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.

staffing meeting

Brian and I met with several important “decision makers” on Wednesday, which was awkward, just as I thought it would be.  We had to go over everything we felt we already knew, plus: medical history, family history, routines, school, and foster care.  I know DFCS workers must hear and deal with the unimaginable, and am thankful for those that care about their cases.  I appreciate that they cared what *little man’s foster parents had to say, and am so thankful that he is in a loving home, and that they also attended the meeting.  I feel as though they really are part of The Moore family.

village

We also already have a transition plan!  We are shocked and excited to announce that *little man’s transition begins next weekend!  This is our last weekend as a family of 4.  We brought *Minion and *C$ to get ice cream and tell them the exciting news that they will have another permanent playmate and brother.  Their reaction was sweet.

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*Little man will be at our house the next two weekends and part of Spring Break.  He will move in on April 6th.  We will be intentional about our time together.  We will be slow to introduce him.  He needs to understand who his people are, and we are so thankful for our people, which will become his people.  He will be grieving the loss of an amazing foster family, whom he calls mom and dad at times.

We have an amazing network and are so thankful.  He has 3 sets of parents that love him, and we plan to include these family members in his near future.  I don’t even know how many loving grandparents, aunts, and uncles this sweet boys has.  What a lucky kid.  I just hope we can help him see how lucky he is.  We are lucky to have him!  Happy Lucky Day!  (or St. Patty’s as most call it).

respite care

We just spent a week together as approved respite care for *little man. I’m trying to find an easy way to answer the question, ‘how was your week?’

Our week was amazing,

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Our week was exhausting,

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Our week was joyful,

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Our week was trying to understand,

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Our week was bonding,

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Our week was a success!

There is no way to easily answer this question. Thanks again for your sweetness and perfectly subtle and silent support!

approved again

So much has happened in two weeks!  It is crazy that we went so long without hearing anything, after numerous requests, and numerous people involved in trying to get some response or approval.

Here are the updates in order:

  1. His DFCS/court panel was canceled due to the crazy Georgia snow a few weeks ago.
  2. We were assigned a Cherokee County case manager to help us along!
  3. We were waiting an approval for 2 months to hear if we could be his respite care (aka. over-certified babysitters).  We were approved and have *little man a whole week!
  4. His county finally sent over a release to *little man’s therapist, so she was able to squeeze us in this week.  Brian and I met with her for over an hour.
  5. His county panel was rescheduled and his caseworker reported they were waiting on us to decide if we were going to move forward or not…hum?  (Lots of emails and phone calls/text asking when we were going to move forward wasn’t the answer to that question?)
  6. Yesterday, they reached out to set up a transition meeting with everyone involved in *little man’s plan.  There is a tentative meeting the 2nd week of March.

This week will be different for all of us.  We will be a family of five until next Saturday.  We will have a small vacation Sunday and Monday, Brian will return to work Tuesday.  All the boys have appointments Tuesday, and we will be back to school Wed-Fri since our county decided to make up some of the days we had off due to weather.  We will be establishing new routines, school drop offs, pick ups, and sports practices for all 3 boys.

We are excited to introduce him as we see you out and about, but it can be overwhelming to him.  Thanks for being patient!

Firsts

There will be many firsts ahead. We won’t be able to document the first word, first steps, first other baby stuff. We will have to do some research to understand those milestones. But we do get to document that today marks the first time either county we are dealing with has reached out to us! We have a caseworker assigned to us from our county! They contacted us!

Now, the next step will be for our caseworker to touch base with *little man’s caseworker. We will be meeting our point of contact next week. She will be walking through the house quarterly, talking to our boys. And my favorite part, she will be able to answer questions.

no fair!

Today’s Georgia ice/snow day off school reminded me about this saying that siblings often recite over and over, “no fair.”  Though it can be frustrating and annoying to hear, it is a true statement.  Parenting should not be “fair” (aka, equal).

*Minion* was hit hard by a virus yesterday, slept most of the day after being checked out of school by Brian, and ate almost nothing.

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Here we are waiting at the doctor’s office…poor buddy.

Thank goodness, he tested negative to the nasty flu and negative to strep.  He woke up today back to normal, not just because he woke up to snow.  Northern friends and family, it is the strangest phenomena here in Georgia; snow in the Deep South may cause more excitement than Christmas morning to a born-Southerner.  Every friend in the neighborhood is out to play and usually stays until the snow turns to mud.

 

*Minion* was somehow distracted until about 10 am, he ate well, literally did a happy dance, and no fever; so, I decided to bundle him up and would give him 20 minutes of joy in the 1 inch of snow.  After 20ish minutes, I called him in, and heard, “no fair, *C$* doesn’t have to come in?”  My response was, no.  I did explain to him why, that his body needed rest from yesterday’s virus.  Of course, I do not always have the time or energy to explain things to my kids (hence the ever popular, ‘because I said so’), but sometimes they need to understand especially when things are out of the norm, or when things have to change.  ***no fair…

We have had numerous playdates with a couple of children in foster care.  After one playdate, both of our boys “understood” this lesson of “no fair.”  This older child had become very comfortable in our home.  He doesn’t necessarily play well with others, but had made some progress with *C$* and *Minion* at the point of this particular visit.  He chose hide-and-seek.  He ended up getting “stuck” in the laundry shoot.  little M  He was adamant that he was coming out to the bottom floor and absolutely could not get out the way he went in.  Looking back on it now, though terrified at the time, it was a game for him, a way for him to play with our little boys.  He was getting everyone involved in our attempts at “saving” him.  We all worked together add pillows, cushions, and blankets below to catch his fall.  The boys laughed when it was over (I was still sweating a little).  *Minion* said, “I wanna do that!”  Of course, I said, “no,” and followed with, “it isn’t safe, and if you choose to do it, you can’t play hide-and-seek.”  ***no fair…

Another *little man* came to our house for a playdate. Like every day, (best neighborhood ever) a friend knocked on the door and asked *C$* to go the long way to play kickball. He responded with, “no, I have *little man* over and he can’t go the long way.” Luckily, I heard this exchange, because there are things in our biological children’s life that should not change. I jumped in and said, “yes, you can go the long way, I will walk *little man* down the short way.” *Little man* responded with, “no fair, I want to go with *C$!* He was sad, but I was able to explain to him, you are not old enough, someday…I know, ***no fair…

I have found that the rules in our home change with the season of life we are experiencing as well.  Here are a few examples:

  • “no, you may not bathe together”…”no fair, we used to”
  • “yes, you have to wear underwear to preschool”…”no fair, you didn’t make me before”
  • “no, you may not come downstairs naked and get dressed in front of the T.V.”…”no fair, none of our friends are here”
  • “yes, you have to wear a cup to baseball practice”…*Minion,* “no fair…my privates are too small to get hurt”
  • “no, you may not build a zip-line in our backyard without help”…*C$,* “no fair…I want to do it now”
  • “no, you may not wear shorts to school, it is freezing outside”…”no fair…I can run to the car”
  • “yes, you have to use a napkin”…”no fair…my sleeve does the same thing”
  • “no, you may not pee off the back deck”…”no fair…the neighbors are not outside”

Of course, we don’t usually have to remind them of those rules anymore because they are older and understand why.  We decided to sit down with our boys, prior to this transition of a new family member, and asked them what they thought the most important rules of our home were.  (This was a little strange because we never made rules formal prior to now.)  Here is the list they came up with, with my interpretation to the right:

  1. cannot leave the house without telling Mom or Dad (safety)
  2. homework has to be done before you play (seasonal)
  3. when you feel angry, go to another room, and talk about your feelings when you feel calm (self-worth)

Brian and I were pretty pumped at this list since they generated it.  And I was pumped since it included safety and self-worth!  (Brian and I nixed their suggestion of “no dessert after dinner on school nights rule,” because that is just another seasonal rule for *Minion* since it affected his healthy choices…e.v.e.r.y. night.)  It obviously hit hard with their current season of life, since they both agreed it was important.  🙂  We plan to share these top three rules with *little one* and allow him/her to add to the list.

According to two of the authors I mentioned in the post “research,” children of trauma become easily frustrated or even revert to their survival instincts of fight, flight, or freeze, with the word “no.”  Remember, in the beginning, we are working on our number one goal- our relationship.  We will be focusing on safety and self-worth.  ***Totally fair and deserving for every child…

We have prepared our boys with adding a new sibling.  “No, he/she will not have some of the same expectations as you.”  Kid level example- You will still be expected to try every vegetable we put on your plate.  New sibling- their expectation will not be equal.  They will be given equal opportunity to eat that vegetable, but will not have to stand by that seasonal house rule of “try everything.” ***no fair…

So, if you don’t hear us say, “no.”  Remember, it is not that we are just trying to avoid temper tantrums; we are treating the new sibling differently, we are bonding.  That is something that is non-negotiable.  He/she needs to feel safe and build confidence in the fact that we truly are their forever family.

research

Thank you Dr. King; I am taking advantage of this day off of work to add some more information to our blog.  Leaving this right here:

Martin-Luther-King-Jr-quote

Wow!  I can’t believe the information out there.  This information and years of research is so important for my career, let alone adding another child who has been through trauma to our family.  I am lucky to have a friend who has been through adoption, to get me started on this quest for understanding.  She suggested I start with The Connected Childhttp://empoweredtoconnect.org/book/ and Wounded Children Healing Homeshttps://binged.it/2Ddcgtj Both have great information for ANYONE who works with children. I have come away with things I would love to share with other teachers, and I am sure Brian and I will use these as a resource when questions arise in our home, in the future.  I have analyzed these books, along with some information from our IMPACT training course and a podcast by Confessions of an Adoptive Parent.

The four most important take-aways I have found thus far:

4.  understanding the effects on the brain (I could go on for days and will be continuing my studies)- Trauma can stop or slow brain development across any of the 5 areas:

  • Cognitive, emotional, social, moral, physical
  • Though a child may seem to be growing/maturing just fine, despite their past, there may be one (or more) area(s) that he/she is not able to perform at the level of peers.
  • There may be specific areas of executive functioning that a child struggles with and will need all the support and understanding that he/she may not be able to function like peers in the categories of attention, working memory, self-monitoring, time and planning, and cause and effect.

3.   flexibility- Though we want our children to be successful academically (I’m such a teacher), but flexibility is key.  Before our kiddos can perform academically, there may be some character traits to work on, some life skills to teach.  Children of trauma are not able to just learn the standards.

2.  consequences-  These go hand-in-hand with #3.  Life lessons and life skills need to be learned first.  Wouldn’t it be great to have a checklist for all these and to check them off as you “teach” them and be done with it. 😉  No child functions that way and that is where patience and repetition come into play.  It seems as though kids of trauma can digress without these, no matter how much push back they give.  They need to know we adults are in charge.  Here is my list of seemingly common sense tips, but not an option for kids of trauma.

*Natural/logical consequences

  • reinforcement- immediately and frequently
  • don’t overreact
  • private praise
  • be consistent, repetitive, and predictable
  • zero-tolerance for violence (verbal and non-verbal)
  • shame and judgement = not an option
  • limit the “no’s” – The more a child hears “no,” the more they withdrawal from my #1…see below

#1.  relationships- Be present.   I am hoping to share with my teacher friends that they may not realize how much of an impact they have on a child of trauma.  Our kids are with teachers more than they are with us.  We are choosing adoption as parents, but are hoping to have the support of our “village.”  Here are what the experts say; again, they seem like common sense, but not an option for a child of trauma.  This is our job; village, we will need your help with this after we have built trust and a bond with our child:

  1. Eye to eye contact- regulates the brain
  2. attach words to emotions
  3. believe, validate, and discuss negative emotions
  4. safety and self-worth
  5. spend time with him/her, listen carefully
  6. proximity

the world of COMPLEX KIDS…I’ve been in this “world” for 15 years.  I am so happy to have some information and research that brings some understanding to what I have been noticing in the classroom over and over again.  Understanding how trauma effects children will help all adults avoid the false assumption that a child is simply unmotivated or not interested in being successful.

*Again, none of these are my words, please reference the links above.  I am simply putting the information together from what I have researched thus far…so I don’t forget.

faces

I chuckle at the name of this post because my best friend growing up, and I used this word through middle school and high school over and over in numerous phrases; but, “I love your face,” has so much meaning in our life right now.

“What made you decide?”

I have tried to answer the question numerous times, but there is no “short version” (as my Dad would call it, when we were growing up) so here goes the long version:

I am excited and baffled at how many people, in these 7 short months of waiting, have told me, we have thought about “that,” we have discussed “that.”  And “that” is why my friends have not taken steps to go anywhere after their discussion to foster or adopt.

I understand there are so many unknowns with kids of trauma (hence my next post- “research”).  Once you put a face to the word “that,” heartstrings are pulled even harder.

Several faces that led us to answering the above question:  Brian and I would have started our family with adoption due to a little face that I fell in love with through tutoring.  She had missed 50+ days of kindergarten and was removed from her home for obvious reasons and more.  Brian was ready to move forward with me, though never met her.  I knew then that the idea to foster or adopt was not stopping with this little face.  Brian has a heart of gold.  He is not intimidated by the hard stuff or baggage that kids of trauma carry with them, causing many people to stop their discussion of “that.”

Other faces: I’ll never forget balling my eyes out on the shoulder of a dear friend when my first student was removed from his family, and taken from my classroom by DFCS at school.  She said to me, “Lori, he is safe now.  This is not his worst day, but the beginning of his road to a better life.”  I could see his little face (and the faces of his siblings whom I had never met) in my dreams, nightmares, and lying in bed awake, thinking about what they had gone through, in the weeks after saying goodbye to him.  There would be a several students follow him into or out of the care of DFCS, during my years teaching.  Their faces will randomly pop into my head and I wonder how they are, or if their roads of life are any easier.

Last year, our boys were old enough to understand what foster care meant so we decided to volunteer at an amazing place Goshen Valley.  We knew a boy who lived there and decided to continue volunteering and visiting him so that he could have a connection outside of the ranch.  This “face” (relationship) pushed Brian and I to attend the informational meeting held at our county last March (2016) to gather information on becoming foster parents.  We made numerous excuses as to why the upcoming IMPACT trainings, through our county DFCS, did not fit into our schedule.  Then, another face…

We have known another little friend in care for over 2 years.  He has crossed our path several times, call it fate, call it God’s plan.  We know his face, his strong, playful personality.  We know he has similar interests to our biological children, we know he wouldn’t disrupt our birth order, we know we already feel connected, and we know his little face is in desperate need of a forever family.  We have requested for this sweet boy to be transferred to our home.  We are ready to love him, understand him, and keep him…forever.

***We interrupt this blog post for a soapbox moment:  There are NO open foster homes in our county.  “Our kids” are being sent as far as South Georgia to find placement.  I do not think every family has the tools…yet…to become a foster family or adopt a child of trauma, but every family can volunteer or donate to children who are in need.  According to the U.S. department of health and human services, there are over 430,000 children in foster care.  Visit this link to find out more information on how your family can help: https://www.hhs.gov/blog/2017/05/09/empowering-caregivers-strengthening-families.html  Find a face, program, or non-profit to connect with, or due to busy schedules donate your resources.  I get it…there is always the “we have discussed ‘that’,” but once you see their little faces, you will see how much need the children in our communities have. ***End soapbox moment.***

waiting

We are “all-in.”  Training course- check, homestudy- check, approval- check, waiting- check.  I wait all year for summer…for many reasons, but one of the top reasons is because of my front porch view of the sunset.

I sit and wait every night we are home to reflect.  sunset

The kind of waiting we are doing now is different.  It isn’t just excitement, awe, beauty, and wonder.  It is the kind of waiting that stirs many questions.  Questions about the process, questions about the match, questions from our boys, and questions from family and friends. We have realized very quickly that we have to have patience with the process, patience that the “right” match will happen, and patience for our forever family.

I am a wife to my high school sweetheart, Brian, mom of two biological boys, and an elementary school teacher.  I have landed my words on this blog so I don’t forget.  My hope is to be able to document, learn, educate, tell our story and connect.