Different is OK, too.

Posted by admin on June 25, 2013

This post has been weighing heavy on my heart for some time now, and I have been pondering just the right way to word it. 
Some of you are parenting children who have all kinds of letters attached to them.  Your children are diagnosed as RAD, FASD, ODD, BPD, and a host of other things that all mean your child is not “typical.”  If I look at your child and compare him or her to another child the same age I will see major differences in behavior, emotional functioning, cognitive functioning, etc. 
Your child hits, bites, throws tantrums, and attacks you.  Your child pees the bed every single night (still at age 10) or smears poop on your wall.  Your child tries to have sex with other children.  You can’t take your child in public places because of such extreme behaviors, and your child is not safe to be left unsupervised for even a minute.  Your child has destroyed everything in your house, including the beautiful baby book or Life Book you spent hours putting together for your child. 
You feel completely traumatized because you are parenting this child, and this child’s behaviors shock you every single day.  You feel completely alone because your friends have abandoned you, and your husband stays at work just so he doesn’t have to be around your child, and the therapist is an idiot who judges you.  No one offers to babysit to give you a break, and you can’t pay people enough to help you with this child.  Your other children are scared of this child, and you are torn between trying to parent this child and also protect your other children and give them a normal childhood.
You do not get things other parents get like handmade Mother’s Day cards, school plays, soccer games, or play dates where the kids play nicely and you sit with your mommy friends, sipping on a drink.  You do not get fun vacations or outings or even a trip to the grocery store that doesn’t end in complete chaos, embarrassment, and pain.  Your child sabotages every nice thing you try to do, and ruins every single family outing/activity.  All your money goes to paying for this child’s therapy, medication, and to keep this child safe.
You have to listen to the other parents brag about their child’s latest achievements, the cute things they’ve done and said, and all the little things that they complain about.  “She won’t potty train.  She keeps waking up early.  She is such a whiner these days.”  You want to knock these parents over the head because they have no idea what daily life for you is like, and if your child was struggling with something as normal as potty training or being a picky eater you would be doing a happy dance. 
Now I want you to look at things from a different perspective.  Remember how you felt before this child was in your life?  Remember the pain of years of infertility?  Remember the loss and grief after having a miscarriage or a stillbirth?  Remember waking up morning after morning crying and broken because you can’t have the one thing you want most in life?  Remember spending Mother’s Day holed up in your room, grieving because you can’t do what other women all around you are doing?
Now I want you to think about the women who love children they can’t parent on a daily basis.  Think about if your child (who has all these behaviors and letters attached) was across the world in an orphanage where you didn’t even know if she was getting fed?  Think about if your child was across the country with your ex who abused you, raped you, and hurt you for years until you finally had the strength to leave, but then the judge gave him custody anyway, and so now your child is on vacation with your ex and you don’t even know if he is safe. 
Think about if your child was far away with people you don’t know, and you didn’t know if she was getting food, or love, or her medicine.  You don’t know if she is being restrained, or hurt, or ignored when she has behaviors.  It is out of your control and out of your hands.
As bad as you have it, things could always be worse.  As much as you hurt, there are people out there hurting more.  As traumatized and victimized as you feel, you are not the only victim here. 
We have to take that step back and put ourselves in our children’s shoes.  We have to come to that place of empathy for our children, despite their behaviors. 
There are wonderful groups of women who are parenting children just like yours.  They are wonderful places to vent, seek advice, and get support.  The collective wisdom and strength of the mother’s in these groups is enough to save the whole world.  And I mean that.
You have the power to heal, not just your child, but yourself.  The reason your child’s behavior disturbs you so much is because you are broken and hurting.  You have to let go of your “us versus them” mentality and realize that the only way out is to jump right in with your child and climb out together. 
It is not about changing or fixing your child at all.  It is about entering that place of pain and brokenness and holding your child’s hand as you walk through it together.
When I hear you say things like, “I can not love this child.  I can not bond with this child,” or when you call your child names under the guise of “venting,” my heart hurts.  When you say that your child has to change before you will be able to love your child my heart hurts. 
I am that child.  I have those labels.  I have that history of abuse and trauma, and I have been diagnosed with BPD, FASD, PTSD, and other things. 
I know that when you say things that hurt me so much you are only saying them because you are hurt and broken, too.  You are traumatized by trying to love the child in your life, and from a place of pain and tiredness you lash out and say hurtful things.  Hurt people hurt people. 
In my brokenness I have lashed out against people trying to love me, and I have hurt them.  I push my husband away, I sabotage relationships with friends and family, and I keep myself isolated and alone by my behaviors.
But as much capacity as I have to hurt, I have to love and heal.  I also hold my children close and walk with them through their pain, and I heal and love.  My husband sits quietly beside me and waits for me to finish my rant or my fit, and I find love and healing on the other side. 
I don’t live a “normal” life if you compare me to other adults, but I live a life filled with love, laughter, and joy.  There are sad times, broken times, and times that are not “typical.”  I do not always work outside the home or go to social events.  But I have great capacity to give and receive love.
Your children do, too.  So just be careful when you are “venting” and ranting on FB.  Be careful when you are talking on the phone and your children are near.  Be careful.  Be gentle with your children and yourself.


Different is o.k., too.  “Typical” children have their own set of issues and there can be great joy in the journey of loving a child who has all those letters attached. 
- Whole Child (who blogs at Did I Say That Outloud?!)

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Attachment Therapy Activities

Posted by admin on June 24, 2013

Today, I want to talk about attachment therapy, also referred to as Theraplay by many professionals. These therapy sessions are meant to be touch oriented, fast paced, spontaneous at times with the therapist/parent having in mind the activities for the day. The activities should be fun, calm, and nurturing. 

During a session NEVER scold your child if they get overly excited or out of control. If that happens, you need to refocus the session in to a calming exercise, like rocking.

The point of these sessions is to help your child attach in a fun, playful, non-confronting way.  These things are things many of us would do with a biological child.  Children with tough starts do not always get the joy of sharing these fun games with their birth family, so our job as adoptive parents is to help recreate the attachment cycle that was missed out on for our children as infants and toddlers.

The Scene/Supplies:

First, you want to set up a blanket on the floor with a bunch of pillows around for comfort and for some of the exercises.  A bean bag is a great thing as well because it will give the children a "special" seat.
You might want to get a small plastic container to hold the supplies. It's great to be able to grab a box and get to work.

The main things you will need are:
A large throw blanket, 4-5 pillows, lotion, cotton balls, feathers, stickers, bubbles, play-doh, powder, a baby blanket, small stuffed toy, comb/brush, construction paper, crayons, yarn/toiletpaper/streamers and snacks that kids like gummies, gold fish, M&M's, Skittles, etc. 

Popcorn/Jellybeans:  When we first get into therapy we need to take our shoes off.  So we sniff the air and we smell popcorn or jelly beans.  Then we start to hunt around the feet to see if that is where the smell is coming from.  Then we take off the shoes and socks to find popcorn/jelly beans.  Then we pretend to eat the food/tickle her feet.  

Lotion on our Boo-Boos:  Next we ask if she has any boo-boos/freckles/etc. we need to look at.  And we put lotion on the “boo-boo” (as long as it wouldn’t hurt her).  

Climbing Up The Mountain/Childs Name:  Next we rub a TON of lotion on our hands, and take her arm into our grip, we then use our hands wrapped around her arm to “climb the mountain”.  We sing a little song… “I’m climbing up the mountain, I’m climbing up the mountain, I’m climbing up, and climbing up, and climbing up the mountain”.   Then at the top of the mountain (arm pit) we loose our grip and sliiiiiiiiiide down and ask her to catch us and then we boom and thrash around.  

Taco Girl:  She lays in the blanket aka taco shell.  Then we put all of the toppings with different sounds for each.  Hamburger, lettuce, tomato, cheese, sour cream, salsa, then we wrap her up in the blanket.  Next, we pretend to “eat” the taco.  Tickling and saying, “this is one very yummy taco” the whole time.  

Twinkle Twinkle:  Since our Taco Girl is already laying in the blanket, one adult grabs the corners on their end, the other adult grabs the corners on their end, we lift her up and sing, “Twinkle, twinkle, little star WHAT A SPECIAL GIRL YOU ARE, up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky, twinkle, twinkle, little star, what a special girl you are”.  

Weather Report:  This is done in therapy with her shirt on, but at home, we do it shirt off, w/ lotion for her back.  She sits facing away, and you sit behind her facing her back.  Then, you basically draw out the weather on her back.  Tickling, swishing, circling along the way.  “Right now it is dark (hands down back) and there is a moon in the sky (draw the moon) there are also lots of twinkling stars (dot out the stars), and some clouds too (clasp fingers together and blot clouds into the sky), OH LOOK, the sun is rising (draw the sun around the bottom of her back like it would be on the horizon, then it rising into the sky)  and the wind is blowing (breeze fingers left and right across her back).  You can get fun and creative with it.

Mirror:  Mirror is pretty simple, one of you is the person, the other is the mirror, and you mimic the person’s actions.  Do funny faces, wave hands, etc.  Personally, I love to do the “I love you” where I point to my eyes, make a heart, and point to her.  

Basketball:  Get a little stuffed toy/beanie baby and put it on your head, then she makes a basket ball hoop w/ her arms.  Then you try and bend your head down to make the toy fall into the hoop.  

Hide the Cotton:  Take five cotton balls and have your child hide them on herself.  Then you try and find them while making funny actions in the process.  I love to look in her ears, at her belly button, in her mouth, up her nose… etc.  

Cotton Ball Hockey:  Take a standard sized pillow, and each of you hold one end.  Then you put a cotton ball in the middle and blow it to knock it off.  You do this back and forth to try and score points.  

Push and Pull:  This is where you sit on the floor, knees bent in front, and she holds your hands and pushes you back, while she lands on your shins and you can lift her in the air or just rock forward and put her feet back on the floor.  Another variation could be lifting her on your feet like an “airplane” zooming in the sky.  

What's That?: In this activity, you need a feather, cotton ball, and maybe one other soft item. Then you have the child close their eyes, and you touch them with the item, and they guess what it was that you used to touch them with.

Lotion Spots: For this you have a dab of lotion, the child closes their eyes, and you put the lotion on them. Then you tap around to "fake" them out. Before they open their eyes, they guess where the lotion is on their body.

Drum Copy: For this you need a drum, or a plastic bowl will work. You tap a tune, then the child copies you. You can trade off with the child. It really gets you in-sync with one another.

Lullaby: Parent cradles child in arms in such a way that eye contact is fully maintained. Parent sings lullaby to child, inserting, wherever possible, child's name and descriptions of his or her features. Example: "Twinkle, twinkle little star, what a lovely boy you are. Nice brown hair and soft, soft cheeks. Big brown eyes from which you peek. Twinkle, twinkle little star. What a lovely boy you are."

Peek-a-boo: With hands, feet, towel, blanket, hood of coat, behind pillow or door.
Where's the Baby?: Where you have the child pretend they are in your belly and cover them with a blanket. You can get descriptive too. 

This little piggy went to market.

What Will Happen When I Push This Button?: Parent gently presses nose, ear, toe and "beeps," "honks," etc.

"Pop" Cheeks: Parent fills own cheeks with air and guides child's hands to push gently on parent's cheeks with fingers to pop out the air, encourage child to fill up cheeks and parent pops. Toes can also be used to pop cheeks.

Patty-Cake: Played with hands or feet!

Various experiences with touch and textures: Lotioning, making hand or foot prints in powder, pressing hands or feet into play dough or shaving cream, baby oil for back rub with the child facing you. Be aware of possible sensitivities to odors. You can put lotion on the child's feet/hands and then sprinkle powder on it. Then have them stamp their feet or hands onto a piece of construction paper. 

Find The Sicker: Parent puts sticker on own nose and helps child pull it off, can do on other areas (watch out for hair).

Blow The Cotton Ball: Parent puts cotton ball on nose with a dab of lotion, child blows it off.

Pillow Tower:  Place on pillow and have you child stand on it.  Then cheer for them keeping their balance (with assistance if needed).  Next, have them step off and you will add another pillow.  You keep repeating this and having the child step on them until you get about 4 or 5 pillows high.

Belly Balance:  After you have those pillows in the "Pillow Tower" exercise stacked up to 4 or 5, have the child lay on the top pillow on their stomach, and then hold their hands while you pretend they are flying like a bird, airplane, etc.

Bubbles: Blow bubbles in front of child and help him pop with fingers or toes.  You can also have the child alternate and wait their turn as you switch back and forth popping the bubbles.  

Lotion Pass: The Parent puts lotion on nose, passes to child's cheek, helps child pass it back to parent's forehead, rubs lotion on child.

Comb Hair: With child facing you, commenting on special color, texture, etc.

Tower of hands: Put lotion on parent's and child's hands and make a hand stack, alternating slippery hands. Move from bottom to top and top to bottom.

How Long Are You?:  You measure the child out with yarn, toilet paper, party streamers, to do this, hold the "string" up to each body part, legs, arms, face, feet, hands full length of their body and tear off a section for each body part.    Then you can have them guess which pieces match to which body part!

Any song or rhyme paired with movement: such as dancing, bouncing, rocking, moving limbs, finger plays. Personalized wording, as in Twinkle above, is preferred. Examples: Rock a bye baby, Patty cake, Itsy bitsy spider, Ride a horsie, The wheels on the bus, Rub a dub dub, I'm gonna get you.

Snack Time:  Each therapy session we have a snack.  Favorites are Goldfish, Fruit Loops, and Fruit Gummies.   Mom needs to feed, and then child can feed mom too.  Then we pretend to be an animal or thing.  For Goldfish, you could be a whale, or dolphin… and when you want another bite, you make the sound that animal makes.  For Fruit Loops, you can be any animal, but a bird is fun.  I hold her in my arms and ask if the little birdie wants a snack.  She chirps.  I feed her the various flavors and describe them as fruits.  “Here comes a cherry little birdie”, “Chirp, chirp”  “Here comes a blueberry”, “Chirp, chirp”, “Here comes a lemon, lime, orange grape” etc.   

I also like to pretend I am picking the gummies from a fruit tree and feeding them to my baby.  So I will say, “Oh a patch of strawberries, I bet my baby likes strawberries” she will then cry and shake her head while I feed her.  Repeat for every type of fruit the gummy represents. 

** One new thing we've been doing as we work on self-esteem, is I have her tell me one thing she loves about herself before the next bite. **

Shoe Race:  At the end of therapy, the therapist and I do a sock and shoe race and see who can get the shoe and sock on the fastest. 

I promise to add more as we learn more!
I am not a trained professional, but I am a mom that does these exercises (interchanged) sometimes daily with my children.

If you would like to watch videos of several of these exercises, feel free to click here and here.

- Christie Q (who blogs at Quacken Baby)

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Finding Joy

Posted by admin on June 13, 2013

A women on one of my support groups was talking about feeling overwhelmed to the point that she found herself having no patience for her child and yelling at him all the time.  She was no longer able to be a therapeutic parent like she used to be.  In my response to her I realized that things really have changed for me over the years, and I don't think it's just because Bear is out of the house and Kitty is stable.  I really am in a better place emotionally.

I totally get it.  When my kids first got here, I was empathetic, calm and patient with them- maybe TOO patient.  I stuffed things down, let it roll off my back, and GAVE and GAVE and GAVE... until there was nothing left.  I was so burned out and overwhelmed that we were all miserable.  Here's what helped me:

1.  Understanding why they act the way they do.  It helps me a lot to know that it's not personal or malicious.  It helped to understand that my son is a scared little boy acting out of fear.  A lot of times with my daughter I repeat my mantra, "She's only 6.  She's only 6.  She's only 6!" (Chronologically she's 17, but emotionally she's only 6).  The books Beyond Consequences, Katharine Leslie's books and seminars, Can This Child Be Saved, and Stop Walking on Egg Shells, really helped with this.

2.  Lower my expectations.  REALLY lower them.  Quit waiting for _______ to happen before I do _____________.   Stop expecting them to grow up and change, or be able to do all but the most basic of tasks.  I found I was mad at her for constantly demanding the privileges of a teen, but not being able to consistently do chores or other responsibilities.  I had to forgive her, and let her know that I will no longer be expecting her to meet typical teen responsibilities nor will I continuously justify why she doesn't get typical teen privileges.  It really helped to have the validation of others, and I sought it out constantly for a long time, before I finally felt OK about this path.  http://marythemom-mayhem.blogspot.com/2012/05/today-after-kitty-had-been-in-her-room.html

3.  Therapy and meds.  I'm mildly bipolar and I've definitely suffered from PTSD.  I don't take meds all the time, but when I need to I take them.  I saw a therapist who specialized in trauma, and did some EMDR therapy to help with the PTSD.  Learning about my own issues, including my own attachment disorder, and accepting and dealing with them has helped a lot too.

4.  Date night/ respite with someone who "gets it."  We are incredibly blessed that my mom, who mostly "gets it," takes the kids overnight almost every Saturday night, keeping them through church the next day.  Honestly Hubby and I rarely do much more than rent a movie and go to bed together, but it's a chance to recharge our batteries.

5.  Discovered my love language.  This was huge for me.  Knowing what I need (Words of Affirmation), made it possible for me to focus on getting it.  I tried to teach my family to give me what I need, and they do their best, but they are overwhelmed and of course some of them are RAD!  Hubby is the son of a "strong, silent type", I think my father-in-law said maybe a sentence a year to me, and while Hubby's not that bad, and is a really good listener, Words of Affirmation is definitely not his strong suit.  I went outside my overwhelmed family to get what I needed.  I went to the internet, wrote and read blogs, found support groups, went to seminars and trainings... I also helped and mentored others.  It made me feel good about myself, and they gave me the words of affirmation that I needed.

6.  Set limits.  Once I knew what I needed, I stopped giving so much that I had nothing left.  I’ve always been a rescuer, giving even beyond what I could afford to lose.   I had learned the hard way to stop doing it with others, but had felt that shouldn’t apply to children, especially MY children.   I soon found that the kids not only NEEDED the structure and boundaries I set by saying “No,” but they also did better with them – they felt safe which allowed them to trust enough to feel loved.   "Saying "no" is not being negative.  Negative is saying "yes" to things that are destroying you."

7..  Choose joy.  Every day I try to focus on the positives.  It's hard as heck, but it is important.  I vent, but limit it to a maximum of 3 vents, even less if I can.  I needed lots of validation that what I was doing was the right thing.  Over time I eventually began to believe it, and that makes me feel better about myself.  I look back at the Godincidences (like reviewing my blessings) that came out of what frequently seemed like tragedies at the time.  I try to focus on how many of these “tragedies” have made me a stronger, better person.  Most importantly I focus on the positives and Choose Joy, like the little old lady in the nursing home.


A 92-year-old, petite, poised and proud lady, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o'clock, with her hair fashionably coifed and makeup perfectly applied, even though she is legally blind, moved to a nursing home today. Her husband of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary.

After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, she smiled sweetly when told her room was ready.

As she maneuvered her walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of her tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on her window. "I love it," she stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy. "Mrs. Jones, you haven't seen the room ... just wait." "That doesn't have anything to do with it," she replied.

"Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn't depend on how the furniture is arranged... it's how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it. It's a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do."

Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open I'll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I've stored away ... just for this time in my life. Old age is like a bank account ... you withdraw from what you've put in. So, my advice to you would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank account of memories.

Remember the five simple rules to be happy:
1. Free your heart from hatred.
2. Free your mind from worries.
3. Live simply.
4. Give more.
5. Expect less.
Wonderful Advice....for all of us.


- Mary The Mom (who blogs at Muddling Through Mayhem

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Making a Timeline

Posted by admin on June 06, 2013

I don't remember where I got the idea to create a timeline for my son. I think it was born from all of those books on attachment, and the MAPP classes about Life books. I had the idea in my head for a long time before I was able to make it a reality. I wanted to sit down with my son and make the timeline together. He came to me at age 10 after 8 years with his bio parents and 2 years in foster care. I thought we should sit together and create the timeline out of all of the documents I have and all of the information in his brain.

I had that idea in my head for probably a year without acting on it-- we were struggling to get through every day life, and the idea of adding that kind of stress on top of it was too much.

And then one day, over a year ago, we had a Really. Bad. Day. The kind of day where we both ended up questioning how and why we became a family. And the next day- I had a meeting at his school. So as much as I wanted to just go to bed-- I really needed to pull out old files and review information to take to the meeting. And in the process- the timeline was born.

I used regular looseleaf, lined paper. I taped several sheets together so that there were no margins at the top or bottom. Every 12 lines I drew a thick black line with a sharpie, and labeled those lines his birthdays. In between his birthdays, I filled in everything that I knew. I included doctor's office visits, emergency room visits, CPS reports, a house fire, and every single move. For the time after he moved in with me, I filled in important events like weddings he attended, vacations he went on, the time he broke his wrist ice skating, Adoption Day, summer camp, etc.

At the bottom, I colored in the margin. From the day he was born until 4 months after his 8th birthday-- I colored in brown. That was the time he spent with his birth family. Then 2 lines are colored in red for foster family #1. Then 4 months in green with foster family #2, 5 months in purple with foster family #3, another full year in green back with foster family #2, and then finally his time with me-- in yellow. Yellow is my favorite color.

I was immediately struck by how small the yellow portion was in comparison to the rest.

That alone gave me an immediate visual reminder to be patient. There was maybe 3 feet of time before me, and only a foot of time since he knew me. No wonder he kept regressing to that time before. No wonder he still had trouble trusting me, no wonder he still behaved as if there would never be enough food or love or attention-- that was still 3/4 of his life!!!

The visual was HUGE for me.

Remember, I did all of this while he was asleep. When I was done, I marvelled at it, and then hung it on our dining room wall and went to bed.

The next day, I chose not to talk about it. He spent quite a while studying it, and I let him know I would answer any questions he had, or talk to him if he wanted me to. He told me I was very good at timelines, and left it at that.

That was over a year ago.

We have referred to it several times. Once, during a REALLY rough patch, we were able to look over at the timeline and say, "Hey, do you remember when you went into foster care for the first time? Because it was 6 years ago this week." He didn't really remember-- but he did know that his emotions that week were heightened beyond reason, and having a documented reason for that was very reassuring.

I have taken it down twice-- once to bring to the psychiatrist, and once when I was hosting a party at our house. Both times my son specifically asked me to hang it back up where it was before-- right in the middle of the dining room, where we all see it every day.

I have continued to update it with our current travels and life events, and I continue to color the bottom in yellow to represent his time with me. The yellow time is still much smaller than the rest of the time. That alone is a daily reminder to me of where this child came from and why he struggles so much to let me love him.


Overall, it has been one of the best therapeutic tools we have used-- not only for him, but for me and for everyone else we want to understand him. We have shared it with family members, his psychiatrist, and his in home service providers-- all of whom "know" his history-- but all of whom have benefited from seeing it in a visual way. The picture I am sharing is intentionally blurry, because there is a lot of very personal information shared-- but I hope it gives you the idea, and please feel free to send me a message if you have any questions about how this worked for us.

- Sarah M

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Special Needs You Can't See

Posted by admin on June 03, 2013

All of my kids have some sort of special needs. Some you can see like the kid in the wheelchair or the kid with prosthetic legs. Some you can't see, like Aspergers, or dyslexia or dysgraphia, or RAD, or an eating disorder. With some of those you can see the results, but you really can't see the whole picture. Some of them as a stranger, you won't see any signs of them at all.

It's kind of interesting that people seem to have a set of rules for how disability should look or act. People assume that a kid who is cute can't have a mental illness. People will assume a child who is clean and well behaved in public, must not have a mental illness. People assume a kid in a wheelchair can't understand what they say or that they must also be delayed in some way. They also assume a child in a wheelchair can't possibly also have behavioral issues. You should see the dirty looks you get if you tell a child in a wheelchair "no" in public!

The truth is some kids who have major issues going on inside, are very cute on the outside. They may have cute smiles, and be well dressed. They might come up and hug you and be very charming. It might seem like the mom is nuts to think something is wrong with this kid. You just have to remember that just like you can't see dyslexia, you can't see emotional issues. Of course sometimes you can see it, some kids will act out in public. Some kids can hold it together in public but act out at home. Sometimes what looks like a well behaved kid is hiding what you can't see.

You may not have noticed that while the kid was hugging you they picked your pocket, you may not notice that the cute teen who picked up your toddler and is carrying her around was touching your child inappropriately. You may not realize that the kid who is snuggling up to you, is is trying to manipulate you. You may not realize that the kid who is confiding their deep feelings to you, is manipulating to you to try to get you to hurt their parents.

The truth is that sometimes really cute kids can have issues which mean they lie, and do inappropriate things. It may seem to you like the parents are way too strict, or have crazy rules. Never assume you know the story. Here are a couple of stories for you, see what you think.

Story one: A mother and child at a fast food place. The child appears quite overweight. His clothes are a little tight. He is about 8 years old. The mom buys him a kids meal, but he takes only a few bits and says he wants ice cream. The mother buys it for him. What would you think?I knew this lady and her son. She called me after she left the restaurant because people made loud rude comments about her and her child. Here is what they didn't know. Her son had a heart transplant. The medications which he takes to keep his body from rejecting the heart make him gain weight. He just got out of the hospital. He is not 8 but 11. He has very little appetite. This fast food place was where he wanted to go when he got out of the hospital after his transplant. His mom was so happy to have him alive, she would have bought him everything on the menu. Those people who made assumptions based on what they thought they were seeing, hurt this mother and child who had already been through a lot.

Story two: A family is at a church picnic. They have an adorable four year old girl. She keeps coming up to your family and asking your husband to pick her up so she can see the games the big kids are playing. Her mother tells her no, and keeps bring her back to stay by her side. The child asks to go and play with the other children and the mother says no. When the mother needs to take her other child to the restroom, you offer to watch the little girl, but the mother says no. You notice that the mother seems to not let the child out of her sight even though she has a little boy close to the same age who is allowed to run around with the other children. Someone else mentions to you that the child is not allowed to go to Sunday School either. The child is adorable and charming. She seems so sad to be stuck so close to her mom. What do you think? Here is what you don't know, this child is a foster child. Her biological parents molested her. They actually did far more than that simple word implies, it would turn your stomach to know what kind of a life this child had. This child knew no other life before she was removed from her home. She learned that you can get attention from men by doing things to them. She thinks touching other people's privates is normal. She has been taught to "accidentally" touch people in ways she should not. This is her third foster home. She was removed from the first because it was discovered that she was molesting a two year old. She was removed from the second after telling her therapist she had sex with her foster father. She described it in great detail. Later she said she was describing an incident with her biological father, who said he enjoyed it when she did those things with him, so she wanted the therapist to think her foster father loved her the same way. (in her poor little mind love=sex) The foster father was proven innocent because it turned out he was on a business trip during the time when the accusation was supposed to have happened. Because of these two incidents (which the foster mother is not allowed to tell you about because the law requires she keep her child's information confidential, even the fact that she is a foster child) the mother cannot let the child out of her sight. The child is in regular therapy, but the child is not healed of her issues yet. You didn't know it, but the mother you had those mean thoughts about was trying to protect you and your husband and your children. Yet, she felt your judgement. She likely won't attempt to come to any more church events.

Story three: A woman in a store is texting on her cell phone while her child lays on the ground screaming and cussing. The child is way too old to be acting like that. Do you assume that the child is a brat and the mom a bad parent? Or do you like me now, wonder if the child is autistic, or perhaps suffered from early trauma or has sensory issues. I don't know if the mother is texting her husband to come help her remove the child or the child's therapist for advice or a friend because she needs someone to talk her down so she won't be too angry. The next time a parent tells you that their child can't come to your house or says please don't give them something (candy, a gift, attention, food, etc) or tells you that the child may not do something or seems overly strict. Remember, it's possible that the child has a disability you cannot see. Sometimes you can ask if you know the parents well enough, why they do or say certain things. Most parents of special needs children would be glad to answer questions (if asked privately and appropriately) But sometimes for the sake of the child's privacy they cannot give you details.

Before you jump to conclusions, think, ask. Giving the mom of a tantrumming child a smile instead of a dirty look, might mean the world to her and it won't cost you a dime.

- Lorraine F 

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Adoption Didn't Make Me A Mother

Posted by admin on May 30, 2013

I wanted to be a mom and adoption seemed the best way to do that only I discovered, even if the legal papers said I was mom, it didn’t make me mom. People always wanted to know where my children’s real parents were. And honestly, my children wanted to be with the parents that had given them life. I wasn’t that parent.

I discovered that trauma, even in young children, is not easily gotten rid of regardless of how “resilient” people tell you children are. Trauma changes them and sometimes, the effects take away too much from them.

I thought my son was doing well as a young adult. I thought his time living in residential centers and all the therapy work he’d done (and we’d done) had paid off. He still had some lingering issues with relationships, but he was managing.

He joined the army and seemed proud to be a soldier and happy to serve his country. His superiors and unit buddies agreed. My son made them laugh. He was a hard worker but full of joy and everybody loved him. He served a tour in IRAQ and considered re-enlisting after his time of service was up. But he chose to come home instead-it’s what his birth family thought he should do.

He found civilian life difficult but he seemed to be adjusting. He’s agreed to try some therapy at his girlfriend’s urging. He was struggling with their relationship and at times, was violent. He’d told me of his plans for the future and the farm he’d hope to own.

But it didn’t happen. The darkness inside of him that he’d struggled with won and at the age of 22, he ended his life-and destroyed mine and damaged so many others. It’s been 17 months and I still cannot believe this full of life young man, my boy with so many dreams, is forever gone.

I had to plan his funeral and it was hard. Since he had reunited with his birth family (though he made it very clear that I was his mom, not his firstmom), I invited his other family to help with the funeral. At first his twin didn’t even want me to list his firstmom in the obituary-he referred to her as he “mother of abandonment”.

But somewhere along the way, things changed. I sat at my son’s military honors service knowing I’d never see him ever again. His coffin was draped with a flag that had lain over him for 24 hours. I watched the soldiers remove it from his coffin, fold it, and place it into the arms of the mother who’d abused and neglected him. I watched the solders remind me that I wasn’t a mother.

I discovered later that his twin brother had set this in motion. He was also a soldier. He has disowned me and returned to his birthfamily. He says I killed his brother. His child, who I watched being born, no longer calls me grandma and will grow up not knowing who I am. It’s as if I never existed, or was only a piece of the past.

The army did retrieve my flag and the soldiers, who violated military orders as a favor to a friend, were disciplined. I felt bad for my son’s first mom, to have to feel that pain of having that flag removed from her. But I couldn’t leave it there, not knowing what I know. It’s not what my son would have wanted. Now we are forever divided.

I always thought it would be okay to have two families. I told myself it would, though sharing my sons with another mother was difficult to accept. But his first family had other ideas and now they only have one mother, and it isn’t me.

- Nancy Crawford 

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Attachement According to Dustin

Posted by admin on May 29, 2013

We are having a rough go of it right now. Dustin typically has a difficult . . . DIFFICULT . . . D I F F I C U L T time with transitions. This summer will apparently be no exception.  The biggest issue we have been dealing with is a very smart mouth and a difficult attitude. The way he has been lipping off at home has reached a new height. His attitude is very "teenagery" yet he is still acting like a 6 year old much of the time.

The thing that I cannot stand the most is that when he hears the word no he melts into craziness. If he does not get his way, the crying, the whining and the jumping commences. It is almost always followed by some attachment junk that spews out of his mouth . . .

"You hate me."
"I don't want to live here any longer."
"I wish I would've never let you adopt me."
"I want you to call the police to take me away."
"Just kick me out."

It bothers me that after 9 years and countless stuff we have dealt with, he still thinks that leaving the family is an option. It breaks me heart that this is even a viable option in his mind. It hurts that he is that "broken" that he even thinks that it is possible.

I respond is mostly the same way . . .

"We love you."
"You have no choice, this is your family and your home."
"You needed a family and we love you."
"The police have no place to take you."
"Where will you live? This is your family. You are my child."

Agh! It makes me nutty. It kills me that we do this nearly every day. He truly thinks that you can simply throw someone out. He feels disposable. It also makes me crazy that he would rather live in a box on the street or ask to go to the psych hospital than live in my house. I know that neurotypical teens want to leave etc, but the difference for me is that he truly believes that it is possible for a mother or father to just be done and toss him out like trash.

Sometimes I believe it is for reassurance. Sometimes I think he just needs to hear that we will not do that to him. I think it is a dance that he feels is necessary to feel attached to us and know that we care. Other times, like tonight, he really thinks he would be better off without us.

If I wanted to be all selfish about it, I would be truly frustrated that he feels this way even after we have sacrificed so much of ourselves to give him the home he has. I would feel like it is a slap in the face that he had no one else who wanted him and we were willing to take on all these issues because we loved him and now he doesn't even want to be here. Of course, I know that he is not doing this to torture me, he is in more internal turmoil than I can ever imagine.

But sometimes, not feeling that way is hard.

The thing I try to remember most is this: Why the heck wouldn't he feel that way?  He was not privledged enough the be in a forever-together family the first time around why would he think this time is any different?  While it is easy for me to sit and bemoan the fact that he thinks this way, it is much harder to put myself in his shoes and realize he doesn't get it!  He has no idea what a permanent family is like.  That family was abusive and he was huirt so someone came and took him away.  He is unhappy here with some perceived injustice and his first thought is "Hey, I hate this.  I wish I could have someone come take me and start over."  If I was honest with myself, I could find the joy in that scenario as well sometimes!  It was be easier in the short term, expecially while the emotions are running high.  It makes complete sense. 

The difficulty is finding a space in his brain that has been riddled with dissappointment, instability and attachment resistance to tuck away the truth that we are forever.  Family means forever is a foreign concept and one that he will likely fight for many years to come.  

- Sheri (who blog at Ain't That Sherific)

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Why I chose to homeschool and why I chose to stop!

Posted by admin on May 28, 2013

When Matthew first came to live with me he was just about to enter the wonderful world of schooling!  He was still in foster care so homeschooling was not allowed and I didn't know the length of his stay, so private school was out of the question.  I chose to place him in a local public charter school that I was working with at the time since I knew the staff and would be able to keep a close eye on him.  We made it through the year, barely, but only because Matthew had the awesomest teacher ever.  After Kindergarten it was clear that he would be staying forever so I enrolled him in the Christian school near me hoping that the good influence of his peers and no more traumatizing visits with birth family would lead to changes in his behavior....so that didn't work.  After what is now merely referred to as the "incident" around Christmas in his first grade classroom this was no longer an option for him.  By this time I was working from home so I thought I would jump on the homeschooling ban-wagon.  For those of you not familiar with the attachment/adoption circle, homeschooling is kinda a big thing.  There is a large population of moms who are homeschooling these kiddos day in and day out.  I always perceived these women as more dedicated, more creative, more patient than myself.  They seemed to have this therapeutic parenting thing down to a science. I perceived them spending the day engaging their children in learning, baking delicious gluten free cookies, keeping the house cleaned and organized and all the while working through their children's trauma and healing, creating the perfect family.  Maybe that was the solution to all of our behavior woes.....I just needed to homeschool.  So in we jumped.  The last half of first grade was magical Matthew completed work that his first grade teacher had told me he was nowhere near capable.  Don't get me wrong we had our struggles and it took all of our energy to get through the basics each day, but we did it!  The house was a disaster and we ate out too often, but we did it!  I learned more about my son in those few months then I had in the last year and a half.  I learned what he was capable of, what triggered him, what strategies would work and what wouldn't.  I learned when to push him and when to back off.  I taught him how to understand empathy for others physical pain (and I had the bruises to prove it).  It was a magical time. I wouldn't trade it for the world. We began to understand each other. Then came second grade. We began homeschooling and I was determined that this was going to be a great year. However, the magic never came.  There was yelling, pouting, gnashing of teeth, and that was just on my end :) Things were not going as planned.  The control battles became unbearable.  We understood each other all right, he understood how to push my buttons and my sanity and I understood that he was capable of much better.  It became exhausting and triggering for both of us.  In December of that year Matthews younger brother was "released" from his preschool program, meaning he was now home with us all day.  It was the straw that broke the camels back.  Having two RADishes in the house along with a two year old who was into everything was. not. working. I struggled with the decision to continue homeschooling.  I worried about changing his school once again.  I worried that he would be able to manipulate and get away with behavior in the classroom causing all our hard work to be destroyed.  I was worried he wouldn't make friends and learn to further distance himself from peers.  I worried I would spend more time at school dealing with issues making it pointless.  I didn't want to explain our situation and teach yet a new group of professionals, but the struggle was mainly my own.  I felt like a failure, I didn't feel good enough.  I saw all these women who were doing it all and I just couldn't.  I contacted the public school and Matthew was eventually placed in a small pyscho-educational school with a 1:5 ratio.  Best decision ever.  He is doing great, has glowing reports, and best of all he is making some positive choices.  Only time will tell and maybe one day we will give it another go, but for now this is working for US.

What I realized was that if it wasn't homeschooling it would just be something else, maybe I just needed to feed a gluten free diet or sign the boys up for the latest therapy to come around.  What I perceived when looking at all these beautiful women and their beautiful families was partially true, they are all AMAZING, they are all DEDICATED, they are all CREATIVE, they are all PATIENT, but so am I.  They are all finding and doing what they think is best for their UNIQUE and INDIVIDUAL children, but so am I.  None of us are perfect and the grass may always look greener on the other side, but we are ALL dealing with our own unique blend of problems, worries, therapies and issues.  We are all in different stages of this battle for our kids hearts.  What works for one child might not work for mine.  There is no manual or one magic program that will "fix" what was broken in my child so long ago.  I AM ENOUGH, I don't have to be a supermom, I can leave my therapeutic parenting panties at the door every once in awhile and screw up and its ok cause there's always tomorrow.  My kids didn't get this way overnight, there were years of trauma that came before me, I cant expect them to heal overnight.


-Bessy (who blogs at Living a RAD Life)

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It's all Relative

Posted by admin on May 14, 2013

One of the blessings of connecting with other moms who struggle in much the same way as our family is that we learn that we are not alone.  It is incredibly freeing to be able to share our drama and have someone else say "Oh, yeah we have had that happen too!"  It is even better when you talk about a behavior and have another mom say, "I am so glad I don't have to deal with that!"

It's easy to offer other moms solutions and suggestions about a particular behavior.  It's really easy to sound therapeutic when you are not the one having to deal with the behavior in the moment and all the emotions that come with it.  As a mom said in one of our facebook groups the other day "Yeah, I am a great parent to all your kids!" 

What struck me is it is all relative!  We don't think we can deal with a particular behavior until you are dealt that hand.  It's easy to say, "I couldn't handle a child who does that!" and yet, when it is your child who is exhibiting that behavior what choice to do you have? It becomes a part of your day to day life. 

Yesterday I was asked why my son was not in an RTC.  My answer was easy.  We are capable of maintaining him in our home with alot of supervision. He is never more than three feet from us when awake. We have cameras in 4 areas of our home and we also have door alarms and all bedrooms lock (from the inside). My husband is a stay at home dad and his primary care giver. Our psych cannot fathom that he is still in our home, but we made that decision when we adopted him to give him a home until we couldn't any longer and right now, we can. Is it the life we wanted? Nope. But for now, it is what we do. My other children and are 11 and 9. They are growing up in a very different home than I would've liked, but it is what it is and I think they will be better for it hopefully with a lot more empathy and patience.  We try very hard to give each child one on one attention and keep them sheltered from most of the ugliness.  

It is what it is.

It is all relative.  You do what you need to do when you can do it.  

Now, if I ever thought that we are not capable of keeping him and others safe, I would have to make the decision to move him to a group home.  He is 18, we had a run in with Adult Protective Services last month.  They assured us that they would be happy to find him an appropriate placement when we were ready to move him to a more restrictive living situation.  I know I have an out if I need it.  It is what keeps us going.

We have learned over the years that if w are both involved in dealing with a situation we will both get frustrated and burn out quickly.  We try to tackle the issue alone and tag out if need be.  That gives the other person a fresh perspective and the one who is frustrated the ability to completely walk away and decompress.  If I am not the one that has been dealing with something for the last hour, I am much more ready to tackle it in a positive manner instead of dealing with it while I may be angry.  It is all relative. 

I have to remind myself, Step back, take a breath, and deal with the hand you are given.  Try not to over react and exacerbate the issue.  Once you begin opening a dialogue, and not allowing things to flumox you, it is much easier dealt with.  Communication is key and remember it is all relative!


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How Helping Me, Helped Me, Help Her

Posted by admin on May 12, 2013

I had been parenting my traumatized daughter for 7 years. She has severe RAD. Her behaviors were completely out of hand. She was a mess. *I* was a mess! I had gained 20 lbs. and felt bewildered. I was wondering who's life I was living because this certainly could not be mine. I was not THAT parent. MY kids were good and well behaved and were always perfectly groomed in the cutest clothes.  Being depressed is not something that had ever been an issue for me but I felt it was creeping in and considered consulting a doctor about medication. I didn't feel like myself anymore.


One beautiful spring day I dusted off my old bike and went for a ride. It. Felt. Amazing! For one thing, I wasn't home to get the calls from school...BONUS! That year I rode every chance I got. It felt so good and freeing with the wind blowing my cares away. I registered for a 50 mile all women cycling event. The most I had ridden was 15. I was nervous and didn't know if I could do it. I did. Then I registered for a triathlon. I didn't swim.....or run! (I'm not that smart) I decided I better change that and started training. I started swimming, running or cycling every day. I did the triathlon and my attitude toward my life and my situation and my daughter started to change. Then I ran a half marathon and I was hooked. Crazy was still happening at home but I seemed to be gaining better coping skills.


SELF CARE.....I had always considered that to be a night out with my husband or a massage or a girls weekend away. But those were only temporary fixes. My emotional self came back with a vengeance as soon as I was slapped in the face with my real life. When I spent time actually WORKING on me and feeling better about myself I was more loving and able to help her when she was having her "moments". I had gotten off her roller coaster of emotions and when she realized I wasn't riding it with her sometimes SHE would get off too! It didn't seem to have the satisfaction for her that it used to. Sometimes, it doesn't matter what we do, our kids are stuck. STUCK. Sometimes, the best we can do is work on ourselves and be there for them when they are ready.

I'm not a fitness expert. Not even close. I called exercise the "E" word. Cursed it. Hated it even! Ice cream was (still is) one of my best friends. But I can say the "E" word, it's addictive and I have an addictive personality so...there you go.  


My daughter goes to New Hope Academy (http://newhopeproject.weebly.com/). An incredible school that specializes in helping hurt kids. I've been taking the kids on a run each week. We talk about how we feel while we're running.....awesome, the sun feels amazing, I like the wind on my face, it feels good to keep up with the group, burning fat, I'm exercising, we're getting healthy blood to our brains and hearts. All words from the kids. The look on their faces when we're done and the proud feeling of accomplishment I see in their eyes says it all. The shame they are consumed with vanishes just for that moment. It's a priceless gift. 


It hasn't been an easy process. The key to success for me has been this: always be registered to do an event....or 2. Something difficult that feels like just a little more than I've already done. FEAR is a great motivator! That will look different for everyone. For some it may mean a 5k and for others it may be an Ironman. Doesn't matter. You're moving! We've incorporated it into our family dynamic. Together we have completed 5 and 10k's with more to come and the kiddos are having great time, when the whining is over anyway! I'm far from my goal but I'm on my way and I'm totally lapping the couch sitters. I have worked hard to get where I am. So has my daughter. She has done a tremendous amount of healing over the last few years and so have I.  I'm proud of her.....and me, too!








- Amy Hanson - BeTA Alumni
44 yerar old mom of 5

(2 bio, 3 adopted)



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