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Grilled Cheese Stress Relief

I don’t put much stock in dream interpretation, but every so often, I learn something new while unconscious.

One Christmas morning, my sister announced she would like to speak, then made a statement I couldn’t understand.

My brother said he would like to clarify. What he said made no sense to me, and didn’t seem to have anything to do with what my sister said.

Several other family members chimed in.

They acted as though they were having a conversation, appearing to understand each other.

By the time my mother spoke up, I was thoroughly confused.

Finally, I noticed each was reading from “speaking parts” written on sticky notes. My sister informed me the lines for their “Christmas play” were the things I said in my sleep on Christmas Eve.

“You woke me with your gibberish,” she grinned, “so I wrote down everything you said.”

Over the years, I’ve found that I don’t always recognize when I’m stressed. The most accurate indicator that I am not relaxed is what happens while I snooze. (Apparently, our family together at Christmas is a stressor.)

If I talk in my sleep, and especially if I walk in my sleep, I am overwrought and need to take time to figure out

1. what is stressing me and

2. how to ameliorate the situation.

Once, soon after starting a new job, I woke to find myself scrubbing at a corner of the carpet in our bedroom.

Hubby flipped on a light. “Uh…what are you doing? It’s 4 a.m.”

Frustrated, I fumed, “I can’t believe the chef dumped this whole #10 can of crushed tomatoes! I’ll never get it out of this carpet.”

As Hubby snickered, reality filtered through my dream and I realized I was scrubbing at nothing.

The new job was exciting, but even happy stress is still…stress.

This morning, Hubby asked,

soooooo, a grilled cheese is your favorite sandwich?

I considered.

“Well, not really. I like a Reuben much better. Why do you…wait. Was I talking in my sleep?”

He nodded, grinning.

“You REALLY like grilled cheese. You told me several times.”

Maybe I’m a little stressed.

We are trying to figure out a better option for our son because the current residential treatment setting is not working well for him. His behavior is deteriorating, and instead of implementing behavior modification, almost everyone at the center simply wants to focus on his feelings.

“He’s just expressing his anger. If peers do things that make him mad, that’s really not his fault.”

I’ve heard this from more than one staff member.

“We’ll just keep processing his feelings and things will get better.”

This may work for some kids, but with a diagnosis of Autism One (Asperger’s), it’s not working for him. He needs concrete positive and negative consequences for his actions.

And regardless of whether he’s provoked, his REACTION is his responsibility.

I talked with a number of other centers this week. Anything close doesn’t seem to be a fit. The few that seem to be a possibility are far away. Finding the right place for him feels almost impossible.

Thanks to my sleep talking, I realized today that I am definitely over-stressed about the situation and need to take a step back.

I know that God loves our boy even more than we do and He’s got a good plan for that kid.

I need to continue to trust. This will work out eventually.

While I take a minute to refocus, I think I’m going to make myself a grilled cheese sandwich.

(I just found out this morning: grilled cheese is my favorite.)

I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Jeremiah 29:11

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Prayers Appreciated

Tomorrow, I’ll stand before a group of professionals and explain why I think our son should transition to another facility. Some will want him to step down to a group home instead. I disagree.

I’m NOT trying to pawn my kid off or keep him from coming home. He’s not showing the level of progress for which we’d hoped.

He’s had three incidents (in three days) of kicking and punching walls, doors and windows because a peer or adult disagreed with him…if he did this in school, he’d end up expelled.

I love this kid and am doing this to protect him; if he throws a chair and hits someone—even if the contact is unintentional— he could go to jail. Odds are not in his favor.

He needs something else—something he’s not getting. I’ll elaborate later, but for now, I appreciate your prayers for calm nerves and clear communication.

The three most important things to have are faith, hope and love. But the greatest of them is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13

MRI

We met with a neurologist a few weeks ago. She ordered an MRI for our boy, to rule out any physical brain issues. The appointment is tomorrow.

I assume we won’t have any answers for several weeks, but at least we are finally getting some traction.

Monopoly on Happy

The problem is that you are putting in all the effort to see me and I’m not doing any effort to show you that I want you to visit.

This was my son’s explanation of the main problem in our family relationship during a phone call.

He continued, “when I don’t do what I’m supposed to do, I’m sending the message that I don’t care if you come to see me.”

The kid is smart. He knows what he’s doing.

In the beginning of his residential treatment stay, we visited our son every weekend. However, his behavior escalated and his actions became increasingly violent. We reduced the frequency of visits based on his behavior.

His therapist agreed he needed to have some responsibility in our family connection, unrelated to other behaviors. As part of his therapy, we created a behavior plan which required our son to do a chore and a lesson in a Bible devotional each day in order to earn a visit.

Because our main objective during that time was also to ensure his sister’s safety, deleting the visit was a negative consequence if he had a violent outburst during the week. Assuming he did not assault anyone, we would show up.

Our son agreed to the plan.

The therapist ensured the chore would take fewer than 5 minutes. The devotional page also required about 5 minutes. In order to fulfill his behavior plan, our son needed to put in only 10 minutes of effort each day.

We purposely kept his responsibility simple, to ensure that he would easily be able to attain success. We wanted to show him that when he did what he needed to do, he would get what he wanted.

As the therapist worked with him to prevent thoughts from becoming behaviors, he stopped assaulting other humans. Instead, he began beating on the walls, doors or windows when frustrated. Sometimes he threw or flipped chairs.

He made the mental connection that we were not visiting during times when he had been violent with another person and assumed that we would visit if he didn’t hit someone else.

By this time, though, the behavior plan was in place and he needed to complete those two simple actions in order to have a visit. Instead of complying with the plan, he became angry that we were not visiting even though he had not hit anyone. He refused to complete chores or the devotional.

For weeks, we encouraged him during nightly family calls—as well as during family sessions with the counselor—to complete his plan.

Eventually, he began doing the chores but still refused to do the devotional work. He said he didn’t see a point because he already knows who God is. No amount of reasoning worked.

It became a power struggle and I asked the counselor if we should simply give up, but he agreed that if we did so, our son would simply see us as liars, even though we would be breaking our word in a positive way.

The counselor and I began to wonder if he was simply convinced we wouldn’t visit and was making sure that he was in control of the situation.

I wanted to make sure that he knew we would visit, so the counselor and I came up with a compromise. If our son did not finish seven lessons by Thursday, I would do the rest of them on the phone with him so they would technically be completed.

We were able to get him to do three of the lessons on his own by Thursday. On our evening call, I told him to get the book and completed the last four lessons with him on the phone so that we could make a plan to visit him on Friday.

Last night, I saw my son for the first time in over a month. Waiting until he completed his behavioral plan may seem extreme, but we wanted him to grasp the necessity of putting effort into the relationship. We also wanted him to see that we would immediately reward that effort.

We want him to know that he can trust us to show up. We also need him to grasp that relationships take work.

Last night, we had the best visit we’ve had since his treatment began. He was thrilled to see us and knew that he had completed what was required of him in order to make it happen. He had done his part and we had done ours.

Interactions weren’t perfect, and he was still less than truthful when it came to owning up to behaviors during the week. However, I have never seen him so happy.

I believe he experienced the kind of joy you feel when you know you’ve been responsible and done your part.

We played a couple of card games and spent the rest of the time playing Monopoly. It was the first time we’d ever played the game as a family, mostly because I wasn’t sure he would react well to some aspects of the game.

He amazed me, interacting and trading and paying rent and going to jail without flipping out.

I had a foot-in-mouth moment the third time his sister went “straight to jail without collecting $200.”

“I never expected you to end up in jail a bunch of times; I always thought it would be your brother,” I grinned at her.

Then, horrified, I realized what I’d said and slapped a hand over my mouth.

He cut his eyes at me, then cracked up with a true belly laugh.

He patted my arm. “It’s ok, Mom. Don’t feel bad. That was pretty funny.”

For the first time since October, I think perhaps we are making headway.

I know it’s a long road ahead. Expecting things to be perfect (or even to consistently go well) would be ridiculous.

But for the first time in months, I believe we will be able to have game night in our own living room, together. Not tomorrow, but someday.

I have hope, because last night, for a few hours, we had a Monopoly on Happy.

Blogging Joke

Know why Jesus would be great at blogging?

If you correctly guess the answer, I’ll write a post involving your blog. 🙂

And….go!

Hint: he’s got lots of what every blogger wants!

Fun and Games

I just read a blog post from a dad who is committed to making sure he stays connected with his kids. (Click the link; his blog is super.)

His thoughts led me to a few of my own.

We so often focus on getting “quality” time with our kids and doing special things they will remember.

But what do you remember from your childhood? If you have memories of your family doing things together, what is your strongest mental image?

Most of my early memories don’t involve anything elaborate. Many relate to simple things we did each week.

Digging in a sandbox.

Swinging on the backyard set.

Board games on the floor.

We wanted to create similar happy memories with our kids.

When they first came to us, I would have argued that “board games” should just be called “bored.” Or, more accurately, “the quickest way to give yourself a migraine.”

In the beginning, they had zero focus and fought us at every turn (get it…because in games you take a turn…), even when something was supposed to be fun.

However, Hubby and I have fond memories of playing games like Risk and Monopoly, and we’re nothing if not determined. Our kids WILL play games, doggone it.

Brain-numbing (to us) choices like Memory and Guess-Who gave us our first tentative game connections with the kids, and eventually they could make it through a full round of Sorry or Trouble.

Doing puzzles also interested them, although we had to buy puzzles several levels below what you’d expect for their age. As confidence built, the number on the puzzle box rose.

Thanks to my aunts and mom, who often jigsaw when together, the kids saw puzzles as a fun hangout time for adults. This, of course, made the activity more desirable.

Our kiddos recently shocked us by asking for family game night instead of family movie night.

And we played Risk, without any actual casualties.

I call it a win.

Flashback

This is a week of appointments.

Ever since we adopted the kids, my life has involved appointment after appointment.

Doctor’s appointments, counseling appointments, dentist appointments, psychiatric appointments, eye appointments, in-home counseling appointments, testing appointments, occupational therapy appointments, speech therapy appointments…I see you’re getting the idea.

They used to get in the car after school and cheerily ask, “do we have an appointment today?”

They were (and still are) a little bit addicted to appointments because having one meant they got 100% attention from me, hubby, and whatever doctor or therapist might be involved.

They even love the dentist (now THAT’S just crazy).

Thankfully, as the years passed, the number of appointments have diminished in both intensity and frequency.

I added a number of appointments to our calendar over the last month. They all landed on this week, which is beginning to feel something like a flashback.

I managed to schedule routine visits with the doctor for hubby and me, the girl’s eye appointment and counseling appointment, and neurology and rule-out testing appointments for the boy almost all at once.

No idea what I was thinking at the time.

However, this little flashback has given me a moment to realize how thankful I am our life has slowed a bit. I’m not really sure how we survived those first 5 years, when this hectic week was our everyweek.

I am thankful for the reminder that life moves through seasons and everything will change in time.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

New International Reader’s Version (NIRV)

There Is a Time for Everything

There’s a time for everything that is done on earth.There is a time to be born.
And there’s a time to die.
There is a time to plant.
And there’s a time to pull up what is planted.
There is a time to kill.
And there’s a time to heal.
There is a time to tear down.
And there’s a time to build up.
There is a time to weep.
And there’s a time to laugh.
There is a time to be sad.
And there’s a time to dance.
There is a time to scatter stones.
And there’s a time to gather them.
There is a time to embrace someone.
And there’s a time not to embrace.
There is a time to search.
And there’s a time to stop searching.
There is a time to keep.
And there’s a time to throw away.
There is a time to tear.
And there’s a time to mend.
There is a time to be silent.
And there’s a time to speak.
There is a time to love.
And there’s a time to hate.
There is a time for war.
And there’s a time for peace.

Fish Funeral

Both sad and funny. Thought you might like this one.  I wonder if Dorian was gray…

https://aopinionatedman.com/today-my-fish-died/

 

Adoption= Anxiety (Part 3)

Ahhhhhhh….

Neither of my kids

puked

screamed

fought

fainted

got sent to the principal.

They both came home smiling. 

Good day. 🙂

 

 

Adoption= Anxiety Attack

For many moms, the First Day of School is a welcome relief. For moms of special needs kids (adopted or not), the First Day provides relief, but is also a little scary..and is a lot more cause for nail-biting.

I was truly happy to spend time with my kiddos for the last three months, swimming, playing and summer-home-schooling (we focused on math and language arts and they read more than 40 books). I will be just as elated to send them on their way to our really excellent public elementary school on Tuesday.

I’ll also be a nervous wreck. Here’s why:

Three years ago:

The girl frequently Duck-and-Covered under her desk like a child of the 1950s nuclear scare, cried in a corner of the playground and intentionally created a rats-nest-of-insanity on her head by  scrubbing her hands through her hair until she looked like Johnny Depp’s Edward Scissorhands.  The school counselor was very concerned.

The boy escaped school three times, had no fear of his teacher or the in-school behavioral aide sent by social services, and decked another child twice his size–he punched her right in the face. (The teacher, behavioral aide AND her father later told me she was the class bully and deserved it, but still…) The school counselor wasn’t the only one who was very concerned.

Two years ago:

The girl gave up the possibility of nuclear attack and sported a cute new boy-short haircut that was insanely difficult to muss. She did much better behaviorally, but I re-taught her everything in the evenings, as she didn’t absorb  information well at school. If not for the social concerns, we probably would have considered homeschooling.

The boy screamed at his teacher, poured glue on his desk, rolled around in the floor and generally disrupted the class. Again, he escaped the school several times. He scared away three behavioral aides who were (apparently) trained professionals. If not for a very understanding principal, we probably would have considered military school.

Last year:

We held the girl back, and it was just what she needed; she did great in school. Oh, and she fabricated a story (looking for attention from her teacher) that resulted in a Social Services surprise visit to our home…but that’s a story for another post. Thankfully, one of the social workers was very familiar with our situation and our girl’s attachment issues.

The boy made what he calls “A-One-Hundred” when he was focused, and failing grades when he wasn’t. Behaviorally, he had mostly minor problems and slight altercations with other kids, but we were still in the principal’s office a couple times a month and had several notes home per week. Thankfully, we had teachers who cared very much about his success. While they didn’t overlook his behavioral issues, they worked with us to help him grow socially and academically.

This year:

We met both their teachers today. I sent them back into the boy’s classroom for a few minutes while I spoke with the girl’s teacher. He popped back into the doorway to ask, “May I please ask Mrs. L if I can read some of her books?”  The other teacher was impressed. So was I. Impressed and hopeful. Cautiously optimistic.

Oh please oh please oh please oh please… Please let this year be better. Please, please, please let it be the year they find that they love school–or at least that they love learning.

The year they make friends, real friends. The year they find peace. The year they gain confidence. The year they are happy.

And maybe, just maybe, the year I can grow out my nails.

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