More on the brain and some break-throughs!

What a whirlwind it’s been! 2019 has worn me out.

So, I’m putting all this “out there” so I can find out who my awesome resources and experienced mommas/daddies are, or maybe give another parent some hope or ideas. We have had major regression and aggression since the week of Christmas. 14 fits in 9 weeks to be exact. (This is a lot for *Little man.) So, naturally, I’m back into my reading and research.

PANDAS is something all parents should be aware of. I have recently read about it, thanks to another mom that “randomly” crossed my path a month ago. This could be a cause of aggression and more frequent fits along with obsessions. He had strep the same week aggression started…and it has continued weekly until we received some more information from a neurotherapy facility.

We had a brain scan at the Neurotherapy facility, 3 weeks ago, which is really insightful! Since those results, (which are all possibilities, not diagnoses) I have been intervening when necessary, as if he had a diagnosis of OCD and indecisiveness. With many students I have taught, choices were what kept them functioning in the classroom. *Little man gets even more frustrated when offered a choice, when he is succumbing to “caveman” brain. I was previously either giving him a choice, but not necessarily the thing he was fixated on, which causes him to escalate; or, we completely ignore him, also causing him to escalate.

Thankfully, with OCD in mind, I have begun to see his fits as a lack of control, versus him trying to manipulate or take control. I focus on helping him get whatever it is he is crying about. I used to steer clear of his obsession during fits, because my previous parenting focus was, “you can’t get what you want when you act like this,” and focused on setting boundaries with my kids. This new strategy is one that is really hard for me- kids who are capable of controlling their emotions, get what they want if they whine more, cry, or ask over and over. I experience kids who test these boundaries frequently in my classroom. But ultimately, most kids thrive on boundaries. *Little man is a different story.

I am now relying on the fact that he actually can not mentally let ‘whatever it is’ go. OCD comes in various forms taking on the form of sensory and/or mental repetitive thoughts too, which I didn’t know until I read more about it.

Along with the new linguistics during a tantrum, we are going to our 3rd consultation at a highly recommended therapist. He offers many different treatment options, including neurofeedback. I have called many facilities, therapists, and doctors who offer neuro/biofeedback, thanks to our therapist’s referral and leads from my new mommy friend. Updates will follow, but please comment with your experiences.

I have also discovered Hylands supplements at Sprouts, thanks to a friend at school. We began taking these daily for irritability each afternoon, the same week I found out about the possibility of OCD, and received more information about the neurological effects of Strep.

So here we are, and we will grow together and stronger; as this too, shall pass. I am bringing my sis-in-law to help me listen and make an informed decision of our plan to a healthy mind and body.

30 minutes

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Why does 30 minutes affect our lives exponentially around here and in so many strange ways? Can you relate?

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Here are some examples of time and its constant crazy mind games it plays on me these days:

Some fast forward scenarios: “Yay, I have 30 minutes!” is a joke, because it can go by like 5 minutes of time, if I somehow manage to be home alone. I find myself thinking of the 100 things I want to get done before the sweet sounds from my boys and chaos arrive. How do I decide on what to do? …go to the gym, organize, plan ahead, catch up, write, read, connect on Instagram, laundry, dishes, walk, run, even the decision wastes my quiet time! =)

“Load up, we have to go now!” Oftentimes, if we don’t leave with at least 30 minutes ahead of time, to travel 7 miles, we will be late during the sports and afterschool appointment hour in our crazy little suburb.

In the world of teaching, 30 minutes can seem like less than 10 when teaching a new concept or engaging students in hands-on activities.

30 minutes of exercise is waaaayy too short, when I’m relying on it for stress relief.

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Slow-mo scenarios: “How has it only been 5 minutes?” 30 minutes of make-believe play (super heroes vs. bad guys) with my littles has always felt like double-time to me.

Sometimes I get excited, “yay, we have 30 minutes!” Brian and I can make a pretty healthy, delicious dinner together in 30 minutes.

30 minutes can also make the flood of tears, screaming, and trying to help my child regain control feel like an eternity.

__________________________♡______________________________

After a *little man fit last month, *C$ intervened. It worked. It felt like a punch in the gut, and made me so excited and proud at the same time. It was past the 30 minute buffer for afterschool activity travel time. *Little man couldn’t find one of his little kid lacrosse game sticks that he wanted to bring and play with while big brothers were practicing. I was rushing to get round 1 of dinner for the big boys, pack *little man’s dinner, water bottles, and change out of work clothes. *Little man wanted me to help him look for his toy, but I suggested he grab another toy since we were almost out of time. Right before “go time” I suggested again he get another toy, he refused with tears; so, I suggested he bring the one stick and ball he found. I quickly pushed shoes on his feet, and he became louder with his cries. After we got in the car, he was in full blown tantrum. I looked back at him, very agitated and distracted, I sternly said, “no sir, you may not scream in the car,” while reversing up the driveway. I promptly had to slam on the breaks because a car was coming quickly up the hill past our driveway. I scolded him that crying loudly in the car was dangerous, explained the wreck that almost just happened and again said, “you need to stop so I can drive, safety.” He escalated. I put the car in park and brought him to the porch so he could have the rest of his fit, which consisted of stomping, screaming, and throwing shoes in my direction.

C$ noticed I was flustered, ignoring little brothers cries, and must have thought that if he didn’t try, we would be late to his practice. As soon as he reached to touch *little man’s back, and ask him if he wanted to borrow his real lacrosse equipment, the screaming stopped. He was able to nurture when I was feeling beat up. He could have chosen to be angry about being late, or that he was just screamed at, but he chose to nurture. ♡

The next fit came later that week, Brian was traveling, and C$ said, “mom, can I talk to him?”

You guys, this is huge.  I wish I could freeze time and remember exactly the way our big boy acted in these tense moments.

Kids of trauma can often have “terrible twos” tantrums due to stunted brain development in one of the five areas. Our fits have always started with two factors. He is tired and doesn’t get his way, or he is corrected and hungry. It starts with crying, we usually try to move him or the big boys away from each other. If we engage, he escalates. If we ignore, he escalates. We are trying different strategies with each fit, and documenting each one. We now have an official plan in place and accommodations for school. We are learning to trust and he is learning that his “caveman” brain fits have consequences. We have realized that very natural and relational consequences do work the best thus far. He has had so many transitions in life that he is not “attached” to things, but he is attached to people. He does not want to be alone, or go without attention. Our parenting class with @andystanley and @sandrastanley couldn’t have taken place at a more perfect time. Though relational consequences are exhausting, and we desire to take more away (more tangible items), we have focused consequences directly related to the crime of the relationship he hurt. Big brother relationships are what he cares about most, so we are able to use the fact that, “they won’t want to play with you when you act like ______.”

We are becoming very intentional with our time. Sometimes we don’t agree on the way to prioritize it, but we are recognizing this tough mind game that time is playing, and trying to decide how we want to and need to spend the time we have left with our kids before they leave our home.

Because of October chaos, I am behind posting a few drafts. So, I have to end with this update: please, knock on wood or say thankful prayers for healing and stability, this month, *little man has only had one fit at school and no fits at home.

Birth…day

Other blog post drafts will have to take a back seat to this one as today marks a very important day for our little man.  I don’t like to write, revise, and post on the same day, but I have a lot of feels today.

This past weekend, we had a sweet farm party to celebrate with some of our family and friends.

TODAY I CHOOSE JOY—

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—though I feel somewhat sad, like a piece of me is missing, a desire to want to know more, but nothing more at the same time.

Today marks a birth story that I can not recall.  There is no documentation to tell of the joy or pain his birth mother felt.  I don’t know if birth mother had complications during delivery, a natural or caesarean.  I don’t know if he was jaundice, breastfed after delivery, or held skin-to-skin.  I don’t know how often he woke up to eat, if he took a pacifier, or if he had to/was able to soothe himself.  I don’t know what outfit he came home in, or where he went home to.  I don’t even know who was there when he arrived, or if his biological father laid eyes on him around this special day.  We don’t know what foods were introduced or when; although, we have a hunch that the variety in his diet was very limited.

I wonder what she is thinking about today.  I wonder if she is sad or angry.  How is she coping with his loss?  Is she celebrating and relieved today?   Does she have memories of his other birthdays?  Does bio dad even know it is today?  We don’t know how his 1st and 2nd were celebrated.  His 3rd and 4th was with foster family #1 and 5th was with foster family #2.

So, this past weekend and today we establish our new birth…day traditions.  He learned from big brothers that he gets to choose dinner on his real birthday and that Menchie’s  is not out of the question.

Carter is 6

Adoption day

***The non-social media filtered version (as my hubs calls it):

(or as @AndyStanley refers to, the following story is the stuff we don’t put on our “bookshelf” for everyone to see.)  But, anyway, here it goes:

Our day prior to announcing our new son:

*Little man could not wait for early check out at school today; in his teacher’s words, “climbing out of his skin with excitement.” He screeched last night when he found the outfit he wanted to wear to court.  (We were only at the outlets to look for a shirt for the big boys to match *little man’s already planned outfit.)  He wanted to look really handsome.

The big boys couldn’t wait to check out of school either, but their excitement of their fancy clothes quickly melted away.  Photo shoot pictures were as pictures usually are with kids…  “stop touching each other, put your arms down, smile, stand up, if you look at the camera – we can be done,” etc.  Our amazing neighbor friend somehow made them look perfect in our world of kid chaos. 🙂

A puppy walked past our photo shoot and *little man was obsessed, trying to convince us we need one (he LOVES dogs)- Brian tries and I consistently deny.

Done with pics- grumps:

 

Waiting again:

 

The events as I remember: (but I may miss a few due to complete emotional overwhelm – ha!) We drove 1 1/2 hours to arrive early, get a snack, and then find out that the hearing may not happen. One piece of paperwork was not complete with the appropriate person’s signature on it. The judge’s clerk quickly helped get everything squared away and we finally entered the court room with both sets of grandparents, a set of great-grand parents, our lawyer, caseworker, and our handsome boys who were already tired of waiting.

Brian, *little man, and I sit at the table across from the judge, while *C$ and *minion take a seat at the table to the right, family behind all of us. Our lawyer begins talking and making introductions, and then the judge speaks to *little man, asking who all the people behind him were. Once she did this, it’s like it gave *little man approval to make this his show. 🙂 She told him she had been checking on him and he loudly stated, “you’ve been spying on me?!” She told him that she had not been spying but again stated that she had been checking in. She asked about school, in which he kept avoiding the question, by trying to give her a high-five, each time she asked the question. So, three or four high-fives later, he said, “ask her…” and pointed to me. (He was afraid since she had been “spying,” that maybe she knew about his unreasonable meltdowns, or 5’s on the 5- point scale, as we call them at home.)

Then she asked, “who are you pointing at?” And he replied, “weird.” That would be us, his new parents- weird!  Then she said, “well, I bet you don’t call them ‘weird,’ what do you call them?” He loudly and proudly stated, “Daddy!”

Judge asked about his new name, and he didn’t want to say it because it was his “trouble” name as we jokingly call it at home. We had not used his middle name, ever, but he was subtly obsessing over having a middle name like big bros. Judge then asked, who’s trouble name was used the most at home, and all three pretty much jumped out of their seats to let her know that it was *minion.

*Little man made noise or talked the entire hearing.

*Minion grabbed the defense mic, turned it on, and said, “I’m guilty.”  And Judge quickly told him that he should not practice saying that in a court room.  He then proceeded to be the first person to “Floss” in the judge’s bench.

(These pictures are on Facebook, if you haven’t seen them yet, they are pretty funny.)

They all got to sit in Judge’s bench, hit the gavel and reluctantly took more pictures.

We made it through dinner with one hangry *minion, and finished a way too scary Redbox movie on the car ride home.

Difficult questions at bedtime about birth mom, foster family, and “real” mom, followed by tears, because ‘something was in his eye’ and he was ‘thirsty.’  I reassured him that it was okay to have sad feelings, but that he needed to go to sleep because we had a long, very special day.

*I am beyond shocked at the amazingly kind words you guys have posted on social media, but want you to know: we are just a normal family with our ups and downs, tears, and exhaustion. I am forever grateful for my husband, family, and friends who are in it with us! ♡ you all and am looking forward to the next months and years.

Good morning coffee

Good morning…coffee.

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It’s Sunday at 6:45 am.  I wake up to a little munchkin standing beside my face.  It is so hard to be nurturing and kindly wake up this way, at this hour, to a little one that I know needs to be in bed, who’s little body needs more sleep, who will not want to wake up for school this week, and we went to bed too late (Though I like to allow the kiddos later on the weekends, it often backfires).

It is also so hard not to make bedtime like a consequence, but on these weeks of adjusting, and depending on how emotions are handled, it is like that.  I’m just trying to hide it from our little, but explain it to our big (and he needs examples of why he can’t stay up as late as he wants to or as late as his friends do).

Why does sleep always seems like a hot topic with kids and with parents?  I am going to invent a clock that has ages already programed.  It will turn blue or black and sound an alarm at their recommended bedtime, then turn green when it has past their recommended wake up time.  I’m sure there is something already out there, in fact, Amazon has something similar we may try,

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since I don’t think I’ll be getting around to inventing anytime soon.  And I’ll just type the recommended hours below, so I can remember when to change their Ok To Wake clock.  It is so easy to stay up, and to let littles stay up when we are having fun.  We don’t really have a bedtime in our house, it is based on the way we can tell their bodies are feeling.  We try to take into account birth order, but *C$ seems as though he needs the same bedtime as *little man with all the growing and emotions.   When I say, we don’t really have a bedtime, it fluctuates, frequently.  I don’t mean stay up as late as you want.  🙂

Below are the “AASM’s recommended minimum and maximum hours each age group should regularly sleep during a 24-hour period for optimal health:

  • Ages 4-12 months: 12-16 hours (including naps)
  • Ages 1-2 years: 11-14 hours (including naps)
  • Ages 3-5 years: 10-13 hours (including naps)
  • Age 6-12 years: 9-12 hours
  • Age 13-18 years: 8-10 hours

A panel of 13 sleep experts reviewed 864 scientific articles to formulate the recommendations. It noted that sleep also must be appropriately timed and without disturbances.”

This summer good sleep went through phases, we are currently not allowing shows or video games until 8am, no middle-of-the-night cuddles, diffuser with oils, and we are leaving their beds before they fall asleep.

Please post any great sleep training tips or standards you have in your home, below, for kids of all ages!  Or post it to Instagram.  Thanks everyone!  Good night.  =)

 

 

 

 

Birth mom

After having a tantrum, which started because of several things, but ultimately he was not allowed to go over to a friend’s house with his brother.  These fits are only happening now when two or more factors affect his brain, and are spread about every other week.  (No “trauma” tantrums!)  Brian and I try to engage as little as possible when he is a “5,” or “red” as *little man refers to the top of the 5-point scale.  We stay nearby and I remind him that he is in control of his emotions and “when you stop we can ___________.”  Or “if you don’t stop, we can not ____________.”  Last night was the latter, so I set a crying timer.  He did not stop crying during that time, so I calmly told him that we couldn’t do what he wanted.  He was able to reason when I asked him a question this time, but was angry with me so each time I attempted to connect with him, he began to cry again.  I refreshed his memory that it was ok to be angry with me, but you still have to like me (respect me), and not react in a “level 5.”  We also do not discuss the fit until later that night or the next day when he is using his upstairs brain completely.  I have mentioned them before, but love, love, love this book and these authors:

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He finally reconnected with me after snuggling on the couch, a kiss on the head, after-bath lotion, and a show.  *C$ and Dad came in afterwards, and a little humor helped as well.  *C$ told *little man, “I know how you feel.”

Though it was Brian’s turn for bedtime, I decided I would accept *little man’s plea only because I wanted to talk to him about his emotions and his brain.  After two books, one of them three times, (just as if he has my genes- I did the same thing as a kid) we were able to talk about his fit.  I simply reminded him he was too little for playdates, and the reason is because sometimes, his emotions get out of control, just as they did tonight.  Some day he will be big enough and won’t cry as easily, especially at someone else’s home.

Afterwards, he brought up a memory of all three of his previous families (but referred to the moms).  He asked my feelings towards those families; wow, not what I expected, but think I answered pretty well without avoiding the question like I wanted to.

Then he followed my words with, “I miss her.”  (We call her by name; but he decided last night that it was hard to say her name.)  I clarified which mom and said, “That’s okay baby, you can miss her.”

He continued with the conversation, though I knew it was probably getting to be a lot for him for one night.

Then he asked, “when can you be my birth mom?”

Wow, um, even harder, how do I answer this?  “I can never be your birth mom, but will be your forever mom.  I love that she brought you into this world, so Dad and I can have another son.”

He replied with a few more questions, and told me someone else that he missed (that I had never heard of).  He also tried to bring up an additional person from his birth family, but he actually began to get physically hot.  I turned on his fan, and quickly changed the subject to his Braves Blooper stuffed animal.  I did not want shun his feelings or the conversation, but we talk a lot and I knew this conversation would be more productive another night.

After some light conversation about his favorite thing we did at the lake, he brought up his fit again and said it was his “worst thing of the day.”

He told me his bones were shaking and his heart hurt.  While it broke my heart, I’m so proud of those words, but I wanted to equate those words to feelings, and again try to get his little brain ready for sleep.

Cue, pour a glass of wine and try to remember the evening so I can be better prepared for the next time.

Love you *little man,

your forever mom

 

bonding therapy

I am hoping this type of counseling will continue to grow and be offered in more cities for foster, adoptive, and even blended families.  We drive almost two hours total, to spend about an hour, but it is worth it.  As a busy family, who would normally only see a pediatrician once per year, our kiddos’ doctors may be the biggest influence
(other than teachers, who are not generally trained in this area- which I am working on).  I am hoping doctors will begin to make this referral!  Let’s be proactive instead of reactive; mental health is just as important as physical.

Though I was resistant to send *little man, he has his own therapist (and for other reasons), I ultimately didn’t have a choice.  The therapist and agency drug their feet for months on approving us (they wanted to just approve *little man, while I wanted the big boys to get support and learn how to be patient and lovingly accept their new brother).  Finally, they said they would see the three boys individually and work with them altogether during some sessions.  Though things didn’t originally go as I requested, it seems like it will continue to be a great experience for all.

The therapist is working on getting the big boys used to the fact that they can share hard feelings independently, and she started working on communication with all three.  They have learned through playing games, they have to share feelings, communicate, and pay attention to tone of voice.  It has also brought up the fact that *little man becomes agitated, flustered, and does not listen when he is frustrated.  It presents itself as ADD, but is his response to anxiety.  This is a great heads up for our upcoming Kindergarten school year.  Last week, she took a teachable moment and ran with it.   She explained to *little man that he could have done a better job building and would not have been as frustrated during the game, if he would have asked questions.

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This type of communication training is quickly becoming my passion as an educator and a mom, due to the fact: the recent school-aged generations have increasing difficulty with verbal communication.  It seems like we are living in a world where negative feelings are shunned and envy is on the rise.

In rereading The Connected Child for my parent coaching classes, I am finding “new” tidbits that are a great communication reminder in our busy world:

— eye contact (as the author describes, driving our kids around to all their events and activities does not count as bonding because they look are looking at the back of our head)

— stay close even during time-outs (adult body language is interpreted easily by kids)

—  avoid open-ended questions (build trust and stay in control)

—  give simple choices (love this example: “would you like an apple or banana with your chicken soup for lunch today?”   NOT: “what do you feel like having for lunch today?”)

— clear instructions (it seems that my boys need eye contact for this as well 🙂

Other updates: No word on final adoption.  *Little man will be registered for Kindergarten at my school.  Staying asleep is an issue; he is making up false reasons for being scared, then ultimately admitting he just doesn’t want to be alone.  Bio family vs. foster family talks are hard.  Family trip #3 is coming up, so consider this a picture overload warning.  And—anyone willing/able to come give C$ a puberty talk?  #notready

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I love my family; but, we are in the midst of hard.  Thank goodness for summer!  I love taking pictures, so don’t let it fool you.  We are learning, crying, not sleeping, getting annoyed, but loving, communicating and growing.

 

operation summer

We are officially in “operation summer.”  I have finished post-planning teacher duties, and we are home together for 7 weeks.  Our “operation’s” focus is to spend time together as a family, continuing to work on trust and love.  My goal for this summer is to spend time having fun, playing, working through weird feelings, justifying feelings, and working on my relationship with my bigs (and of course continuing to work with *little man too).

Here are a few of my favorite pictures from our 1st summer weekend and a days off.  (Some are duplicates from Instagram.)

~enjoying a quiet evening on the boat, because all three boys love to tube 🙂

~*little man watching the big boys wakeboard

Chevy Braves camp at Suntrust Park was great!  We were lucky to attend again this year, and I love that retired players are there to speak with the boys.  http://www.chevrolet.com/youth-sports

*Status updates- *Little man is doing great!  He is not having tantrums; he cries, but the tears are weeks apart (I’m documenting each one :).

*Minion and C$ are going for an evaluation tomorrow to see how much/what type of bonding therapy they would benefit from.  Their emotions fluctuate, so being heard and working through thoughts with someone else other than mom and dad, is exciting for me!

*Family updates- I am so glad summer is here!  Brian’s travels after our transition and move in day were quite exhausting; I’m so glad he is home.  This is definitely a two-man job.

We will be glad when visits are over.  We are still meeting with two different case workers, a CASA supervisor, a new lawyer for little man, and will meet our adoption lawyer at some point.  Brian and I are starting parent coaching next week, for 5 weeks.  And most importantly, we are continuing to be “monitored” and are awaiting official adoption in August, but I’m not getting my hopes up for that month specifically.

Lovin’ some David Lee and Kenny today; *Little man said this song is “connected to me,” today on the radio and it gave me chills.   Everything’s Gonna Be Alright

name calling

Name calling, gives each person justification, purpose, and builds trust.  On the contrary, name-calling can have the adverse effect; many kids at school get in trouble for mean names that rhyme with, sound like, mock, or just take the place of our given name.

Our names “have power.  They define us.  They contain meaning.” ~compassion.comnames

 

Just as we spent hours, weeks, months, and even years discussing baby names, I realized that names can sometimes have a strong first impression based on previous experiences of relationships and people in our lives.  We call our kids by their “trouble name” (as *Minion would call it), when we add his middle name to our request to speak with him.  I’ll never forget the first time a friend of mine, called me friend.  I knew she was officially “my people.”  We give nicknames to those we love.  And we connect with people when we call them by a “pet” name.

Before our transition began, I was teasing *little man, calling him a superhero name as he got ready for bed.  He said, that is not my name.  I jokingly asked him what his name was and he asked me to call him “love bug.”  I used this particular pet name when he was over the previous visit and he must have connected with it.

We will have to make the exciting legal decision of his name, on his official adoption date (hopefully in a few months).  Despite wanting to change his middle and last name, I know from research that we should “allow adopted children to be themselves – a product of dual heritage?” ~theguardian.com

From day 1, *little man was excited to call for his “brothers,” first.  He followed “brothers” with “Dad” very quickly.  A few days later he called me Mom because that is what the boys and Brian referred to me.  When he was tired at night, he called for me by my name that he has known for years, Mrs. Lori.  After two weeks of calling me mom, we were working together on cleaning up his bedroom, and he said, “Mrs. Wilson,” and quickly became embarrassed.  I tried to blow it off for his sake of embarrassment, but was secretly so excited to have reached his level of trust equal to that of his amazing teacher, who he has known and spent the most time with over the past 10 months.  I know it will take time for him to feel that I am his mom, and I am happy he has been able to feel comfort with this current pet name.  We will be meeting with his teacher in the morning and will be seeking advice as we transition soon, yet again, but this time for Kindergarten!

#outnumbered

Hey parents of 3 (or more), I need some tips.  How does going from 2-3 kids seem like it triples the laundry, dirt on the hardwood, toothpaste in the sink, and urine on the back of the toilet?  Brian and I are outnumbered.  We can not just split anymore, taking each child to their sport, school function, or playdate; sacrifices will be made and commitments may not be 100%.  We already have to be intentional, on a rotating basis, for fairness.  I have to say, we have an amazing village though: parents, siblings, and friends have already been our heroes, as well as our kids biggest supporters!

Going from 2-3 kiddos has also brought our awareness to and seems to triple the little things:  awareness of kindness, support, and patience.  It has tripled the sensitivity of our worrier

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*little man insisting on doing homework with his big bro

 

and tripled the leadership of our free-spirited child.

We are in the midst of state testing for *C$, travel for dad, and all things play-date, sports, and friends for our busy *minion.  We are thankful for coaches and teachers.  It truly does take a village.  I am reminded that we are all busy, do something for someone even if you don’t have time for it, accept help from someone, and “bother people. brave it.” ~@jennieallen- Instagram

“it’s not what we have in life, but who we have in our life that matters”

*Little man is taking it all in.  He is adjusting, loving, and learning.  He is so happy and he puts life into perspective.

Please leave a comment if you have a parenting tip for being #outnumbered.