"That need for chaos may never go away for them. Particularly, children who have Reactive Attachment Disorder experience this."
~W. R. Cummings
As many of you are aware that our 5 little ones were added to our family after having their start at life in another family. The journey to us was through 2 to 3 families from their biological family. The first parts of each ones childhood was not easy. There was trauma to be experienced in different levels for each one. We had thought that the last one being so young when she left her biological home might have escaped it. However, something is amidst from either in uteri or the experience of being in foster care.
In our home we have our highs and lows. Kind of like watching the stock market on Wall Street. Just like certain stocks rise up fast and some crash right down to bottom out. That is what our family life is like. Each day is something a little bit different. There isn't a crystal ball to help us see clearly what the day is going to be like.
After reading this article, 'Kids Who Need Their External World To Match Their Internal Chaos' by Wendy Cummings. I highly recommend reading it if you or someone you love has a child who thrives in chaos. It helped shed some more light with what might be going on with our little ones. They love it loud. The chaos, the noise, the hands on each other, telling on someone for something they did or even for something they didn't do. Of course with our first two children we had a little tattling and bickering but mostly calm. Though we had been around children who had behavior tendencies it wasn't every day. Our every day environment is not the one that we lived in for the past 17 years before we opened our home for fostering.
Donald and I appreciate calm and thrive in it. However, we are going to need to embrace the chaos we have been trying to push back against, or at least accept it a little better. Each of our five little ones look like any other kiddo.... just cuter. LOL Just kidding! Children are beautiful. This shed's a light on why one always tries to stir up something when nothing is going on. Why another fights so hard to pick up the simplest thing to put away and then goes into an hour long screaming tantrum. It just might be more than impulses for our RAD child when he places his hands on someone. Our daughter who likes to be the "boss" of everyone and control the situation where she has no control. Then the last one, she is a whirlwind of destruction but taken out of the chaos at such a young age of just over a month. She doesn't like all the loud around her but instead is static cling to myself or her daddy.
We get tired. Our home is not organized. Ha! Laundry needs to be caught up and definitely all put away. The idea of everything having a place is fleetingly flying out the window. It will come when they all leave the home at 25 or 30 years old.... At that time we will be 60/70... Great time to declutter and let it go.
At the end of the day we still love each one of them immensely and couldn't think of a day without them. They might be unbiologically ours, however, they are the missing parts of our heart. We give them all the love and hopefully the skills to help with a stable life through the chaos.
The above photograph was captured by our dear friend, Gina Johnson of Gina Johnson Photography. I am so happy with this image of our Bigs and our Littles.
“Children raised with good boundaries learn that they are not only responsible for their lives, but also free to live their lives any way they choose, as long as they take responsibility for their choices. For the responsible adult, the sky is the limit.”
― Henry Cloud, Boundaries with Kids: When to Say Yes, How to Say No
I shared a post the other day about why we are strict. It was "My Parenting May Seem Strict, But I Have a Few Good Reasons For It" by Mike Berry. The post was shared after it had came to my attention that there are a few individuals who have mentioned that we are too "strict" of parents. Another comment that came to us was one that we are "raising little soldiers." This came as quite a shock due to the fact the individual who said it was one that I looked up to. That just shows in the end who really supports you and your parenting choices.
A disclaimer of what is "strict" if anyone is curious. In our home we expect no running through the house and to keep our feet off furniture. If you can't keep your feet off furniture after two warnings then you are off it. Our hands, feet, and mouth do not belong on other people in a harmful way. Chores need to be finished that are their assigned chores. School work needs to be completed each day when school is in session. We use our manners with please and thank you. All this we like to call "morals" and not being strict.
At this moment, I would like to give a little bit of a statement to this morning and some behaviors we have been having the last few weeks. You see, Donald and I have let up on a lot of our boundaries. We have given multiple chances throughout the day to different actions that our littles have done. In this aspect, we were taking on a peaceful parenting approach and talked it out, then sent them on their way to continue the day.
If there were behaviors, the child having them was still allowed to go to the "fun" event that was going on. Our family has been staying out past bed times and having to come home and still do chores before bed and we rise early in the morning. (We love when we visit and never want to leave or cut it short.) This makes for some tired kiddos and tired kiddos are cranky wildlings.
All of these slips are on Donald and I for trying to let the kids be a little more like neuro-typical kids and not so atypical. However, our littles are atypical. They need structure, routine, and boundaries. All kids do, except atypical children need it just a little bit more. When we are going places, surprises don't work well and just causes extra anxiety. On the other hand of that, if a certain one of them is told a head of time (like days), that is all she can think about until the event.
We have had an increase in defiance, in lying, in hands on each other (for a few of them), and just being down right disrespectful. Some of that disrespect has spilled over to our close friends and family from a certain little man of ours (normally he wouldn't dream of that).
What has changed? Loose structure and too many chances. Not to mention saying they can't go and then letting them. We have to stay home or one of us does to follow through. If we are lucky we could find a sitter on a last minute notice. This is such a fine line to walk and not step on the landmines that can set off a series of meltdowns. Sometimes you hold your breathe to not wake the sleeping lion that is inside of them.
Today, I had those big meltdowns from one of our little guys. He was upset that he couldn't go to the beach. This was decided after multiple different behaviors that couldn't be over looked. Examples hands on siblings three times before 10 am and leaving the house without permission to go outside after he was told to stay inside. (We own a farm and need to know where our impulsive children are for their safety and the safety of others and property.)
He was sent to his room to calm down due to the fact that once he is in that state of mind he doesn't come out of his meltdown until he is ready and no amount of consoling will help him. His room is the safe place for him and we keep it as such. When he calms down he comes up and we have a discussion on the actions and the decision. If we are lucky, it ends with understanding. If not we go right back to step one and repeat the procedure that is in place for him. This is grueling and hard. He isn't able to regulate his emotions like most people and these moments can cycle over a few times until he gets to his baseline. (Again atypical children) On this day that total was five times.
Once he was at his baseline we were able to talk without him melting back down again. He understood what he had done wrong and why he couldn't go. I explained that he would be dropped off to his Dad on our way through to the event with one of his sisters and brother. (Yup! It was that kind of day. I would post theirs, too. However, you most likely have things to do.)
Little man tried to say what he did wasn't as big as what his sister did a couple of weeks previous. I explained to him that she didn't go to the event that night either. Plus we don't compare actions. In life that isn't something you can do. As parents, we don't want them thinking that they can weigh the choices others make that are not right to their own poor choices.
All five of our little ones have some specials needs that take a toll on their young lives. We work really hard to teach them the skills that they will need to be successful adults that we know they are capable of being. The fact they are atypical does not define who they are as an individual. Each is so much more. They are sweet, kind, loving, smart, creative, adventurous, helpful, and spirited. Each one along with our bigs are our world.
Currently we are working on more evaluations to get to the root of what is going on with our young ones. After answers are found (or confirmed to our suspicions) then we can get the services that they need. It is just a long road to get there. If you are a parent who struggles, know you are not alone. I am here for you. If you are a "strict" parent and have set boundaries, keep it up. You are doing just fine. In the end our children will thank us for it. Keep on parenting. It is the toughest job ever but the pay rate is one that is priceless.
A child born to another woman calls me Mommy. The magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege are not lost on me.
Even though my day was amazing, my heart hurts for another whose day that I know was not. Another momma had empty arms and didn't get to enjoy the hugs and the smiles of our children today. There was no laughter that filled her home. She didn't get to unwrap cute little homemade gifts.
The ache that she is feeling I can only imagine and have been lucky that it isn't something felt in my heart. So many memories and moments that are happening and we are blessed to witness. While each year ticks by and she is missing out on all of these events and milestones.
Dear First Mom of Our Children,
You might not know this at the moment but you have created some very amazing children. They each are extremely creative and sweet. Every day it is astonishing to how smart they are and how hard they work. Each night they loving give hugs, kisses, and love yous.
We know that you love and miss your babies very much. That it hurts not having them and seeing them. Please know that we love them just as much and even though they are not made of our flesh, it is a fierce kind of love.
It is an honor and a true gift to have both your's and also our children in our life. We hope in time as the children continue to heal from all that has happened that we could have some contact. However, until then , please know that we are keeping them safe, loved, and cared for. They are a huge part of our hearts.
Always on our minds,
The Second Mom
Our one little guy refers to us as "first mom" and "second mom" when he is talking about both of us. This makes it easier for him to put his feelings, thoughts, and emotions into order. Now it just kind of sticks. The emotions that run through our little ones are big. Each one misses their first mom and each one loves us immensely.
The only thing we can do for now is continue our healing process. Work on our family bonding every single day. Give them a home filled to the brim with love and laughter, while working on the basics of life. At the same time sending prayers from my heart out to the woman who created these precious angels the we call our daughters and sons.
"Most mothers are instinctive philosophers."
~Harriet Beecher Stowe
Pretty little butterfly enjoying a flower on my walk.
You might be wondering what could possibly be wrong for a Mother's Day celebration with your children and spouse? Well this is being written from two different hearts point of view. Grab a cup of tea, bottle of water, glass of wine or a cup of coffee if you are a night bird. Get comfy with your blanket and start reading.
Today was a pretty amazing Mother's Day for me. I got to sleep in this morning to a little after 7 am. Normally I am up first thing in the morning. The option to sleep in a little bit was great. Then it was a delicious breakfast of French toast made by Chloe with our own farm raised eggs and milk from our goats.
When the tummies were all full, it was time for chores. Outside some of them went (Donald and the kiddos) while the Jazzaroo stayed inside with me. A whirlwind of activity happened around the house. Outfits were double checked that we had everything. Tights, shoes, shorts, t-shirts, hair bows, oh my! (Missing one hair bow that went MIA at Expo time.) Showers were quickly ran through and hairs were done. Everyone loaded up in the car. We are off to the last part of this year's dance adventure at Julie's Dance Studio, LLC. Wish each of them luck!
After the littles danced their numbers in the recital we then went to Phillip's Diner for a mixed bag celebration, Mother's Day and the success of another dance year. The food was delicious and we were all stuffed afterwards. Each little one used their manners and were so polite. They talked and joked together. Conversed with the waitress. It is amazing how wonderful they are. As I watched them laugh and smile and glow, my eyes teared up. These are my babies.
After dinner we headed home. Everyone changed and it was time to go out to the barn and get the chores done for the night. Which of course meant also playing with the baby goats. What a great way to end the day. :)
The only thing that would have made this day better was to spend time with my oldest daughter and see her smiling face. Kaitlynn did send me a Happy Mother's Day text. Understandable due to the fact she had to work. Devion joked with me. He is a goofy kid. All my children are loved with all my heart. My day was not bad. The flip side of this is in part 2 .
I hope you all had a blessed Mother's Day with your loved ones.
"The fundamental job of a toddler is to rule the universe."
Tonight I loaded up our three younger daughters and left the boys at home to help out dad. We had a great friend ride up with us to the training. The training was called FLIP It and the presenter was Kim Polstein She was phenomenal. The audience was a mix of adoptive parents, kin gap, foster parents, and just parents working on trying something new with their child's challenging behaviors.
There are four points to Flip it: Feelings, Limits, Inquiries, and Prompts.
Here is where I got smart. Putting it in the front of my mind what I learned tonight I said.
And just like that is how you get outsmarted and beat by a four year old. There is hope though. It wasn't a melt down. She answered questions. I didn't say but. At the end she did make me laugh. Kind of hard. She is too darn cute. Hugs and kisses and off to bed she goes. Chalk this up to another night of kissing the wall. Thank goodness I love our kids. Tomorrow is another day.
With our children who have experienced trauma and have special needs, the use of traditional parenting skills just doesn't work. No matter time out, lecturing, sending them to their rooms or grounding them. In the end the only thing that it ends up doing is further adding to what has left scars on them internally and frustrating us as adults. We have attended many classes on this topic. It is something that together as a team in parenting we are trying to apply with our children. Still a very big learning curve for us as it is for them. In the long run we will get it. For now we might stumble and trip on the way down the path. Love lights the way, though and as cheesy as it sounds, I have to believe that it can do some real good in the world along with compassion and understanding.
"I have so much chaos in my life, it's become normal. You become used to it. You have to just relax, calm down, take a deep breath and try to see how you can make things work rather than complain about how they're wrong."
Our five littlest monkeys.
This post topic has been floating around for quite awhile to be written. It was a really big debate. On one hand no one likes to admit that there are struggles. On the other hand maybe it works as a little bit of therapy writing it out yourself and knowing you are not alone. The reason why someday we look ragged and tired. The fact behind the turning down invitations to events. The reason we try to stay to a strict schedule. Either way, here it goes.
If anyone were to ask us how we handle the chaos of raising five little ones who have been through a lot, between trauma and new beginnings, we would tell them this. We roll with it! It isn't easy some days though at all. Those five sweet faces up there are survivors. It is no wonder that our days are crazy and filled with behaviors that make you go "Oye".
Then add a Daddy with the little monkeys.
There is a welcoming mat that we need for the front door of our home that says "Warning: There are a lot of children in there." That statement speaks volumes. There is running, jumping on furniture, lost cups (no clue where they put those), mine field of legos, just to name a few.
An endless amount of laundry to be done. It is never ending with the children changing their clothes about four times a day. As soon as one room is cleaned and you move to the next one, a tornado comes through and messes it up again. But, really that is the typical if you have children and these things happen in every families lives.
Ahhhhh.... Look at those faces.
The one thing you don't see when you are looking at our littles is what they are feeling inside. You don't see the hurt, the emotional scars, the child that went hungry, who struggles academically, has emotional breakdowns over something someone would think is small. The child who is loving their new family but not understanding why the "first mommy" isn't there any more.
The tantrums, destruction (because they are hurting), impulsive behaviors that can go on for weeks and then balance out to nothing at all. Moments of the valley are nice and calm. We cherish and look forward to those. Prepping our-self for the next expedition of hiking up to the peak again. If we are lucky only one goes on that trip alone. Sometimes though that isn't the case. Currently we have two and a half on that great adventure.
You might ask what is so hard? Have you listened to a child wail and not be able to calm down? Or have to watch everything like a hawk with your eight year old child, when neurotypical eight year olds understand the dangers of things? A child able to open a child safety lid on liquid cleaner that was safely put away. Child proof is only child proof for the adults. Luckily no one was harmed but our kitchen floor was super clean.
The children are supervised. They are redirected when things happen. We discuss why they shouldn't do what they did. We discuss why they did it. This is mostly met with answers of "I don't know.", "Because I can't do that.", "Because you said not to." The last one might be closer to the truth. One of little guy's favorites is "Because I was fooling around." He fools around a lot.
Examples of Our Chaos:
Some of these can be looked at as great skills. At least that is what we need to tell our-selves. If it was maybe a couple days a week, even once a day it wouldn't be as chaotic. More often 8 times out of 10 the little guy pushes, hits, or screams at one of his siblings. The wailing happens every time the word "no" is said or this little lady has to help clean the mess she made. The walls have ears and no conversation is safe. Another little man would make a great defense lawyer with his skill of arguing a point. The youngest is just plain spoiled. That is completely our fault. *sigh* Live and learn they say.
Let them stay little.
The next question we are asked. Wouldn't it be easier to send them back to school? You would be so much more sane and get so much more done. It might be joked about being a little crazy, however, that is farthest from the truth. In a normal (if there is a thing) family, parents get to raise and bond with their children from birth. We haven't had that chance with these little ones. We were not there to witness their first breathe. To hold them so tiny in our arms. It wasn't possible for us to protect them from harm.
Now, while home schooling we are working on their education and life skills. The whole time while doing that bonds are being formed stronger than it was before. We cover coping skills. There are "I love yous" and hugs throughout the day. Those will never be turned away and are cherished. This is why we made our decision to home school. It is helping with them knowing we are here for them.
A lot has been covered here and it might seem to jump here and there. LOL Welcome to our life. It kind of runs a little like this. In all that chaos there are little ones that were chosen. They are loved . They are our blessings. We made the choice over seven years ago to open our homes and our hearts. Never did we dream that these little darlings would come into it and steal big pieces of our love.
So the next time when you ask how we are doing, it will be "we are living" for an answer. Family isn't always blood, sometimes it is chosen. On this journey we have chosen our family. We have also chosen a tribe. Those who are walking the same path, fighting the same battles, and loving their children from another mother and father. We love you guys. Thank you for being there and for understanding the challenges and for the support.
If you have it in your heart check out your local Department of Social Services to become a foster home. Many of the children have been abused either sexually, physically, emotionally, and mentally to name a few. The facts are staggering and the lasting damage takes a long time to get over.
©Kimberly Doerr at T. H. Photography
"I say to everybody, 'Adoption is not for the faint of heart.'"
Everyone knows about the hit T.V. show this is us. It has swept the nation like a storm. The reason that it is so popular is because it touches on real life situation, moments, and family events. All of them both good and not so great. There are parts to that show that is easy for me to relate to.
First of all let me introduce our loving family. It all started when a girl (me) met a boy named Donald. Isn't that how all good romances start? Well there are some derivations from that and I am good with those love stories too. We met way back in the year 1993. It was no surprise to anyone that we fell deeply in love. We were just two crazy kids that were going to take on the world.
It wasn't two long later that we planned our little family. Our hearts were filled when Kaitlynn and Devion came into our lives. We loved them even before they were born. Both created out of the love that we have for each other. Many happy memories, moments, and years went by. We had our ups and our downs like any family. Teen years and tears as they graduated from school. We were done and we made it from start to finish. Or so we thought.... ;)
Our family of four with our two bigs.
Photo Credited Kimberly Doerr
Now here is where our life turns into a new adventure. We had been fostering children for a few years. In 2015 five beautiful little souls came into our lives. They were so tiny and adorable. Little whirlwind of energy, cuddles, giggles, and hugs. It was extremely easy to fall deeply in love with them. Their warm brown eyes melted our hearts.
We worked closely with the biological parents for reunification. With a heavy heart as we all know from the way things sometimes work returning home was not an option. There were many mixed emotions with that. It is heartbreaking and heartwarming all at once. That is a blog for another time.
Our family is complete, us, our bigs, and our littles.
Photo Credited to Gina Johnson Photography
On November 20, 2017 our adoption was finalized. These little ones were finally in a family. No second guessing, no more moving, they are home. This was the best Christmas gift for all of us. It was the best one that I have ever received. We were joyous to be welcoming Chloe, James, Connor, Jazlyn, and Sophie into our family officially. Even though they were already a huge part of it for so long already.
Our days are filled with organized chaos. When you have a 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 22, and 23 all at home it can get interesting. Throw in there that we own a small family farm then it is literally a circus. The two legged and four legged animals are all a joy to be around.
Best Christmas present ever, our family!
Photo Credit Jennifer White
Life is a journey. One that should be enjoyed every step of the way. Having those who love you and you love makes it even more fun to travel on. Look for more things to come from our circus with our monkeys. Blessed be!