December 18, 2011

Recent happenings

     We have been busy with fun activities, in addition to the regular, not-always-as-fun things like school, laundry, scraping windshields. Here are some highlights:

In costumes outside the fellowship in early December. Both girls had parts in which they were plants so they wore green.

Poodaloo on stage as a tree branch. The skit was about the difference one person can make. It was called, 'How Much Does a Snowflake Weigh?'

Panda onstage as a laurel branch. This skit was a trial concerning traditional winter celebrations. The greenery were called on the witness stand (but that photo wasn't very good).

Our Christmas tree was decorated by the girls. It is beautiful and glows out the front window for all to see.

We attended a celebration at Panda's school. It was titled 'Milk and Cookies with Santa and Mrs. Claus'. In spite of us being the 92nd family in line to see Santa, a wonderful time was had by all the kids. Here Poodaloo is working on her letter to Santa.

Panda is making reindeer food using oatmeal and glitter.

 Visiting Dasher the reindeer outside the school building.

Mrs. Claus reading stories to children as they waited to see the big guy. Poodaloo is wearing a yellow snowflake on her hairdo. She made the snowflake while waiting in the gym. Panda didn't make snowflakes because she was busy running around the gym with her classmates.
 This one is "the funny photo" suggested by Santa. Both Mr. and Mrs. Claus were featured in a story.

December 17, 2011

Countdown to Christmas

     The girls are opening advent calendars to hasten the arrival of Christmas. Several years ago I found reasonably priced advent calendars with little boxes to fill. I spent oodles of time searching for toys small enough to fit into the boxes (less than 2 inches square). This was like looking for needles in the haystack. The new modus operandi is a note in the box (along with candy) saying there is a gift to open.

     I didn't realize how much the girls LOVE the tradition until this year. I didn't get things ready before December 1 and planned to skip it. No way were Panda and Poodaloo* letting that happen.

     After several days of (not so gentle) reminders, I bought five bags of Christmas candy and let them fill a calendar for each other.

     The great thing is: they are happy with this method, too. It makes no difference to their enjoyment of the tradition. How cool is that? Plus, I've finally gotten myself in a holiday frame of mind and starting this morning, there will be notes in the boxes and they will have surprises to open.

     *  Poodaloo has requested to be known by her full nickname from this day forward. She does not care for the diminuitive version (Pooda).

November 15, 2011

Another post worth reading

     Lest you think childhood trauma is not on my mind lately, check out this post from Jen Hatmaker. I stumbled onto it around 3:00a.m. this morning when I couldn't sleep.

Quilt Block Challenge

     I've challenged myself to make a quilt block each day for the next two weeks. Last Saturday I took a class for machine quilting and it lit a fire under me. I found free block patterns on-line and got busy using my fabric stash. I've chosen beginner level blocks that finish at 12" x 12". A few days ago I snagged a 10 1/2 yard chunk of flannel at St. Vincent de Paul for $5.25. It will be a nice backing for this challenge project.

     Here are the first blocks.

Spinning Star
This went together beautifully although it is slightly shy of finished size. I love the design.

Peace and Plenty
I had some technical difficulty understanding the cutting directions. Thus I have a few extra 'parts' lying around the sewing room after finishing this one.
     Panda is interested in learning to sew. Since she is off from school, we cruised the pattern books at Joann Fabric. She was ready to buy ten patterns but we exercised caution and left them all at the store.

     This Joann location has an independent sewing machine shop within it. The salesperson showed us two models. One a Singer and the other a Husquvarna-Viking. Several people have recommended Janome brand so I'm also considering it. My current machine is more than 35 years old and a second machine is looking very likely.

November 13, 2011

November - already?!?!

     Halloween has come and gone. The decorations are stowed away for next year (except the witch hats, which are mighty fun props). The candy treats are almost gone.

     We have experienced the first snow fall. Panda's school is on a track break for three weeks in November. They had a fall program the last day of school. It was an entertaining variety show with a play, songs and comedians. Panda played Sally in 'The Great Pumpkin'.

Sally (aka Panda) in The Great Pumpkin

 Pooda plays in the snow wearing a fancy dress and heels.

The maple leaves have turned (and fallen by the time of this post). 

Play activities move indoors with a skyscraper made of Lincoln Logs.

Another sign it is getting cold, Diva and Buddy have moved indoors for snoozing.

Because there is no such thing as being too close to the screen. (I don't understand why anyone would do this . . . . )

 A last stint of outdoor play with shorts & bare feet. Baba included in photo for reference so the viewer can gauge height of the handmade play structure.

Pooda crashes at the top of the stairs. Yes, she is asleep. 

Removing slimy seeds from the pumpkins. Still warm enough for shirt sleeves.

October 12, 2011

Dental update

     The oral surgery went off without a hitch . . . . as long as you don't call these hitches:

     Pooda told Panda they would poke a needle into her stomach and take out blood. Eeek! Not exactly a story to put fears to rest. There was a monitor on her stomach so that's probably what Pooda remembered. And stories are always better if there is blood involved. Particularly if the blood comes out of your stomach . . . .

     Or this:  Baba woke up at 6:15 and said he was sick. He was supposed to drive Pooda to Aunt Shaw's house. But he could barely walk, much less drive a car safely. A quick 6:30 am phone call and we had a new plan. J-Bear and her dad would drive over to fetch Pooda for a play date.

     Yesterday, Panda and I took a class field trip to the botanical garden. It started out very rainy but had blown over by the time the bus arrived. They learned about seeds, dissected lima beans, gathered seeds from the garden, and snacked on exploded endosperm (a.k.a. popcorn).

October 11, 2011

Parenting coach

     Hiring a parenting coach has helped us live 'Beyond Consequences' each day. We use Skype to meet with the coach. Usually Baba comes home to attend the session, but sometimes he can't get away from the office.

     Living Beyond Consequences means using two questions to guide parent-child interactions:
    ~ What is driving this behavior?
    ~ What can I do at this very moment to improve my relationship with her?

     I think the biggest value of a parent coach is relating specific examples we encounter. After hearing what happened, the coach walks us through the event and talks about what we could have done differently at several points.

A recent example:
     It was a hectic morning getting ready for school. I had been juggling my attention back and forth between both girls. It was time to leave and we couldn't find Pooda. I searched through the house and finally found her sitting on the patio. I went outside and asked “What’s the matter, sweetie?” Her reply, "You are a terrible mom because you don't have time to help your child who needs help. You only help your other child."

     Oops . . . I guess Panda had been taking up a lot more of my attention than I had realized.
     Gulp . . .  Obviously Pooda needs me to take a few minutes and hold her.
     But . . . Panda will go into hysterics if she thinks we’re late for the bus.

     What should I do?

     With a bad outcome either way, I decide to keep Panda calm, at the expense of not meeting Pooda’s immediate need. I carried Pooda (with shoes and backpack) out the front door. I locked the door behind us and said it was time to leave for school. Pooda said she wasn't coming. I assumed hoped she would eventually follow us.

     Panda and I started walking to the bus stop. Panda provides updates every ten seconds about whether Pooda was following us or not. We didn't see her following until nearly at the bus stop. She met up with her friend M. and M's dad and walked with them, chatting happily. Until she got about 50 feet from me. Then she stopped and her face changed to stink-eye.

     I walked over to her and picked her up. Again, she began saying I'm an awful mom because I don't have time for helping my child who needs help.

     On one hand, I have decided not to force Pooda to do something she is crying and begging against doing (unless it is for safety). Usually this happens at bed time or when we are rushing out the door to leave.

     On the other hand,  Panda will blow a gasket if Pooda misses the bus and I will have two completely dysregulated children on my hands.

     At such a loss of knowing what to do, I continue with forcing Pooda onto the bus. I peeled her off me (twice) to get her on the bus. The bus driver helped me by shutting the door very quickly. I trudged back home feeling like pond scum for making Pooda get on the bus when she was so very upset.

How coach helped us:
     A few days later, I relay this saga to my coach. She is amazed at Pooda's ability to verbalize her needs. We discuss how I could have honored this need rather than brushing it aside. We talk about what to do to make it okay for Panda, too.

     The coach's advice helped me figure out the best thing was to have stayed home and let us all become regulated. We could have stayed home for a few extra minutes. That had been my first thought, but I quashed it. Traditional parenting wisdom is to make kids do the things they should do. It is difficult to curb this line of thought, even though BCLC is how I want to parent my children.

     Coach suggested allowing Panda to do a fun activity while I spend time with Pooda. For example, she could watch TV, which they are not allowed to watch during the school week.

     While Panda was watching TV, I could let Pooda share her feelings and help me understand what she needed from me. This wouldn’t take very long. Pooda regulates more quickly than Panda and her solutions are generally simple requests.

     We would not have been very late to school - perhaps 15 or 20 minutes. In the big picture, reassuring Pooda that mommy will do everything she can to meet Pooda’s needs is more important. Being a few minutes late for school is small potatoes.

Post Script:  I have been writing this post for a couple of weeks. This morning I had the opportunity to repeat the ‘don’t want to get on the bus’ scene. We all drove to the bus stop and Panda got onto the bus while Pooda stayed home with me for awhile.

October 5, 2011

Squirrels, scallow eggs and teeth

Squirrels:     Hogan found a dead squirrel in our back yard. The news of such interesting road kill travelled quickly - Buddy & Diva soon joined Hogan to investigate the corpse. Panda and Pooda were at sleep-overs and Baba was working late. That left me to dispose of the squirrel. Ugh !
     Squirrel bodies are a lot bigger than you would think and I didn't want to touch it. I tried covering it with newspaper and rocks. Hoagie, Buddy and Diva continued to paw at it. My next attempt was covering it with a yard bucket, topped by a large rock. None of these kept my animals away from it. After (an embarrassingly long amount of) a time, it occured to me to use a shovel to pick up the darn thing.
     I dumped the squirrel into the backyard garbage can. The first thing Pooda said when she looked into the can: "Mom, it was a boy squirrel!" (Male squirrels are quite well-endowed.) Between Friday and Monday, the squirrel-in-the-trash-can was popular viewing by Pooda and her 'friends who are boys, not boyfriends'.

Scallow Eggs:     It's a treat to travel alone in the car with Pooda. She is full of insightful observations and shares them freely. Not long ago, Pooda told me about her favorite TV show on Disney channel. It's called Jake and the Neverland Pirates. It seems pirates have their own lexicon and Pooda was eager to tell me some of the words pirates use.

Pooda: "Mom, one thing pirates call people is scallow egg. A scallow egg is someone who makes trouble."
Mom: "I think the word is scalliwag."
Pooda: "No, it is scallow egg."
Mom: "Okay."

Teeth:    Last week Panda complained of a sore tooth. She said it was one with the orthodontic spacer attached (upper left molar). It was a couple of days before we could get into the orthodontist office. During the wait, a bottom molar fell out.
     At the ortho's office, they decided the culprit was a neighboring tooth. It has a cavity and needs come out. They referred us to our regular pediatric dentist, who looked at the x-ray and said to to an oral surgeon. The oral surgeon takes it out on Friday morning. Pooda had this surgeon remove a tooth last fall and she has assured Panda that it will be a piece of cake.
     Meanwhile, Pooda had a very loose front tooth. She wiggled & jiggled it all weekend. Monday she chewed a big wad of gum, hoping to get the tooth to fall out. The gum worked and the tooth came out. She is eagerly practicing All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth.
     Last night, J-Bear called to say she lost a tooth, too. The good news is all the missing teeth are supposed to come out. They are not the kind which cost several thousand dollars to replace.

September 22, 2011

Another view of our world

     A mom from one of my yahoo support groups posted this link. The writing is wonderfully desriptive.
     Click here to read about the adoption-changed life of a Texas family. I am in awe at the depth of their understanding when the kids have been home less than two months. Thank you, Jen Hatmaker, for describing it so eloquently!

September 19, 2011

Nevada photos

     Always an adventure as we travel, play, swim, and eat during our annual Lake Tahoe reunion. This year we invited J-Bear to drive with us to Nevada. We left Friday and stayed overnight in Winnemucca. Her mom & dad drove (by themselves in a car) the following day.
     Here is a pictorial review of the highlights between home and Reno.
An ice cream break at the Rock House in Jordan Valley.

Room 15 in Winnemucca. It is our usual room, however the air conditioning was not working. A Winnemucca motel without a/c in August is not fun. The maintenance man tried to fix it. (The girls entertained themselves by running barefoot around the parking lot.) We decided to drive to Reno rather than stay in a hot room (it was the only room available). We got refund. Viola' -- the a/c started blasting cold air. Baba went back to the office and re-paid for the room. We cheered wildly, very thankful to have a room for the night.
    We arrived at Grandma's house before lunch on Saturday. Pooda is reading a book written by her kindergarten class. J-Bear is using a weapon* to fend off marauders.
    * The weapon is a grabber, one of the most popular toys at Grandma's house. The only toy with more popularity is Grandma's walker.
Panda and T. model the latest fashion. The accessories are made from 1 1/4" strips of cloth. The strips were 'borrowed' from my rug hooking stash.
The Tahoe-bound cousins in Grandma's back yard.
Shaw and her assistants gather around the victim salon customer (in striped towel). In a vacation induced euphoric mood, 'I am the Mama' decided to have her hair dyed purple.
Partway through the process.

     Sunday the pilgrimage to Tahoe commenced. Actual Tahoe photos to follow in a subsequent post.

September 18, 2011

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood

     What to do for entertainment on a beautiful day? Ride in the garbage can, of course. Who says we don't know how to have a good time?

     September is our busiest month. Regaining a school-based rhythm is challenging to say the least. This year was especially wild because Panda changed schools a week into the school year. The girls now attend two different elementary schools which are 1.25 miles apart. They take buses leaving from the same location so it doesn't complicate the getting to school part.

     First day of school pictures (Pooda is trying to show some 'tude). They had chosen outfits three weeks earlier and hid them to ensure the clothes would be clean for Day 1. They believe the laundress in our home is second-rate, at best. The laundress believes she has too many clothes to wash each week.

     Panda requested to change schools in mid-July. It was a tremendous improvement on her spring request for homeschooling, so we jumped on it. The new school specializes in weaving the arts into the entire curriculum. Third graders have two piano keyboarding classes per week. One of the spelling practice exercises is drawing a picture and decorating it with the spelling words. Here is some of her work. The spelling words are written around the apple.

     To keep things even steven, here is a painting by Pooda. It was completed this afternoon. It is a picture of Mama as a little girl beside her house and flowers. (She used a bit of artistic license as my hair has never been long or green.)

     We have a bit of sad news. Dr. Dimento passed away to the great fish bowl in the sky. We are pretending it was a peaceful passing. The ugly truth is that his little orange corpse accidently washed down the sink. I saved him (in a baggie in the fridge) for a proper burial outdoors when the girls returned home. Said corpse was discovered. Pooda wanted a closer look at poor Dr. Dimento. There was a bit of a fracas and he slipped out of the baggie into the sink. Hysteria followed this unfortunate event. There will not be any new fish in the aquarium any time soon.

September 4, 2011

Cozy mysteries

I like to read light-hearted murder mysteries. These are some of my favorite series and authors.

Raine Stockton by Donna Ball
Ministry is Murder by Emilie Richards
Mantra for Murder by Diana Killian
Aaron Tucker & Double Feature mysteries by Jeffery Cohen
Yellow Rose by Leann Sweeney (can't get into her cat series for some reason)
Mommy Track by Ayelet Waldman (her memior work is good, too)
Quilting mysteries by Terri Thayer

I'll add more as I remember the author's names.

Therapy and EMDR

There are two specific things I've done to change the dynamics in our home in the past few months. I've focused on myself more than Panda. Two strategies are weekly personal therapy and a parenting coach. The therapist and coach each know I have the other one helping me. They are 'on the same page' in terms of understanding adoption & childhood trauma.

The therapist facilitated an enormous change the first time I saw her. She helped me search for earlier times my body experienced the same feelings as when Panda raged.
Poof! It came to me that I'd experienced the same stress in high school when my mother was an active alcoholic. It felt exactly like after school and my thoughts would start wondering what I would find at home. Would my mom be passed out? Incoherant? Worse?

Awareness of this connection was life transforming for me. The memories no longer have such power over my body. Knowing what I feared took away its power. This is not to say I never cry anymore when Panda rages. I still cry occasionally. Most often I remain calm and focus on using the BCLC unconditional parenting strategies.

In subsequent sessions, she has used a technique called eye movement desensitization and reprogramming (acronym: EMDR). In short, the treatment uses bilateral body stimulation simultaneous with thinking of the trauma. Bilateral body stimulation forces the two halves of the brain to interact across the corpus callosum and store the memory in a less traumatic form. Read a brief summary about it here (or search using the acronym).

I read about EMDR quite awhile ago but didn't pursue information about local treatment options. In April, our neurological reorganization specialist suggested I read Walking Your Blues Away by Thom Hartmann. This short and easily read book is about the bilateral therapy of walking.

It felt like bilateral movement was making itself known to me at every corner. I started to look for someone who was trained in EMDR, adoption, and childhood trauma. I found such a person and am greatly happier as a result of seeing her. She is not the first therapist I've seen. However, she is the one who has facilitated the most powerful transformations for me.

I'll write about the parenting coach in another post.

Mom is a jrick

Panda was mad at me the other day and wrote "Mom is a jrick" on a piece of masking tape on the kitchen counter. Of course, she meant jerk. Then she crossed out jrick and wrote in 'stuiped'.

Panda struggles with reading and spelling because of the developmental sequences she missed as an infant. Improved reading is one of the benefits she has gained from the neurological reorganization exercises. Spelling will get there eventually.

I am happy she writes her feelings, even when I'm the recipient of the vitriol. It means Panda is gaining awareness of her feelings. She realizes hitting mommy is not an appropriate action. Her cognitive brain is able to tell the lizard brain to stop pushing the panic button. She can think rather than act impulsively.
Unconditional acceptance means any feeling is appropriate and should be accepted by the parent and child. However, not all actions from the feeling are okay. Panda is learning to guide her body into less-hurtful reactions. Writing down how much you hate someone is probably better than yelling and hitting the person.

Here are two recent examples of Panda's bergeoning skill.

The diet coke incident ~ In a rage, Panda swept a 12 pack of pop off the counter. The cardboard carton broke open. Dented cans spewed across the floor. One can popped open and fizzy soda splattered all over.

 A key step in Beyond Consequences parenting is asking: What can I do at this very moment to improve my relationship with Panda.

I chose to focus on Panda and did not say anything about the pop cans. We went to another room and read a story. Panda calmed down. I did not say anything about the mess in the kitchen and went to do a chore elsewhere. After a bit, Panda came to me with some money. She said it was to pay for the can of diet coke she had broken. She had cleaned up the mess and put the other cans in the refrigerator. Major success!

Busting up cupboards ~ Our master bathroom has a large cupboard with shelves built into the doors. We keep frequently used things like bandaids and nail polish in the door. When I said no to painting toe nails one morning, Panda slammed the bathroom cupboard doors shut. This caused the slats holding nail polish bottles to fall off and the bottles to spill onto the inside. This made Panda even more furious. (Fortunately, none of the bottls broke.)

Again, I was (barely) able to focus on Panda's feelings, not her behavior. We calmly went into another room and did something to distract from what had happened. The nail polish and broken slats could wait until after Panda became regulated again.

This time, Panda got a hammer and tried to repair the broken slats. It was not easy for her. She also apologized to me for breaking the cupboard.

These are two of the first times Panda has been able to accept responsibility. It happened because I did not forced it. Panda had the time she needed to process her feelings. I improved our relationship instead of her behavior.

I force myself to remember the successes again and again. Together, Panda and I are making progress! It often feels we are not moving forward at all. But we ARE and I am very thankful.

Now for the not-so-good stuff, in case there is a mistaken idea I've become super mom. This weekend is a big bump in the road. I am an emotional train wreck and have cried over and over. Baba has to work most of the weekend and I'm at home with the girls. In retrospect, I see there weren't enough breaks for me in August. They started school last week! But one week is not enough time for me to regain my equilibrium after five weeks of nearly 24/7 time with Panda and Pooda.

They have gone to Aunt Shaw's house for tonight. There will be a scrapbook session for Panda, Pooda and J-Bear. Tomorrow afternoon there is a birthday party and then it will be school again.

I can do this.   Yes.   I can.

August 19, 2011

A wonderful essay

     I'm working on a new post but its not quite finished. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy reading this essay by Michael Gartner. It reminds me of my mother- and father-in-law. It is a heartwarming story about a man you would have liked to know.

August 13, 2011


     I'm trying to spruce up the blog. I don't exactly know what I'm doing so it might have changing designs for awhile.

August 8, 2011

Lake Tahoe

    We are enjoying a family week in Lake Tahoe. Baba is going home today because he has to work. The girls and I are staying the week. Baba is supposed to remember to feed the cats and water all the flower pots - every day. Every day will be the challenging part, especially for the flowers. The cats are fairly pesky and loud so I'm not too worried about them. The dogs are staying elsewhere until the end of the week.

     We have been busy, busy the past couple of weeks. Valerie had a birthday party, we spent a few days in McCall with the Girl Scout troop. Next thing I knew, we were on the road toward Lake Tahoe. Baba is taking his laptop home with him so more posts are not likely until we are back at home.

     It is gorgeous at Tahoe. Nanner, nanner, nanner . . .

July 8, 2011

Why am I doing this?

 Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
     - Albert Einstein

     The most driving reason is  for Panda. What happened to her when she was an infant is not her fault. She is wonderful, thoughtful, sincere, smart, caring and helpful. But her body often usurps these qualities with polar opposites.
     Panda's neurological system takes her body to a place of survival. It happens fast. There is no warning. She cannot control it.
     I realized this within a couple months of bringing Panda home. How could a person maintain such extreme responses (literally hours & hours) time and time again? I certainly could not do it. How could a toddler? The idea these episodes were willful just didn't make sense to me.
     Traditional parenting aims to correct willful disobedience. It was a long time before I trusted my sense her behavior was not willful. Time out was a joke. Panda would not sit somewhere alone. I was the one being punished with a time out, so I stopped doing it. At times I reached the end of my rope. I meted out a few whacks on her rear-end. Or grabbed her shoulders to 'shake some sense into her'.

     It never made one bit of difference in what Panda was doing. Never.

     The violence felt good to me ~ at the moment of frustration. Later, I was ashamed for using physical punishment. I don't do it any more. Ever. Neither does her Baba.
     At last I am learning why the parenting tricks did not change Panda's behavior.    Children who experience trauma are physiologically changed. Their brains are wired differently than brains of non-traumatized kids. Survival instincts are controlled by primitive brain structures (the reptile brain). Neurological pathways develop for protection (fight, flight or freeze). Cognitive thoughts cannot override the primitive system when it has taken control.
     Infants interacting with their parents (or other important caregivers) are learning how to discern the perceived danger is not real. Babies learn to calm themselves by watching mommy and daddy stay calm. Activities such as crawling and walking also help kids learn to regulate their bodies.

Warp-speed internet, etc

     The new TV unleashed a torrent. The local cable company made an offer we could not refuse: faster internet. The package includes phone service and cable TV. Panda and Pooda have become addicts, surfing back and forth between Disney and Nickolodeon. Mama hates cable already.
     Warm weather has taken us outdoors for gardening and summer camps. Panda & Pooda attended a week long Girl Scout day camp after swimming lessons finished. They also spent time at zoo camps. Mama started ripping out sod and moving pea gravel. Ugh . . . it is physically tiring work but rewarding to see the result.
     Baba went to Denver for a weekend conference for fathers who are learning the new parenting paradigm of Beyond Consequences.
     The ladies went out of town with my sister and her family (the weekend Baba was away). Pooda's favorite thing was hiking in the woods. She and J-Bear loved exploring behind the cabin. We roasted marshmallows for s'mores. Hot dogs are always better warmed up over a fire. There was a quilt store nearby and also a hot springs swimming pool. It was a small slice of paradise less than two hours from home. We plan to make this an annual event. My camera did not make it into the car so no photos until my sister shares hers.
     This week Panda stayed over at her friend J's house. Pooda had a triple sleep-over with J-Bear (not the same person as J). Tomorrow (Saturday) both girls come home again. No doubt it will seem pretty dull around here after such exciting adventures.

June 15, 2011

We dumped the box

     Want a free converter box? Our family made a small upgrade in electronics. We bought a 32" digital TV. Baba doesn't know about Phase 2 yet. For Phase 2, we will go totally bonkers and buy a Wii.

Baba testing the remote (old TV did not have remote)
Who cares about the TV when there's a large box available.

The girls helped sort clothes this week. I think it is a chore that never ends. They think it is fun.

     Photos can be tricky when you are a photo dunce like me. How did I not notice a bra dangling from Pooda's hand? Take 2 and Pooda is hidden. There was a third attempt. Panda was not a happy camper at that point. Photo #3 belongs on the cutting room floor.

     Warm weather means craft projects on the patio. Panda & Pooda have been waiting for warmth because mama doesn't allow painting in the house. The wreath is designed in hopes of attracting a nesting bird like last year. There was more Spanish moss than needed so Panda got creative (and grew an extra pair of arms).

     We've also put out the hummingbird feeders. I am forty shades of green with envy because a hummingbird has nested at my sister's house. It's not fair . . . . .    

June 10, 2011

A love-based paradigm

     It is impossible to help a child regulate when you are not calm and present in the moment. I have spent hundreds of hours reading about parenting traumatized children. This article describes the parenting paradigm we use. It's from the Beyond Consequences Institute.
     In my own words (so any errors are mine), a love-based paradigm places your focus on relationship with your child, not on the child's behavior. That means parents do not punish a child for dysregulated behaviors. It does not mean there are no boundaries and home is a free-for-all.
     Parents focus on understanding why the child is dysregulated (i.e. feels frightened). The parent helps the child by being physically and mentally present during the dysregulation. This is the first parenting strategy with which we've found success. There are other names for this approach and other therapists who encourage it. Daniel Hughes, Bryan Post, and Bruce Perry are a few examples. 
     Our family is still relatively new to this paradigm. It is hard to make the shift and I knew we needed help. I enrolled in an on-line parenting course offered by Heather Forbes with Beyond Consequences. Families from around the world participated. Technology literally brings students together live, via home computers. We did live role plays during class. It was incredibly concrete, useful, and inspiring.
     I didn't want it to end, so next up is a program called Dare to Love Yourself. This is also taught by Heather Forbes. It virtually meets once per month for a year. The goal is for mothers to care for themselves, as well as their families.
      Then came the Everyday is Mother's Day conference. It was so emotional I could barely pull myself out of bed after the third session. My body & mind were drained and felt wonderful at the same time.
     At this point, some might consider me addicted. It is definately a possibility.

Respite for everyone

     Lately, it has been difficult to find my silver lining. The rages happen three & four times a day. Emotional turmoil has completely overtaken my body. Panda is in turmoil, too. This is not a good combination.

My tears begin the moment Panda dysregulates.
     Things are knocked off counters ~ I cry.
     She hits Pooda ~ I cry.
     She hits me ~ I cry.

     Pooda soon now expects my tears the moment Panda gets upset. I want to get in the van and drive somewhere  ~ alone ~  and stay there a very long time. 

     Something has to change. All four of us need respite. I have never contemplated this before now although many families use respite on a regular basis.

     She would be terrified if we send her away.
     I do not want her to feel abandoned (again).
     I am scared, too.

     Support network to the rescue: Panda stayed with her best friend for three nights. Pooda went to my sister’s house for two nights. They both considered it a special treat and had a wonderful time. Mama & Baba had a wonderful time, too.

(I started this post last month . . . . ) This move was truly a miracle for us. I did not cry for weeks after the girls came home from respite. I cried for the first time yesterday. Tonight they are staying with Aunt Shaw again, so mama can have another respite.


Pooda: "Mom, we need to hannatize."
Mom: "What?"
Pooda: "You know, hannatize our hands before we eat."
Mom: "Sweetie, I think the word is sanatize."
Pooda: "No, it is hannatize."

School's Out !

School's out for summer ~ School's out forever ~ School's been blown to pieces
No more pencils ~ No more books ~ No more teacher's dirty looks
Out for summer ~ Out till fall ~ We might not go back at all *

Last day of school photo below. Pooda's kindergarten class had a pretend beach party. Flipflops were the footwear of choice. Panda just wants to get the show on the road, hence the crossed arms and grimace-like smile.

This was the first day of school last August.

* Song by Alice Cooper, released 1972


Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow."      ~ Mary Anne Radmacher *

     I felt this way last night. Yesterday Panda & Pooda had swimming lessons, began Irish dance class and we stopped by 'the farm' for the first time this season. I should have predicted the folly of doing all these things during one outing. It was too much!
    As we left 'the farm', I accidently smacked Pooda in the face while trying to maneuver her into the back seat. She needed to be in the back seat for safety. Panda was mad and Pooda is an easy target when they sit side-by-side in the van. My iced tea spilled on me when Panda threw a small gym bag at me as we drove home. All three of us were crying as we pulled into the garage. Baba had a deer-in-the-headlights look when he heard & saw us. Although, by the time we went to bed everything was calm. Whew!

* Check out Mary Anne Radmacher's writing and artwork here. In an odd coincidence,  I was inspired by her words when making a gift for Baba soon after we married. He was not a baba then but he was, and remains, "my best time".

June 5, 2011



Pronunciation: dis-ˌreg-yə-ˈlā-shən 
Function: n  
Definition: impairment of a physiological regulatory mechanism (as that governing metabolism, immune response, or organ function)

Merriam-Webster's Medical Dictionary, © 2007 Merriam-Webster, Inc.

May 31, 2011

Feed the family

     This past weekend, the girls got up before mama and baba. That is not so unusual. They also entertained themselves and let us sleep late. That part is very unusual. As in ~ it has never happened before ~ ever.
     Pooda has found her own food to eat since she was very young. This weekend was no exception. When I got up, the remains of her breakfast were on the counter - cold noodles, polish sausage and turkey pepperoni. Panda waits for someone to get breakfast for her.
     For some reason, Pooda feels we may forget to feed her. It could be true once in a while. We have a new whiteboard in the kitchen. I write chores on it. Baba & the girls do the chores without me nagging. Here is a recent list. Second entry written by hungry family member.

     Lots of things crammed into scheduled for the end of the school year. Our elementary school is no exception. Panda's class had a Folktale Festival. They made displays and worked on special projects. They studied geography while learning where the tale originated. They wrote a poem based upon the main character from the tale. Each child prepared a speech to answer questions during the festival. I am very impressed with the public speaking kids learn now. I don't remember doing any public speaking until junior high school.
     Panda chose Twelve Dancing Princesses for her fairy tale. She made a scrapbook as her special 'at home' project. (Almost every boy drew a 'wanted dead or alive' poster of the story's villan.) Baba sneaked away from the office to visit the festival with me. We left school early since the teacher said it was okay to take the students home when the festival concluded.

     Pooda's kindergarten Mandarin class went to a Chinese buffet restaurant. They invited the first grade to come along. I volunteered to chaperone. Just in case you have not gone to a restaurant with 40+ five, six, and seven year old kids, I will help you imagine it. Think of living the expression 'a dull roar'  in surround sound.
     The parents offered the food to the kids. There were two distinct types of eaters. The kids who tried everything, and the kids who ate steamed rice, chicken and jello. The 'tried everything' kids did a pretty good job of eating.  Pooda is sitting at the end of the table.

     To finish things up for this post, here are the girls being cute and (even better) not fighting with each other.

May 30, 2011

A hard place

     Here is another interesting article explaining what life can be like around here. I am working on a couple of posts to be published soon.
     And here is a video the girls love to watch. Over and over and over on the iPad. Now we all know the words.

May 26, 2011

The invisible woman

     Before we left for Seattle last month I figured out the steps to download a movie for Panda to watch. This week I am downloading music. Sunday afternoon I flaunted my new skills. Panda and Pooda were both excited to hear the music.
     Pooda asked, "Mommy, did you get the invisible woman song?", Huh? I paused for a moment, wondering what she meant. Then a lightbulb flashed. She was asking about "I am Woman" by Helen Reddy. 'I am invincible' is a line from the lyrics and Pooda thought it says invisible.
     Today I added a few songs from my own CD collection. My taste in music is eclectic, to say the least. Two of the CDs were not recognized by iTunes. It asked for permission to download the album information to iTunes database. Not sure if I should be proud or mortally embarrassed by this.

May 21, 2011

I've got pieces of April

     We had the carpet ripped out of the family room (basement). Underneath was a nice concrete floor and we had it sanded, stained and sealed. My failure to ask how long the job would take was a serious error on my part. I had the mistaken idea it would be a simple project lasting three days. It was not simple, nor did it last only three days. It was two dusty & dirty weeks of chaos. And our house does not have a fair share of chaos, so it was something we all enjoyed.  N~O~T ! !
    All in all, the finished product is great. I'm still trying to get the dust cleaned up but the furniture is back in place. Here is the finished product. You can see the girls wasted no time using the floor as a surface for art projects.
     The Girl Scouts have a dance each spring called  Me and My Guy. Here are my favorite girl scouts and their guys. J-Bear thought it was loud. Panda thought it was great. Pooda did not express an opinion. The guys were mum on the subject, too.
The sun was very bright and they made goofy faces.
     The last few days of April was the annual dietitian conference. I was basically not home for three days. It was such fun to see friends and colleagues. I learned a great deal of stuff, too. This three day adventure netted me 19.5 continuing ed credits. I am now done with the requirements for this term. The dietetic credentialing agency has given me the go ahead to start another five year cycle. Yippee! Cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die, I will not get so far behind this time.

And it's a morning in May

     We have been busy. It is my excuse and reason for not writing. ~ Sorry ~ I have logged on twice to write a post. Immediately upon doing so, my family would begin acting in such a manner I was forced to leave the computer without writing a single word.
     This past Thursday was a field trip with Panda's class. I joined the trip as a chaperone. It was a beautiful day and the park was full of activity. It is a park with wetlands and natural areas. Dogs are not allowed during this time of year because the birds are nesting. The kids had a scavenger hunt list and also a worksheet to complete. After the papers were completed, we drove across the street to another park for lunch and play time.
The four kids in Panda's group.
Turtles sunning in the park.

May 6 brought Panda's piano recital. She loves piano lessons and practiced faithfully for the recital.
She played  Feed the Birds from Mary Poppins.