Baby Steps

It’s been about 6 weeks since our newly implemented plan ‘operation-no-fun’ with Jonathan (see ‘So this happened’…) and we are starting to reap some benefits. And we are having fun despite our best efforts not to;)

It’s extremely gratifying to say the least.

Gord and Jonathan’s relationship has been blooming; they have been doing a regimented routine after school including some attachment activities, lots of praise and reward, and lots of ‘team work’ like packing a box together (we are moving…another story).

It’s going so well and we’ve both noticed a…something.

Like many adoption things it’s hard to put words to it, it’s more of a feeling, a knowing. We can feel his trust in Gord growing. We can feel a shift in their relationship but it’s hard to tell exactly what it is. There are also some little signs too; a slight increase in ‘I love you’s’ to Gord and a slight decrease in his incessantness with the ‘I love you’s’ towards me. His greetings and goodbyes towards Gord are more natural seeming – he’s not as ambivalent when greeting/departing, but genuinely seems happy to see him and makes a point of saying goodbye with the ritualistic hug/kiss/I love you/see you later/have a good day routine. Uh-mazing.

School also has been going very well. Good days are increasing and bad days are fewer between. And Jonathan seems really proud of having and all ‘green’ day, and more importantly not lying or hiding bad days/incidences. Yesterday at his parent/teacher interview we were told about the amazing progress he’s been having socially, emotionally and academically. They also told us how Jonathan is the only kid who will invite a medically fragile boy with no language to come and play with him, even though it’s a little frustrating sometimes for him. And, the best part is that a few other kids in his class are following his lead and interacting more with this boy. My everybody belongs and mama heart is bursting.

Me and Jonathan have been doing A LOT of co-regulating (yoga, breathing, swinging, playing simple games, breathing, rocking, colouring, cuddling, breathing and ridged routines in the evenings. I’ve seen a few shining moments including an apology all on his own for being rude AND a change in his behaviour afterwards (as in a connection between his behaviour – apology – behaviour). He is also handling his frustration and anger better by accepting help in calming down. HUGE people. HUGE.
He has also been requesting AND letting me put band aids on him. This is a big shift from the kid who use to run and hide and not let you come near him with a band aide.

We’ve been keeping a low profile, saying no to invitations, keeping him physically close, keeping lots of control in our court and although it’s extremely boring and exhausting, BUT it sure is a heck of a lot easier than being kicked, punched and screamed at on a regular basis (there have been no incidences since we started this). 6 weeks is the longest he’s gone by FAR without a full meltdown and aggression since July. It’s lovely.

The coming weeks will be a real test; we are headed to our friends house (just a few of us for dinner and he’s famliar with them and been at the house before, otherwise it would have been a ‘no’) and with the excitement of Christmas, my dad coming to visit soon, and we are taking a family trip to San Diego. Hello disruption. AND because that’s not enough, we are moving on December 20. All lovely and wonderful things but potential attachment nightmare! However, we feel like we are on the right track with Jonathan (only took 3 years) and we are finally having a real impact on him. Not just his behaviour but his brain and his whole being. Love wins…although sometimes it’s tough love for a while;)

Why hey there blogging land!

It’s been a very busy last couple of months and I have been lacking motivation to write. Or do anything at all to be honest. Just getting through the days was enough, never mind adding any extra things/activities/hobbies/outings etc.

It hasn’t been all terrible. However, it has been busy; Gord started teaching (yeah!) but it is 4 evenings a week and Saturdays (booo) and that has been a pretty big adjustment – mostly for me. Everyone else seems to be just fine with it all. Jonathan and I visited my sister and her family in Vancouver for a week back in July (which I could describe with many many colourful words but perhaps will just settle with…. ‘difficult’. For him. And me. Everyone else was a-o-k). We topped that off with summer camp and summer camp challenges (even at a camp for kids with special needs. Sheesh), sprinkled it with me getting really sick for several weeks and then sprinkled the start of school on top – to the tune of yelling, throwing rocks, hitting, running, calling kids names, not listening, refusing work etc. etc. All of it has added up to a heaping dose of overwhelming with an extra side of anxiety (really fighting the desire to up my meds about now).

BUT…

Anthony is doing great in GRADE FREAKIN’ EIGHT, Gord is in love with this job and is home during the day to do appointments with Jonathan and can be home for both kids after school (yeah! no after school care!). We have Thanksgiving with family and a weekend (shhh it’s a surprise to Gord) of respite in October to look forward to AND a family trip to San Diego for Christmas to think about. So it’s not all bad.

Although I often write in my head it is time to, perhaps, start writing it all down again. It’s like a small dose of therapy, which I clearly need right about now, and besides that, I miss my adoption community:) That means YOU!

Look out blogging world! I’m here again! (And I have soooo much more to catch up all up on:) )

Or, well, maybe, sometimes I’ll be here; I can’t handle adding any more to my plate right now otherwise it just may cause me to fully crumble instead of partially crumble so instead I should really say “I’m here hopefully more often than I have been!” or “I’m here…except when I’m not”. Or something like that.

Not So Little Anymore

The few weeks I’ve been noticing how Jonathan isn’t so little anymore.

He has grown up in so many ways in the two years since he came to us. His chubby cheeks have disappeared, he’s taller, he’s so heavy I can barely lift him (but I still do because I love it:)  He’s also calmer (that could be a combo mix of meds and maturity…?) and overall happier. He listens so much more, he’s less aggressive, and more independent, although he’ll still ask for help with things I know he can do but he just wants my attention and I’m mostly happy to give it.

His speech, oh my word his speech. I’ve spent a lot of time lately watching videos of him two years ago and ones of him recently. In the videos he’s singing or telling a story and 2 years ago it was incomprehensible, if you weren’t there you wouldn’t know what he was talking about. I remember having to interpret constantly for friends what he was saying. Now, that doesn’t happen. You can understand 90% of what he is saying.

The other night while tucking him into bed he said to me “mummy, why did i scratch you?” First, where the heck did that come from? And second, the last time he got to the point of restraining and he scratched me was 7 months ago. So much growth in so many ways.

These past couple weeks there’s a tiny voice that says “maybe we could do it again…” But I think that’s more the missing the preschool years (my favourite) and reflecting on how far he’s come, how far we’ve all come. But I know we won’t adopt again, it’s a looong hard journey that is not in our cards. For now I will just try to enjoy this new phase and period of relative calmness, and workout harder so I can pick him up a little bit longer:)

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(Fall 2012 and Fall 2014 – where did my little chubby cheeked boy go?!)

Beyond the Behaviour Growing Love

*I started writing this a long time ago but found it recently and finished it off. It’s amazing to think how far we’ve come in just a couple of years.

*****

I remember the moment that the idea of adoption turned into a real thing with a little human attached to it. It was when I first saw a picture of my son. I was in my bosses office and had just told her that we were in the process of adopting. She pulled up a picture of a little boy on her phone that she had been doing respite with and said “you should adopt him!”

It became real.

This boy needed a home, we needed a little boy. This boy had high needs, we were capable. He needed love, we had love to give.

From that day forward, a little piece of my heart started to love him. Although it would 7ish more months until we knew we were the right parents for him and it would be 9ish more months until he knew of us, the foundation was being built, very slowly, very carefully in my head and in my heart.

When it became official that we had been matched with Jonathan and we went through our panel meeting, I could feel the love grow just a tiny bit more. The night that we met him, it shifted again.

Loving him wasn’t instant, but grew over time. There wasn’t any one moment of fireworks and marching bands, but it was steady. And when I stopped and checked in with myself every so often, I could feel it changing and morphing and growing.

But man alive, was it tough.

How do you love a stranger when they scream at you, hit and kick you, bite and spit at you? How do you love a stranger when they have turned everything you know inside out and upside down, regardless of how bad you wanted it?

Slowly.

How do you love a little boy who fights you, comes between your marriage, turns you into a stranger to yourself and throws your whole world into a giant puddle of crazy?

Intentionally.

I stuffed all the ‘what have we done?’ and ‘get me outta here’ feelings as deep inside as I could and I took all the ‘I give ups’ and the ‘I can’t do it any mores’ and hid them away.

I smiled at him, hugged him and told him I loved him, even when all I was feeling was anger and exhaustion and sorry for myself.

I did it because I knew that’s what he needed. I did it because I knew my feelings were secondary to how he felt. And I knew I had to see beyond the behaviour to the boy who under it all needed and wanted to be accepted and loved.

And so, I played with him, fed and clothed him, consequenced and praised him and told him that he was safe and wanted and important. All day, everyday. That out of all the little boys in the whole world, we wanted him to be our boy.

When he continued to hit again and again, we talked about how it doesn’t matter if he hits he will still be loved, still stay in this house, still be part of our family. I may not have always felt it, but I said it. And when he ran away over and over after hurting himself I followed him every time and patiently waited while he screamed for me to go away. I did it so that in between the screams I could tell him tell him that I loved him and it was my job to make sure he was safe.

And when he went to bed at night, I cried from exhaustion and frustration and loss of sanity and identity and everything that I knew for sure. And I cried from anger towards all the people who let him down in his short life. I cried from happiness because I had my boy.

Then I got up again the next day and repeated it all.

And one day I checked in with myself and I realize that the love had grown more. My heart was bigger, stronger, more full than the last time I checked. I realized that he wasn’t a stranger any more and that it had been a few days since he screamed or hit or spit, and that he hadn’t run away when he fell down yesterday.

And so on I went, looking beyond the behaviour and growing love.

A Saying “Yes” Update

Two months since I posted last! Wowza. Oi, saying yes takes up a lot of time.

Here’s the quick lowdown update: Jonathan is still doing crazy good at school. He has his moments and still requires 1:1 support for most of the day, but the growth and progress both academically and behaviour wise are pinch-me-I’m-dreaming good. Anthony is also kicking ass and taking names. In the school department that is. He’s at the top of his class for a few subjects! He’s also been taking improve classes, listening to terrible music, and overall being a pretty great (ahhhh) teenager.

We’ve been loosing our noodles with busyness – drama classes, recreation classes, loosing are after school care, finding after school care, working late, working out, being social (this is new people and man, it takes up a lot of time) and now Christmas prep for visitors – hey there Dad and Nana!!! and baking and presents are starting to appear.

Between it all, I’ve been saying yes. Yes to hard things. Yes to challenging things. Yes to vulnerable things.

I just completed my first four half-day training at my work (with a co-worker) orienting new staff to our agency, philosophies, and service delivery. I also completed a morning of training staff on disability as part of a diversity morning with some other co-workers.

WHO AM I?!

I use to throw up and not sleep for a week before I had to train First Aid a couple of years ago. I am so proud of myself of facing my fears and saying yes. Seriously, you should try it!

I’ve also been writing a few articles, one pretty personal, through my job again and was published! Because it was attached to my work and it was personal, it was a bit of a leap of faith but I did it and word is slowly getting out around the office about it and guess what? The world has not yet imploded. It’s a freakin’ miracle. I will post it here in the next little bit.

It seems like so many things are attached to my work and that’s because my life and work meld together so much, sometimes to great benefit and sometimes it’s a bit tricky to separate them. To balance it all out I’ve been trying to exercise and meditate, rather learn to meditate – something I’ve always been interested it. I think when you are slightly high-strung, adopt, work in social work and take anxiety medication, meditation should be like breathing. Just do it.

I wish I could write more and write more eloquently, but here we are; a little rusty but perhaps back in the writing game.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend:)

What will you say yes to this week….?

 

 

 

 

Everybody Needs a Tracy

The past few weeks have been full of family vacationing and fun and back to school. I wish I had more time to write about it all, but as we adjust to new routines, very busy work schedules and many other happenings, alas some things have to give.

But, I wanted to share this.

It took Jonathan 8ish months to work up to a full morning of kindergarten last year (we started with 1 hour and worked our way up to 2.5 hours in 15 minute increments every few months. We are talking. seriously. slow. transitioning. time. needed). This year, two weeks into grade one, and he’s been attending full days since the start! This has no doubt to do with some familiarity he now has with the school and some maturity, but most it has to do with one particular amazing lady. His aide Tracy.

Tracy became Jonathan’s aide about 2 months into kindergarten and right away she made a difference to his ability to join in with some class activities with other kids, his speech, his sense of safety, his listening to his teacher and not running out of the classroom every 30 seconds. Basically, she is fan-freakin-tastic.

She spent her summer emailing the school back and forth advocating for him to be in a particular class that she felt was a better fit for him (when the school was trying to move him to a different class…unknown to us). She offered to stay with him at recess and lunch break so he would have support on the playground (he needs pretty much constant adult supervision but doesn’t have it) and put a plan together an entire plan to help him transition to Grade 1. And the school accepted it. Fan-freakin-tastic.

Even though Jonathan is going full days now, they aren’t always easy. And today was an extra hard day with a major meltdown that involved screaming at the teacher, pushing and kicking desks and slapping Tracy across the face and scratching her. Kaboom.

There was a two page explanation in his book stating what happened and how he reacted and what she did etc. What did she do? She got his kindergarten teacher (who was teaching a class at the time) because “she is someone he trusts” to come and be with him after he curled into a ball of remorse and refused to talk to anyone. Then they went back to her kindergarten room to hang out for a while to chill out in a familiar setting.

At this point my heart is pretty  much about to burst with how they handled the whole thing and then I read this:

“My main concern is making sure he is feeling happy and safe while he’s at school”

FAN-FREAKIN-TASTIC!

There was no phone call to me, no incident report, no nothing, except her concern over him and how he feels.

I love Tracy, and I love how she loves Jonathan. I wish all kids had a Tracy in their corner.

 

 

 

The C’s

Since our nuclear meltdown a couple of weeks ago, we’ve been really, really, trying to practice Jane Evan’s C’s – compassion, connection, calmness, correction, communication, containment, cooperation and not the D’s – disapproval, disappointment, discipline, domination, dissatisfaction, distance, disconnection.

(You can read more about the amazing Jane and her C’s and D’s here.)

And,you know, it really isn’t as hard as I though it was going to be.

Yes, I still get mad. But I try to remind myself of the bigger picture.
Yes, Jonathan still acts up. But he reacts differently as I approach things differently.

He’s had some serious issues at the baby sitters the last couple weeks. One particular day was so bad that I went to pick him up at lunch. I waited to talk about it with him until we were in the car. Instead of getting upset, I empathized about how hard it is to have a bad day sometimes but we need to try our best still to follow the rules. We chatted calmly about feelings and I took him back to work with me where he got lots of attention and a special goodie bag from one of our admin staff of highlighters, clips, post it notes and doohickeys. Doohickyes are his favorite. It wasn’t a reward, it was what he needed.

Another day, he peeled paint off the babysitters car, yelled and screamed at everyone endlessly, told them all they were going to die and had an accident (this is happening more and more frequently…but that’s another post). When I picked him up, I practiced my C’s. After a few minutes of chatting in the car he said “mummy! you not mad!” Huh. Interesting little rocket man, interesting of you to notice…

It makes so much sense, yet like most things that do it can be so hard to put into practice.

What we are trying to accomplish with Jonathan and using C’s not D’s, can be explained in this nice little analogy:
If two people are sewing a dress, and one person rushes around being all crazy like and stressed out and over the top and the other lady works her way through the pattern calmly and steadily, and both end up with a beautiful dress…which way is the better way to approach sewing the dress if the end result is the same?
(This came from my counselor, not me. Clearly you can guess who I’ve been in this example and why she gave it to me!)

Trying to use C’s not D’s is not only benefiting him, it’s benefiting us too.

Why be crazy when we can be calm?

We are still planning on keeping the good crazy – the run out in the back yard in a downpour to dance crazy, we’re just trying to toss the bad crazy.

It’s hard, but it was hard before.
It may not be perfect, but it wasn’t perfect before.

Oh, and I have this in my car, this helps too. I suggest everyone do it. unnamed

Seriously, do it. Now. Like, right now! And when your kid who can’t read yet asks “what is say?” you tell them “it reminds mum not to yell”. And world gets a little shiner.

Carry on Warriors:)