Saturday, February 21, 2015

FASD: What a Lack of Cause Effect Learning Might Look Like in The Middle Of The Night......

It's 2am - a child wanders into my room and stands next to my bed until I say the magic words which I have uttered a hundred or more times to them in this exact situation......"please say something so that I will know that you need me.'

"My head is hot."
"OK. Come close enough for me to feel your body.  Are you sick?"
"No"
"Did you have your head under the covers?"
"Yes."
"Are there lots and lots (like 4 down comforters )of them?"
"Yes."
"OK. Go back to bed, don't put your head under the blankets and only use one of the comforters over your body,  I think you have too many for tonight,"
"OK."

Repeat again the next night.
And the next night.
And the next night.
Talking about it in the morning or at bedtime may or may not effect the outcome and sometimes things are learned.  But I have often been baffled by how to live with and teach individuals who are strongly affected by the inability to learn or change behavior based on cause-effect patterns.

It's just hard to live in our world and not understand why the water overflows if you leave the sink on or your brother hits you if you poke him in the eye.  And it's even harder to not blame/shame/and accuse those who don't understand in our own stupid ignorance of what is going on (or not going on) inside their heads.

I think that living without cause/effect must make everything look utterly random, chaotic, unconnected and especially with things like discipline - scary.  After all - if cause-effect isn't connecting....then why should school performance affect my ability to play high school sports?  Or my grades affect my ability to go to college? Or my attitude toward my boss affect my ability to keep my job? It's all totally unrelated and feels as if they are being unfairly persecuted.

There is no magic answer to 'fix' this particular problem - but you can help by finding ways of explaining life that don't use if/then as the basis of logic.....but it takes practice and lots of patience as you learn to look at why things happen in a totally new way.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Living with Challenging Behavior: Reality and Knives.....

The last time I saw my kitchen knives laid out in a drawer like this was February 2011.  That cold February night  I realized that something had shifted in our household and I no longer felt it was either wise or safe to leave out an array of sharp items for uncontrolled hands to latch onto in moments of panic or anger.  So I bought my first locking safe on clearance at Target and began a journey into safety plans, psychiatry, medication and a new life where even kitchen scissors became suspect and closely monitored.

This weekend I realized that we have shifted again.  The spiraling instability and chaos that was our trademark for the past 4 years has leveled out and I am ready to try lowering the level of behavioral  management. It's not a random decision.  I started slowly with evaluating  medication adjustments for stabilization - even to the extent of being able to remove many that were necessary in the past to help us deal with anxiety and fear but are not needed now.  I have evaluated risks and watched patterns emerge that show maturity and better coping skills in some of my more challenging kiddos and most of all I have watched with hope for opportunities to make improvements.  Circling and limiting freedom when needed and opening up the boundaries and loosening my hold as growth and ability matched new skills.

Taking the knives out of the lock box and putting them in our kitchen drawer may seem a small thing to many of you (and I am not putting out the big butchers or chefs knives yet- I'm not THAT crazy) - but rounding this corner and realizing that living with FASD/RAD/ADHD/DD/ASD and a plethora of other descriptive letter combinations means finding joy and a cause for celebration in these small signs of hope.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Turbo Tax State Drama 2015 ....

Wednesday the State of MN accepted my on-line Turbo Tax prepared 2014 filing....Thursday AM this story was released which made public the states decision to  longer accept turbotax elctronicaly prepard returns because there was some sort of privacy breech that led to fraud concerns.  This article published the 6th helps clarify what is happening and why - and for those of us who had returns accepted before the shut down it's a simple game of 'wait and see' to discover if we have been hacked, will be audited or if we skate through unharmed.

As a survivor of the 2010 Adoption Tax Refund Audit nightmare  I am anticipating that this is likely to be a much more complex problem then it appears in these first few days.  Call me a pessimist - and I hope I am wrong.

Really I do. 
Because the mess could be monumental.

And as one of the flag waving - horn sounding wackos - who first identified the problems with how Turbo Tax was computing the Carry Forward Adoption Tax Credits back in 2009/2010 (prior to them being refundable) and the ensuing wave of 1040x's and 8839's that were filed to clear up all that Turbo Tax mess before the 2010 filing- I'm just a little wary of how TurboTax and our taxing agencies work out their problems.

For now - I'm watching my return status and keeping my tax documents close at hand in case I have the opportunity to be one of those lucky ones who meets with the audit teams.

Update:  As of 3:00pm today.....mn is again accepting Turbo Tax filings. :)

Thursday, February 5, 2015

No More Fear......

Fear is an amazing emotional response. I have lived with a tangled thread of fear running through my own life long enough to know many of the various shades, forms, flavors and disguises it likes to take.  Fear is not healthy.  Fear is not Biblical.  Fear is not safe.  Fear can slowly creep up on a person and rot away the roots of faith and stability even as it robs us of joy. Fear is a taker that leaves emptiness.

But I am done listening to the siren-song of fear.   I don't need to focus on the waves of trouble lapping at my chest - even if the furnace shuts down/the 15 pass van needs tires/ the dryer is full of blue ink/the light in the bathroom shorts out/ there are some serious relational issues to be faced and a chicken runs past screaming that the sky is falling.

Nope.

Because those are pretty silly daily problems at my house this week.  Almost to the point of being called insignificant....except for the chicken.  That would be a little unusual since the neighbors who raise them live a block away and it's the middle of a deep freeze around here that could kill them. But whatever......I have to remember that my life will always....ALWAYS be filled  with irritations and trouble and things which will tempt me to fear.  Shoot - that's pretty much what the Bible promises when I really read it isn't it?  But it also promises is that I don't need to be afraid because I will never be alone - no matter how deep the water or how high the waves -  Christ is with me and he is stronger than any of my fears or fantasies about squawking, doom-projecting chickens.

Monday, January 5, 2015

2014: The Year of Remembering What Blessed Means............

When we are truly blessed our happiness is independent of our circumstances. It is self-contained, meaning that regardless of what is happening to us externally, we can be truly happy internally. We can be genuinely blessed as followers of Jesus Christ living out the way He has called us to...even if the walls fall down, the earth shakes and everything we think is true about our world flips on its head.
(summarized, ripped apart, rewritten and probably remembered wrongly from a devotional  I read on Harvest Ministries - but they are where I first read it so I credit them.)
 
Last year I learned what it meant first hand to be Blessed.
 
To be truly happy-
in the hardest places.
 
Regardless
of if I got what I wanted
or what was 'right'
or even what 'should' be.
 
Aside
from if I was healthy or sick
tired or rested
cherished or forgotten.
 
Because it wasn't about what was happening in my world - my circumstances. It was all about my relationship and happiness in Christ.
 
Not that it was a sudden transition - like lightening - but a slow process more like the March melting of the thickest winter ice - where my hope transferred from a false place of trust ( in man) back to a rock solid foundation in the unshakable, unchanging Christ.
 
And I moved from the place of constantly focusing on the good and bad of the situation - to the awesome awareness of how truly Blessed I am at all times
Because of the One who is I Am.
 
And because I am very likely to forget and need the constant reminder....I have added Blessed to my left arm.  Beloved on my right - Blessed on my left - I am hemmed in by truth and hold that amazing peace that surpasses all understanding.
 
 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

My One Word For This Season..........

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
Matthew 7:7-8

This is the word written on my heart as I face the 'next' things in life....
behind it are
-be bold
-be courageous
 -do not fear
simply trust (in God)
take a deep breath
and ask.

Monday, December 29, 2014

How Can We Help The Qualls?

Saturday morning, the lives of our real-life friends the Qualls of Idaho spun into a new and unexpected place as their vehicle hit an icy patch on the road and the life of their teen daughter ended in a sudden tragic collision.  Many of you know them from Lisa's blog One Thankful Mom or various adoption related connections.

Today - their lives continue.  Dealing with the details of life, planning their precious daughters funeral,  facing and feeling the first layers of grief as they wash through each member of the family and remembering along the way the tiny details that keep each of their individual lives running as well - prescriptions to be picked up, movies to be returned and rent to be paid as the first of January approaches.

The oldest of the Qualls kiddos has spent the last 2.5 years woven into our family here in Minnesota while she works through her medical residency in the cities. This loss feels like family to us -  it makes me want to run to them to do something....anything...to carry part of the burden because I can see that it is overwhelming.

But that just isn't a reasonable idea. Especially since my own 11 kiddos need me here and they are surrounded by a church and community in Idaho that has
the hot-dishes moving and the connections to do everything locally.  So I continue to pray and hold the rope at this end for their oldest daughter. 

And there is a tangible way that I (and you if you want to) can help  -  in the accident the car was totaled  - a stupid detail in the middle of tragedy - but a very real one that gives us the chance to step in and  pick up a piece of the burden for a family that drives their vehicles far longer than the number of years for an average US household. 

There is a go fund me account set up to do just that and so far - after 24 hours of being open - 42% of the goal has been donated.  (Whoot! Wahoo! )  I would love to see that piece- the 'how do we buy a new car' one..... totally off the table and put aside with a big hug from all of us -saying that they are so well loved (by strangers as well as everyday friends) that their energy can go into healing and caring for each other first.

After  I hit post on this - my next task is to make my offering toward that replacement vehicle.  If anyone wants to join me but doesn't want to use go-fund-me I am happy to act as an intermediary through paypal or what ever way you do feel comfortable - just let me know. 



Sunday, December 28, 2014

What Was Intended To Tear You Apart......

"What was intended to tear you apart, God intends to set you apart." Genesis 50:20

This was the main theme on day 9 of Unwrapping the Gift  - this years Advent readings and I'm clinging to the unending truth of it as the pounding waves of suffering batter those I love the most.

 Because I know that life will often if not always be hard - and (not but -  AND) God always has a plan, a purpose AND a way through it.

Blessings friends - you are precious and whatever big hard things you are facing today - may you trust wholly in God.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

AVery Real Christmas..............

This week my childhood friend Erin blogged on the pain that comes so often with Christmas.  She challenged us to be real in our suffering and to let the authentic emotion we feel show to others rather than the Hallmark brightness that the social season dictates.

She challenged us to have a 'real' Christmas.
Which made me stop and check my heart.
Because I hate the Hallmark holiday standard.

The one where joy and happiness is defined by what you get, how people treat you and how beautiful the decorations are.

Hate it..... like I'd rather throw up
    no......
I'd rather have every one of my 11 kids start throwing up
        and both my cats pee on the living room carpet
                and all of the filings in my teeth replaced....
rather than pretend that Hallmark sets my standard
                for remembering and honoring the birth of Christ.

I'm with Erin - I want to be 100% real - because God knows the details of my life and His heart is broken over the scattered pieces that are slowly coming together in this mess of a season.  I know there is a plan and a purpose in every step of my journey - and I trust that we can celebrate way better than any Hallmark ideal.  For me that means being  honest about the things that hurt- because this is what Christmas is really all about - and why we needed Jesus to come in the first place.

I have to admit - this year the holidays could have been unbearably painful-  gut wrenchingly wrong on so many human levels - if my standard was limited by Hallmark - because some things just are not looking very pretty.

I could have fantasized  it all away
or denied that it was actually that bad.

I could have smiled and been strong in polite silence
trusting other people to leave me alone.

Or  I could choose to be real.

Because its a mess
Big time.
Really...really.....really messy.

But it's also an amazing time of overflowing....overwhelming...unending blessing and contentment.

Which is actually stronger than the sadness.
Bigger than the each pounding wave of reality
Truer than every broken dream and aborted hope.

The reality is that our household holidays were not focused on presents and creating the picture perfect memories for the scrap book.  No - the physical mess in my home this week was created by a mountain of  salvaged food that we loved out to 20 families - and by the total disorder left in the wake of our Christmas Eve Emergency Responder dinner at the precinct.

It was the broken pattern caused by a constant stream of people that we got to love on and share with - each of us being honest and real in the hard places where we walk.

"Thanks for the food...ours was almost gone."
"Thanks for the hug...I was feeling scared, lost and alone."
"Thanks for the reminder ...God is in the hard things, the ugly things, the bitter things."
"I'm glad I'm here."
"I'm not happy...it hurts."

God is God.  He calls us to do out outrageous things in His name and to do them with all our hearts.  With tears, grief, joy, praise and everything in between.  He plans more for our holidays than the simple Hallmark standard - he plans to unleash the Truth and let us live it as water to a dry and weary land- when we can be content whatever our situation.

I am thankful that I did not have a Merry Christmas - instead we shared a Very Real Christmas with a whole lot of very real people. 






Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Makings Of A Good Mamma Horror Film.....

It was a scene right out of a mamma horror film.

The moment where you realize that the coffee grounds a child spilled  the day before were the very last ones in the house.

And if  it happens to be day 5 of a high fever/cough-out-your-lungs sort of flu that is circling through the kids and the longest stretch of sleep you have seen was 2 hours - four days ago.

And your developing the cough that comes as a precursor to the debilitating fever.

And there is no-one else to step in and do your 24/7 job.

And a child is caught doing something that endangers everyone...and they don't understand what the big deal is.

These are the elements of what could have been a horror-story  Saturday - simply because they stacked up with the everyday drama and reality of parenting my 11 kids. It could have been just enough to bring this unprepared mama to her ever loving knees in  panic and joy-sucking fear.

Except it didn't  have to.
Unless I let it.
Because I know there is another way to deal with this
(and it doesn't include running away or overindulging in alcohol.)

Because...
If I can get my eyes out of the mess around me
and lay down the weight of it all.
to watch diligently for the blessings and mercies that come every morning -

I will see them.

They are there and the promises are true - I have not been forsaken, I am not alone, I am beloved and I am truly blessed.

Even if I don't sleep
Even if I get sick
Even if I have to call 911 for a child's febrile seizures that go on too long or the house is set on fire by a child....

Even if I don't 'feel' them.....they are still true.
But I have to open my eyes and my heart to see them or I will simply curl into a ball of despair.

So I can take my hot cup of Thera Flu with me into the shower  and instead of crying I can laugh.

Because one friend brought groceries in the morning - and another brought a hot meal at noon.

And no 911 calls needed to be made.  But if they did - my cell is working and I know the responders who are likely to show up.

And other friends came and brought gifts to pass through for another family - and a shopping bag full of wine - simply to make me smile.

Laughing and receiving the joy that comes when my heart is not set on this life being exactly what I want - but in trusting that is exactly what He wants it to be.