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.

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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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The Corn Circle

This time last year we knew we had been matched with Jonathan but were waiting for a court date to pass because of a mistake that the social workers had made. Without the court stuff being finalized we couldn’t schedule our infoshare and it was an intense time.

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To make things even more torturous, or great depending on the day and how I looked at it, we had an ‘in’ with Jonathan and knew what he was up to and how he was doing through my boss (at the time) because she was doing respite for him. But, we weren’t allowed to meet or talk to him or have anything to do with him yet.

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The waiting was really getting to me and one weekend I knew my boss was having Jonathan over and they were going to the corn maze. It’s a huge place with not only a corn maze but a petting zoo, bouncy castles, games, and more, and it looked like crazy fun.

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I remember being so mad and the word jealous probably doesn’t do my feelings justice. I wanted to be taking him there. I wanted to be doing fun things. The longer we waited the more we missed out on and hearing what we were missing out on had gotten too much and I had reached my waiting tolerance.

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Well, now we know how the story unfolded, and a few days ago I got to take Jonathan to the corn maze! Me and my boy! Something about it felt full circlish. And satisfying. And great. And to top if off he was on his best behaviour and even peed in a portapotty (this is BIG people, I was over the moon!). It was also the first day in a while that I was really excited to spend with him and didn’t dread or worry or feel down or annoyed or….perhaps my new medication is working…? But regardless, it was so nice to enjoy Jman and see him happy and think about how far we’ve come.

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And wouldn’t you know it, as we arrived at the gate guess who was also arriving? Yep, my old boss and her husband and their two newly(ish) adopted kids. Jonathan was super excited to see them and I had a good chuckle at the irony of it all.

Memory Box: Cousins

This post is a link up with The Adoption Social

On our recent trip to Ontario I got to spend a whole day with just Jonathan and my niece Reese who is a month older than Jonathan. We happen to be camping and in a beautiful provincial park called Awenda.

We went for a walk, an hour and a half walk! And about 20 minutes in they started holding hands and running together and giggling like they had known each other for 5 years instead of less than 24 hours. Sometimes they would break off, but for the better part of an hour they kept coming back to each other and grabbing hands.

It was one of the quieter, sweeter, more tender moments I’ve witnessed with Jonathan.

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Phase One: Complete

It feels like it has been non stop since May 1st. Oh right, that’s because it has been!

My dad came for a visit, we had a friend of my sister who was in town stay for a week, Gord was away for two week and that wrapped up May.

In June, Nana came for two weeks, the boys finished school, we had the flood, Jonathan’s birthday, two trips to Medicine Hat and then suddenly it was July.

Now, we are 48 hours home from a 10 day whirl wind of visiting family and friends in Ontario including a 4 day camping trip with my sister and her family. 

I. am. pooped.

In two days we begin P2, or Phase 2 of the insane-in-the-membrane Cummings house of change: I return to work after nine months away and Jonathan starts his new day care and 7 days later Gord starts his new job.

Hmm…I wonder what else we could fit in?!

Over all it’s been fantastic couple of months. Busy is good. I like busy. And overall it’s been great to see Jonathan handling things, I hope and assume, fairly well because he feels secure and safe and happy. Since we’ve been home too from our trip, he’s been generally settled – no major out of the ordinary things minus a few blips here and there. He also started asking to coming home a few days before we did and asking about Gord…I take that very positively!

So, Ontario round up – here it comes!

He had his moments on our trip but I was impressed with his behaviour. It was easy sometimes and hard others, but that’s how it is at home too. It was easy to be around family and see him interacting with his cousin, which were amazing with him. It seemed like they’ve been hanging out forever. Seeing him interact with them, and them with him, gave me more faith that day care and kindergarten may be a tad easier than thought. I’ve also never seen him around other kids his age and as my niece and him are a month apart it was a great gauge to lots of different things and it was really neat watching the two of them. 

With all three of them (my nephew is 2.5 years older) it was sweet to watch how language didn’t matter. They understood each other just fine through play and limited speech and some basic signs. Aiden was a big help while we were swimming in the lakes because Jonathan has to take his ears off. Aiden would give Jonathan a little splash to get his attention to turn and look at me on the beach to sign and eventually Aiden started telling him things too (‘stop’ ‘no’ ‘come’). Very fun to watch it all unfold. 

I also gained more trust in him. I would let him go out of my sight a bit longer than usual knowing he was with other kids without me checking on him. When I did, there he was just doing his thing, sharing his stuff, playing happy with his cousins.

And, although a wee difficult to contain a very active and jumpy kid who doesn’t care much for tv or video games, it was very fun to take him on the plane and explain what was happening and see his excitement in it all. When he sees planes overhead now, he starts talking about it all over again.

I could write more, or be more insightful but my brain is overloaded. So, here are some pictures of the highlights.

1011079_10151710813028249_1697362247_n(my phone imploded an hour after we arrived…I lost the photo of him smiling at me while doing this:(  and a few others (his birthday!)…sigh)

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We took the kids for a walk on the beach the first night camping…they all ended up swimming in their underwear. It was perfect and fun.

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Me and sister

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Making mud pies

IMG_20130705_141158The bottom was very rocky here and Jonathan called Aiden over for the assist:)

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A lot of icecream was consumed…by all!

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Walk through the marsh

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First canoe ride with Papa. He wasn’t terribly impressed. I think it didn’t move fast enough for him!

20130710_140723Strawberry pickin’…well he picked a few, ate a few and mostly ran up and down the rows:)

20130711_174015The flight home. You know you had a good time when you fall asleep sitting up on the floor of a plane.

There it is! Our spring/summer adventures complete! Time to organize myself and write more lists than I have before! We’ll keep you posted on the new day care situation and other adventures soon:)

Early Days

My thoughts are scattered; there is so much happening, so much to write about and the warm, some even hot, days and sunshine are distracting me from everything but sitting on the deck.

I’ll try to make the following thoughts and words make a little bit of sense.

I suppose we are still in the early days; yesterday marked 6 months of Jonathan being with us. But when I think back to the really early days – exhausted by dinner, not understanding him, my fingers fumbling trying to remember how to sign, not knowing if he would bolt across the road on our way to the park, or what makes him laugh, effect ways to react to misbehaviour, and the list goes on…yes indeed we have come far.

We now see patterns in behaviour, understand likes and dislikes, can sometimes predict things and be proactive instead of reactive. We see hurt and pain but we also see a smart little boy who loves to laugh, be outside and has a fantastic memory. We can even make it to bed before collapsing, most days.

Yes, most definitely we are still in early days.

I have been thinking a lot about Jonathan’s own early days recently as well. I guess I do that a lot, but maybe even more than usual this last week. His ADHD like behaviours led to an interesting conversation with our counselor and to an article that has put a few things in a nice neat package for us.

It also gave us (another) jumping point for approaching this little fireball and for starting to try to fill in the many gaps in his brain that were left by his early years of neglect. The package may have even had a bow on it.

We knew all along that Jonathan’s constant movement, explosiveness, extreme controlling behaviours, inability to regulate himself and resistance to touch, to just name a few, was not because he had ADHD but because of his early years. Yet on the surface they looked so similar.

Then I read a chapter from a book our counselor gave us; Treating ADHD as Attachment Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. I swear it was written about him. The behaviours or the symptoms of ADHD are the exact same as those of children with attachment challenges. I can not begin to explain it here, but if you are interested I would love to chat more about it (through Twitter, or email or whatever!)

Here’s just a small tidbit:

“…sustained traumatic experiences like childhood abuse and neglect, or failure to form a secure attachment in the early years of life, can create a chronic state of hyperarousal in a child and alter the neuroendocrine activities of his brain, causing him to become trapped in the “fight-or-flight-or-freeze response” (Perry, 1994; vander Kolk, 1994)

“A child who does not receive proper stimulation and consistent nurturing interactions from caregivers in the first year of life is unlikely to develop sufficient neural circuitry required for emotional control and social attachment” (Lach, 1997)

“…when a child is experiencing a persistent state of anxiety and autonomic arousal, he or she will have a difficult time accessing the part of his thinking brain that would allow him or her to stop and consider the possible consequences of his choices and behaviours” (Perry et al., 1995)

There is so much written on this topic, some controversial. However, a lot of the ideas or theory follow Dr. Bruce Perry’s practice, somebody that Gord and I both admire and have read and followed for years (check out his website here …A must read of his is The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog).

I think for us, for our family, we are on the right track of beginning to see a real shift for ourselves and for Jonathan. Jonathan may have missed out on many things in the first 4 years of life, but maybe we can help repair some of those losses and make sure that we are on track to give him the best from here forward.

6 months and 1 day and a new chapter begins:)

 

*this post is part of the WASO and this weeks theme “The Early Days”…check out more adoption blogs here or here