Getting Organized…or just pretending!

Today’s post may fall into the category of “those who can’t, teach”. I am sort of organized about many things. I am NOT organized about A LOT of things. My clutter tolerance is high. Right now I am writing from a desk that is almost invisible due to the amount of papers covering it. Occasionally I reach my limit and do a massive purge and get ALMOST organized. But not quite. Never all the way. Never to the point where I have systems or processes. Some places I am better. There are a few things in the kitchen where I am a stickler for organization. But that’s mostly what I inherited from my grandmother, in whose house I live now. I put things where she did, organized just so. Now the truth is she was one stack of newspapers away from an episode of “Hoarders”, but the bins and bins of craft materials were well-organized. Sort of. I am still digging out from under some of that. In an attempt of “Physician heal thyself”, I thought I’d focus on some organization tips today that maybe I can learn from, too. I know when the chaos of RAD life is whirling all around, finding a few places where life is organized can seem a big help. Hopefully these ideas will do that.

  1. Organized people avoid the big black hole. The bigger the storage space, the larger the mess. Smaller compartments and containers are the solution. Smaller bins inside large sideboard drawers to hold candles and napkins and small pouches inside large purses to hold lipsticks and pens will help minimize even the littlest bit of stress.
  2. Organized people trick themselves with treats. Don’t think children are the only ones who can be bribed! Clean the garage gets you a pedicure? Of course it does! Laundry gets you a bubble bath and glass of wine? You bet!
  3. Organized people say no to spillover. My son was a hoarder of things. Sometimes none of it made sense. I’m sure many of you can relate. But allowing ALL the stuffed animals in the room will eventually make you want to move and leave no forwarding address! We started donating some every year before Christmas which helped reduce the population, keep a little more organized and embrace a spirit of giving. If that’s not something your child can handle, try putting some away in a bin a rotating the bins every couple of months. You keep your organization and the kids get new toys more frequently! Everybody wins!
  4. Organized people keep useful things close. So how often do you use that juicer that you always have to move to get to the blender? Take some time to look around your kitchen, your dining room, your office and arrange it so that the items you really use are handy. Anything you don’t use should be donated and anything you use infrequently should be stored up high or in the back.
  5. Organized people spend 30 seconds now to save hours later. When you hold an item, decide right then where its final resting place should be. If you drop it in a pile, then that pile will be what you spend two hours dealing with over the weekend when you could be doing something much more interesting.
  6. Organized people move their cast-offs to their car. Keeping a bin in your car and regularly moving items out of your house and to it helps you stay motivated to get the clutter out. When the bin is full in your car, head to the charity of your choice, empty the bin and keep going!
  7. Organized people have twice as many hooks (and not one thing on the floor). Look around your house. How much wall space do you have? Probably a lot. Think about how much of it could be used for hanging brooms, mops, hair gadgets, clothes, kitchen items, whatever! Pinterest is full of clever wall hanging ideas that don’t break the bank!
  8. Organized people adjust their shelves. Have you ever been bugged by things not fitting in medicine cabinets or bookcases? Most of the time the shelves are adjustable. Take a little time to prioritize what needs to be shelved and get the shelf heights you need to get things on the shelves and out of sight!
  9. Organized people think in zones. Arrange things by use. A pet zone-leash, waste bags, flashlight, treats. In your pantry put all the school lunch items together for easy grabbing in the morning or the night before (or for your kids to make their OWN lunches!) The more your arrange your life to take shorter steps, the less stressed you will be searching for an item every time you need it.
  10. Organized people never miss something they toss. Attaching emotions to things makes getting organized almost impossible. I experienced this when I had to clean out my grandmother’s house when I moved in. The hardest was getting rid of pictures. And some of them were pictures of people who no one in my family could name! Once you make your goal a happier and more organized home, you’ll get rid of the clutter with ease.
Reactive Attachment Disorder can rock your world every minute of every day. I lived with holes in my walls and August had a room with a mattress on the floor and a dresser with no knobs for longer than I can remember. You give up the illusion of the Martha Stewart home pretty early on. But a little organization can go a long way toward keeping you sane. Please share your organization tips and successes! We can all use some help! (By we I mean ME) Till next time, Shannon  ]]>

Homework Nightmares

  • Homework isn’t necessary in elementary school. Denise Pope, Ph.D. says there really isn’t a correlation between homework and achievement at this age. Kids at this age need free time for play and collaboration and READING. Over-scheduling a child in these years with homework and activities will turn them off to learning but letting them free select will increase their ability to innovate and use their brain.
  • So what is the point of homework? It does teach students to learn independently and quite honestly it’s what’s expected by parents. It is an important link between parents and the school to see what their children are working on. But that is contingent on the parents actually looking at the work. Again, being involved is the key!
  • Decide what’s appropriate. None is the answer for kindergarten. After that 10 minutes per grade level is generally the rule. But it doesn’t meaning filling out yet another worksheet. It can be reading a book with you or drawing a picture. It teaches focus and independent study and by the time they do have actual homework in middle and high school they are used to sitting for a longer period of time.
  • Because middle and high school are more challenging. There is a correlation here between homework and achievement but it fades after 90 minutes for middle school and two hours for high school. After 3 1/2 hours there are negative effects. It can lead to anxiety, depression and stress. Add to the problem of classrooms that spend too much time on testing instead of instruction and over-scheduled kids and it’s all bad.
  • What’s the resolution? Maybe little. Here are some ideas: Look at the 24-hour day and set the priorities for sleep and school and other activities. If there isn’t enough time for homework, a conversation needs to happen. Make a contract that determines when homework happens (right after school, right after dinner, etc.) and sign it. When everyone agrees, the arguing tends to stop. Brainstorm with the teachers; explain your child’s unique situation and see if there’s a solution that works better with your child’s learning style. Maybe a packet once a month will work better than every day or week. It will allow you to be flexible when your child may have better days or back off when it’s not such a good time. Don’t help! As much as you may want to bail your child out, as they get older, they do need to learn how to learn. If they can’t finish, write a note and explain, don’t finish the work. Let the teacher know there’s an issue.
  • I spent a lot of time when August was in school doing battle over homework. We would arrive at home after school and he would bolt out of the car before I would get it in park because he didn’t want to do homework. He would run away for hours. He knew what was coming. It was an almost daily battle. Sometimes I could get him to work but when the anxiety would grow he’d say, “Mom, I need to run around the house.” And he would quite literally, RUN AROUND THE OUTSIDE OF THE HOUSE. He’d come in and be a different child. And we’d get the work done. The key is being flexible. And communicate with the teachers so they know you-and your child-are doing the best you can. And give yourself a break! Till next time, Shannon  ]]>

    Talking About Breathing

    Breathing shouldn’t be something that takes up much thought. I mean, it’s as easy as, well, breathing, right? But our hectic lives and stress and tension can affect our breathing. Our breathing can actually contribute to the build up of toxins in our body if done improperly which can make our ability to cope even harder. The thing we most take for granted may be adding to our headaches, panic attacks, stress and fatigue.

    The moral of this is we can just breathe. HOW we breathe matters. Being more intentional about our breathing can help us feel better, not just stay alive. Below I’ve included a couple of breathing exercises to try. I first tried this for help with sleeping and was amazed when it WORKED! I was a skeptic but it was one of the only ways I could turn off my brain and get to sleep. The key is first learning correct breathing technique. When we are born, we breathe with our abdomen; our diaphragm. If you’ve ever taken singing lessons, it’s what they tell you helps sustain your breath to hold long notes and produce a good sound. Somewhere along the way, we stop doing that and start to breathe from our chest in shorter, shallower breaths. If you have the ability to watch a baby sleep or breathe, you’ll see that as it breathes, its stomach moves up and down, not its chest. A baby naturally breathes deeply and wholly. It would be nice if life didn’t get in the way and we stopped taking these blissful deep breaths! This first one is the one I used to fall asleep: Mindful Breath Counting
    1. Practice this exercise while sitting upright to enhance mindfulness awareness. Later, if you like, you can use it in bed as a technique to help you fall asleep.
    2. Use slow, deep abdominal breathing.
    3. Count each exhalation to yourself. When you reach the fourth exhalation, start over again at one. Here is how you do it: Inhale…exhale (“one”)…inhale…exhale (”two”)…inhale…exhale (“three”)…inhale…exhale (“four”)…inhale…exhale (“one”)…and so forth.
    4. If your mind wanders to bodily sensations, noises, daydreams, worries and so forth, simply observe those thoughts without judgments or expectation, and then return to counting your breaths.
    5. If you lose track of your count, simply start over again at “one”.
    6. Continue counting your exhalations in sets of four for 10 minutes. Gradually increase to 20 minutes.
    I promise if you try it to help getting to sleep you won’t need 20 minutes! Letting Go of Tension Exercise
    1. Inhale diaphragmatically (with your abdomen rather than your chest expanding) as you say to yourself “breathe in”.
    2. Hold your breath a moment before you exhale.
    3. Exhale slowly and deeply as you say to yourself “exhale”.
    4. Inhale slowly, then hold your breath for a moment, noticing any parts of your body that tense up.
    5. As you exhale, feel the tension leaving your body. With each exhalation, feel increasingly relaxed as you release tension.
    6. Pause between each breath, finding your natural rhythm.
    7. When thoughts, feelings and sensations catch your attention, simply observe them, then re-focus on your breathing.
    8. Once you’re comfortable with this exercise, practice it throughout the day in non-stressful situations for five to 20 minutes at a time. Then try using it in stressful situations to reduce your tension.
    9. As you practice, focus on exhaling completely: you must exhale fully before you can breathe in deeply.
    Please share your experiences with trying these ideas and their success for you. We can all use a little less tension and some more fresh breaths! Till next time, Shannon  ]]>

    Mothers and Sons

    When I was young there were no boys in the house, just me and my sister. So I became the boy. I could bait my own hook, played soccer, went out at night looking for night crawlers, went ice fishing. Neither my sister nor I were particularly girly (she was a swimmer), no matter how many matching dresses my grandma made. But when I grew up I just assumed I’d have girls because that’s what I knew. And when my friends started having children their first-born’s all made sense…of course! She’s a “boy-mommy”. I just KNEW I was going to be a “girl-mommy”. Now when you adopt, the surprise is gone and when you adopt from Russia there’s even less. We knew we’d be getting a boy. It flew in the face of everything I believed about my path to motherhood. But at that point my path to motherhood had taken every twist and turn it could so I was just along for the ride. But when I saw the video…that face…he was my son. As sure as I was giving birth to him. I was a “boy-mommy”. I’ve said this to friends before but I truly believe that August saved me and his brother. Getting pregnant with Spencer wasn’t planned and if I didn’t have August, I wouldn’t have been nearly as healthy during my pregnancy. Having August meant I stayed active, ate better and didn’t obsess about being pregnant which I’d tried for eight years to become. I am forever grateful to him for that. All along this journey he has fought me. We have fought over bedtime, food, school, medication, therapy, clothing, haircuts, computer time, TV time, video time, girls, curfew, drinking, drugs, and so much more. But mothers and sons. And this mother and THIS son. I know before it’s over this current conflict will have us arguing more I’m sure. And I’ll take it. And give it back. Because that’s what mothers do. And maybe I’m having to do it on a scale many of you won’t ever have to deal with and can’t possibly comprehend. I certainly hope so! That’s the point of this whole blog and my wish for you who are dealing with these precious damaged children. Till next time, Shannon  ]]>

    What to do if you have a child with RAD in your Classroom

  • A substitute teacher was a problem because it got all the students keyed up and that teacher didn’t know about August’s special needs. We created an outlet for August to be able to go to the office on days when there was a sub and the class was being loud and he felt he couldn’t keep it together.
  • Being able to run and expend energy was a stress reliever for August. In 4th grade he was in a trailer due to the school being over-crowded. This allowed for a gift of his being able to “go to the bathroom” while getting outside and running round for a bit in sight of the teacher when he was feeling overwhelmed because of the logistics of being in the trailer.
  • I discussed with the principal about the importance of the teacher match with August and how wonderful 4th grade had been for him and the entire 4th grade staff looped up to 5th grade which gave August the same teacher two years in a row!
  • In middle school he was given a “hot pass” which was a red laminated card which he could put on his desk any time he was feeling overwhelmed. As soon as the teacher saw that August was excused from the room to the office no questions asked.
  • These are just a few of the ideas we worked out to manage August’s behaviors while trying to keep the classroom structure and help the teacher stay sane! For some other tips, I found this very helpful article here. Please share your stories and ideas on what has worked (or not!) with your child in school. As a community we all benefit from everyone’s successes and challenges. Till next time, Shannon  ]]>

    When Every Day is Monday

    “If your heart is broken, make art with the broken pieces” –Shane Koyczan So what do we do? Where do we get our fuel to continue day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year? It takes resolve and training to be resilient to the blows that just keep coming and find some way to see hope and something positive in the midst of all that seems to wear us down. Here are a couple of tricks doctors say will help:

    • Let yourself feel sad: I know, right? So here’s the deal. It’s OK to feel sorry for yourself. When something awful happens, cry, scream, eat a pint of ice cream, binge watch Netflix. Feel hopeless. Because if you don’t feel hopeless, how can you know what hopeful feels like? You don’t have to be stone-faced and strong all the time. But watch that it doesn’t last too long because that can be a sign of depression.
    • Control what you can: If you’ve read about having a child with RAD this may sound like a page right out their playbook! But it’s true. If you do just one thing you can to affect your situation, you will be amazed at what it can do for your mood. If your child is destroying his or her room, clean your room and put a lock on the door. Just one little thing, however small, will make a huge difference.
    • But be flexible: There will be times when there is nothing going right. You know it. We’ve all been there. At those times, you can’t expect to be able to do what you had planned, go where you want, wear what you want, maybe even more dire consequences. But the key is to be able to find a way to make choices that are the best in a bad situation. Don’t be afraid to take that sharp left or right turn.
    • Find resilient role models: We have all been through tough times. Maybe you know someone who has been through health problems and survived and thrived. Someone who had financial struggles and started a business and got on their feet. Use these individuals as motivation that you, too, can survive your trials.
    • Be a role model: We are all as parents working so hard to provide the best, safest, most loving homes for our children. They are hurt and we didn’t hurt them. I am so angry that my son is paying for what was done to him that he couldn’t control. But now I want to pay it forward and help others with what I’ve learned and what will hopefully help other children. You can do that too. Wouldn’t it be great if all RAD children could learn from our knowledge and care?
    • Talk it Out: Having a support system when parenting a child with RAD is so valuable. And it doesn’t have to be other RAD parents, though I found that helpful. There are groups on social media, adoption groups if your child is adopted. Maybe it’s just a close friend if you’re not very outgoing. Me, I’ll talk to anybody! But sometimes when it doesn’t feel good in your heart, hearing it out loud can help!
    • Know that You’re Already Doing It: Did your child wake up this morning? Did you feed them? Will they wake up tomorrow? Are you reading this? Then you are doing the work to help your child and be the best parent of a RAD child you can be. You are getting it done. Pat yourself on the back and cut yourself some slack.
    That last bullet is the most valuable. You are already doing it! I would love to hear your stories of resilience. Please feel free to share as you feel comfortable. Till next time, Shannon  ]]>

    Reactive Attachment Disorder Reference Guide

    Books When Love Is Not Enough: A Guide to Parenting with RAD-Reactive Attachment Disorder Nancy Thomas This has long been considered the gold standard in RAD therapy but it is also somewhat controversial. Nancy Thomas was the first person to really write on the subject of RAD in depth. She also has a website and conferences. I did not choose to use her treatment with my son but if you read, you will find many families who swear by her treatment methods. Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control: A Love-Based Approach to Helping Attachment-Challenged Children With Severe Behaviors  Heather T. Forbes and B. Bryan Post This was the second book I read after Nancy Thomas. It’s approach is radically different to hers but has also been very popular. I hoped this method would work with my son but it wasn’t the method that worked for him. His issues were too severe and required more intensive therapy. Building the Bonds of Attachment: Awakening Love in Deeply Traumatized Children  Daniel Hughes This book was wonderfully helpful to me. I found its information very real and could understand the connections between an older child’s behavior and the early infant’s trauma. I read almost everything by Daniel Hughes after this book. Parenting Other People’s Children: Understanding and Repairing Reactive Attachment Disorder John L. Stoller This was another book I loved. It explained RAD very well and I think it would be a great book to give to family who may not understand what’s involved in parenting a child with RAD. While it’s not necessarily for a child to have been adopted to have RAD, that is primarily where the illness arises. The Jonathan Letters: One Family’s Use of Support as They Took in, and Fell in Love with, a Troubled Child Michael Trout and Lori Thomas This is a remarkable book. It is as it says a series of letters between a mother and a therapist about a sweet, 4-year-old boy the family chose to foster. It follows their journey of his first year with them and his RAD behaviors unfold in a most profound way. You hear her heartache and resolve to breakthrough and love him and how they work together to reach him in spite of his trauma. It was a great read for me. This is not even close to an exhaustive list. There are nine pages of books on Amazon! But these are ones that I have found helpful over the years I have been living and learning with RAD.  I will continue to develop these resources as I said, over time, and add websites and other tools which I hope will help you all deal with, and maybe avoid, some of what I experienced. Knowledge is power! Till next time! Shannon  

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    International Travel with a RAD…Just Kidding!

    French Mon Dieu, non, je ne connais pas ces enfants qui traversent le Louvre à toute vitesse. Ils sont plutôt mal élevés, non? My goodness, no, I don’t know those kids running through the Louvre at top speed. They are rather badly behaved, no? German Ich freue mich sehr über den herzlichen Empfang, aber wir brauchen nur einen Platz zum Laden von 50 Geräten, danke. I really appreciate the warm welcome, but all we need is a place to charge 50 devices, thanks. Ich bin sicher, dein Weg ist besser, aber sie werden ihn niemals so essen. I’m sure your way is better, but they’ll never eat it that way. Spanish ¿Alguna posibilidad de que este sea uno de los países donde las personas trabajen juntas para criar a todos los niños y que no tenga que lidiar con esto? Any chance this is one of the countries where people work together collectively to raise all the children so I don’t have to deal with this? ¿Qué nos trae a tu pueblo? Una serie de direcciones GPS confusas, en realidad. What brings us to your town? A series of confusing GPS directions, actually. Dutch Je dichtstbijzijnde, grootste en meest privé-toilet, alstublieft. Your nearest, largest, and most private toilet, please. Russian Pozhaluysta, ukazhite mne v blizhaysheye mesto, chtoby kupit’ gelevyye stel’ki, kleykiye povyazki i tu obuv’, na kotoruyu ya poklyalsya, chto nikogda ne nadenu. Please point me to the nearest place to buy gel insoles, adhesives bandages, and the kind of shoes I swore I would never wear. Finnish Kananugetteja. Kaikki kana-nuggets. Vain kana-nuggets. Jokainen kana nugget. Kananugetteja. Chicken nuggets. All the chicken nuggets. Only chicken nuggets. Every chicken nugget. Chicken nuggets. Italian Perché volevamo che vedessero il mondo e perché siamo pazzi. Qualsiasi altra domanda? Because we wanted them to see the world, and because we are fools. Any other questions? Portuguese Na sua opinião, este local turístico vale a pena o esforço necessário para entrar? In your opinion, is this tourist site possibly worth the effort it takes to get in? Gaelic Tha sinn duilich, agus is urrainn dhuinn airgead a thoirt dhut airson sin. We are deeply sorry, and we can give you cash for that. Big thanks to the January issue of “Real Simple” for the phrases! So what other phrases would you need to travel overseas with your RAD child? I’d love to hear them in the comments! Till next time, Shannon  ]]>

    Talking to teachers about Reactive Attachment Disorder

    https://youtu.be/xlyBfInS7ec Wouldn’t this be wonderful? For RAD kids, school can be a series of landmines. And teachers can set those mines without even realizing it and certainly without intending to. When August started in school I couldn’t get him and IEP for RAD; I had to get him one for ADHD under the “other health impaired” category. His learning issues didn’t show up on any tests. Yet his behaviors were classic RAD behaviors. It wasn’t until second grade that we found a therapist who gave us a proper diagnosis and fourth grade that we found a school who heard me and I started to find my voice for my son. Below is a letter developed by Nancy Thomas who is one of the most widely recognized therapists in the field of attachment disorder. I purposely do not advocate for any particular treatment on this site as I believe it is up to the parents and the family to decide what is going to be the best for their child and their needs. But this letter does lay out exactly what a teacher can expect from a child and how to respond and how to interact with a child and their family to hopefully get the best outcomes. https://www.attachment.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Letter-to-Teachers.pdf Going forward, we will talk about more specific issues. Please feel free to ask questions in the comments, share your stories and sign up by email if you’d like to receive these posts directly to your inbox! Till next time, Shannon  ]]>