Younger Boy fell asleep really early tonight while he was watching the Olympic swim trials.

Middle Boy asked me if I would just sit by him and we could spend a little time together.  We ended up drawing and also using a spin art application I found for my iPad.  We just hung out quietly for about 30 minutes and then he, too, was ready to go to sleep.

It was a peaceful night. 
We ended up going to dinner with one of my friends who helped with crafts.  It took about 20 minutes to decide where we should go....maybe seemed like an eternity to me!!

Both boys used fairly good manners. 

At one point we were having a discussion and Middle Boy started what I call his "tough guy" talk.  It is when someone says something he doesn't like and he goes into this discussion about hitting them upside the head, smacking them, and a number of other things.  After all these months I haven't figured out if he would actually act on these things or not if push came to shove.

I have though set up a consequence system for talk about violence.  Both boys talk CONTINUALLY about knives and guns and punching people.  They don't like it and they tell me that EVERYONE they know ALWAYS talks about violence.

I get the fact it might have been true in their biological homes and maybe even in some of their foster homes.  The fact of the matter is this...from here out we will likely not ever know anyone who gets shot or has their home raided for drugs.  The majority of people don't.  Just because it is what is sensationalized on TV and the news doesn't mean it is the norm.

Prayers for their minds becoming filled with things other than violence and anger.
This afternoon we worked on crafts for camp.

I think the crafts will be good, but we didn't seem to get a lot of them finished.

At camp they will be making rockets we can shoot with an air compressor, tie dye shirts, foil and shoe polish art, button initials, painted stones, rings, and necklaces.  The girls are also making bandanna purses.

It might be a little bit ambitious.  The tie dye shirts are time consuming and messy.  I have five samples in my house right now.  They turned out good.

Working on it made me wonder if I am physically, emotionally, and spiritually ready for camp.  At this time the answer would be a resounding NO.  I know that in the end God will give me what I need to get through camp, but right now it really seems overwhelming.

Usually I like to do crafts, but this wasn't fun.  It was drudgery.

I need to pray about this.  What is it God wants me to do?
Every single time I turn around there is something new Middle Boy and I are arguing about.

Today I picked him up at therapy after my class.  We were talking about what we were going to do the rest of the day.  Both boys like to know all of the plans, because they hate surprises and are pretty inflexible if they think we are going to do something or if they have an agenda.

We talked about how some friends of mine were coming over to work on getting the crafts ready for the teenage foster camps.  I told him he and Younger Boy could either help or hang out with us and not help or watch a movie in the basement.  It didn't really matter to me.

He decided that he wanted to rent a movie.  When I asked if there was just something he could watch off Netflix (which we are already paying for) he exploded.  I didn't want him to watch the kind of movie he wanted to watch.  Netflix is stupid.  Why couldn't I just cooperate.  What is wrong with me?

It's so exhausting.  I can't give in, because that sends the message that you can be a jerk and get your way.  It's a movie though.  It doesn't need to result in my being belittled.  I know all of these arguments aren't about me.  They aren't even about movies. 

Prayers I can continue to not take these things personally.  It gets harder every day.
Today's attachment class was on mindfulness.  I learned so much.  I have so much to reflect upon from class.

I want to think about it.  About how to explain it and how to use what I learned in my every day life.

Prayers for wisdom.
This morning Younger Boy didn't wake up the first five times I asked him to get up.

I went in the boys room for the sixth time when he had 15 minutes to get ready for his baseball game.  He immediately started whining.  He stopped and said "I'm not whining, this is my tired voice."

Shockingly his tired voice sounds exactly like his whining voice.  Maybe a little more whiny. 

He finally got himself ready for baseball and we were on our way.

Prayers for more sleep.
Once Middle Boy gets something in his head he can't let it go until it is either done or it doesn't work out. 

Tonight it happened again.  He wanted a different bag to use as his everyday bag.  He has been using a backpack, but it is getting pretty ratty and has a hole in the bottom.  I don't disagree that he needs a new bag, BUT he doesn't need it at 11PM on Friday night.

He was in and out of my room asking if I had a bag in my closet.  He was in and out of the garage.  He was in every drawer in their room and every closet in our house.  He wouldn't let it go.

When he gets like this I usually can't do anything except just let him do it.  Of course it isn't an emergency.  It was driving me crazy.  I wanted to go to bed and he was wandering all over looking for a bag.  At one point he wanted to go buy one.  He couldn't sleep until his stuff was in a bag and ready to go FOR MONDAY.

Prayers for me being able to cope with this behavior.  I know it is motivated by a feeling of not having what he needs. to parent it.
Younger Boy has been texting and calling his older biological sister.  She lives out of state with Younger Boy's biological parents.  It is a complicated story.

Anyway...before Younger Boy was able to talk to Older Sister I talked to both her and their biological mom about the rules surrounding communication.  He was not under any circumstances to talk to biological mom on the phone or through text.  She relinquished her rights years ago and is to not have contact with him.

On Friday afternoon biological mom called him.  She didn't have Older Sister call or anything...she just called.

Younger Boy told me about it this evening.  I had the heartbreaking job of telling him he won't be able to talk to Older Sister anymore except for on my phone and it has to be on speaker.  I blocked her phone number from being able to call or text his phone.

He doesn't understand.  In his mind since his dad was the "abusive one" there should be no reason he can't talk to his mom.  He doesn't understand that "failure to protect" is also a form of neglect.

It stinks that it had to come to this.  It stinks there have to be rules about talking to his sister.  It stinks that I was the one who had to tell him.

He cried until he was sobbing...sobbing.  He was SO SAD.  I tried to explain that it was really unlucky his mom made a bad choice and he was having to suffer the consequences.

Prayers for family and future choices.
Today after work I went to pick up the boys.  As I do most days, unless schedule dictates otherwise, I pick up Middle Boy first.  With his program you can call ahead and the kids can meet you outside so that's what I did.  It was hot outside.

When I got there Middle Boy had a friend with him...a Sudanese girl who remembered me from camp.  I had been looking for her and her siblings to get them registered, but they had moved homes and I hadn't been able to locate them.  I had the applications with me so I just handed them to her and told her she could get them back to me on Monday.  We chatted briefly.  She told me she had been in EIGHT foster homes since camp last year.  How does that happen?

We left the teen program to go pick up Younger Boy.  On the way there Middle Boy said "I wish you could have seen my work in our art show.".  What art show?  I didn't know about an art show.  Apparently they have been doing projects all month at the teen center and today they were on display.  What he said next made me sad.  He said two that he didn't think I would care about seeing his art and the second that he thought we would be in too much of a hurry for me to come in and see it.   What message am I sending to the boys?  Does he think I wouldn't care about seeing it, because of his own negative beliefs or because that is the message I send?  He is right that we are usually in a hurry, but not in such a hurry that we can't take 20 minutes to go to an art show where his work is displayed.

Prayers for being able to slow down.
I have respite for both weekends I was wanting to volunteer at the camps for foster teens.

This first weekend Mentor L and his wife will take both boys.  They aren't available until after 8PM on Thursday so C will put 1,000 miles on her car that night driving them around and then drop them off.  She has also graciously offered (without my asking) to keep Sophie for the weekend.  How did I get so lucky for God to bless me with such an amazing friend?

The second weekend JP is available to stay with Middle Boy the entire weekend.  He has a class on Friday and has to work for a couple of hours both Saturday and Sunday, but otherwise he will be the primary caregiver.  I'm thankful for his willingness to help me out.  Sophie LOVES him and so do both boys.

I am beyond blessed to have such an amazing group of people God has put into my life in order to bless me and these boys.

I don't know why I am continually surprised when He works things out...just when I need them.
This morning Younger Boy is having big feelings.  That is what they call it at the attachment center when you are having feelings you don't know what to do with and they are causing reactions to things which wouldn't normally be a big deal.

Both boys were up early again working on their new routine.

Younger Boy was sweeping the kitchen floor when he moved a chair and accidentally hit Sophie in the head with it.  She yelped.

When I found him he was at the end of the hallway curled up in a fetal position holding Sophie and sobbing.  Sophie was licking away his tears.  I asked him what happened. 

Through his tears he said he had accidentally hurt Sophie and he didn't know if she would still love him or forgive him.  I sat down beside him in the hallway and told him what happened was an accident and she still loved him no matter what.  In fact she was licking away his tears, because she KNEW he was sorry.  He apologized over and over.  We talked about love.  We talked about how Sophie loves him the same way I love him.  There is nothing he can do to make me love him more or less.  Sophie feels the same way.  So does Jesus.  Sure Sophie can get mad at him and growl (so can I), but that doesn't mean we don't love him.

He seemed to calm down a little bit.

I asked him if he thought maybe the big feelings were also about it being the last day of summer school and  he might miss his new friends.  He said yes.  We talked about how it is perfectly okay to be sad...even normal.  Feelings are what they are.  I reminded him how we talked at therapy about how he can be sad about summer school ending and happy about getting to play all day at the same time. 

He smiled through his tears and said "I love you, Mommy."

I love you, too, Younger Boy.

Thank you God for bringing this amazing boy into my life and giving me the people and the tools I need to get through each day.  Without you...nothing is possible.
A friend invited me to read a book a while ago and join a book discussion.  My first reaction was...I am not going to read this book.  I don't think I will like it. 

Yesterday she sent me the invitation to the gathering for the discussion.  I felt a little tug on my heart to at least look at what the book was about.

Here's the book:

Kisses From Katie

I love this book.  I love everything about it.  I am over half way done with the book.  I'll be a little tired tomorrow, but the book is absolutely worth it.  I have identified with her.  I have laughed and I have cried.  I imagine I will start following her blog.

Thanks, J, for "introducing" me to Katie.  What an AMAZING woman with an AMAZING story.

When we got home the boys played catch.  It was inevitable.

I went in the house to help Sophie wind down for the night.

I heard the baseball keep hitting the garage door and the house...not hard, but definitely hitting it.

When the boys came inside I asked what direction they were facing when playing catch.  One was at the end of the driveway and the other by the garage.  It didn't occur to them they wouldn't hit the house if they played PARALLEL to the house.

Maybe next time!!
For Younger Boy's birthday I bought him a gift card at a sporting goods store.  The intent was for him to get the bat and baseball helmet he has been wanting.  As I write this I am reminded of how badly Older Boy wanted a bat last year and how he punched a hole in the hallway wall because I wouldn't buy one. 

What a difference a year makes!!

Younger Boy made a decision.  While he had enough money to buy a pretty expensive bat and helmet he decided instead to buy a less expensive bat and helmet so he could get Middle Boy a baseball glove.  Middle Boy DID NOT influence this decision.  In fact, he was looking at dart boards and kayaks.  (Which we didn't get.)

Younger Boy even told me he wished he had enough to buy me a glove, too.  That way we could all play catch together.  I told him I have an old glove in the garage and we could find it while we are packing.  I promised I would play catch with them...if they promised not to "burn" it to me.

Middle Boy was pretty touched about getting a glove from Younger Boy.

Younger Boy has compassion and kindness that is really starting to emerge.  I am proud of him.
We went to dinner tonight at Cracker Barrel.  Neither boy had ever been there.  Sometimes I don't think things completely through.  I always forget a large menu is overwhelming.  Too many choices.

The boys LOVED it.  They proclaimed it the best place they had EVER eaten...far better than the Cheesecake Factory.  They chose what they would have the next time we ate there.

When we left they called Grandma and Grandpa to see if they would want to go there when they are in town in a couple of weeks.

It is so cool to see them find something they love and be excited about it.
Both boys always assume the WORST is going to happen.  If there is a way a situation can be interpreted to have a catastophic component...they will assume it will happen.

Tonight was no different.

We were driving on the interstate and happened to be between two trucks.  Immediately Younger Boy said, "I'm pretty sure we are going to get smashed in between these two trucks."  I asked why.  Middle Boy explained it was because our vehicle is smaller than the trucks and so WHEN they started to merge together we would all be killed.  I said I thought the likelihood was low.

They started discussing how when it happened they would throw open the doors and jump onto the interstate.  We aren't in an action movie!!  I explained in all honesty they would be safer if they remainded in the car, because at least they would have it for protection.

Immediately it turned to how remaining in the car would get them killed by the airbags, because that's what airbags do...kill people.  I explained while it was true in a VERY SMALL number of cases the airbags are installed for safety.  I asked them to think about it.  Why would a car manufacturer KNOWINGLY install something in cars that would kill people in an accident?  I told them I thought it would be irresponsible of the car manufacturer.

I then asked if it was possible to just have neutral thoughts about driving between trucks.  Like...don't even let it cross your mind?  Neither thought it was a possibility.  Younger Boy said you should ALWAYS expect the worst.  Middle Boy added, "because that is what is going to happen."  I asked if there was anything else to the phrase.  Nope nothing.

I asked if they thought hope should be a part of it, because I thought without hope life must be really hard.  Both of them said it is too hard to hope for anything, because when you do your heart gets broken and there isn't more room for a broken heart.

Both cited the example of adoption.  Middle Boy even went so far as to say he had a SMALL amount of hope I was going to adopt him, but he didn't like to think about it since it probably wasn't going to happen anyway.  Younger Boy echoed the sentiment.

Wow.  It was like I was punched in the stomach.  I told them there are only TWO THINGS left in the adoption process...the subsidy agreement and the hearing.  Both of them started to cry.  Middle Boy said he didn't realize it was that close.

It puts things in perspective.  I love these boys.  I thought they understood, but I think their survival brains won't let them believe it.

Praises for the conversations which allow me to have a change in perspective.
Tonight as we were driving to therapy Middle Boy and I were talking about his therapy program.  Ever since I wrote the reward/consequence contract with him he has really stepped up his game.

We were talking about the homework he had done during the week...mainly about his dysfunctional behavior cycle as it is called in his therapy class.  One of the questions he was asked was "name a time in the last week when you took accountability for your actions".  He told me he had trouble thinking of one.

He went on to tell me he is really trying hard right now, because he feels like there are two things standing in the way of his relationship with God...his anger and how disobedient he is.  Wow...pretty insightful for a 15 year-old boy.  He talked about how therapy was helping with the anger, but that he still felt he needed to talk to someone else about both the anger and disobedience.  It was pretty obvious to me it wasn't me he was wanting to talk to about it...and that's okay.

I asked him about talking to either his mentor or a pastor at church.  He said he isn't sure his mentor will understand and he doesn't really know any of the pastors well enough.  He did say he would love to talk to his former small group leader at church, A, about it.  He asked if I would call A to set something up.  Of course.

He is moving on to the high school group this year.  He wants to become an active participant in the group.  He sees the value. 

Praises for God working in Middle Boy's heart.
Today when I picked up Middle Boy at the teen center they were playing a game called "The Bashing Game".  Now...this was NOT a game organized by staff, because it was free time.  I was a little saddened staff didn't stop it though.

As I understand it from Middle Boy you sit around and just put each other boundaries...the last one to get upset wins.  What?  That game is RIDICULOUS.

I told Middle Boy I thought the game was a bad idea.  I explained my reasoning as this....they were saying hurtful things.  Yes, people were laughing.  Of course they were...otherwise they would lose the game.  He said everyone chose to play and everyone was just joking.  I asked him to think about a time when someone was just joking, but still said something that hurt and he still remembers.  He immediately became quiet.

I finished the conversation telling him it is his choice whether or not he continues to play the bashing game.  He asked if I would play it.  I told him no and I wasn't even sure I would have played it at his age.  I was too worried about hurting the feelings of others.  He told me he thought it would be hard to walk away when they play it, but he thinks he is going to from now on.

Praises for being open to feedback and thinking of others.
This morning the boys didn't get up on their own.  I was pretty sure they wouldn't since they were SO TIRED yesterday.

They did get right up though and kept up the routine which started at the beginning of the week.

There was no fighting.  There was just getting ready, eating breakfast, taking care of Sophie, and leaving.

So very peaceful...such a blessing!!
Today I am feeling a little bit nostalgic.  I've spent some time reflecting on this journey and how I got to where I am today.  How God has brought me to this point in my life with these two boys and how He has broken my heart for the orphan.

Before you start to read this know I am an engineer by education and profession.  I like to figure things out.  My professional strength is a "weaver" or someone who joins others with people who can meet their needs.

So...back to me and orphans....

I didn't grow up thinking about how I was going to be a mom one day.  In fact I can remember back to junior high and I don't remember ever thinking about wanting to be married and have kids.  I'm not really sure what I wanted to do.  In fact in many ways I would tell you the feeling remained until well after college.

When I left college I moved to Omaha and started my career...very career focused.  I traveled a lot and didn't give marriage or children much consideration.  I talked about it every now and then with my friends, but just because it seemed like the "next logical step".

There are certain things I can point to in my memory which make me know this is the journey God has for me.

In 2004 or 2005 I was going to another church here in Omaha.  I have a distinct picture in my head of a recruiting table being set-up there for Royal Family Kids Camp.  I can see the logo as clear as day.  I didn't go and talk to them.  I know now it had to have been M and J and it had to have been year one or two of camp.  The other thing I know now is God must of still had some work to do in me.

In the summer of 2005 I changed jobs and started working at another firm here in Omaha.  At the same time I started seeing stories...lots of stories...about single women adopting baby girls from China.  I was traveling a lot less now and there was a little tug on my heart.  That fall I talked to Middle Sister about it and she was supportive.  I questioned whether Grandma and Grandpa would be.  I can distinctly hear her response in my head, "Whether they agree with you or not they are your parents and it is their job to support you.  If they don't agree with you it will be harder for them, but you know they will still give it their all."  She also told me she had a good friend who was nearing the end of the same process and the next time I came to visit maybe I could chat with her.  I did meet with her friend and when I left the meeting in November I was pretty excited and wanted to start the process at the start of the year.  God had different plans.

As soon as I was gathering information on agencies China closed adoptions to single women.  I was a little bit sad, but not devastated.

I kept working and going along in life when I was given a summer intern to mentor.  T was kind of a shy guy.  We developed a friendship of sorts and would often times go to lunch together.  One day while we were at lunch we got on the topic of church.  I hadn't been going for a while and was quasi-looking.  T suggested I go with him and his family the following Sunday.  I could sit with them.  His mom was the Director of Children's Ministry, but he and his dad would be there for the whole service.

I went to church with T and his family.  I kept going back.  I know now T played a pivotal role in my life.

That first year at church I didn't really get involved.  It was a big place and honestly...I'm really not comfortable meeting new people and doing new things.  It makes me feel sick.  I remember telling Grandma I was just going to go to a women's Bible study for the summer.  It was the summer of 2006.
One of the ladies in the study encouraged me to also start going to the singles group.  I didn't have a lot of friends after all of those years of travel so I gave it a shot.  I told myself if anyone in the group asked me to do ANYTHING in the next six weeks I was going to do it.  Didn't matter what.  I couldn't make a judgment about the group until those six weeks were over.  I sit here today and KNOW wholeheartedly some of the best friends I have had in my life came from that group.  I digress.

It was in the group where I sat through a presentation on Royal Family Kids Camp.  I cried.  I didn't know why.  I didn't have kids and I didn't want kids and I didn't like kids.  NO KIDS.  Yet I got an application to volunteer.

I couldn't decide what to do and waited and waited to apply.  In His perfect timing I ended up applying the day of camp interviews.  Could I come that evening?  YIKES.  What am I doing?

I remember the interview with M and "Aunt" K.  I told them I liked crafts.  I told them I was willing to either go to RFKC or TRAC camp.  I didn't really care.  Remember...I don't like kids.  I only really remember one question from the interview.  M asked me "Are you willing to go where this journey takes your life?".  Naively I said, "Yes".  After all he was talking about camp.  I'm sure God was laughing the entire time.

I went to my first training session not knowing which camp I was going to.  I remember checking in and J telling me, "Oops, didn't we tell you that you are going to both?"

I didn't know ANYONE else going to camp.  I was scared out of my mind.  I got to camp and I lost my heart.  There are kiddos I remember distinctly from that year.  One is a girl, S, who I mentored for four years.  Another boy, D, who I loved and wish I now knew what happened to him, and the boy who became Younger Boy.

I went to camp for two more summers...still unsure about what to do with the feelings about orphans and foster kids.

I started looking on the Heart Gallery.  I was drawn to a boy there and began praying for him.  I prayed for him every day hoping one day he would have a family who loved him forever.  Then one day his picture was gone.  I prayed it meant he had gone to a good home.

In the early fall of 2010 I ran across a blog post which piqued my interest.  This it the post.  Could I do this?  What was this?

I started looking at local foster care agencies.  Church had a seminar on adoption and foster care.  I met KA who went to church and was a foster parent.  I talked to her about her agency.  I looked them up online and sent an inquiry. 

I got a call that day.  Classes were starting the next night.  Did I want to participate?  I enrolled.

I learned a lot in class.  The other foster families were amazing.  The teacher became a friend.

All the while in class I was talking to a friend who was a service coordinator about one of her cases.  About how the boys were really struggling.  I listened intently while I filled out a profile for being a foster parent to boys and girls ages 6 - 10...maybe girls to 13, but definitely not boys.  Again...God laughing.

During the fall I left my job and took about six weeks off while I finished my classes. 

That January I started my new job and still hadn't gotten a placement.  I ended up having to travel out of the country with an expedited passport on 10 days notice.  During that time I didn't have phone service.  I missed three placement calls I would have taken.

Upon arrival home I got a call from my friend the service coordinator.  They were looking for a new home for the two boys she had been talking to me about.  Would I consider it? 

I called my agency.  They looked at their paperwork and said "Are you crazy?  We would never pick these kids for your home."

I took the was Older Boy and Younger Boy.  T was another pivotal person in my life.

Fast forward to camp last summer and the boy I had prayed for from the heart gallery.  He stepped off the bus at camp.  I got to know him and now you know him as Middle Boy.

Where are we going from here?  I don't know, but God does.  In my heart I believe our family isn't complete.  I don't know if I think it is almost complete or there are a number of missing members. 

I think back to discussions with groups about "getting out of the boat" and praying for God to "show you what His will is".  I think about a book I just saw today when I was looking for something else.  The title was "Go and Do".

Hmmm...something to think about.
When I got home at 9:30PM both boys were asleep, but they had asked me to come in and let them know I was home. 

Sophie was outside their door guarding it.  I'm a little surprised they didn't have her in the room, because Middle Boy likes her to sleep with him, but she must have been annoying him.

Both boys barely woke up and I told them I loved them and would see them in the morning.

It is so nice to see them peacefully sleeping and not fighting sleep.  Neither boys was "on alert" thinking a catastrophe was about to happen.  That makes me able to sleep peacefully.

Praises for peaceful sleep and our "guard dog" Sophie.
The boys can stay home alone for up to three hours.  I typically don't go that long for a couple of reasons...there aren't enough hours available for me to be gone that long when one of them doesn't have something going on and they truly don't do a great job of keeping themselves occupied.

Tonight I had training for the teen camp so they were home alone.  I only got two calls.  The first was because they wanted to know if it was okay if they had ice cream. don't ask when I am home so I'm not sure why you called, but okay.  The second was a little different.  They called because they thought maybe two fuses were blown and they wanted to know how to get the power back on in the bedrooms and bathrooms.

Turns out they had plugged the vacuum and carpet steamer into the same outlet probably while the air-conditioning was running and the fuses blew.  I'm guessing they did it twice.  Once in their room and once in mine.

So....there is no reason to be mad.  They were trying to help out and were trying to be efficient with Younger Boy vacuuming and Middle Boy steam cleaning simultaneously.

Honestly I am proud of them for staying busy while I was gone...with something productive.

Praises for a good evening with them home alone.
So...I hope I am not going out on a limb here, but we could eat food from our freezer for WEEKS without going hungry.  Our meals might get a little crazy, but we could do it.

We have set a goal of moving as little food as possible when we move to the new house.  This means some differences for us:

Eating at home.
Preparing more meals.
Having to think through dinners and lunches.

We're going to give it a go.  So...I might be posting crazy meals.  I kind of wonder how long we could go, but I don't have the energy to keep track and make a game of it!!

Praises for having MORE THAN ENOUGH to eat and being blessed.
This was another peaceful morning.  The boys were up, dog walking, kitchen cleaning, and the "new normal" routine.  Sophie and I are kind of coming to expect this new morning routine.

Everyone was in the car, with their car door shut, everything they needed, and their seatbelt on in ample time to leave for the day.

No one was arguing on the way to be dropped off.  This is vastly different from the "old normal".

I love this, but am waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Praises for new routines.
I have gotten a TON of comments about the GAL in the Hawaiian shirt.  Just so you all have a better mental picture he is NOT in his 30s, 40s, or 50s.  He should not be starring in the movie "Magic Mike".

This guy is well into his 60s.  Yup...I said 60s.

Say it together...EWWWWW!!
I have a feeling this post will be long, because I learned a lot and it made me think A LOT.

Development of Emotional regulations is based on the following things:
  1. A baby operates only out of the right brain.  The left brain is not fully developed.
  2. When the parent holds an upset baby, the baby's brain harmonizes with the calm, regulated brain of the parent.
  3. If the parent's brain is "organized", over time, the baby's brain will become "organized".
  4. The prefrontal brain is dependent on the attachment relationship for optimal development.  Repeated soothing or comforting from the parent increases the number of brain cells in the baby's prefrontal brain.
The prefrontal brain:
  1. Is the executive control for the entire brain.
  2. Modulates emotional reactions.
  3. Allows delayed gratification.
  4. Allows focus and concentration.
  5. Allows shifting from one focus to another focus.
A lot of kids with reactive attachment disorder present as ADHD, because of the lack of development in the prefrontal brain.  While ADHD medications will help some of the symptoms attachment is more helpful than the medications.  While you can't remove all of the affects you can make significant strides over a length of time.

Positive Core Beliefs:

A child who repeatedly experiences nurturing, comforting, and having needs met develops core positive beliefs.
  1. It's safe to love.  It's safe to trust.
  2. I belong.
  3. It's safe to have feelings.
  4. It's safe to be vulnerable.
  5. I can ask for help.
  6. I can count on my mom and dad to take care of me.
  7. I can accept help and comfort.
  8. I am loved and lovable and I don't have to be perfect.
  9. I am good and I deserve good things.
  10. The world is safe.
  11. I can expect good things from others.
Negative Core Beliefs:

A baby who is not comforted has a brain that remains dysregulated and disorganized.  It has poor development of the prefrontal brain.  He experiences unremitting fear and lives in an ongoing state of anxiety and stress.
  1. There is no one to help me.
  2. I am all alone.
  3. I don't belong.
  4. I am not important.
  5. I'm not safe.
  6. Bad things will happen.
  7. I can't get what I need.
  8. I am going to die!
  9. I have to take care of myself.
  10. I can't get the closeness and love I need.
  11. It's not safe to have needs or feelings..
  12. I will always be rejected or abandoned.
  13. I'm not good enough.
  14. It is not safe to love.
If I would have thought long enough I could have come up with this entire list through the eyes of the boys.

Traumatic Memory

A traumatic memory is encapsulated along with the emotions, beliefs, and body sensations associated with the trauma.

Even a SINGLE frightening event can cause traumatic stress symptoms like frightening images or thoughts, distressing dreams, flashbacks, reactivity to triggers, and avoidance of reminders of the event.

Flashbacks can be feelings only.

Trauma and the Brain

Chronic high levels of stress hormones lead to changes inthe brain, resulting in an overactive emotional brain and an underactive rational brain.

Trauma and Attachment

When a child is traumatized within his earliest attachment relationships by abuse, neglect, or separations, attachement figures become part of the stored traumatic memory.

Pre-verbal trauma remains stored in the emotional brain.

Survival Response

Behaviors normally labeled oppositional, rebellious, unmotivated, or antisocial are the natural by-product of a brain that is wired for survival.

These behaviors are all part of the fight-flight-freeze response.  It is nature's way of helping us survive in a threatening environment.

What Events Interfere with Secure Attachment
  1. Early neglect or abuse by parents.
  2. Loss or separation from parents/caregivers.
  3. Early and painful medical interventions.
  4. "Secret" or "shameful" experiences.
  5. Emotionally unavailable caregivers.
Small "t" Traumas

Small "t" traumas are not life-threatening, but can threateen sense of belonging, self-worth, and trust.
  1. Being ignored for long periods.
  2. Witnessing parents fighting or overwhelmingly distressed.
  3. Chaotic events the child cannot understand.
  4. Being criticized, rejected, or belittled.
Ongoing Issues with Trauma Triggers

As the child ages, any reminder of previous trauma may trigger negative emotions, beliefs, and associated sensations.

Triggers may even be associated with traumatic events that occurred during infancy.

Survival response - The child will go into fight, flight, or freeze mode.

Common Triggers
  1. Mom saying no.  Teacher saying no.
  2. Stern look on an adult's face.
  3. Mom paying attention to a sibling.
  4. Parents going out of town.
  5. Holidays
  6. Homework
  7. Bedtime
  8. Time out or consequence.
All of these are triggers for both boys.  Research shows that the reason homework is commonly a trigger is that often times it brings up the feeling of confusion and that is the actual trigger.

A Child in Survival Brain
  1. Has a low capacity to focus and learn well.
  2. Is unable to enjoy relationships.
  3. Has little ability to think about the future, the affects of poor choices, or to wait for something good.
In my opinion Middle Boy is in survival brain 95 - 100% of the time and Younger Boy is there about 80% of the time.

Chronic Trauma Results in Emotional Dysregulation

There is a scale of tolerance of emotions we all experience.
  1. Sympathetic Nervous System Arousal (Hyper-Arousal) - We are emotionally reactive, aggressive, impulsive, hyper-defensive, or frozen and paralyzed.
  2. Window of Tolerance - We can stay connected, process, and learn.  This window is VERY narrow in wounded children.
  3. Parasympathetic Nervous System Arousal (Hypo-Arousal) - We feel numb, disassociated, collaped, slowed, feeling dead, and have psychomotor retardation.
All people experience all of these in their lifetime.  Some people have the general reaction of one way or another.  The most insightful thing to me about this was if you are in state 1 or state 3 you cannot learn.  The example they gave was in a child lacking attachment you cannot correct or reason when they are out of the window of tolerance.  They compared it to trying to correct a seizure in a child who is epileptic.  The goal when dealing with kiddos with a lack of attachment is to connect, redirect, and then when they are back in the window of tolerance address the behavior.  This is why traditional parenting strategies fail with reactive attachment kiddos.

Children suffering from attachment trauma have little to no control over their behaviors, which are related to a reflexive survival response.

Attachment Trauma Plays Out in the Following:
  1. Self-hatred.
  2. Self-doubt.
  3. Shame.
  4. Fear.
  5. Anger.
  6. Mistrust.
  7. Self-protection.
  8. Acting out.
Stuck Cycles

A child enters the world ready to trust, love, and bond with his parents.  When trust is broken, the bond is broken.  The child who can't trust lives in survival mode.

The child's behaviors cause the parent to feel rejected by the child.  The parent feels hurt, angry, and confused.  This causes them to develop their own negative beliefs:
  1. My child is rejecting me.
  2. My child doesn't love me.
  3. My child is hurting me.
It causes the parent to become:
  1. Shut down.
  2. Push away others.
  3. Become angry and irritable.
  4. Become anxious and fearful.
  5. Become hypervigilant.
The main thing about parenting a reactive attachment child is to address the beliefs not the behaviors.  To do this you have to become in tune with your child and observant of their triggers.

The next four classes are parenting strategies.  I can't wait.

Maybe the Stepford  Wives have taken over my house.  I don't know.

Both boys were in bed before 9PM tonight.  This was after cleaning the kitchen and walking Sophie and taking showers.

What is happening?  I don't know what to do with this behavior!!

I like it, but it seems so foreign to me.

Praises for changes taking place right before my eyes.
Middle Boy came to me tonight wanting to know the definition of dysfunctional.  He was working on his therapy homework and he was to write down his understanding of his own dysfunctional behavioral cycle.

Wow...that's pretty tough for someone who has difficulty with accountability and has NO IDEA why he does things.  Obviously the point of therapy, but I found it interesting.

I decided to google dysfunctional behavior cycle.  Pretty interesting.

Here is it...

Triggering Event - Feeling/Emotional Response - Thought/Cognitive Response - Behavior - Outcome/Consequence - Triggering Event

In some cases the thought/cognitive response is eliminated.

I didn't see what Middle Boy finally came up with for his cycle.

I can't belive how much I have learned through this experience as a foster parent. 

Praises for learning and the ability to learn.
This meal thing makes me insane.

Today Younger Boy wanted to skip lunch at lunch time.  That needs to be clarified, because both boys WHOLEHEARTEDLY think you must eat three meals a day in the correct order.

If you sleep until 2PM and get up and eat it is in fact breakfast.  During the remainder of the day lunch and dinner must still be eaten.

Today was no exception.  Since Younger Boy chose not to eat lunch at daycare the meal I gave him at 5:15PM was lunch. 

At 8PM he informed Middle Boy that he hadn't had dinner yet so he made him scrambled eggs.  In his mind he was NOT getting his three meals which in foster care he is REQUIRED to receive.

This black and white thinking makes me CRAZY.

Prayers for thinking between black and white and not so literal.

Tonight it was hot out.  Younger Boy had a baseball game at 6pm.

The team is generally speaking slightly less than focused.  The heat didn't really help the situation.  I think there might also be too many kids on the team, because at any given time when they take the field there are still six kids on the bench.

Tonight Middle Boy and I were sitting near the bench.  We could hear what was going on the dugout.  The following were the topics of discussion:
  1. How hot would it have to be for the world to end?
  2. How big is a South American cock roach?
  3. What would happen if the world ended?
  4. Who was supposed to bring treats tonight?  What are they?
  5. How hard to do you have to kick someone in the "nut cup" to make it hurt?
  6. Can someone go get them some sunflower seeds?
Different combinations of boys brought entirely different conversations.  Not a lot of focus on what was happening on the field.

They did end up winning 15 to 2.
Today we had Younger Boy's family team meeting.  The meeting was fine with absolutely nothing of consequence.

GAL was there.  He creeps me out.  He waltzed into our house in a Hawaiian shirt unbuttoned to his navel and gold chains.  He was sporting a tattoo on his chest and was wearing flip flops.  Just makes me uneasy.

Praises we will be done with GAL SOON!!
Middle Boy was offered a job with the YMCA summer camp program.  He is attending the teen program, but they have asked him to be a part of the lunch preparation and snack distribution teams.  He is THRILLED to have the responsibility.

He helps with logging all of the nutrition information they need to give to the state for the nutrition program.  They count the amount of food used and who eats what, etc.  Because of this he has become quite concerned with proper nutrition and daily intakes.  From that standpoint and the responsibility this has been a GREAT thing for him!!

Praises for unexpected opportunities!!
EMDR therapy with Younger Boy today was interesting.  Since he had told his "secret" in therapy with Therapist C they decided to try to address it with Therapist D during EMDR.

The approach was fascinating to me.  She asked him to think about himself as a two year old.  She expalined how inside each of us there are memories at every age and they live in our brains and our hearts.  She asked him to draw what he thought would be a safe place for a two year old.  He drew our house both inside and outside.  In the outside drawing he and I are sitting on a porch swing.  On the inside drawing he is sitting on the couch with Middle Boy, me, and Sophie.  Originally he put Middle Boy in the middle and then crossed it out and put me in the middle.

During EMDR she asked him to visualize himself as a two year old with me taking care of him and keeping him safe.  She asked him to picture himself on the couch and on the swing with me, but he was two.  They talked about it and you could physically see his shoulders relax.

Younger Boy also has trouble with transitions so they talked about him being done with summer school this week and talked through how it was okay to be both happy and sad it was ending.

I love this therapy.  I wish we could have started sooner and that Middle Boy could do it as well.
Younger Boy's therapy consists of two pieces...a talking portion and the EMDR portion.  I am a part of both of the sessions.

It was really interesting today.  Therapist C was talking to him about how you learn to trust.  She had a baby doll she was holding and she asked Younger Boy questions like "What does a baby need?" and "How do you know a baby needs something?"  They talked a lot about when a baby cries if they are picked up and comforted EVERY time then they learn to trust adults.  They talked about how if this only happens occassionally or never happens then the kids don't learn to trust.

They kept talking about trust and Younger Boy started to cry.  She asked him what was going on in his mind and he said "I have a secret that I can't tell anyone."  She asked him if he could tell me and he said "yes".  Then she asked if he could tell her and again the answer was "yes".  He told the story of why he has a scar on his head.  I have heard him tell the story MULTIPLE times.  Sometimes with emotion and sometimes like a play-by-play announcer.

Therapist C asked him if he thought it was his fault and he felt guilty.  She explained the difference between a secret and your business.  She told him secrets are things that make you feel guilty or embarrassed or ashamed and your business is something that you can choose to share or not, but that it isn't your fault.  It seemed to help him.

Praises for openness and AMAZING therapy.
One of my best friends in the entire world had this devotion today and sent it to me.  It is beautiful...Thanks K!!

June 26, 2012

God Never Wastes Our Pain

Glynnis Whitwer

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

She'd betrayed me again. Hurt and anger simmered as I walked away counting to 10, then 20. Lord, this assignment is difficult! I feel like such a failure.

Feelings of shame filled me as I thought about my reaction toward my child who'd taunted me. Shouldn't I be above this? I asked myself. Shouldn't I be able to deal with rejection and deceit without getting angry? Why can't I rejoice in my trials like those first followers of Jesus?

That day, as always, God let me vent. As I presented my hurt and angry emotions to Him, He poured peace over my heart. My circumstances hadn't changed, but once again my heart was restored, and I felt encouraged.

God and I have been through this before. Despite my battered heart, this assignment to care for my wounded girl is mine.

You see, seven years ago, God added to our family through an international adoption. We didn't know the trauma our beautiful girls had experienced, but God did. And although some people's adoption story seems almost effortless, ours has come with a high cost. And for most of those seven years we have walked a painful journey with our daughters while sharing in their suffering.

In those seven years I've learned more about living with pain and helplessness than in all my previous years combined. I've also had to make some hard decisions about what I believe about God.

Mostly I've had to dig deep into whether or not I believe God can truly bring good out of all pain, or if my daughters' suffering and ours is just a waste.

In that process, I've come to believe that God will never waste our pain, but I can.

- When I'm not honest about the reality of how hard life is, I waste God's offer of peace.

- When I try to do things in my own strength, I waste God's offer of power.

- When I keep the pain to myself, and pretend everything is perfect, I waste opportunities to minister to others walking a similar path.

But when I confess my feelings of inadequacies, when I admit I'm helpless to heal the wounded ones in my care, I get to a place of reliance - and that's just where God wants me. For in this place of helplessness, God takes center stage. And when I let God lead, miracles start to happen.

Although I'd remove the pain and trauma with a snap of my fingers if I could, I know God is working even in this.

Especially in this.

I can talk about God's power all day long, but experiencing it changes me. It changes those around me.

Like Paul said in our key verse today, I find my way to being glad for this weakness in me. I'm not glad for sin or what caused the brokenness my daughters and I are facing. But I see pain for what it is - a condition of this fallen world, and a place for God to do His best work. The evil one's plans don't succeed, because the battle isn't mine anymore. God's power takes over when I step back.

This perspective shift helps me face another day. My circumstances haven't changed, but hope has seeped in through the cracks. No pain is wasted when I submit myself to God's plans. And we are seeing God's healing power in the lives of two precious girls.

Dear Lord, we've been here before, with me asking for relief. Help me to accept my weakness in this situation, and to allow Your power to take over. I admit I don't understand how this works, but I'm choosing to trust Your Word. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Power Verses:
1 Corinthians 1:25, "For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength." (NIV)

1 Peter 2:20, "But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God." (NIV)
This morning I awoke to the sound of dishes clanking.  Did I oversleep?  Nope.  It was 6:15am.  The boys were both up and putting the dishes away out of the dishwasher. 

They asked if Younger Boy could take Sophie for a walk while Middle Boy started a load of laundry.

Who took my boys?

Middle Boy got a large glass of ice water for me to take with me in the car and got everyone's med containers out.

We talked about our day and what we have going on.  We planned out the schedule for pick-ups.

It was the most peaceful morning we have had in a while.  Both boys kept commenting on how well rested they felt and how they would be going to be early again tonight.

What a blessed way to start our day!!
I'm not sure what got in to the boys tonight.  They helped clean up the kitchen.  They worked on the living room and their room.  They put away laundry and they were ready for bed at 8:30PM.

They were helpful and eager to get the house in really good shape. 

Younger Boy walked Sophie and played with her.  Middle Boy worked on therapy homework.  I worked on things for camp.

Evenings like this NEVER happen at our house.  Tonight it was an amazing blessing!!
Tonight I got an interesting phone call from J. 

He had two things.  I had asked him to consider doing respite for me while I was at camp.  He said that he really considered it, but that after spending Sunday and Wednesday with us he knew there was no way he could do it.  He said the boys might be "too much" and he said that he wasn't sure how I do it all of the time.  For me it is my "normal" so I don't even notice what he is talking about.  On top of that I think he truly saw some of their better behaviors.

The second thing was this...Southern Belle had asked him to give Younger Boy her phone number.  He wanted to talk to me about it and get my thoughts.  I told him that I check all of Younger Boy's texts every night and that he can't delete them without my knowing.  He also doesn't have the ability to send or receive picture texts.  We decided we would rather have them communicating with someone 1,500 miles away in a completely controlled environment than someone we didn't know.  They see each other a couple of times a year.

When I gave the number to Younger Boy I explained in detail how you treat a girl you are talking to.  You are always, no matter what, respectful.  I also explained she lives in a different time zone so he needs to respect her bedtime and stop texting early.

I also talked to Middle Boy about how he is too old to text her and how I didn't want him to influence Younger Boy.

It was an interesting conversation.  Praises I will be able to monitor it on a regular basis and that she is a nice girl.

This morning I noticed that Sophie has a weird bulge where he incision is located.  I call her vet this morning and she said it was probably just how it was healing, but to bring her in just in case.

By the time I got home to pick up Sophie the stitches were showing in her incision.  They hadn't been previously.

We got to her vet's office and Sophie was so excited to go in we could hardly keep her under control.  She loves the ladies who work at the front desk.  She was the only one there so they were letting her run everywhere and give kisses to everyone.

The vet checked her and said it was probably from her high level of activity, but she also said she knew there was NO WAY we could do anything about it.  If the stitches are still sticking out next Monday she will take them out for us instead of letting them dissolve.  She suspects they will disappear.

Sophie didn't want to leave the vet's office.  It makes me feel good that we chose someone who she clearly likes and trusts.

Praises for amazing care for our baby.
Today Middle Boy had an appointment with his psychiatrist.  We don't see a psychiatrist for therapy.  We have a therapist for that.  We see a psychiatrist for psychotropic medications.

Middle Boy was taking a mood leveling medication and an anti-depressant when he moved in.  We have weaned slowly off of the mood leveler and the anti-depressant.  We have added melatonin for sleep in meantime....sort of.  Middle Boy is very ANTI-DRUG.  I think he equates all drugs to illegal drugs.

Today on the way to the appointment we talked about whether or not the "no medications" was working.  I gave my observations.  I think the anti-depressant needs to come back.  It had an anti-anxiety component along with it and I would argue he needs both right now.  I also told him my observation is that he is a lot more aggressive without the mood leveler.  The question I asked was if he thought he was trying to control it and couldn't or if he wasn't trying to control the aggression.  He admitted that at times he was not trying to control the aggression and anger.  I told him I would let the mood leveling medication go for another month, but he has to work on controlling the intensity of the anger.  It okay to be mad.  Everyone gets mad.  It isn't okay to scream and swear and punch things.

His doctor also talked to him about caloric intake.  Both drugs he was taking affect weight.  He also talked to him about the importance of being hydrated and getting enough sleep in mental health.

I think everything sunk in.  By the end of the appointment Middle Boy asked for the anti-depressant and agreed to using melatonin CONSISTENTLY for the next 14 days to reset his body.

Praises for a good and patient psychitrist.  He did a great job of explaining melatonin to Middle Boy and why is it important to sleep.
Today was a lazy kind of day.  No one did much.

Younger Boy and Respite Girl challenged each other to every sport on Wii sports with the exception of boxing.  They had a good time. 

All three kids had a pillow fight.  They played basketball outside.

I did some laundry and some cleaning to keep our house show ready.

Nothing too exciting.  We were going to go to church, but I didn't fall asleep until 2:30AM.  Too much on my mind.

Our garage door is broken.  Younger Boy went outside to ride his bike and after he opened it he couldn't get it to go back down.

I don't think it was anything he did, but trying it repeatedly before coming to get me didn't help the situation.

Instead of coming in and letting me know he asked Middle Boy and Respite Girl if they wanted to come outside to play.  About five minutes later I went out to see what they were doing and I find Younger Boy and Respite Girl holding up a cock-eyed garage door and Middle Boy standing on a folding chair pounding on the rail with a hammer. 

STOP!!  Everyone STOP what you are doing.  Of course this cause Middle Boy to scream "f*** you" which is not really the response I was hoping for with the unsafe condition. 

I asked them all to go in the house so I could call a garage door repair company.  I found two that did 24/7 service.  One charged $230 for a weekend call and the other $75 for a weekend call.  I went with the cheaper.  In the end our garage door was fixed for $75.  No new parts needed.  Not really sure what happened.

Middle Boy was still pouting because he could "fix it".  In his words I "chose not to give him a chance".

Praises for a fairly simple fix for the garage door and that no one was hurt during the "let's not tell Mom" repair. 
Because there hasn't been a meltdown lately we were due for one.

Middle Boy wants an xbox.  We don't currently have one.  He is operating as though we will have one.  Today he decided to melt down about the fact that I won't allow rated "M" games in my home.  He went on and on about how he won't let Younger Boy play them.  He completely could not fathom why I would think they were inappropriate for him as well.

He kept saying "it isn't like it makes me want to kill someone".  Well...he does talk about violence nearly every day.  So much so that I have had to make a consequence if I hear him talking about violence.  He talks about killing, slicing, stabbing, you name it.  He tells me all kids who are school age are allowed to play Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty.  Apparently I am the most unreasonable person on the planet and I just need to get a grip and learn to be a parent.

He decided to tell me I suck as a parent.  I don't get it and I am not trying.  I grew up during "the day" and I how could I possibly understand what it is like for him to be mocked, because he can't play these games.  What do I want him to play?  Barney games?

He ranted all the way home.  I kept reminding him he doesn't even have an xbox so this conversation is really hypothetical and of no consequence.  Didn't matter.

About an hour later he apologized for being "unreasonable".  At this point that is sometimes all I can ask.

Praises for recognizing behaviors.  Prayers for the roller coaster to stop.
Today we went applicance shopping for the new house.  First we had to go and measure the opening for the new refrigerator.

I have never had to do this before.  When I moved into the house I live in now they were "all included" so I didn't have to do much except use them.  For this house I had to buy a refrigerator/freezer, washer, and dryer.

Who knew there were so many choices in these?  It was insane.

To listen to the boys you would think this decision was LIFE OR DEATH for them.  When I explained the final decision was mine alone they seemed irritated.  Last I checked they didn't help with laundry and only removed things from the refrigerator and freezer, not replaced them.

I LOVE what we ended up with.  Everything probably has standard features we will likely never use, but so does our TV and computers.

Praises for being able to choose our appliances and for the boys plus the respite girl being good shoppers and very patient.
For the next 30 hours we are doing respite for J a girl I know from camp.  She has stayed with us before and isn't really too much of a problem.  I am one of few people her mom will leave her with.  Why?  I must have her completely fooled!!

Younger Boy is looking forward to her being here, because she likes to play the games he does on Wii.

Prayers for a peaceful weekend.
Today Younger Boy didn't have baseball again because of rain.  As a result he had to go with Babysitter M when she drove Middle Boy to therapy.

For the second week in a row he convinced someone to take him to McDonalds.  In fact, he told Babysitter M that I ALWAYS take him when Middle Boy is at therapy.  I have NEVER taken him during that time.

Not only that, but he convinced her to buy him a shake and cookies in addition to his meal.

I picked him up at McDonalds so I was able to see how much he scammed her for.

He was also shocked when I told him that when we had lunch he probably wouldn't need anything since this was his lunch.  I am MEAN like that.

Praises caregivers are taking it good naturedly.
I started taking a class today at the Trauma and Attachment Center.  It is titled "Attachment 101".

It was FASCINATING.  I went into it a little bit jaded, because I have done A LOT of research on the topic.  I am going to post about the things I learned later this week.

The mix of people in the class are interesting.  After listening to them I think it must be a court ordered class for some people.

There is a couple pursing the adoption of two of whom I know from camp.

There is a couple adopting four year-old twins out of foster care.  I met her when she was training to become the director of a camp while we were at camp earlier this summer.

There is a couple who are having trouble with their biological teenager.

There is a lady adopting her granddaughters toddlers.

There is a lady who is the guardian of two teenage boys who are the children of her ex-fiance.

There is a guy who is trying get custody of his 6 year-old son from foster care.  She was previously living with the mother and he didn't know the son existed until about 6 months ago.

There is a couple who have two kiddos in foster care and there is a guy who has 13 children.

All interesting stories and after hearing them understandable why there are attachment issues in all of the cases.

Praises for this class.  I wish I didn't have to wait to finish the last two classes in a later session.
Tonight we went out for dinner for Middle Boy's birthday.  He wanted to go to a buffet so that's where we went.

All in all it was a nice time with one behavioral exception.  I went up to get dessert and when I came back Middle Boy had smeared butter all over the shirt of Younger Boy.  It is still unclear to me why.  When I asked about it I didn't really get a straight answer.  In fact I don't really remember an answer.

I did mention I thought that the manners we used at home were usually better than the manners I had seen that night.  I also mentioned that butter is quite difficult to remove from clothing and asked who was planning to help out with that since it is a natural consequence of something.

Finally I got a response that Middle Boy "just wasn't thinking".  Hmmm...that hadn't occurred to me.

Middle Boy thinks his behavior was appropriate and that is "what all 15 year-olds do".  Any 15 year-olds out there who can chime in on this one?  Are you all doing this and I just not that cool?

Prayers Middle Boy will start to "think" before acting impulsively.
Camp Photographer came over tonight to take photos of the house.  We are his first "gig" and the photos turned out amazing.  He made our house look like something I would want to live in!!

Hopefully that will help with the sale of the house in a timely manner.

You can see the pictures of our house here.

Pray for someone to buy the house and want to close before the end of August!
Tonight we watched the women's gymnastics Olympic trials.  I am a huge Olympic junkie.  I love everything about them.  Especially the summer Olympics.

The boys loved it.  They can't wait to watch the Olympics.  Neither of them have ever really seen them before.

It should be a fun summer!!

This afternoon we worked on the house to get it ready for show.

The boys did an amazing job of helping.  What seemed to work is to just let them do what they needed to do and I just stayed out of their way. 

It took way longer than I think it should have, because of the number of distractions...especially Younger Boy, but in the end the final product is worth it.

Praises for cleaning and helping out.
The continual whining done in the mornings by Younger Boy immediately gets on my nerves.

He whines about having to get up.  He whines about not having clothes to wear.  He whines about having to put on shoes.  He whines about having to get in the car.  You name it...he whines about it.

Pray for a morning when he isn't whining.  It hasn't happened for a long time!!
Grandma's surgery went well.  She is going to spend the night tonight at the hospital and will go home sometime in the morning.

Praises for a smooth surgery and prayers for healing.
Younger Boy has been falling asleep in the car nearly every time we go anywhere. 

He went to bed tonight at 8:30pm.  Shortly after he came downstairs and asked me if it would be okay if he went to bed at 7:30pm or 8pm tomorrow night, because he is just so tired.  Of course!!

Praises for a change of heart as it relates to bedtime.  Now if Middle Boy wouldl get on board!!
Middle Boy had therapy tonight.  He had done five assignments and studied for it.  That is more than he has done almost the entire time he has been in this program.

He came out after therapy and told me that Therapist L was impressed with how much he had done this week.

I told him if he would have done that much each week we would be done by now.  He asked if I was going to hold a grudge on this forever.  I am not holding a grudge, but I can say that Younger Boy and I are tired of our two hours a week we sit in the car and wait for him during therapy.
Today Middle Boy and I both stayed home sick to our stomachs.  He was feeling better around noon and I'm stilll not feeling so great.  I'm not sure if it is something we ate or just something going around.

I slept pretty much the entire day.  I probably needed it.  Sophie slept on my lap the entire time.  She was pretty worn out from the party last night.

Praises for the ability to sleep today.  Prayers for feeling better tomorrow.
Tonight we had a birthday party for Middle Boy.  He HATES being the center of attention so it was really low key.

Mentor L, C, J and Southern Belle were in attendance.  Southern Belle made him a shirt that says "Feed Me.  I'm ALWAYS hungry."  He loves it.

We chatted and had cake and ice cream.  Sophie was the star of the party.

Younger Boy still has his crush on Southern Belle.  They were talking and laughing (as much as preteens do).  At one point when they were chatting Younger Boy passed gas and was DEVASTATED later, because now "she'll never like me".

When everyone went home Middle Boy told me it was by far the best birthday he ever had.

Praises for Middle Boy and for friends to celebrate with.
Younger Boy and I went shopping tonight for Middle Boy's birthday while he was out for dinner with Mentor L.  It was a torrential rainstorm and we got completely soaked while RUNNING into the store.

Younger Boy had his gift card he had gotten from Grandpa and Grandma for his birthday and wanted to use that.  He got Middle Boy some blank CDs to record his original music on.  He also bought himself some walkie talkies and decided he would give one to Middle Boy.  Allegedly the range on them is 16 miles.  He has it in his mind they can talk during the day while at their summer programs.

Middle Boy had told us he wanted a vanilla cake and mint chip ice cream.  We failed at both.  I could have made a vanilla cake, but didn't.  He ended up with a rainbow cake and cookies and cream ice cream, because they didn't have mint chip.

I got him a box fan.  He has been wanting the really old fashioned kind of fan that sounds like a jet engine since he moved in.  I had also gotten him an iPod touch earlier.

We went home and got ready for his party.

Please pray for Grandma (my mom).  She is having emergency gall bladder surgery tomorrow morning at 9am.

Pray for wisdom for the doctors.  Pray for peace and healing for Grandpa and Grandma.  They have had a tough few months.
Happy 15th Birthday Middle Boy!

Today we will celebrate the amazing person God created you to be.

Middle Boy...I haven't even physically known you for a year.  In my heart I have known you for a lifetime.  I have no doubt God had you in mind to be my son from the beginning of time. 

I wish more than anything the circumstances in your life would have been different...your childhood could have been just that...a childhood.  But, without those things you might not have been here today.

There are so many things about you that make me smile.

  1. You love God.  You once told me through your crazy upbringing you have been Mormon, Catholic, and Christian.  I love how you figured it out for yourself and you trust in God.
  2. You are an amazing caretaker.  You love Sophie with your entire heart and make sure all of her needs are met.  Watching you take care of her makes me know one day you will be an amazing daddy!
  3. You are a fantastic big brother to Younger Boy.  You teach him things about life.  You help him match his outfits.  You play games with him.  You hang out with him and you generally like him being around.  Watching how the two of you love each other makes my heart melt.
  4. You are an amazing writer.  While I think your writing is incredibly dark I can't deny for a single minute your talent.  Your use of words is amazing.  What other 15 year-old boy would describe himself as a leaf in a hurricane?
  5. You have incredible artistic skills.  When I look at the things you draw I am in awe of your talent.
  6. You have beautiful music skills.  I love how much you love to record your own songs.  They are incredibly personal songs and listening to them makes me smile.  I sometimes wonder what you could do if you had someone behind you who knew what they were doing.
  7. You fight for what you believe in.  While I sometimes think the things you fight for are misguided there is no doubt in my mind there will never be a time when you will allow people to walk all over you.
  8. Your quiet self-confidence.  This is something I am just beginning to see emerge.  When you understand something you quietly go about taking care of it, because you know you can.  This coupled with humility is the makings of an incredible man.
  9. Your intelligence.  This is an area where you don't give yourself nearly enough credit.  You are smart.  Smarter than you think you are.  You haven't gotten a fair shake throughout the years in school, but by no means are you stupid.
  10. You are a survivor.
Sweet boy...I hope you have a very happy birthday.

You have given me greater joy....Psalm 4:7.

I love you more than the sands in the beaches...

Younger Boy had a baseball game tonight.

He volunteered to be on the bench for the first inning.  He helped the catcher get on his gear and helped warm up the pitcher.  Pretty mature things for a kiddo who loves baseball.

The rest of the game he was the pitcher.  He is actually a pretty good pitcher.  He has a pro-baseball style form which I think he learned from Baseball Coach last year.  He was doing really well and then a pitch got away from him and he hit the batter on the helmet.  It was loud!  The kid was scared.

Younger Boy started to cry, because he thought he really hurt the other player.  His coaches were great encouragers and got him to smile and go talk to the other player.  He was still wiping his eyes when he threw his next pitch.

He finished out the game.  They didn't win the game, but Younger Boy learned some pretty important lessons tonight about baseball and about life.

Middle Boy was on a rampage tonight partially because he wasn't getting his way.

We were in the car driving to baseball and he was having a meltdown.  No other way to describe it.

He was screaming at me about not being polite.  Every time I would start to say something he would scream about how I wasn't even respectful enough to not interrupt him.  When I would be quiet he would accuse me of ignoring him.  He screamed about how I am NEVER accountable for anything and how I am provoking this behavior.  He called me a b****.  He said I was never meant to be a mother and I was just trying to fool everyone.  He said he has never felt this unloved in his whole life and he thinks I treat him like he is a game.

The entire time I just kept a calm voice and kept saying "help me understand what you need".  He kept saying he needs me to be accountable for my HORRIBLE actions.  I asked him what that looks like to him and he said that it involved listening.  Then when I told him I had heard everything he told me he screamed about how I didn't care.

He kept screaming he was sure I thought I was being emotionally and verbally abused.  He screamed about how all I have ever wanted was to break him down and completely throw him away.

We got to the game and I told him he could choose to calm down and go to the game or just take a minute to regroup.  He told me he didn't want to see my face again...ever. 

I got out of the car and went to the game.  About 15 minutes later he came and told me I need to make a decision about whether or not I want him to live with me in the next 10 minutes or else.  I asked what the or else was and he broke down and cried.

Here's the thing.  As much as it SUCKS to be under his nightly attack I still can't imagine being him.  He is on this emotional roller coaster and can't seem to stop the ride.

Pray we can get through this.  It is exhausting for everyone.
We RARELY have time during the week to prepare our meal at home and sit down and eat it all together.  Our evenings are generally filled with courted-ordered this or that.

Tonight was one of those rare nights.  We didn't make anything special.  We had sloppy joes, corn on the cob, and watermelon.  We sat at our kitchen table and ate together.

We had good discussion and laughed a lot.  The boys commented on how much fun it was.

I patiently wait for that day when this is the norm and not the exception.
Happy 12th Birthday Younger Boy!!

I am so sorry I missed your actual birthday.  I can't tell you how proud I was of you for letting me be away on your big day.  I love that you understood my love of camp for foster kids.

Younger Boy...I met you for the first time in the summer of 2008.  Little did I know then the way that you would change my life.  Why I remember details about you from that first year of camp...I never understood.  Then God chose me to be your mommy.  Now I get it.

You make me smile...every day.  There are so many amazing things about you.

  1. You love God.  You sit in the car and read your Bible while we are driving.  You dance to the worship songs at church.  You raise your hands in praise and don't care what anyone thinks.  You just love God.
  2. You are a good little brother to Middle Boy.  You ask him for advice and you listen to what he has to say.  You don't get mad even when he is being bossy.  You look up to him and you love him.
  3. You are inquisitive.  You will ask questions about things you don't understand.  You will take things apart to figure out how they work.  I love that about you.
  4. You are sensitive.  You care about how others feel and don't like anyone to be sad.  You will stand up for the underdog even if it means other people might not like you.
  5. You are smart.  Super smart.  Sometimes maybe you don't use you intelligence in ways that are completely appropriate, but you are smart.
  6. Your willingness to help out.  It is really rare when you won't step in and help out if you see someone in need.  You will help others even without them having to ask.
  7. Your athleticism.  I love how sports come pretty naturally to you.  You love sports and you love being a part of a team.  You are so much fun to watch when you are in your element.
  8. Your amazing ability to figure out electronics.  If I didn't know you were only 12 I would think maybe you designed electronics from the speed in which you can figure out how things work from websites, to DVD players, to video games. 
  9. Your smile.  It lights up a room.  I wish I could see it more often.
  10. You are a survivor.
Buddy...I hope your birthday was amazing.

I love you...

I am looking for respite for the boys since I have volunteered at both the boy's and girl's Teen Reach Adventure Camp.

It is two separate weekends in July.  One weekend would be both boys and the other would be just Middle Boy.

Maybe the fact my respite fell through is God telling me I shouldn't be going.  If that is the case, let me have the wisdom and discernment to hear HIS voice.
I need to figure out my problem...and fast.

Here's the deal.  I am exhausted.  We are not talking just a little tired we are talking can't do anything except sleep.

I have a bunch of theories and the reality is that is probably some combination of all of them.
  1. I am truly that tired.
  2. It is summer and I have never done well in the heat. 
  3. I was outside the majority of the day on Sunday and my energy is zapped.
  4. The emotional energy I am expending has drained my physical energy.
  5. The anti-depressant I have taken for years is no longer doing its job.
  6. The interrupted sleep has finally caught up with me.
I don't know what it is.  Some of you who know me well are probably thinking " idiot!!"

I need this to go away.

Prayers for energy and appropriate rest.
Tonight was kind of a tough night.

Sophie is doing okay, but she's a puppy and we are supposed to be keeping her from running, jumping, and licking herself. Uh...that's all she ever does except eat, pee, and poop.

Middle Boy tapped her with his foot, but I called it kicking and he FLIPPED OUT. He cried. He cussed. He yelled at me. Completely over the top. He sent me a text telling me I should just get rid of him and take in another kid, because he is "easy to replace".

He cried himself to sleep.

I hate nights like this.
I just received a GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY.  The manager of my office is on the Voices for Children board and they are meeting with the state senate committee for children and the Governor this week.  He has asked me to provide a list of talking points to him involving the state's management of foster care.

This is the door I have been looking for.  The one I have been praying would open.  While it won't be me doing the speaking (right now) it will be my thoughts and ideas.  I am hoping to become a member of this board after the adoption of the boys.  By the way that will be one of my talking points!!

Pray I can be concise and have good explanation of the difficulties in being a foster parent in this state.

Praises for this amazing opportunity!!
A couple of prayer requests...

The first is for Middle Brother, the biological brother of Older Boy and Younger Boy.  His health is compromised with cerebal palsy and a number of other issues.  He has been struggling with gall bladder issues for the last couple of weeks.  Pray for wisdom for the doctors, rest for Mom and Dad J, and healing and comfort for Middle Brother.

The second is for a camper I have known for a few years.  She went to a camp this weekend to "catch-up" with her biological siblings and it didn't go well.  It ended with her in emergency psychological care.  Pray for wisdom for those involved in her case and for her to get the help she needs. 
This morning we dropped off Sophie to be spayed.  Younger Boy absolutely did NOT understand why on earth we don't want puppies.  Luckily Middle Boy previously lived with someone who bred dogs and he was able to explain why we DO NOT want to do that.

It is an outpatient surgery so we will pick her up this afternoon and just have to watch her pretty closely for the next week or so...especially tonight.

Prayers for quick healing for Sophie and for our ability to keep her calm.
The house is ready to show (again).  For most of the week last week it would have been a mad scramble had someone actually wanted to see it.

This week our main focus will be the garage...lucky us!!
Tonight when we got home we worked on the house.  The boys were working on their room while I made dinner.

They came out with a list of things they were going to work on in terms of being obedient.  They also had a schedule of things they were going to do each day.  They are going to start the process tomorrow.

They even outlined the punishment for various items of disobedience.  They decided they would write sentences for disobedience, because they both hate that.  They also said they don't really respond to things being taken away since they have lived their entire lives losing things.  I thought that was pretty insightful for them to realize it...also quite true.

Of course...they want to start tomorrow.  That means tonight they have decided to stay up late (a bedtime is included in the new plan) and not really listen to me.

We'll see how tomorrow goes.  I am cautiously optimistic!

Praises for continued thought about this morning's message at church.
When we were touring the trains Middle Boy and I were sitting in one of the cars chatting.

He decided he would like to live in a train car and wondered aloud how much I thought it might cost.  He then asked me if I would be willing to either live in his train car or buy my own train car, but connect it to his. 

He explained he wants to live near me when he is an adult, because we haven't had much time to be a family and he wants to be close.  Honestly, it makes me a little bit sad.  I am sure when he is 18 he will feel differently, but it makes me feel good now.

He had a good time talking to me about the various ways he might remodel a train car.  I have to admit...his creativity is amazing.

Praises for relationships and attachment being developed.

Today K and another friend, J, took us to the Union Pacific family picnic with them.  J's daughter is here from Tennessee and we usually hang out with them when she is in town.  She and the boys have become friends during her visits.

The picnic was nice.  It was a little bit hot out for me.  I'm a wimp.  Younger Boy and Southern Belle got airbrushed tattoos.  We all went to do the train simulator where you could try to drive a train in all different kinds of weather.  We toured all kinds of train cars....dining cars, dome cars, lounge cars.  The boys thought it was great.

Younger Boy and Southern Belle took pictures of the penguin which was out roaming around in the crowd.

We all had a great time and are thankful for being invited!
Today's message at church was about Colossians 3:20-21. 

The first half was about how children should obey their parents.  I knew it was striking a chord with Middle Boy, because he kept looking at me for my reaction. 

The second half was about parents not discouraging their children.  The pastor provided a list of things parents do to discourage and frustrate their children.  The list was pretty powerful.  I do at least four of the things on a daily basis.  Some of them that very morning on the way to church.

Leaving church it provided a good discussion.  I asked both boys what the main thing they learned was that morning.  Younger Boy originally couldn't think of anything.  Middle Boy said he learned that he needs to step it up.  He said the part that really hit him was that the pastor started to cry during one part.  It made him really this was important stuff.

I apologized to both boys for not being as encouraging as I could be.  Middle Boy apologized for not even trying to obey on most occassions.

By this time Younger Boy said that he learned he is supposed to obey and that he was sometimes a jerk.  His words not mine and that he would do better.

This was probably the most discussion we have had following a sermon since the boys have lived with me.

Praises for a powerful message and for the hope of application.  Praises also for God's mercy and well as the grace of the boys.
While they were waiting for Middle Boy at therapy, K took Younger Boy to the pet store.  He thought it would be completely appropriate if she were to buy him either a lizard or a $600 bird.  Thankfully she did NEITHER.

He then decided he was hungry so she took him to McDonalds.  She said no to a slush or a shake. 

They picked up Middle Boy and he too was STARVING.  Might not make it through the day.  She took both boys to 5 Guys.  Allegedly we have NO FOOD in our home.  Not one thing they could have for lunch.  K knew this was completely untrue, because she had just helped pack up all of the extra stuff from the kitchen two weeks ago. 

Younger Boy ate AGAIN.

I'm sure she is thinking that either I don't ever feed them or they are complete scam artists.

Praises for her ability to say no to the animals and the "extras".  Praises for her patience!!
Today I had training for camp from 9am to 3pm.  Middle Boy had therapy at 11am and Younger Boy had a baseball game at 11:30am.  They are able to be home alone for a couple of hours so they were sleeping when I left for the day.

During the week I had coordinated with K to take Middle Boy to therapy and one of the dad's from Younger Boy's baseball team who I have known for my whole time in Omaha to pick up Younger Boy and taking him to baseball.

I called the boys to make sure they were awake.  Not so much.  I asked them to text me when they were ready to go.

It was kind of a stormy morning.  The baseball games were postponed.  The contingency plan for rain was for K to take both boys with her.  She received a huge fit from Younger Boy, because his former foster parents would have let him play in rain and lightning.  I forwarded him the text about the game being postponed.  Didn't seem to matter.

K took both boys.

Praises for a good friend!!
It was a long week this week so tonight we went back to our school time Friday night routine of pizza and a movie.  We picked up a pizza to bake at home and the boys picked out a movie to watch. 

We got home and pretty much all collapsed from the exhaustion of the week.

It was a good night at home.

Praises for a quiet family evening.
This post is entirely about me and how my decisions and choices cause an inordinate amount of stress in my life.  As I reflect on the rest of the summer I can't decide whether to bury my head, scream, cry, or all of the above.

Here's the big things we are looking at for the rest of the summer:

Girls TRAC Camp - I am volunteering.  Still don't have respite for either boy.  Lots of feelers out, but no official respite.  I'm in charge of activity centers so I need to get three days worth of crafts together for 40 teenage girls.

Boys TRAC Camp - I am volunteering.  Younger Boy is attending.  Middle Boy would be attending if he wasn't on electronic monitor.  I don't have respite for him.  Haven't even really tried looking yet.  I'm in charge of activity centers so I need to get three days worth of crafts together for 40 teenage boys.

Moving - We close on the new house on July 27.  Most likely we are moving on July 28.  Has anyone ever tried moving without packing?

Selling the House - No lookers yet.  I'm not in a panic...don't even have time to think about it.

Middle Boy's Birthday - Turns 15.

Grandpa's Surgery - It's a follow-up to the first hospital adventure, but stressful just the same.

All of this actually occurs before the end of July.

Now...coming in from LEFT FIELD...I may be spending 8 days in Majuro, Marshall Islands, for work during this same timeframe.

On top of this I have a full-time job.  Plus my boys are a bit more needy than the average boys.  They both do 4 hours of therapy each week and Younger Boy plays baseball.

Pray for wisdom and discernment.  Pray for energy and perseverance.  Pray for sanity and the ability to say no.  Just pray for me!!