll start asking for church multiple times in a day!

* He has gotten so much better at staying at the table during mealtimes.

* I have significantly less bruises and injuries than I did a month ago.  His violent behaviors are getting much less frequent (and more importantly) much less damaging.

* And also super encouraging: an awesome friend contacted someone she knows who is a specialist in that diagnosis I was so afraid of.  And she thinks it’s wrong.  She described another diagnosis which is similar, and in some ways even harder to manage.  But the major difference:  the love, support, and affection I give him now can radically change and even cure what he’s dealing with.  And that is a HUGE light at the end of the tunnel.

 

 

Every nerve in my body is frayed.

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Little Man had a visit with bio mom yesterday. These visits take place during the time he should be napping. This is a deadly combination. Last night was filled with an unprecedented number of tantrums complete with throwing furniture, yelling, hitting, kicking, etc. Last night he woke up at least 5 times. This was after having gone two nights sleeping through the night.

Then this morning the fighting and tantrums continued. He tore paintings off the walls and threw them. He threw a major fit when I tried to dress him. It was so bad I finally carried him to the car with no shoes or socks on so I could put them on while he was restrained in his car seat. I dropped him off at daycare and cried on my way to work. I feel like such a failure when I don’t have the patience I need.

Tonight, rather than making progress, the behavior just escalated. He actually went over to a picture mounted on the wall and and slammed his head into and shattered the glass. He appears to be fine, surprisingly. At least physically.

But I . . . I am completely fried. I feel like the cord of muscles in my back and every nerve in my body was just set on fire and frayed to nothing but jagged edges. See, I can handle crisis, on the outside I’m all calm and gentle as I’m examining heads for injuries. But afterwards I’m screaming inside.
“Dear God, how awful must things be inside this poor, sweet child’s mind that he is breaking glass with his head?!!”

I wish I had some great insight tonight, but really I’m just fried, and frazzled, and frayed like a used up piece of rope. Feel free to say a prayer for Little Man tonight. My heart breaks to see him like this.

Join me in the confessional . . .

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It’s been a tough day as a new foster mommy.  Can I just admit that.  Today was my first day taking Little Man to church with me on a Sunday.  For those of you who may have missed it, I’m a children’s pastor and I spend a lot of time at church on the weekends.  We have one service on Saturday nights as well as three on Sunday mornings.  I took Little Man last night and he did awesome.  Today I knew would be tough.  Three services means I’m there from about 8am till 3pm.  That’s a long day for a little guy.  Especially when the other kids get picked up by their parents and get to go home, but he’s still stuck there.  And then there’s the fact that he can still see me, because it’s part of my job to check on his (and every other kids’) class.  By the end of the day he’s hungry (even though I packed him a light lunch and he had lots of snacks) and tired (cause he missed his nap).  To add to that already highly combustable equation,  he is surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of people he doesn’t know, but who know something about him.  Now, I’ve never been a foster kid, but I’m pretty sure that would freak me out.  I mean, strangers show up and you could suddenly be moving to a new home with a new mom the next day.  It’s happened to him three times already in the past two months.  So, crowded lobbies and hallways with people who want to gush over you, hold you, and talk to you is probably more than a little scary.

I’m trying to find a babysitter for him on Sundays, so he won’t have to spend the day there, but for today he was with me.  He handled the services extremely well, but I knew the tough part was still to come.  It was time to leave church and he started disobeying everything I said.  (A pattern that would continue most of the afternoon and evening.)  When he gets upset he throws himself on the floor and curls up in the fetal position.  We needed to head out, so I was trying to balance a heavy two year old with a purse, diaper bag, laptop case, and coffee mug.  We’d barely gotten in the car when he crashed and was sound asleep.  But in just a few minutes I had to wake him up to go inside the house and eat a “real” lunch.  And as much as he hates nap time, he equally hated being woken up when he was so tired.  And yet, once inside he was awake again and there was no way he was going to finish that nap.

We spent the afternoon and evening doing a lot of playtime, but it was interspersed with lots of frustration.  I could tell he had just as much as he could handle for the day, and now that he was in a somewhat familiar environment he was ready to push boundaries (including disobeying, hitting, hair pulling, running away, and screaming).  A lot of normal two year old stuff, just amped up a lot because of all the chaos in his life right now.

And in the midst of all the crazy being spat at, having my hair pulled, and being slapped in the face, I thought “What did I get myself into?!  Why did I ever think this was a good idea?!”  And of course, then I feel incredibly guilty.  I knew adjusting my schedule would be the hardest part of this process.  Going from having total freedom in my non-work hours to having none is a pretty radical change.  Not to mention that fact that the Little Man wants to get up before the sun!

I have way too much time alone with my thoughts these days.  You might think that’s an odd statement, considering that I’ve lived alone most of my adult life.  But I’m always occupying my mind with something else — books, tv, movies , magazines.  It’s rare that I’m sitting in silence.  Which is mostly what’s happening when my dinner partner/playtime buddy is mostly non-verbal.  It’s a very one-sided conversation, which leads to lots of time thinking these crazy thoughts and then feeling guilty about them.  I’m beginning to understand all of those mom’s who are always talking about hiding out in the bathroom to get a break.  Right now I’m holding out for the hour and a half alone time that’s coming tomorrow while he’s at school.

Anyway . . . thats my ugly truth today.  Anyone else ever been there?