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.