A place to be real about a life of chaos, with eight beautiful children, homeschooling, special needs, adoption, sanity or the lack thereof.........a rubber hits the road sort of journey that I thankfully do NOT walk alone!

Friday, October 12, 2012

I am NOT a poet!

I am not a poet...but sometimes when emotions are raw...

So...I sit at the table
My birthday morn
It's Thanksgiving and yet
I'm feeling a bit worn

My blessings are multiple
I'm thankful to be sure
It's just I'm realizing
Are my motivations pure?

People see me...but not
I'm content to blend in
My focus is my family
How could that be a sin?

I selfishly wonder
When today my hopes soar
Will today give me the answers
I'm desperately searching for?

Ironic it seems
Since I know where to look
Some days though I get hung up
And forget to open the Book

The days quickly fill
With the Mom stuff you see
I'm driven to nurture my tribe
Could it be?

That amidst the hustle
And busy, I neglect
The One true source
Deserving all of my respect

So as husband surfs internet
And kids play elsewhere
My birthday insignificant
It seems...should I care?

Absolutely not!
Cause you see
For the glory of God
I raise my family

To do all things for Him
Forgetting self
Will continue to provide
My storehouse of wealth

I am significant to One
And suffice it to say
That is all that I need
He knows it's my birthday

So I sit at the table
My birthday morn
It's Thanksgiving
Grace and mercy...gifts I adorn

Perhaps a rant, but for me a valid way to acknowledge it's been a hard week!
Thanksgiving is what I hope to give daily, but realistically it is sometimes a struggle.   I am, in my quietest moments, clearly aware of my many, many blessings. But... I am human and the struggles
that come all too frequently as I butt heads with the many hidden challenges can overwhelm if I allow them to.    As I ended last week with my birthday and Thanksgiving Day...I gathered my thoughts, reviewed my experiences and created "the new gameplan".   I do this alot...

I am ready to face a new week day,  I do so completely humbled by the plan I can not possibly know, but the purpose I absolutely find comfort in!

Monday, August 13, 2012

From Rage to Reflect

Suffice it to say the "rage" is done....for today....and now...as always I reflect.

Was there something I should have done differently?  What prompted the explosion this time?   Was there really any warning?  How can he become so angry and violent and in 10 minutes apologize?   How do I prevent this from happening again?   ......  Will I ever stop questioning and just accept this?

I read many, many books.   I listened to all the training.   I researched and sought advice from the pediatrician.   I equipped myself...I braced myself... I joined support groups...I let my guard down...Nothing can prepare you until you are forced to fall on your face and recognize this is all beyond your control.  

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is an umbrella term that is used to describe symptoms/effects that present themselves in individuals whose birth mother drank alcohol during pregnancy.   It is often described as the "invisible disability".   Learning disabilities, physical, mental, emotional and behavioural challenges may be included in this umbrella term.   

This spectrum disorder presents in so many ways, manifesting differently in each and every adult and child diagnosed.   Parenting children with this diagnosis is...well...the hardest thing I have ever done.

Thankfully our parenting philosophy is wholly based on nurturing each child to reach his/her own potential.   Parenting our children with this diagnosis does however go against the grain of almost every other plan or expectation we had before our adopted children were born in our hearts.   Gone is the one approach fits all disciplinary techniques.   Gone is the one size fits all teaching.  Gone too are any expectations that what is taught today will be adhered to and understood tomorrow.  Gone is the ability to predict behaviours.   Gone therefore is every ounce of preparation for parenthood.

Flying by the seat of my pants is just. not. my. comfort zone. when it comes to leading and nurturing, teaching, guiding, modelling, and dreaming about my children's future.   This is my life lesson daily and believe me...I enter into this involuntary teaching kicking and screaming....it's just not the way it's "supposed" to be.

There are so many effects that I see in our affected children that I feel I have capably dealt with over the last eleven years.   The warning label did say this would get harder but I pushed through depending on my "I can handle anything" drive.   This has been what's saved my bacon many times as I draw on the patience that I am so thankful for.   You need to know my prayers multiple times a day start like this....."Oh God....MORE PATIENCE .... please."  But...admittedly as time goes on I am humbled daily by the necessity to call out to God ... alot!   I am not capable of this alone.

Some days are just. so. hard.

Yesterday I intercepted a raging, violent boy as he ran up the back yard yelling at his brother, calling him an obscenity he doesn't even understand and threatening to kill him.   This as the offending sibling stood at the bottom of the yard responding with loud pronouncements of how much of a "jerk" he was and then with complete apathy carrying on with no comprehension of his involvement in the altercation.   Today I was screeched at...slapped, kicked and told to shut up.   I repeated instructions for proper hand washing four different times after using the washroom to the same child, described why it is we don't advise perfect strangers on the way to the library what our address is and why we also don't tell them where we play and when our Dad goes to work.   I made a separate meal for the same child that refuses supper every day, primed and prepped repeatedly as we transitioned through simple things like dressing for the day, packing up toys, meals, play, chores, errands and preparing for bedtime with multiple countdowns as we approached "the time".   I doled out multiple medications three times as I do every day....this is perhaps one of the most difficult choices we had to make and... I cried...

I have realized today that I have tried the withdrawal method of coping with this.   Quite simply, I have tried to keep everyone here safe from judgement.   I was once the guilty one who quietly questioned why a parent didn't have better control over their children, why a child could possibly behave that way if they were being raised in a loving home with appropriate rules and example...

I have chosen to "try" to avoid the explanations...avoid the potential of one of "those" outbursts in public...and perhaps even avoid admitting this is really tough. 

The future is unpredictable...I've often said that makes this journey exciting and it does.   I am as equipped as I am meant to be and I am doing what I believe I am called to do...not just a cliche but rubber hits the road TRUE!  I am so very very thankful for my faith and for the tears that just make me human.   God's grace is perfect for me and for those I love...

...so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
Colossians 1:10-12


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Blessings worth the "fight"!


 Today was a crazy day of running around and of course celebrating!   

C was patiently waiting for cake and presents at the end of the day when we could all be together.    Patiently perhaps a bit tongue in cheek as this is definitely not a word this little guy comprehends!   A typical day starts with whining and demanding and ends with arguments of NOT sleeping!   It may sound ridiculous but when I have survived the day of multiple behavioural challenges I am actually extremely thankful for this test of sanity.     All medical reports pointed towards autism, FASD, and many other developmental delays at 13 months of age and we were truly unsure what his future held.

When we first became aware that C even existed we had just completed our sixth adoption and closed our file at the agency believing at least briefly that our family was complete.    News of one of our existing sons having a biological brother that was in need of an adoptive family  was needless to say "unexpected"!     We determined quite quickly that we would apply to be considered this adoptive family.   I prepared a lengthy letter describing our family and the importance of preserving biological bonds between siblings, our parenting philosophy and all that we felt important as we raised our seven children with a holistic approach encouraging them to meet their individual potential.   We had no idea what was in store but knew that we could be this forever family of security and love for this little boy!

The agency responsible for finding C a forever home did not respond to our letter and sent instead a letter to our local agency advising they would be pursuing another family.   We could not understand the lack of communication or the decision to refuse our invitation to come to our home and meet us, talk with the other children and at least consider our application.    We soon came to realize that the reason we were not to be considered was that we had seven children and C would present with many risk factors that would require "better attention than we could provide".   All this without even speaking to us on the phone!

The heartbreak we felt for our son and the grieving over the loss of a significant biological bond between these two brothers was overwhelming for us and we felt they both deserved our best efforts to ensure that we had at least made every attempt to ensure this significant bond could be nurtured.    We understood all too well how biological bonds between siblings was a very important part of their identity especially as they grew and the questions about their "beginnings" surfaced.    We had at the time five other children from two sibling groups that had each in their own way drawn on these significant relationships as we were watching them grow and mature.   We appealed this decision to a provincial board and a trial was set for October of 2009.   

Very little time was allowed for preparation but I spent the next several weeks researching documents at the university library on attachment,  large families and special needs,  subpoenaing witnesses and preparing several binders with questions for my witnesses and cross examination questions....all for a child we hadn't even seen a picture of!!!     I am not a lawyer nor had I any experience on this end of a trial!   I had taken the stand at several custody trials for our existing adopted children but nothing had prepared me for this journey.

I received a package in the mail from their lawyer and it suddenly became too real!   Day one of the trial arrived and although overwhelmed and plagued with little sleep I was sure I couldn't have prepared any more than I had.    Day one .... the most stressful day of my life I'm sure!    The agency had brought a court stenographer and their lawyer, microphones, tape recorders and I was intimidated!   I think in retrospect that was likely the point!   The three panel members that would ultimately determine our future sat stone faced at one end of the room and my husband and I sat facing the opposing agency and their lawyer.    I introduced and questioned my witnesses and then listened as they were cross examined and every aspect of our lives, private and otherwise debated!    The next two days were full of "objections" and questions about whether information should or shouldn't be admissible......finally and I mean FINALLY the panel advised the other lawyer he was being unreasonable and that I was not a lawyer.    The icing on the cake came as I prepared for my closing arguments.   I opened my binder to my three page closing and took a deep cleansing breath to begin......three words came out of my mouth and the lawyer objected citing that I had not provided them a copy of this information and I could not therefore "read" from it......good grief......the panel discussed quietly and advised me that unfortunately to stay to the letter of the law I had to deliver my close without reading it.    I understand now they were being so diligent in order to prevent any kind of appeal that would further delay C's placement.    I prayed, breathed and started what turned out to be better, clearer closing arguments than I had prepared....Thank you God!    We left the room at the end unsure of the results and were told we would receive their ruling via courier within 10 days.    Never before had I been required to leave something so totally and completely in God's hands....a true test.... 

A 23 page ruling arrived in our favour....not only did it stipulate we were to be considered an adoptive applicant but that C was to be placed in our home!    They stipulated this was to be done in a timely fashion in order to prevent further unnecessary delay in providing him the loving home he so deserved!    We were floored and fully believe this process was part of what was necessary to continue to prepare us for our future with C and the ongoing uncertainty with many of the other children.    Strength is drawn continually from God!!!

Almost three years later we celebrate him!    He is NOT autistic and communicates continually!  (any translating is done in house!)   His joints were once floppy but now he's just extremely flexible!  :)   There are a whole host of things we will continue to deal with behaviourally and medically probably forever but none of these impact more than the blessing he is to us!!!

Romans 5:2-5 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.



Friday, August 3, 2012

10 people and 2000 sq. feet!

In just two weeks we will have lived here for 12 years!!! I can't believe it has been that long!

It seems like yesterday we were debating the importance of refinishing the floors before we moved in or fencing the yard. The yard won and the floors...well, they still aren't done. Our biggest concerns then were which of the three extra bedrooms would M choose and how long would it take us to refurbish each room of the house to transform it into our dream home. Back then there were only three of us, two dogs and two cats and a whole lot of space! The irony of those long ago simple decisions is not lost on me.

Today there are ten of us, two dogs, four cats, a rabbit, a cockatiel, and most recently a very tiny baby field mouse in "rehab" from the clinic thanks to our Dr. Doolittle daughter.

Everybody enjoys  must share a room and it's a bit tight!   The 18 and 16 year old girls share the smallest room with the rabbit, cockatiel and somewhat neurotic diabetic long haired cat.   It used to be the art room when my grandparents lived here, a place where my grandfather at some point sat quietly to his easel reflecting on the sailboat and sunset in progress.  Quite a shocking contrast to the bubble gum pink room with brown accents often the epicenter of loud music.  The other two girls (14 and 11) share the next room.   It used to be an army room where the boys slept but as became the norm, more boys came and the bigger room was necessary for them.   The girls tolerate the army green walls with only intermittent requests for something "girly"....at least we removed the camo netting from the ceiling!   The three oldest boys (13, 10, and 7) share the old "office".   It is currently a lovely shade of sunshine yellow with bright orange cupboards....fair is fair I suppose!    Finally...there is the master suite bedroom...the once "only room in the house where a retreat to close the door even for that short while until found" allowed for a moment to collect or at least prep for the next parent child interaction and.... you guessed it....if you're counting heads is now a shared room with our almost four year old son!

Life is ... an adventure!!

We have one full bath upstairs with a small tub and a hand held shower thingy that works well enough for the older children but has resulted in many water park type adventures when placed in the hands of a smaller child!   Our kitchen ceiling bears the scars of these "fun times"!    The main floor has a living room, dining room and kitchen with an added sunroom on the back that houses all of our homeschooling books, extra computers, and (thank you IKEA) organizing bins for each child's school books and assorted prized collections.   Oh...I almost forgot the two piece bath off the kitchen...still the silliest place for a bathroom I figure!

No basement!...well except for the furnace and antiquated, no longer functioning cast iron water softening system my grandfather conjured up fit for a submarine with all its valves and shut offs....all of which are seized.   Ah and yes the 18 inch dirt crawl space under the kitchen.

We love our house....really we do....well we especially love our yard!   It's big and outdoors and plenty large enough for everyone to do their own thing without getting into someone else's personal space!   This is worth it.

Close quarters is what we know and although we have had fleeting moments of house hunting and addition planning, either finances or the mere thought of having to prepare our home for showing/sale have been a deterrent.    It's not so bad here.   I have to admit watching my parents pack and prepare for a move to their new custom built home next week after 32 years did spur on renewed dreams of three or four bathrooms and my own bedroom for goodness sakes but this isn't in the cards....at least not for now.

So.....in the mean time to help preserve my sanity, I compiled a list of the benefits for our family to live in these 2000 square feet!

1.   Friction...manifest in sibling squabbles and normal disagreement require resolution.   It is far more difficult to remain angry and continue to hold a grudge when around every corner you run into the "offending" person!   Living so closely encourages problem resolution in a timely fashion!

2.  Responsibility and accountability are if not self correcting they are sibling corrected!   If you aren't pulling your weight it undoubtedly affects someone else.   Ultimately it's easier to take care of the job or else put up with reminders X9!

3.  Tolerance!   We have a houseful of "needs" special and just plain natural!!   It behooves us all to become somewhat tolerant of these needs and when that isn't an option, create built in coping mechanisms to make living together at least a little easier.

4.  Involved with compassion!   As siblings living so closely together there isn't much happen that several if not all become aware of like it or not!   This allows for increased compassion for the lumps and bumps life dishes.   The children are acutely aware of gender differences and ultimately will be better equipped for future life.   Boys understand deal with mood changes and sensitive nature and the girls appreciate  tolerate the physical approach to life with one track thinking.   Both in temperment and physical needs/differences this will be beneficial.  eg.  my boys future wives will thank me for their sensitivity resulting from growing up with 5 women!!

5.  Clear understanding of want vs. need.   Now, I am not so naive as to believe they don't still "want" lots they don't get, but certainly the lesson of patience and the ability to deter the need for instant gratification even if only fleetingly is learned. 

6.  Stimulation, laughter, and bonding.   The children have no lack of stimulation.   It is by their choice to have nothing to do!   There are always options and laughter is never far away!  The older children influence the younger children in more ways when they interact so frequently.   In most cases this is a benefit!   Sometimes these "in your face" interactions work to smooth the somewhat rough edges of a given child's temperment.   There are those teenage years where intermittent moments of....ummm....lets just say we try and minimize the influence sometimes!

7.  The give and take lesson!   Our children will hopefully learn to give more than take.   That's the hope anyway.   It's just easier....and serving is part of how our family unit functions.    Serving each other in many ways as a family prepares them to be motivated to serve others.    It just feels good!

8.  Appreciate quiet.   The children all have learned to appreciate "me-time" and seek out those precious times without the unhealthy desire to lock themselves in their room.   Peacefulness is a welcome reward from the chaos.

Some days this seems pie in the sky but that just makes me "normal".

Today I choose contentment....


Monday, July 30, 2012

Olympic Observation

There's nothing like a weekend of Olympic spectating to bring on thoughts of "would-a", "should-a", "could-a"!   

I'm not an avid television viewer but there is just something special about the Olympics.   We taped the opening ceremonies and watched them as a family Friday evening while eating pizza.   The younger children were convinced the Queen had really just jumped out of the helicopter! Fun!   It was a great show and following the entrance of the first few athletes (let's face it .... that part is a little boring!)  the kids had some excellent questions about how old they all were, what makes them special, what an opportunity, where are they from etc.   It was a great combination of some world geography, inspiration and motivation!

But for this Mom I have to be honest when I say it may have caused me to stop a moment and contemplate how much time I have "wasted" in my life.   I mean, just look at some of these kids (yes I am now old enough even "20-30 somethings" seem like "kids"), and what they have accomplished!   Wow!   Some of these athletes are only 15 years old!   On the surface it would seem my life in comparison was a tad lame!   How easy it is to define who we are by the accomplishments and awards of others.

Without a doubt these athletes deserve much respect for the thousands of hours and often many years of dedicated training...blood, sweat and tears as it were!    But we all are not destined to Olympic Gold by these parameters.   Funny, as I was explaining how hard these athletes had trained and how we have all been blessed with some gift or another I quickly found myself teaching my kids a lesson I perhaps should heed.

Thoughts including "If only I had finished my degree at university I would have..." and "I should have pursued...and then..." and "I could have done..." are a senseless waste of time.   It seems easier when it is a mother life lesson to one of my children!  

Being a mom is not for the faint of heart.   I have put in thousands of hours, in fact many years of honing the many skills that I have.    I have bled, and sweat and cried and will no doubt continue to do so for many more years!    I have hurdled toys while gracefully negotiating my living room en route to a screaming child, fenced many matches with a battery powered light sabre, weight lifted heavy sleeping children up the stairs to their beds, synchronized the lives of 10 people, rowed across a lake when the motor died in the rain, wrestled many children in an effort to prevent bodily harm to a sibling, and let's face it, live a marathon that is my life every single day!!

So...my conclusion is simply this...aside from my recommendation that Mothering should certainly be on the docket for the next Olympics and most certainly gold medals should be awarded :)...but that the importance of being content with where you are is absolutely paramount!


I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
2 Timothy 4:7