Tag Archives: parenting

Train Up a Child…

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Proverbs  22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is  old he will not depart from it.

One of the things in life that I am most thankful for is that I have this intrinsic desire and ability trust God. I know that He is in control and I don’t worry about my future…until I became a parent. The two areas of my life that I worry about now are my son and my daughter.  Will they make the same mistakes I made? Will they get their hearts broken? Will they go to college? Will Allison be able to live independently? What if they trust the wrong people? I mostly worry about things I can’t control which only gets me more worried. It’s not a good cycle to be in. However, I recognize it and I am working at letting those worries go and place my trust in God….fully.

One of the things I worry about the most is if I am doing all I can to raise my children to love God and desire a relationship with Him through Jesus. We pray before every meal (even if we are eating out). We go to church on Sundays and most of our friends that we hang out with and talk to are from that church. We are involved in our church and our community always trying to help where we can. We encourage our kids to talk to God when they are struggling or thankful.  But, is it all sinking in? After all, we only have about 10 more years before they go off to college. They need to be prepared! See? Worry. It’s not a great way to live.

Last weekend we were visiting my in-laws for Thanksgiving. My daughter was having a meltdown. I calmly told her (and yes, I mean calmly. I was so proud of myself for keeping my cool) that if she didn’t “get a grip” on her emotions and calm down she would need to go to bed and miss out on some family time. I got her into the shower (always a good place for her when she’s overwhelmed because of her sensory issues. The water helps calm her) and went to go get her pajamas. When I came back I could hear her talking in there. I tried to listen before going in. She was praying! She was asking God to help her calm down and praying that He would change my mind so she could spend more time with the family. Needless to say, I got goose bumps and was overwhelmed with joy and peace and reassurance.

I didn’t go in right away. I went and told my husband what I had just witnessed. He knows how I worry about whether our teachings are getting through to her or whether her brain can comprehend something that she cannot see or touch. We hugged and at that moment I realized that I need to stop worrying. Instead I need to just keep doing what we are doing to encourage a relationship with God in our children. The Lord loves these kids more than I ever could. It’s our job to “train them up.” God will do the rest. We cannot soften our kids hearts to receive God’s gift of His Son…that’s His job. But, we can teach them, pray for them, pray WITH them and steer them towards a life with Jesus at their side to guide them and carry them through their lives.

After this experience, I have learned that I need to just relax and allow God to work in their lives. I know I’m not the first person (nor the last) to worry. They Bible is FULL of verses about it. Here are few that serve as a great reminder in those worrisome moments.

Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV) 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Luke 12:25-26 (NIV)  25Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

Instruction for what we need to be doing as parents can be found in Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 6:6-9 (NIV)

6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

If  I focus more on what I can control and less on what I can’t, my life could be so much more productive. Trusting God and surrendering our children to His will, frees me up to be the mother that they need. It allows me to just enjoy their presence and enables me to create a home that they can flourish in. Worry has been robbing them of the mom they deserve. Worry has been eating away at my patience, my stamina and my love as a mother. Letting that go is going to free me up to focus on today. What are my kids needs TODAY? Tomorrow I give to God. They were God’s children first and foremost. They are a gift from Him. It’s my job to make them feel like that gift everyday.

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Activities of Daily Living with a child with FASD

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As any parent knows, parenting is not an easy job. As any parent of a child with special needs knows, it’s never easy.

As parents our days are filled with shouts down the hallway to “get dressed, your bus is coming”, deciding what to make for breakfast and lunch, getting each kid out the door on time, trying to get yourself a shower, cleaning up the house, doing the laundry, planning for dinner, organizing the calendar, getting the kids off the bus, getting the homework completed, sports, etc…etc…etc…

These can be exhausting in and of itself. Now let’s look at that day through the eyes of a parent of children with special needs.

Our days are filled with shouts down the hallway to “get dressed, your bus is coming” then realizing that if you don’t make eye contact with your child, they hear NOTHING. Deciding what to make for breakfast and lunch can be a bit easier because many of these kids crave routine and that oftentimes includes eating the same thing over and over again. Getting the kids out the door on time can be a challenge because, if you’re like my family, we have kids in different schools. This means busses coming at different times. You miss one, and it throws everything off.

Now for the shower. Oh, the shower…a place where we can be alone and just let warm water flow over us. You reach for your new aromatherapy shampoo that you splurged on to treat yourself only to find it….EMPTY? I haven’t even used it yet! How can it be gone? You then remember that your child took a shower last night and in the few minutes you left your child unattended so you could answer the phone, they felt the need to clean the shower walls and bathtub…with your expensive shampoo. It’s also a great surprise when they use your lavender-scented vaginal wash as shampoo because they had dumped their dollar store shampoo down the drain to see the bubbles come up. There’s something to be said for having a house with a private master bath. I think I’ll put that on my list of things I can hope for one day.

You get out of the shower and dry your squeaky clean hair on the towel (and I’m serious about the squeak because I had to use a bar of soap to clean my hair since there was no shampoo). You arm yourself with cleaning supplies, vacuum, garbage bag and a dust rag and set off to clean the house. Unfortunately it’s not just dust bunnies you find under the couch. Oh, look, there’s my ring that I’ve been looking for that disappeared from my jewelry box. Great! It’s right next to a yogurt container that still has the spoon in it and is spilling over with ants crawling all around. I must have forgotten at some point to put the lock back on the refrigerator door before going to bed. Note to self: stop doing that! You finish cleaning and start to inventory your booty: candy wrappers, spit out peanut butter and jelly sandwich, string cheese, gogurt, a once frozen pizza thrown behind the couch in the basement once she realized they don’t taste all that great uncooked, 4 juice boxes and something you still can’t figure out what it used to be. All this in a couple of weeks since you last pulled out all the furniture. Wow, she’s good at sneaking things behind my back.

Laundry. Ugh, laundry. A thankless task for any mother. It’s the never ending household chore that I dread the most. I just love it when I find clothes in the hamper still on the hangers because she couldn’t decide what to wear and it just made more sense (to her) to toss it in the hamper than hang it back up. And then there’s the stench of stale urine and other unmentionables because hygiene is something that is just not that important to some kids with special needs.  A cup of vinegar added to the wash helps with this. In this house, I buy 5 gallons at a time. Seriously.

Organizing the calendar is a daunting task for any household with kids. Who needs to be where and when? What nights do you need to start thinking about dinner while scarfing down your breakfast? Which school projects are due this week and what else can we skip in order to get that done? Who has football practice? Who has a playdate? Yadda. Yadda. Yadda. In my house, we have all that but we also have counseling appointments, social skills groups, chiropractic visits and doctor visits. If I’m feeling overwhelmed by the looks of our filled calendar, I can’t imagine how the kids feel!

The alarm on my phone signals the “10 minute warning” that the busses are coming, the busses are coming! Which kid is coming home today? Is it happy Alli? Frustrated Alli? Tired Alli? Sad Alli? The suspense is killing me! Seriously, it’s killing me because I must have any number of “mommy faces” ready to handle whichever one comes off the bus. (By the way, I also feel this way in the morning before she wakes up. We can see several of Allison’s “faces” in any given day.)

Homework time. YAY! NOT! The calendar says we only have 1 hour to devote to homework tonight and there are two kids who need help. There’s a family in Minnesota or Montana (I know it’s somewhere in the Northern Midwest) that has 13 kids with FASD! Holy crap! I can’t imagine homework time in that house. I have trouble handling one (plus another child who is struggling with school)! Hats off and kudos to you Hays Family. I couldn’t do it. There’s just not enough time in the afternoon before bed to get it all done.

So, I’m not saying that families with neurotypical children do not have their challenges. I’m also not complaining (I chose to adopt these amazing kids and I vow to raise them with every ounce of strength I have in me). However, if you know a family that has children with special needs, give them an extra pat on the back to encourage them. Most parents of these kids won’t ask for help. They’ll just “do it all.” If you are a parent of a special needs kid, give yourself a break. Accept the help being offered and get an hour to yourself. Find a babysitter you can trust and go to dinner with your spouse. You NEED it!

Hmmmm, which one would I like to be today? The kettle or the pot? I should take some of my own advice sometimes! Teehee. Whoops!

Hang in there everyone! Cherish these days. They’ll be gone before we know it!

A Little Perspective

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The other day I was driving in the car by myself and listening to K-LOVE radio (96.7 for those in the NYC area). I think a lot. Sometimes I do this too much. This particular day I was thinking about my sweet Alli. It wasn’t long after my “mommy meltdown” mentioned in an earlier post. I was still questioning God on His decision to trust me with Alli and Nate. I was still wondering why He chose me when he knew I would screw up as often as I do. I was thinking back to my days before children and how I longed to be a mom. I remember dreaming about one day having a daughter and a son. I started crying…again…because I felt like I was, for lack of a better term, mourning the loss of the daughter that I thought I would have. No woman dreams of having/adopting a child with special needs. Don’t get me wrong, I knew that I would love whatever child was brought into my life. However, we can never anticipate the challenges that lie ahead for us. I see my friends who have daughters the same age as my Alli and their relationship is very different from the one I have with my daughter. Confession time….sometimes I feel jealous. This day, driving in my car alone, was one of those days. I began to “mourn” the loss of my vision of who I thought my daughter would be.  Before I could get too deep into this, God grabbed ahold of me and almost literally shook me out of my funk.

I had arrived at my destination, found a parking spot and was about to turn off the car. I had the radio on in the background but was absent-mindedly listening. A woman had just called in and asked if the radio station would take a prayer request. For some reason, I stopped myself from turning off the car to hear what it was. There was something in her voice. A softness and sense of peace that I so rarely hear. Her prayer request was short and sweet. Her six-week old son was just diagnosed with cancer. She asked for peace and understanding because she didn’t know how long they had left with him. Needless to say, I sat there and cried. The radio personalities stopped right then and there and prayed for this new mom and her husband. They prayed that this little boy would be miraculously healed. They prayed that God would reveal to them His plan and how, even should this baby return to God so soon, He would bring joy out of it someday.

I prayed with them and then I prayed for forgiveness. In my focus on what I felt I had lost by adopting a daughter with special needs I had overlooked the most important part. I still have a daughter to hug and to hold. I have a daughter who writes me notes all the time just to tell me how much she loves me. I have a daughter who is creative and funny and makes me laugh all the time. I have a daughter who is beautiful and loving. These parents may never hear their son speak a word. These parents may never feel their son’s embrace. I have all these things. How could I be so self-absorbed.

I sat there in my car for over ten minutes sobbing with my shoulders shaking. I had just experienced one of the many reasons their son was going through this battle at such a young age. A little perspective is all I needed to fully embrace my children for who they are…special needs and all.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome IMPORTANT FOR ALL WOMEN and the men who love them

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I was going through my facebook notes and came across a few things that I wrote years ago. This one was written the year our daughter was diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Just thought I would share with you all. I have a few more that I’ll post in the near future. For now, help me get the word out there!
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome IMPORTANT FOR ALL WOMEN and the men who love them
by Heather VW Friday, November 12, 2010 at 1:36pm ·

I just finished reading a couple books about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and am astonished by how prevalent this is. As many of you know, our daughter, Allison, was diagnosed with FAS. We suspected this for a long time and am relieved that we finally have an explanation for some of her bizarre behaviors and difficulty with school and social situations. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is an invisible disease that gets too often overlooked.

The biggest shock that I read was that even ONE NIGHT drinking while pregnant can cause FAS! ONE NIGHT!!!!!! In some cases it is ONE DRINK!!!!! It has nothing to do with what type of alcohol or how quickly you metabolize it. What matters is that the baby cannot metabolize it. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is caused by PERMANENT BRAIN DAMAGE. This is irreversible. THey will struggle with this for the rest of their lives. Parents of these children will struggle with parenting them the rest of their lives.

This is a 100% PREVENTABLE condition. If you are pregnant, know someone who is pregnant or plan on becoming pregnant…DON’T DRINK!!! No amount of alcohol is safe for your baby. No matter what your doctor tells you!!! Seriously, there are still text books out there teaching future doctors that it’s okay “once in awhile”! THere is legislation to get this changed.

I love Allison with all my heart and I strongly believe that God brought her into our lives so that we can raise her the way she needs to be raised. HOwever, every day is a struggle with her. Every day we don’t know who Allison is going to be. Deep down we know who she is but her struggles define the way the day is going to go. Don’t risk your child’s future for a drink. Wait and you will be rewarded with a child who is healthy and whole!

If you are a mother and you drank during your pregnancy, don’t be too hard on yourself. You were most likely given misinformation! If your child is struggling with academics, making friends, odd behaviors, etc…. get help! It will be hard at first to admit that you had something to do with the way your child is, but in the end you will find peace and understanding as you learn the techniques for raising a child with FAS.

If you have any questions, please feel free to call me. I’m no expert but I’m learning all I can to help our dear Allison live a life that can be productive and enjoyable. Her future depends on us and I am going to do my best not to let her down.

Thanks for listening….please help spread the word about this. This is only a 10th of what I wanted to write but I just can’t get my thoughts in order today. Maybe another day! Feel free to copy this in it’s entirety and share with others. Women need to know that NO AMOUNT OF ALCOHOL IS SAFE DURING PREGNANCY!!!!!

Here is a website as well with tons of information.

http://www.nofas.org/

Allison looking cute in Rockefeller Center. She loves the City!

This One Moment

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It’s amazing how one good moment can practically erase weeks of bad ones. I experienced one of those moments last night. Our son was spending the day and night at his cousin’s house so it was just us with Allison. We ended a day filled with yard work with a soak in the hot tub. My husband stays in all but 20 minutes before he’s done and gets out. This leaves me with the fish; AKA Allison. We turn the temperature down on the hot tub because she could stay in for hours. So, I guess that makes it more of a very warm tub. Anyway, after Alan gets out, Alli and I stay in for about another hour. In between belly flops and cannonballs (Alli, not me!) I manage to get her to sit for a bit and relax. As she lay there in front of the one of the jets she says, “Let’s talk, mom.”

“What do you want to talk about?” I ask.

“I don’t know. Ask me some questions.”

Not wanting to get too deep too quick I ask about her favorite part of the day [hot tub], what she wants to be when she grows up [vet], and her favorite color [bright pink]. I decide that I’m getting some pretty quick answers so I throw in a doozy. I asked her why she steals and hides food. I lean my head back to gaze at the stars, expecting the same answer I always get; “I don’t know.” To my surprise, I get an answer that really does explain why she does it. I’m shocked that I got such a fluid and thoughtful answer. I let it go, for now. I got the answer, now I needed some time to figure out what I was going to do with it. As great of a moment this was, it is not the moment that erased the bad stuff of the last few weeks or months.

We continue to talk and I ask her “What are you looking forward to most in the 4th grade A) making a new friend B) reading lots of new books C) going on field trips (she is in a special education class that goes on monthly field trips as rewards for good behavior.) She tells me C) going on field trips. I was surprised because she spent most of the day telling me how she wished she had a friend who could come over to play and have a sleepover.  Allison only has two good friends who understand her disability and tolerate her anti-social behaviors.  They were both busy. I asked her again and suggested that making a new friend would be better than field trips. She swam across the “warm” tub and put her hands around my neck. She then tells me “Mom, I don’t need a new friend. I have you! You’re my best friend.” My heart melted. She then added, “And I am having a sleep-over today. In your bed!” (unbeknownst to me or my husband)

Over the last few weeks I have questioned my ability to parent a child with FASD. I have questioned God on why He trusted me with this responsibility.  I have wondered if I have damaged my children with my lack of patience. I have doubted myself and cried over my lack of confidence in my parenting. All those doubts were erased in this one moment. This one moment where my daughter, who has trouble expressing herself and sharing her feelings using words, reached out and touched me so deeply that I will never forget this moment.

I finally coerced her out of the tub so we could go to bed. She crawled in between me and my husband, leaning against him for his intense body heat, and closed her beautiful eyes. I kissed her forehead and told that I loved her. She smiled and drifted off to sleep. I lay there watching her sleep and thanking God that He knew what He was doing. He knew that this moment would come along and sustain me. Now, I just have to remember to hang onto these moments during the rough days and cling to the fact that there will be more of these good moments to come.

To Alli I say, thank you sweet girl for gifting me with a moment that I will never forget. Never.  I love you today, tomorrow and ALWAYS. To God I say, thank you, Lord, for the gift of my children.The next time I am feeling down, remind me of this one magical moment.

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy

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I was never a big Ren and Stimpy fan but this song has sadly taken residence somewhere in the deep confines of my brain and it comes out every so often to tell me “Still here!” This morning I shut the front door as my children’s busses pulled away from the house and reveled in the quietness of a home that has been….that has been…”Happy, happy, joy, joy” for the last few months. Darn it! There’s that stupid song! Where did that come from? Crap, now how long is it going to take me to get that back into it’s small little corner of my brain to hibernate for another decade or so? (My apologies now to any of you who also have this song hidden somewhere deep in your memory. You now are experiencing the pain of this redundant song right along with me). If you haven’t had the pleasure of hearing this song, I invite you to google it. But, be warned, it will hide somewhere until it can find a way out for the Rest. Of. Your. Life!

My first blog entry was written only a week into this “wonderful” summer vacation. I didn’t know what to really expect of July and August. Now, I know. It was more of the same and it just escalated the more time they were out of the routine of school. On August 23rd it all came to a head (an ugly, mean and sad monster of a head). Because I don’t want this entry to take up a terrabyte of space, allow me to list a few of the struggles that my kids have as a result of their birth history. This is not a laundry list of complaints. They are, however, the facts of their young lives.

Allison (10 years old, 4th grade)

  • born drug addicted to cocaine, methadone, heroin and marijuana
  • born to a mother who drank gin when she couldn’t get any drugs and prostituted herself for drug money
  • her biological father is HIV+ and has AIDS (praise God this was not passed onto Allison or her mother)
  • has been in Early Intervention/special education since she was born
  • diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and as a result struggles with: developmental difficulties, stealing, understanding consequences, understanding empathy, food hoarding, making friends, keeping friends, academics, impulse control, recognizing danger and a load of other issues that we are still finding out about daily.

Nathan (8 years old, 3rd grade)

  • born drug addicted to cocaine, heroin and marijuana
  • born to a mother who was incarcerated for accessory to murder when we first met her (anger issues?)
  • born at 28 weeks weighing 2 pounds 8 ounces
  • has been in Early Intervention/special education since he was born

I will get to making a list of their many awesome and sweet traits at another time (there are MANY) but this entry is about what happened on August 23rd and the blessings of my children were nowhere in my peripheral vision that sad day.

Prior to this day, there had been a build up of a whole summer of finding food stashed behind furniture, incessant fighting, lying, story telling, tattling and constant disobeying. This day was the culmination of all these things.

Nathan was in the midst of writing 25 times “I will stop telling lies because it hurts those I love.” He had been working on this for FOUR days. I finally told him he had to sit at the dining room table until it was finished. No getting up. No breaks. No nothing until it was complete. This writing assignment was a result of weeks of lying and lying and me taking a compassionate approach using the Bible to do devotions about lying and praying for God’s strength to stop lying. Crap, I’m not telling the whole truth (AKA lying). I did do those things but I also yelled, badgered, embarrassed and belittled him every time he told yet another lie. I needed to pray and ask God to forgive me for not relying on Him to help me get through to my young son. My patience and wherewithal was wearing very thin. I had a flashback to my days of having toddlers and trying to keep them in their timeout seat. All the advice I sought told me to just calmly walk them back to their seat without saying a word. Well, I was calm as I did this…the first 20 times! Then I got a little more forceful. Then I yelled. Then I cried. Then I sobbed because my young son got out of the chair for the umpteenth time and came to the kitchen and said, “Heather, I’m not doing this assignment. You can’t make me!” Needless to say, my first response was shock that he called me Heather. But then a rage rose to the surface like a volcano about to explode vicious and unrelenting molten lava towards anyone in close proximity. Thankfully, I was able to hold the rage back. I said to him, “Heather? Where do you get off calling me by my first name?” Little did I know that there was an equally dangerous volcano raging inside my sweet boy. A volcano that could not be held back from spewing out hurtful words. Over the course of the next minute or so I sat there dumbfounded by the words coming out of my son’s mouth. He was calling me Heather because I was not his mom. I was not his mom because I don’t treat him like a son. I don’t love him. I never should have adopted him. He doesn’t belong in our family. And a slew of other things that by this time I couldn’t hear because my rage was filling my ears and I was about to explode. I did explode but in a way that I wasn’t expecting…extreme sorrow.

I bolted down the hallway to my room and locked myself in and sobbed. For those that know me, I don’t do that. I don’t cry. I seriously don’t cry. My tear ducts dried up over 20 years ago and have never shed another tear. I get the emotions but I stifle them because it physically hurts to cry. Close your eyes and remember a time when you needed to cry but couldn’t because it was neither the time nor the place. You feel that build up of pressure behind your eyes as you hold back the tears until you can let them loose somewhere else when you’re alone. A stray tear may eek its way out only to be brushed away before anyone sees it. Now imagine that build up happening the entire time you’re crying with no tears falling. No release. No rush of relief. Only pain to the point where you just need to close your eyes for a few hours to protect them from the barrage of light streaming in a window. That is what I felt for hours on that Thursday. I stayed in there all day (only coming out periodically to check and see that my daughter wasn’t burning down the house). I didn’t care how much TV they watched that day as long as it kept them in one place and out of trouble.

As I laid in bed heaving and crying out to an empty room I could hear notes being slipped under my door. “Mommy, are you ok? Please come talk to me when you are done praying. Love -Alli” Thank the Lord, she thought I was praying! I was praying but I was questioning why God trusted me with these two children if He knew I was going to screw it all up. I was yelling at God for trusting me because I felt like such a failure! I was racking my brain trying to figure out how I messed Nathan up to the point where he felt he didn’t belong to our family. What had I done, said or implied to make him feel like that? My despair from this day lasted for a couple of weeks. I’m still going through some of it and trying to work out how I feel and how I’m going to handle all these emotions. One thing that kept coming to mind that day was a post I saw on Facebook (located at the end of this entry) a few days prior to my “meltdown.” In the midst of my sorrow and doubt was the image of these words coming to my mind. I knew, deep down in the recesses of my broken heart that day, that God was still there. God was loving me through my failures and my brokenness. He would lift me up out of this miry pit I was in and set my feet on solid ground again. I just couldn’t feel anything at that moment. I knew it but I didn’t feel it. Thankfully we have a God who is unrelenting in His love for us. For now, His love is all I know I can rely on. His love will get me through until I can do more than just sob. His love will fulfill my children as I figure out how to love them the way He wants me to. His love will endure forever and forever.