Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

From a beautiful butterfly.

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With a little bit of attitude.

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From a sweet little ladybug.

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From a dangerous ninja.

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From the Phantom and Christine.

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From Go Go Samurai.

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From a morph.

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And from Josiah.

Who chose to canvas for money for the Mosaic Centre that cares for the homeless, instead of asking for candy.

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Friday, October 26, 2012

Spirit of Adoption Alberta

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Tonight, Susan and I will be heading to Calgary to speak at Centre Street Church tomorrow morning at an adoption information session. These seem to be the majority of events that we are being invited to speak at and this is good because our first goal is to provide financial aid to families who really need it.

This doesn't help us raise funds though. Finances are trickling in slowly and people are starting to "catch" our vision. We understand that this will take time. We are starting to receive applications and this is very exciting! We know that God will provide. You can check out Susan's latest blog post on the Spirit of Adoption Alberta website.

On Sunday, we will be speaking at McKernan Baptist Church here in Edmonton and this will be more of a seeking financial donation talk.

I have to say that this is a crazy weekend for me to be gone. The kids have a thousand activities. Thankfully, we have a teenage driver who is willing to help her Dad out.

We are asking for prayer in all these areas. I felt like I was under a bit of a spiritual attack after our last session. The kids went crazy on me the next week and I was having nightmares, which I never have! I feel at peace going into this weekend, but would still appreciate prayer.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Bedtime Prayer

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Zoe's Bedtime Prayer:

First I fold my hands, then I close my eyes, I talk to God and He hears me...

Thank you God for Mommy, Daddy, Abby, Joe, Eli, Micah, Zoe, Lilah and Silas in China.

Thank you for Grandma and Grandpa, Auntie Dixie, Auntie Melanie, baby Joshua, Auntie Kelsey, Uncle John, Sam, Annika and Carter.

Thank you for unicorns and for the fireworks.

Thank you for my great family and that my heart isn't breaking anymore.

Amen.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Six month update

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Silas went and saw his Neurosurgeon again for his six month check up.

He was barely home the last time we saw the Doctor and so he couldn't really communicate yet and hadn't had an MRI.

We were able to see the MRI and everything looked amazing. The Doctor continues to be stunned about how well Silas is doing and he was amazed by the results of the MRI. He did say he wished he could have the information about Silas' surgery in China because everything just looks so good. The Chinese surgeon did an amazing job.

It is highly unlikely that Silas will ever have a tethered cord or scoliosis. His spine is very straight and just curves slightly at the bottom. He has fluid around the spine where his surgery was, so getting hit in the back should not be an issue. He was given the go ahead to do any activities he wants.

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We will only go see the surgeon once a year from now on. We still need to watch for any changes or long term pain, but his diagnosis is great! We went into his adoption with complete faith, not knowing what we would get regarding his Spina Bifida. Silas was on the special focus list for five months, with nobody looking at his file. And here he is, home and healthy!

Monday, October 15, 2012

A bit of Psychology: {Part II}

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So it seems that I have two little girls on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to the trauma that they have experienced in their pasts. In Part I, I talked a lot about Lilah and her diagnosis of an Anxiety Disorder and how this shows itself in her everyday life. But we also have Zoe, who shows her insecurities through Hyperactivity. Zoe has been much easier to deal with. When she feels something, good or bad, she lets it out. She will run around yelling and laughing with pure joy or she will lay down on the ground and kick, scream and yell out exactly what the problem is. With Zoe, the reactions are short and she moves on quickly.

We are doing the exact same exercises with both girls, as our psychologist told me that it should work for both of them.

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This chart shows that a child should be in a relaxed state most of the time. On one end we have a child with anxiety and on the other end we have a physically aggressive child with ADHD like symptoms...

So our goal right now is to get both girls into a relaxed state throughout the day. When they start to go one way or the other, the exercises we are using should be something that they can turn to when they recognize their anxiety (or hyperactivity) rising... and these exercises are skills that they can use throughout life. We attempt to do some of these a couple of times a day, but always right before bed.

One of our biggest struggles has been bedtime. The girls get very riled up. They will not settle. It doesn't matter how many times you go in and talk to them, they continue with the same disobedience over and over and over. Since we started our new routine, this has changed dramatically. By the time we are done, they are calmer and more settled and willing to just go to sleep.

The thing with anxiety is that it is carried physically. Often causing nightmares, headaches, stomach aches, back aches... a child should never have creases in their forehead, knots along their spine or jaw tension (grinding of teeth). Their facial skin should be soft, pink and somewhat glossy. Their lips should be moist, not pale and dry. Their belly should be soft. Their shoulders should be even.

When a child is always anxious, their pain tolerance is very high because they are always in some level of pain and they are just used to it. Lilah is definitely this way... we have found through her surgeries, that she is one tough girl, rarely asking for any pain medication.

Before we begin our nightly routine, the girls have a bath or a dip in the hot tub.

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1. Yoga

A lot of people may not agree with the idea of Yoga, but really, these are just the stretching exercises we use to relieve tension in the back, legs and shoulders and to get into a relaxed state both mentally and physically.

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A couple of times a day, we pull out our Yoga mats and do the exact same routine, to the exact same music. We do positions like Happy Cat, Angry Cat, Downward Dog, Childs Pose, etc. Lilah thrives on this and cooperates very well. If we are busy, she will ask to do Yoga. I see a huge difference in Lilah and how this brings her into a very relaxed state, very quickly. With Zoe, this is always difficult. It is hard for her to lay still for so long, to be relaxed and calm. It takes constant reminders for her to stay in her positions, to not fidget, to not fix her mat, to close her eyes, to focus.

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One of the physical signs of anxiety is lack of balance. Lilah cannot balance well during our exercises. On the other hand, Zoe, if she concentrates, can. And yet, in the everyday activities, Lilah doesn't trip and fall, but Zoe is constantly tripping and falling. This shows us that when Zoe is in a relaxed state, she can achieve this goal, but in her every day hyperactivity, she cannot. This also shows that when Lilah is put on the spot to do such a position, her anxiety rises.

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The last minute of the song that we use, we lay on our mats, close our eyes, relax our bodies and focus on the music (corpse pose). This is where I can see them finally calm themselves. I often have to remind them to focus on the music, to focus on the cellos (I think they are cellos!). Instead of focussing on ourselves (which Yoga is often about) we focus on Jesus through the song that we have chosen. To me Yoga is a mental state and can only be what you chose it to be.

There is no talking. There is no laughing and goofing around. There is no jumping up and running around afterwards. I try to keep them calm and quiet all the way through these next steps.

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2. The Ball

After we complete our yoga, Lilah will roll gently and slowly on her stomach on the exercise ball, head down. This releases tension in her belly. It is a way to give herself a little massage. Something that she can learn to use in the future, when she starts to recognize tension and pain.

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She will then sit on the ball and roll slightly, remaining calm. While she is doing this, Zoe and I are deep breathing together. Then we switch. I also use this ball during the day, especially for Zoe, when she gets out of control, as a way of calming her down for a few minutes.

3. The Feather

We do six deep breathes with a feather placed in front of the nose. In through the nose, out through the mouth. The feather gives them something to focus on and the movement of the feather shows how long and deep their breaths are.

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Lilah does not like this exercise. She instantly fiddles with her shirt and hands.


4. Music

I was told to always use the same song when doing our exercises. The brain then knows that when this song is playing it is time to wind down. I have chosen the song I Will Be Still by Young Oceans. I am addicted to all their music!

5. Massage/Scent

Once in bed, I massage the girls with Lavender Baby Lotion. I massage along the spine, where tension knots form, and the back of the neck and skull. I then massage behind the ears and between the eyes, across the forehead. And finally, I massage around the belly button.

With Zoe, this doesn't work well. She laughs and giggles. I cannot massage her jaw line and my massage with her has to be very light and slow. As soon as I massage her forehead she relaxes.


6. Warm Buddies

I bought these warm buddies, but you can use any type of hot pad. After the massage, I place their bears on their tummies, tuck them in and say goodnight!

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So we are doing this for a month and then will go back to the Psychologist and reassess.

I think we all experience anxiety on some level, that we are all on the spectrum to some degree and that these types calming exercises can be beneficial to us all when needed. This is why I liked this Psychologist so much, because to me, this all seems very common sense.

Friday, October 12, 2012

A bit of Psychology: {Part I}

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Just let me say here... I am not a psychologist! This post is just about our struggles and processes to healing trauma in our girls lives. If anyone can read this, and relate with their child, I hope that it can help them.

So last week I went to see a psychologist regarding Lilah's behaviour and how best to deal with it all. This is the second psychologist that we have seen. The first one I did not click with, she seemed really aloof and opinionated, not so compassionate... This was a psychologist who works with a foster/adoption organization. I just have to say... trust your instincts.

The second psychologist is amazing! She has thirty years experience with attachment and behavorial issues with adoptive children. She believes that there are no non-special needs adoptions, as all these children have dealt with loss in their lives and that 98% of children will have developmental, behavorial or attachment issues at some point in their lives. Especially once they hit puberty.


I found this example recently on this blog and even though I may not understand the complexities of the human brain, it made total sense to me. A child attaches within the first 8 months of their lives. For Lilah, she changed caregivers four times in her first 8 months of life. And by 24 months old, she changed once more when she was taken from her foster family and placed with us.

We had a very difficult time with Lilah from Day one and in the first few months with her, we knew she was suffering from post traumatic stress.

1. She clung to my husband and refused to come near me the first couple of weeks. She would actually scream and panic if I came near.

- I always thought that this was because I was the one to take her from the nannies arms, the one who took her from the family she loved and wanted to be with, the one they told her was her Mama, when in her head she already had a Mama.

- The psychologist said she doesn't believe these were the reasons for her choosing my husband over me. She believes that Lilah wasn't attached to her foster family as strongly as we thought. She clung to them, out of fear and anxiety. The same way she clung to my husband.

2. She was hyper vigilant. She would not sleep alone and woke up every 20 minutes for the first few months, to make sure we were still there. She physically clung to us while sleeping.

- This just about drove us over the edge after awhile. But we took our time and gave Lilah what she needed in this area and eventually she would stay asleep longer and then was also willing to move into her own room and crib.

- We have learned that Lilah never feels truly safe. She is always on guard. She is a restless sleeper and although she never wakes up saying she has had a nightmare, it is very likely she is having them.


3. Food Issues. Not your typical food issues with most children that come out of an orphanage. Lilah was in foster care and we believe was given everything she wanted and that she didn't have to do anything she didn't want to. Lilah was very skinny when we got her and her hair was unhealthy, showing us she wasn't getting the proper nutrients. She refused to eat fruit and vegetables. She would only eat meat and starches. We took our time with this issue, but after awhile slowly started getting her to eat the foods she needed to be healthy. This was a constant battle. There were times she would sit and refuse to eat for HOURS. She would SCREAM. We persevered and eventually (seriously-- this means years) she was willing to eat almost anything and now even asks for fruit and veggies. Now she will tell me all the fruit and veggies that she loves.


4. The screaming. For three years now, we have listened to Lilah cry and scream for every little thing. You would think we were torturing her. If she has to clean up toys... she screams. If she has a time out... she screams. If she has to go to the bathroom and has to wait... she screams. If she is too hot... she screams. This is finally starting to get a bit better as she is maturing, but we have gotten to the point that when she does cry, we feel nothing. No compassion. We are just so tired of it.

- Lilah withdraws. She is a very anxious child. Waiting for the next bad thing to happen at any given time. Losing her control. She bottles all of these feelings up inside, and then will suddenly lose it when these situations arise.

- She shuts down. You can talk to her and look at her and see that she is not there. She cannot concentrate on what you are saying. She cannot repeat what you are telling her. The psychologist says that her brain is likely going into her past. And not that she will ever be able to verbalize what she is thinking, just that she is going back to the traumatic times that she encountered.

- The screaming is her way of finally letting all these emotions out the only way she knows how.

So after meeting with the Psychologist for our first meeting (me alone) she has come to the conclusion that Lilah has an Anxiety Disorder due to trauma.

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5. Anxiety. I can now see that Lilah is a very anxious child. I can say something to another child and Lilah instantly comes to attention to see if I am talking to her. When she comes to say sorry (a rule in our house is that you come and say sorry to whoever you have wronged, and say what you are sorry for) she whispers and fidgets with her hands and clothes. You can see her fear and nervousness. And yet you do not see true remorse. Her emotions are blunted (dissociation) and she really doesn't care, she just wants to get out of this situation.

Just let me say here, that she is also a very stubborn and intelligent child. A lot of her behaviour comes out of her stubbornness and refusing to cooperate, just because she doesn't want to. We can battle over something for hours, and when I finally get her to tell me why she refused to do what was asked of her, she will shrug and say, "I just didn't want to."

There are other situations where I see her anxiety rise. When she is put on the spot. When she is asked to do something by someone she doesn't really know. When she is asked to do something she just doesn't want to do.

- Lilah needs control in her life. She is very smart and has learned to manipulate people, controlling her surroundings. She always has to know what is going on and what is coming next.

I need to say that although life with Lilah is very up and down, she usually is a happy and joyful child. People who do not live in our home have no idea how she usually behaves. She is outgoing, she makes friends easily, she does well in school, she loves to sing and dance and learn her violin. But I see that these only occur in situations where she feels in control, when she makes the decision that it is okay and when I tell her that she will be okay.

As a mother, I have often asked myself why can't I help her, why can't she trust us? What am I doing wrong? It was reassuring to hear the psychologist tell me that we have done a great job so far!

So how do we go about changing all this behaviour? Part II will explain the techniques we are starting to use with her (and Zoe too!) to lower her anxiety, build attachment and trust and to relieve some of the physical pain she is in.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

First Snow

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We are just so lucky, where we live, that we get our first snow in early October. *Insert sarcasm* Luckily, it is suppose to warm up again, so this shouldn't last long!

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We are pretty sure that Silas has never experienced snow. He woke up this morning, saw the snow and was super excited.

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We had talked to him about snow and he of course, had no idea what we were talking about. But the other kids were excited, so he was too.

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I took him out this morning to check it out. "It is cold mommy!" I tried to tell him that this is nothing. It is not really cold here until your nose freezes shut and your eyelashes turn white.

As least someone is enjoying the snow!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sunday Snapshot: {Big Kids}

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I almost forgot about these photos from our camping trip in August. They were on our laptop and my husband is about to clean it off, so he asked me to check which photos I wanted to keep.

These were definitely keepers.

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They are all taken in small town Rosebud. A town full of old buildings, old farm equipment and old benches.

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We were about to go to a dinner theatre and so the kids were all looking pretty decent for campers, and were actually up for some photos.

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I always seem to be posting about my three little ones, so this time, I am happy to get to post about my four bigger ones!

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This sweet boy of mine is growing and growing quickly. Every two months we shop for new pants, he grew two inches since school started on September 4th!

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What a blessing these kids are in this family. How they have accepted their littlest siblings with open arms and hearts always amazes me.

I am joining in on Sunday Snapshot.

Ni Hao Yall

Wednesday, October 3, 2012