Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas 2010

We enjoyed a nice, relaxing Christmas this year!
I am happy to say that the kids got through the day with overall great attitudes.

  They were thankful for their presents and handled themselves really well.

I wish I could say what contributed to our success so that I can be sure to repeat it next year, but honestly, I'm not quite sure. 

For kids who have been through significant trauma, holidays and special occasions can be difficult.  Our experiences during many of these days has attested to this.

Brad and I kept Christmas very simple this year.  Each kid got one present and a stocking.

My mom gave them each something that they opened on Christmas Eve.  I think with them only having the one present to focus on they were able to appreciate it and not feel overwhelmed with feelings of not deserving what they got.  (In my experience, these feelings has led them to exhibit behaviors to prove to us that they didn't feel deserving.) 

Anyway, maybe it was the simpleness of this Christmas.
Maybe it was a sign of the progress they have made.
I know that we are being blessed and I thank God daily for His watchful care over us. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

And the verdict is...

After an extremely difficult week with the kids, I have realized once again the benefits of their medication way outweigh how detrimental it is for the kids and our family to not use it right now. 

After a few days of watching them slide down hill rapidly, I felt that I was doing them a huge disservice by not allowing them to use this tool that has proven to help them so much.  Not to mention, I was beginning to feel that I couldn't go on, and that's the last thing my kids need is a mother who cannot be there or them.

I am still using the natural supplements to ensure that their bodies are getting what they need.  I am still doing the therapeutic parenting.  I am still trying to learn more and better strategies to help them at every opportunity I get.  We are still processing grief. 

And I have come to realize that just like the therapists, parents and doctors said (sometimes I prefer to learn things the hard way...) this is a tool that our family needs right now. 

Thank you everyone who gave me advise.  It really meant a lot to me and I did take it to heart.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Processing Grief - So hard, yet SO worth it!

It's been a challenging past few weeks for me and the kids.  We've been processing a lot of their grief together.  As great as it is to be able to do this with the kids, it is tiring and emotionally exhausting for all of us. 

It seems that their grief is not something that they can experience briefly then be able to quickly move on to other things.  Because a lot of their past and pain has been coming up a lot lately, we've had to tone things down a LOT. 

Outings have been very rare, and even our homeschooling routine has had to be flexible in order to allow the kids to feel what they're feeling and to process it.  We've been referring often to their life books and adding to them.

Because so much of their past is shared I often have several kids crying at once.  All of them need me to wrap my arms around them.  All of them need me to listen to their heart.  All of them are hurting.  Yet I am only one person.  At times, I feel so torn.  While I have 3 of the kids sitting on or near me, I leave one to cry on their own sometimes rolling around on the ground in fear that their grief will overcome them and become too much. 

Their rages and tantrums have escalated.  There are several more holes in the walls of their bedrooms.  Their behavior has regressed dramatically. 

Meanwhile, my sweet 19 month old baby needs her mama to comfort her while these rages go on.  She doesn't understand why all of her siblings are crying so much.  She doesn't understand why they are yelling, throwing things, breaking holes in walls.  She gets scared.  Last night, she got so scared she threw-up.  My heart aches for her, it aches for them.  Sometimes, I don't know what to do, who to help, how I can go on. 

It's been SO difficult! It's pulled at my every heartstring. I've cried wracking sobs nearly every moment I get alone to myself. I wonder if I'm up to the task. I wonder if I can ever be enough for them. I grieve that I cannot physically and sometimes emotionally meet the needs of all of them.  Sometimes I feel so worn out emotionally and physically from it all that I send them to their rooms for our daily quiet time knowing that they are not ready to leave my side.  Often their raging escalates during this transition.  Then, I hold my baby, rock her to sleep, and I cry some more.

Then something miraculous happens.  Today my son came out of quiet time with a hand written note for me.  it said:

"Mom ,
I love you mom so much mom.  I will never let you go mom 'cuz you are the best mom.  You help me so much mom.  I'll never let you go mom.  I love you so much!

That does a mama's heart good!  I'm crying even as I type this.  I know this is all worth it.  I know that I am witnessing miracles.  I know that I am so privileged to be able to do this.  And most importantly, I know that I am not doing it alone.  I know that our Lord is involved and His healing hands are touching the hearts of our family, including this mama's heart who often doesn't feel strong enough for the task that lies in front of me.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

To medicate or not?

With the advise of a therapist we were working with, I have taken my kids to see a psychiatrist. He and the therapist both suggested that some of them be on medication because they were SO disregulated SO often. Reluctantly, I put them on the medication to see if it would help. The potential side effects scare me and also I was afraid that they may become dependent on the medication.

I desperately want to find a way to help them regulate naturally, without the risks the anti-psychotic drugs have. Every time we get low on a prescription, I let it run out and decide that we can try to do our day to day things without the help of this medication. And after a few days of rages and kids who feel out of control (sometimes they tell me this themselves), I again, reluctantly, reorder the medicine and start over.

And their behaviors improve, dramatically.

Am I worring over something I shouldn't be? Am I wrong in not wanting to give them this medication when it obviously allows them to function so much better and it allows them to feel so much better about themselves? Do the benefits outweigh the risks?

We all take natural supplements but have not seen much improvement by the supplements alon. There are other supplements that I have not tried that I think I will. In the mean time though, I feel torn. I feel torn between letting my kids have a chance at feeling in control of their emotions with a medicine that is proven to help them, but poses so many risks, verses trying alternative options while they feel out of control of their emotions and actions. Is that fair to put them through that?

In the meantime, I still have a huge learning curve ahead of me in how I can help them deal with these extreme emotions. Just when I think I've got a handle on it and I'm really helping one child, another will start to rage then sometimes even another all at once. Then I think, "How in the world can I meet all of their needs at once? How do I be there for them, help them through this when I need to be so much more than one person who is still learning?" Usually, I end up having to send one or more of them into their rooms to rage (to keep the others safe), while I help another one to regulate. Is that fair? I don't think it is. I feel torn and overwhelmed at the tasks that lie in front of me sometimes. I want to be there for them every time they need me but sometimes, I am forced to make them wait.

I know that it won't be like this forever. I know that once we all have the tools to help things run more smoothly (beginning with me, so I can subsequently give them those tools) things will get better. In the mean time, I'm studying every second I get. I'm leaning about natural supplements that helped other kids like mine. I'm learing about parenting interventions that will help their brains to begin to function differently. I'm praying with all of my heart that my learning curve won't have to last too long and that the kids will be able to live up to their full potential.

I can see their potential. I see a great set of kids who have so much ability and who are learning to love and care for others with such tenderness it touches my heart everyday. I don't fear for their future, because I believe that they will grow to become great adults full of kindness, love and responsibility. Having said that, I know that much of their progress depends on the kind of parent I am to them now. That is a responsibility I take very seriously. Because I can see so clearly where I lack, I am constantly striving to learn more, do more, and to be more for them.

I can't thank these kids enough for the awesome opportunity having them has given me to become a better person, a person with more understanding, compassion and love. They have given me the opportunity to evaluate my life, my actions and my thoughts in a very deep way, everyday of my life as I strive to become more like Christ and to love them as He does. And more importantly to care for them as He would if he were here.

But still I'm left with the question: Do I medicate them or not? Have any of you been in a similar situation? What did you decide? What was most helpful for your family?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Too honest?

I have a lot on my mind that I'm not sure I know how to put into words, so forgive me if this sounds jumbled or confusing. 

I've been thinking a lot lately about my family and the way I have been raising my children.  I've researched so much about parenting traumatized kids, yet I still feel like I know so little.  We have used several resources from therapists, parenting specialists, workshops and conferences to books, researching the internet and even reading blogs of other parents who have adopted traumatized children as well as briefly belonging on a yahoo group for adoptive parents.

In the process, I have come across parents who are feeling overwhelmed and out of control and who just wanted to vent.  (These ones feel very draining to me and I find that I have a hard time staying positive with my kids when I hear or read too much of this.)  Having said that, I feel that I have definantly been there and felt that!  I have also come across parents on the other side of the spectrum who paint a pretty picture that is all miraculous with no struggle, grief or adjustment period.  I have a hard time believing their story.  Don't get me wrong, there is MIRACLE in adoption.  There happiness and joy!  It is a beautiful thing.  However, there is also grief, loss and pain associated with it, especially when the child or children are older when they are adopted. 

I have also come across some ideas and theories in parenting these children.  And I have followed these ideas believing that the experts knew what they were talking about.  They had been there, done that and I was desperate for information and help.  I followed what they said.  It was hard!  And we have seen results from putting their suggestions into practice.  To be honest some of the parenting interventions didn't settle quite right with me.  Some of them were so unnatural to what I would intrinsically do and it was hard to follow, but since what I was already doing seemed to not be helping or improving our situation, I followed them. 

I don't want this to sound like I am ratting on or discounting what I have learned or done.  Please don't think that.  I think where my hang-up lies is in my own heart.  I think because I was dealing with so many behaviors I didn't understand or know what to do with, and because my kids were harming each other in MY home, I became overwhelmed and perhaps understood some things differently than they were meant. 

I did the parenting interventions.

I gave them all their own rooms.
I put alarms on their doors (to prevent them from harming each other).
I brought them home from school when it became clear to me that it was way more than they could handle.
I cuddled them.
I rocked them.
I bottle fed them.
I kept them near me.

All of these things I feel were absolutely needed and necessary to their progression.  All of these things have contributed hugely to their progression!

I also did some things, that were in the the books and seminars, that I regret and that I now am questioning.

I consequenced their actions.
I caught them in their lies.
I caught them in their stealing.
I've sent them away from the table for bad manners.
I've made them make restitution for harm and damage done to our home and members of our family.
I demanded respect and compliance.

In this process, I think I have allowed myself to become a behaviorist.  I've focused on their behaviors and trying to fix them.  I've allowed myself to become frustrated when they repeat the same behavior again and again, then to consequence them again and again, only to have them do it over and rage about the consequence once again.

I've demanded respect and compliance.  I did this because it is what I felt the experts were saying to do.  I now don't know whether that's what they meant or not.

I always felt that it didn't go along with how our Father in Heaven parents us and I have really struggled with this.  I've thought many times to myself, "I mess up over and over and over, yet He always is willing to accept me, faults and all, with open arms when I come back to Him.  Am I being that kind of parent?  Do I love my children unconditionally like that?  Do I show them love no matter what?  Or I am too focused on fixing them?"

I've decided that I don't want to be a behaviorist any more, I don't want to focus on fixing behaviors.

I want to look into what those behaviors mean and help my children find their voice.  I don't want to demand complaince and respect.  I want my children to want that for themselves.  I am realizing that that won't happen unless I help them find their voice, unless I listen to what those behaviors mean and address that instead of stiffling it by focusing on getting the 'behaviors' to stop. 

Everyone wants to feel important, loved, cherished and HEARD.  Am I giving that to my children?

My husband says that I am too hard on myself.  He says that I don't give myself enough credit for how far we've come as a family.  Maybe he's right, but sometimes all I can see is what I'm doing wrong and how it needs to get better.  I don't mean this in a depressed, poor me, kind of way, but in a way of realizing my mistakes and weakness so that I can do something about them.  So I can take them to the Lord and He can turn them into strengths.  Although I do sometimes feel overwhelmed with regret.  Sometimes, I just wish I could start all over and do things better, but then again, would I know what to do?  Even now?  I just hope and pray constantly that our Savior can make up for where I lack. 

Has any of this made sense at all?  It still feels jumbled in my head.  Can any of you parents relate to any of this?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pregnancy, Nausea and the Sea

So, I've been nauseous which make no mistake I AM grateful for.  It helps me to be assured that things are going well.  AND because we have to wait 3 more months until the insurance from Brad's work starts up, which in turn means waiting that long to get in to see a doctor, the nausea is not all that bad. 

Besides, it makes for some entertaining moments for my kids, such as, when Brad's not home and doesn't do the cooking.  It usually goes like this...

I walk into the kitchen with all 5 kids trailing behind me because they're "starving!!!"  (Which is probably true considering that I put these parts of the day off as long as possible.)  I open the fridge or cupboard and invariably something stricks me as 'the most discusting thing I have ever seen.'  I race over to the sink and hack into in.  At this point, it seems that every hole on my face is leaking.  Jazmine usually says, "Mom that's sick!!  Why don't you go to the toilet?"  and one of the other kids, usually while I'm still hacking, asks me, "Sooo,  what are we having?'  I give the the fridge another try, sometimes I stay strong, sometimes not...  When I don't, they have raman noodles.  I know, so healthy!  Like full of hydroginated fats and MSG and all.  And it's been a staple in their diet lately.

UNTIL, I got these

Sea Bands

My friend told me about them and I admit, I was sceptical.  Then I went out and bought some...
I wore them the rest of the day and tried to take them off at night and felt so sick I couldn't sleep.  So I put them back on and slept like a baby!!

Seriously!!  For me, they work amazingly!

Not only that!  I LOOK so totally awesome!  I mean I'm sure people see me and mistake me for some kind of professional athlete.  Really though, they probably up my coolness factor like 20 points or something.

Anyway, I'm totally sold and hooked for as long as this nausea wants to be a part of my life. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


So, it's been a while since I've posted on here.  After some encouragement from my awesome, beautiful, funny, single sister (you're welcome Rach), I've decided to update all you readers (if there are any left...).

Summer was good.  We took 3 weeks to go visit family in AZ.  On our way down we got to stop in Utah and stay with some friends.  Very generous friends I might add.  I don't know, they might not have been feeling so generous after the 7 of us left, but we had a great time anyway.  Thank you Susan and Gabe! 

Then, after our car broke down we got to stay with my wonderful Aunt Wendy and Uncle Marion in southern Utah.  This was unexpected for them and they so graciously took us in.  Aunt Wendy even let me keep her up most the night while we caught up on each other's lives.  I was very grateful for this car malfunction!

In Arizona, we took turns spending time with all our family members there.  It was SO great to see everyone.  The kids did amazingly well too.  I think that was our first non-catastrophic vacation!  Yay!!!

Also, on the way home, we got to stay at my long time friend Melanie's house for a night.  She opened her house up for us and gave us a much needed break on our long drive home.  We had fun with you and little Owen.  Hopefully next time we'll get to see Josh more too!  Thanks you guys!

Since we've been home, we've started our home-schooling routine again.  Through a family friend, thank you Melanie Threet, I found a lady that specializes in working with kids who have learning disabilities.  I've read most of her stuff and ordered the rest.  It is working miracles with my kids.  It's kind of amazing!  THEY are asking ME to do their school stuff with them.  Thank heaven!

Oh yeah, I'd like to thank my amazing husband for taking over almost ALL of the household chores and responsibilities including, laundry, meals, cleaning, dishes, doing some of the kids school work with them and getting up with Makenzie when she wakes up at night.  He does all this for me without complaint or hesitation all because I've been feeling extremely tired and nauseous!

That explanation point is an excited one by the way!  I've learned that tiredness and nausea mean a good pregnancy.  When I tell Brad that I feel bad for not helping out more or for needing to sleep so much, he just says ,"Stop complaining ~ you're making my baby!"

I'm pregnant!

I'm so excited!  Thank you, Brad, for being here for me.  Thank you for loving me so much.  Thank you for all of your selfless service to me and our family!  My heart is so full of gratitude for you. 

p.s. - Thank you Jill for being such a great mom to my hubby!!!!  Guys like him are rare, but not when they come from mothers like you.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Parenting: Touching the Hearts of Our Youth

As a mother, I hope to create an environment where my children can grow to become who there were sent to this Earth to be.  I hope to create a nurturing environment full of unconditional love.

In the past, I have gotten caught in the trap of preventative parenting.  I think this could also be called 'fear' parenting; keeping in the forefront of the mind what I am trying to avoid as opposed to what I am trying to obtain.  I found myself focusing on correcting the kids and sadly sometimes only interacting with them during these corrections.  So instead of being someone who is positive and uplifting, I was someone who was to be avoided.  NOBODY want to hear corrections and criticisms all the time.

When I stepped back to evaluate my parenting strategies, I felt that I didn't even know who I was looking at.  I didn't even know myself anymore.  I've always felt that since I was a child, I have been able to love a person despite their behaviors.  I've felt that it was a gift I had been given.  So evaluating this person (myself) who I felt had good intentions but horrible and very detrimental methods, I was disgusted in what I saw.   I knew something had to change.

I realized that I had gotten to this point because I had been so overwhelmed for so long.  I was faced with behaviors and emotions from my kids that I didn't know even existed in young children prior to my getting them.  I searched for help and found none.  I tried following the advise of other people to no avail.  I was seeing my children be hurt and abused by each other while in my care and I felt horrible.  So I resorted to preventative parenting.  And for a long time, my focus was on stopping these horrible things from happening.

Thankfully, after much prayer, reading and growing myself, I feel I'm not only back to who I was before, but I have learned so much!

I've learned to focus my parental energies on building great children who will become great adults, NOT on preventing delinquent adults.  I try to point out the things they do right.  I try to take the time to listen to them.  I try to support them in what they are interested in.  I take time to hold them and to look into their eyes.

In correcting them, I try to build them up in the process.  I am far from perfect.  And I can only say that I wish I did this all the time.

I try not to let myself get down about my mistakes, rather I learn from them and strive to be continually improving.

Great messages like the one in this video really help me to stay focused on what I want to do and who I want to be.

Childhood is so short.
I don't want to waste any time.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Signs of Healing

I remember dreaming about a day when my adopted children would be able to embrace their new life and family.
I remember many late nights walking up and down the street we lived on pouring my heart out to my Heavenly Father asking Him to give me the strength and stamina I needed to get them to that point.
I remember days and weeks watching them struggle as they were filled with anger and rage like I had never seen before.
I remember broken walls, shattered windows, shredded clothes, blankets, and curtains.
I remember holes and carvings in furniture.
I remember broken cabinet doors and window blinds ripped off during rages.
I remember constantly finding urine and feces nearly every time I turned around.
I remember recognizing signs of abuse much worse than anyone ever imagined.
I remember them trying to conquer their victim-mentality by becoming abusers.
I remember the horror I felt at finding out about this abuse they did to each other when I was not aware.
 I remember the overwhelming guilt I felt at having not protected them better.
I remember wondering how another person's suffering and pain could be so satisfying to them.
I remember watching and realizing that their play was not play at all but scenes that could have been taken directly from a horror movie.
I remember being hit and kicked.
I remember being marked with bruises and scrapes.
I remember the spit that ran down my face immediately after I said, "I love you."
I remember their many sleepless nights and their nightmares.
I remember holding raging children wishing I could take away their pain.
I remember the hate I saw in their eyes when they looked into mine.
I remember how much that hurt.
I remember loving them so much it hurt, but not knowing how to let them know that.
I remember many mistakes I've made during heated moments, mistakes I still regret.
I remember sobbing as I pleaded with my Heavenly Father to forgive me and to not let my mistakes and my weaknesses cause them further harm.
I remember how time and again, miraculously, my burden, my sin was lifted in an instant, and the grief I felt was replaced with overwhelming love from my Heavenly Father.
I remember crying even harder after I realized how merciful He is and how willing He is to forgive.
I remember pleading for miracles to happen in the hearts and spirits of my sweet wounded children.

Now I look around and see those miracles I pleaded for.
I see smiling children.
I see Kiana doing the dishes for me so, "You won't have to."
I see Jazmine following me around all day because, "I just want to be by you, Mom.  I love you!"
I hear Kishawn talk about me being in the hospital to have Makenzie and say, "If Mom goes in the hospital again to have another baby, I want to be there to take away her pain."
I soak in the times during the day when Jada stops her playing to come lay her head on my lap.
I see them mimicking me, saying phrases I say.
I see kids, when it's time to clean, choose which part of the house they will clean, then when they finish, turn to help who has not finished.
I see kids who play "house" and this time they are not only a 'functional family' but they are caring and loving.
I see their eyes light up as I tell them what I see in them and the kind of amazing people I believe they will become.
I see their spirits recognize this truth and finally they are able to embrace it.
I see them care for Makenzie in a way they never knew they were capable of.
I love that Jada snuck into my car when I left to go to a book group and when after getting there and realizing she was with me and bringing her in with me, she was glued to my side.
I see kids who proclaim to strangers, "That's my Mom!"
I see kids who beg me to be with them and to play with them.
I see them all clamor for a place beside me every time we kneel to pray.
I hear the most eloquent, beautiful prayers come out of their little mouths.
I see wisdom and understanding that can only come from making it through difficult experiences.
I see life-long friends and an eternal family.

I see a loving Heavenly Father's hand intertwined in every aspect of our lives.
I see the effects of our Savior's atonement.


It is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Don't like hard work...

Last night Brad asked Jazmine to help clean a muddy mess she and Kishawn left all over the front porch, walkway and driveway.  She didn't want to so she pretended she didn't know what Brad meant, then, when that didn't work, threw a fit.

Brad told her that he would do it for her, and she could stay in her room until he got around to it and got it finished.
While she was in her room she wrote this note to him.

(Dear Dad, I love you but I do not like to do hard work.)
The picture shows her picking up the mud with her hands.  And apparently everyone else in the family is relaxing on the porch watching the poor girl work by herself, with the exception of Kishawn who is riding his bike.

Haha.  SO funny.  I LOVE this girl orneriness and all.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"Sometimes I would like to ask God,
why He allows poverty, famine and injustice
in the world, when He could do
something about it...but I'm afraid
He might ask me the same question."

 I saw this on another blog and loved it, so I'm re-posting it here.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Gotta love kids!!

So, we're at Taco Bell eating.  The people at the table next to us are from India and are speaking Hindi.

I see Jada studying them then she turns to me and says, 
"Mom.  Why dem cain't talk wegululy?
translation - (Why them can't talk regularly?)

Ah, the irony

Monday, June 21, 2010

What do you do when...

"Kids don't come with a manual."

I have heard this said over and over again throughout my life.  I even heard it again yesterday in church.  I understand where parents are coming from when they say it and I have probably said it myself from time to time.

However, I have to say that I DISAGREE with that statement!  We have been given everything we need in order to raise our kids correctly.  A loving Heavenly Father would not send us down and give us responsibilities, the most important of those being our children, without giving us guidance.  Not only has he given us scripture to learn from, He has given us an example to follow that will never fail us.  This example was Jesus Christ.  Most importantly, he has given us prayer!!  

I have been absolutely AMAZED and so full of gratitude at seeing my heartfelt, sincere prayers being answered over and over again.  Each time I come across a situation with my kids that I'm not sure how to best handle, I turn to my Father in prayer.  Each time I do so, I am given direction and inspiration.  

As I pray for increased love, the ability to see my children as He sees them, the patience and love that Christ possesses, I receive it.  I have no doubt in my mind that prayer is the best possible tool we as parents have in raising our children.  

Prayer can be used when we pray together while kneeling in family prayer and to pray for them while kneeling in private prayer.  Also, to pray for ourselves as their parents.  As I have prayed for insight into their souls and what they need invariably I have received it.  I find the more detailed and clear I am as I pray for my children individually, the more clear and detailed His answers are.  

In raising my traumatized children, I have read numerous book on parenting in general as well as raising emotionally disturbed children.  One book in particular has, hands down, had a tremendous impact on how I parent and how I handle different situations with my children.  Since reading it, I have come to enjoy my children so much more and I feel much more confident that I'm doing the right thing.  I HIGHLY recommend it to ALL parents of all types of children.

The book is called "Christlike Parenting" written by Dr. Glenn I. Latham.  I have been praying for years to be able to possess the kind of love that Christ had for all people and feel that I have made progress over time.  However, after reading this book, my relationship with my children has drastically improved!  I feel that after many prayers to become for Christlike in my parenting I have been guided to find this book.

I just couldn't keep it to myself.  It's that valuable. 

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Why I homeschool...

When I began to home school the kids, I had several reasons for doing it.  Such as...
  • Take them out of situations that were guaranteed to be overwhelming for them,
  • Lessen the amount of stimulation they were getting,
  • Reducing the opportunities they had to do things that would be harmful to their healing,
  • Make up for the nurturing time they lost as younger children,
  • Give them a strong foundation from which to build
Because the school environment was way more than they could handle, although they are smart kids, they struggled a LOT academically.  I didn't know much about homeschooling.  I didn't even know where to start or how to begin, but I followed my gut feeling knowing that it would be the best thing for them.  I figured they weren't learning much at school anyway.   Even if I didn't teach them everything the schools were trying to teach them, they would be getting something much more valuable than a school could offer hurting children.  They'd be learning to accept the love of a mother and a family.  They'd learn what love and safety feel like.  They could learn what so many children who are raised in loving homes learn naturally.  They could learn to feel safe in this world by first feeling safe at home.

Love and closeness was once very threatening to these kids.  They ran from it, became to 'hyper' to be able to avoid it, raged away from it, made themselves smell to keep people away, etc.  So naturally they did not like the idea of being home.  At the beginning I often heard from them that they wanted to go back to school.

Although I try to give them a broad knowledge of many things, my main focus with my children is not arithmatic, geography, or writing.  My main focus it to bring out their spirits; who they are meant to be.  Until recently their true selves have been hidden under their pain, anger, hate, and various traumas.  I think that I am finally seeing my children for who they really are instead of what their traumas brought out in them.

I am so touched by watching them play together, instead of reliving traumatic events together.
I love to see the concern in their eyes for another person's pain.
I feel so grateful each time one of them sees someone's need and helps selflessly.
I love to see the loving relationships that are being built in our home.
I think it is so adorable that Jazmine can comfort Makenzie almost as well as I can.
My spirit smiled when Jada, on her own, opened and closed the door for a person hauling new flooring into our house, then tried to help him carry everything downstairs.

Tears came to my eyes when, as we drove past their former school, my boy said, "I liked going to school, but I like being homeschooled more 'cause then we get to be with our mom all day.  That's pretty awesome."

When I get the question now, what do I say?

Why do I homeschool?

I homeschool my kids because I LOVE to spend every minute of each day with them.  I love watching them become who they are supposed to be.  I would miss them WAY too much if I didn't get to spend all day every day with them.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Makenzie's 1st Birthday

I can't believe that 1 year ago today, I had this beautiful girl.

She is such a joy!!

And she loved her cake.

She didn't want to get her hands dirty but after we gave her a spoon, she dug in.

Did I mention I LOVE this girl SOOO much?

She has brought so much to my life.
She has helped me realize what is most important.
She has taught me how to love more deeply and completely.
She brings a smile to my face at least a million times a day.
She has taught me to slow down and enjoy the little moments that could easily slip away.

I didn't know that someone's EVERY SINGLE move, sound, facial expression, even breath could be so adorable.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A few things that bring me happiness...

Seeing Makenzie adore time with her daddy,

Getting ready to plant our first EVER garden,
Enjoying every minute spent with this cutie,
This sexy man who I LOVE,

Seeing the curiosity of kids and watching them learn,

Learning new things with the family,

Seeing this guy be an amazing Dad to his kids,

LOVING how stinkin' adorable this little girl is,

Watching my baby eat 10 strawberries!

Being with this clan makes me happier than I have ever been in my life!

One more thing that makes me happy...
thinking of bringing more kids into our clan.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Keep the blessings coming!

I feel that the Lord is hard at work on me right now.  He has blessed me and my family tremendously.  He has placed people in our lives who have helped us so much.  He has led me to find answers.  He has shown me how to be a better mom for my kids.  He has put into my heart and mind ideas about different ways to run the house and raise the children so that they can thrive.  I have been tested to extremes.  It's amazing how some of our deeply hidden flaws can rear their ugly heads in the mists of extreme trials.  It is also amazing how exposing those flaws and weaknesses allows us to work on them, to improve ourselves.  It's amazing that those flaws that I initially didn't know existed, then felt so inadequate for having them, have become strengths.  His promise is real!  When we bring to Him our weaknesses, He WILL turn them into strengths.

I have always felt that I had a gentle heart, that I had an ability to love everyone regardless of what they were doing, regardless of how they made me feel, regardless of any cruelty they committed.  I now feel that that gift I feel I was blessed with has been enlarged and magnified 100 fold.  I feel as if  my understanding of the world and of mankind is so much more clear.  Now, when I see someone who is acting out in various ways, my heart grieves for them.  I wonder what kind of pain they have experienced.  I wonder how their heart was broken.  Watching the cruel things my kids are capable of doing and saying and OFTEN being the recipient and the target for those cruel acts has taught me what nothing else could have.  I KNOW that at times our Heavenly Father weeps as He watches His children suffer here on Earth.  Even though He knows the plan, He knows that things may get better, His heart aches with ours.  These are CHILDREN.  They are children of our Heavenly Father who hearts and spirits have been wounded by the mistakes of man.  Deep inside of them, their true spirits yearn to emerge.

My heart grieves for all that my kids have had to endure.  There have been several nights I've laid in bed crying for all of their pain and for all that they've been through.  I wonder how Heavenly Father can watch His children down here suffering so much.  How His heart must ache.  I wish so badly that I could have had them from the beginning.  I wish I could have spared them their deep heartache.  I wish that I could have held them close when they needed comfort, rocked them to sleep, carried them around with me all day everyday, nursed them, taught them that the world is a great place to be that people are loving and will take care of them.  I wish they would have never had to cry themselves to sleep.  However, I know that He doesn't leave any of us to suffer alone.  He sends His angels both from Heaven and here on Earth to help.

I wonder how many more Kianas, Jazmines, Kishawns and Jadas are out there suffering.  Amazing, gentle, loving spirits that have been hurt and covered up by inexpressible pain and suffering.  I have also cried myself to sleep thinking about all those other children around the world who are lonely, suffering, yearning for love.  Aching for the acceptance of a loving family.

Watching my kids heal has been more rewarding than anything I have ever experienced.  Seeing who they really are, their real spirits, emerge out of their painful pasts is beyond description.  Watching the Savior's atonement at work is what this life is all about.  I can't think of anything more fulfilling than what I am doing right now.

It hasn't been an easy road.  In fact it's been the most difficult thing I've ever done, more difficult than I could have even imagined, but the reward at the end is SO beyond worth it!  I can only imagine the extreme joy that is in store for me as I get to watch them grow and become who they were meant to be and to play an instrumental part in my kids' lives.

I love building the Kingdom of God here on Earth.  I love being a Mom.  I think there is no nobler a calling than that of a mother.  I love knowing that with my children I am storing up treasures in Heaven.  I once heard someone say that by having and adopting children they were not focused on populating Earth but on populating Heaven.

I don't want to limit the number of treasures I store up for myself in Heaven.
I would love to have a big family to spend eternity with.
I can finally say that I want to have more.

I want to adopt again.  
AND I want to be pregnant again.

Now I guess I'll get to see what God has in mind.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Prayer Request

My sweet Kishawn has been having a really hard time lately.  I'll spare you the details, but if you could please offer up a prayer in his behalf I would greatly appreciate it.  He could use some extra help from Heaven right now.

Monday, April 19, 2010

One of My Greatest Blessings

As time goes on, I realize more and more that Kiana was not sent to me so I could help her.  She was sent to me to teach me things no one else could.

This is a girl who has SO many things stacked against her.

Born into poverty,
Unstable home and care,
Not enough to eat at times,
Drug and alcohol exposure,
Severe illness as an infant resulting in seizures,
partial paralysis,
brain damage and,
an inability to speak,
multiple moves in foster care,
and more.

The brain damage she suffered as an infant has left her with an IQ of 62.  She struggles to understand basic academics and logic.  BUT her spirit is more mature than almost everyone I know.  Her ability to love, despite everything she has been through, is miraculous and inspiring.  She forgives quickly and completely.  She can easily see when someone is unhappy and offers her help and comfort.  Often, when she can see that I'm having a hard time she sits on the ground next to my feet and rubs them,  scratches my back, rubs my shoulders or cleans something up for me without me asking her to and without the need for recognition or praise.  She does it purely out of the love in her heart.

She is so full of charity for others.  That Christlike love that I pray for daily comes so easily and naturally to her.  She is so in-tune to the needs of others and prays for people by name.  Her prayers always include her siblings and what they have been struggling with that particular day.  They include her Grandpa Porter and his health, her Grandma Mia and her happiness, relatives and friends who are sick and/or struggling, and ME for my heart to grow and to love more completely.  Her prayers also include anyone we have talked about that day who would need a prayer offered up in their behalf.  I am so grateful for her.

I am ashamed and embarrassed to say that I haven't always appreciated or even recognized her for who she really is.  Sadly I was distracted by drool, noises and grunts, and physical and mental limitations.  I was more focused on the results of her trauma - screaming, crying for hours on end, excessively laughing at inappropriate times, peeing and pooping in wrong places, than I was on seeing the amazing gift I've been blessed with. 

She is one of Heavenly Father's most choice, strongest spirits and He has chosen to bless ME with her.  I received a Priesthood Blessing shortly after getting her that told me that her a I were best friends in Heaven before we came to Earth.  I have often thought that I probably had made her a promise to find her and give her what she didn't have.  I NOW realize that I am not the one who needed to save her.  She came to me to help me learn what I needed to know so that I can be saved.  She signed up for this life and Heavenly Father KNEW that her spirit could survive and thrive.  She came here not to be saved but to save others through her example.  I feel that she already has a place reserved for her in Heaven.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Life may not be easy but it IS all worth it -

It's been kinda rough around here.  We've been having a LOT of RAD behaviors lately.  The kid that was doing really well for a long time has been raging on and off (mostly ON) since Easter.  Two others have been putting their poop and pee in all the wrong places several times a day.  Pretty much every activity we do quickly becomes a fight and a stubborn controlling game that eventually turns into a rage.  Even when they are doing something they asked to do they ruin it somehow.

I find myself getting discouraged at times.  I want to be able to plan and DO projects and activities with the kids.

So, I buy books to get some ideas, I Google, I get the supplies ready.  I get excited about doing something fun together.  THEN, it all blows up in my face.

Because they are siblings and have experienced most of their traumas together, it makes it much more difficult for me to keep them regulated.  This article explains it beautifully.  Things can be going fine and one of them shoots a look to another and all is lost, they are gone and the activity is over.  They know each others' triggers and use them often, especially when they don't like the kind of attention someone is getting.  I absolutely realize NOW that they should not have been kept together.  Their healing would be much more likely had they been split up to heal.  They have turned the abuse done to them by adults onto each other.  So in a sense they are living with constant reminders of their abuse AND they are also living with some of their abusers.  I've heard multiple times that people who have been abused, specifically molested or raped can get over it but always have a hard time with the thoughts of facing their abuser.  My kids live with some of them!

Sometimes I find myself longing for normal, happy family interactions.  I wish my kids had not been traumatized and wouldn't have all of the resulting behaviors.

Then I realize that all of this must be so much harder for the kids than it is for me.  They not only have to deal with their behaviors and their actions but they are also dealing with the intense emotions that come with it.  I feel privileged to be their mom, to be the one entrusted to help them through all of this.  All is not doom and gloom though.  Progress has been made and when I compare it to when we first got them nearly 3 years ago, they have come a LONG way.  Although I realize that they still have a lot of work to do, I am so grateful for how far we have all come.  They're happier than they were.  They are regulated more often than they used to be.  I'm happier than I was, and I feel like I have a way better understanding of things and how to deal with them!  It's progress...

I like to focus on the things that make me happy so I don't get swallowed up in the moment that can sometimes seem impossible to get through so here are some of the things that help me to be able to call my life WONDERFUL!   

Jada's adorable faces and the cute things she says.

Speaking of cute things Jada says...
We were sitting at the table eating breakfast and Jada says, 
"Mom, you shu take a pishur of Makenz holdeen a baby like dis (mimics hugging a baby) an sen it ta Wae Wae."
I say, "Oh yeah?"
"Yeah, an Wachel."
Translation: "Mom, you should take a picture of Makenzie holding the baby like this - and send it to Rae Rae."  "Yeah, and Rachel." 
(Rae Rae and Rachel are the same person by the way.  She is my wonderful lil' sister and lives in Arizona)

Kishawn and Jazmine have a very unhealthy relationship but sometimes there are glimpses of something that could become great!

I was cleaning the basement and Makenzie was letting me know that she needed to be held.
I let Jazmine play with her since I could see them and they both fell asleep.
So adorable.
I LOVE this girl.  She brings so much joy to my life!!!
She is so curious and 'helps' me with EVERYTHING.

She is such a nurturer.  She got this doll from a Secret Santa and it makes sounds.  One of the sounds it makes is crying.  When the baby 'cries', Kenz gives it a big hug.  SO dang cute!

I love how much my brother Justin LOVES my kids.
They love him just as much!
(They are in the hammock swing in our basement)

I love living near my mommy!

Jazmine, Makenzie and I resting at the top of 'M hill'.
We went on a 4 hour hike that went amazing for my family!
I love sweet quiet moments like these.

At the top of the mountain, I ask Kiana how it's going.
She says, "I feel good.  I walked a long way, I feel strong!"
Having Cerebral Palsy, she has a tendency to say (or sign - she doesn't talk) and think that she can't do many things.
I love times like these that give her a different view of herself!

I love how involved Brad is with our family!
He definitely puts us first.
The kids (and I) get so excited when he has days off of work and can stay home with us.

Kishawn loves to feel powerful and strong.
I love it when he feels powerful after doing GOOD things.

I love this picture!!
She played herself to exhaustion!

Jazmine's baptism

Jazmine turned 8 and was able to be baptized by her Dad.

Grandma and Grandpa Porter flew in from Arizona for the baptism.

She was beaming throughout the entire event.  
I've never seen her look so genuinely happy and at peace.  
She had a sweet smile on her face almost the whole time.
It seemed as though the she was reflecting the light of Christ.

I'm so proud of her for making the decision to be baptized.