Monday, October 29, 2012

Weighted Blankets

     We were the recipients of two very thoughtful gifts.  My mom and sister, Katie, made Etienne and Zeke each their very own weighted blanket.  Sounds weird to some of you, I'm sure.  But these things are beyond fabulous.
     The thought behind a weighted blanket is that the pressure on nerves helps the senses to focus and interpret data more efficiently.  Since I deliver babies, the analogy easiest for me is to think of how we calm a newborn.  We swaddle them tightly and we hold them.  Ryan and I figured out a long time ago that both boys calm down faster and can refocus if we hold them tightly, lie on top of them or swaddle them.  It's nearly impossible for me to do any of these things for all  Etienne's 69lbs.  Enter the blanket.  12 lbs of blanket!
     Mom and Katie saved coupons and built up a supply of poly-pellets.  They searched high and low for fabric that "fit" each boy; funny mustache print for E and track/running fabric for Ezekiel.  Than came many days and some sleepless nights of constructing these bad boys.  I know that each of them felt the weight of the blankets in their necks and shoulders as they stitched them together.  Such a labor of love.
     Zeke's blanket has cut our morning meltdown time to 5-10 minutes, whereas before I am not exaggerating to say that getting him dressed easily took 40 minutes.  Now, when he freaks out about how is underwear or socks feel, I calmly lay him in his blanket and we pray that he find God's strength to overcome how something feels.  Then we sing a worship song and he's usually ready to unwrap and face his clothing.  The funny thing is that he can't unwrap himself so if I get distracted poor Zeke waits in his blanket burrito until I realize that it's unusually quiet.
     Sleep.  Etienne is sleeping longer stretches.  He is keeping his body on the bed.  We don't jump at the sound of him crashing his head on the wall.  And. Wait for it.  He hasn't been wetting the bed.  For the most part, he is waking up with dry layers.  CRAZY!  Sure, we are still having 2 or 3 day runs where he is getting up in the middle of the night and wondering.  But he is falling asleep quickly and sleeping much better.  That means we are too.
     Don't get me wrong.  I don't think that weighted blankets are a magical gift.  I absolutely think that God used these women in my life, with their thought and skill, to give us another tool to help get through the days and the nights.   Very, very grateful am I.
Here is the link to the pattern that they used.  I know the poly-pellets aren't cheap but they watched for weekly Michael's coupons and bought bags with those.

Grandma with the boys.  Photos of them using the blankets feels to private.

Aunt Katie isn't in too many pics-it seems to be a mom thing.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Little Things

Sometimes I get questions about how I get through those moments. The ones that seem to escalate and escalate.  I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing most of the time.  But here are a "moves" that seem to help both Zeke and Etienne (whether it's a sensory issue, RAD or whatever)
  • Turn the music on really loud.  Etienne (and his mama) have been digging Hillsong
  • Pray aloud.  This helps me stay calm.  Truthfully, I pray for myself, so my kids can hear me, partly because I want to see this kid the way God sees them and partly because I want them to know that I can't do this alone and that I'm not just giving them lip service when I tell them to pray all day long.  I also sometimes recite bible verses.  Your kid isn't going to listen to you lecture right now anyway.
  • Snuggle & Swaddle. Again, your kids isn't going to listen to you lecture right now anyway. If you hold them tightly you can help sooth and resist the urge to hit/spank (I'm honest and I know that no matter what The Connected Child may say...this is sometimes almost impossibly hard)
  • Blow out the birthday candles. I pull out my coping mechanisms that I use on my laboring patients.  Helping your kid (and you) focus on breathing in their nose and out slowly through the mouth can calm the screaming or snotty crying.
  • Confess to someone else.  Text or call someone that loves you ALL THE TIME and gets what this really looks like.  I don't say much.  Something like "I'm not okay right now. I don't want to get too angry at this kid"
  • Think about the first time you saw this child. For me, I can never ever erase watching an "Auntie" scrub my child's face with lard and a bucket of cold water on a concrete slab.  I share this image because it's painful, it's heartbreaking and it's a piece of our history.  God gave me that glimpse into my children's life before we brought them home so that in these times of trial and suffering, I can be heartbroken for them all over again.  Those tearful memories serve a purpose.  Use them.

"..we rejoice in our sufferings because suffering produces endurance & endurance, character and character hope." Romans 5:3

Friday, October 12, 2012

He is here.

     Sitting at an intersection tonight.  Outside of Molly's window is a man holding a cardboard sign:
"Out of gas money.  Veteran."
     Molly knew our routine.  I gave her all my cash (don't judge, Ryan and I agreed to this a long time ago) and she stuck called "Hey, dude. Hang in there." I love that girl.
     From the middle row of the van the incessant yelling and wiggling stilled.  Then I heard the sweetest words.  My heart skipped a beat.
 "God please take care of that man tonight, even if he doesn't know you yet.  And please give him a house to sleep in and a family to take care of him."
     Etienne said those words.
     God is not dead.  He's surely alive.
     That is HOW I get out of bed each day.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

"I wait patiently for the LORD...." -Psalm 40:1

(read the rest of Psalm 40 here)
     The weekend was like a punch in the gut.
     Ryan was out of town.
     Parenting this boy, these boys, feels like I'm always on a steep, uphill climb.
     I fear that people have tired of our drama. (Yeah, Kara, we get it, you have a lot of laundry and your kid likes to make you cry.  Its been three years already. It can't be that bad)
     I don't want to lament.
     I'm paranoid that the world thinks I exaggerate.
     Yet this burden is breaking my heart.
     I've been fighting a lot of anger.  Anger toward people around us that I feel have given up on my family.  That don't believe or understand how much suffering happens between these walls.  Anger toward my children that we can't function in the world at large. Or even in our living room.  
     Anger at God.  There I said it.
     Anger that He can't just heal this broken heart.  That He's allowing my son to push me and hurt me and drive me down this dark, lonely road.  
     I took a midnight run in my sweats.  My husband waited at the driveway, trying to protect me from a distance and guard his children that slept quietly in their beds.  I waited on the Lord while I ran.  Prayed for a sign, a voice, something to renew my spirit.  All was quiet.
     The next day, I took a 2.5 hr hike to and around a cemetery (Ryan's comment: At least you were safe there.).  I waited on the Lord.  Again, I called out for something to renew me.  Instead, the dog glanced back at me, bored and tired as countless barn swallows dived around us.  Still quiet.
     And then my phone buzzed.  A friend in Texas sent me a message that I was on her heart and she was praying over me.  Again, the buzzing.   A fellow midwife sent a text that she was thinking of me.  Still another and another and another.  God showed up in my friends from afar: CA, TX, PA, VA.  And then, AND THEN, I received a text from a Rwanda mama I don't hear from often.  I read these words. 
 "Seriously. World about to be rocked.  I am looking at your son from the summer before you adopted him.  At least I am almost sure of it."

     Ryan and I set staring, tears streaming down our cheeks.  This photo.  That boy.  That is our son, OUR SON, before he knew he was ours.  When Got began etching him into our hearts.  This is sacred.  This is holy.  For a child whose beginnings are so foggy, with so many holes in the first chapters of his story, this is unspeakably valuable.  God is here.  He has always been here.  His heart is breaking over and over again for Etienne and for Etienne's mama. 

     Most of the time, I feel like this little island.  Really near to my community, but not with it or in it.  As close as I can get and still maintain the needs of my children.  Are there other families out there that feel so isolated in order to survive?  This separation, it's not a choice, it's a necessity.  Even if it is lonely and distant, He is here on this island with me.  Between the mean words and the hollow hugs, He is here.

     I've realized that some of my anger, God used it to open my eyes on where my strength and my reliance is.  Maybe my small group, my community of other moms, my coworkers, even my husband, I value too much.  They could all (and sometimes do) be taken from me.  But my God has not left me or forsaken me.  My only strength should be in Him.  Repeat.  My only strength should be in Him.  Repeat.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Not Fair

     I'm sitting on top of 2 mattress pads, a plastic sheet, regular sheets and 3 towels.  Getting ready to make Etienne's bed for the third time since last night.  I'm bitter.  I'm grumpy.  I have him in diapers because I can't keep up on his laundry.
     As I sit here, the television babysitting my children, I'm thinking about how unfair it is that after 3 years, we still have this crap (excuse my french).  I'm noticing the teeth marks on his once beautiful bunk bed purchased by friends that prayed him home to me.  I've got a lot of anger tonight.  His behavior today has led to Zeke screaming and crying about underwear, a meltdown about his waistband and sobs about the seat belt.  It makes me angry, mad, grumpy. Ugly.  Sometimes I really stink at this.
     So I lied down in Etienne's bed and decided to pray for my heart.  I really didn't have words but God knows.  In between my tears, He heard me.
In the midst of my melting anger and sniffling I heard this voice whisper "it's not fair for Etienne."
     It's not for that Etienne wasn't nursed and nurtured by me as a baby.
     It's not fair that Etienne doesn't cry when his finger is caught in the door because he's been conditioned to believe that no one cares about his pain.
     It is not fair that when I ask my son who loves him, he says "I don't know."
     It isn't fair that I found lots and lots of crackers between his pillow and the wall.  He is unsure that he will have a meal when he needs one.
    I'm putting his sheets back on and I'm returning the crackers to the pantry.  On the way back I'm going to give him the Sam's Club sized bag of baby carrots.  Don't let me fool you.  I'm not up for doing some attachment, snuggling wear-your-kid response.  But God has renewed my strength to at least put the sheets back on the bed and tuck my son into them once again.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


     Today between 4 and 6:45 we had piano, theater, a soccer game, 3 conferences and football.  This was the time frame of Ryan's parent teacher conferences too.  I survived.  No one missed anything, I didn't get a speeding ticket, forget anyone anywhere or lose anybody.  Mission accomplished.
     Etienne's conference had his teacher and his ELL (English Language Learning) teacher too.  She gets E first thing in the morning.  Her words exactly were "It is such a great way to start my day because he is amazing."  Turn on the tears.  She went on to say that while he has long way to go academically, she loves his enthusiasm and that he gets excited when he makes a connection.  His kindergarten teacher expressed that she knows he is trying and that she can see improvement in his behavior.  More tears.  She asked how things were at home.  Choking up.  We explained a little bit more about the nature of RAD and Ryan reassured her (if you can call it that) that I've always taken the brunt of his abuse.  Par for the course.
     Praise God that someone can see my son's heart.  All I have been praying for, literally, is that the adults that are with him when Ryan and I can't be will see that he is desperate for acceptance, approval, love.  And at least we feel like they may be getting a glimpse of his true spirit.  So thankful for that.
     I can't leave out my "Bigs."  They were both elected as the first first and fourth grade "Citizens of the Month" of the school year.  No surprise with Miss Molly but Blake often does his own thing no matter what the adults in the room suggest.  Apparently, his teacher gets his sense of humor and patience.
     Blessed parents are we.