Friday, December 28, 2012

Low-key Holidays

Our holidays have been filled with so many small and wonderful moments that I am hard-pressed to pick my favorites. Everyone has had such a wonderful time that I am recommitting to NOT traveling for the December holidays yet again. I missed seeing my mom and brother but things go so much better when fewer people are around. Except for my sister and niece, and our neighbor A. we spent most of this month by ourselves enjoying simple pleasures like Christmas music blaring, reading Christmas stories, making and delivering holiday fudge, doing Christmas crafts, and watching holiday movies, including our kids' and C.'s first screening of "It's a Wonderful Life" which will now become a tradition. I could get used to this. The only thing missing from our lives, especially at this time of year, is church. C. and I both grew up going to church and we have yet to find a church "home" here in TX.

A few years ago we started using an activity based advent calendar that has totally enriched our lives. Each day leading up to Christmas, one of the children pulls out the slip of paper for the day and tells us what "fun" thing we will do that day. The activities range from individual (i.e. everyone has to write a note to someone sharing a compliment or two, have dessert for breakfast, etc.) to group (i.e. read a Christmas story, watch a movie, family game night, sing Christmas carols, etc.) to doing something for others (i.e. make ornaments and deliver to friends/neighbors, do a chore anonymously for someone, etc.) The kids LOVE this tradition and look forward to this each year. It also keeps the focus on family and doing thing together and has become one of their favorite aspects of the holidays.

This is Tortuga's major trauma-versary time and usually we are held captive by his moods. This year we did a good deal of preparation for this by tightening his routines, adding more structure to his routines/expectations (while having less structure overall,) increasing his "alone" time after "fun" time, and talking more about what he was expected to do and what would happen if he couldn't hold it together. We also committed to not having the other kids miss out no matter what mood we were in and what he did. So we entered the holidays holding our breath a little but committed to making this fun for everyone (without canceling any plans because of his behaviors) and making it as low stress as possible.

So far this has worked pretty well. He did not have a single major meltdown. We complimented him on holding it together. We rewarded him. The first meltdown was last night as wrapped up our celebration of C.'s birthday. I call this a win for all of us. We still have a ways to go since this traumaversary time lasts until mid February for him but so far so good.  Hopefully, I am not jinxing this now. :-)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Immense sadness...

My goals for my children are lofty. I want them to grow up to be caring, kind, thoughtful, contributing members of any community they join. I want them to love and be loved. I want them to belong wherever they choose to be. I want them to know right from wrong and choose right even when it is a difficult choice. I want them to give of themselves in ways that bring joy to others and themselves. I want their road to be smooth and blessed. I want their days filled with laughter and their nights filled with comfort and warmth. Every day I pray that I have what it takes to help get them there. Every day I work hard to make that closer to reality. Each day I enjoy moments of hope and moments of extreme doubt. Some days I experience fear and immense sadness. Today I watched the news of the CT school tragedy unfold in a community that C. and I are quite familiar with (she went to high school and I went to college near there) and I felt immense sadness--for the children, for the mothers, fathers and families, for the community, and for our society. I also experienced intense fear--for my children who, but for the grace of God, could have been/might someday be on any side of that tragic event.

Monday, December 3, 2012

A moment

I am standing in my kitchen watching Tortuga munch on a peanut butter sandwich as he pushes Milagro on the swing in our backyard. I smile as I watch them chatting about who knows what.  She hops off the swing and runs to give him a bear hug which he awkwardly returns. (Hugging isn't easy for him.) They are smiling and laughing. It all seems so natural.

I don't know how long this moment will last but I want to bottle it. I want to imprint the memory in my brain. There are so few moments like this and yet everything about being a mother seems to be about times like this. We work so hard to care for them, teach them, nurture them, and protect them. Ultimately we have to hope they learn what they are supposed to learn and become who they are supposed to become. Most days I aim for "human" with him but today I see a glimmer of something more. A small sign of the young man he is turning into and my heart swells.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Things we do around here...

Sometimes the way we parent makes no sense. Sometimes the way we parent makes so much sense that all the parents of NT kids are jealous (just dreaming, I know....) Once we get into the "parenting trauma" groove and it seems to be working, we can start to take it for granted. I recently made friends with someone who is new to the whole adoption thing. She absolutely has kids with attachment issues. She absolutely denies this. She absolutely wants it to not be true but is getting to a place where she is open to the reality that her kids need her to be different. I struggled with that for a long time. I just wanted to parent in all the ways that I always knew I would parent. Then reality set it and I fought it kicking and screaming but when I saw it start to work with Corazon I knew I was on the "right" track even if it didn't look like I wanted it to look.

We are 6 years in from having adopted Corazon and we have learned/are learning a great deal on this journey. Our home has gone through more room rearrangements than I care to remember. Pretty much the kids have shared/not shared rooms in just about every possible combination except for Tortuga and Corazon sharing a room. We are currently set up to have each of the boys in their own room and the girls share a room. In order to make this work we have a lot of "fail-safes" in place. Although the girls share a room, they spend almost no time in there together without a third party. Some of our "fail-safes" are absolutely necessary and others probably aren't anymore but they make all of us feel safer. We have video monitors in each bedroom and in the playroom/homeschool/office. Each of the kids' bedrooms is alarmed at night (and Tortuga's is alarmed during the day.) Our pantry has an alarm too. At times the kids' bathroom has also had a monitor for reasons I won't go into here. In addition the hallway with all the bedrooms has 2 motion detectors (Tortuga sleep walks and has almost fallen down the stairs when startled awake.)  Because they have made so much progress we rarely need to use the monitors (there was a time when we needed them on 24/7) but they are there and I can always check in if I need to. None of our children are allowed to play with each other in their rooms unless they are "on camera" at all times (2 of mine have been known to seriously physically harm someone when playing together and unsupervised and 2 resort to all kinds of unsafe behaviors if they think they aren't being watched.) I dream of the day I won't have alarms on doors and video monitors in rooms but the truth is they give me peace of mind, especially where the youngest is concerned. She is just 5 and while she is pretty sharp, she is just beginning to understand that her siblings have different needs and that she isn't always safe with them (as demonstrated by the split lower lip and gash on her arm from two separate incidents this week with the same sibling.)

We have ""rules" that others don't "get." Our kids have to "ask" to go upstairs, to their rooms or to the bathroom. That is because we need to be mindful of who is in the upstairs hallway at any given time and so everyone else knows they can't be in said hallway until the bathroom is clear. Our kids can't go up and down stairs together unless an adult is actively watching (several mishaps and "accidental" pushes have made this necessary.) The may not go into each other's room for any reason without adult permission or supervision (this was where many problems began before we just made a blanket rule.) When we come home from outside, each child has a "spot" where they must immediately go to and "practice patience" (strong sitting if you are familiar with Nancy Thomas' work). This helps us with transitions. Our kids can't help themselves to food from the pantry or refrigerator because food and jealousy issues still plague us. In a restaurant, shared appetizers (think chips and salsa) could set off a world war and our oldest two pretty much always get the same dish because Tortuga would go absolutely crazy if he thought Corazon's was "better"(bigger, more, tastier, or whatever other difference he might perceive) in any way. This is actually progress since it used to be that even if they had the same food he would always find his lacking in some way (hers had more dressing, one of her chicken tenders was bigger, her lettuce was greener, etc.). It may seem crazy to everyone else but it works for us. It takes some of the "stresses" away and even though those things shouldn't be stressful they are to some of our children so we work to make the situation work for them until we can help them maneuver it in a way that is healthy and safe.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Homeschool Activities

If you ask the kids they love and hate homeschooling. They love that we can spend weeks studying things we are interested in but they hate not being around other kids for school. We try to do outside activities (dance, music and sports) plus this year three of them are taking science classes at our local nature center. We have had some bumps as we got started this year because Milagro officially started kindergarten this year. The rest of them are a bit jealous of the attention she needs to do her learning. Other than that we are moving right along.

Currently we have a staggered schedule because of all their attention issues. Milagro and Tortuga are our late sleepers so we start our school day with Pollito and Corazon. They begin their days with breakfast and morning chores (cats, litter boxes, recycling and unloading dishwasher) then they do their morning gratitude and journal writings, update reading logs, and drawing. Corazon's schedule is mostly self-paced so we meet once/week to map out her progress and what she needs/wants to work on for the week. She does math, writing, reading, social studies/history pretty much every day and we have science as a project-based activity. She is also taking two homeschool courses at our local Science and Nature Center (one meets once/month and the other meets twice/month and has them working on a science project for a science fair in February.) Pollito is still learning to read (it has been an uphill struggle) and while he is 8 he is still more like a first/second grader. He has a  daily folder of activities that follow our weekly theme(shared with Milagro) and he can pick what he does and the order he does it in. He always has reading, writing, math, science and theme (usually a mix of different subjects.) He has active work on reading so each day he does at least 4 of the following 6 literacy/reading activities: Read by himself, Read to Someone, Read WITH Someone, Listen to reading (audiobooks, ipad, or computer), Word Work and Practice writing. He also takes the monthly science class that Corazon takes.

Milagro usually gets up an hour or so after the first two so they are well on their way doing independent work so that I can work with her. She has a daily schedule that she follows on her own: Calendar, Weather, "Folders" (writing/numbers/math/patterns/letters/sight words), Storytime, Reading (with me) and at least 2 of the 6 literacy/reading activities that Pollito has. After that she has computer/ipad time which may include science, math, literacy activities and then "specials" (crafts, art, music, science, etc.). She also takes the same monthly science class the others take.

Tortuga is the last to get up and the one needing the most attention. While I do one-on-one work with Milagro, he goes through his morning routine, chores, gratitude journal and daily journal prompt. I usually have a daily "sheet" for him that details his assignments for the day although much of it is self-paced in the same way that Corazon's is. However, he has many more breaks and interruptions because his self-control and impulse control are still a challenge. Anytime he has a comment or question about anything he is doing he tends to want to interrupt so we have a pretty elaborate system to keep him in check around this. For the most part he loves learning new things (as does Corazon) so much of their work involves reading about specific subjects on a much deeper level than would normally happen in schools. Currently they are working on dystopic novels/stories so they are working their way through several author studies and will ultimately write their own dystopic story.

It is a sophisticated balancing act but for the most part it keeps things running pretty smoothly, except of course, when it doesn't. :-)

Saturday, November 24, 2012


We had a lovely Thanksgiving holiday. I have so much to be grateful for especially the most incredible partner in the world. I am grateful for her every. single. day. As Toni Morrison wrote in her book, Beloved:  “She is a friend of my mind. She gather me... (T)he pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order.”  I am blessed to have my family, great friends near and far, a comfortable home, happy and healthy children, safety, love, laughter, everything I need and much of what I want, and reminders to never take these for granted. 

This month our family has regularly shared our gratitudes nightly at dinner. It has been fun to hear Milagro be thankful for "care bears" (because they keep us caring) and Pollito express his gratitude for trees, rocks, and trucks. The older ones have been thankful for books, science classes, and two moms. One day Pollito commented that he was thankful he didn't have a dad which sparked a wonderful conversation about moms and dad, birthmoms and birthdays, and ultimately "what matters most" which in Pollito's estimation was a mom or dad "who loves you no matter how many things you break!" :-)

This Thanksgiving we are continuing a tradition from last year. We hosted my sister and niece (who live in town) and C.'s parents (from CO.) Then my mother, brother, sister-in-law and niece came in from South TX. It was basically the same crew from last year except that our dear friends A. & H. and their kids weren't able to join us. The kids were disappointed and made comments like "it doesn't feel like Thanksgiving because _____ aren't here." Milagro went as far as asking me to call and tell them to drop off the kids, J. & Z, even if the adults couldn't make it. :-) I made a big meal and we watched football and just spent time together. On Friday, we avoided shopping areas, went out to everyone's favorite BBQ place and had a grand time. It is so much fun to watch my older niece (who just turned 17) spend time with her younger cousins. They don't see each other much and it really hasn't been that long that the kids have known one another. My brother's religious views had kept him from accepting our family although he seems to have had a change of heart in the past two years. He used to simply ignore C. but now he has discovered her sense of humor and they seem to have found some shared interests.

Perhaps the highlights of the holiday were that Tortuga had no major incidents and for the first time ever Corazon was able to help with the cooking in ways that didn't interfere with, sabotage, upstage, disrupt or otherwise create more work for me and meltdowns for her. She was appropriate, pleasant, and absolutely awesome. She followed directions, did grunge work, had fun, kept me company, and got to take pride in her terrific work as sous-chef. I thoroughly enjoyed working with her!

These are the pictures my niece posted to her facebook page...her love of her cousins is palatable and makes me so happy.

Friday, November 9, 2012

What's working for us these days...

Corazon has continued to stay on her schoolwork ever since I told her "quit" school. She still struggles at times but insists the schoolwork is interesting and engaging and that it is her own attitude that gets in her way.  She still gives me attitude about things and we still battle for control but her schoolwork issues are greatly reduced. At about the time that I told her to quit school we brought out her "mother/daughter" journal and we started writing back and forth to each other again. I was able to express my disappointment and frustration (and hurt about how she was acting) in ways that felt safer to her and that she could actually "hear." She shares some of those frustrations and disappointments in herself and she was able to own them in writing in ways that she would never do if we were discussing them. When I forget to write back within our timeline (48 hours) she gently reminds me and says she misses it. So that is working for us.

We also started using the noise canceling headphones with her again. I had forgotten how well they worked and why we stopped using them. She is allowed to listen to her MP3 player which starts out with reiki music, gregorian chants and Mozart and then continues on with other classical music. She reports that she loves the feeling she gets from the music and it helps her focus and concentrate. I certainly think it is helping her disposition tremendously too! She is less distracted and much more relaxed both while she is doing schoolwork and afterwards. We are instituting the headphones with the boys soon as soon as I can get them ordered.

We have also started using a new combination of herbal supplements with Tortuga and while I think it still needs tweaking I think we may be onto something. More on that later.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Like clockwork...

It's October 30.

Every year, Tortuga starts acting up right around Halloween and it doesn't let up until mid-February. Lots of trauma anniversaries in these months. This Fall he has been improving steadily. No major issues in at least a month. Small bumps but easily redirected.  This morning he woke up dysregulated.  I avoided confrontations with humor, grace, (gritted teeth) and nonchalance. Didn't matter. By lunchtime he was off the charts. He started out belligerent, rude, mean, obnoxious, volatile and it went downhill fast. I finally sent him up to his room to lie under his weighted blanket and asked him not to come out until he felt better. After 3 minutes he started throwing things around the room and gesturing (we have a video monitor in his room) that he was going to hit me. I ignored it all and busied the other children with Halloween crafts and making pumpkin spice donuts. We could hear him ranting and raving BUT he stayed under the blanket. An hour later he emerged from his room, apologized, and asked to go back to his schoolwork.

So far so good. (Knock on wood.)

I think it is going to be a long four months...

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

So far, so good...

So far, so good. Corazon has been plugging along on her schoolwork while I still refuse to give her any. She even asked to go back to her blog this weekend. She used to post her daily journal prompts there and then lost interest in both the blog and her schoolwork. Now she seems ready to tackle it again. We shall see how it goes but for now I am grateful that she has taken a new interest in her school work. It has been challenging to come up with a school routine with four kids "formally" schooling. We are in week 3 of our schedule and are hitting our stride I think. The biggest challenge is that both Pollito and Corazon demand CONSTANT attention particularly if another one of them is talking with me. It is like clockwork...if one asks a question, the other one (or two if the original child talking to me is Tortuga or Milagro) is right there. It would be one thing if they waited quietly but the shout at me and each other to try and get my attention. I have gotten pretty good at ignoring it until I am finished with the first kid but sometimes it escalates quickly.  Other than this behavior though I think we are lucky. They all seem to know what they need to do, we have time for group activities or lessons, and this year we have started having organized "arts" activities at least twice per week. The kids all love to do crafts and arts but it is not my strength nor my interest. So I struggle to create opportunities for them beyond their usual drawing, coloring, painting activities--which they all love and is their "go to" activity when they have free time.

Pollito is still a very angry little boy. He just turned 8 but still lags about 2 years behind his chronological age in most areas. His anger is directed mostly at himself or his sisters and he is destructive. It is difficult to tell whether the issue is his nature run amok (he loves taking things apart) or he is actively working to make them angry at him. He pretty much destroys (quietly) anything he has--toys, books, stuffed animals, etc and he does it to any of their items he can get ahold of. Yet he is also very sensitive. Whenever the other kids are sad or in trouble (even when he set them up) he feels bad for them and tries to hug them or goes off to draw them "a card." Just yesterday, I sent Corazon to her room for a "break" for deliberately defying me as I was trying to get Milagro to do something she knew how to do on her own. Pollito went off and drew her a card and wrote on it that he missed her so much when she wasn't downstairs with the other kids. This is pretty typical of him.

Tortuga is still having a hard time but we are seeing some slow progress. The meanness and hostility have tapered off and have been replaced by disrespect and attitude. I just reread that and marveled at how I can describe disrespect and attitude as "progress." :-)  For him it is. I still haven't re-instituted his guitar lessons (should have started in late August) because he hasn't demonstrated that he can  consistently follow his most basic routines and expectations. I am not sure what to expect with him because his WORST times are usually between Halloween and mid February. Lots of traumaversaries for him during those months. If what we are seeing is the best we are going to get until next February this is going to be one dreary Fall/Winter and I am not looking forward to this at all. We shall see.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

My daughter is mad because I let her quit school...

Corazon has been angry with me because I gave her permission to not do schoolwork.

Homeschooling is full of ups and downs with her because she has so many challenges with organization, attention, opposition, hyper vigilance and perfectionism. Sometimes we go for weeks and everything moves relatively smoothly. Then she just stops doing any schoolwork or doing pretty mediocre work. We have ridden that wave pretty much her entire life with us and I don't sweat it when we have to take a break. When she won't do her work she just gets to help me out and do more chores. We both win. She gets time with me and I get chores I don't have time for done. The challenge is that the other kids take their cues from her so when she is battling about schoolwork they try to battle too.

While she loves learning, her skills vary considerably depending on the day and the attitude with which she approaches her work. As a teacher, I am pretty sure she is close to grade level or just above it in most areas. However, if anyone administered any kind of assessment she would be somewhere around 3rd grade (instead of beginning 7th.) I haven't worried about assessments because I can see steady progress over time. However, sometimes we go through some serious battles for attention because she refuses to do her schoolwork. As with any RAD kid, it makes no difference if I take things away or have her miss out on activities. What works for her is missing out on time with me. If she thinks she won't have access to attention from me, she will often get her act together. Not always but often.

Enter puberty and hormones.

Enter little brother who still can't read at grade level.

Enter 5 year old sister now homeschooling too.

Result:  recipe for disaster.

With a new addition to our homeschooling crew and a need to give Pollito more one-on-one as he struggles with his reading, her anxiety about getting "enough" attention has kicked into high gear. Since we started "Fall school" (we do year-round schooling) she has had a very hard time despite her involvement in selecting much of the work she gets to do.  She will not allow me to give those children ANY attention without engaging in destructive, counter-productive, distracting, rude, unsafe or just plain obnoxious behaviors. It has affected the other children's quality of life considerably. I gave Corazon a choice: do schoolwork while I am working with the other two OR go to her room. Of course, that didn't work. So finally I said I was ok with her NOT doing schoolwork. She could just sit there or do something quietly instead. In fact, she never had to do schoolwork again. I was done. Totally done.

She got MAD. She begged. She pleaded. She wrote me letters. Did I want her to be uneducated? (Of course not.) Did I not care about her learning? (Can learn without schooling.) Did I not care about her future? (Of course!) How could I tell her she could stop school at age 12? Didn't I love her? (Yep, that's why I am not doing this battle anymore.) She wrote me more letters. I didn't cave. Nope. No schoolwork for you.

In the past 2 days she has caught up on all the schoolwork she hadn't done in the past 3 weeks. All of it. She keeps trying to show it to me (when the other kids are getting my attention) and I smile and say "that's nice" and then remind her that the other kids are schooling right now. Today she asked me for more schoolwork. I said I didn't have any but showed her what her older brother was working on. She asked if she could photocopy it. Last I saw her she was busily working on doing an "analysis" of a Helen Hunt Jackson poem. School ended a few hours ago for the rest of the children. I wonder how long this will last.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


How did two months go by so quickly? I didn't mean to stop writing. Just busy and caught up in the day to day. Life is life. We have had lots of ups and downs. Some of which I mean to write about but haven't. Sometimes I feel like the kids and want someone to tell me what to write about. So much swirling around in my head and in my life. The past two months have been filled with activity that perhaps explains why I haven't given myself a chance to write. Here's what I can remember...

Three weeks in MA. This was our shortest and most difficult trip. Tortuga was pretty awful most of it. Corazon was amazingly regulated throughout. We made the best of it and visited with lovely friends who we dearly miss, got to meet our friend's newest baby who is adorable, and visited our beloved ocean as many times as possible. I sprained my knee about a week before the trip and to say that the pain was almost unbearable would not be an exaggeration. I am betting that's part of what made Tortuga even more insufferable.

Birth families. No luck finding the boys' birth mom. She has fallen off the radar since last year. We used to have regular phone call then nothing. I am concerned and I think this is part of what made Tortuga insufferable. That and puberty. He wrote a journal entry about how he was happy he wasn't going to get to see her and he was sad he wasn't going to get to see her. I think that sums his feelings up pretty nicely. We celebrated Corazon's birthday with her mother, sister, niece, nephew and sister's new boyfriend. Her mom had also dropped off the radar screen due to some health issues, economic problems and life stuff. Things have gone downhill for her a bit and that makes communicating regularly more difficult. Except for her sister's boyfriend dropping his baggie of "herb" out of his pocket and Corazon wanting to know what it was, the visit went well. No fallout from Corazon so far...

Birthdays. The three younger kids all celebrated a birthday this summer. Corazon turned 12 in July and we had a lovely party in Boston just before returning to Texas. She was amazingly poised, charming, thoughtful, and just a kid. A friend of ours who has known her (and her issues) since the day we brought her home commented that she had her first "real" conversation with Corazon ever. I think that speaks volumes about her progress and healing. The littles turned 8 and 5 in late August. I am still in denial that my babies are that old. They had a great "under the sea" (think sharks and whales with a few dolphins thrown in for good measure) birthday party.  Milagro spent the day rushing up to me and saying things like "This is too much fun. My heart feels like it's going to burst into a million pieces!" I just love that child's spirit!

Homeschool. We ended summer "school" on August 31 and started fall "school" on September 6. The older kids are presenting some challenges but I think much of it is my fault. I am not feeling as organized as I usually am and my expectations have increased. I probably have some scaffolding to do for them that I hadn't planned on. Pollito is actually in a "groove" so things are much better with him. Reading is still the big challenge. I see progress and know we did the right thing keeping him home. He would be so overwhelmed in public school and already labelled in so many ways because of his reading challenges. I have to remember that Tortuga didn't read until he was almost 9.  The big change is that Milagro is now "officially" in kindergarten. She is excited to do "big kid" school but it really isn't much different than her usual days. She is developing an incredible vocabulary. Two days ago she ran up to me and asked me for 2 paper towels. Worrying that she had made a big mess I asked her what was going on. She answered "I have a hypothesis I am trying to test."

Puberty.  Sucks. Most of what is related to this is unbloggable. Just think 13.5 year old boy with special needs. Enough said.

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Whale of a Time...

I kept meaning to post these but time just got away from me. The kids made it easy for me this year. Pollito and Milagro asked for a joint birthday party (yippee!) and Milagro wanted an "orca cake" while Pollito asked for sharks and/or dolphins. Perfect combination for an ocean themed birthday celebration! I kept the decorations simple albeit some were huge and the kids had a blast. It worked out really well especially given that their birthdays are in late August, it's hot as can be it TX, and they are happy to just bask in the sprinklers/outdoor kiddie pool all day.To be honest once the pools and inflatables were set up I don't think they would have noticed if no one else had attended! They had a blast and so did the rest of us!  I cannot believe they are 8 and 5! Milagro is still tall for her age and Pollito is not so we still get questions about whether they are twins. :-)

Here are some birthday highlights....

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Pollito is Eight!

Just yesterday I was carrying Pollito around everywhere we went (at age 2.5 he was still under 20lbs) and here he is turning 8 on me! Doesn't seem possible. He is still a "little guy" so I get fooled into believing he is younger than he really is. He is turning into quite the comic and has such incredible creativity. So many times he makes me laugh so hard that I have a hard time keeping a straight face when I should be disciplining him. :-) His drawing and writing have taken off this year and we see incredible creations from him whether they be intricate train cities or elaborate 3D drawings of roadways and skyways. He is quite the sentimental child and his feelings get hurt easily. He will also cry if anyone else in our family is crying. He has recently taken to drawing "love" pictures--which currently decorate most of his notebooks, our desks, his room, and any other "free" wall space. He will spend hours drawing pictures for C. and I and deliver them in paper bags, carboard boxes, envelopes, or other handcrafted containers. Some are miniscule (postage stamp size) and others are posterboard size. I can hardly keep him in drawing paper! He still loves to take things apart and hasn't quite mastered the art of putting things back together. (Not sure he ever will...but I am hopeful.)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Corazon turns 12

"Such as I am, I am a precious gift." --Zora Neale Hurston

How did my baby girl get so big so fast? We celebrated Corazon's 12th birthday with a tie-dye birthday cake and a few Boston friends. I am so proud of this child. She is becoming such a wonderful young woman. She is strong, thoughtful, caring, smart, creative and fun to be with. Her smile comes from her heart and lights up her face. Whenever I see her and I cannot help but smile.  She has brought me such joy and Her self-assuredness and her sense of who she is and wants to be shines through so often. She no longer has to hide her fears and her vulnerabilities and she has demonstrated an ability to trust us in ways we only dreamed of a year ago. She has worked really hard to heal from RAD and she is getting there. There were so many times I thought I couldn't deal with the behaviors and the distrust and the rage and the peeing and everything else. Each time I had to remind myself that while it was bad (really bad) for us, it must be so much worse for her. Somehow we have kept working at it. We have made so many mistakes. There are so many things I wish I could do over again. But somewhere in there we did some things right. We still have some hellish times but that is progress.  We have hellish times with a lot of wonderful in between. There is so much more that I feel about this child that words cannot even begin to express.  When we finalized her adoption, we used the quote above on her adoption announcement. No truer words have ever been uttered about Corazon.  She has, indeed, been a most precious gift.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Hanging in there...

It's been busy. Three of the kids did a week-long art camp.  It was only three hours/day but enough to give everyone a change of pace. Sea Creatures for the little one and Tortuga and Corazon did a wheel-throwing class. Pollito got quality time with me. Overall it was a huge success. They had fun, I got a break, Pollito got more attention and C. and I managed to spend some mornings together catching up on down time. It was an experiment in that we put Corazon and Tortuga in the same class so they could police each other. Whatever they did right or wrong they did together since we didn't hear any tattling from either of them.  All 3 kids made some wonderful pieces that are still prominently displayed in our living room.

The down-side was that a "touch" of normalcy for Tortuga was way too much. As the week progressed his behaviors spiraled downward. Nothing major until that weekend. At first it was simple things like "forgetting" routines and not following through on simple tasks. By the weekend we were at blowing up for no reason at all, talking/arguing back, mean faces and downright nastiness. When reminded to use his calming tools we got outright defiance. We have known for a while that being around people for too long (more than an hour or two at a time) is over-stimulating for him. Clearly being around people and without us increased his anxiety. Even with breaks away from people the experience proved to be a bit much. I also think he gets "confused" once he isn't more closely supervised or monitored and all sense of routine and self-regulation goes by the wayside. It's more complicated than this but this is part of the issue. After that week we got serious payback from the older two. They little one spent the better part of the week independently expanding on her works from camp and hours on end drawing sea creatures, asking to learn more about them and planning for her next art camp.

Because we always seem to do thing "big" around here we followed that week of camp with a trip to South Texas to visit with my mom. It is a 5 hour drive each way and we stay in her 1 bedroom apartment. We added my sister and niece to the car ride just to keep things "interesting." It was my mom's 79th birthday so we were planning a birthday party at my brother's house.  The kids always enjoy seeing my mom and we hadn't seen her since Thanksgiving. It had definitely been more than a year since we had visited her there. Tortuga still hadn't recovered from his previous behaviors and the weekend didn't turn out to be as relaxing as we wanted. He was out of hand and out of sorts the whole time putting the rest of us on edge. We caught him "play fighting" with Pollito (which is NEVER allowed) despite the fact that he isn't allowed to have any physical contact with any of the kids except for goodnight hugs. After breaking that up and separating them, he snuck back to Pollito and threatened to kill him after telling him he wishes Pollito was dead and he wishes this on a regular basis. He has terrorized and threatened Pollito throughout his life so this verbal threat (even though couched as "just kidding") was completely unacceptable. We did our best to get through the weekend and work in some fun for the kids and most importantly time with my mom. I think she enjoyed her birthday and I know she was happy to have all of us there. We haven't done that since we were young. In fact, the last time I was with my mom on her birthday was almost 10 years ago!

One of the main reasons we moved down here was to see her more often and I don't think we have done as well in that area as I had hoped. The kids and our daily lives have certainly made this challenging. I was so angry at Tortuga for his behavior and needing to constantly deal with him during mom's celebration. I have had a hard time letting go of this anger which is unusual for me. When he tried to apologize I accepted the apology but told him I wasn't ready to forgive him yet. He tried to blame his behaviors on Pollito which didn't help his case.  My tolerance level was low and I was still too mad. We travel to MA soon and at this moment I am dreading what this might mean for us traveling with him. I am feeling "held hostage" by him and while it isn't a new or different experience I am resenting it at the moment. This too shall pass...

Friday, June 8, 2012

Hollywood Movie Premier Birthday Party

Most of my kids, nieces, and siblings have summer birthdays. We got pretty used to the family birthday parties since school friends rarely came to summer parties. So when my niece who is Corazon's counterpart (they are three weeks apart in age) asked if I would plan and host her birthday party a month early so she would have school friends there I eagerly accepted the task. Little did I know how tired I would be after all the recitals and out of town visitors but we rallied. We celebrated this past weekend and the party was a success. It also opened up a floodgate of feelings for Corazon which we are still processing and will write about later.

Here are the invitations we created along with movie tickets to vote for the movie they wanted to screen. Kids were asked to bring their tickets to "vote" for their "kids' choice movie winner" and that was the movie we would screen. As added incentive, they were told we would draw movie tickets and choose winners of door prizes.

As the guest arrived they were greeting by this sign...(outside)

This was the entrance... 

We played applause and cheering sound effects while parents joined the paparazzi in taking pictures of the guests as they arrived...
Since no high-profile event is complete with security personnel....

The girls were escorted inside by "security"... and given their "All-Access Passes" which included a candy pass redeemable for one box of movie candy. You can tell someone is taking her job seriously. We were constantly bombarded by "diva on the move" and "anybody have a 20 on the diva?" We aren't sure where she got the language but she was having a total blast. I can't even begin to describe what she did when kids (or adults) didn't have their access passes. Too cute and lots of fun.

They signed their "hollywood stars"...

The decorations inside...

The kids had a scavenger hunt (which had them searching for stuff and doing all kinds of activities such as getting their glamour picture taken with the birthday girl), decorated socks, decorated glamour sunglasses (found in scavenger hunt) and made duct tape crafts.

The menu was pretty basic movie fare...hotdogs, pizza, nachos, pickles, popcorn, and movie candy. This was followed by cake and "popcorn" cupcakes.

The girls had a really grand time and so did the adults and the best part was that my own kids were able to enjoy it without getting totally out of control.

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