Monday, February 16, 2015

Memories from Hard Places

I will never forget that moment.  It was one of those, stick in your mind, never let go of moments.  I was in the sixth grade, finishing up my Saturday morning paper route delivery.  I was at the very end of my route when I suddenly smelled it----bacon. The rich wonderful smell of bacon cooking.  Suddenly I was transported back to my grandparents house.  The early morning hours of my grandmother, a long time farm wife, cooking bacon at the stove.  Her back to me as I hear the creak of the brown chairs.  That sound, that smell, those chairs.  They never leave my memory.  In an instant I am suddenly remember every creak, the feel of the ramp as we ran around on barefeet. The way the swing swung higher with a cousin on each side. The squeak and them slam as someone opened the back door.  The smell of every room.  The feel as if on treasure hunt in the rarely slept in upstairs.  The mustiness of the basement.  The mystery of the laundry room that I never stepped foot in.  Grandpa's woodworking area, the shag green carpet in his office, watching him put more wood in the wood heated furnace. 

One sniff of bacon brought every sight and sound of that glorious place back.  In an instant it was all transformed.

Memories are powerful.  Little things in our senses like a simple sound or a simple sound can send us hurtling back.  For many of us it's to good memories and wonderful moments.  They make us smile and we soak up the warm feelings for a split second.

For kids from hard places simple things can send them back into a horrible past and horrible situation.  Suddenly they leave their peaceful setting and are thrown into chaos.  The item that sends them hurtling back can be so little and so unexplainable. 

For parents of these kids this can be nightmarish.  We have no clue what set them off or why.  Its completely unpredictable.  One minute or one day they are fine and the next their world is coming to pieces, and in turn so is ours.  Memories can be glorious and terrifying.  Unfortunately for our children who don't process or communicate well it often leaves them in their own world, afraid and unsure of how to cope.

If you have not seen this short movie--Removed-- you must!  It is about 12 minutes long.  It is absoultely the best done vidoe to describe these kids lives.  It's completely accurate.  Each child's story is different, but the common threads are so well displayed in this vidoe.  I struggle to watch it because I struggle not to cry through it.  PLEASE (I beg, plead, demand--if you'll let me) watch this video.  At the end the little girl recieves a dress.  It's a MUST watch moment.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Getting Real: Kids in Sports

Of all the Getting Real blog post I've written this one is sure to be the most controversial.  It is definitely a hot button topic among families, especially families in the Church.  I'm simply going to present our families view and why we believe it. 

A dad and I were chatting about sports.  He was sharing the sports his child was in and I was sharing the sports our kiddos were in (or lack there of-at the time).  "But aren't you afraid they will be behind."

My six year old, unathletic sports.  Nope, that really wasn't a concern of mine at the time.  The fact that my 3 year old daughter knew ballet moves because of all the books she had read, but had never downed a leotard.  Not my biggest problem. 

Tony and I have a few things we discuss when it comes to our kids extracurriculars.  We are very particular and because of that our kids do not participate in much.  Here's our list:
  • Is is age appropriate?  Are they doing stuff in the sport that we do not find safe for our child? (IE pushing 3 grade wrestlers to drop a pound in a half an hour in order to drop a weight class or practicing in full pads...again 3rd grade...for football in the middle of the hot, humid summer.)
  • How much of our families time is it going to consume?  How much of our child's time does it consume?
  • Does the event take place on a Sunday or a Wednesday night?
  • How costly is it not only for our child to participate but also for our family to attend? (Events around here can run up to $6 per person to attend, that is $30 for our family to watch each event.)
Wrestling, girl scouts, boy scouts, football and dance have all been said no to because of our standards for our family.  Some of those things we would love to do in the future (ie we really would like our girls to be able to take a dance class) but at the time we needed to say no.

We are not anti sports.  In fact we love, love, love watching our kids compete.  We love what kids learn from sports.  We love that in Tball this last summer our kids giggled, were encouraged, were pushed, learned to work with and cheer on a team. 

However, we hold church and our family worshiping together in the highest regard.  We hold our time at home together as a family in the highest regard.  We respect our children's young developing bodies and refuse to allow them, at this age, the stress that some of these sports allow. 

We are finding our commitment to this is growing harder.  Sweet Pea was devastated when "all" of her best friends did girl scouts and she couldn't.  The peewee football coach was not happy when he came to see if Big Brother would be playing football this summer (yes, he's THAT big) and we informed him that he would not be.  Our kids are most likely not going to play professionally, and if they do them starting in junior high in football is not going to put them behind.  We are choosing to hold on to the moments we have with them. now.  As hard as that is for our kids, we know that our families daily health is better for our choices.

Monday, February 9, 2015

"Dear Friend": From a Foster Mom's Heart

"Dear Friend" was originally posted on April 3, 2013. 

Dear Friend,

So you got to see my child in all of her glory today.  I know it's not the side of herself she usually lets you see, but it is a reality of everyday life for her.  Like every human out there, she has good moments and bad moments, pleasant moments and moments we would like to never remember again.

I just wanted to let you know that my child is not a heathen, hellan, devil child, or rotten brat.  Rather she is a deeply hurt little girl whose emotions bubble over.  She has been through things you couldn't even imagine, let alone begin to process.

My little girl is three.  She isn't always good at saying that she feels mad or sad, but hey, neither am I.  She is trying to cope with the topsy turvy world she faces the best her little three year old self knows how.

Many times you see a put together, sweet, smiling, little angel of a child.  I hate to tell you, but most days that is not the heart of the little girl that stands before you.  Rather there is a deep sadness and confussion in this child.

But today was different. Today she chose to let her gaurd down and allow her emotions to break free.  She broke out of her fake world for just a little bit to show you some of her heart.  I know it was hard for you to see her that way, but please refrain from passing judgement on her.

Until you have stood in her shoes you will never understand the depth of pain she has experienced.  Those shoes are so much smaller then yours or mine, but they have walked more miles of hurt then either of us cares to even imagine.

So next time you see my child screaming in the corner, banging on a window, take some time to stop.  Get down on her level, look in her eyes.  Think for just a minute what her world is like.  And before you offer up unkind and unhelpful words, see if you can see beyond the fit and into her heart.

A Foster Momma

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Hard Places and Feelings: Anger

What anger looks like?

Anger. It is the number one emotion my kids show.  It is often shown to cover up feelings of sadness or disappointment. Anger means that someone else is at fault.  It tends to be an "easy" feeling to feel.  It often looks just like you think it would: temper tantrums, screaming, hitting.  At times anger can go all the way to extreme of raging.

Anger can be a dangerous feeling, it allows the child to get out of control and often justifies bad behavior.  For kids from hard places anger is often misdirected.  For my kiddos anger at a birth parent is often placed on us, the adoptive parents.  And of the two of us, mom gets the brunt of most of the anger.  Mothers are suppose to be loving and nurturing and when a mother fails at  task its devastating.  Being angry at the person who deserves it is usually too hard for these kiddos to handle.  Instead they find the easy target--the foster or adoptive mother. 

How to uncover anger?

Anger is easy to spot because it has such a bold outward appearance.  However, we have found that pointing out to our kiddos that they seem angry goes a long way in easing the feeling.  We often tell our kids, "I see your eyebrows are furrowed and your fists are clenched.  You seem angry.  Let's talk about that."  When a kiddo has their feeling recognized and acknowledge they are better able to handle it appropriately.  It also helps them to pause and think, "Oh yeah, I AM feeling angry."

How does this relate to me?


Unfortunately, like my kids, this is my go-to feeling.  I often find my anger bubbling over and my voice rising in frustration.  For me, anger tends to be a generational problem.  I've seen this in myself and in all of my kiddos (including Sweet Pea).  While I am working with my kiddos on their feelings, I am also acknowledging my own need to work on anger. 

I have learned to put a few strategies into place to help.  First, I wear a bracelet on my arm.  It reminds me to take a deep breathe and pray for my feelings and my kiddos feelings.  Second, when I feel my frustration rising I try to sit back and ask myself two things: 1. What is truly causing my frustration? and 2. Is it justified?.  Third, I try to whisper instead of yell.  It's amazing how a whisper can calm me and make my child's ears perk up. 

Even with all these strategies I am still a work in progress.  I do a lot of apologizing and explaining why I was angry to my kids.  When  I can show them healthy ways of fixing the mistakes anger makes, it helps them to better cope with the feelings themselves.

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