I Am Me, and I Am Good 'cuz God Don't Make Junk!

Controlled Chaos: Living life one day at a time with a disabled husband, five special needs kids, 2 crazy cats, and one neurotic dog.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Me with my "big girl" panties!

I just spent the most incredible weekend with the most amazing women on the planet. I got to go to the 3rd ETAAM (Early Trauma and Attachment Annual Meeting) in Orlando. In most circles, Orlando means Disney. In my circle, it means "Oh my Gosh!!! It is the most incredible weekend you will ever experience in your entire life." It means you get a chance to be yourself with 89 other moms who parent trauma and totally know where you're coming from. It means you get to laugh, cry, eat, soak up the sun, walk or run a 5k, hoop, laugh, watch the honey badger, meet people you only know from the internet, sing songs, laugh, relax, get henna, hot tub it with 9 other ladies, laugh. I can go on forever about how life changing it really is. I met women who have and will continue to completely shape my life. I got to be me, and I am so awesome. I took so much baggage with me, litterally and figuratively, and I came back with a new and refreshed outlook on my life. Orlando gave me the chance to find the "truths" that will help me to make the changes I need to survive and thrive.

I was about three seconds from e-mailing the person in charge and cancelling my resevation. I had it all typed, but I didn't send it. Going to Orlando was so far out of my comfort zone. I am excrutiatingly shy. I am socially backward. I am weird. I know all of these things. It has taken me years, but I have been able to embrace these facts and start to fully love myself. I didn't want to be thrown into a group of women who would see that I am shy and backward and weird. I'm okay with it, but I didn't want them to have to be okay with it. I wanted to be awesome, and social, and incredible, and I knew these are qualities I do not posess. I was going to be in a villa with 9 other women who exuded confidence, love, and beauty. On the awesome scale, these women are off the chart. I weigh more than I ever have in my life. I chipped my front tooth a month ago, and it left a gap between my teeth that causes me to lisp, (and occasionally spit.) My hair has a mind of it's own. When I get nervous, my body emits an odor that is not the least bit flattering. If I wore overalls, I would be the epitome of "Iowa white trash." I am almost deaf in my right ear and have a 50% hearing deficit in my left ear. I read lips quite well, if I can still hear a little bit of what is going on. People think I am staring at their face, but I am really just reading their lips so I don't miss what they are saying. I'm what my mom would call "an odd duck." When I compared myself to these women, I sucked. I didn't want to suck for a whole weekend. I can do that at home and for a fraction of the cost!

Friday morning, I got up at 3:00 a.m. I figured if I put on some makeup and did my hair, I would feel a little more confident. My hair decided it wanted to do this "Adele" imitation. She can pull it off (and win a million grammys on top of it!) I, however, looked like I was wearing a hockey helmet on steroids. I threw on some makeup and decided that no matter what I did, I would not make my terrible self image go away. All the way to the airport, my husband made it painfully clear that I was being selfish by taking this time for myself. He was angry that I had told neighbors to check on him to make sure he didn't need anything. In his mind I was telling him he couldn't do it without me. In my mind, I knew what it was like to parent alone, so I wanted him to have all of the help he could get so he succeeded while I was gone. His anger won, and I promised I would never take this trip again.

Three planes and several hours later, I was still reeling from the fight with husband. The last thing I wanted was to be loved on by a bunch of strangers. All I really wanted was to be loved by my husband. The women were unbelivable. So understanding and sweet. Shortly after getting to our villa, we got a call that there were flowers waiting for me at the main gate. My heart really wanted an apology, but I got lillies, instead. I needed to be alone to process what I was feeling. I went upstairs and sobbed for about half an hour. When I finally got myself back together enough to go back downstairs, no one was judging me, telling we what I needed to do. They just let me join the "party" at my own pace.

The rest of the weekend was so amazing. I felt so accepted by everyone. There were even women there who wanted to meet me. They had read something I had written that had inspired them and they wanted to meet me. I didn't get to meet everyone that I wanted to, but the ones I did meet were so inspiring. There's a saying, "If everyone put their problems in a circle, we would all choose our own back." I've always thought I'd like a chance at someone who doesn't parent trauma's problems. After this weekend, I know I would choose anyone of these mamas' problems, but only to help carry them and ease the pain. I have never seen such grace or strength in all of my life, and if I really look inside myself, I will see that I posess some of that grace and strength, just because I am a trauma mama.

I stayed an extra day, because I knew I would need that time to process everything before I went back to "ground zero." I also needed time to finish my Capstone paper, but I didn't know that when I booked my motel. At the time, I wished I had just gone home, but in retrospect, it was the perfect choice. I had the most relaxing, reflexive time of my life. It gave me time to find some truths about the weekend, my marriage, my kids, and my life.

Truth #l:
I am worthy of love. Love from others and especially love from myself. It doesn't matter how backward and awkward I feel, I have something to add, even if it's just to share my big girl panties, my singing voice, and a witty quip or two (or ten!) I need to get past the self-judgement and realize that I have something worthwhile to give. I may never know exactly what that is, but I will never stop looking for it!

Truth #2:
My husband loves me. He is angry for so many reasons, but it is not because I went to Orlando. He also feels like he has nothing worthwhile to contribute to our life. The kids listen to me. They show me they love me all the time. It doesn't come easy for them to show him they love him. While my insecurities come out in silence, his comes out in anger. We need to lean on each other and work on our insecurities together. He is my "Love of a Lifetime", and I hope I get a lifetime to prove it to him.

Hockey is my favorite sport, but I will give it up if it means I can help my daughter. Even though my kids drive me crazy, I would die for them. I needed a break so that I could realize that it is my love for them that keeps me going. Without my husband and my kids, well let's face it, I would still be awesome, but I don't want to be that kind of awesome. I am in the right place, at the right time, with the right people, and the potential for growth, for all of us, is staggeringly beautiful. Not sure if that's a word, but it works. We are all survivors.

Truth #4:
I am one smart cookie. I aced my Capstone paper while on vacation. I kept my 4.0 and got to spend the weekend with 90 angels on earth. I rock!!

Truth #5:
RAD sucks. There's no other way to put it. It affects every life it touches, even if that person is unaware that RAD has entered their life. I hate RAD with every fiber of my being, BUT, it has made me the person I am today. I am stronger than I ever thought possible. I am more patient. I will fight for my family with everything that is in me. I will not give up, on my family, or myself. I am starting to really like "me." I may never be as confident as the incredible women I spent last weekend with, but I also realize, they may not feel that confident, either. It is also usless for me to compare myself to these women. I am not them. I am me, and I am getting better with every breath I take. To quote a sign at the restaraunt we ate at in Orlando, "I'm so awesome, I sweat glitter." I'm okay with the whole sparkling thing. I can pull that off.

Every picture I see of myself that was taken in Orlando makes me want to gag. I don't think I will ever see past my exterior. No matter how much people tell me I am beautiful, I can't believe them. Unfortunately, this is one of my biggest truths. I can hear people tell me that I inspire them, or that I make them laugh, but my mind won't believe it. I've parented RAD so long I'm used to people lying to me. In my heart, I want to believe they are sincere, but my head tells me that they are being nice. Someone told me once that I over-think everything. Wow! Could that be possible? Do I really think about things and analyse them too much? Maybe I should just believe people when they tell me something, but then, I might miss their subtle suggestions that I am weird and I should just leave them alone. I don't know. Do you think I over-think things?

No matter what, Orlando was one of the best experiences of my life. Whether or not I will get to make this an annual event, remains to be seen. I got so much out of this experience. I have a support system, I love some new people- ones I would never have met if it wasn't for me parenting trauma, and I found my inner "honey badger." No matter how much I doubt myself and my character, this one truth will ever remain~~I am worth it!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Stuff That Worked!!

A while back, I joined a "super secret" group on facebook for mothers who parent trauma. Most of these moms are struggling greatly with the life that chose them. Though I know none of these women personally (atleast, not until Orlando!!,) my heart aches for each one of them. A year ago, I was where they are. I could never have dreamed we'd be this far already. Yet, some days, I feel like we're back at square one again. Thankfully, those days are getting fewer, and the happiness is drifting back into our family.

I wanted to make a list of things that have worked for us. I realize that each child is different, and each situation, unique, but hopefully there will at least a few of these things that will work. And hopefully, some of these precious ladies will take the time to read this post.

1. Research, research, reasearch!! There are tons of great RAD websites, blogs, books, and videos out there. I am partial to Christine Moers, Nancy Thomas, Corey Waters, and House Calls Counseling. There are a bunch of blogs I follow regularly. Check my blogs at the bottom. When I get computer saavy, I will post these as a link, but since that will take about as long as it will take the 49ers to win another super bowl (die hard fan!!,) this will have to do.

2. Trigger words- When the kids start to ask nonsense questions, we use the word "elephant" in a sentence, ie: "Mommy, is that your pop?" "No, sweetie. It's the elephant's pop." Then, I ignore any nonsense question after that. Even my 4-year-old caught on pretty quickly. E gets really excited (obnoxiously so) quite easily, so we use the word "eclipse." Because she really wants to heal, this will stop her in her tracks. We change it up for the holidays, ie: Halloween is gobblin, Chirstmas is Holly, Thanksgiving is gobble, and making 4-H projects is just stop that before I hot glue your lips shut-- actually it is clover. She likes to pick the word and it really does work for her. My 6-year-old likes "bellybutton." Have fun with it. If it doesn't work, give it time. It took several sessions of eye rolling and "Uh! Mom!!" before it worked for my cheribim.

3. Sing!! Doesn't matter what, just belt it out! I love to sing heavy metal songs with an opera melody, out of tune, of course. Any song with the word "eyes" in it is great for eye contact. "My Eyes Adored You", Eye of the Tiger", "Angel Eyes", etc. Nothing stops a meltdown in public like singing "Bohemian Rapsody" in the middle of Target, you know, the "Mama Mia" part! "Stairway to Heaven" is equally obnoxious.

4. Catch them off guard. My favorite response to my daughter's meltdown and subsiquent "I hate you" was "Wait! Can you say that with a southern accent? I Hate You- exagerated drawl. How about a Brittish accent? I say gov'ner. I hate you. How about alien? Beep, beep, beep." It only worked once, but I didn't hear "I hate you" for a long time.

5. Grab the video camera. Nothing shuts down a tantrum like getting hard evidence. Never even had to turn it on.

Body is shutting down. Too many hours of 4-H projects and 3 pans of cookies to make tomorrow before judging at 2:00. I will continue my list soon. Hope for blues, be satisfied to get them all finished.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

It's All in the Way You Look at It

We've all heard about how to tell if you are an optimist or pestimist by judging the glass half full or half empty. Well, I used to fall into a third category-- It was always a half a glass. I guess that could be described as complacency. Oh well, this is what life handed me and it's never gonna change. As I've gotten older, I've gotten fiestier. Life doesn't hand me anything. If I want it, I've got to get it myself.

I first realized I possessed this strength when I was diagnosed with a heart condition. I was told I needed a heart transplant. I fought it, I prayed, and I found a new doctor who tried a different medication. Twenty two years later, I'm still here.

When my son was diagnosed with Neuronal Migratory Disorder, that fighting spirit came out again. I was told by an expert in the field to "Take him home and love him because he won't be worth anything." I was also told that I had caused his condition by something I did when I was pregnant. After the initial shock wore off, I did everything I could to help my son. He is walking, attending regular classes, with the exception of reading and math which are modified, and he is one of the coolest kids around. When I took him to a different doctor, he ordered a bunch of tests for D. I will never forget sitting in his office when he looked at the brain scan. He looked at the results, then looked at D. Then, he stared in disbelief at me. "Whatever you are doing with this child keep it up." He said smiling. He showed me the paper with the results on it. It said the patient would most likely live in a vegitative state. I checked the name on the top of the sheet. Yeah, it was my son. His brain was a mess. He should have been in a vegitative state. When I asked him how he was doing as well as he was, he replied, "He's a determined little guy, and he's got an incredible momma." Pretty high praise coming from an actual "Brain Surgeon."

I knew I had the potential for extreme strength, but nothing brought it out more than when two of my kids were diagnosed with RAD. I searched the internet for weeks looking for ways to parent my little ones. I read books, watched videos, and devoured a 10 DVD training session in three days. What I found was, my kids couldn't change (heal, grow, evolve, etc) without me changing (healing, et al) first. I concentrated on myself, not my children. I paid attention to how I responded to their actions. I forced myself to be happy, even when my child was melting into a huge, gooey pile of confusion. I tried to approach everything, and I do mean everything, with a a positive attitude. Sure, a lot of times, I reverted back to the yelling and the punishing, but for the most part, I kept everything upbeat and happy, even goofy. My kids responded. They healed, a lot!! E started doing her homework, and helping out around the house. B struggles with her other diagnoses (Aspergers, OCD, ADHD,) but that is mostly because I have not figured out how to parent her muti-dimentional issues. I'm getting there, but not where I want to be, yet. I use a lot of humor and unexpected responses to "head off" the behaviors. When the three little ones are playing on the floor and they start to fight, I'll throw myself in the middle of everything and sing (very loudly and off-key) "My eyes adored you, la la la la la la la, My eyes adored you." Those are the only words I know, but they are effective. I'm really creative, and I get to use that creativity to parent my kids. I'm actually having a blast. That's not to say that I don't lose it once in a while, I do, but I just mentally imagine myself in a bikini, and I start to laugh. When I do get time to myself, I try to do only things that recharge my spirit and bring me bliss (there's that word again!!) My wardrobe is made up of bliss skirts, yummy shoes, kalidascopic tops, and "squishy comfy" pants. I sing with the window down in my van. Sometimes I choose to use my beautiful voice, and sometimes I don't. Depends on who's listening and what response I want from them. Some nights, I spend hours on the internet looking for great craft blogs and free downloads of my favorite games. I still have a tendency to let myself get run-down, but I just have to make that conscious "switch" to the positive side of my brain, and I can hit the floor running again. My glass is not half empty, half a glass, or even half full. My glass is over flowing because I've found a way to keep filling it up. RAD really does suck, but it has made me a more heavenly person, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Missing Heidi

One of my classes this term is Behavior Modification. It's a great class and the teacher is incredible. One of the things that we have been working on is finding out what causes certain behaviors and emotions and how to shape them into healthy behaviors. As I sat in class last night, I tended to "zone out" some. I was paying attention, but there was something bothering me. After class, the teacher made the comment that I was very quiet (not really out of the ordinary. I'm much better in print than I am in person.) Without even thinking I said, "A good friend died yesterday." It dawned on me that I had been thinking about her. Our neighbor and good friend died Wednesday after open heart surgery. She was in a drug-induced coma for 3 weeks before she finally passed away. She was a foster mom during the time that we had been fostering. We spent a lot of time comiserating and crying on each other's shoulder. As I thought about her, I realized, it wasn't the loss I was feeling. I was angry. I was truely "pissed off" (I very seldom use that term) that she had given up. She was few months younger than I am. She left behind a husband and three adult daughters. She lived for her family, and now she was not going to be there to share in the milestones that a mother is supposed to be a part of. I was really, REALLY mad!!

I sat in my van after spending about an hour talking to some classmates~~Thanks Ladies. It was so nice to talk to adults!!~~ I tried to rationalize away my anger. My friend had been through a lot in her 48 years. She was in a horrible car accident when her twins were just 6 months old, and she crushed her spine. She was able to walk again, but she wasn't supposed to have more kids. Then along came Heaven. She wasn't supposed to be born, hence, her name (and personality!!) Then she got cancer, and developed heart and kidney problems. When her kids graduated and left home, she and her husband became foster parents. They took in a lot of very troubled kids, but never got to realize their dream of adopting more children. She had several surgeries, and eventually, didn't survive one. I can't say she was a happy person, but she was one of the most loving and generous people I have ever known. She was tired, and she was ready. She didn't give up. She let go, and she was entitled. It was almost like I was angry so I didn't have to miss her. BINGO!! The horse has left the barn. Once I realized why I was feeling angry, I could put my feelings into perspective and allow myself to really miss her.

As the tears run down my cheeks for the first time since I heard that she had died, I can smile as I remember her as the person she truely was, a beautiful, loving, giving, perfectly flawed friend. Goodbye Heidi, and thank you!

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy

I love that moment after complete strife when you can take a deep sigh and the whole world lifts from your shoulders. I'd been weighted down with so much muck, that I had forgotten what it was like to "breathe easy." I know that the life that has chosen me will never be easy, but I feel like I've been given a "stay of execution." There were many times I wasn't sure we were going to survive.

A couple of times a year, I tend to let the stress build up until I become physically sick. Last Wednesday was one of those times. I'd spent every waking hour (many that shouldn't have been "waking hours") either studying, going to class, or meeting the infinite needs of my family. I needed a break and between the three areas, I wasn't going to get one. When I woke up Wednesday morning, I felt like dirt. I ached all over, had chills, and vomited everything I ate. My husband very reluctantly canceled his plans for the day, and I went back to bed. At about 11:30, he woke me saying, "I have good news, But since it's Wednesday, let's go to the chuch to see if we can get some food to last us until the end of the month. I'll tell you what the good news is on the way there. Our church has a program for people who need extra help with food, gas, etc. and they are only there on Wednesdays. We got the kids ready and got in the van. My head was still spinning, and my stomach was queasy, but I knew we needed some help to make it until the end of the month. On the way there, my husband told me he was approved for disability. Finally, the light at the end of the tunnel isn't an oncoming train. I hate that he had to file for disability, but he can no longer work, and I can't find a job, so we had to do something. We aren't the type of people who abuse this kind of help, so I guess I just need to forget my pride, and thank the Lord that we are getting the income we so desperately need. The chuch helped us enough that we will make it until we get his first check. I am eternally grateful.

The next day, I felt better. I was able to get my homework done and a friend watched the kids so I could have a little time to myself before class. I got to go shopping at Goodwill, my favorite store, and I spent about an hour getting things set for next term at school. It was then that I found out that I have a 4.0 in both of my classes. I'm so excited. I've never had a 4.0 in my life. Of course, I've never worked as hard as I have to get it, either. I'm so glad I decided to go back to school. My idea to start services for families with children who have attachment issues will hopefully be a reality in the near future!

E went to a friend's for the weekend. D went to Grandma and Grandpa's, so we only have the three youngest. They went to bed by 8:30, so we had a terrific evening together. We don't do that nearly as often as we need to.

Looks like I won't have to scrimp and save as much as I thought to pay for my way to Orlando. He will get a large lump sum for back pay, so I can finally get a stove that has more than one burner that works, and it doesn't shock you when you use a metal spoon. We'll probably never be able to get our savings back to where it was before I quit my job to take care of the kids, and hubby lost his job (over two years, now,) but at least things have lightened up a lot in just a few days. Man! I wish I could lose weight in my hips that fast!!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Trauma Mamma Heaven

Since I want to start services for families dealing with attachment disorder in this area, I have started doing a lot more research on the web. I'm getting some good "info" from the scholared experts, but you just can't beat learning from a first hand trauma mamma. I've followed several blogs for awhile now, but I add a few more "gotta reads" almost every day. I like me some "RAD Dads," but mothers of attachment challenged children are phenomenal!! Even when they "suck," they rock. Just the fact that they drag themselves out of bed every morning and survive to crawl back in bed at night is a feat unto itself. I am a trauma mamma. By that very admission, I am a woman of incredible strength, charecter, love, creativity, and spirit. I may not feel that way even half of the time, but I am. I can slap any derrogatory discription I can think of on myself, but they cannot outshine the qualities I posess simply because I am a trauma mamma.

I wish that I could reach through the computer and hug each and every mother who parents trauma. I wish I could tell them how incredible they are and that no matter how much it stinks to have to go through it, they are such a gift. I have learned so much just from reading about their lives. Oh, how I long to meet some of these special women in person, just to bask in their wonderfulness.

Ask and ye shall recieve!! For the past two years, there has been a retreat in Orlando, Florida for mothers of traumatized children. Since neither my husband nor I work, I never even dared to dream about going. On one of the blogs I follow, there was an application for a scholarship to attend the third annual retreat in Orlando. I never thought I could ever qualify, but I figured, "What the heck," so I applied. A day later, I found out that I had been accepted. All I need to do is come up with the airfare, and the first weekend in March, I am Orlando-bound. To say that coming up with the transportation money is going to be easy would be a lie, but I'm going to get it if I have to add on to my student loan to do it. I'm even learning to hoop and training for the 5k fun run. I feel guilty spending money we could use for food or bills on myself, or taking time away from my kids, when doing so will cause major upsets, behaviors, and meltdowns (oh, my!) I keep thinking that I am so selfish for even thinking about going. Then I look in the mirror and say, "you gorgeous mamma. You so deserve to go to Orlando and spend time with the most incredible women on this planet." Hey! I have until March to start believing it. Got my sunblock and my shades-- let the basking begin!!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Just when I think It's Gonna Be Okay...

I really thought things were going to take a turn for the better for our family. I'm back in school and loving it. I've learned so much already, and I really hope I can figure out how to get the RAD support desperately needed for this area after I graduate. D, A, and C seem to be doing great. We still have some issues, but it's more due to age and stage rather than disabilities. Then we have B and E. I'd be safer in the Islandic volcano than in my own home. E informed me tonight that she has a mother and I will never be that mother. I'm abusive and I hate her, and the only reason we adopted her is to "show off." There were some other equally "sweet" things that were said, but, gosh, a Mom's gotta keep some of these "treasures" to herself. I recently friended her birth mom on facebook, and a bunch of relatives came out of the woodwork to friend her (E). She is so fragile right now. and M is so mentally unstable, (she listed E as her daughter on fb. She gave birth to 4 other children, but she only listed E.) She's actually the most sane of all of them. I do not want her to forget her past, it is part of who she is. We have an open adoption for a reason, but her extended relatives are not healthy contacts for her right now. She is also telling all of her friends that we abuse all of our children. We know that is not true, but the other 750+ people in this town don't. We have documentation that she makes false accusations, but we shouldn't have to resort to that. So far, DHS has not shown up at our door, so we are hoping to ride this storm out in privacy.

Then we come to little B. She is the cutest, cuddliest girl, but her behaviors make her about as apealing as a dung heap. She is so destructive and defiant. I am so emotionally exhausted trying to parent this child. I have thought about a residential placement for her because her behavior is so disruptive for the rest of the family, especially E. She's only 6. I want to hold her and tell her that we can just "love" all of this away, but we can't. My husband has no clue on how to parent her, and I just a step above him. It's got to stop, but I have no idea how we can make it. Hopefully, we can get her in to the behavioral clinic in Iowa City soon. Otherwise, my only other option is make do and muddle through. I don't like to muddle. I like to soar and make sure that my children can too.