Tag Archives: adoption

Living and thriving outside the lines

RAD, FAS, ADHD, Autism, PTSD*

Most of these words and what they represent strike fear and grief into the hearts of parents–and for good reason. I’m not going to lie, parenting a child who wears these labels and who comes from a background of complex trauma and abuse is anything but easy and “typical.” In fact, it’s downright soul-crushing and exhausting a lot of the time.  Most of society doesn’t understand the unique needs of such a child. His needs are “invisible” and sometimes hard to explain. We’re not a family with a special needs child, we are a special needs family. It’s an isolating and scary road at times with little support.  Fortunately, we have wonderful friends who get it and who also share similar journeys.

What one would deem a “normal” life is gone. Simple outings, gatherings, school days or even car rides don’t exist. Sometimes life isn’t lived, but merely survived.

But I’d also be doing you all a great disservice if I didn’t tell you about all the good times too. Yes, they can be harder to come by, but they do exist. It takes a lot of hard work and planning, and a little luck and much prayer. And the triumphs are so wonderful…and are savored much more than words could explain.

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Deciding to live beyond the labels and the borders they sometimes create in our society is also a tough road to navigate. But that’s what we’re doing. We’re blowing away the labels and the lines in the sand. I hope to show you how we sometimes succeed at this and sometimes fail, but that you must never stop trying. After all, we still believe adventure is for all.  I hope that I can convince others who feel like they are trapped at home caring for a child with complex needs that they can live a full and exciting life in this great big world of ours. So come along and we’ll try together….

 

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*RAD: Reactive Attachment Disorder

“Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) is a complex psychiatric illness that can affect young children. It is characterized by serious problems in emotional attachments to others. RAD usually presents by age 5, but a parent, caregiver or physician may notice that a child has problems with emotional attachment by their first birthday. Often, a parent brings an infant or very young child to the doctor with one or more of the following concerns:

  • severe colic and/or feeding difficulties
  • failure to gain weight
  • detached and unresponsive behavior
  • difficulty being comforted
  • preoccupied and/or defiant behavior
  • inhibition or hesitancy in social interactions
  • disinhibition orinappropriate familiarity or closeness with strangers.

The physical, emotional and social problems associated withRAD may persist as the child grows older.

Most children with Reactive Attachment Disorder have had severe problems or disruptions in their early relationships. Many have been physically or emotionally abused or neglected. Some have experienced inadequate care in an institutional setting or other out-of-home placement such as a hospital, residential program, foster care or orphanage. Others have had multiple or traumatic losses or changes in their primary caregiver. The exact cause of Reactive Attachment Disorder is not known although research suggests that inadequate care-giving is a possible cause.” via the American Academy of Children and Adolescent Psychiatry

*FAS: Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

“FAS represents the severe end of the FASD spectrum. Fetal death is the most extreme outcome from drinking alcohol during pregnancy. People with FAS might have abnormal facial features, growth problems, and central nervous system (CNS) problems. People with FAS can have problems with learning, memory, attention span, communication, vision, or hearing. They might have a mix of these problems. People with FAS often have a hard time in school and trouble getting along with others.” via the CDC

*ADHD: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

*PTSD: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Finding Joy in the Trenches

It would seem as if I had fallen off the face of the blogosphere. I’m not sure if there is anyone still reading, and I’m sure there are some folks who were wondering if I’m still around at all. The last time I posted was February and in the middle of a fun photo challenge I was hoping to get started. What a bummer, huh?

Sometimes life has a funny way of stopping us in our tracks when we least expect it.  At least that’s what happened to me.

But let me back up a bit. A lot has happened in these past 8 months. First of all, we added this little guy to our family:

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The newest member of the Hiking Family made a surprise appearance in August. He is healthy, happy and such a joy to parent! I wish I could say that it was an uneventful pregnancy, but it turned out to be quite a journey, in fact.

He is now 2 months old and ventured on his first hike this past weekend.

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So where do I begin again? These past 8 months have been life changing. In a very short span of time I was hospitalized three times during my pregnancy, Big Brother (pictured on the far left) was admitted to the psychiatric hospital twice–encompassing 16 days in treatment–and I lost a very dear loved one.  We also made some life-changing decisions and are wading through the aftermath.

We are now trying to find ourselves amidst the new challenges we have been dealt. And I’ve come to the conclusion that instead of waiting for the fog to clear, I will instead strive to find joy while wading in the trenches. I want to use this blog to continue to chronicle our family adventures, but to also now navigate our life as we deal with some new and unique challenges. I’d love it if you joined us. Stay tuned for more of the story….

What to Expect When You’re Parenting…Adopting…or Not.

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I suspect that most adoptive parents, like myself, spent countless hours pouring over every adoption-themed book they could get their hands on while waiting to meet their children.  Most adoption books are filled with what to expect as a new parent, helpful advice for the adjustment period, the do’s and don’ts, attachment info and even scary worst case scenarios.  As helpful and necessary as these books are, I find only one truth really holds in parenting children through adoption–

Expect the unexpected.

Always.

We all expect it to be hard.  Throw in issues like post-institutional trauma, histories of neglect and abuse, older age, special needs, medical needs  and all the things that will forever remain unknown in your child’s past, and you have a recipe for something that seems mind-boggling in terms of difficulty.  And it is.

Now as I am embarking on an entirely different path to parenthood (you know, the “old fashioned” way) I find the wait to be just as scary as before.  There are all kinds of books that tell you what to expect for each stage of parenthood from prenatal to the teenage years. But this time around, instead of dealing with broken spirits, broken bodies and wounded hearts, I’m preparing to birth and care for a tiny, helpless infant….and it seems a little scary!  And I’m sure that just as before, the expect the unexpected motto will still hold true.

So here I am, reminiscing on all the things I didn’t expect as a parent…

1. Difficult doesn’t even begin to explain how hard parenting a child will be. Throw in special needs, wounded hearts and attachment issues and it’s just plain tough.

2. You will, at some point, feel like a failure.  It happens to us all. But you’re not–you’re just human.

3. You will mess up.  Just own it and move on.

4. You will feel so much love and pride for your children–even the one who doesn’t yet know how to love you back–that you will often feel like your heart will burst.

5.  You will always worry about your children and their safety.  No matter how big they get, you will always have that mother’s worrying heart.

6.  Watching your children experience pain will be the most painful experience of your own life.

7. What you thought would be important before your children arrived (rules, discipline, etc.) will most likely change after they arrive.

8. You will want to curl up in the fetal position and cry some days.  It’s OK.  We will all feel like that sometimes.

9. On some days, you will feel like the most accomplished human being on the planet even if your only achievements were keeping the kids fed, bathed and alive.

10.  You really can’t do it alone.  No matter how brave, smart, talented or great you are, it really does take a village.  And you’ll need a village for yourself, too–a group of moms who understand and support you, even on those days when you feel like curling into the fetal position.

So what’s on your list?

 

Two Years Ago…we became a family of four

Two years ago today we were flying home from Hong Kong, exhausted, overwhelmed, a bit scared but very excited.

That means Big Brother has been home for two entire years!  What a wild, crazy adventure it’s been.  Although Big Brother has come so far, he still has so much to overcome.  But we’ll get there.  We couldn’t be more proud of you, Big Brother!

momavi2Mommy and Big Brother, the first day we met (January 10, 2011)

hk15Big Brother and Little Man checking each other out at the orphanage in Hong Kong

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hkcity Beautiful Hong Kong

 

Merry Christmas Never Sounded So Sweet

This will be Big Brother’s 2nd Christmas. And even though he is almost 6 years old, this is the first time he has been able to actually sing a Christmas song. Nothing sweeter to my ears than this precious child who we were told would never talk! #miracleshappen

I dare you to watch and not smile…

Party for a Purpose

Are you (or someone you know) adopting? Are you looking for a way to raise funds? I just launched my direct sales business through Trades of Hope, a fair trade company that helps empower women out of poverty by selling their handcrafts. For the month of November only, I am offering to use my business for adoption fundraisers….meaning I will donate all proceeds from your online/catalog party to your adoption fund! Please feel free to share with anyone who might be interested (and please “like” my page, too!) You can learn more athttp://www.facebook.com/LaurenTradesOfHope

It’s time to party for a purpose with gifts that give twice!

The Gift

He had a traumatic and tragic birth history. He spent his first four years of life in two different orphanages.  He was diagnosed as being severely mentally delayed.  He was nonverbal and faced a life of institutionalization.

Flash forward 1 year and 10 months, a new home, a new family….

He is diagnosed with autism. It is found that he possesses a gift.

The gift is numbers–math.  He counts everything.  He can count a collection of hundreds with a single glance.  He can add, subtract, multiply and divide in his head and does so all day long with great joy.  His entire world is a puzzle of numbers.

He is five years old.

He is now being placed in a 4th grade level math class at school.  His verbal skills are at a 3-year-old level and his self-care skills are about the same level or below.

But his gift is amazing.

His story is still unfolding, and how lucky I am to be a part of it. He has taught me a lesson that I very well might have missed out on otherwise.

What would this world be like if we could all see past each others weaknesses and instead only focus on the many gifts around us?

 

 

The Power of We

Today is Blog Action Day, a time for bloggers from around the globe to unite and join a global discussion about one important topic.

“The purpose of Blog Action Day is to create a positive discussion that enables social good about an important topic. We ask bloggers to take a single day out of their schedule and focus it on an important issue.

By blogging about the same issue, on the same day, from their own perspectives, the blogging community focuses discussion and give their audiences the opportunities to take part in a global conversation, raise awareness or even funds for not-for-profits.”

The topic for today is The Power of We.  I love this topic so much and was really excited to write about it.

the reason I started blogging in the first place…..Little Man and I meeting at the orphanage in Vietnam for the first time

I started blogging in 2007 as a way to chronicle our adoption journey.  At the time, it was just a way for us to keep family and friends updated on the long, complicated journey.  Over time, my blog changed a lot.  I wasn’t sure what to write about or how to use my online presence.  But then slowly, after the adoption of our second child (a special needs, older child adoption) I knew what purpose I wanted my blog to serve.

My blog, you see, became my voice.  A voice to raise awareness on the issues that had affected my life personally: autism, special needs adoption, older child adoption, HIV adoption and the HIV/AIDS orphan crisis and non-profits providing aid to orphanages and children around the world.  I  even found my voice in encouraging others that adventure and the outdooors are for everyone–especially for children and those with special needs.

In 2009, through the power of blogging, I was able to team up with some other adoptive mama’s to start a series of campaigns to raise funds for children and families in Vietnam.  We had never even met in real life, but we had forged a connection through our sons’ shared heritages and our online voices.  We took a small idea and using he Power of We, were able to give life-saving surgeries, meals and other resources to people in need.

In 2012, again through blogging, I was able to connect and meet with the moms involved in the World Moms Blog and was able to spread my voice even further by becoming a contributor to their social good column.

And again in 2012, I was able to join a coalition of moms called the Global Team of 200 in an effort to spread my message of social good far and wide.

I am just beginning to harness the Power of We.  I don’t know where I’m heading, but I know it’s right where I’m supposed to be.  Blogging has not only let me find my voice, but has let me truly discover the amazing Power of We. I am so excited to see where this journey takes me.

Together, our voices united, we can bring about the changes we seek.  I have seen it happen before and I am honored to be a part of the Power of We.

Won’t you join me?

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. ~Margaret Mead 

Hope, Fear and a Mother’s Love

“The central struggle of parenthood is to let our hopes for our children outweigh our fears.” – Ellen Goodman

Yesterday I sent both my boys off to Kindergarten.

Like all mothers, I have hopes and dreams for my children.  And like most mothers, I often find myself drowning in fear and worry about every aspect of their lives.  Sometimes it is easy to push these worries aside and focus on the now.  But yesterday, the fear and worry about my son with special needs was nearly too much to bear.  And as my motherly instinct had forewarned, my worst fears did turn into reality.  Days like yesterday tip the balance of my motherly hopes and fears and I find myself grasping for anything to hold onto, anything to help me regain my footing.

My Little Man was so excited to start Kindergarten and I’m happy to report that he did great.  He was all smiles and couldn’t wait to tell me all about his day. His joy and enthusiasm made my heart soar.

All I wanted for Big Brother was for him to make it through one entire day in his new Life Skills class, but it was not to be.  He made it for a few hours before I received a frantic phone call.  I rushed to pick up Big Brother, my heart nearly leaping out of my chest on the short drive to the school.  The anxiety, the over-stimulation, all the questions, the new people, the new schedule….it was all too much for him. He had an epic and violent meltdown that left us all in quite an emotional place.

All the therapy, all the love, all the medication and we still find ourselves back at square one.  It’s hard when you feel so helpless–when you see your child suffering and cannot do anything to stop it.

I know Big Brother did the best he could.  I know he was scared and did not understand why I was not with him at school.  I know he felt pressure to answer questions he did not know the answers to. I know we prepared him the best we could with visits and meetings. But I can’t help but feel that I failed him somehow….that I am asking too much of him.  I feel that I should advocate harder for him, to make the world see past his trauma.

There are just some days that leave you breathless, grasping for anything you can to find your footing.  There are days when your heart aches more than words can say.

But we will try again and I will work to find the balance between hope and fear.

Until then, we’ll take Little Man’s advice and “just keep swimming, just keep swimming….”

 

 

 

 

 

4 Years Ago {Happy Family Day, Little Man!}

On this day 4 years ago, my life was forever changed. The hubby and I walked into an orphanage in Vietnam as a family of two, but left as a family of three.

the first time I held my son…he looked terrified 

our official “giving and receiving” ceremony

It’s hard to believe that it has been 4 years. It has been (and continues to be) an honor and a privilege to call Little Man my son. There is not a single day that passes that I don’t stop and reflect on what an amazing blessing I’ve been given.  Watching him grow and change over these past 4 years has been the most magnificent experience of my life.  I’m a lucky, lucky mama whose heart is bursting over with joy and love.  I don’t know how I got so lucky, but I am thankful to spend each day with this wonderful little boy!!! Happy Family Day, sweet Little Man.  I love you to the moon and back, a million times over.