Friday, February 16, 2018

The Confession

I almost completely fell apart slowly over the last two months of lies. After getting kicked out of Day Treatment mid December, our son had been stealing and lying consistently. From nail clippers to bananas. Candy at school to sneaking lip gloss. Just tons of hiding. Never asking. Just taking. So much shame Too much guilt.

I literally thought I was going to lose my mind until I sat across the booth from one of my best friends at Starbucks the other day. She asked me, "I know he is making all of those annoying choices, but why is that making your days rough?" I had lost sight of myself. Once again, I was rolling my identity in my kids' choices.

The worst part wasn't the choices he was making, it was that I felt like I lost my son for too long. I hadn't seen his smile, heard his laugh or been able to cuddle with him on movie night. He was pushing me away. I had glimmers of hope, but SO. MUCH. DISTANCE. I felt like I didn't even want to see him or be around him - I was so focused on his choices, I wanted to push him away.

Thankfully this friend of mine woke me up. She didn't stand aside and let me turn into the bitter, ugly, frustrated human she saw me slowly becoming. She called me out. Quite a risk, but thankfully my heart was open and I heard her. I was able to see her intention. God had slowly been chipping away at my heart as he spoke to me through Ben's encouragement to pick up (for the um-teenth time) the book about how kids' brains are literally wired differently when effected by trauma. (Help for Billy) God was using all kinds of people to soften my heart and mold me.

Our son doesn't want to be controlled by fear and impulses. He wishes he could process his choices as thoughtfully as you and I can. Today as Ben & I were explaining our son to our new Care Coordinator for a new HMO we are starting for his new therapies, we were so relieved at how well we know him. We understand his triggers. It is easy to identify what things set him off - especially in hindsight. But, we often still feel lost at the inability to see him through the messes he creates for himself. We get sick of following through on consequences that have become so thick I can barely keep them straight.

But tonight - after a good week of behavior (and maybe me not constantly emotionally reacting helped a bit) he looked me in the eyes when I was singing to him at bedtime. He calmly told me about another thing he stole. He didn't have to - I probably wouldn't have noticed the two pieces of gum missing from my purse. But he told me. He knew there would be consequences, but he still told the truth.

It may not seem like much to you, but after being lied to so much I just couldn't speak to him anymore, this was all I've wanted. When he confessed the other day to convincing his brother to steal for him in the middle of the night, I thought it was just to protect his brother! But now, instead, I see progress. I didn't have to notice it was missing, see him anxiously unable to sleep or find out from someone else.

He told me. 

I know we have a long way to go, but tonight my son told me the truth. I'll call that a win.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Silent Lunch

Its been almost three hours sitting here in silence. I had lots of work to catch up on and this son of mine has been working my last nerve. The stealing. LIES. Strange behavior. Nothing out of character for him, but the quantity of issues has significantly increased.

Everything in me wanted to leave him at home with Ben. Ben was willing to hold down the fort so I could get away for a couple hours - he was encouraging me to take a break. He saw my buttons being pushed and didn't want me to (continue to) explode. Little outbursts of anger - my tone, body language and even my physical stress has been bubbling to the surface.

I didn't want to be with him - I didn't want to hear him talk. See his annoyed looks. I didn't want to hear his breath or even see him. I wanted to push this kid away.  He has been hurting me daily with the countless lies, carelessness and constant blame shifting. I just wanted someone to come take him away for a couple hours.

Instead, I told him to grab his things and come with me. I was going to get out of the house today - but he was coming with me. He was going to see that I am more than an annoyed mom. I am a mom who cares - arguably too much. But, I also have work to do. Blogs to finish. Quotes to catch up on. And while I will always be his mom - he tries to consume my days with him - I am more than that. He needs to see what I do when I take my alone time.

If we are at home, he battles me constantly. He wants every word of his to be heard, he wants me to be frustrated if he's frustrated - and boy is he skilled at this. I can't allow him to treat me this way.

Instead, I brought him with me to eat lunch and work. Show him that he can't win my attention with this horrible behavior. He is missing time playing at home - the silly adventures Baba has with them when I am away. Sure - he will show his anger when we get home about what he didn't realize he missed.

But, just for a few more minutes, we will sit here in silence. No rude words. No opportunities to lie. No more annoyed mama. Just a mom sitting here enjoying the quiet - white noise of the restaurant - as I get my things done. He has plenty of apology notes to write and books to read. But, lunch without words may show him that I love him. My harsh words and gentle words have been falling on dead ears too long and sometimes I just need to say less.

So this is me not running away. Choosing love. I don't always like my tone, the way I feel about my kids' behavior or the day to day life of this chaos God brought us into. But, instead of pushing these kids of ours away, I choose to apologize. I choose to bring them closer when they make me crazy. I choose love. Not always well, but I'll keep brushing off and trying again.

Sometimes silence is better than words.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Our Christmas Card

To you & yours - thank you so much for being a part of our village. This year, our family has experienced record highs and lows, but have remained strongest together. We are so grateful for the role you have played in supporting us as we have become a family. Here is an update on how we are all doing!

Jacob is constantly blowing us away with his academic abilities. He can often be found creating something incredible with whatever is in the recycling bin. While Jacob’s mental health is currently only relatively stable, his compassion for others and willingness to learn is thriving. He loves to be outside - hiking, rock climbing, zip-lining - you name it. We can’t wait to see him on the basketball court in a couple weeks and in his next musical this summer - he is such a performer!

While she has always been our shy one, our Tashari (7) has been breaking out of her shell this year. From the basketball court to the classroom. She is constantly reading - loving any book about adventures. Maybe thinking she’s too cool for us a little too young, but her heart for others is beautiful. It’s hard not to smile when you get to be with her, because she just loves life.  Somehow she never runs out of energy and is up for anything - another adventurous one.

Oh, Charlie. We are so grateful for some recent support for him which has enabled him to regulate himself. He is still our little energizer bunny, but now he is in so much more control of his body and emotions. Each day we are shocked by his empathy and consideration of others. Our little engineer is always trying to figure out how everything works and he is inquisitive beyond his years. We can’t wait for his debut on the basketball court this winter as well - it will be a riot for sure.

Don’t let her curls and eyelashes deter you - she is our little firecracker. While our Bella is always keeping us on our toes, her compassion and self awareness has increased dramatically. She is our best snuggler. Her genuine desire to forgive or comfort others is a gift. We are also blown away by her ability to read and devotion to school - constantly pushing herself to learn. She loves caring for others and knows everything about everyone. Bella loves to display her colorful wardrobe & personality to the world.

Henry has found a wonderful groove lately! All the supports are lined up for him and he has started to thrive at school. He is finally feeling safe, able to cope with his feelings and express himself. We are so proud of his growth and our ability to get to know him better. Our Henry is our generous one - always willing to sacrifice what he has for others. He is so thoughtful and considerate to others. The way he notices the need in a room is priceless. We are hoping he makes it on the court this winter in his basketball debut as well.

My incredible husband, Ben, is still loving his role at Anthem. He is constantly meeting the needs of his clients - resourcing them and providing them with outstanding service. Ben is also serving in the youth group "FUSE" at our church - Epikos. He always comes home with such an energy for influencing those kids he cares about and it has been one of the best things to happen to him this year. He's a fun dad & decided to take on coaching both of the boys K-1 & 2-3 basketball teams at Upward this winter!

What a year it has been for me as well! After getting to finally take our family (+Grandma Jan) to Walt Disney World last winter, Ben & I went back for a long weekend to celebrate our 10th anniversary in May. I have decided to turn my love of the Happiest. Place. On. Earth. into a vocation! I have recently launched my role as a Dream Designer with My Mickey Vacation Travel. Being able to use my expertise of Disney knowledge to book & plan other people's vacations at little or no cost to them is so exciting to me. I have also continued my newest love of writing on my two personal blogs & as a contributor for the MKE Moms Blog. It has been a joy for me to find a few new outlets this year.

Thank you for your ongoing support, love and willingness to walk this journey of adopting out of foster care that reaches far past their "adoption days". Until next year - maybe you'll even get a card in the mail!

Merriest Christmas wishes -

Jill (for all of us)

"For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6)

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Just. So. Confused.

I am so confused. After a wonderful weekend away with a couple of our favorite families and a few great days at home - with very little problems - something switched. The boy who always has amazing behavior at school. One of the smartest and most creative little boys I have ever met. How can everything I know to be true about him constantly flip?!

Mental Illness is real. I am sitting her in shock after my son was readmitted into the psychiatric hospital for the 3rd time this fall. Every other time our son has been admitted, we were with him. It was our call. We were unsure WE could keep him safe. He needed help we couldn't provide.

Today is quite different. Our son has been in a Day Treatment program for the past several months which we have found to be very helpful. They have seen the sides of him he hides so well in some areas of his life. He has had fits. He has talked back. He has raged over random, unwarranted things. He has been struggling since his last hospitalization especially - been moody and annoyed at the world - with no medication changes. It is very confusing and odd. Its not like he's always annoyed - just at random times over random things. Today he just took it too far.

In a way, I am relieved. I am not the only one that has seen the meltdowns. Sometimes in the past, I have questioned if my parenting is the issue. Am I too hard on him? Was I too quick to let it go? Did I follow through the way I said I would? Sometimes it can get overwhelming as a mom of 5 kids - most with their own struggles and diagnoses. I often consider if I am the one to blame. I wonder if there was anything we could do to avoid his meltdowns and dangerous decisions.

But, today I am reminded. I did not cause my son to be so unsafe in Day Treatment today that he had to be admitted into the hospital. It was their call. They couldn't keep him safe. They saw his need for more resources. Finally - instead of looking into the eyes of nurses who I felt were judging me because my son is "just fine here", they are finally seeing that he is not fine. He can't hold it together forever.

But to be honest, the emotion the most real to me right now is sad. I am sad my son didn't come home today. The time he wanders through the day and we do his homework together has come and gone. Now he's alone and probably scared. Until we can be together - here I am. Yes - confused and sad, but also hopeful.

We are seeing so much progress in him. The ability to eventually process things. His heart and compassion for others. Some days it is easy to forget what life was like for him before us. There are even days I don't consider his past at all. So I am all these things, but we have hope.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Every. Freakin. Time.

Sneaking candy at a trick or treat event should be no big deal. Most parents are completely cool and allow their kids to have as much of their Halloween candy as they want - or at least pick a handful of pieces to snack on.

Today at Day Treatment, my oldest had a party. They went around trick-or-treating around to different offices. It was a social activity, something for the kids to do to work on their eye contact, interactions and such. So when my son came home with a bag full of fruit snacks, pretzels and stickers I was floored. His breath smelled like candy.

He wasn't supposed to have candy. We talked last night all about it - he had a bunch of sweet treats over the weekend - birthday cake, lollipop, donut, candy from trick or treating in our neighborhood. I have been trying to loosen up with him at home since he can keep it in control here. I packed him a snack of his choice to eat while the other kids were eating candy. We talked it out. He knew what to do.

I really am trying not to be the crazy, overprotective mom. But, this kid cannot control his sugar intake. If he steals sugar - he does it big. Like 3 packages of gum. A whole bag of oreos. Or like today - 15 or 20 Starbursts. (It's hard to say how many - that was his best guess.) He overindulges. He can't control his impulses and overdoes it every. time. If he could go to an event and just eat one snack the other kids are having - that would be great. But, if the music teacher gives him a skittle for singing well, he sees candy in the school library and steals a pocketful.

He can't control himself.

So, here I am - feeling horrible about the way I treated him tonight. The way I overdid the guilt trip. I was clearly disappointed and listed all the ways Baba (Daddy) may punish him. There was a lack of tact in my attempts at being subtle. Not my strong suit.  My goal was to tick him off. Why?! Because I am basically a 12 year old occasionally and want him to hurt. He hurts me and I wanted his feeling to be hurt. Everything in me wants him to feel as frustrated and hurt as I feel. It doesn't make sense to me why I continue to let his choices hurt me. Why do I care if my 9 year old ate a bazillion Starbursts?! Boys will be boys. Kids steal. I get it, but I can't just let it go.

Because I love him. I want to protect him. I often fear what will happen to him when he is older and can't control his urges. Sometimes I agonize over the endless possibilities of what he may choose to do someday. I dread he will become another statistic. So many kids in, aged out and adopted out of foster care struggle with big things at young ages. The possibilities really are endless and unpredictable.

But as my husband kindly reminded me tonight: this was not personal. My son doesn't steal to piss me off. He feels left out. The snack he brought didn't seem as exciting as Starbursts. He is a kid. It is ok for him to make mistakes. So, as I desperately try to let go of the hurt and forgive my kid for deliberately disobeying me again, I choose not to take it personally. At least I am trying to. There is no value in my worrying about his future.

Here I was pouting and throwing a fit of my own. But my 9 year old son kept it together. His homework got done (mostly). He kept his cool. The shower helped him relax and he used his coping skills. He owned his choice and consequences. I should've been proud. It would've been much more beneficial for me to see his growth in telling me the truth when I caught him. I should have noticed, not reacted.

One of the advantages of the future being unknown is my ability to enjoy the ignorance. To choose to pray and trust my boy in God's very capable hands. He is not my project to fix - he is my child to love. He IS learning. He IS growing. He IS an amazing kid. If only I could've remembered these things while he was awake.

Thank goodness for tomorrow. We will start the day with my apologies. The ability to apologize and start over in the morning never cease to amaze me. It reminds me of the amazing grace God extends to me. Humbled tonight and thankful for tomorrow. 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Day Treatment

Last week, our oldest started Day Treatment (DT). He's going to the facility on the same grounds as the hospital he spent the week before last. When being able to come home from the hospital, they included a month or two of DT as part of his discharge plan. As soon as insurance approves it, our youngest son will also be starting DT at a separate facility with more age appropriate groups. He hasn't been able to stay in school and needs more observation and monitoring to help determine what he needs.

Adolescent Day Treatment is a therapy option provided to keep kids out of inpatient behavioral health (psychiatric) hospital stays. For kids with mental health issues. The kids issues could range from moderate to severe including social interaction issues, safety issues, medication monitoring/adjustments, developing coping skills, etc. Depending on the specific program, the kids go half or full weekdays with kids in their age group.

The different therapies include, but are not limited to: art therapy, individual therapy, group therapy, play therapy, yoga, pet therapy, etc. Each day our son learns new coping skills and how to safely and appropriately express himself in different situations. Psychiatrists will meet with him each week to see if his medications need to be adjusted, check his blood levels for side effects (with specific meds) and update prescriptions as needed.

Each day forms are sent home to find out what is happening at home and school so the therapists can talk about any new or re-occurring problems or behaviors. It helps evaluate if the skills learned in DT are being used by him in all environments. It is important to be sure he is not discharged from DT before he is able to cope and function in day to day life to avoid a readmission. Teachers and parents are required to daily report how the child is doing. His behavior for the four hours he is there is monitored closely and even minor things are noted.

While there is so much frustration I have with my kids' needing these services I am so grateful for them. We were able to tour my youngest son's DT location last week. I was filled with peace as I saw the intentionality in which the staff cared for the kids there. Each person that worked there saw him as a kid yet understands how to measure his mental health needs. They want to know how to equip our kid best for daily life.

In a weird way, it comforts me to know that my kids need these kinds of therapy. It helps me understand the depth to their trauma that I can not solve for them. I am very aware that I am not a therapist and that they can not be healed overnight from the trauma they have endured. There is a strange way I find comfort in knowing that the school also needs help. I am not the only one who struggles to contain him. No human can fix him single handedly.

Both of our boys have made such AMAZING strides over the past two years, but even in the last month. We have had so much growth. They are able to express themselves - my youngest has even started to talk! He was mostly non-verbal for anyone but me until his anxiety meds were prescribed. Now he is asking for help, crying (yay?) and able to say why he's making the choices he is making. It isn't everything he needs, but it is a start. Imagine what growth will happen with this intensive therapy?!

While I am obviously not thrilled about my kids being in Day Treatment at 5 & 9 years old, I am ready for them to get the help past what I can provide them in one hour a week in play therapy or even in-home therapies. Both of these have been CRUCIAL in their lives, but they need more. Since they have been attaching to me so well, they have received services for over two years as we've worked with almost a dozen different therapists, psychiatrists and psychologists. It is time to take the next steps and get them the deeper help they need.

Some days it makes me feel like a weak mom because I can't protect my kids or fix them. After hundreds of hours with therapists, it hasn't been enough. But most days I feel confident that this is what they need. I am aware of them needing more help and resources than I could ever provide them. I need back up. It was time to take this next step.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Waiting In the Gap Between Before and After

This month has been brutal. Between day to day life, my kids' mental health issues, school behavior and now fall break - it has been rough.

I feel like I am one of those circus plate spinners. I am spinning so many plates that I can hardly keep them all spinning. Some days I am trying so hard to glue together a plate that dropped that other plates fall. Sometimes I know other plates will fall, sometimes I was so focused on something else I didn't even notice. Our lives just feels collectively overwhelming. Trying to keep it all together seems impossible.

Yes - things are brutal, but it's my head that is the biggest issue. Avoiding so much processing has become a skill because I am just so tired. Why should I have to acknowledge and accept my kids' diagnoses?! I don't even want to accept the help my kids' need because it is to invasive and time consuming.

Most days I feel like I am managing chaos that feels so outside of my reach. I have amazing friends & neighbors who have offered to take one of the kids with them to the park, dropped off a pizza or came over to just be with us. We have been so supported and that is amazing.

But what do I do for the month my son is in limbo between being approved for the day treatment and day treatment actually starting? Thanks insurance....He's getting worse and more behaviors are coming to the surface everyday. He needs more than we can offer him.

How do I wait another month for another son to meet with the psychiatrist?! He's been diagnosed and assumed to need more help, but now we have to wait. What do we do in the mean time?

I am just so grieved at having to wait when all I want to do is be able to move. I feel like I can see the horizon of hope and every time I take a step closer it gets farther away.

So, we are functioning - the kids are hilarious, silly and fun a good chunk of the time. We have resources. We have support. We are getting through this fall break. Emotionally we are exhausted, but we will be fine. Please pray for us as we are in the gap between before and after. We are waiting for help - no longer questioning what we need, but feeling like the resources are taking too long.

Pray for peace. For calm. For perseverance. For hope. So grateful you're on our support team.

The Confession

I almost completely fell apart slowly over the last two months of lies. After getting kicked out of Day Treatment mid December, our son had ...