Saturday, August 18, 2012

Typical is Something to Celebrate

Last night after all the kiddos were finally asleep, Bryan and I were talking and began to take a walk down memory lane....well, the last 16 and a half month lane anyway. Sometimes he can be quite a comedian and last night was one of those nights! He presented the facts and situations of our life as though he was a stand-up comedian and I was laughing so hard the tears were rolling and my belly hurt! It was great! It truly would have made great material for a true comedian, but the most awkward part is the fact that the material isn't made up....it REALLY has been our life!

Before bedtime Bryan was reading bedtime stories to Selah. I walked in to show Bryan the jeans I had bought him at Sam's Club (fancy, I know!) along with the pair I had bought for myself. Selah LOVES jeans and wanted a pair, too. She wanted mine, in fact. I showed her they were much too big and this upset her. But, she was not to be deterred. She ran to her closet saying "Me, Selah jeans, to new school!" I tried to ever so gently explain to my little fashion diva that jeans, especially with bling on them, are not allowed at school. Sadly, she is stuck with the uniform situation...and for a blingtastic little girl, uniforms just do not make the grade! To this she replied by slamming her bedroom door in my face (I had been sitting right at the edge of the room in the hallway). Not a good move on her part, but impulse control is not a strong suit right now....YET,and I claim that "YET" in faith!  Daddy makes sure she opens the door and apologizes as he explains that it is not Mommy's fault because Mommy LOVES (too much) buying fun clothes for her. She wasn't really buying into his story and kept up the pouty face with crossed arms. I have a photo of that pose about a year ago on this blog. It hasn't changed. Eventually, though, she caved and climbed into my lap for a big old cry about jeans...and we bonded. It may sound strange, but I actually enjoyed it, because it felt "typical". Little six-year-old girls do have tears over things like pretty clothes, jewelry and such. Typical things are just not so common around here so therefore,  typical things are celebrated because it gives us glimpses of who she is deep inside. The little someone that we know God created her to be. Often we are caught up in episode after episode of chipmunked food, refusal to potty, raging tantrums, refusal to dress, refusal to play, and refusals to cooperate with just about anything. So when we have real tears and emotions about things that any little girl may get emotional about, it is something to celebrate!

This summer was a hot one (and still is...yuck) so we tried to get away as much as we could. We spent some long weekends up north at our cabin. When it is 110* here in Phoenix, it is about 80* up there. It is only 2 1/2-3 hours away and is like a completely different world. We love it and are so thankful for the opportunity to get away from the city and the heat and let our kids be kids! They get to run, play, hunt lizards, fish, and get super dirty. Those things are not possible here in the desert for the most part. What was really cool was that this summer with Selah was a completely different story compared to last summer! Last summer she didn't do very well. Her sensory impairments caused her to struggle with walking anywhere that wasn't a smooth surface such as indoors or sidewalks. Up north, it is rough terrain! We had to spend hours just holding her hand and literally forcing her to walk around our lot until she would stop screaming and realize that it really would be okay! This year? Well, little Miss goes on family hikes and says "Look, Mom! Look, Dad!" at least 150 times as she jumps from a log or a rock or balances next to a tree of some sort. It is pretty awesome! It sure beats the nonstop screams of a year ago!

We were also able to head south to our favorite vacation spot in the world! We call it our little piece of paradise! Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. We have spent time down there for years, but haven't gone the last couple of years. We were a little nervous about all the media we have heard about the drug cartel problems in Mexico, but felt pretty confidant that it hadn't impacted Cabo like it had other parts of Mexico. Still, we were a little nervous. I am happy to report that Cabo is still Cabo and still takes my breath away with its beauty! We felt absolutely safe and it is obvious that the government has taken extra measures to make sure that Cabo stays a safe tourist destination.





The beach was amazing and it was so good for our family.



The trip was filled with highs and lows. Selah did struggle and we saw a lot of anger that makes it difficult to relax and enjoy the days, but what we have all learned along this journey of attachment issues, is how to keep our emotions from entangling into her anger. The less we react and the more we make controlled choices to remain unmoved by the drama, the quicker she is able to move on. The dance of attachment is a tricky one and it can be so frustrating on a daily basis, but even more so when you are trying so hard to have the "beautiful family vacation"! And again, on the backside of it all, Bryan had me in tears of laughter thinking about what other people must have thought as they witnessed some of our best "family moments"! The benefits, though, of the vacation were so much greater than any of those "moments". I think that each time we go away and come home again, it reassures Selah that we always come home and that her home is her home and it will always be there. Each time opens her eyes and mind a little more to the world around her and a little more joy seeps into her heart. She finds out that yes, we will still love her and cherish her even after she had great dramatics in very public places! We become stronger as a family and our skin gets a little thicker and thicker with each situation. Our ability to laugh together on the backside of the drama rather than squabble with each other becomes strengthened. And we just keep molding into the family we are meant to be...rather than fighting it and trying to be what we are not.

Here is the video of Selah on the beach...one of those moments where that joy seeped into her heart just a little deeper! Remember last summer's beach adventure. It is HERE.   What a change a year makes!

video

And then before we knew it, it was back to school! We are a year-round school district so the kiddos went back on July 23rd this year.

 I have felt so incredibly blessed (and relieved...and a little FREE!) by the transition into the 5th and 2nd grades for the boys, and for Selah's start to Kindergarten! What a difference a year makes. Not only are the boys super peaceful and loving school, Selah is getting on a bus and doing all-day Kindergarten. She seems to like it a lot and never complains about going. She is giving her teachers a run for their money...but she is in a place where they can handle it. I can't be more thankful for her placement right now! Last spring I sat down with our school counselor and psychologist. I had worked with our psychologist years ago when I was still teaching and our school counselor has known our family and followed our story of adoption since the beginning. I was thankful to have such a level of comfort when sitting down to discuss a plan for Selah. We talked about mainstream education with assistance and then we talked about a self-contained situation. There was a program in the district that I hadn't been aware of, but when I learned about it and got the opportunity to observe, I immediately knew it was an environment in which Selah would thrive. I had such a sense of peace. The program is for emotionally disabled children, has 8-10 children with one teacher and two aides, and is a K-2 classroom. The design is perfect for Selah because the focus is on behaviors that obstruct the ability to learn. Selah's neuropsychological testing showed varying results, but what definitely was noted was that she does have a decent IQ and cognitive ability. Her behaviors get in the way of her learning, though. She is so intensely focused on being in control - being oppositional - that she cannot cooperate enough to take in what is being taught. I really believe, though, that now with the opportunity for her to have this level of consistency between school and home, we will see great progress. She is still in her fight mode, but I see that breaking...soon. She moved through the first two of her three phases of strategy quite quickly and is hanging out in the third one right now. We consistently see Selah work through the first of her phases we call "Charm". Random affection and sweet charming behaviors include batting eyelashes and shy giggles. For those people who come in and out of life for short term bits such as delivery people, store clerks, and other random people, this phase works well and she captivates them. (Like, who wouldn't turn to mush with this little beauty?)


When Phase I doesn't work because the person is present for a little longer and may be in her life a little more frequently (Think personal friends of mine stopping over for a visit, one of her many doctors, extended family visiting, etc.), that cute little button very creatively pulls out Phase II. That would the phase I call "Helplessness". All of a sudden, little Miss becomes unable to do, complete, or say anything without help. Again, this often works well because who can say "no" to the pleas of help from the princess above?

BUT, for for those of us in Selah's life on a constant basis, she resorts to the harshest of all the phases...the one we all dread, but have adjusted to living with. Phase III is simply referred to as "Naughtiness". If she can't be the center of attention and run the show through charm or helplessness, she darn will by sheer naughtiness - whatever it takes. Sigh. You can imagine...she is one tough cookie and doesn't give up easy. But, she hasn't fully comprehended how tough this family is and how we are not giving up on her....ever. We see improvement. It is not in great big strides, but it is improvement and I still hold on to the faith that time, hard work, and God's healing love for our daughter will eventually bring her to a place of healing. Healing enough to be a happy, healthy, independent young woman someday.

Not every story of adoption is the same. Not every story involves attachment issues or Reactive Attachment Disorder. But, some (I could be bold to say many) do. It is not something we can wrap our heads around before it is a part of our lives. I believe a family can start out being educated as to the possibilities, but somewhere deep in our hearts we say, "Not us....our story will be different".

Then when you face the reality that your story isn't different, survival mode kicks in and says, "MY faith, determination, tenacity, and love WILL make this all better."  

And then somewhere along the way you take a deep breath (or gulp) and realize the true reality. It is a reality where God says, "Not right now." Doctors say, "One step at a time...time will tell...wait." And the chains of brokenness say, "I am not letting go that easily."

So, you grieve. But you do get through the grief and you come to acceptance and you live life a new way. It is not easy...but it is do-able. And joy does come.

...Weeping may endure for a night,
but Joy Comes in The Morning.
Psalm 30:5

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Seasons

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.

Ecclesiastes 3:1

Imagine my surprise when I opened my blog to post and I was greeted with a completely new format to Blogger! It has been so long since I have been active on any social internet website that both Blogger and FaceBook have changed formats. I know change is usually for the better, but my nature is to not like it! I actually opened both sites up a few times only to close it again simply because at this point in my life, change felt too overwhelming. But, I now decided it was time to put my big girl panties on and dive in! :-)

What a season it has been! It was a time where I needed to keep life as simple as possible and deal with each day as it arrived. I began by bucking that idea of simplicity, but as God often has to do with me, He made it clear to me that if I wouldn't simply choose simplicity...He would graciously and lovingly hit me upside the head with it!!! Since the beginning of the year, I truly could not get myself to write anything anywhere. It was if that part of my brain had shut down. Even writing simple phrases or thoughts in greeting cards was immensely challenging! So, I finally surrendered to this season of life, and simply focused on being who I needed to be each day.

The year began with my being in a car accident (my first ever with me driving) where, praise God, everyone was not seriously injured. It was merely the inconvenience of our car in the shop, dealing with insurance, etc....and the fact that the accident exaccerbated a previous back injury of mine. The same week, as my back was out, each one of us got horribly sick and I made several trips into urgent care. We had five bottles of antibiotics lined up on the counter...we each had our own special formula! At the same time, my husband's work had turned into a living nightmare of stress for him and non-stop hours. We were all sick, my back was out, the car was in the shop, and he was dragging himself through 14-hour days. Thankfully, though, at that time, Selah was doing wonderfully. She was a sick little girl with pneumonia, bronchitis, and a stomach flu (doesn't sound wonderful, I know), but she was emotionally stable!

March finally arrived and it seemed as though we had come through the dark woods and everyone was mending nicely. Bryan's work was a tad better and things looked as though they would improve. I had been praying so fervently, as were many others for Selah's emotional healing. I had the opportunity to attend a healing prayer service at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City and another similar service here in Chandler. Both times I witnessed Selah go from an anxious and highly emotional state, to a peaceful, joyful calm within moments. Each time we would have about a week of an amazing transformation of peace, but then a time of severe anxiety in between.

I knew, at the time, that her teeth were really bothering her. We had waited too long to get her teeth taken care of...She had such fear for so long and wouldn't let anyone near her mouth and we were trying to handle so many other issues, that the teeth got put on the backburner. In January we were scheduled to have the work done, but then she was sick for almost six weeks so we had to keep rescheduling. We finally get in to the dentist in early March, but we made the mistake of hoping to do the work with a milder form of sedation. She would not relax one bit, though, and our very sweet dentist could not do the work. He did, though, get some better x-rays and was able to determine that her issues were worse than we thought. We rescheduled an appointment to have her under anesthesia so that all the work could be completed. It took several weeks for that date to come (since we needed clearance from her cardiologist), so I know that in the meantime, she must not have been feeling good. She never complains and still doesn't communicate to us the big pains...only the ones like a scrape on the knee. She can make a tremendous deal about an accidental bump to the elbow, but not a word about infected teeth, lungs unable to breathe, or any other huge owie! Anyway, I had started attributing a lot of her behaviors to the fact that her teeth must be hurting, Daddy was away working so much, and now Mommy was sick with kidney stones and infection (another part of this season). Things got worse and worse and worse...even after all the dental work was completed and healed. I was at my wits end because I felt like all the progress we had made was slipping away. I was feeling awful myself with the kidney issues (and some yucky female "parts" problems complicating things more), so I know that I didn't have the wherewithall to put it all together. It was so devastating...we had come so far to suddenly feel as though it were all crashing down around us.

I had been communicating with Selah's trauma therapist and psychiatrist as much as possible, but because of so many illnesses, we had missed appointments. I kept being faithful in my time with God, though. I was so frustrated, but I refused to believe that this was His plan for our sweet girl and for our family. I still believed He had great plans for Selah and it would all be a part of her testimony someday. The enemy wanted me to believe the opposite. I was fervently praying for her healing and for my resilience, patience, and  love. After the prayer services we attended, I had heard a small whisper in my soul that said..."If you believe in healing, then why aren't you taking Selah off some of her meds?" Humph...really? You see, I ABSOLUTELY believe in God's ability and desire to heal and do miracles in today's world. BUT, I am also one to believe that God gifted us with wisdom and the blessings of education and human ability. Finding the balance between faith and doing the best with all that He has given is where the challenge lies. He did not give us doctors and medicine for them to not be used! In this situation, however, I kept feeling that nudging. Initially, we took Selah off her sleep medication and to the glory of God, she has been sleeping peacefully! Gone are the nights of night terror after night terror! Gone are the nights of incessant rocking, grinding of teeth, and screaming out! We were so thankful and hopeful with this new turn of events! However, we still had the daytime behaviors that were getting increasingly worse. It felt as though we couldn't connect with Selah anymore. She was angry almost all of the time. She was getting into trouble everyday at pre-school. She was destructive and even mean spirited. It was so sad to see her joy and sweet disposition disappearing. Her psychiatrist decided to switch one of her medications to another type (but still in the same family). I went ahead with this decision, but as the weeks passed with no improvement, we decided to take her off the medication altogether. This would mean that in less than a months time, she would have gone from three medications to only one. Well...I am very happy to say, that after a few days, our little girl came back to us. The anxiety is gone. The destructive, hair twisting, finger biting, anxious behaviors were gone. Several months ago, she needed these medications to function, but now her fears had healed and her attachment grown and she no longer needed them. We had to trust that whisper. I wish it hadn't taken us so long.

We still have a long ways to go. She still doesn't want to trust us to be in charge. She still desperately tries to hold on to control and often acts in an oppositional way. She will be dishonest about things as simple as going to the potty, or putting a dirty pull-up in the garbage. I have found that as either Deborah Gray or Karen Purvis wrote in one of their books, finding the way for her behavior to have logical consequences (rather than punishments initiated by me or involving me) works best for her. She loves individual attention, whether it is positive or negative, and if she thinks you will spend even more one-on-one time with her correcting her behavior, she will do something inappropriate. When I can minimize the situation and make her gain nothing from it, the behavior is much more quickly extinguished. My struggle, though, is that it is not always easy to come up with something like that for every behavior.

On Easter, our service was a beautiful message of hope...and hope is what we keep clinging to. We remind ourselves to keep looking at each little moment and find the hope. It has been a little over a year, and there was some grief for what we had hoped would be by now, but the hope that our little girl grows to have a joy, a peace, and a love that shines up deep from within the depths of her little soul will never die. There is a season for all things big or small. My amount of time to write or focus on me is one of the small things. I am believing in faith that this has been and will continue to be Selah's season of healing. I know that this one is a big thing. Taking away the hurt that penetrates the soul of an orphan is a HUGE thing, but God says He heals those that come to Him and ask. Asking is what I am doing...and I know that I know that I know that Selah's season of healing is still in process. Her season of overflowing joy, peace, and love is right around the corner...which corner, I'm not sure, but we have hope and faith that says it WILL be around one of these corners. It won't be the corner I pick nor plan, but instead the one designed single-handedly by our Redeemer and Deliverer. And...after all the corners we have rounded the last few years, I have come to know that anything He designs is WAY better than anything I can create on my own!

Pictures tell our story better than my words! Here are a handful from the highlights of February and March! I'll post April and May sometime soon :-)

Running club...look at that face! He was either really pushing it, or he knew the camera was on him and wanted to spice up the drama :-) He did a great job, though, improving his race time and place with each competition! He has an amazing competitive drive.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Do you think my little guy just might be a little mis-matched? He doesn't let size intimidate him, though!

Zach shooting a free throw and Landon getting ready to rebound. It is so fun seeing them play together!

Happy 10th Birthday, Zachary! Double digits!

The boys decided on having a couple of friends attend a Sun's Game as their birthday parties. Zach's favorite player is Markieff Morris who was formerly a Jayhawk. Isn't that poster he made hilarious? Markieff couldn't miss him!

The boys watching the game.

The first day back in the pool this spring!

Meeting retired Harlem Globetrotter, Curly 'Boo' Johnson, at Reach Basketball Camp

Over spring break, we went to Kansas to visit family and take in the Jayhawk sights! All of my boys (the biggest one, too :-) are HUGE Jayhawk fans and have even turned Selah into one! It is kind of contagious! This pic is in Allen Fieldhouse.

Our sweet twin cousins in Kansas! It was so much fun spending time with them!

Selah with her cousin Jadyn. She is always so amazed and happy by having so many people to call "hers"! My mom, my dad, my brother, my grandma, my grandpa, my aunt....my cousin...We often forget how blessed we are by the things we take most for granted.

"My aunt Lana and my uncle Kent" :-)
Happy Birthday, Grandma Erika! We love you bunches!

A fun night out for dinner with Grandpa Bob and Grandma Judy at Rustler's Roost in Phoenix. You can just see Selah thinking "mine, mine, mine...all mine" - with a great big sigh of contentment!

 
Blessings and smiles,

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Holiday Memories

As I was looking through all the photos from the entire holiday season, I couldn't help but smile at so many! Overall, the holidays were filled with joyous moments. We laughed over some and we definitely learned over more! Christmas Day was particularly hard for Selah and for us in turn. There had been too many events leading up to that morning and I started seeing behaviors of hers that I thought we had long passed. We have noticed that when she becomes highly overstimmed, she doesn't tantrum or rock or become unreasonable...she just starts kissing everyone constantly. It is such a tough situation. Here I was the type of parent with our boys, who always reminded them to give hugs and kisses to all family members...and now we are having to stop her from kissing others. Our family and friends look at us like we are absolutely crazy to want to stop her loving nature, but it is just too much to try to explain the nature of attachment and what these types of behaviors do to her development. Oh well...this too shall pass!

The day after Christmas we headed up north to Overgaard, AZ and enjoyed the snow for a few days. It was the perfect place for Selah to find calm and to make her world small again. The snow was beautiful and the kids had so much fun playing in it! Arizona is such a diverse state. I am always amazed at God's great design....mountains of desert landscape, mountains of red rock, and mountains of green pine all within hours of each other. It was 70 degrees in Chandler and 40 degrees two and a half hours north! What fun!

Our sweet little Landon had his 7th birthday this week! I can't believe how time is flying. He is such a sweet treasure and am so thankful God has allowed me to be his mama! The poor little guy was sick most of the week (and then passed it onto me). He was so cute saying daily "It's just not right that I should be sick three days before my birthday" and then the next day "it is just not right that I should be sick two days before my birthday"! I guess in his mind it is a birthday week and in that case it really just isn't right to be sick then!!!! :-) He was well just in time for his big day, though, and we celebrated at Peter Piper Pizza! Mommy barely made it...but God gives us mommies super human strength when it comes to our kid's birthdays! I spent the remainder of the weekend in bed, but I made the big day!
Our 10th annual trip to the Polar Express! Selah's first time was a hit!

She loves her dadday SOOOOOO much!

Santa giving the kids their special bell to remind them to BELIEVE!

Selah has been completely enamored of Santa!

A family carriage ride at the North Pole. Brrrrr...but fun!

Thanksgiving at my brother and his wife's home. Selah loves her Grandma(my mom) bunches! They even look alike!

Digging into the delicious food!
Hanging her first ornament




She played the amazing part of a little shepherd in her pre-school play.

Our annual gingerbread house...a little drama around that...

The Snowflake Sprint at school for the boys.

Two brothers worn out from running their bums off!

Official Re-adoption Day! Selah couldn't stop staring at the judge to get a good picture!

Selah's first present.

 A wonderful book from Aunt Nancy that is helping her with colors...a skill we struggle with!

Doesn't his smile just make you wanna squeeze him?

Christmas Eve with family - cousins from age 2 weeks almost 10 years.

Santa's cookies and socks (to keep his toes warm - another tradition of ours), and carrots for the reindeer. The letter this year was written by Landon and it was sort of an apology for some behavior issues! It was pretty cute :-)

Zachary's school choir performance.

Zach and Grandma Judy on Christmas Day

Landon and Grandpa Bob

Zach in Overgaard with his new snowball launcher!

Landon and my little snow man! I was cold and only wanted to make a little guy!

A little piece of Heaven in the mountains!

Roasting marshmallows (Selah's first time)

Happy 7th Birthday, Sweet Landon!

He was thrilled with a box of Lucky Charms as a gift from Grandpa Bob, but he knew there had to be more to it because Grandpa is always playing jokes!

After further investigation, money had been stashed inside the cereal bag! You can imagine how long it took the bag to be poured out on our kitchen counter!
 Some beautiful memories...so thankful for God's merciful heart and many blessings! Now, though, if I can just get past this yuck, I think I'll be able to breathe again! I can take the Christmas tree down now, too! Sweet little Landon insisted it be one of his presents to keep the tree up for his birthday! So sweet :-)

"You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head." Psalm 139:5

Blessings and smiles,
Lori