The Yearbook and the Yes

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Jacob with my parents’ dog. He loves animals.

This morning on the drive to school with Jacob and Lexi, Jacob asks me if I signed his Tuesday folder. Mind you, it’s Friday. “No”, I tell him, “you didn’t show it to me. Get it out now and I’ll sign it.”

He gets it out and passes it to me in the driver’s seat. I sign my name as I lean it against the steering wheel. I flip through the papers and see it’s time for yearbook orders.

“Order my yearbook! I want a yearbook!” Jacob says from the back seat.

“OK, we always order yearbooks, so I’ll definitely do that.”

“Order it now! My teacher will be mad if I don’t take the form today.”

“Jacob, it has a due date of the 21st. I have plenty of time. I promise I’ll order the yearbook.”

“Do it or you’ll forget. You ALWAYS forget.”

“Jacob, no I don’t. I do what I say.”

“Well, Daddy doesn’t.”

“Yes, he does, Jacob. Daddy does what he says. Can you think of a time when Daddy didn’t?”

His silence is the answer.

“We do what we say, Jacob. I’ve bought yearbooks every single year for the girls. I promise I’ll get you one.”

He seems satisfied and then says, “I’ve never had a yearbook. Lexi, will you sign my yearbook?”

And there it is between the lines. Unmet promises, trust broken. He doesn’t explain, but I know he’s wanted a yearbook before and someone didn’t come through.

My heart breaks thinking of him in class when they’re passing yearbooks between friends. Someone let him down. He’s helpless and left out and hurt. No one is signing his yearbook because he doesn’t have one. He has no pictures to look back at, to remember. My girls flip through theirs constantly. They talk about their friends and their teachers and all their favorite memories.

I decide I’ll not only order this yearbook, but I want to call all his previous schools and see if I can gather his past yearbooks for him.

 

Today they come. It’s the 7th. Ninety days since his first day with us. We sign our final adoption papers at lunchtime. The one where we can take it to the attorney and make it all legal. And after the conversation this morning, I cannot sign that paper fast enough. I want to be the one that fights for him. The one that keeps promises and makes connections to his past and see his face light up when it’s redeemed. I want to be his advocate and his number one fan.

I want to be his mom.

Today is another yes to make that happen. It’s taken so many to get here, but we’re here and I’m so ready.

Parents, You’re Doing Better Than You Think

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One really nice side effect of adopting out of the foster care system is getting a new perspective on parenthood.

We parents do a great job of beating ourselves up. We could spend 16 hours a day making meals, carting kids around to lessons, dishing out discipline, reading books, playing family games, refereeing sibling fights, doing laundry, helping with homework, reminding them to brush their teeth, changing diapers, giving baths, and we still get to the end of the day and say Man, I did a really bad job at parenting today. Why can’t I get myself together?

I don’t know where these expectations of the perfect parent were created, but I know so many of us try to live up to them and live in a constant state of defeat.

In the process of adopting Jacob, I’ve learned just how much the little things matter to raising independent, compassionate, productive adults.

You really are getting so much right and want to encourage you in those things today.

Showing up. The simple fact that you are showing up is a huge win. Seriously guys, I don’t care if you sit on the couch all day and do nothing, the simple fact that you show up is a huge win. That doesn’t mean that you can’t ever leave. It just means when you do leave, the kids understand where you’re going, you go where you say you’re going and you show back up when you say you will. Maybe you have to do it by phone because you’re out of town, but do they know you’re out of town?  Maybe you are divorced and don’t have them for the week, but are they cared for?  If yes, you’ve shown up for them. Huge lessons of trust by just showing up.

Feeding your kids. I don’t care if it’s roast beef and mashed potatoes or McDonald’s. The simple fact that your kids are getting food in their bellies 3 times a day and not having to figure it out on their own or go without is huge. They are learning trust in huge doses. And believe me when I say even though you are worrying about their health with fast food, they probably prefer it.

Taking them to school. I don’t care if you homeschool, pay for private school or send them to public school. The simple fact that you are actually getting them to a place to learn is a big deal.

Caring for their needs. For younger ones, this looks like changing their diapers or giving them baths. For older ones, this might look like applying a band-aid to a scrape or helping with homework. Having someone react to them when there’s a problem—HUGE.

Correcting bad behavior. This includes all the annoying things kids do. Commenting loudly in public about a stranger, hitting someone when they’re mad, calling someone a name, snatching things out people’s hands, not saying thank you, etc. All of these things are TEDIOUS to correct as a parent, but it’s huge. This helps them be adults that are capable of having friends and jobs.

Encouraging them. Whether it’s when they share, or hold a door, or clean up after themselves after dinner, or they just look cute for the day, it’s HUGE for them to have someone behind them that believes in them.

And as a bonus:

Family moments. This includes all the extra things you do through the year…walks around the neighbhorhood, trips to the library, afternoons at the playground, pumpkin patches, trick or treating, birthday parties, Easter egg hunts, fireworks at July 4th, beach trips, visits to the zoo, the roller rink, bowling. These do not have to be expensive, blogworthy, Pinterest pretty moments.  Just simple efforts. It may feel like it’s not important and superfluous but it’s not. You’re teaching your kids about the world around them and it’s huge.

I was talking with the principal of our school and they said one kid they were helping came to school knowing nothing about how the world around her worked.  She didn’t know what a police officer or fireman was. They had to show her videos in the morning before school teaching her about her world. All of these trips and conversations and pointing out the fire trucks? HUGE.

That’s it.

And here’s what I know if you’re reading this.  You’re doing so much more than that.

But hear me when I say these simple things of consistently showing up, getting them their basic needs and trying to make them into halfway likable people is A LOT.  It doesn’t feel like a lot because you’re doing it by default, but it is.  It really is enough.  The simple things are teaching them trust and love and integrity and compassion and boundaries and about the world around them.

Sadly, Jacob came to us not getting a lot of what I just listed.   I honestly never realized how big of a deal just showing up was until 3 months ago. Seriously, when you get to the end of a hard day and you want to beat yourself up, pat yourself on your back if in some way you showed up for your kids.

The gymnastics lessons, the perfect grades, the trip to New York, the cooking lessons, the brand name outfits, the 3-point nightly sermons, the completely organized play room, the perfectly decorated holiday tablescape, etc, etc. those are great, but please, let’s not beat ourselves up about not doing them at the end of the day.  They are GRAVY.

You’re doing better than you think, parents.  You really are.

 

The Beginnings of Our Busy (And 3 Things I’m Into)

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The plaid! Father-son time! I can’t handle all the cuteness!

I wrote Monday’s post about ADHD and DORE last Friday and was feeling all the good feelings about where we were with the adoption transition.  Well, that couldn’t last too long, could it?

I’m not a fan of a super busy lifestyle.  In fact, did you know there’s a thing called Busy Lifestyle Syndrome? You start having memory lapses, feel overwhelmed and can’t handle stress. It’s not something to aspire to.

But we all have those weeks, right? Well, mine went sort of like this.

Friday was Halloween so I got all 3 kids ready and carted them around for a few hours (yes, I know, all of you other parents did this too.  Gold star, everyone!). I helped organize a coffee event for our church on Sunday so I organized a bunch of that on Saturday, did some laundry and got the kids to my niece’s birthday party Saturday night.

Sunday morning we attended two services, set up the church for the event, ate lunch, finished setting up for the event, attended and helped host the coffee event. I dumped all the decorations back at my mom’s and did a quick grocery store run while my sister and her husband (!) agreed to watch the kids a little longer.  I think I finally stopped about 8pm after a full day of running around. Did I mention that Scott worked 36 hours over the weekend while all this was happening?

Monday was Lexi’s birthday so I had to get cupcakes to her lunch and then host the family for dinner Monday night.

Tuesday I was gone at the office from 7am to 6pm (thank you Charlotte traffic for continually getting worse), grabbed some food at Moe’s, did an hour of algebra with Emma and then crashed.

I’m not bemoaning any of that. I love, love, love to do all of those things (OK, not laundry or traffic. And yes, even algebra.). I’m just saying all of that in 5 days was a lot.  All of that meant I was short on patience and hurrying through everything.

Monday evening I thought all of the progress we had made with the adoption transition must have went out the door.  By Monday night, Lexi was crying in her room asking why we ever adopted and Jacob was talking about leaving as soon as he was 18.  Not the kind of soul-nourishing conversations I wanted to be having during a busy few days. (We’re fine. Really.)

I’m exhausted this week and it’s only Wednesday.

I know the past few posts have been super positive and it seems like things are going well, and they are.  But let’s be clear, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.  And this is not even adoption related, really. We all have busy seasons and November is always, always ours.

So, I suppose this is simply a confessional post, but I thought I’d share 3 (super unspiritual) things that I’m into right now that are helping to lighten the load.

The Mindy Project

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Scott and I have been blowing through this show on Hulu.  Admittedly, it’s crass at times, but it’s funny. Really funny. Mindy + Danny 4EVA

Has anyone read Mindy’s book? I’m wondering if it’s worth the time. As much as I enjoy the show, it seems like I would like it.

Taylor Swift’s 1989

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Taylor Swift’s new album is on repeat everywhere I go. I’m obsessed with “Blank”. What’s your favorite?

Relay App

I saw Jen Hatmaker post about this new app Relay that has animated gifs you can text your friends. I had Lexi download it and we’re having a blast on it together. Look me up as @amyjbennett if you’d like to have some nonsensical fun.

 

So, there. I’m keeping sane by silly things and thought I’d share.  Happy Hump Day, folks!

ADHD and DORE

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On Friday I mentioned that we’ve been getting physical therapy for Jacob’s ADHD. Now, that might sound a little crazy that one would need physical therapy for ADHD, but indeed, it’s a thing.

When Jacob first came to us, a friend from our small group gave me the book Driven to Distraction. It was written by two doctors with ADHD about ADHD. They have a follow-up book Delivered from Distraction which deals with practical ways to cope with ADHD for both the person with it and their family.

I learned our brains are divided into areas. One area is for thinking called the cerebrum and another is the skill development center called the cerebellum. The skill center helps in all sort of things, but especially in the process of learning and automating skills, like reading, writing, riding a bike or typing. For some people, the skill center isn’t very efficient and so the thinking center has to make up for it, making it super hard to learn and do the automated tasks. A lot of times the person can be clumsy, take longer than others or they can’t even remember how to do tasks.

One treatment, if you would, for ADHD that was introduced in those books was a non-medication treatment by a European company called DORE.

DORE has developed physical exercises which stimulate the thinking center, the cerebellum.

The idea is just like if you do enough pull-ups, you’re going to have great arms and abs. If you do enough of these physical exercises targeted for the cerebellum, your cerebellum is going to be stronger, allowing it to remember things, organize things, concentrate on things…all sorts of things, actually.

DORE can help children with ADHD, Asperger Syndrome, Dyslexia and Dyspraxia. Here is a really simple video to help explain:

 

They do individualized assessments with each child and determine exactly what type of exercises would benefit them.

Then, you get a login to a web site that is loaded with your individualized plan and twice a day for 10 minutes, you follow the exercises until you graduate the program. Usually it takes 12-18 months.

Even though their US office is in Mississippi, we were able to do everything online in Skype-like sessions and other online tests. And like I mentioned, we believe we are already seeing results just a month later.

In the book Delivered from Distraction I mentioned above, the one doctor sent his son through the program and his son went from hating reading to being an avid reader.

I highly recommend you watch this success story from a rugby player who was dyslexic and quit school in 8th grade, who quickly was able to read and found great improvement in his game after doing the DORE program.

Isn’t his story amazing? You can see more success stories here.

I’ve talked to at least one set of parents who are doing similar treatments with their son through an Occupational Therapist, but this is actually much more affordable, we don’t have to leave our house and the plan adjusts every day for him as he progresses through the levels.

It’s yet to be seen exactly how much difference we’ll see, but I can tell you I have seen his math improve, his reading fluency improve and his teachers are reporting better focus and attention. We are seeing better behavior in general around the house and while I realize we have so many factors in play especially for Jacob, I truly believe DORE is a big part of his successes. The exact things they said it would help are improving.

The really cool thing about this is, this is not something he will need to do the rest of his life. Once his new neural pathways are formed, that’s that.

I’m really excited to see where we are a year from now.

And while I’m definitely not telling you this for this reason, we do get a free month of treatment if any of you sign up. If you check it out and find that you want to sign up, would you tell them we sent you their way? We’d appreciate it!

I would love to hear about your experience with this type of ADHD treatment. Also, please share with someone who think might benefit–I haven’t found even one person who has heard of DORE, so let’s spread the word!

Adoption: A Twelve Week Update

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A Happy Halloween to you all! I’m wishing everyone outstanding costumes, short candy lines and magic sugar that doesn’t stick to your hips or make your kids crazy.

In the meantime, we’re celebrating our 12th week with Jacob.  And there is much to be celebrated.

In my last update just 2 weeks ago, I reported that we had hit some sort of turning point. I am happy to report back and say that it wasn’t just a fluke.  The last few weeks have been so good.

We’ve all but abandoned the behavior chart.  Not because we’re slacking, but because he’s actually listening.  Sure, we’ve had a few hard days, but overall, he’s doing so well.  There were several days in a row on his chart where we didn’t even have to fill out the date because we didn’t need to use it.

I’m sure it’s a combination of things.

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We’re getting to know each other.  We’ve figured out what makes him tick and what button we need to press to make things happen.  For instance, we realized at school we needed to take away his soccer privilege at recess to make him do his morning work.  We are beginning to understand why he’s doing what and learning when to just let things go. And I think he’s learning us and what he can get away with and what he can’t.

We’re getting close to finalization.  We’ve been able to have several talks about how this is final, about how we don’t need a court date to know he’s our son, about how there’s nothing he can do to change our minds.  We had our last home visit yesterday from DSS.  He yelled “YES!” and jumped up when I told him. I can’t imagine all the visits and red tape he’s had in the last years.  I’m sure it’s starting to sink in that this really is his forever home and that stability is translating across the board.

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And here’s a big one.  We’ve been doing some physical therapy to help for his ADHD I haven’t told you about.  I want to tell you in great detail about the program we started at the beginning of October (maybe next week?), but suffice it to say, I think it’s showing huge dividends.

Yesterday I emailed his teachers to ask if they were seeing improvement at school or if it really was just a settling in at home. Both his teachers emailed me seperately to say they were meaning to email me to tell me what a great week he’s had.  One said, “I have seen such a huge change in Jacob this week.  He is much more focused and being a lot more responsible about getting his work done.”

He got his first report card and got all A’s and B’s. His resource teacher said he’s ahead on all his goals and we’ll probably need to meet early so we can set some new ones.  There’s already talk of integrating him back into the classroom.

I talked to the representative through the company we’re using for his therapy and she said it’s absolutely possible that within just a few weeks he could be seeing these benefits.  They never promise anything.  In fact, they told me it could be a year of therapy before we saw a difference, but it’s sounding like Jacob is responding very well and with all the stability he’s getting, he’s excelling.

This is huge. The physical therapy is targeted to help with his focus and attention, among many other things, and if it’s really working, then these changes are for life. I couldn’t be more excited for him.

We’ve started to get to the heart of the matter. Now that we’ve gotten through the weeds, we’ve been able to connect some to his past.  I’ve had some beautiful conversations with him at night.  I’ve been able to talk to him about his mom and some favorite memories with her.  We’re planning to do some of those things with him.

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Last night, we took him to Golden Corral, his favorite place his foster parents took him.  I cannot tell you how happy he was last night.  He truly hopped and skipped to get dessert and had the biggest, most earnest smile I’ve seen on him yet.  Healing is taking place and it’s beautiful to watch.

All of these are combining to create so much hope and beauty in the process.

Last night was truly the first night I wanted to go back and relive.  Most days until now I’ve felt like we were simply surviving, but last night I could do again.

At our last visit with the case worker, she told me that we’d be getting a new birth certificate after we go to court and we’d be listed as the parents.  For some reason this fact had escaped me until then.  It hit me like a ton of bricks that we really are going to be a forever family.  There’s still so much messiness with his birth family and a piece of paper doesn’t make it all better, but it is significant. It feels weird, actually, to be listed as someone’s legal parent when you didn’t give birth to him. In some ways, it feels like we’re dishonoring his first 7 years of life, but in other ways, it feels like a fresh start. Perhaps like a slate we’re wiping clean.  New life.

It’s good, y’all, It really is.

We go next Friday the 7th to sign the final adoption papers and then we’ll rush over to give that to our attorney so he can set a court date. We’re told that usually takes about a month and fingers crossed, he’ll be getting a new name for Christmas.