Monday, March 19, 2018

Chickens in junior high... plus a pretty important request

Our chicks and ducklings have been hatched for about two weeks now. They are both much bigger, the ducklings in particular. The funny thing about the ducklings is that while they are bigger, they are still very fluffy, not having grown any adult feathers yet. It is a little silly to see these 6-7 inch tall birds with these little, itty-bitty, teeny-tiny wings. We still cannot tell them apart either, well, except for the duckling that is so much smaller than the others. Her we can tell. Here's my surprising duck fact for those of you, like me, who have had very limited personal interaction with the animals. They have little claws on the end of their webby feet. And these little claws are very, very sharp... far sharper than the chicks very visible claws. They are still as messy as ever, and more than a little noisy. Next weekend we hope to get the coop built, and will be moving these noisy, messy, adorable not-so-little things out of the house into their real home as soon as is safe for them. Thankfully, they can move out sooner than the chicks.

Those chicks... they are growing, but not as quickly as the ducks. What they have that the ducks don't are adult feathers. They now have fully feathered wings which means that they are quite good at fluttering about around the brooder box, as well as up to the top of the brooder box when it is open. They would like nothing more than to spend some time exploring the wider world. Of course, if we were to let them do this, I'm afraid they would become a Scooby snack for our resident Scooby Doo. Instead, whenever we feed and water or clean the coop, it takes several people. One person to do the actual work, and at least two, if not three other people stationed around the edges to both keep the predators out and the chicks who want to explore in. It's kind of crazy circus.

This morning, as I was watching them as I drank my cup of coffee, I noticed a new behavior that we hadn't seen before. The squabbling for the flock pecking order seems to be in full swing. This morning it was taking the form of chicks running at each other and bumping their chests together. Between the perpetual squabbling and the gawky, not quite fluff, but not quite feathered adolescent awkwardness, I was suddenly struck by the fact I have 21 chickens surviving junior high in my kitchen. It doesn't look any prettier in poultry form. At least if you are a chicken, the junior high phase is a matter of weeks as opposed to years.

The chicks will have to wait longer to be moved outside. None of us is quite sure, though, how exactly we are going to have room for 21 large chickens inside. We may have to rig up a heating system for them outside to move them out sooner. Poor J. has seemed to spend all his free time over the past two weeks perpetually reconfiguring the brooder boxes; enlarging them as the birds grow bigger and constructing wire lids to keep them safe, but allow us access. It's an adventure.

This next items is neither poultry related, nor is it terribly funny. Over the past several years, the regulation of international adoption has increased significantly, with no real corresponding benefits. All it does is add cost, time, and paperwork to an already complicated process. Recently there has been a new set of regulations which have rolled out. Please, read the article that I link to, read it, and consider signing the attached petition. It would also be wonderful if you could share the information in your realm of social influence. Thank you! (Oh, and as an aside, I wrote the article explaining the situation, even though my byline doesn't appear on the article.)

You Can Help Save International Adoptions and Solve the US International Adoption Crisis

Sunday, March 18, 2018

"I don't think God would ask me to do something so hard"

First, before I go on I must take a page out of my adult children's book and say, everything is fine here. (My children will immediately say all is OK if they are calling at an odd hour or use the phrase, "Can we talk sometime?" I appreciate this, as my ability to panic is hair trigger, and this little phrase allows me to breath again.) This post is not about our immediate circumstances. Close friends and family can now take a deep calming breath.

I have heard quite a few variations over the years of the sentence I used for the title. Other variations include, "We prayed really hard for our child, and that's why he doesn't have any problems." Or there is, "We were called to adopt, so of course God has blessed our journey." Each of these beliefs has some real theological problems to it.

Let's start with the last two, because as well as being wrong, they can also be extremely hurtful. If you flip them around, you can understand why. If someone prays really hard for their soon-to-be adopted child, and that child has no presenting behavior or emotional issues, then it can also be true that if you do have a child with behavior or emotional difficulties, it must be your fault because you didn't pray hard enough. The flip side of the third belief is also tough to swallow. That would be, if God is not blessing your journey (I'll get into the whole idea of what blessing really looks like in a minute, so set that aside for the moment), then He didn't really call you to adopt, you must have heard wrong.

Think for a moment how either of those statements might feel to a parent who is struggling with a struggling child. Instead of being supported by a fellow believer, they have instead just had a punch to the gut. There is nothing like being told your difficulties are all your fault, for either not paying attention or for not being diligent enough in your prayers. I can tell you for a fact, a parent struggling with a struggling child is already feeling guilt-ridden enough, and chances are they are already having a spiritual crisis as a result. There is nothing good or helpful about giving them a nice shove along that path.

If you have not struggled with a struggling child, I am genuinely happy for you. It might just be what God ordained for you. I'm not going to try to second guess that for a moment; that's between you and God. The trouble comes when that one moment of having things work out how one hoped is made into a blanket, "This is how God works," statement.

But what I want to focus on is why the thinking in any one of these statements is just plain theologically wrong, and I want to do that by sharing a little of my spiritual journey. If you have been reading here for any length of time, you know that some of my children suffer from the hurts they endured before they joined our family. Some of these hurts are very, very deep, and the pain is real. A child in emotional pain cannot always understand or control what he or she is feeling, and the result is behavior that can be both baffling and extremely difficult. Parenting a child who has been hurt can be extremely difficult as well.

I've done this kind of parenting for nearly 12 years now... very nearly half my parenting career. There were times when I was terrified of what the next hour, much less the next day would hold. There were more than a few moments where I was convinced that I could not do this for one more second. The number of tears I have cried over my own guilt and mistakes, over my children's hurts, over my frustration, over fear for my family, or sadness that my life was not looking as I imagined it would could probably fill a large swimming pool. There have been moments that have been the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life.

(There have also been moments of great joy. I don't want to give an inaccurate depiction of our life, but the point of this post is to focus on the hard.)

With each of our children, there have been moments where I have been utterly convinced by circumstances and events that God had made us their parents. That we were the ones chosen to be the parents who had the privilege to raise and love these children when their first parents could not. I was never in doubt about that for any one of them. That is a very good thing, because in the dark moments, I would cling to that knowledge. I didn't doubt they should be here, but I did doubt the goodness of a God who would ask this of me.

I just wanted to love a child who needed a family. That idea seemed so very simple and easy. How hard is it to love a child, after all? It's good to want to love a child, to give a child without a family, a permanent family. How could something that started out as such a genuine desire to do something good become something so gut wrenchingly hard? It was a very short hop from this, to the genuine question of, Did God love me?

There were some hard years in the last twelve. It's hard to keep moving forward when things don't seem to be getting better. It's hard to keep moving forward when you feel as though you have been deserted by God, or worse yet, to feel punished by Him. Did I not do the right thing? Did I not try hard enough? Why was God making me go through this? Was it ever going to end?

I am in a better place now... a much better place. As I struggled and searched and questioned and cried, God was there. I didn't always feel His presence, but looking back, I can say He was there, but I was too focused on the immediate feelings of fear to even be aware of His presence. I can also say, that much of what was a struggle for me was because I was coming at things from the wrong angle.

I wanted to do great things for God. I wanted to live a life that would glorify Him. I wanted to make a difference in the life of a child. I certainly had my own agenda. While none of these things was bad, it was the idea that I was going to do these things... I would show people what it meant to be Godly... I would heal and love and nurture a child... I... I... I.

You know what? God doesn't need me. There is nothing I can do for God that He can't already do for Himself, and significantly better, I might add. But do you know what is even better? He might not need me, but He wants me because He loves me. And the only thing He desires in return is for me to love Him back, without any agenda.

So how does all this fit in with adoption? God used all the hard in the past years to show me that I couldn't do it. When I tried to do it all on my own, it was an abysmal failure. God used all the hard to show me exactly how much I needed Him. God allowed me to experience the hard precisely because He loved me.

Are things all easy now? Good golly, no. Some days are still hard. Some days I still wonder how I'm going to get through it. Some days I do doubt that God knows what He's doing. I'm human. It's what we do. But I am also much, much better at realizing that I'm not in charge. The more I try to push my own agenda, the more uptight and fearful I become. When I remember that God is actually in charge, I can ratchet back a bit. Because it is truly miraculous how He has worked healing and brought about change.

If I leave you with one idea, it's that God loves you. God loves you even if He asks you to walk through what seems to be too hard. It could very well be that looking back, you will see that He asked you to walk through that hard precisely because He loves you. Jesus walked through the ultimate hard for us. God knows what it's like.

Saturday, March 17, 2018


For those of you not parenting children affected by trauma, you might not know that term in the title. It refers to the fact that our bodies store traumatic experiences, and that on the anniversaries of those traumatic experiences can react as if they were happening again. It's weird, but true. I've watched multiple children struggle, and I couldn't figure out the reason until something later reminded me that a traumatic event in their past happened on that date. Adoption anniversaries are huge for this kind of stuff around here.

I knew intellectually what was going on, but will admit there was a small part of me that struggled to feel compassion, because, good grief, that was a while ago. Can't we just move on? (Remember, I tell you all the time that I'm not perfect, that this interior lack of sympathy is just a piece of that.) Well, this past week I had a personal experience that kind of changes all that.

I have been in a rotten mood all week. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out what was up. Things seemed to be all going quite well, yet I was experiencing some pretty extreme anxiety, my patience and temper, always a little difficult to keep under control, were hanging by a thread, I felt as though my skin was literally crawling much of the time, and I couldn't shake these very physical feelings. What on earth could be going on? Of course, any mom reading this knows all too well, that once you start down the path of easily irritated and short-tempered, then it doesn't take too much time before you also get to add a heaping helping of guilt to the whole package, because you know you are being a rotten mother. So there was that on top of everything else.

Completely unrelated, but I must have had some sort of glimmer in the back of my head, I got to wondering what we were doing this time last year. I couldn't quite remember when we put the Big Ugly House under contract, and when we started looking for new houses. I knew it had to be around this time, but just couldn't remember. Enter the good ol' blog. It is so easy to go back and look at this date last year to see what we were doing. Well, it was illuminating.

Just about this time last year, life for us was incredibly up in the air. J. had started his new job, so had started the monster commute that kept him away from home far longer than any of us were used to. I was trying to do my best to pare down and pre-pack belongings in order to get the house on the market. School had already been called for the year, because you can't put a house on the market and teach school all at the same time. Plus, I was struggling with some extremely mixed feelings about everything that lay before us. In short, I was kind of a wreck and the future was very, very cloudy.

It was at this point that I realized I was experiencing my own little traumaversary. Over the past week, I had to remind myself multiple times that this new house, this new place, was really where we were living. We didn't have to pack up and move. I had to remind myself of this because worries about where we were going to live were popping into my head. It also explains why I was feeling as though I was a walking exposed nerve, perpetually irritated at everything and everyone. It's how I felt through the whole period where there were so many unknowns. My body was repeating everything I had experienced the year before.

I have to say, I have significantly more empathy for my children. This particular episode was a pretty benign traumaversary. It was short-lived, things quickly resolved well, no one died. If this was my experience... and it was very real and very unpleasant... over this type of trauma, how must my children feel in the midst of traumaversaries for significantly more traumatic events? It wasn't just all in my head, it was physical feelings all over my body.

There is nothing like experiencing something for yourself to elicit compassion, huh?

Friday, March 16, 2018

Friday bullets, March 15, 18

I'll jump right in, thus avoiding working on the article I need to get written.

  • It seems as though spring might actually be on its way.

Yes, it turns out we have a giant pussy willow growing next to our little stream. I cannot tell you how happy this makes me.
  • Because it is very nearly spring, I decided to start The Secret Garden as our tea time book. I don't know how many times I've read this out loud, and was surprised when the youngest of my crew didn't know it. But no matter how many times I've read it out loud, I am always caught off guard by the need to do some editing on the fly as I read in the first few chapters, due to some no longer even vaguely appropriate racial terms. Sigh.
  • I can now cross "dried baby chick with a blow dryer" off my list of things I've never done. When we got up yesterday morning, we discovered one of the chicks had a shaving totally glued onto her skin by poop. It took quite a soaking in warm water to loosen it. Thus the need to dry the chick with the blow dryer.
  • I am waist deep in laundry. Last Friday, J. discovered that the drain pipe from the utility sink in the basement had come disconnected. It meant that I couldn't do laundry. I didn't really miss it. J. was able to fix the pipe, but that means that now I have more laundry than ever. Some people got to stay extra long in their pajamas yesterday morning due to waiting for clean clothes.
  • One of the goals with this move was to have a bigger garden; one that would have enough room to grow everything we wanted to grow. This spring, we plan on putting it in, and start growing things. This is why I have been more than a little consumed with this catalogue.

I want all the seeds. Yes, I know that would be ridiculous, but still...
  • It is a little tricky to take care of the chicks and ducklings, and certainly takes more than one person. The chicks are perpetually trying to get out and Nefertiti is perpetually trying to get in. Thankfully Kenzie doesn't care in the least, but boy, Olive loves those little balls of fluff. Usually she is pretty good, but a couple of days ago, to everyone's surprise, she leaned over and picked a chick up in her mouth. A. screamed, Olive dropped the chick, a little girl scooped the slightly damp chick up and deposited it back in the box. The chick is fine, A. may have lost a year or two of her life. 
  • We went to the library last Wednesday. Now that everyone is reading so well, they have become aware of all of the books in the library that they can now read. It was very exciting, and we came home with a lot of books.
  • There is nothing I love more than to see a child curled up in a chair, reading a book.
  • This past week's school has been a bit over taken by all the ducklings and chicks. It takes time to keep them clean and fed, and they are so interesting to watch and play with, that there has been little interest in doing much else. I'm just as bad as they are. 
  • Finally, I'll share some chick and duckling pictures. I promise that there will eventually be other things written about here.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Poultry poems

(With apologies to Walt Whitman and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

O ducklings! my ducklings! your water do you fling.
The shavings in your pen are damp, there's poop
          on everything.
Your food is wet, I had just set, your box
          all neat and clean.
Alas, before my very eyes, in seconds its
                    But O ducks! ducks! ducks!
                    O the light brown fluff you wear
                    And the little bills and webby feet
                                 seem to make it fair!

Beneath the warm and heated plate
Twenty chickens peep.
They're small and cute and stay up late,
Not often do they sleep.
Their bedding is strewn across the floor
And so we need to sweep.

We have four types of baby hen
With five of every kind.
Five black, five striped, five orange, and then
Some yellow you will find.
We did not think to count the chickens
The paper we just signed.

We spend a lot of time each day
Watching all the fun.
The chicks run here, then run away,
they lie down in the sun.
But when we really paid attention
We counted twenty-one.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Adoption: A List of Articles Dealing with Attachment, Trauma, Education, and Connection

I'm working very hard at not catching whatever bug laid TM and K. out last week. Plus, I got to drive into the city through two near blizzards, making for very slow travel times. The crazy thing was it was sunny for most of the day at my house. Needless to say, I don't have a lot of energy left for original content. What I want to do instead, is to create a master list of many of my past adoption posts. I tend to write the same things over and over, mainly because I see the same issues arise over and over with each set of new adoptive parents. This will save me time in writing things out.

So, if you are a potential adoptive parent and want to learn about this life you are considering, or if you are a new adoptive parent and feel as though the floor has completely fallen out beneath you, take a look at some of these past posts.

First, all of my posts from my Adoption 101 ongoing series:

Indiscriminate Affection
Free Time
Prepare to be Humbled
The Process
Files Can Lie
Life After Coming Home
Chronological and Development/Emotional Ages Don't Always Match
Hills to Die On

The rest, since there are quite a few, I'm going to group by general category.

Connected Parenting vs. traditional parenting and its effects on trauma:
Why I'm Not Always Giving Warm and Fuzzy Adoption Advice
Truth and Consequences
Parenting a Little Differently
You Can't Take it Personally
When It's Hard Not to Take it Personally
Picking up the Pieces
Start as You Mean to go on
Towards a More Humane Discipline

Transitioning of children adopted at older ages:
The Building of Trust
Learning there is Comfort
It's a Planet... a big floating ball in the sky that people live on. No, really, it is.
And Now We Are 12

Navigating the first days and weeks:
Appropriate Expectations
Dear New Adoptive Mom
Jet Lag and Claustrophobia
Unasked for Adoption Advice.. or braving the flames of the internet
Paved with Good Intentions

The influence of past trauma on present behavior:

Annotated Reading List on Trauma
Brain Damage and Stress
Appropriate Emotions
The Long Process of Healing

Adoption, trauma, and learning:
Fear and Learning
Adoption and Education
Movement and Cognition
Homeschooling the Adopted Child
Hands On Learning
Teaching the Disregulated Child
Once Upon a Child

Attaching to your child... or not:
Attachment Tips
Positive Interactions
Not So Rare
I'm Sure I'm Not the Only One

Finally, if you are not a regular reader of this blog, here is a little of our adoption story:
Adoption - A [somewhat] Brief Story of our Journey

Sunday, March 11, 2018

And we have a reader

Well, another reader, actually. L. spent the weekend reading her first Boxcar Children book, finishing it before dinner on Sunday. I love seeing new readers sitting with their nose in a chapter book. She has announced that she will read the second one tomorrow, but then started to fret about what she would read after that. (There must be some genetic component to that specific worry.) I happily announced that we had dozens of Boxcar Children books. She shouldn't run out for weeks and weeks. All the children in the room then started disagreeing with me. "No, we don't have those books."
"I think we used to."
"A. said you gave them all away."
"I haven't seen those books."

And then I begin to have vague recollections of the massive purging that was happening this time last year. You remember... when I was trying to downsize our belongings by half? Well, since this time last year all three girls were far, far away from reading independently, I guess I decided that we didn't need quite so many early series chapter books. At least one series had to go, and it looks as though Boxcar Children was it. How was I to know that this would be the exact series that L. would decide to fixate on? I have promised everyone a library trip soon.

Eight children down, four to go for reading fluency. G. and Y. are very, very close. I'm sure they will not be far behind.
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