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.

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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.

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

cry

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.