Mindfulness

It’s been a while since I’ve written. Anything.

I’ve been trying to be more mindful the last month by trying being away from the computer, put my phone down more often (ok, clearly I still always have it on me and take tons of pictures but I’m trying not to endless scroll thorough feeds) and sometimes, sometimes, even just sit. Gasp! And man oh man is it hard.

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Life was feeling too out of control – all was well and good, but everything was just too busy. Including my brain and it was starting to hurt.

Home has been fantastic; Jonathan has been rockin’ it at school, daycare and home (mostly). There’s a new consistency in his behaviour and he’s been super happy. Anthony is also doing well and Gord and I are both doing things we love outside of work like gardening and playing music. We’ve also started meeting with an ASL tutor and I’m becoming more involved with a local organization that supports families who have experienced hearing loss and deafness.

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Throw in some nice weather and you’ve suddenly also got parks to visit and hikes to do and a yard to take care of and flowers to water and cars to wash and bikes to ride…and then before you know it, the day is done.

Work has also been fantastic; I’ve been facing fears and doing presentations, attending amazing conferences and doing lots of great program planning. But it’s busy and brain consuming.

There’s so much goodness happening right now, yet not enough time for everything, somethings have needed to be sacrificed; like a clean house and swapping dressers for laundry baskets (it just never seems to make it from the basket to the drawers anymore and I gotta say it’s so much more efficient to cut out the middle man). And writing. And although I have let the first two go pretty easily I’ve missed writing. I’ve missed my little adoption community.

I’ve been trying everyday to just sit and let my mind wander. Which I gotta tell ya is real tricky. I’m happy with myself if I can do it for just a couple of minutes. To be able to sit and not be on my phone, make a to do list, talk to or think about Jonathan or anything else. Just be. Be conscious of my breathing, what I see and what I hear. I must say I’m not very good at it but I’m trying.

The next couple of months show no sign of slowing down as we plan to pack in as much summer as we can. We have lots of visitors heading our way, summer camps, new routines, hikes to do and beautiful weather to enjoy. I hope, however, with these busy summer days also come a more laid back pace and more writing. And sitting. And just being.

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Them Mountains

There’s therapy out in them mountains (and foothills) and we are on the look out.

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We’ve not only enjoyed getting out for ourselves the past four weekends, but have notice changes with Jonathan as well, which was our main goal to begin with. Although we were just hoping to help him burn some energy, it’s effects seem to be more far reaching than that.

So far we’ve done one fairly hard hike, 2 easy/moderate hikes and an easy but loooong walk through a really huge prairie hill in the middle of our city (it’s called Nose Hill, is 11 square km and it’s one of my favourite places in Calgary)

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The changes are subtle that we are seeing in Jonathan and they could be due to other factors too – we’ve removed time outs and have been using more natural consequences and have been doing a lot more debriefing and talking. But, we are fairly certain that they might be related to our hiking.

There is a large amount of trust and confidence that he is suddenly needing to have with us and himself. He inevitably needs to rely on us; hold our hands on certain part of the trail for safety, trust we won’t let him fall as he jumps off big rocks, let us talk him through going down a steep incline and be close to him just in case but give him the room to work it out himself (it also forces him to slow down and think about where his feet are going and plan each step). The more these things happen, the more some little things are shifting.

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In the last couple weeks he has, several times, held my hand in parking lots (a rule we have) without me even asking. I just hold out my hand and he grabs on. There’s been a few times when he’s even asked or just come up and grabbed my hand while out running errands. HUGE!

He is listening better. At home that is:) Overall he’s taken things down a notch and instead of getting upset or shutting down, he’s able to listen to an explanation and accept it. WHOA!

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He’s been labelling his feelings more. We’ve been working on this so it could just be as a result of that, but we’ve been doing it for a while and nothing has come about. Since hiking he’s been able to identify being frustrated and sad a couple of times on his own.

He seems calmer on the last two hikes. He’s not full steam ahead the whole time and doesn’t need to be first the whole time. He is sometimes slowing down a bit, dragging behind, checking things out. He seems distracted occasionally but it’s a different kind of distraction – not in a ‘squirrel!’ kind of way but actually looking at things, going slow enough to see little things around him like flowers.

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Not all of these little shifts happen all the time or to their potential full outcome; they are subtle and slight and would probably go unnoticed if we weren’t looking so darn hard for them.

But, they are significant in their own way.

I’ve also really been enjoying spending this time with Jonathan. I wrote a few weeks ago how going back to work has been overwhelming. With that has come way less patience and it’s nice to put it all aside for a few hours each week and just enjoy being with him and being outside and doings something that is challenging. It’s also been fun to teach him a little bit about plants and flowers and animals as we chit chat along the way. Plus, it just feels good to be out in the sun and moving.

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I’ve made a commitment to myself and to him to get out more this fall/winter (I tend to hunker in for the winter) and keep this going. I hope the positive changes keep a-comin’ !

Side note: I started writing this the night before kindergarten started, before his little world got jostled again and thew him for a loop. Things have quickly, ahem, slide down the mountain if you will, and we are working hard to reclaim some security and safety and good behaviour. Hopefully things settle down soon again. Fingers crossed. And toes.

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Birthdays and Back to Winter

So this happened this week: IMG_20130228_192210Anthony turned ELEVEN!!!

He had a laser tag party with his friends, a special dinner and cake and presents at our house and then another cake and present night at his moms. If some kids think that having divorced parents sucks, come talk to this guy, he finds it all good;) And that hat, that’s a Finn hat I made him. It hasn’t left his head in 7 days. If you could hashtag blogs it would read: #donttouchitwitha10footpole. If you are not familiar with Finn from Adventure Time and you have a young boy in your house, you should check it out.

Making a card for the big bro. He was so proud:)IMG_20130228_152636

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This week we started trying some new parenting/behaviour ideas with Jonathan. It was hard. He pushed back, in a big way. He knew something was up and day one he had a freak out to end all freak outs. I almost joined in. It was probably the worst day since he moved in. But then, the next day happened. And that next day was beautiful and sunny and calm. We went for a big walk in the sunshine, I think we both needed it. Close to the end of our jaunt, Jonathan went running down a hill and did a head first slide into home base. But there was no home base, only a mud puddle. He handled it like a champ!IMG_20130301_161625

We’ve had a couple more freaky freak outs and extra hiding under his bed in the past few days, but he is coming around quicker and things are less intense when they do happen. Insert large sigh of relief….for now. I really don’t know where I can find another bucket of patience to handle much more of what went down the other days, but I’m willing to pay a pretty penny if anybody gots some!

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The next day after our wonderful sunshine and walk, this happened:20130303_113357
Oh Calgary. You sure keep it interesting.

And I couldn’t think of anything better to do during a snow storm (except go get groceries…always an adventure) then this: IMG_20130303_141758

My poor plants have been very neglected the past few months and but they recieved lots of care on this snowy day. I can’t wait for spring to get out in the garden with Jonathan this year!

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And just a final picture to follow-up on my last post about our cats, this has been happening more and more:IMG_20130306_203121

It’s cozy and wonderful.

Brotherly Love

I wish I had time to write more in-depth about this, and perhaps I will at a later date, but I just wanted to write a quick note about Anthony and how being a big brother has rocked his world.

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Anthony was an only child for 10 years. An only child who has two families and all the attention in the world. One family, his mom’s side, is very big with lots of aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. Our side is smaller and all who live between 3 hours drive and 3 hour plane ride away, but the first and only grandchild on Gord’s side of the family. Needless to say, Anthony has been the centre of attention and love for a looooong time.

When I get overwhelmed and I have no more patience at the end of the day (or sometimes the beginning too:) and I can feel myself adjusting to all this crazy emotional toll and change and madness that is occurring in our once quiet house, I sometimes forget that Anthony too is feeling the same adjustment, the same change, and is trying to cope with this new little fire ball running around making fire truck sounds, spilling water, and screaming in time outs. Our house before Jonathan was very, very quiet. Very. Anthony is a very quiet, passive, laid back kid. Very. Jonathan is anything but.

Anthony has been on high emotional alert since the night of meeting Jonathan. Just as it was for us, all the talking and preparing and processing that happened before meeting Jonathan could not prepare us for how things would actually be. And I saw it hit Anthony hard the very night he met his little brother. The reality of it all was very different then thinking about it and talking about it. For everybody. But I think even more so for Anthony.

The age difference between them is big (6 years) and the language barrier between them also creates some difficulty (Jonathan’s at about a 2.5 yr old language wise). Anthony and I talk about this often and I explain being what being Deaf means and what Jonathan can and can’t do right now, how he is learning etc. He often will say things like, he ignores Jonathan because he can’t understand him.

We can see Anthony is edgy most days, but those edgy days are slowly fading and becoming more mixed in with his laid back days. He is still sometimes quick to cry, get’s frustrated faster than normal, but overall when we look at the bigger picture of this whole wild journey, he is handling things pretty well. We think so anyway:)

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(Last week I watched some instinctive (I could hardly believe it!) brotherly love kick in: I was too far ahead of these guys and turned back just in time to see Anthony move himself behind Jonathan on a slippery hill and brace himself in case Jonathan fell. My heart melted a little bit right here)

There are lots of conversations explaining, fairly generally, where Jonathan came from in hopes of Anthony understanding some of Jonathan’s behaviour a bit more (the idea that sometimes kids come from rough places is not new to Anthony – the joys of having two social workers for parents!) There are lots of conversation around what being 4 years old means. And there are lots of conversations around what being a brother means, looks like and how it’s okay to feel mad and pissed off sometimes….as long as you move on afterwards.

And I am trying my best to remember that loosing your cool really means “help I can’t cope with all this change today”. I know Anthony, I know. And I’m sorry sometimes I forget just how hard and big it all is.

But then, there is this:

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They often don’t physically share the same space, so to see them not only close, but actually interacting was awesome. This happened a couple of days ago on a day off from school; Anthony, on his own initiative, blew bubbles for Jonathan to chase and pop. And then, because Jonathan had earlier asked and was now sporting a pirate eye patch and sword made by my madd crafting skills, Anthony asked me if he could make him a pirate ship to play in. Are you freakin’ kidding me?! YES YES YES!!!  I sat at the kitchen table pretending to work on the computer while secretly having a victory dance party in my head. Of course I also snapped as many secret pictures as I could of the brotherly bond, slowly, starting to finally shine through.

It’s happening. It’s slow and it’s hard. But it’s happening:)

Do I Parent Differently?

 It’s a little ranty and long, and I just want to note I don’t think that parenting any child is easy, no matter your relationship or how they came into your life.

 I struggle with this a lot – do I parent differently from other parents because Jonathan is adopted? Do I parent my stepson, Anthony, differently because he’s my stepson and he has his mom in his life? Although I’d like the answer to be no, I think it is yes. Yes I think I do.

 I believe they both have different needs, and I respond to those needs and parent them each as individuals based on what they need, their personalities, their history, our relationship and so many other factors. And because of my unique relationship with each of them, that separates me from other parents who do not have the same unique relationships…ie who don’t have a step son and an adoptive son.

 I should acknowledge that this seems to be the opposite of a recent post I wrote about there being an ‘us vs. them’ mentality among adoptive and biological moms/parents, and I hope that I’m not contradicting myself too much here, or at the least, that I expressed myself, and can do so again today, as accurately as the thoughts are in my head. I do believe there are differences in raising or parenting biological children vs. adoptive children, just as raising a child with a disability is different than a ‘typical’ child. It’s just simply different. Fundamentally I think it’s all the same – love, consistency, boundaries, laughter, honesty…but the day to day activities, or sometimes the purpose behind an activity may be different because of your relationship with any given child. I’m not commenting here on right or wrong, I’m simply just expressing my views and how I choose to parent my two kids.                                                         IMG_20130104_134632 When I first met Anthony I was very cautious and reserved in my role with him. And it wasn’t my place to jump in a parent him; I was just some stranger who was hanging around. A lot. And we did stuff together sometimes. I jumped into a mothering type role right away – I making food, cleaning up etc., helped him with different things, drove him to school sometimes etc. But I was very aware that I was not his mom, he had (has) a mom and that was not me. And in the beginning, he was very clear with me that talking about being in trouble at school (which he refused to do), talking about deeper feelings (which he would not do) as well as discipline (which I would not do) was not where we were at. I accepted this and over time, once we had a strong foundation, our relationship shifted and grew and deepened. This took a looong time, I would guess about 4 or so years for us to get the point where I felt comfortable talking to him about tougher things and he felt he could trust me with bigger things. Now, although he still has his mom very much in his life, it feels like I am his mom, his step mom, which is kinda awesome I might add. And I think he would say that he sees me as a mom, but he is quick to point out I’m his step mom, because it is different than being his mom who still exists in his life. But, we are both good with that and acknowledge that it is a unique relationship. I think because I took the time to go slow and build a strong foundation and relationship, it greatly benefited how he acts and responds to my parenting now. Which I should point out is very positive, and still evolving.

IMG_20130203_122830 With Jonathan, it’s different again. He’s had too much insecurity and too much shuffle in his short life to beat around the bush and take it slow. And, he doesn’t have another mom in his life making the situation different from Anthony. What we know about attachment is that kids who struggle with it need to know first off who is in charge and who will keep him safe. That’s me; Mama numero uno. So, I am strict with him. And I have a lot of expectations around his behaviour (I say ‘I’ but Gord and I are both in this boat). At the same time, I make sure we have lots of fun each day so we can build that ever so important relationship, as we are still in the early stages of getting to know each other. Also, I am more understanding and tolerant of (some) misbehaviour (but by the end of the day man alive does it get hard to keep this all in mind) from a boy who, although to others seems to be not listening, is struggling to regulate himself because he was never soothed as a baby and is now acting like a crazy man in the grocery store. Don’t get me wrong – tolerant does not mean that misbehaviour is ignored or accepted. Oh no no no – simply a lack of self regulation skills will not get you a free ride around these parts, it will however, get you a simple talking to, a big hug, and a lesson in calming down, hopefully with some kind of body contact or rocking or back rubbing thrown in. See, different: What parent of a biological kid thinks of making physical contact with their child while giving them ‘a lesson’? I’ll tell you who – adoptive parents. Me. I do. A hyper vigilant wanna-make-it better and get on the attachment train mama. It looks like simple parenting (explaining to a child their behaviour is unacceptable) but the purpose behind it is different.

It’s hard. It’s tiring. It takes a lot of conscience effort and some days I suck at it. But I can see the positive effects of my (our) efforts. When the hair dresser brings Anthony back to the front of the joint and says to me ‘he’s an awesome kid’, I know I’m doing okay. When people who have known Jonathan over several placements (we are lucky to still have contact with a couple of these amazing consistent people in his life) see him and exclaim how happy he is and how well he’s doing; I know I am on the right path and choosing to parent differently, even though it isolates me and separates me from other parents, is the right way to parent my kids.

The Prairies

A week or so ago we took a wee road trip to Bassano to take some pictures and have some good ol’ small town prairie fun. It  was nice to leave the city on a hot afternoon/evening for a few hours – I don’t think I would want to live in the middle of nowhere, but I sure like visiting. AND I had dinner next to a REAL cowboy in a REAL small town which is just like all my childhood fantasies come true (except, as a child I thought I’d be having dinner with the cowboy and living with the cowboy on my ranch and riding horses all day long…details). Anyway, we had fun and then we photoshoped the heck out of the pictures so there they are:)

 

 

                                                                                                           If you look closely you can see Harry’s on 
                                                                                                                                   the right side (Gord actually knows Harry) 
                                                                                                                                    and that’s where the cowboy was…I’m 
                                                                                                                                   pretty sure that’s his truck out front.

 

 

 Hope you are all having a wonderful week:)