Monday, August 31, 2009

Letter to Milagro

I initially wrote this on August 27 to complete Milagro's baby book. I will move it to its chronological place in a few days... (I'm anal that way!)


I cannot believe you are two years old already. You have grown so much especially over the past 6 months. This morning Mama and I were looking through your birth book and remembering the details of that day. We were both convinced you weren't meant to be born on that day. In separate dreams each of us had settled on August 27th as the day you would make your appearance yet circumstances forced us to agree to let you come into the world a few days early.

There was so much excitement, anticipation, nerves and worry as they prepared C. for the c-section that would bring you to us. We hadn't picked out your name for sure because we needed to see you before we could decide on your name. You arrived determined to live out loud. They were still pulling you out as you began screaming and I caught a glimpse of your scrunched up face. The the doctor handed you to me. When your umbilical cord stopped pulsing she clamped it off and I cut it. It always seemed like such a rude thing to do-to sever the connection you'd had with C. for those nine months.
As they cleaned you up you balled up your fists, turned yourself completely to one side and held on to the side of the bassinet and screamed your protest to being taken from the safety of mama's womb too early. I felt a little guilty for participating in this rude intrusion especially after we all realized that all the concerns about you were unfounded. You were smaller and healthier than everyone anticipated. I got to hold you and bring you to Mama for her to catch her first glimpse of you. She wasn't doing so well so I held you longer than I normally would have had a chance to until C. could be taken care of.

She insisted I go with you to the nursery but I was more concerned about her care and trusted that we would be together soon enough so I stayed with C. When the three of us were brought together in recovery you were still screaming in protest until they put you into my arms. I handed you to C. and you contently settled into her arms. We just marvelled at the miracle of you and suddenly knew your name--we both looked at each other as said it at the same exact time.
You were such a laid-back baby as your siblings, grandparents, and other friends and family came in to greet you and hold you and welcome you home. You took most things in stride.

When we finally found a quiet moment I held you in my arms and we had a "little chat" where I promised to love you and care for you always and never let myself "neglect" you because you were in fact the fourth child in a very needy group of siblings. You looked right at me the whole time as though you understood everything I was saying. I asked you to be patient with us but never let us forget about your needs. I asked you to help us "teach" your brothers and your sister how to be a big sibling and take care of you. I also told you about the wonderful woman who you are partly named after and who could not be here to welcome you into our midst. You listened intently as though you understood and I got what I know in my heart was your very first smile.

That time has gone by all too quickly. We have watched you reach all those wonderful milestones that every baby reaches but that feel extra special when they belong to one of our own. You are such a big girl now and you have made us so proud. You are independent, smart, sweet, friendly, loving, stubborn, self-sufficient, and so much fun to watch and be with. You clearly are in the midst of the "terrible twos" but they aren't so bad. You I am sure you get frustrated when we don't understand what you need or what you are trying to say. You cry at the drop of a hat, or in our case, a napkin, since every time you drop it from the breakfast or dinner table it reduces you to tears. You seem to be easy to redirect. As soon as you start crying or get upset because something isn't going your way I can call you over and ask "can I talk to you?" Through your tears you will say "yes, mom" and I will ask you to stop crying and YOU DO! It still amazes me that you can do that!

You have a wonderful imagination and you play with your sandbox, toy trains, cars, kitchen and baby dolls for hours on end especially if you can play with your brother Pollito. You will "cook" and serve me food and "coffee" and tell me "here mom, your favite (favorite)" every time. You know my habits all too well!!! You adore all your siblings but are partial to playing with him. You hug him endlessly whenever the two of you are together. You have discovered tv and can get pretty demanding about it especially if you want to watch Oswald, Dora, Ni-Hao, or Wonder Pets. It's fun to watch you participate and follow directions when the characters tell you to do certain things. You still don't understand commercials (none of us do!) so you get frustrated when they come on. You sometimes walk around the house singing "The phone is winging! There's an animal in twable (trouble). There's an animal in twable (trouble). Somewhere." (Wonder Pets song) This tells us maybe we are letting you watch a little too much tv but I must admit it is so much fun to see you laughing and learning. You can count to 10 and do so every chance you get especially climbing stair which drives me crazy because you don't like to hold onto the railing. You also count to 5 in Spanish.

Playing outside is your favorite thing--sandbox, slide, park or just running around and you treasure evening walks with C. to check in on the flowers and trees. You have recently started running "laps" around the dining table as you announce "I nunning....I nunning!" A few days ago you had all of us in stitches as you carried on like this for 25 minutes straight. We would ask you if you were finished and you would say "almost." At one point you held your side and said "my belly hurts" but you wouldn't stop running.

You are incredibly observant. You sit in the car as we do endless drop offs and pick ups and you notice everything. You will say "mom! See the bird? See the truck?" or "Mom! You see the tree? You see the moto-cycle?" You notice what belongs to who and where things are supposed to be put away. You are great at cleaning up your toys and will help out whenever anyone else is picking up or putting things away. Of course I am impressed by that! You have the best manners I have ever seen (biased, I know) in a toddler. You say "please," "thank you," "excuse me," "you're welcome," and "bless you" pretty much every single time they are appropriate to say.

My favorite times are still the quiet moments. I pause and thank the Creator for the gift of you when I am in the kitchen and you interrupt your play to come up behind me, grab my legs and say "I love you mom." then you scamper off. I love when you come sit next to me on the couch and just nestle into the crook of my arm without a word. I melt every night when you put one hand on each side of my face and kiss my forehead, my nose, and finally my lips as you say "goodnight." You always say you love me at least 4 or 5 times before you settle into sleep.

I could go on and on but I do that already whenever you stop long enough for me to tell you how I feel. I am so very, very grateful for the gift of you. Happy 2nd birthday, Sweetpea and thank you for two amazing years!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Off to Kindergarten!

Last week was a whirlwind of a week/weekend and I am working on pulling together so many different thoughts. So I am behind and had originally thought I would do one big post but decided I wanted to honor the special moments in and of themselves so there's going to be a few more posts like this one over the next few days. I think it's really important for me to enjoy the good things and the milestones so that when I am up to my neck is RAD h*ll I can look back on these moments and remember the possibilities.
Pollito started Kindergarten this past Monday. In the weeks leading up to it I could see the anxiety rising as soon as we reminded him and he announced that he wasn't going to go to Kindergarten. I said that was fine and I would be happy to keep him home. Periodically we would mention something that might happen in Kindergarten and he helped me do his school supply shopping "just in case" he changed his mind. On Friday, we went to "back to school" night to deliver school supplies and to meet his teacher. He helped me pull his supplies together but announced that we could give the supplies to the teacher even though he wasn't going to be going to school. I said that was fine.

He actually already knew her because she mentored him last year and he got to spend time in her room. He was happy to be there but still clear that he wasn't returning to school unless it was back to Pre-K with the teacher he is so madly in love with. (I am serious. The boy dreams about her!)

On Saturday we celebrated Milagro and Pollito's birthdays (see previous post and future post) and he was still adament about not going to school on Monday. On Sunday he woke up and seemed to be a very happy little kid. When I asked what he was happy about he said "I changed my mind. I do want to go to Kindergarten." And that was that. He was resolved and ready to go. Just in time since school started the next day. So we picked out school clothes, got him a new haircut, and got to bed early. True to his word he was ready and excited to go to school on Monday!

He had a special "back to school" breakfast.

Then he put his backpack on and headed out the door ahead of C.

He hammed it up for the camera before the required "first day of kindergarten" photo.

I watched him head out to the car with C. and marvelled at the fact that my baby was starting Kindergarten! He looked so independent and ready to face the world. I felt a little sad to see him go so easily and readily but I was thrilled that he turned around for one last goodbye.

When C. returned from dropping him off she recounted how our chatterbox talked non-stop about how much fun he was going to have, how happy he was to be in Kindergarten, how much he loved his new teacher, all the friends he was going to make, etc.. As they lined up in the cafeteria to walk to the classroom without their parents our son stood frozen to his spot, tears streamed down his face, and she had to PUSH him all the way down the hall behind his classmates!

Sunday, August 23, 2009


"I'm two!" were the first words out of Milagro's mouth Saturday morning. We had been talking up her birthday and while I don't think she really gets it, she got the fact that is was special and walked around all day saying "I'm Birthday Girl!!!" So she started her day with a special breakfast.

Then she looked at her birth story book. She exclaimed "ME!" only about 50 times as she looked at each picture!

Then she tried showing off her age on her fingers.

Today we celebrated her birthday, along with Pollito's (his is next weekend) with a small family gathering. Corazon has a gymnastics meet on his birthday so we decided to do a joint celebration for the two of them.

After all that excitement we had a very tired little girl who announced she was ready for bed by...

...heading up the stairs.

Then she couldn't resist one last goodnight as she said "I have fun mom! Thank YOUUUUUUU!"
What more could a mom ask for?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Twice the fun

Guest posted at Life in the Grateful House

Each of us(Welcome to my Brain, My Sweet Chaos and Rancho Chico) have 2 children with RAD that manifests in somewhat different ways. We wanted to share some of our thoughts and advice for meeting each of their needs (and our own) without losing our minds. We hope you enjoy our guest post.

The three of us agree that the joys and struggles of having more than one child with special needs are many. We have greatly appreciated hearing about Lisa’s transition to working to help both her daughters and we are learning a great deal from her experiences. We aren’t sure she really needs any advice from us but nonetheless we put our heads together to address some of our challenges and insights of managing life with two kids who battle RAD. Please feel free to add your own in the comments section and maybe we can pull them together in a future post.

Things to keep in mind:

♥ First, foremost, hardest, biggest thorn on the bush has to be that they are each other’s main trigger. Trying to regulate someone, when the one person that annoys them the most lives under their very roof, TIMES TWO, leaves me pleading with the universe for a break. It is exactly like having two 4 year olds constantly saying “He touched me!” “She got more milk than me!” “Don’t look at me!” on steroids. The actions, not the children.
♥ When you also have other children (ldw has 3, Dia has 4 and Christine has 5) each one could completely dominate with their needs and issues. Try to juggle everyone’s needs, pick battles, plan ahead, let things roll off your back, without driving yourself crazy or beating yourself up when it doesn’t go as smoothly as you’d like.
♥ They love to gang up on you, so TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. Keep things simple so you can avoid some of those moments. You have to get a good night's sleep on a regular basis. You need to eat regularly and make healthy choices. Take your vitamins.
♥ Never feel guilty for sending kids to their rooms so you can have some downtime. Yes they have to be with us to attach but who wants to attach to an exhausted, stressed, feeling-down-on- herself mom?
♥ Separate them as much as necessary. In the beginning, make their interactions rare and highly supervised. Then, when you start to allow them more time to hang out, make sure you are available to coach them and have them practice using words, etc. For siblings, that trauma bond is STRONG, and it was a very long and slow process for us to teach them a completely new way to interact with one another. Yet, it was worth it. I rarely have to separate them now.
♥ Even when they aren’t bio-siblings and don’t share that bond, they can trigger each other in destructive ways so above applies.
♥ Chances are when one is “up” the other is “down.” Plan for it and enjoy the highs!
♥ Just say "NO!" to extra responsibilities. You will never regret cutting back on things, but I guarantee you will regret it if you push yourself too hard.
♥ The strategy or “school of thought” that works with one is worth trying on the other BUT may have a totally different impact. Be flexible to trying different strategies. For example, Nancy Thomas’ physical activities—jumping jacks, mini-tramp jumps, etc. worked well to get one child back on track whereas these same activities totally pushed the other over the edge to a full-blown meltdown.
♥ Be willing to try something again after some time has passed. If it is a good strategy it will probably work for both kids but maybe at different points in their healing.
♥ Don’t compare them to each other especially not in negative ways. It breeds hostility. However, we have found it useful because one of ours was here 2 year before the other one, to call attention to things one also used to do that has been changed to a more positive behavior. It seemed to give the other a concrete reminded of getting better.
♥ Finding support from others is so important. You can not do this ALONE! Pull your loved ones near, don't push them away because you are exhausted. Reach out and find others in your situation, it will make a world of difference, for all of you!
♥ For most of us, there is no one else around us who sees and understands what we do about our child. If they put on an “act” of good behavior and sweetness when others are around (thus making it harder for them to understand US) don’t let it get to you. ENJOY THE BREAK from the madness and treat it as a gift from your child.

Some other ideas that worked for us:

♥ Have them practice EVERYTHING including how to be with each other. In the beginning, we would have days where everyone taped a piece of paper on their backs and everyone else wrote something they like about that sibling/child/parent. We then slowly moved to saying these things out loud over dinner. It brought them to a point where they could actually say nice things about one another without melting or having their head explode. In fact, during this recent move, I watched my oldest gingerly packing away one of those pieces of paper, covered in loving thoughts from his family.
♥ When they were arguing with each other, making faces, or thinking mean things about each other validate their feelings that they won’t always like each other BUT that we are ONE family and we have to look out for each other and take care of each other. Sometimes I would let the face each other and guide them through getting all the “mad” out at each other and end it with the sharing of 1 or 2 positive things about each other. It always worked to diffuse the situation.
♥ Try really, really hard to help them be their own individual selves. My kids have started healing at different rates and in different ways. It is difficult to avoid just addressing them both the exact same way, because that is exactly what we did for so long. I made their lifebooks different, their life "timelines" different, etc. They both go to therapy back-to-back, so I would try to have discussions afterward in different ways with each of them. Of course you do many things the same, but it frees them to move forward at their pace when you give them a sense of separation.

It’s exhausting but we wouldn’t trade this journey for anything! We are all becoming better people as each day goes by. They are teaching us to be better moms and that gift is priceless!

More on Healing

If you have kids with RAD or work with them in some way you are pretty familiar with those checklists (like this one and this one and this one )that tells the symptoms exhibited by RAD kids. When I started this journey I found them all (not just for RAD, but ODD, PTSD, Bipolar, etc.) because my daughter didn't have any diagnoses. She was described as charming, engaging, charismatic, resilient, smart, and well-adjusted. Of course that wasn't the case although I tried hard to believe that and treat her that way. Her therapist only saw what I had been told although she dutifully wrote down all that I described and Corazon got worse and worse. It took almost a year of research (my background is academia so when I say research I mean research...psych studies, adoption studies, transition studies, child development studies, mental illness studies, etc. etc. etc.). When I found these checklists I tore into them live a starving person and when I finally found the RAD checklists I saw her described perfectly and sighed with relief. Of course, that was short-lived once I realized that she basically had all but 1 of the "symptoms." Those lists saved my sanity. Eventually we found a more helpful therapist who helped us through the process of addressing her attachment issues and diagnosed her RAD, and I learned more and more about the various schools of thought on how to help my daughter overcome her RAD. So, when my older son arrived with over a dozen "diagnoses" and RAD was on the list, I was "ready." For the RAD, at least :-)

Fast-forward to today and those checklists. I run into my list every once in a while and suddenly I begin to realize that she is not only healing but that certain behaviors are totally and completely gone AND we have seen no signs of them in months or even years. For example, Corazon was obsessed with gore and fire and everything connected to fire (matches, lighters, candles, fire alarms, trucks, escape route maps (at age 4) AND she knew where all of them were in any building we entered.) She would stare at candles for hours and reach out as if to touch, she would ask for her own matches, lighter, etc. If we barbecued outside we couldn't keep her away from the coals. She talked about fire, asked questions about it, etc. She could hear a fire truck from the faintest sound and would declare "there's a fire." This obsession probably stopped about a year and a half ago. It wasn't sudden and I don't think I actually noticed it. I still hide any matches, lighters, etc. and we have a fireplace now so I watch her expressions and behaviors on the occasional times we light a fire. I look for glimpses of the old responses to fire. I am still vigilant (in more than a normal parent kind of way) even though her behavior seems more normal in this area. This is true for many of the other RAD symptoms she no longer exhibits.

A few months ago we were able to have a conversation about the attachment cycle and the symptoms of RAD and it really stuck with her. This week she asked me if she could look at the symptoms again because she wanted to see if she was getting better. She has always been an active participant in her healing but now she has the beginnings of an intellectual understanding. So we pulled out the list and she noted that she hadn't "lost" any of the symptoms she still has. (She probably still has between 1/4 or 1/3 of the more common ones.) I reminded her that healing takes time. She seemed pretty pensive that day and later declared she was going to "work" on the stealing (she does this oh so rarely) and the lying (more common). I supported her and pointed out she has made great progress in both areas but could afford to do more. She seemed sad although when I asked her she said she was fine. Later that day she came to me and said she was sad but she didn't know why she was sad. After a few questions from me it became clear that she was upset that it was sooooo hard to "fix" her behavior and she was sad because she was feeling the enormity of the task It struck me that she was sad and she was able to recognize it and begin to understand why she was feeling this way. Wow! How far we've come! When I think back to how long it was before I saw that emotion when we first started on this journey? It was probably a year or so and I vividly remember her being angry that she didn't know what was happening to her. Here we were feeling sad about the work to be done. And we were together. Of course, we have been together in this fight all along but now we are ON THE SAME SIDE. How awesome is that?!

As I reflect on this I am reminded that many times I didn't believe we would ever get here and HERE WE ARE! Many times when I was surrounded by the yelling, biting, peeing, lying, staying up all night for fear she would harm something or someone, stealing, running to school every day, talking to deaf ears (teachers, friends, and family) I could not begin to envision this moment. I didn't know to expect it and yet here we were talking about sadness and healing and working together. And it felt feels so very good.

I'm no fool. I know she won't always be so cooperative and receptive but I will take it when I can get it. As I sit here after another rough day with my son, I recognize that I have to find his list, go over, look for the healing and be ready to do what I have to do for him, each and every day. It is daunting but I have caught glimpses of the other side and today that is enough to keep me going.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Healing is hard

We have had some really good and bad days with Tortuga over the past month. This week is particularly challenging. I can see how hard he is working both to control himself and to work himself up. That is the tension for him. It has resulted in RAD-h*ll for us here at a time when C. had to travel for work all week. That probably is contributing to his disregulation since today in the middle of one of his meltdowns he screamed "I can run away easy because Mama's not here!" He also screamed that he wanted to go live in foster care, that I should call the police because they would arrest me for being a bad mother, that he hated me and he meant it this time, and of course, the all-time favorite that I should leave him alone! I am sure part of what is going on for him is also the great time he had on Sunday. It usually happens after a really good time. He is so much more comfortable being "miserable." It is more familiar. I am trying to look for the healing that I know is going on here and remembering that his rages are few and far between and have mostly been replaced by shorter meltdowns. I will write more about this later when I am ready.

In the meantime, I guest blogged for the first time today over at Life in the Grateful House. Lisa asked me and I couldn't say no. My daughter Corazon will be posting over there today and I think I will do one more post on her blog on Friday.

Guest Blogging at Grateful House

I don't want to disappoint those who came hoping to get an update on how the vacation is going. Lisa is enjoying time with the girls and looks forward to getting back to "civilization" soon because she is in a no-Internet zone! In the meantime she asked me (Dia at Rancho Chico) and my daughter, Corazon, (blogs at Finding my Heartsmile) if we would "guest blog" here. We are thrilled and honored especially because this was the first blog I found that spoke to me directly about my life as a mom to kids with RAD and suddenly I didn't feel quite so alone anymore. Lisa opened up an incredible world for me and has done so much to encourage my daughter and me on this healing journey.

When I asked my daughter if she would like to do this she said she would but was not sure about the topic. I suggested she write about our day on Sunday when we got to visit with a few other kids healing from RAD because I knew she had really enjoyed herself. She thought that was a great idea and asked if she could write it the way she does her daily writing prompts (so it will probably also appear on her blog) and off she went to do her writing. As I was waiting for her to complete this I began to think about all the ways in which we witness healing in our kids. It doesn't happen in the way that taking medicine works on a sick kid who is stuck in bed for a while where you generally "see" the impact relatively quickly. It happens in a much more subtle and gradual way and sometimes you don't realize there's healing until you stop to think "wow, that hasn't happened in a long time!" or "I cannot remember the last time she did ____." Sometimes it's a more dramatic revelation such as "Did she really just stop and tell herself OUT LOUD to tell the truth even if it was hard and she knew she was going to get in trouble?"

With Corazon we have seen more healing in the past few months and about a week ago we were having some control issues and I had her pull out a sheet of paper and take a "pop quiz" with no right or wrong answers. I have found that these "pop quizzes" really help us process stuff in the moment and lest you think it was my idea I actually stole it from an awesome mom who blogged about it here a while ago in her blog Welcome to my Brain. Here's what we did and remember this is in the MIDDLE of a control "struggle":

Me: "When you think about me being in control and acting like the mom
with you how does that make you feel?"
Corazon: Happy

Me: "Why happy?"
Corazon: Because then I can have more fun when you decide things.
AND I don't have to think so hard.

Me: "So, if that is true, why do you do it? You like to have fun."
Corazon: I don't know.

Me: What did you mean by "think so hard"?
Corazon: (after a long pause she wrote:) because there is alot to have to remember when
I have to decide if I want to do it or not and when I don't do it the right way!

Me: "So, are you saying that when you are fighting me and not doing things the way you are supposed to do them you KNOW you are not doing them the right way and you are thinking about how to NOT do them the right way?"
Corazon: (with a smile on her face she writes:) YES!

Me: "Does this work out well for you?"
Corazon: No.

Me: "Has it ever worked out well for you?"
Corazon: No.

Me: "But you keep doing it. Do you think it will work for you in the future even if it has never worked for you before?"
Corazon: Yes

Me: "How many RAD kids do you think this has worked for?"
Corazon: Zero

Me: "But you still think it can work for you?"
Corazon: Yes. Maybe.

Me: "Let me get back to what you said in the first question. You said it made you "Happy" to think about letting me be the mom and be the one in control. Do you still believe that?"
Corazon: YES!

Me: "So even if it makes you feel happy to let me be in control and be the mom, you still don't do it. I don't understand. What do you think will happen (good and bad) if you let yourself be the kid and be happy letting me be the mom?"
Corazon: 1. Good things will happen to me. 2. I will be mad when you go away. 3. I don't know.

Me: "Do you still think I will leave you after 4 1/2 years together?"
Corazon: (she wrote this and the caps are hers) NO but sometimes it FEELS like, when or IF you leave me or die then I should not let me feel happy now because it is easier to feel mad all the time.

This led to a discussion of how disappointing it can be after having fun and feeling happy to have a let down of some kind and how it is "easier" for her (I suggested it was more comfortable rather than easier because they both work too hard for it to be easy) for her and her older brother to feel miserable and unhappy because it was predictable. It also surfaced something that seemed much more like regular kid feelings rather than RAD kid feelings: her classmate/gymnastics friend just lost her father in a sudden car accident a couple of weeks ago and she was scared that could happen to me too. We talked about that as well.

I had been trying to figure out how to write about this on my blog but until just recently I realized that the fact that we can have these conversations now is part of the healing. It used to be just me SAYING, YELLING, SINGING, CRYING at the top of my lungs: "I am not going to send you away!" over and over again and now she knows it but still has the fear that was put there by her experiences with all the other people that came and went in her life before me. She just has to figure out how to make herself believe that she is safe and that even when she does get hurt that I will be there to help her pick up the pieces. She has gotten it that things go better when she just lets herself trust yet those little voices and experiences inside of her keep the doubt very much alive so she still struggles for control in those areas where she can be in control even if she makes the wrong choices and knows it. It is so complicated and so hard yet I am ever so grateful that we have gotten to this point in her healing.

I will try to post her post later today or tomorrow. Thank you for listening/reading. :-)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Over the river...and through the a wonderful RV park we go

After driving through new and unknown territories with our trusty M*pqu*st directions, passing a lovely ranch named "El Rancho Chico" (and I thought I was the only one!) and another one aptly named the "Idle Life Ranch," we arrived at this beautiful RV park nestled in the quiet town of Gonzales, TX. We went here and had an amazingly wonderful Sunday afternoon hanging out with two wonderful families who blog at Welcome to my brain and My sweet chaos. We brought together 12 kids, 3 RAD moms, and a 1 RAD dad, plus a whole mess of good food, hot sun, shady trees, fantastic people, and open spaces for wearing kids out. With 6 healing RADlings in the mix we weren't sure what could happen but it was all good!

I have only been reading these women's blogs for a few months but they have both been such a source of support and inspiration. The humor, faith, humility, caring, support, and camaraderie that both these women have provided for me is beyond words. On days when I wonder just how I am going to keep on doing this and feel like I am out of new ideas, their words inspire me to keep on doing what I am doing and more importantly to relish those small victories and big successes alike. They also encourage me to do this with patience, grace, and a whole lot of humor. So, it was a such a blessing to get to see them in person and spend ALL afternoon with them. My sweet chaos and I have spoken on the phone quite a bit and met in person a few weeks ago at my daughter's birthday party so our kids were looking forward to seeing each other again. They greeted each other like old friends! Ever since we heard this wonderful family was moving to back to Texas we had been planning and plotting when we could go visit with the newest "celebrity" in our neck of the woods and of course, welcoming them to the "neighborhood." Remember this is Texas. If someone is within 3-4 hours drive from you, they are in the neighborhood.

It was heart-warming and gratifying to spend time with both these families Our new neighbor and her family our so gracious and inspiring. Hosting us after just two weeks of uprooting their family, living in an RV park, trying to start a business, and meeting the needs of 5 kids is no small feat but they make it look so easy and so right. So if you are in search of a wonderful getaway please check out their RV park (you can stay there even if you don't have an RV since they do welcome tent camping). The bonus is you will be welcomed and greeted by some wonderful people.
We spent the day talking with each other and watching 12 kids ages "almost 2" to 13 run around, eat, play football, play volleyball, play in the dirt, ride bikes, paint faces and arms, draw, craft, run around, play horseshoes, play hide-n-seek, run around, play tag, catch, release, observe and examine antlions and the biggest grasshoppers I have ever seen, weave mats out of long tall grass (I am sure it has a name), run around, eat, and just plain have fun! It gave us time to talk and listen to each others' stories and experience and just bask in the company of good people doing hard work for our kids who wouldn't have it any other way. I was thrilled, reinvigorated, and humbled to be in such company. I am so blessed!

Thursday, August 13, 2009


As the kids and I continue to hideout from the 100+ degree heat enjoy these lazy summer days, C. has been working like crazy. She took a new job that is perfect for her but since it wasn't in the plans until June she had already agreed to teach a course that meets daily. It is a rough schedule because it takes an hour and a half to go there and back plus the hour to teach. It basically takes up half her day and then she rushes home to do the full-time she is supposed to be doing from home. We see her for meals but otherwise she hasn't been able to spend too much time with the kids. I basically tell her when we have something important to do (doctor's appointments, school meetings with future teachers, etc.) so that she can try to fit them into her calendar or plan on keeping a kid or two home with her. This has been especially necessary because Tortuga continues to be on very restricted privileges and he cannot handle being out and about with me and the rest of the kids. It is very much like having one 9 year old and three kids under age 4 when I have to take them all with me. Tortuga has made progress and he is earning almost no sentences these days but we are keeping his world very, very small and he has almost no interactions with any of the other kids except when strictly supervised AND with very specific activities. It seems to be working for him but taxing the rest of us.

We knew we were going to test his ability to spend extended time with the rest of the family by taking a small trip this weekend but we wanted to squeeze in some funtime together before school is upon us. C. has a business meeting in Dallas today and tomorrow. Our plan was for her to go to her meetings today while the kids and I took a trip to a museum. Then tomorrow she had an early morning session but would be free for the rest of the day and we could tour the science and nature museum, IMAX show, planetarium, etc. I spent part of yesterday packing and getting things ready so we could leave early this morning.

It didn't happen.

C. is in Dallas while the rest of us are still here. Milagro got a fever last night that no amount of tyl*n*l would bring down. Her temperature hovered between 102-103 and I stayed up with her because the only way she could sleep was in my arms. She had no other symptoms. After about 16 hours I finally switched her to children's ibuprofen (tyl*n*l has usually worked for her) and voila her fever started to break. She is still clingy, sleepy, and slightly warm but better than last night. Given that we weren't sure what was happening we decided it wouldn't be a good idea to travel with a sick toddler. So here we are holding down the fort and trying to plan fun stuff for the kids to do. Pollito is going to help me cook tonight and we are making chili for frito pie.

Yesterday we also had a meeting with Corazon's teachers and principal. Although we had pretty much decided to homeschool her after her teacher was replaced by a first year teacher for this upcoming school year we decided to not burn that bridge for the future. It is a small charter school and goes all the way to 8th grade so we wanted to make sure to keep that option available in the future just in case we decide to send her back to school. The meeting solidified the soundness of our homeschooling plans. The principal worked hard to convince us to stay, the new teacher was as enthusiastic as could be, and the second teacher (whom she had significant contact with last school year and would have provided some continuity) was uniterested at best and dismissive of her issues at worst. It made it really easy to feel good about our homeschooling choice. Corazon knew we were considering homeschooling again and seemed torn about it but when we told her we had finalized the decision she seemed quite happy about it.

We then decided to talk with Tortuga who has assumed all along that he would be going back to school. In fact, one of the testing points over the past few weeks has been his outright defiance and declarations that once school starts he doesn't have to "do things" our way or even listen to us. We informed him that he would be homeschooling as well. I could see he was disappointed but he handled it really well and announced that it made him happy. I am sure this isn't the end of it but for now I will take that response. Pollito will be the only one attending school and that will be good for him I think.

I am excited to homeschool the kids again and I am so grateful that C.'s job allows me to continue to stay home with them. I am not sure how long that will be possible but for now I will gladly take it.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Boys' Adoption Story--Final chapter

Tortuga pined for his birth mother and blamed us for keeping him from her. He was adament that he did not want to be adopted because she would be "back" for him. Other days he swore we really didn't want him even though he really "wanted" us to adopt him. In the meantime we couldn't get her to agree to a visit. She was missing court dates and having a range of issues. We had already decided that an open adoption would make sense and had drafted an agreement which was taken to court in the hopes that she might want that. (All of her prior children had been taken away without open adoption agreements.) About two months after placement, her parental rights were terminated without an agreement in place because she didn't show up. We began the waiting time until we could file the adoption petition.

C.'s pregnancy progressed nicely and I can honestly say she was the happiest pregnant woman I had every seen. She really did glow! Even with the health complications (she got gestational diabetes in month #4) and the regular insulin shots I had to give her there were no complaints. The kids seemed thrilled about a new baby and made all kinds of plans to welcome her home in late August. In the meantime, we started to try and update our homestudy and encounted some bizarre challenges from people who weren't directly involved in our lives but who had some decision-making power and who were trying to make C. take the parenting classes anyway. When she was 8 months pregnant C. proposed to me and we got married 5 days later at city hall in what had to be a wonderfully touching but very unusual "wedding day". We didn't even tell the kids (it's complicated) and went about making sure all our i's were dotted and t's were crossed for social services. After some initial humps our homestudy was updated and then updated again when Milagro was born in late August.

Milagro's birth pulled so many pieces together especially for Tortuga. He began to see the care an infant needs and what he didn't get from his birth mother. He began to feel more invested in caring for someone's needs. He and Pollito were both thrilled to have a baby sister. Pollito regressed a little but that was to be expected. He continued to make dramatic progress in all areas (except potty training :-) Tortuga still had tremendous challenges--behavior, language, learning, etc. but he was adjusting pretty well to our routines and structure. The most important shift for Tortuga at this time was that he decided he really wanted to be adopted and started practicing writing his "new" last name, talking about adoption at school, etc. Initially he wanted to change his name to something that wasn't "Spanish-sounding" and something that was "easy to write." So he chose names like Cody, Sam, Bob, Bill, and Bo. Of course, being the difficult parent that I am I agreed to all of them and translated them to Spanish names (e.g. Bill=Guillermo.) Neither boy had a middle name. We wanted to keep their names and add a middle name. Ultimately we agreed to a different Spanish name for Tortuga's first name and kept his birth name for his middle name. We kept Pollito's first name and added a middle name. Tortuga was thrilled when he realized his new first name was the Spanish equivalent for his grandfather's (C.'s dad) and that increased his sense of connection to our family.

Once he bought into the idea of adoption it couldn't happen fast enough but of course, social services proceeds at a snail's pace. There continued to be delays with paperwork, a lost homestudy and a last minute questioning by a supervisor of whether we could adopt since C. hadn't done the parenting classes. It was a bit nerve-wracking and a bit distressing but given what I had been through with Corazon's adoption this was still a pretty smooth process. We were also delayed because once October arrived everyone involved with adoption was busily working towards National Adoption Day. I had been clear that I did not want to adopt on that day so our paperwork wasn't as great a priority as those for the families who did wish to finalize then. As a result we ended up waiting quite a bit longer. A couple of days before Christmas 2007 we finalized the boys' adoption and began the next phase of our journey as a family.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

What kind of parent takes pictures of her kid crying?

As many moms of kids with RAD can attest, these kids just don't seem to get sick. Mine can have drama over a hangnail but if she is really sick, you wouldn't know it. In our 4 1/2 years with Corazon she has only been sick twice before (and the first time she denied it the WHOLE time!) This past Fall she was really sick and had to miss school and she got to lay around all day napping and letting me take care of her. That was a new experience for her. On Monday she started complaining of ear pain and congestion. By Tuesday it was a full-blown illness--fever, ear pain, etc. She was absolutely miserable, clingy, and needy. She even woke me up during the night because she was in pain. I felt terrible for her but it was also a first for us. She has never done this before. In fact she had asthma as a preschooler and there were a couple of times when she was in the midst of a full-blown asthma attack and she She was practically turning blue and she still denied she was having any trouble breathing! For her to ask for help (for a real issue) in the middle of the night is something I had never experienced with her. Funny, the things we never think about until they don't happen.

Our summer child, S., went back to Boston this week. Corazon was so sad for the days leading up to the departure! She has only begun to show genuine emotions about people leaving since this year. Before that it was so much a part of her life that people just came and went and she was really good at "forgetting" about them. She cannot remember names of people she saw every single day for years (classmates, teammates, foster siblings, etc.) and when they were out of sight they were literally out of mind. She would say "bye" in the blink of an eye but this time she was really feeling it. I snapped that picture after she was sitting watching me do S.'s hair. Her eyes just welled up and she admitted she was thinking about S.'s imminent departure.

I managed to get another shot of the two of them in which they are smiling but if you look closely you can still see the tears.

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