Tuesday, July 29, 2014

It's the most WONDERFUL time...of the year!!!

I remember as a Homeschooling loving mama watching this commercial, and seriously NOT.GETTING.IT.
Fer reals.
I was all "Summer is my favorite time of year with my kids, what parent wants their kids to go back to school?"


I had home-schooled my little people for the last seven years. I loved exploring and learning and delving into my kids passions with them. I loved watching my Haitian babies learn, become confident and excited about their abilities. 
I valued the time and room homeschooling allowed my children for healing and much needed breaks and growing as a family.
I someday may in the flux and flow of my kids needs bring a couple of them home to educate here and there.
I got to a point last year, mid fall in the process of parenting children with heightened behaviors and special needs....I didn't LIKE it anymore.
LIKE AT ALL.  I kinda COMPLETELY hated it.
The excitement to delve into studies, to balance rages, and tantrums, and the needs of other children began to wear on me in new ways that left me waking in the morning, staring at the ceiling, whimpering, "I don't want to do this again today." I don't have the energy to ask them to read one story and answer questions..to find they read five stories,all BUT the one I had requested.
If they pee on one more composition book.....

I got really honest with myself.
I realized with some of my children, their needs would exceed childhood into adulthood...and NOW was the right time to recognize I needed to begin to build our resources as a family, now was the time to realize...I couldn't be my children's everything,not all of the time. Not when there is eight of them, not when some of the behaviors would eventually require hospitalization, not when I was losing parts of myself that I needed to be available for the most important parts.

Last year by April, I had all of my school aged children enrolled in public school.
This was not with out enormous requests of the district, multiple meetings  and testing. Me stalking chasing down Dr.'s and therapists for records and letters recommending aids, and para professionals to ride the bus and be available full time for my children while in the schools care. 
I became "that Mom"...the one on texting, emailing and  on cell phone terms with my kids teachers, Special Ed directors,secretary,principle and School Counselors.
The one that worked in the classrooms and ate lunch with the kids.
I was blessed by the willingness and understanding we as a family received.
 Much of my burden was lifted, as I took a deep breath and trusted..while I let go of some major reins.

Was it perfect? Nope. Did my kids pull things and charm the pants off people, and shocked the heck out of the teachers as they got good and comfy? Yep.
There were absolutely growing pains...and we moved through them.

As that golden chariot daily pulled up that first week and whisked my cherubs away, I felt like Cinderella in sweat pants, or maybe sleeping beauty...because I went right back to bed and slept into 9:30...that whole week. I hadn't realized how completely exhausted I had let myself get.

Anywho...after a lllllllloooooonnngggg summer, I am looking forward to fall.
Yes.I .AM.
As I prepare again for my kids to begin school I am actively hunting out best deals on school supplies, and shoes and socks, making lists, taking into considerations the new schedule and added short people that will be going this year.
I begin stalking once again the district, and therapists for meetings and letters to prepare for the upcoming year.
I by no means am an expert, but I do believe I have found some ways that are more effective in communicating my children's needs to the amazing adults that will be working with them every day.

Treats or small gift cards.
Never underestimate the value of gratitude and chocolate.
At all meetings , I try to bring a bag of Reeces Peanut butter Cups, a plate of cookies, something that says...."please know I am kind loving mama and am trying so hard to advocate nicely, but there is a Honey Badger behind these treats...."
Every time I show up at the kids school, I try to bring the sweet Secretary that calls me 3 to 6 times a day for behavior or diabetes needs Lindor Balls, or fresh flowers for her desk.
I write thank you notes, when my children's behaviors become increasingly difficult.
I say thank you, all of the time.
Even when they tell me no.

Letters from therapists and Dr.'s Supporting your requests
. Whether your child suffers from PTSD and needs not to have someone sit behind them, or has attention issues and needs to sit at the front of the classroom to pay better attention, needs to sit on a yoga ball instead of a chair for sensory reasons, or needs a full time aid to keep their needs in constant eye sight, a letter from a professional supporting your request goes much further and allows the district the capability of accessing funds, with the recommendations, supported by professionals.
I have found can be VERY helpful inviting your childs therapist to the actual district meeting.

Don't be afraid to ask.
Don't get offended easily.
Be prepared to explain and re explain your childrens needs.
It's O.K. to be the crazy Mom...Eventually most adults who work with your children will eventually see the warning and concerns you have for your chilren, and if they don't, that's O.K.
It feels terrible to be judged by other adults that don't "get it"...but sweetie, this isn't about you...don't make it be. Let  it go.
Yes ....So much easier said than done.
Come, vent here...I will eat a snickers bar in solidarity with you.

A clear plastic backpack.
Really, Amazon has them in all colors.
I can't remember what parenting group I heard this recommendation from but I am so grateful for the idea of transparent backpacks...my kids have "wrapped things" in paper to hide, but still they serve as a literal transparent stealing detourant.

A plan. For Mornings and Meals.
We have Eight people counting my husband to get out the door, dressed and fed by 7:15, five days a week. This is no small feat.
Most mornings I go back to bed, mostly because I have already run a physical and emotional marathon.
The rule is the night before:
Clothes, socks, undies, shoes are all layed out.
Lunches are packed. Here is a link for EASY Breakfast and Lunch plans. This was before we went all Gluten and Dairy free.
Having a solid weekly rotating menu for breakfasts and lunches, keeps the guess work out of what we are having, it minimizes battles, it is a consistency they cling to.

Most of all:
The most effective way I have found to articulate my kids special needs, issues and fears...wasn't in my words at all.
It was in theirs.

Individually after other kids were in bed, or occupied we will sit down together, and talk about what it was they are worried about struggling with in school. Things my child as their student really wanted their teacher to know about them, see in them and help them with... along with a promise that their teacher would still like them, and be nice to them. 
Once I have typed or written out their "Things I want you to know about me"
I handed them a large index card and let them write it out, in their own hand writing.
Sometimes pending on the penmanship attaching the typed version as well.
I also like to include a wallet sized picture of them, paper clipped to the index card.
It makes them human, and see the person attached to the pain, and fears and needs.
Sometimes we make copies for reading aides, special ed teaches and counselors.

Some examples of things my children have written on their large index cards:

"When I get loud and hyper, sometimes it means I am not being able to calm down, you might see an overly happy kid, but really inside I am freaking out, and might need a quiet minute to calm down."

"Please know I have a hard time taking things that don't belong to me, not because I am a bad kid, but I have lived without and sometimes take things and I don't even really know why. Please keep a good eye on me, and check my desk and bag occasionally. "

"Sometimes I seek attention from grown ups...or act really cute and friendly,but when you or someone else touches me, my hair, or to hug me, it scares and make me feel really uncomfortable...and I don't have the words yet to say that."

"Because I know what it is to be VERY hungry for a long time, I get scared that could happen again. I don't like food being wasted. I will eat until I get sick, even things I am allergic to. Please keep an eye on me and your classroom door locked, I have been known to sneak back in during lunch recess and finish up other kids lunches, or ask during lunch to have the rest of everyones' food."

"I will see if I can get away without doing all of my work, or lose homework on purpose. I need people to stay on top of my work and require my best. I am very smart and capable, and sometimes use pretending not to be, as a control and behavior."

"I have tools I am afraid you won't let me use in the classroom. I need them, They may seem silly but they help me feel safe."

"Sometimes I am mean on purpose to adults and  other kids, because I feel bad about myself.
I don't like losing friends, and I don't know why I do this, please help me make repairs with my classmates and help me know the best way to communicate if my words get sharp, I swear, or even get physical, making repairs are very important for me."

"With that, because I look different, sometimes people let me get away with things, and I know it.
I need to be held to the same rues and consequences. When adults go easy on me, I feel unsafe.
I need you to tell my parents when I struggle or misbehave. Sometimes I try to triangulate the adults in my life, because earlier in my life I couldn't trust the adults in my life to keep me safe.
Sometimes I wonder if there is a better family for me, and this scares me, please, please don't let me think you will be a better mom, too much physical and emotional freaks me out. I need kind, consistent,and distant."

"I get sneaky, this for me is a safety thing.
I like to see if I can be in charge of the adults.
I will purposely lose papers, and not give information. You might have to text my mom and let her know stuff, because I can sabotage a field trip or spelling word list, sometimes because I get anxious about doing it, and sometimes because I don't want either you or my mom knowing absolutely everything. I want to be in charge. I know this doesn't always work best for me, so please. ..if something seems out of sorts, let my mom know...."

"Thank you so much for seeing all of me, teaching me, and helping me feel safe.
School is such a good opportunity for me to learn and continue to heal.

These words.
All verbatim from my littles.
They know so very well what their needs are.

If I am forgetting anything, I will continue to add to this post as thoughts and helpful tips arise.
I hope we all can prepare ourselves for another school year (squeeeeeee), with love, understanding and patience.
I am blowing you all "first day of school" kisses!!!

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Friday we had to Call Child Protection, On Ourselves.....

I have stared at a blank text document for over a month now.
Having words and thoughts so jumbled I could have made a great crossword puzzle, but no legible blog post. I would just sit, soaking the key board with tears, sometimes with overwhelming sadness, sometimes with fear..and sometimes with overwhelming gratitude at peoples kindness and support, and still the words couldn't come ...and then eventually, I would seek my safe place and message Christine.
That woman, she is the gift I have allowed myself even when I feel completely unworthy.

SO, yeah.
Over a month ago...

Do you ever notice that we all have that pinnacle defining point of ….
”Everything is going to be O.K....you know as long as “THAT THING” doesn’t happen?
I have had A LOT of those,
and DAMN-IT;
every.single time. I have put a ceiling on “things I thought I couldn't handle”....the Universe started rubbing her hands together, giggled and said; 
Happy? Smooth going? Ha, Hold on for one second...”

Dear God, I will be faithful and strong as long as one of these “things” doesn’t happen....and then;
My first Pregnancy ended in a car crash, resulting in multiple miscarriages after that.

Umpteen failed domestic adoptions, and the continuation of miscarriages.

The loss of my son's twin, and maintaining his pregnancy, bed ridden on IV therapy for 7 months, while parenting a three and one and a half year old.

A four year old Autistic son being taken to the Emergency Room late one Sunday night, hospitalized and later diagnosed with Type One Diabetes.
So, life, really not fair.

In 2007, our small tiny son languishing in an Orphanage in Haiti, 9 months into his adoption, took his final breaths, and they weren't in my arms.
Somehow we survived.

That same year my husband came home “early from work”, as he informed me, not early but his company without his knowledge had committed Medicaid fraud and was being shut down, we had just bought a new house, and were working on selling the one we were in. Two mortgages, no job, and in the process of adopting 3 children.
And, it turned out, O.K.

And so it continued...with an Earthquake...
A “Smooth transition” of a family of five in six weeks avalanching snowballing into a family of eleven.
Followed by years of constant screaming, crying, urine, feces, broken,lying,controlling, alienating, therapeutic HARD.

E.R. Trips with children due to self harm.
(well check THAT off the list of stuff I didn't think I could handle)

One child not being safe, or healthy enough to stay in our home.
That loss. Almost broke me....but, it didn't.

Before Christmas I had a long, invasive Breast Cancer scare.
That sucked.

Later another child needing more help that I, or my husband could provide, making the decision to seek professional help for behavioral and a severe eating disorder.

As you all walk this earth...you know these “breaking points”, they keep on-a-comin' don't they?

Still I was unprepared for June.
When my oldest daughter came down the stairs with a look on her face.
As she explained to me what she had witnessed between two of my healing kids.
I sat and shook my head.
No. just NO!

We had been doing so well.
My arrogance in the “WE ARE ALMOST A NORMAL FAMILY NOW”....was back-flipped and tossed into a brick-wall of ...”nothing is ever going to be O.K., I was lying to myself thinking I could help these so severely hurt children, WHY ...did I trust and remove boundaries? I should have KNOWN they weren't ready.”

After talking to my children separately, calmly, with a broken heart and voice, hand shaking, I called my husband at work.

“ You need to come home RIGHT NOW.”
“We need to Call Child Protection, there will be an investigation, and we will have to call your bosses.”

You see our family depends on my husbands income.
My husband works actively helping Trauma victims heal, he is a therapist, a clinical social worker who spends his days walking with people through their pain, offering hope.
He also contracts with Health and Welfare, and works on call in the evenings and weekends with Child protection, seeking safety and support for families, mostly children in their ultimate time of need.
And so, he made the call.
His hands shook as he made the call to the people, co workers, friends, people we admire and have true relationships with...on ourselves.
Out of city officials, and workers had to be called in to avoid conflict, and an investigation was launched.

In a numb whirlwind, his on call job was put on temporary hold. We began restructuring our home again into fort Knox, as we put back up the door alarms our therapists had assured us our kids were ready for us to take down. As we prepared our other kids that they probably too would be questioned, and moved bedrooms and children and floors between kids...and waited, and prayed, and cried and worst of all, questioned everything.
And I mean everything.
We worried and wondered, would children have to be removed?
I mean we hadn't KNOWINGLY allowed THIS to happen.
Had we followed all of the kids therapists recommendations...were their warning signs we missed?


What is going to happen?

Are we going to financially survive if this investigation takes a long time?
How is this going to potentially effect his job?

Most of all.
Are are kids going to be O.K?
HOW did we miss this?
Has this been going on under our noses forever?

Is this a Latent Trauma Time Bomb?
Remission of Old Behaviors...
or Part of the Ride?

Yes, with new therapy, more structure, boundaries,more safety put in place and non shaming open conversation and unconditional love....my kids are going to be O.K. And continue on their path of healing.

Yes. Time Bombs, healing and then mistakes and spiraling downward happens, bombs blow, and then you access the damage, and move on.

Yes. Humans Regress.
But humans move forward.

Yes. Trauma is a monster creeping under the bed, waiting to grab your ankles....this too is part of the ride.

Eventually, after phone calls, and interviews, and an investigation was done and the charges unfounded. We began to breathe again. Slowly. Not with the same ease as before, but breathing and moving froward non the less. Before we knew it, we found peace and laughter and fun slowly beginning to seep back in...because the love and acceptance of healing our kids and family never left.

What I have learned since that Friday.
Pinnacles of Impending Doom, are not Road blocks, they are Jerk Ass Speed Bumps that take our your undercarriage...but it is your choice to keep moving.

When you have people, a tribe that walk, stumble and crawl your same path,and you trust them with your Impending Doom....they rise and carry you. From there you can see the sun again, their hope and faith in you become contagious....and you begin to believe again too.
They walk with you in messages, in the Pay Pal of “get your kids therapy and don’t worry about the electric bill this month.... ”
They shine in loving texts, and funny emails, and packages so filled with love you can't read the cards because of the tears. To you....
I LOVE you with a deep, beautiful, grateful ache that is with out words.

So, what am I saying in this long, winding post of hard?

Yep. So that happened.

And also, Dear Universe....bring it...I no longer am giving you my fears, apparently what you have been whispering all along is...
          You are way tougher than you think darling, nothing can destroy you.

Hold your head up lovey, keep your true friends close, everyday seek healing and gentle understanding for those beautiful beings I have placed in your care, and keep walking.”