Monday, December 27, 2010

Git 'Er Done Week

We did it! We made it! The holiday is over and we have officially begun our Annual 5FC "Git 'er done" Week.

Every year, the Mister's employer shuts down between Christmas and New Years. Which is so awesome that it almost makes me forgive them for sending him away to some fancy hotel in a warm climate for "sales meetings" several times each year.

An ENTIRE week. With nothing to do. Can't play outside, because Wisconsin winters are my tropical Mister's kryptonite. What to do, what to do?

The endless possibilities make me giddy with excitement while the Mister groans and tries to hide his wallet. Every year come July, I begin to strategically analyze different plans of home renovation attacks.

Last year, we knocked this mutha down. Best decision ever. Then, to recycle, we hung the cabinets up in the Mister's office. Because we're all about being cheap in the name of environmental goodness.

This year, the Mister is replacing flooring in the master bedroom. He may also floor the upstairs hallway. He thinks he's going to replace the flooring in the children's bathroom and the master bathroom as well.

Notice I used "is replacing" in the first sentence, "may also floor" in the second sentence, and "thinks he is going to replace" in the third. Because while I"m not sure what Kool Aid the Mister is drinking, I have been through enough "Git 'er Done" weeks to know that the Cardinal Rule to "Git 'er Done" is: You will only get one thing done. So be happy with that.

And saying Hasta La Vista to pee-soaked, vomit-stained, blue-children Advil tie-dyed carpeting? I'll be ECSTATIC to see that go.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas 2010

'Twas the Night Before Christmas,
when all through the house
(still here in Green Bay!)

Not a creature was stirring
(which is, in and of itself, a true Christmas miracle)
Not even a mouse
(we won't even go there)

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care
(only because Sarah exclaimed at least 3 times a day:
"Ack! Don't touch the stockings! You'll pull down those sharp metal holders and crack your head open!")

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there
(well, 80% of our kids were hoping. The other 20% "knows" and won't share her knowledge for fear of not receiving an iPod.)

The Children
(still just the 5)
were nestled all snug in their beds
(Afraid not. Everyone but the eternally awake Paloma.)

While visions of sugar plums danced in their heads.
(just not the heads of the picky eaters.)

And Mom in her 'kerchief
(hand-knit by Sarah)
and Dad in his cap
had just settled down for a long winter's nap.
(Are you kidding me? On Christmas eve, Sarah and the Mister are in the basement, drinking Tom & Jerry's, desperately trying to wrap the presents before the kids awaken at 4 am)

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter
(darn neighbor's dog! Oops, never mind. Ol' three-legged Ernie is still barking up a storm!)

We sprang from the matter. .
(Seriously, why aren't we ever allowed to sleep?)

* * * * * *

We're having a happy, peaceful, toy-filled, coffee-fueled morning here in the 5FC abode. From our house to yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas!

Classic Scarlet Christmas
View the entire collection of cards.

Friday, December 24, 2010

I awoke this morning, dreading today, clearly not feeling or keeping the true Spirit of Christmas in mind.

Yesterday I spent the entire day trying to keep my RADish Miles safe and regulated. Well, let me rephrase. I spent the entire day trying to keep everyone in the house safe from Miles. I worked as best as I could with Miles, but for the majority of the day, he was shut down, angry and feeling the need to be in control of every moment of the day.

For a week now, he has been terrorizing Keenan. Not in a physical sense until yesterday, but for days on end he has been whispering, threatening, and lying constantly to me to try and get Keenan in trouble. It came to a head yesterday when, after I had left the boys alone for 2 minutes, Keenan was trying to physically leave his bedroom, and Miles was doing his darndest to physically prevent Keenan from doing so.

That's all bullying, and while RAD creates an entire different backdrop to the situation, I have a Zero Tolerance policy for it in my home.

In addition to the bullying problem, several other "Oh My Lord, I can't believe I didn't see that one in the making" issues came to the forefront, and I went to bed exhausted, reeling at the thought of changes we need to make in the New Year (more on this later, but we're having major school teacher/attachment/anger issues going on.)

My mood wasn't any better upon waking, and having signed on to FaceBook this morning, my dread turned to eye rolling and disgust after reading all of the Pollyanna Look-at-the-Bible-Quote I can pull up to proclaim and celebrate the season Statuses.

Ugly thought, and I'm admittedly ashamed, but it's true. "How can I possibly be happy and celebrate when I'm trying to keep one of my children from going completely bat-sh*t crazy on the others? Where the h*ll did MY normal go?!?"

When I see how the holidays bring my own parenting-trauma trauma issues to a peak, then surely I should see how much it can do on a little body and brain.

I sat there, fuming, looking at those quotes.

Suddenly, it hit me, and I felt my shut-down heart open in a flood of tears.

My son was born Perfect and Precious according to His plan.
My son IS Perfect and Precious, trauma or no trauma, to Him.
Jesus came to bring love and peace to the broken.
My son is broken.
My job is to help Miles become as much as he can be. To fulfill as much of the potential that the Lord gave him. To assist my boy on his own journey.

A journey which is SO tough.
A journey which is SO unfair because he is little. He is 6. No 6 year old should be as broken as my boy is.
My son is a 6 year old who cannot find the elation and joy in Santa. In Christmas.
That breaks my heart.

A huge wave of grief and shame hit me. This parenting journey is so hard. But what's even harder is Miles' own journey.

This morning, a sense of humility has washed over me. Christ came to serve those less than. He came to take on MY sins. My sins of impatience and judgment and self-pity.

Then I realized what today is about, and how I should celebrate. I should celebrate by serving my broken son. With a servant heart. I need to lay aside my own wonky for today. To help my son celebrate the season with as much peace and dignity as possible. To not put judgment or expectations on his little broken self, because all of this hoopla is SO much for him. And that is not his fault.

A spirit of peace has washed over me. This is my journey today, for this Christmas season. It is my normal. And that's okay.

For all of the RAD Moms and Trauma Moms out there, I am sending you a Huge Hug today. And for your children, I am wishing for them to feel the love and peace that washes over oneself when they realize that they are Perfect and Precious in God's heart. I know that wish is a long shot, and maybe they won't feel it today, but I wish it for them and you and all of these families parenting trauma.

Merry Christmas, my friends.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A new rote monologue

When my little boys came home from Haiti at the age of 4.5, neither had a concept of what makes a Mom. Nor do they have memories or understandings of their birth mothers. While they loved a few women caretakers within the orphanage, it was clearly not a mother-son relationship.

We understood that our boys would not understand what makes a Family.

I underestimated just how lacking their knowledge of what makes a Mother truly was. I assumed that giving out love, attentive care and building attachment would create a conscious understanding of what a mother is.

Yet, months after living with us, their true understanding of "Mother" was nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. It wasn't negative. It wasn't positive.

It just wasn't.

Loving care wasn't enough to build that understanding. After all, attachment is a complicated dance, and on my worst days I absolutely suck at it. On my best days, we are slllooowwwllyy working towards a healthy attachment.

To help my boys consciously build a working knowledge of "Mother," every day for the past 12 months I have been purposefully running an on-going, never-ending monologue for my boys to hear:

"Mom is a good Mom."
"Mommy's a good Mommy who gives your owies kisses."
"Mommy gives her boys hugs and kisses because I'm a Good Mommy who loves her boys."
"I'm a good Mommy. Good Mommies give their boys yummy, healthy food."
"I'm a good Mommy. Good Mommies tuck their boys into bed and make sure they have lots of warm blankets. Mommy is a good Mommy who keeps you safe at night."
"I'm a good Mommy because I wash these very handsome clothes for you."
"I'm a good Mommy because I read books to help your brain grow."

And so on and so forth. All of those little facts and bits of info that our bio kids internalize and just know naturally, I had to repeat out loud to teach my new boys. One huge-o case-0 of "I'm a Good Mom" diarrhea of the mouth, really.

At first I felt very silly and stupid. Then it got to be tiring. But then it started to click. I even noticed the bio kids listening in. I saw the safe and proud feelings it brought all the kids.

Now, if one of my boys is starting to act out or be unsafe, I can say to them: "Why does Mommy say, no fingers in the outlets?"

And they will tell you, without pausing, "Because you are a Good Mommy who keeps me safe."

"And why does Mommy want you safe?"

"Because Mommy Loves Me."

Bing-0. It's working. I don't do it as often, but on those off days, I still find myself reinforcing the Mommy concept quite a bit.

This week, however, it occurred to me that I now need to add a new dialogue into our home.

The "Mommy is a person and needs to keep her body healthy, too," dialogue.

Because I have been giving my all in my taking care of others. But not myself.

The past week was a bad week. For a multitude of reasons. I completely bottomed out into depression and despair mid-week. I knew I had to make some changes. And the first one was taking care of my physical health.

I haven't run since mid-September, when I jacked my right shin and couldn't put any pressure on it. Being sick for the entire month of October and first two weeks into November just pushed me further into physical lethargy.

Eventually feeling healthier, I knew I needed to get working out back into my schedule somehow. Despite my many attempts to "work out" at home, I never made it into the basement without finding myself sidetracked. Given the fact that I still cannot go to the bathroom for a mere two minutes without at least two little people knocking on the door, hollering, "Moooooooommmmmmmmmmmyyyyyyy!!!" I was probably a little unrealistic in thinking that I could actually exercise uninterrupted for 45 minutes.

The Mister knows that I've been trying, and he's been encouraging me to join the gym that is literally two blocks from our home.

I haven't, because usually I feel really guilty spending money on myself like that.

But this past week, something clicked (or maybe snapped) and I realized that I MUST start taking care of myself.

I went downstairs in my gym clothes, and Paloma instantly crowed, "Let's go exercise downstairs!" and tore off her shirt (the girl doesn't grasp the concept yet that only boys go shirtless. Life with 3 older brothers will mess you up like that.)

"Oh no," I said, watching her freeze. "Mommy is going to work out at a gym around the block."

Instant disapproval. And objections. Children pointing out to me the things that they wanted to do, or had planned to do, and the fact that I wanted 60 minutes out of the house did not coincide with those plans.

"Listen!" I announced. "Mom is a GOOD Mom and makes sure that you all have lots of chances to exercise. You all dance. And swim. And tae kwon do. And sled. MOM NEEDS TO TAKE CARE OF HER OWN BODY TOO. Because if Mommy's body isn't healthy, Mommy can't take care of anyone."

I then realized that I had my new mouth diarrhea monologue for the next year: "Mommy needs to take care of her own body. She makes sure that everyone takes care of their bodies. She gets a turn, too."

As good as it is for my kids to know that I am a good Mom who keeps a safe and healthy and loving house for them, they also have to realize that I am not an auto-bot here to serve them. I need daily maintenance too.

I'm proud to say, I don't feel guilty about that. Not one little bit. Instead, what I am feeling is about 30 muscles that I completely forgot I had. 30 muscles all hollering out in agony because I put them to work after a long autumn nap. 30 muscles reminding me that I need to take care of myself.

And better late than never, that's exactly what I intend to do.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

An Awesome Book Give-Away

My friend Essie is giving away a great book on her blog! She will be selflessly parting with a copy of the book Mamalita- An Adoption Memoir (don't you just love the word Memoir? I do. It sounds so romantic and dreamy and makes me hope that maybe someday my life will be interesting enough to write a Memoir.)

Here is a link to Essie's giveaway post & book review:

Good luck!

PS- Although I write things like: "Because I save you shipping costs, that should be good for two entries!" I promise that Essie is a truly ethical woman and will not enter me twice. But now that I wrote that, I'm kind of paranoid that if I win, people will shriek "Conspiracy! Conspiracy!" at us. So, if I win, I will send the book on to the Runner-Up. After I read the book, of course. But I promise not to drip any Ben & Jerry's Americone Dream on the book should I win it.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday Snippets

* It's Sunday night and I am completely caught up on ironing. COMPLETELY. The Mister has enough ironed dress shirts to wear through the first week of 2011. (Okay, this statement makes him sound like a clothes horse. Truly, he's not, although he has now taken over 50% of my 50% of the closet. But that's beside the point. It's just that he has a few days off next week, and his entire company shuts down and gives the week between Christmas and New Years as vacation.)

* The reason he can take over 50% of my small 50% of our small closet is that I have little wardrobe left. Not because I've grown fat like a pig, but apparently because I'm messy like a pig and ruin my clothes quickly. I like to think of my kids as the messy little piggies and me as the super-involved, hands-on Momma who gets dirty by default (catch my sarcastic drift here?). But truthfully, I'm a mess. I'm messy in the kitchen, messy in the garden, and messy in general. Will I ever outgrow this phase of life? Will I ever look put together and fashionable?

My Magic 8-Ball says, "not likely."

I console myself by reminding myself that the fashion industry is an ecological and financial disaster of horrific proportion.

* Speaking of laundry, this past week I had a single person lament to me about how much laundry they had to do.


Normally I would laugh so hard that I wouldn't be able to respond over this one, but I was PMS-ing. Here are my thoughts:

1) Seriously. You are ONE person. ONE.
2) Seriously. I have SEVEN people in my family. SEVEN. Did they honestly think they were going to get one iota of sympathy out of me?!?

Now, had this person been a new college student out doing laundry for the first time, I would have empathized. It's a big change. Had they been newly married or had a new baby, I would empathize, because anytime you add on an additional source of laundry, whether it be a husband or a baby, it's a change. A Big Change.

Yet this person had been doing their own laundry for nearly 20 years. Sweetheart, I do more laundry by Tuesday noon than you do in an entire week. Sheesh.

* Not only is it Sunday night and I have all my laundry done, it is also Sunday night 2 weeks before Christmas and I have my Christmas cards & letters sent out.

Let me get this out here: I LOVE Christmas cards.

I know a lot of people do not do Christmas cards. If they are a huge pain in your you-know-where and you disdain the entire thought, then don't make yourself miserable. I'm okay with that. And I'll send you a card anyways, and won't be offended if you don't send one back. Because I send them to people I love, care about or like to keep in touch with, and I think it's fun to get something personal in the mail.

What I'm not okay with is people bashing those of us who do send Christmas cards. Now, each year, I get a few that are very over-the-top-look-how-awesome-we-are. To each their own. I do write a letter with my cards, but I try to keep it real. I try to include a little reminder that we are all too human, and a little amusing self-deprecation, at my expense, the Mister's expense and my children's, too.

How many times a week do you get a personal piece of mail in your physical mailbox? Rarely, if ever, right? I like sending out something that I created. I like receiving cards and hearing about other people's years and seeing how big their kids have grown. And I love looking through all my own cards from years past, seeing how my kids have grown each year.

In a fast-paced world of technology and instant communication, I'm all for slowing it down and keeping with tradition by sending out Christmas cards.

* We have a ton of snow. My kids have spent the majority of the day, outside, playing. They have rosy cheeks and have devoured 2 bowls of homemade tomato vegetable soup each. While they are watching their ritual half hour of Funniest Home Videos before bedtime, I can see their eyes drooping. Tired, happy bodies with warm, full bellies.

Finally, a moment that makes me feel like I'm doing something right as a Mom. Sounds like a pretty good way to end a snowed-in weekend.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Something I Wish I Had Been Told. . . .

I still belong to several Yahoo Groups focused on adoption. Some specific to our orphanage, some specific to Haiti. Lately, it has come to light that a LOT of horrific abuse occurred at the orphanages (I don't for a second doubt that this abuse occurred; it DID occur.)

Typically, and the latest disclosures provide no exception, lot of arguing exists between those who have adopted and those who want to adopt and/or are in process. When parents post their real-life post-adoption experiences, it often upsets those are in process. A huge fear exists is that an orphanage may be shut down, and their in-process children will be no longer adoptable. That was a huge fear when I adopted my boys. I think that is a fear for nearly everyone adopting from internationally.

Sometimes, though, I am saddened (and truthfully, alarmed) by people who firmly believe that this will not happen to them. That the children they are adopting are not in danger. That they expect the "typical adjustment issues," and that they'll get through it.

Nearly every week, I field inquiries from people who would like to adopt, or who are in process and would like to know how to speed up a Haitian adoption. Several times it has been blog readers.

I posted this today on one of the Yahoo Groups, and I'm reposting this here. Because this is information I wish I knew before we began our adoption process.

Here goes:

"I think it is very important for all families who are considering adoption/in
process/just getting kids home to realize that Trauma is involved in adoption.
Without exception. Especially when you adopt from unstable countries where
there is a lot of pain and suffering. I'm of the personal belief that you can't get children home from those counties untouched by trauma.

You may think that you can get healthy kids home, untouched by abuse. And you
may actually succeed in that. But good health/lack of abuse DOES NOT MEAN that
you will not be dealing with trauma.

I have two little boys, age 6, adopted from Marie/PAC. Both boys were placed
with Marie around 15 mos. of age. We brought them home late summer 2009, right
before they turned 5.

Compared to many of the abuses suffered by many, many children coming home from
Haiti, my boys were pretty damn lucky. They were among the first children Marie took
in. They both speak of Marie with great love. One of my boys has cried for
hours about how much he misses Marie and Haiti.

My one son came home in the 80& 90 % for height and weight. Neither boy has a
single cavity. Healthy? You bet.

Yet, all of that being said, both of my boys suffer from Post Traumatic Stress
Disorder. They each have attachment issues (and yes, it isn't a question of
"will my child have attachment issues or not?" It is a question of: To what
extent will my child's attachment issues be?")

Trauma in Adoption is so pervasive for many reasons. A handful:

* Trauma exists when a woman is pregnant under stressful situations. Maybe she
knows she'll have to relinquish that baby right away. Maybe she's worried sick
wondering how to feed her little one because she sure isn't being fed regularly herself. Maybe the baby is a child of rape or maybe she isn't ready to parent. Research is now out, showing that children are born out of traumatic situations often have a physically different brain structure.
Trauma affects children even before they are born.

* The situations leading up to a child's placement in an orphanage are
trauma-based situations. Just that act alone creates trauma. Compounding that
are the influx of cortisol/stress hormones in a little one's body. Add lack of
consistent caregivers, emotionally unavailable caregivers, too many
caregivers/children ratio, etc., and this is a terribly difficult situation for
a child, even if everything looks happy and good "on the outside."

* Trauma WILL not only affect your children, trauma WILL affect you. And your
spouse. And your children. Trauma will affect EVERY SINGLE RELATIONSHIP you
have in your life. It will affect the way you handle your extended family, your
friends, people at your church.

Nothing is the same in our house as before.

Am I saying "Don't Adopt!"? HECK NO!


Think before you pursue this.
Don't think: "I'm a good parent; I've raised good kids; we have good medical insurance. We can do this!" Because, honestly, that's not enough to even remotely adequately prepare you.

Check into those resources before you begin the process. Literally. Write down
your findings. Talk to other adoptive parents. Are there good trauma
therapists in your area? Are there long waiting lists? How do your schools
handle their special needs kids?

Truly consider if you have the time to put into this. All summer long, one of
my sons went to therapy 3X a week. That meant for 3 hours plus travel time, I
had to make arrangements for my other children. EVERY week. Then my other son
started, 1-2X per week. All of that time away/attention away did affect my other
kids, no matter how hard I tried to make sure it didn't.

In addition to my boys going, I go. Because I don't know what the hell I'm
doing somedays. And I doubt myself a lot. My husband goes. We go together as
a couple, because suddenly we're in this pressure cooker parenting situation,
and our teammanship has suffered the effects of it all. My kids go. Some
individually. Some as a group.

Trauma does not leave anyone alone.

Both of my sons have different needs. One's trauma manifests as anger. The
other manifests as this huge need to always have love and attention,yet that
love and attention is never enough, so there is always a need for more. More.

Adoption has stretched us and strained us in ways that I never thought
imaginable. I had to learn an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT way of parenting. Nothing
feels natural. I have had to drop my ego (which is good!), my preconceived
notions, and I had to pray for a lot of humility.

Adoption has made me stronger and more resilient. While at times I feel
defeated, I know how strong I am. I know that no matter what hellfire we have
to walk through, I love my boys and I will do whatever I need to do to give them
the services they need.

But those needs are huge. HUGE. This was not just adding children to our
family. This was SO MUCH MORE.

I don't know of a single family who does not feel this way. Older
domestic/foster adoption; international adoption, etc. I know MANY families
where the abuse was horrific--nearly unimaginable, except for the fact that it
happened, and their trauma issues are far worse/more dangerous than ours. I
also do not know of many agencies/professionals who truly understand trauma and
can point to good trauma resources. We were lucky in that our Haiti-agency had a been there, done that adoptive Mama. But our local homestudy agency? Ha ha ha ha ha! The second we mentioned the words 'trauma' or 'attachment issues,' we received blank stares.

Anyways, those are my thoughts on the trauma matter. I wish that someone had
pointed these things out to me prior to beginning the process. Not that it
would have deterred us from adopting, but we probably would have approached the
process in an entirely different (and more helpful) mindset.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Riddle Me This, Bat-readers. . .

How many Islanders does it take
to chop down a Christmas tree?

Answer: 4.
3 to Offer Advice
2 to Cheer
(Cut It, Chop It, Heave that Ax! !)
1 to Jump on Backs
1 to Actually Cut It Down

After doing her best to distract Daddy from killing a tree, Paloma went off and made a new friend.

And look! She is finally big enough to go on the Scrambler! Just compare her to that 100 foot towering fir tree. She's huge, I tell you. . HUGE!!!

And get a load of this:

A great family picture taken AFTER
I sent in our Christmas Card order to Snapfish.
Hell's Bells, people.

All of that,
and Ernie STILL remains unimpressed
and bored to death.

(Ha! Get it?!?
He's playing dead,
and I wrote 'Bored to death'?!?)

I don't care what others say, being easily amused is a big ol' gift from the Big Guy Himself.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Now This is My Kind of Problem

Every Tuesday night, Essie the Accidental Mommy (yes, I am totally flaunting this here. I know I could just as easily write "I knit with 2 friends." I know that you are jealous. But if you were knitting with Essie, you would brag about it too) and Angie (who we are going to get onto the Blogging Side if it's the last thing we do, so that way you can see how awesome she is and then be jealous that I'm flaunting the fact that I knit with her, too) and I meet to knit.

When we knit, we look like this:
(Angie, Essie, Sarah)
Awwww. . .

Kidding! I bet I just about made Essie wet herself, except that it's not allowed at her house.

Actually, when we knit, we're all like this:

Because, as fate would have it, we each encounter a variety of idiots each and every week who should be thankful that we do knit. Sometimes this group includes our spouses and children.

We used to meet at a small vegetarian/indy cafe. They had a big comfy couch (score!) and we could knit with a glass of wine (touchdown!) But they shortened their evening hours until 9 pm.

I don't know how you and your friends roll, but our Knitting Crew is not down with a 9 pm closing time.

Being the hard-partying rebels that we are, we had to find a location better suited to our night owl tendencies. So we switched to Barnes and Noble.

They close at 10 pm. And we shut that mutha down each and every time.

Whoa. Life on the edge, I know.

Anyway, last night dear Angie was totally kicking butt on this awesome scarf she is knitting. Bear with the technicalities here. She had just bound off (or is it appropriate to use the term "binded," since we are discussing knitting?) to create the keyhole, and she needed to cast stitches back on to resume the scarf.

Angie is a lefty. Essie and I are righties. Between the three of us, our awesome math skills, and left/right/forward/backward miscalculations, we kind of created a huge knitting mess for poor Angie.

All the while, over the loudspeaker, Barnes & Noble was counting down every 5 minutes that they close at 10 pm--lest any of us should forget the time since their last reminder 5 minutes ago.

Now, we are moms whose children constantly present us with problems of the WTF!?! variety. When we are presented with a problem that we actually can fix, you know what happens?

We rally.

And rallied we did. We consulted a guide. We talked it out. We completely ignored the B&N "we're closing in 5 minutes" countdown.

Suddenly they were shutting off the cafe lights and the manager came over to ask us to leave. Clearly he was missing our sign:

I was standing up, knitting frantically as Angie informs him that we have a Knitting Emergency.

Essie scoffs under her breath, "They can call the police and drag us out. We're fixing this problem."

Secretly, I think we were all envisioning us having a stand-off with the po-po, us holding our deadly weapons--knitting needles. We weren't scared. They could bring it.

We were Knitting Ninja's, I tell you.

We fixed that problem, packed up our gear and were on our way. We thanked the exhausted manager for his patience and understanding and assured him that this was truly a dire knitting emergency.

"I don't even want to know," he replied.

Leaving the store, we were on a "We fixed a problem" high.

And that's something we don't experience a lot. So when we do, we savor it. It was a great moment.