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.

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