This blog is my place to vent and share resources with other parents of children of trauma. I try to be open and honest about my feelings in order to help others know they are not alone. Therapeutic parenting of adopted teenagers with RAD and other severe mental illnesses and issues (plus "neurotypical" teens) , is not easy, and there are time when I say what I feel... at the moment. We're all human!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Kintsukuroi - More beautiful for having been broken

Nothing is ever truly broken, that's the philosophy behind the ancient Japanese art of Kintsugi which repairs smashed pottery by using beautiful seams of gold.

The result is that the broken pottery is now mended and is in fact even stronger than the original. Instead of trying to hide the flaws and cracks, they are accentuated and celebrated because they now have become the strongest part of the pottery.

Kintsugi beautifies the breakage and treats it as an important part of the object’s history, and sees the broken pot not as something to discard, but as something even more precious than it was before.

"Life is our own tale of adventures and triumphs. I hope when my daughters encounter the real trials of life, they will look at their Kintsugi pots and won’t be afraid to show their scars and say ‘I have already had a life, but I’m totally up for another, because there really is so much more to me now than there was before.’" - Mercedes Smith

I think it's very obvious why I've posted this, so I won't say a lot, but I hope we let our children know that yes, we know they're not perfect. None of us are. But they are survivors. They have a history most kids their age have never had to experience, but their scars are beautiful, because they tell the story of that strength.

Our imperfections are what make us interesting and beautiful. Perfect people, even if they existed, would be plastic and boring.

Deep down, our children believe that they are unworthy and unlovable, and that if others find out they are not perfect, then they'll leave. Our children desperately try to keep others from seeing that imperfection, usually by keeping them at a distance.

If You Find Out I'm Not Perfect, You'll Leave

As parents, we work so hard to help our kids understand that we love them no matter what. I know that sometimes I forget that my children aren't the only one with scars that need, and deserve, healing. Please take care of yourself, and remember that your scars make you beautiful too.

“Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.'
'Does it hurt?' asked the Rabbit.
'Sometimes,' said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. 'When you are Real you don't mind being hurt.'
'Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,' he asked, 'or bit by bit?'
'It doesn't happen all at once,' said the Skin Horse. 'You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.”
― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

Monday, September 26, 2016

2016 Trauma Mama Gift Swap

Several trauma mamas and I have decided to do a small Trauma Mama gift swap. If you are a trauma mama and interested in participating, please complete your registration form (there's a copy in the comments) and email it to marythemommy at gmail dot com. 

Please be 100% sure that you are able to participate, remember there is another trauma mama who may be hurt and disappointed if you do not follow through.

One of my favorite things to do at Christmas time over the last few years is to participate in the Trauma Mama Holiday Gift Swap. Unfortunately over the years, the people sponsoring it found that doing this for large groups quickly became too much for any one person to organize. For one reason or another, many people did not honor their obligations (which I totally understand as we are all trauma mamas and Christmas time is HARD!) so many mamas did not receive gifts. Many others tried to step in and fill the gaps, but a lot of needy mamas were hurt and disappointed.

Over the years, I have participated in a small group exchanges, one on one swaps with another mom, and been an "angel" to a trauma mama who could not afford a gift for her child or herself. I'm so glad to be in a place in my life where I can do this.

If anyone wants to organize their own gift swap or just exchange with a friend, here's a form I adapted from the From Survival to Serenity 2012 trauma mama holiday gift swap. I found it to be particularly helpful in finding just the right gifts. I hope this will inspire you to start your own group or just a one on one swap with another mom. Moms deserve special gifts under the tree too!

Trauma Mamas Holiday Gift Swap Registration
Please complete at least the required questions marked with an asterisk. All other "Get to Know You" questions are optional, but please do keep in mind that the more questions you answer, the better the person who gets your name will be able to connect with you. It will also help us in creating matches based on similar situations, geographic areas, interests, etc.

**Hint** If you would like to answer the "Getting to Know You" questions, but don't have time to complete the whole form all at once, write out your answers in a word processing program and then cut and paste them into the form boxes when you're ready to send it in. Registration forms are due no later than November 15. All matches will be made on or before November 20. Unless there are special circumstances that need to be considered, packages should be mailed to their recipients no later than December 14. International packages will need to be shipped no later than December 1. We learned from sad experience that if they're shipped any later than that, they don't arrive before Christmas, even when they're coming from or going to Canada.

* Required

Contact and Shipping Information*
Name (first and last):*
Shipping Address:*

Other Contact Information:
Examples: Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, etc. You are also welcome to include a phone number or whatever other contact information you wish and/or feel comfortable sharing.

Getting to Know You
These questions aren't required, but the more you share, the more the mama who gets your name will be able to get a feel for who YOU are outside of being a trauma mama. Finding a gift that will be enjoyed by the recipient is a big part of the fun.

Not only does this information help her be able to put together a special gift for you, but it will also help us in deciding who you ultimately get matched with.

One of the most fun aspects of participating in an event like this is finding others to add to your circles of support and friendship. If matches can be made among people with similar interests or family situations or whatever, they will be. Unless otherwise noted, these answers (along with your contact information) will be shared with the person you are matched with.

Briefly describe yourself. Share whatever you want about what makes you you.

  • Your personality
  • General age
  • Your profession / how do you spend your time
  • Any special talents

Share a bit about your family.

  • How many kids you have and their ages
  • Bio or adopted? If adopted, how old were they at adoption? Where were they adopted from?
  • What special needs do they have?
  • What type of activities do you enjoy participating in with your family?
  • Are you married, in a relationship, single?

If you had spare time for hobbies or interests, what would they be?

What are your top 3 favorite movies?
...the ones you could watch over and over again and only love them more each time you see them.

What are your favorite colors?
...both for decorating and for wearing?

What is your decorating style?
funky, contemporary, eclectic, shabby-chic, country, traditional, minimalist…

Do you collect anything in particular? 
(coins, figurines, butterflies, angels, snowmen, etc)

What are some of your favorite things?
These would be things you love and enjoy having in your life and in your space

What type of gifts would you most like? 
things to pamper yourself, accessories, crafts, soft cuddly items, inspirational items, food treats, things you collect…

What types of things do you dislike?
This would be things you smile sweetly at initially, but then they secretly end up in the trash bin later on.

Do you have any allergies? Gluten free? Caffeine free?  Include food, chemical, metal, etc

What are your favorite foods and/or beverages? Do you drink alcohol?

Do you have any dietary restrictions and/or preferences?

What are your 3 most favorite restaurants?

What stores do you like to shop at when looking for a little something special for yourself?

Is there anything else you'd like to share? ie: a particular religious affiliation, perhaps you celebrate a holiday other than Christmas, any unique life circumstances or situations, etc.

I am 100% committed to participating in this event. *(Yes/ No)
100% commitment means that I acknowledge and understand there is a very real mama with very real feelings on the other end of this swap. She's also a trauma mama who's been in or is still in the trenches just like I am. She's very likely put much of herself into preparing something special for another mama. I want her to receive something special this holiday season to remind her that she is loved, that the work she's doing is worth it, and that she's not alone. It would be very sad for her to be looking forward to receiving something special from a potential new friend, but not have it arrive. I will make sure that doesn't happen!

What if I need to back out? *(Yes/ No)
If circumstances arise and I'm unable to keep my participation commitment, I will notify one of the organizers as quickly as possible so another match can be found for my assigned mama.

Shipping Confirmation *(Yes/ No)
I promise to ship my package using a method that can be tracked, even if I have to pay a little bit extra in order to make that happen. I want to make sure my mama actually gets my package once I've sent it.

I can help with this event by...
If you have the time, sanity, and desire to help make sure this event continues to be a fun and fulfilling experience for everyone, please let us know.

I can help with event coordination and logistics if needed.
Should the need arise, I can help with the coordination efforts and logistics of this event. I am willing to help out by working with the other event coordinators, sending emails to other participants as needed, or doing whatever else is needed to make sure the logistics of this event are manageable.
•  Yes/No

I am willing and able to ship my package internationally if needed
•   Yes/No

I am willing and able to be an "Angel Mama" if needed.
Should the need arise, I can help out by putting together a second package for a second mama. Feel free to contact me if you need some help in this area.
•  Yes/No

If you have a question or want a copy of the form emailed to you, please feel free to leave a comment on this post (Comments are moderated. I will not publish any comments with personal information like emails or at the request of the commenter).

There's a form in the comment section. 
To participate you must email this completed form to marythemommy at gmail dot com. Be sure to add this email to your safe senders list so you will receive updates.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Jesus Gifts- focusing on relationships

I never do New Year's Resolutions, but for many years on Christmas Eve we have celebrated Jesus' birthday and given him presents we call Jesus' Gifts - These are spiritual gifts (kind of like New Year's Resolutions) that we know He would want for us (like spending more time with our family, going to church more, having a better attitude...).

2008 - Our first year of Jesus' gifts.
To Jesus,
Mary: I will respect myself -- by taking care of my body, my time, by getting sleep, being active and eating well.

2009 - Dear Jesus,
This year:
Mary: I will try to be better about spending time with the things that really matter. Hubby and my family are my first priority.

2010 - Dear Jesus,
Happy Birthday!
Mary: I will try to be present and meet my family's needs while taking care of myself.

2011 - Dear Jesus,
Happy birthday from the "TheMom" family!  Our gifts to you:
Mary: Be present and consistent for my family.

2012 - Happy birthday, dear Jesus,
Here are our gifts to you!
Mary: I'm resolving to go to bed earlier and support my family cheerfully and tolerantly.
Word for the Year: PRESENT

2013 - Happy Birthday!
Dear Jesus,
Mary:  I will try to take better care of myself and those around me.
Word for the Year: POSITIVE

2014 - Happy Birthday Jesus!
Mary: To be more present in daily life. Avoid procrastination.
Word for the Year: PRESENT

{2017 --I was going through my drafts folder for this blog, and discovered that I'd never published this post! Since my Jesus gift for 2014 (when this post was written!)

I'm seeing a trend here!

This year I want to focus more on my marriage. I'm currently reading a book called Getting the Love you Want. The first part of the book is about how our childhood effects our choices in significant others. The premise is that we subconsciously choose significant others that are like our parents - with the unconscious idea that we can work through our issues with our parents. During the "romantic love" phase we don't see and/ or we ignore all problems.  Once the couple feels committed and therefore safe, they usually are no longer on their "best behavior" and start seeing and showing their flaws.

Most people think if they can just find their "soul mate" then they've got it made. When the "honeymoon" is over and they suddenly realize that their significant other is like their parent in some way (distant, controlling, aggressive,  critical, easily excited...), plus he/she doesn't cater to their needs and has tons of baggage.. that's when they shut down, start picking fights, and/ or escape. Then they start all over with the next person.

In the second part, he describes what a more fulfilling relationship might look like, the "Conscious Marriage". He describes how to begin with commitment, stop destructive exit patterns, creating a zone of safety, understanding yourself and your partner, how to begin real self growth and containing rage. He closes by providing two examples of marriages that have been transformed by applying these techniques. The exercises and approaches described by Dr. Hendrix are hard. His most meaningful techniques are not quick tricks but require a lot of introspection and self awareness. As he mentions in his book, many couples may require external assistance (we did). However, his techniques provides lasting changes in the way that you interact with your partner.

The final part of the book is a series of exercises that help drive how the major points in each chapter of the preceding two sections. Relevant and helpful, their main point appears to be to draw the reader into applying the theories presented in the book to their own situation. In this respect, they are helpful.

Which is really interesting and I plan to post about it in a future post.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Surviving the teen years

In my opinion, 14-15 yr are the hardest years to parent our kids. If it helps, it does get better, even if they are not actually capable of attachment.

First of all, You Haven't Failed.

What helped me the most during my kids' teen years:

  1. Prioritize Self-Care - including realizing that my reactions were perfectly normal for someone living in a traumatic, abusive environment. I took medication to help me through this time. I couldn't have made it through without my "tribe" of people who "get it."
  2. Reading (and Rereading) the book, Stop Walking on Eggshells. It REALLY helped me take a step back, depersonalize their behavior, and set up boundaries with my teens.
  3. Finding the Joy. Once I was in a better place emotionally (my bucket was closer to full) then finding the joy became my priority. I couldn't have survived without it.
  4. Dealing with Rages. Turning right back around and putting my child back in the hospital when they became abusive, rather than suffering through it. I set boundaries and put a LOT of structure in place.
  5. Stop Trying to Change Their Perceived Reality - For my kids, getting them to acknowledge or accept reality was pretty much impossible. Especially when it comes to biofamily. Trying to make them do so just damaged our relationship.
  6. Realize That This Was Fear Causing the Behavior - It's not actually personal (although it DEFINITELY feels that way). Understanding why they acted that way really helped me a lot. I know for my son, he was already thinking of turning 17 (his friends convinced him he could - and therefore should - leave at 17) and "having" to leave home. So he started pushing us away so it wouldn't hurt so much. I know this doesn't make sense, but a lot of what they do doesn't make sense!
  7. Normal Developmental Phase - Yes, a little of this really is just "typical teen behavior." Hormones and trying to become more independent, just not always doing a great job of it. Even though Kitty and Bear were emotionally younger - there was a lot of peer pressure from their friends. My neurotypical bio kids (Bob and Ponito), went through this stage too - one more obnoxious about it than other (guess which one!).
  8. Have Realistic Expectations - Age-Appropriate Parenting / Structure and Support / Chores, Responsibilities, and Other Things My Kids Can't Handle.