Sunday, January 27, 2013

There's something about...

lambs. Something about baby anything that gives you hope when you are scared to hope. It has been rough lately. Lots of growing pains and disappointments. Then there is a lamb in the barn, a bit unexpected and quite beautiful.

1 But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: 22 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness. 24 "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him." 25 The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Why I still want to do this...

I have talked a lot about RAD, what it is, how hard it must be wondering "then do you even want to do foster care/adoption?" The truth is there are moments when I don't...the screaming gets to be too much or I feel spread so thin you can see through me and I want to run away. But most of the time I love it. I bounce from issue to issue feeling God's amazing grace spur me on, I feel His pleasure and I understand that I am doing so much more than cleaning up pee or calmly removing a raging child from the room. I am investing in the next generation. I hope I am changing the life of a child but in the end I just know that God whispered and we answered.

Then why go on about how hard it is?Because maybe you work at an emergency room or a doctor's office and you don't understand why you can't comfort this cute crying child an exhausted mom has just brought in. Or you're a teacher and this RAD stuff just seems blown out of proportion...the RADish is always great for you. Maybe you are attending church with a family dealing with this and they seem so rigid about it all... junior is always sweet as pie when you see him. Maybe, just maybe you can do what someone who understands just did for me....a short text msg reminding me that I can do this, there is hope as I sit in the ER dealing with one very sick RADish and the other RADish screaming and putting on his best poor me face. If there is one less person out there that we have to explain this condition to there is one more person who can contribute to the hope.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Let’s hear it for the boy!

I hope I have helped develop an awareness for RAD and the little ones dealing with it.  Today I would like to talk a bit about how it affects the families that live with these little RADishes. 


This is my husband, he prefers to remain faceless on the blog (sigh) but I promise, he does exist.  Because he works outside of the home much of the time the care of the littles falls to me.   We homeschool and I do not work out of the home.   Honestly, I am doing pretty well for the most part now that we have a diagnosis and a therapist.   But…on off days I am exhausted (okay, every day I am pretty tired), and irritable.  These guys make it their sole purpose in life to find my buttons and push push push!  Todd makes his business to see when I am under pressure more than normal and take over.  Sometimes that means a bath, or a drive to a friend’s, sometimes I drive and drive until I can finally bear to face it all again.  We manage to tag team pretty well but I won’t lie, RAD is hard on a marriage.  We have been in tough spots before, we have lost a son to cancer….but there are times when we feel like we have enemies in our very own home.   Nothing prepares you for that.  Yes, we love these children, we are committed to this BUT this is not easy.  This past week Twila and I went to Irish dance and then to an empty home so I could veg in front of the TV and for one night forget that I was a RAD mom.   I mean really, lets hear it for the boy!

But as much as I love him and couldn’t bear to live without him these children are my heroes….


They love and show compassion even when their home has been turned into a war zone.   They sit at the table and finish their schoolwork amidst the screams and the chaos.   They never judge.  They never blame.   (okay sometimes they do but any wrongs committed are quickly forgotten)  They greet me with a hug and a smile every morning.  They miss out on things, they miss out on time with me and the sacrifices made to care for the RADishes is no less theirs then it is mine and my husband’s…but they do it with grace.  They have taught me to laugh when I want to cry and hope when I want to despair.   May God give me wisdom to protect their hearts as we walk through the fire.

Tonight as I sit in my robe in front of this computer and fumble to sound intelligent I listen to my husband and the RADishes talk about God and Moses and little lights and it feels like nothing could ever be wrong in the world again.   The older children are at karate and it is almost time to put the RADishes to bed.  And I realize what I had almost forgotten….God does His most amazing work during the storm.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

What Exactly is Rad? Part 2

As I mentioned yesterday I want to discuss what we are doing to help these littles and how you can support anyone you know who is going through the same process.  I will intersperse suggestions that you can do to help as I think of them.
So you may be wondering “how do I know when these little people have RAD?”   I listed the symptoms in my last post.   We also consulted professionals so that we could understand exactly what we are dealing with.   We have a therapist involved who coaches me on how to deal with the overwhelming behaviors. 
There are several things that are very important to help them heal.  We use all of these (and are working closely with a therapist and following all recommendations that she makes)
  • Structured play time:  In our home this means that we have a schedule of things that we play with such as blocks, lincoln logs, etc.   They play in a small area (in our case a playmat) and must keep themselves and their toys on the mat.   These serves a few purposes, one of them is that it gives them boundaries that they understand and they then are able to learn to control themselves.   Another purpose that it serves is that it protects others in the home.  My bio children have been punched, spit on, kicked, you name it, so we have to be diligent to keep everyone safe, including our animals.  They earn the privilege to play with the other kids and the freedom to move out of the defined area based on how well they control themselves.
And this brings me to this first “how you can help” suggestion.   Please trust the caregiver’s decision on how the child can operate in a situation with lots of children/activity.  They (we) not only must take in account the safety of our RADishes but also your children or things.  We know what our children can handle and will act accordingly.
  • Love, and lots of it:  Each encounter with our child is an opportunity to solidify the belief that we are not trustworthy or to help them learn that we are safe.  We must always be gentle with our words and look at them with love despite what they may have just done.  In therapy we often talk about neutral parenting.   You will often hear me saying under my breath “I am Switzerland, I am Switzerland”.  These are my only two options: I must be loving or I must be neutral.    They want me to be angry, that is what they understand and they are desperate for control.  Even they know…if they can make me angry they can control me.  It is so important for them to hear that they are valuable, they are loved and that their behavior does not define them.  However, their behavior is extremely difficult and trying at times, sometimes all the time.   This is not normal childhood behavior.   These children, as important and precious as they are, do unthinkable things at times.  At best, they oblivious to the feeling of those around them and at worst they are intentionally inflicting pain.   This is not for the faint of heart.   And, I’ll admit it…try as I might to remain neutral or loving at all times…I sometimes lose it.   Thankfully we see out therapist weekly and she gets us back on the right track! interesting note: I learned just this week that attachment not all happens with hugs and kisses but also when we provide safety, which to a child means boundaries.  There are days when all I do is correct, there are no (what I considered) positive interactions (cuddling, reading a book, etc)…I have learned this is not failure but part of the process.   Each time I establish and maintain a boundary that can still be considered positive.
“How you can help” suggestion number 2:  Sometimes we need to vent.   Please don’t misinterpret our venting for lack of love for these littles or an invitation to judge our motives.    It is more than hard to deal with the constancy of it all and keep a smile on our face.   We just need to talk about it.  We love these children or we wouldn’t be doing it.   Give advice if we ask.   Otherwise just listen.   Advice based on how it worked for your non-RAD kids does not help and it won’t work.  It only serves to make us feel worse.   Oh, and the next mom you see dealing with a screaming kiddo?   Give her a smile.  It may not be what it seems…
  • Taking Control: these hurting ones like to control their environment and those around them.  It is important to them because it seems to be the only way they can stay safe.  At first glance it would appear that  since letting them have control helps them feel safe that it would be the thing to do.   Unfortunately this is a band-aid on a gaping festering wound.   As long as they are in control they will not learn to trust.  When the only person you trust is yourself you are never able to form healthy relationships.  This means we must take control.  completely. This is hard for them, especially at first but it is essential for them to build a healthy relationship with the people who love them.  In practical terms that means that we are strict.  Very strict.  We decide what they do and when they do it.  The rules are clear and the consequences are also.  I will seem very controlling because I am.  As they heal and learn to control themselves and trust the people they are close to this will lessen and in time we will appear normal; but for now I seem like a Nazi.  I am okay with that….it is what they need.
Helpful suggestion #3:   You will just have to trust us here.   If what we are doing seems too harsh feel free to ask us about it but out of the earshot of the children, please.   We are glad to explain but give us the opportunity.  Remember that little one making doe eyes at you is capable of things you can’t even imagine.
  • Clear boundaries with others:   They have learned two things in their short life.  1. No one is trustworthy.  2. Manipulate everyone you can.  They are masters at triangulation (pitting adults against each other, usually against the mom)  Here is an example to illustrate what I am talking about: 
We went to a local restaurant for a meal with all of the children.  The dining area was full and several people stopped to comment on how cute my RADishes were (they are a different ethnicity so it is clear that they are not bios).  I knew this was going to be a difficult evening but I put a brave smile on my face and ordered water for everyone to drink.  “Mom!” the older of the two yelled loudly (at the time he was 3) “We get water?  We were good enough for water?”  He wasn’t teasing.  He was dead serious.  And no, I don’t withhold water or food when they don’t behave but he got the response he hoped for…people stared daggers at me while we finished our meal.
  • so anyway…..we have clear boundaries.  They may not talk to or even look at someone they don’t know unless I say it is safe.   They may not hug you unless they know you AND then only when they have my permission and then your permission.   They may give one hug only, no kisses or climbing all over you.   They have specific things that they can talk about when we are in public.   If they do not obey this rule they lose the privilege of talking.   They will use every tool in their arsenal to gain your attention, your pity and your support against me.   I have been accused of slamming a head against the bed (always in a public place with a large audience) and all kinds of specific abuse.  (When the accusations come we quickly take them to see their family doctor so that she can examine them to be sure they are not abused in any way and alert the social worker to the incident so that we are safe.)  The sad fact is that I must protect these children and I must protect myself from these children.
Helpful suggestion #4:  Please respect the boundaries.  These precious souls do not understand stranger danger and we must teach them that.   Do not tell them they are cute, offer them sweets of any kind or show them extra attention.  Every single time you allow them to manipulate you, you have contributed to their illness.   Every time you question us in front of them or look at us with disapproval (yes, they notice) you have sent a message that manipulation works and you make our job more difficult.   I understand that this in uncomfortable and leaves you with lots of questions.  Please ask!   We will explain….away from the children.
This is by no means an exhaustive list.   We have to be creative.   What we do one day may not work the next.   For instance a temper tantrum (for lack of a better word, this is not a typical temper tantrum) may be dealt with by walking away and leaving them in their room, or we may do jumping jacks until we calm down or walk around the house.   I never know how the day will go or how things will work.  Sometimes it seem like nothing works and I find a place to huddle up and cry.   I don’t want to sound all doom and gloomyish but I do want to be real.  It is my sincere hope that we can become more aware of this disorder and have the tools we need to reach out to these broken hearts.
One final thing: I feel it important to mention the ones that are forgotten in this….our bio children.   Many families who adopt or do foster care also have children that have come into their home the natural way and these children are often silent in the background.   In our home my bios are older by several years but they are still deeply affected.   They love their soon-to-be-adopted siblings but have endured a lot in the process.  Many a time they have stood quietly in the background ignored while well meaning people have fawned all over the RADishes.   Please love all of our children equally Smile

Thursday, January 17, 2013

What exactly is RAD? Part 1

I have been writing this post for weeks…I never quite stumble on the right words.   Please show grace should I fail.  It is my goal to bring awareness to this disorder, rather than to whine about the difficulty of it.  It is my opinion that more adoptive/foster parents are dealing with this we realize and it is often poorly understood, both by the parents and those who encounter them….simply stated if when you hear the acronym RAD (reactive attachment disorder) and you do not have to suppress a sharp intake of breath one of two things is true:
You are dealing with it yourself on a regular basis OR
You have no clue….
Reactive attachment disorder (RAD) is a condition found in children who have received grossly negligent care and do not form a healthy emotional attachment with their primary caregivers -- usually their mothers -- before age 5.
Attachment develops when a child is repeatedly soothed, comforted, and cared for, and when the caregiver consistently meets the child's needs. It is through attachment with a loving and protective caregiver that a young child learns to love and trust others, to become aware of others' feelings and needs, to regulate his or her emotions, and to develop healthy relationships and a positive self-image. The absence of emotional warmth during the first few years of life can negatively affect a child's entire future.
When my husband and I began to feel the call to adopt older/special needs children I believed with every fiber of my being that all that I encountered with these children could be overcome with enough hugs and whispered I love yous to fill the world.   I envisioned myself holding these precious souls as they cried and clung to me while I took their hands and together we faced the world, their hope in humanity restored.  I remember staring blankly into the eyes of a foster mother while she explained why her foster daughter could not play with the other kids.  She mentioned “attachment disorder” but it made no sense.  What this hurting child needed was a chance to be a kid, to play and for me to smile at her and hug her and jump at her every whim.   After all she has been denied so much, that is what she needs right? Right?   WRONG!   I am ashamed to say that in my ignorance I judged her, thought her too harsh.  I am reminded of that moment every single time I see your blank stare and watch you judge me.
Please don’t misunderstand me.  I am not saying that children with RAD do not need hugs and kisses.   They do need them, more than most but when you encounter a family with a RAD child who seems so loving, who upon first meeting you jumps right in your lap, plays with your hair and hugs you so sweetly and you hear that precious mom ask the child to get down and remind them of the rules please, please, please do not tell her that what they are doing is okay.   They are not looking for love from you.   They are looking for someone to manipulate, someone to get on “their side”. 
These precious souls have been harmed and traumatized beyond understanding many times and the sad, awful truth is that they learn well from the examples laid before them.  The abused learns with chilling and startling efficiency to abuse.
“If a child is not attached–does not form a loving bond with the mother–he does not develop an attachment to the rest of mankind. The unattached child literally does not have a stake in humanity” (Magid & McKelvey 1988)
I never dreamed that saving these children meant entering into the pit of hell with them.  Their weapons aside from hurtful words and screams are feces, urine, spit and any number of  unpleasant things.  We must lock up anything precious that they could damage and protect our animals from them.  
However if you remember nothing that you read in this post, remember this:  THERE IS HOPE!   With faith, love and understanding of the complex needs of these children they can not only heal but excel.   We are doing all we can to make that happen. 
In part 2 I will discuss some of the things that we are doing and some things that you can do to support anyone you know who is going through this….

Attachment Disorder Symptoms
  • Superficially engaging & charming
  • Lack of eye contact on parents’ terms
  • Indiscriminately affectionate with strangers
  • Not affectionate on parents’ terms (not ‘cuddly’)
  • Destructive to self, others and material things (‘accident prone’)
  • Cruelty to animals
  • Lying about the obvious (‘crazy’ lying)
  • Stealing
  • No impulse controls (frequently acts hyperactive)
  • Learning Lags
  • Lack of cause-and-effect thinking
  • Lack of conscience
  • Abnormal eating patterns
  • Poor peer relationships
  • Preoccupation with fire
  • Preoccupation with blood & gore
  • Persistent nonsense questions & chatter
  • Inappropriately demanding & clingy
  • Abnormal speech patterns
  • Triangulation of adults
  • False allegations of abuse
  • Presumptive entitlement issues
  • Parents appear hostile and angry

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Saturday, January 12, 2013

When you are flat on your back…



This Ewe is Lacey.   Lacey is an Icelandic Ewe that is due to lamb in about 2 months.   She thinks she is a goat and will go to any lengths to avoid being caught or touched in any way.   She will take food from you but she is hyper vigilant and any attempts to do anything beyond feed her are quite often thwarted.  

Sheep are interesting creatures.  Many people say that they are dumb.   Let me reassure you: they most definitely are not dumb.  In fact they can be quite clever.  What they are though (that often makes them appear quite stupid) are followers.   There is one lead sheep (who’s election appears to based upon bravery and opportunity more than actually ability to do the job in my opinion…at least that is the appearance when things go wrong) and whatever that lead sheep is doing, the whole herd will do.   The herd instinct in some breeds is so strong that they will follow anywhere, without thought to safety or reason.   Once the alarm call is sounded there is no calming them down, they are sheep possessed. 

One thing that is clear about sheep: they need a shepherd.  They often get themselves in predicaments that they can not get themselves out of, no matter how they thrash or panic.   Take Lacey for example….

One evening while doing a routine walk around my husband noticed that out in the pasture next to the tree were 4 legs; straight up in the air!  Needless to say this is not a normal position for sheep.  In fact, it is quite deadly.   It is referred to as “being cast” and basically means that the sheep has somehow flipped itself onto it’s back and can not right itself.   Left in this position for long and the sheep will die.   At this point in the game Lacey had figured out that she was helpless so she lay completely still waiting for someone to come and save her.  The other sheep did what sheep do: assess the situation then walk away and eat.  By the time my husband arrived, given Lacey stiff as a board demeanor he was not sure if he had reached her in time but quickly made his way to her.   Oh, good!  A leg twitched…he was not too late.  He flipped her over; she looked at him for a second almost in acknowledgement, shook herself and off she went!

Psalm 42:11 Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him…

Sometimes I get into this position but I will continue to hope…He’s coming, He won’t leave me in this position forever.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A View from the Barnyard…


After all the melodrama I thought I was time to talk sheep.  Sheep make everyone happy right?   The sheep pictured above are our Registered Cormo Ewes.  They are bred and due to lamb in a couple of months.  This breeding is with Jacques, our Ile De France ram.  Although because of his age we did send in a clean up ram (Herman, also a registered Cormo).  We made sure to space it so that we will easily know how the father is. Smile


This is Buttercup, now almost 3 years old.  As a lamb she was a favorite because she was so cute.  She even spent a few days in the house while we nursed her back to health.


Paula was one of our first Cormo sheep.  She came as a lamb and I thought she was never going to be as big as the other ewes.  As you can see she grew up nicely.  Paula is a bit of shy sheep and in a group she always hides her head down in the bunch.


A sneak peek of the this spring Cormo wool crop…


Leah came from the same farm as Paul in the same shipment.  Her beautiful brown wool is so soft and lovely and the bit of silver in it makes me want to hoard it all for myself!  The pregnancy before last was a bit touch and go because she is such an easy keeper.  She had gained A LOT of weight which caused her to prolapse.  She successfully delivered twin ewes and I learned all about sheep gynecology.   Now she is on a strict diet.


The is Beth, Leah’s daughter.  She has the same beautiful wool as her mom.


Another peek to tempt you…


These are our two calves,  Uriah and Minute.  Bet you can guess which one is which! (Hint, minute isn’t bigger than one!)


A view inside the barn where the pregnant ewes stay…


Ah, Pebbles…always first to the fence!


Someone has found a way to avoid the crowds at the round bale….

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