The last few days (except for Saturday when it SNOWED) have been as close to Spring as we’ve seen here in the Midwest so I’m gonna call it. It’s Spring. I’ve been in touch with the guy who tills my big garden and I’m starting seeds this weekend and my clematis vines are sprouting so those are the signs I needed. Oh, and the sweet kids next door left a daffodil on my back steps (I think it might have been one of mine but nevertheless…).
In honor of Spring, this is the beginning of a Wednesday series on Spring Cleaning. As I have mentioned in previous posts, this is one of the, “Those who can’t blog about it” ones. I haven’t by far done all of these things, nor do I expect I will get to all of them. But writing them down makes me want to get them all on a to-do list. And you’ll see that many of them can be done with VERY active RAD kiddos so they are a nice way to get the family involved. But there are some that are just for you, for your sanity, so make sure you focus on those as well. And that’s where we start.
Spring Clean Your Mind
written by Margaret Townsend
Take a minute to think about what’s supporting your body right now-the chair or the sofa you’re sitting on and the ground below your feet. Much of the time, we use more energy than we need to hold our bodies up. Learning to really sink into physical support can calm nerves, soothe emotions, and relax the mind. First, become aware of your feet against the floor. Place them in a comfortable, natural spot and press them into the ground a bit to feel your leg muscles tighten. Then let those muscles relax completely, allowing the floor to hold up your legs and feet. Next, notice your back against the chair. Tense up your shoulders for a couple of seconds, then release them. Notice the parts of your back that are in contact with the chair. You don’t have to hold up those muscles right now. Breathe comfortably and give in to gravity, letting the chair support you. Allow your body to feel held for a moment. Take time to enjoy that feeling. Become aware of what else changes when you simply let the chair and the ground hold you up. You might feel a softening in the belly, hips, and breath. Also notice what you may be “holding up” that doesn’t need holding. Your jaw, for instance. What happens if you soften it? Luxuriate in the support that is right here, right now. Spend a minute or two experiencing it, breathing naturally-falling into gravity and letting the effort drop away.
Use this as often as you need to calm your body and clear your brain.
Till next time,Shannon
ay about being angry. Why? Well, because I am. If you’re the parent of a kiddo with RAD it might feel like this is your “normal”. And I’m sorry for that because it sucks. But I understand.
You’re angry at your child. A lot. You’re angry at your partner. Oops. You’re angry at all the systems and services that don’t work for your child. You’re angry at the grown-ups that were supposed to protect your child and didn’t and caused the trauma that resulted in the RAD that you are now paying for. You’re angry at the “perfect” friends and families you see on Facebook or at the store or at school who have the lives you are being denied. And if by some chance one type of angry subsides, there’s always two or three or TEN kinds of angry to take its place.
Angry takes a lot of energy. I remember seeing one of those annoying posters or memes once that said it takes more facial muscles to frown than to smile so you should smile because it’s easier. Yes that may be true but it would also take a lot more energy to find anything to smile about!What I’m angry about the most today is that right now THE WORLD SEEMS SO ANGRY. I’ve been guilty of adding to it too. And it’s exhausting. Yesterday I posted a picture of a kitten sucking its thumb-seriously-watch it here–just to have something happy to see for myself.
I read this article about the two Parkland students who have committed suicide in the last week. I cried. And I got angry. The shooting in New Zealand. The floods in the Midwest (more Midwest than me) and the horrible disaster in Mozambique. And I got angry. And then there’s politics. Which seems to have made most of us angry for two years no matter what side of the aisle you sit on.
Spring and summer need to hurry up and get here so I can escape to my garden for even a few minutes/hours each day. Plants don’t get angry. I don’t think. Though mine probably get a little irked because I’m not the best at watering and weeding all the time. I get lazy. But they seem to produce and love me still.
I wish brains worked like that. We could throw all this mess at them and they could filter it and produce and love anyway. Our RAD kids would be so much better off. But brains work more like a compost bin. Everything that’s old and decaying goes in and stays. Our brains keep everything, packing it down into the smallest, deepest nooks and crannies. And it will stay there and just start to smell unless we turn it and let in the air and the sunlight so it can become something good and beneficial to our world.
My challenge to myself and to you today is try and be a plant, not a compost bin. Let your brain soak in the sunlight (hopefully there is some in your part of the world) and breathe in the air and churn up the angry thoughts and burn them out of your beautiful mind. Only through constant focus on what is good and healthy can we all make our world less angry. I truly believe we are at a turning point where we can “Be the Change You Wish to See in the World.” Ghandi didn’t seem angry very often.
Till next time,
This is the first picture I ever saw of August. It was sent by the adoption agency along with a video (which I will figure out how to get up here at some point-the technology is still a challenge). The chair was quite shocking. And that outfit. Which was the same outfit he had on when we met him in person. He’s just a little over three in this photo. An eternity away from the skinny, tattooed inmate currently sitting in a prison cell 90 minutes away from me.
But those eyes are the same. They both show the same fear. The same need for love and acceptance. The same pain behind the beautiful blue. Some things I couldn’t see at first and couldn’t help when I could. I wish I could go back and tell that sweet face just to trust me and let me help him make everything OK.
I can’t remember what birthday it was the last time August and I were together. I remember it was awful. We went to dinner, then I told August I’d take him to buy some clothes. He wanted to go to a store that closed in 10 minutes. I tried to convince him not to go but he was so stubborn. So we went. And we fought over the clothes after having fought over going and he spun even more out of control to the point where I just had to let him go away. He couldn’t understand how much he was taking advantage of me and the store. He couldn’t understand that his birthday was something I wanted to enjoy with him and how this falling apart made me sad.
I can’t go see him on his birthday. He’s still on visiting restrictions until the 29th. I will send him a note, hopefully he will call. I sent him some money to get extra supplies. This is how birthdays have gone for the last few years. Some years I have been able to visit with him.
My heart breaks for children with RAD who should be showered with love and affection on their birthdays. This disorder means that instead their need for control and unwillingness to believe the love is real or they are deserving means these celebrations many times will blow up and end in disaster like mine and August’s.
I wish August a happy 21st birthday. I love you bud.
Till next time,
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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,
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,
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
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.
Use slow, deep abdominal breathing.
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.
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.
If you lose track of your count, simply start over again at “one”.
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
Inhale diaphragmatically (with your abdomen rather than your chest expanding) as you say to yourself “breathe in”.
Hold your breath a moment before you exhale.
Exhale slowly and deeply as you say to yourself “exhale”.
Inhale slowly, then hold your breath for a moment, noticing any parts of your body that tense up.
As you exhale, feel the tension leaving your body. With each exhalation, feel increasingly relaxed as you release tension.
Pause between each breath, finding your natural rhythm.
When thoughts, feelings and sensations catch your attention, simply observe them, then re-focus on your breathing.
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.
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,
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,
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,
“If your heart is broken, make art with the broken pieces”
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,