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!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

9 Year Blog Anniversary

I can't believe it's been 9 years since I started this blog!

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 children adopted as teens who have RAD, trauma other severe mental illnesses and issues (plus "neurotypical" biokids), is not easy, and there are often time when I say what I feel... at that moment. We're all human!

It started out as a way to vent
My First Blog Post
In our house, it's called the "Three Vent Rule." In my need to talk through my problems, I discovered I was not only burdening my friends and family with my problems, but I was also "ruminating" and actually making myself feel worse. 
I eventually came up with the "Three Vent Rule" - which stated that I could only whine/ complain on any one subject to no more than 3 people. I try to spread the love around too so no one person bears the burden of all my whinging (except Hubby - poor baby always has to listen, but that's why I married him - because of his broad shoulders - designed to bear all the weight of my world, and then some). I also had an unwritten rule to try to make the story as entertaining as possible so no one would notice what a total whiner baby I really am.

Another big source of venting for me was the long e-mail (Hubby calls them novels). I would write all about what my children were in to (or more likely up to) and the whole adoption team was FORCED to read them. Now that my children's adoptions are FINALLY final, I no longer have a captive audience. I'm hoping that this blog will allow me to vent without overwhelming my small support group.
So now I begin the journey into blogging.

5 Years Ago - Where Did Your Blog Go?
 I had shut my blog down when I discovered the kids'  biofamily were reading it. When I decided to put it back up, these were my reasons:  
    1. As a place to vent and get support from other moms who "get it."  When I first started blogging I didn't have access to this amazing community, and the few people I knew who'd adopted, even those who'd adopted RAD kids, had adopted younger children.  
    2. To share and provide support and education for other trauma mamas.  Over the years I've had to acquire a crash course in RAD and trauma and I didn't want others to have to go through what I did and make the same mistakes I made.
    3. To provide information to those in my kids' lives that needed it (like Grandma), without having to repeat myself or chance having the kids over hear it.
    4. To maintain a record of events.

    I seriously considered closing my blog permanently after these events.  It had become harder and harder to find the time to blog, and as I was becoming more despondent and hopeless over the fact that Kitty was getting worse and worse and we had fewer and fewer options. I was blogging from a more and more negative place, and that felt awful.  I chose not to stop because:

    1. While I do have other places to vent, most of them don't know the "back story," and therefore most of their support is sending hugs and prayers (which are greatly appreciated!), but less practical.  This group has helped me be a better advocate and therapeutic parent for my children - through support, advice, and even helping me write documents.  It also helps to get validation from people who know I'm not a saint or evil personified.  In the weeks since I've closed down the blog I've realized how much I need and care about all of you!
    2. I get a lot of positive feedback and personal satisfaction out of my role as educator and advocate.  It is extremely helpful to be able to say, "Oh, I learned a lot about that at Katharine Leslie's seminar or here's how we handle discipline at our house - here's a link."  I can't imagine just throwing all those resources away.  When you don't get a lot of positive feedback from your kids, it helps to get it from somewhere!
    3. It helps me maintain my link to this community and its resources.

Present Day
Now, I mostly blog for different reasons.

I've become very active in the trauma/ attachment issues community, working with foster, adoptive, bio, step, blended... families dealing with children with attachment challenges. Among other Facebook groups, I moderate a large online support group called Parenting Attachment Challenged Children. In giving advice, suggestions, and resources it helped to have it all written in one place to refer to rather than having to rewrite the same information over and over.

I still do the occasional update about my family, but now they are all legally adults and stable (mostly), it's more about supporting this community.

I don't blog as much as I used to, mostly when someone asks me a question I don't already have a post about. I'm looking forward to the coming years!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

What's That Smell? Potty Issues

There are many different causes for "potty issues" (aka "enuresis" - wetting and "encopresis" - pooping).  Often there is more than one cause.  

"Potty issues" can be bed wetting, refusal to poop, daytime wetting or pooping, pooping or wetting in inappropriate places or at inappropriate times, "painting" with poop...). 

Dysregulation, trauma triggers, a need for control... can cause issues and regression in this area. These can also cause the "RAD Stink" which has little to do with potty issues and usually smells worse.

The RAD Stink - You've heard of the "smell of fear"?  This is the smell of dysregulation.  It usually smells like a combination of poo and the worst body odor you can imagine.  Yes, sometimes our kids' hygiene is not the best, but this stench doesn't go away, even with thorough washing and a change of clothes (although we have found that using a combination of antibiotic waterless hand soap under the armpits and a change of clothing can frequently keep the school from sending her home yet again!). 

Developmental - lack of readiness for potty training. 

This can include emotional development too! Your child could physically be 8 years old, but operating emotionally at the level of a toddler. [Therapeutic Parenting Based on Social/Emotional Developmental Age]
My Potty Training Philosophy is that it is better for children to switch straight from diapers to underwear when they have all of the signs of readiness (Showing an interest in the potty.  Able to take own clothes on and off.  Staying dry for over an hour or so).

Physical causes - Potty issues can be caused by:
  • Lack of physical readinesschildren who are not physically ready to potty train will “dribble” all the time, rather than be able to hold their urine;
  • Chronic constipation (which can also cause Urinary Tract Infections), 
  • Urinary/ bladder/ kidney infections;
  • Problems with the "plumbing" (Kitty and my sister had to have surgery to correct issues with their "plumbing" - the "tubes" leading from the bladder being too small or the valves from the kidneys not working correctly); 
  • Allergies can cause severe gastrointestinal issues; 
  • Medications and med changes can cause gastrointestinal issues and other issues
  • Sleep issues - deep sleep (which can be caused by exhaustion, medications, or be biological/ genetic predisposition...) can mean the body may not "hear" the signals that the bladder or intestines are full;
  • Hormones (trauma can trigger early onset of puberty meaning hormones can come into play at a much younger age!);
  • Hernias (my nephew had a hernia at age 8 that caused him to wet his bed at night),
  • Scarring means the body may not "hear" or recognize the signals...

Emotional causes - This subject will always make me think of Christine Moer's  "Pee Song." (She used to have a better quality video of the song but unfortunately, this is the only one available now.) 

  •  It's part of them - some children develop an irrational fear of the potty or "losing" part of their body (poop).  I have witnessed a child "hold it" all day to avoid having to use the restroom at daycare, waiting instead until she was put in a diaper at night - causing serious intestinal issues;
  • Distracted, forgets, or has difficulty with transitions - difficulties stopping what he/she is doing to go potty;
  • Dissociating/ Hyperfocused - they may be dissociating - not aware of the world around them, or the opposite- too focused (hyper-focused) on what they are doing to stop and use the restroom;
  • Doesn't want to draw attention to themselves may be uncomfortable or afraid to ask or not want to interrupt someone to ask to go;
  •  Dissociation from physical self or lowered awareness of their body - not knowing they need to go until it is too late - this can include not realizing or not caring that they have wet or messed their clothing;   
  •  Sexual abuse can cause a fear of bathrooms (might remind them of the place they were abused), unwillingness to be naked (for toileting, baths, or showers), and/or unwillingness to touch themselves in places they were abused (causing issues with wiping and hygiene as well). A sexually abused child may also be trying to make him/herself "unattractive" by being "dirty" or smelly (this defense mechanism may last long past the time the child was abused); 
  •  Outdated defense mechanism -  defense mechanisms are an unconscious way to protect yourself emotionally. Oftentimes, old defense mechanisms outlive their usefulness, but the child can't consciously stop. Defense mechanisms can feel life or death and the child doesn't feel safe without them (this is a "perceived safety" and has nothing to do with their current situation - where they are safe [Why Doesn't My Child Feel Safe?);
  • Regression or delayed development. - frequently children with trauma issues will remain stuck in earlier developmental stages or will regress - especially when dysregulated or triggered. The child may not be ready for potty training yet (or any more). It might be a way for your child to tell you they need the support and attention you would give a younger child - they may start baby talking, "forget" how to do things they used to be able to do, want to be fed, changed, or cuddled by you [Dysregulation and Meltdowns];
  • Way of expressing without words that they are unhappy or in emotional distress. Sometimes potty issues are a way of saying, "I'm pissed," or "Poo on you!" It also could mean "This is a poopy situation!" or "I don't give a poo!";
  • Entertainment and attention.  - the child may enjoy watching others jump around and get upset. Their potty issues may draw attention to them (negative attention is still attention!).[Why Won't My Child Just Behave?];
  • Feeling in control of their environment - a lot of kids feel that they can't control what's going on in their lives, but they can control what goes in to and out of their bodies and what happens to it;
  • Hoarding. An irrational fear that can be caused by a loss of everything when moved to a new situation (like foster care) or due to a mental health disorder like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and/or depression;
  • The smell feels "normal," maybe even comforting. A child who experienced neglect at a young age may have consistently sat in wet/ dirty diapers or surrounded by this smell. Just like a child who grew up in chaos might act in ways to trigger that chaos, because that is the "norm" for their neurological system;
  • Comforting. Kids with attachment issues can wet the bed for comfort.... the smell of themselves comforts them subconsciously. {Try finding something ELSE that is comforting (the smell of mom - give the child a shirt you've worn to sleep with, the smell of popcorn - put a bowl of popcorn by the bed... etc); 
  •  Proof you love them. Only parents handle pee and poop and still love you; 
  • Pushing you away before you can reject them - Many kids of trauma "know" they are unworthy or unlovable and believe that when you find out you will leave like everyone else - so to get control of that they find ways to push you away. If You Find Out I'm Not Perfect You'll Leave;
  • For reasons we don't always understand!  I worked with a neurotypical fully potty-trained child in a daycare situation who liked to change her clothes... frequently.  When told she couldn't just change her clothes for no reason (the teacher didn't have time to stop everything and let her change her clothes multiple times a day) - the little girl "made" a reason!  It took us a while to figure it out, and the first thing I tried (stopped allowing her to change into her pretty princess panties and cute outfits and providing her with gender-neutral clothes from the class stash) caused her to step up her game, until eventually she even started finger-painting on the walls with poop. We had to back up and stop making it a control issue;
  •  Some combination of the above - Dysregulation, illness, hormones, med changes, trauma triggers... all can suddenly trigger or worsen issues. 

So What Do You Do About It?

This is why part of our job as a therapeutic parent is to be a detective. Figuring out why it's happening can help us figure out how to stop it.

Handling it - 

  •  Avoid shaming or making it a control issue between the two of you;
  •  Remain as calm and matter-of-fact as possible
  •  Expect the child to help clean up, but try to keep within their developmental abilities. Remember an emotionally-delayed child should only be expected to do what is developmentally appropriate for their emotional age. For example, you wouldn't expect a 2-year-old to mop up all the potty water from an overflowing toilet, disinfect the room, put away cleaning supplies, and clean up his/her self safely [Therapeutic Parenting Based on Emotional/Social Developmental Age];
  •  A child in fight/ flight/ freeze is acting purely instinctually - the thinking part of the brain is not "online" so it is best to address things when the child is regulated. [Handling Dysregulation and Meltdowns];
  • Social Skills. Sometimes having outsiders comment on the child's smell/ hygiene will help, but it could also feel shaming. Plus, most people won't do it. They'll politely suffer through the smell instead (and tell you about it). Often kids will just avoid your child. I have tried warning my children that their poor hygiene can cause social issues but my warnings rarely had an effect;
  • Keep a change of clothes (or 3) with the child (backpack, locker, cubby...) or in the nurse's office or somewhere the child can access it. Waterless, antibacterial handsoap can often help with odors and cleaning;
  • Give the child some socially acceptable words/ euphemisms they can use to explain to others what happened. My 16yo daughter called me from school once asking me to bring her a change of clothes because she'd, "lost an argument with the water fountain" (unfortunately for us, this was the nurse's suggestion and I didn't get it and made her tell me why I should drop everything and bring her a change of clothes};
  • Make a schedule. Does the child need reminders to go potty? Providing assistance with getting up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom;.
  • Use a timer. Some kids can't handle having you tell them what to do, and/or they get preoccupied with what they're doing and forget to go. Having a timer means the reminder is consistent and better yet, it's not coming from you;
  • Make an appointment - have a doctor make sure the cause isn't a medical issue;
  • Keep hygiene lessons brief - but do give them. I let my kids know that not changing underwear/clothes/ sheets with pee or poo in it can burn the skin and lead to infections. I also gave lessons (with clothes on!) in how to wipe and clean. (Also in how to change out a toilet paper roll!). These do have to be repeated as needed. My kids took a long time learning this; 
Cleaning - Wear gloves! This is less about worry about germs or the ick factor and more about the fact that the smell of poo really adheres to your skin. When cleaning up yet another overflowing potty, I always wear gloves!
When cleaning bedding and clothes - we generally add 1 cup of vinegar to the load.
When cleaning carpet -
-- For poo - I've used Arm&Hammer Cat Box Litter! I sprinkle it on the carpet, wait a while and vacuum it up.
-- For pee - using something absorbent, I try to dry up as much as possible (assuming it's still wet). Then I use Odormute (which you can get at pet stores, Wal-mart, wherever). You have to use enough to let it soak into wherever the pee touched (including the carpet pad). One box has lasted me a long time.
Check often. My daughter slept in a loft bed. I frequently had to give it a smell test. I also had to watch for wet pull-ups, which for some reason she liked to hide.

A trick for frequent bed wetters - We had a plastic mattress cover (of course) and made the bed as usual (fitted and flat sheet). Then we covered that with a plastic layer of some sort (I liked shower curtain liners - preferably ones that didn't make crinkly/ crunchy noises). Made the bed again (fitted and flat sheet). Then repeated for several layers. We also kept some clean pjs (and pull-ups if used) by the bed - we used a little wooden chest.
When the child woke up in the middle of the night with wet sheets, all they needed to do was strip the top layer of sheets and their pjs and drop them in a nearby laundry basket (the plastic sheeting generally kept the urine from getting everywhere), put on new pjs (kept in a box/ drawer/ whatever right next to the bed), and then grab a new blanket if needed (we kept folded up comforters/ blankets on a shelf at the bottom of the bed).
Voila! Back in bed ready to sleep in minutes. This could be done multiple times in one night if needed. In the morning, the child could put the whole mess in the washer (with some hydrogen peroxide and/ or vinegar or whatever you like to use).

Low Tolerance/ Overwhelm
It is sometimes necessary to simplify a child’s life a LOT to lessen the feeling of “overwhelm,” which can lead to potty and other issues

This can be like childproofing – avoiding and removing things and events that can be triggers. This can also be making their world smaller and lowering expectations. 

Stripping the room - One thing Kitty's therapist recommended was stripping her room. Nothing but a bed, one book, and one stuffed animal. It was NOT a punishment, and not something they could "earn" back (or actually not earn back, because my kids are afraid to be emotionally attached to things as it gives others power over them so they affect indifference to them. ).

For a time, I even took my daughter's dresser out of her room and had her check out her clothes each day (this cut way down on the wet pull-ups and worse stuffed behind dressers and other places).

We also cut back on the chore expectations she "should" be able to handle. I would break down tasks into small steps and give them to her one at a time. Instead of saying, "Clean your room," which was overwhelming and just didn't happen. I would say, "Empty your trashcan." and when that was done, then I would say, "Put your dirty clothes in your laundry basket." When that was done, I would say, "Put your laundry basket next to the washing machine." Most of the time, I would have to do these things with her (not for her, but be present in the room, often helping clean near her). Chores, Responsibilities, and Other Things My Kids Can't Handle 

Eventually, my daughter got to where she could do a few tasks at a time, but the chaos in her head will always be reflected in the chaos of her room. I still help her keep it regulated. Therapeutically Parenting the Adult Child

Child Proof the Room 

- remove from the room carpet/ clean laundry/ whatever the child tends to pee/poop on. We pulled out the carpet in one child's room and replaced it with puzzle-like rubber tile floor mats (these come in multiple primary or pastel colors or dark gray/black). Obviously, this may not be an option for everyone. It might be possible to lay down plastic sheeting underneath the mats to protect the carpeting/ flooring underneath. 

Patience - With time, therapeutic parenting, and lots of therapy. Many of my child's potty issues slowly faded out. In the meantime, I did LOTS of Self-Care!!


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Retired? Homebound? Bored? Things for Adults to Do to Stay Active

Looking for something to do now that you're retired, homebound, or just plain bored? 
Here's some ideas.

Board games don’t have to be boring. From games played with others - Bingo, Scrabble, card games (Cards Against Humanity, strip poker?), Jenga, Apples to Apples, billiards/ pool, bowling... to games that can be done alone - like solitaire, Mahjong, crosswords, Sudoku, online computer games, and jigsaw puzzles... 

Some games can actually improve your memory (for example, seeing several pairs of cards for ten seconds and matching them up again). Improving your memory can also improve your concentration as it helps your mind to become more alert.

Games are also a great way to keep from resorting to hours of mindless TV-watching

You can exercise by yourself or in a group. Playing systems like the Wii, work out videos, bicycling, or just going for a walk on a regular basis (you can walk at a local mall if it's too hot outside or the weather is bad), all can be a wonderful way to stay physically active without having to join a gym. 

If you have access to a gym or club, you might have even more options - water aerobics, tennis, volleyball, weight lifting, golf, Zumba classes... Join a sport rec league. 

Think you could never run a marathon? This year 88 people over the age of 75 ran the New York City Marathon - Here's how they did.

Not only does physical activity help you feel better physically and emotionally, it can also help keep your brain active too!

Do something creative or learn something new. Crafts and hobbies can all be done at home, in a class, or with a group of like-minded individuals. They can be for your own enjoyment, to sell (check out, or donate to charity. You can take classes or even teach others how to do a craft or hobby that you enjoy.
  • Crafts - knitting, crocheting, cross stitch, embroidery, scrap booking, making cards, pottery, tapestry, sewing, dress making, collages.  (Ex. Some ideas for Crocheting and Knitting for Charity (  ) Project Linus - gives homemade blankets to children in need (
  • Artistic - Drawing, painting, calligraphy, coloring in adult coloring books, working with modeling clay, woodworking/ carving, jewelry making, glass staining.
  • Creative writing – This can involve writing in a journal, creating poetry, or writing a book/ stories. If you want to have a wider platform for your writing, you can publish it online in a blog. Some authors have been “discovered” through their blogs. Or you can self-publish a book, which is becoming more and more popular these days - Self-Publishing a Book, 25 Things You Need to Know
  • Cooking and Food Appreciation - Try new recipes. You can learn or teach others how to cook and enjoy different types of food: Basic beginning, gourmet, gluten free, vegan, multi-cultural, dessert/ pastries... Become a wine connoisseur or just learn the art of wine tasting. Make your own cook book with pictures and everything.
  • Research your family / Make a family tree. Check out
  • Gardening - Gardening can be enjoyable and a great way to stay physically and mentally active, whether your garden is a cactus on your desk, a few potted plants on your balcony, a small garden in your backyard (herbs, flowers, and/or vegetables), or a large garden with excess produce to sell. To learn more about how to start a garden, you can research online. (Ex. Basics of Gardening
  • Other Hobbies - This can be whatever you're interested in or interested in learning about - weather watching, ham radios, bird watching, small appliance repair, photography, furniture refinishing, interior decorating, 

Whether it’s making follow-up calls or providing advice to businesses or tutoring students, many jobs can be done from home these days. Learn more in this article from AARP: Work from Home Jobs for Retirees

It's usually pretty easy to find volunteer work, you can check out some local non-profits in your area and contact them to see if they need any help. Guidestar - Directory of Charities and Non-Profits

Look for work in an area you enjoy: 
  • Children - babysit, respite, foster care, Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for foster children (volunteer position that does not require any particular experience), run a home daycare, sitting with newborns in ICU, read story books at the library or book store, tutoring...
  • Animals - Dog walking, pet sitting, volunteer in an animal shelter. Check out places that offer services involving animals, like equine therapy, to see if they have volunteer positions. Train animals as service dogs or therapy pets.
  • Elderly/ Disabled - Caregiver or just spend some time with a senior citizen. You can volunteer at places like hospice providers, nursing homes, drive elderly and disabled people to church services...
  • Office work - reach out to local non-profits and see if they need any help with filing, answering phones, writing thank you notes... 
  • Tech/ Design/ Media - If you have skills in these areas, many non-profits and other agencies are always looking for talented designers. Ex. PeaceGeeks - build the technological, communications and management capacities of grassroots organizations who work to promote peace, accountability and human rights.  
  • Food - work at a food pantry, cook for a soup kitchen, 

Get a pet! Pets can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure, increase social interaction and physical activity, help you learn, and can reduce depression and lessen loneliness. 

Learning about animal care and training can be fun and rewarding. Going to dog parks and meeting others, can keep both you and your pet entertained and active.


Keeping the mind active can improve your memory, improve your health, ward off dementia... To help your mind stay young and flexible, continuing education or informal classes (learning something new just for fun), can help the mind stay active. 

You can check out your local community college - there are online courses for just about everything and a lot of them are free. it might take a little research to find some good ones, but good news! There's often someone that has already reviewed the type of courses you're looking for and posts the best options. 

Change can be fun. Redecorate, decorate for the seasons, change out pictures. rearrange the furniture, DIY some fun projects, sell some clutter on sites like Craigslist (, (, or ebay ( 


Any place, anywhere, any time. Books are awesome! Start or attend a book club, book stores, libraries, book carts, start a little free library (, the possibilities are as endless as the worlds that books can take you to.

For low cost concerts and plays, check out a local high school for live entertainment. Check out senior day care facilities for special activities or just visit once in a while. 

This could be listening to music, learning a new instrument, and/ or joining a choir. Go dancing! Take a Dance Class! Attend a concert.
concerts and plays at your local high school for low-cost/low-stress live entertainment

Laughing doesn't just make you feel better, it can make you physically better. Laughter has been clinically proven to strengthen your immune system, activate and relieve your stress response and stimulate many organs.
Watch old TV shows on DVD like "I Love Lucy" or the "Marx Brothers" for a laugh.
Play! - 40 ideas to experience childlike playfulness as adults 
The Importance Of Laughter In Long Term Care Facilities

Have a spa day, even if just in your room. Invite some friends over and do each other's nails. Manis, pedis, facials, experiment with makeup and hair styles, skin treatments, impromptu fashion shows. Check out an online makeup or hair tutorial online, and try something new. Host or attend a makeup, jewelry, or fashion party - you don't actually have to buy anything. 


Attend worship, travel, outings, and shopping trips (this can be window shopping!). Go for a walk or a drive. Visit a museum, place of interest, go antiquing. Travel to faraway lands (even if just in your imagination). Explore new cultures and learn new a new language. You'd be amazed at how much you can learn from the internet nowadays. 

Clubs are a great way to meet and keep in contact with others. Check out computer clubs, sewing clubs, golf clubs (Sorry! just had to throw that in there). Lunch groups and social groups, singles groups. Hang out an activity center, YMCA, senior center... Join a support group online or in real life.  Plan a dinner party, trivia night, movie or other event party.