Monday, November 14, 2016

Running Hugs and Fireworks

I remember in my early months and years as an adoptive mom reading articles about other adoptive families and feeling so sad and frustrated because they made it seem so easy and wonderful. While they shared some of our challenges, they seemed to be able to function as a healthy, happy family. 

We weren’t a healthy, happy family. We were an absolute disaster.
But things are different now.

Being a mother to my boys is nothing that I thought motherhood would be like, and at the same time everything I ever hoped it would be.

I was watching an episode of Gilmore Girls today (I know, I’m really late to the party on this one) and there was a scene where Lorelai and Rory (mother and teenage daughter in case you’re not familiar with the show) run toward each other from opposite sides of the street and have this huge, happy, wonderful mother-child embrace. As I watched it my heart just exploded and tears welled up in my eyes because it reminded me of those days after school when my eight year old son sees me from far off and comes running toward me with a giant smile on his face for a huge, happy, pick-up-and-spin-around hug.

Those are the absolute best days. Running hugs from my son are among the most meaningful and love-filled moments of my life. It makes me feel like I’m in a movie and I’m the luckiest mom in the world. It’s the kind of thing you watch and just wish you had it that good, that you were loved that much and loved someone else that much in return, except it’s not a movie, it’s actually my real life!

But it wasn’t always my life. There were times when I worried I would never feel the kinds of feelings that other parents feel for their children. I loved my kids, but those big, fireworks feelings…I didn’t know if that would ever happen for me.

Not every kid will be a running hugger. My older son still won’t give me more than a limp side hug, or a forced squeeze while he grimaces and holds his breath. But I have to tell you that when I think about this son, my heart explodes with love for him too. Love is hard for him, but he accepts and returns what he can, and I’ve learned to accept that. Sometimes I have to re-learn it, but it gets easier as we go.

Anyway, back to the show and the heart explosion and tears, I had just received an email from Buckner (a non-profit organization) sharing the current needs of the foster care system and asking for support. Apparently there are hundreds of kids who need to be placed in homes, but there are not enough foster homes, so CHILDREN ARE SLEEPING ON THE FLOORS OF CPS OFFICES! I have a friend who works for CPS in Dallas and she confirmed that this is true, that she, herself, has spent multiple nights in the office where kids are sleeping on air mattresses on the floor.


So I was thinking about these precious kids in need of safe and loving homes, and then there was the running hug on the show and the fireworks in my heart, and I thought, I have to tell people about this! I have to tell them about how much I love my kids, and how amazing they are, and how much I love my life as an adoptive mom!

I’ve shared a lot about our journey through foster care and adoption, and most of it has been about the struggles, the pain, and finding the hope, help, and strength to persevere. But a lot of time has passed, a little over four years since our boys came home, and almost three and a half years since we adopted them. And I just need to let you all know that things are really, really good!

My kids are amazing. My life is amazing. I am so incredibly thankful for the opportunity to be the mother of my children.

Our boys came to us at 4 and 9 years old, their entire lives up to that point full of trauma and all kinds of hurt and pain, and they completely rocked our world. We were prepared, but we were not adequately prepared. We had support, and yet not nearly enough. We thought we knew what we were in for, but we had absolutely no idea. If I had it to do all over again, I would do a lot of it differently, but I would do it. I would do it again.

Because my kids are worth every bit of what we’ve gone through to figure out how to be their parents and how to give them the kind of love they need.

There is nothing special about John and I that makes us more capable of loving and parenting children like our boys. When we started we were not capable, not at all. We DID NOT have what it takes. But these incredible children who are now our sons have made us into better people than we ever were before. Becoming their parents exposed our deepest and darkest flaws as human beings, it brought all of our ugliness to the surface, but it also changed us for the better.

Fostering and adopting are messy endeavors, and our journey has been more difficult than some. We have one child who lives at home and one who lives at a youth ranch. They are both exactly where they need to be to thrive and we are incredibly proud of both of them. Our family is not normal or conventional and it has plenty of unique challenges, but we are a healthy, happy family.

We are thankful. We are blessed.

Our boys were just like those children sleeping on the floors of CPS offices, but now they are our sons, the ones who give us fireworks in our hearts.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Strange Feelings

Last Friday we went to visit our son, Joseph. That, in itself, is a strange thing to say.

Joseph is currently living at a youth ranch for boys, a few hours from home. He was there on a trial basis, but the decision has now been made for him to begin school (homeschool) and, barring any major issues, to stay through the school year.

Considering the difficulties we’ve faced and the long and careful process of deciding to seek out this kind of option for Joseph, and then finally finding something that would work (that we could afford!), and hoping once he was there that it really would work, that he would be happy and want to be there and they would want to work with him…with all of that actually coming together, and knowing my son is in the best place for him right now, it seems like I should be on cloud nine!
But instead I find myself just feeling strange.

On the one hand, what an absolute tragedy, that a child would be so broken that the best situation for him to grow and change and learn is not with his family. How awful that a twelve year old child feels more safe and content with his family at a distance.

I’ve been working through all of this long enough now that I don’t worry we could have done something different or better. Certainly we could have done it better -- parenting, attachment therapy, life in general, (we are far from perfect!) -- but it would not have changed the necessity of our current situation. Any doubts I once had about that were wrestled away in the many months it took to come to the decision to even consider residential treatment for Joseph. Through conversations with my husband, our family therapist, close friends, trusted advisors, and God, I worked through my doubts, fears, and the most difficult of all, my pride, and finally came to the realization that the best thing for our child was not something that we could offer him in our home.

I know this beyond a shadow of a doubt, and being with Joseph on Friday just confirmed it once again. But it makes me angry. And it makes me sad.

But then there’s the other side of all of this. Without the anxiety of a child who rejects love, fights family, and lives in a state of constant misery in our home, our home is finally, for the first time in over two years, a nice place to be.

Michael, our younger son, is much more calm, and is beginning to come into his own.

Our home is peaceful.

I’m finding myself able to function again, able to do normal life things. I’m less stressed, less drained. I have so much more emotional energy.

And Joseph, he’s doing great! He’s more content than I’ve ever seen him. He wants to stay where he is, and yet genuinely enjoys seeing us and being with us.

Everything is so good right now. For so long we were just surviving. Now everyone is where they need to be to thrive. 

I am grateful, so very thankful.

But it still feels strange.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Real Mom

A few nights ago I lied next to Michael in his bed, gently rubbing his back, as his little body oozed with anger. “I wish I could take away your angry feelings,” I said, “I wish I had a big, giant sponge that could just soak up all of your sadness and bad memories and pain.”

For a while it was quiet, then he began to talk.  He talked about missing his other biological brother who lives in another city with another family. He told me stories about living in the shelter (where they were for three months before he and his brother came home to us), about a boy who was mean to him there. He told me that his brothers were the only ones there to protect him, and he was so small.

I told him I wished I could have been there to protect him.

He told me about missing his “real mom,” which is what some idiot therapist coached him to call his birth mother when he was in foster care with another family. Because the one who gave birth to him, and then neglected and abandoned him, is the real mom, right? Didn’t he know, or at least hope, that this little boy might have someone in his life in the future more worthy of that title, someone who would truly be a real mom to him?

I think Mother’s Day will always be a hard day for me. Because no matter what I do, no matter how much I love and care for my sons, I will never be the one they long for on this day. I could become the most amazing mom there ever was and it wouldn’t be enough. I will never be able to fill up the hurt in their hearts, the gaping hole she left behind.

It’s a painful realization, but it’s important to understand. My children have pain in their hearts deeper than I could ever imagine.

I have an amazing mom, the absolute best, who has never left me, who has always loved me, who endured all kinds of hardships and struggles to be there for me and provide for my needs and give me a happy life, who has sacrificed so much for me and still does.

I am so thankful. Not everyone is so lucky.

The older of my sons who endured abuse on top of abandonment and neglect may never be able to fully accept love, or love in return, and it’s especially unlikely for him to be able to do this with someone in the role of mother.

Both of my sons will always have a loss and a longing that I do not know and cannot fill.

But I can be the one who lies with them in their anger.

I can be the one who listens to their stories.

I can be the one who protects them now.

I can be the one who keeps loving them even when they do mean and hateful things.

I can be the one who builds them up and helps them come to believe that they are valuable and good and worthy of being loved.

I can keep cheering them on even after they have given up on themselves.

I can be the one who stays, who never abandons them.

I can be the one who never gives up.

And isn’t that what being a real mom is all about?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

What's Working (Part 2): Behind Us or Beside Us

About as soon as I hit "post" a couple of weeks ago after writing about what was working for us, things started to get worse. And so it goes, right?

If I relax, sit back and take a deep breath and feel, for just a brief moment, that we have in any way arrived at a better place, things start to fall apart again. 

Much of what works is staying ahead of the game, expecting difficult behaviors, bad attitudes, strangeness and chaos, and always being one step ahead. 

It's kind of like the "If You Give a Mouse A Cookie" book, except if I give my mouse a cookie, and I leave the box in the cabinet, he'll sneak down in the night and eat 10 more, along with one of his dad's protein bars he's not allowed to have, or two. Then, the next morning, he'll be slow getting out of bed, tired and irritable, and he won't feel like eating breakfast. Then, he'll get to school, and tell the teacher he's hungry, and she'll feel sorry for him and give him a snack. A week or so later, she'll come to me with a concerned and judgmental look on her face, and let me know he must not be getting enough to eat at home because every day he comes to school hungry. 

And doesn't that just bless a mama's heart.

If a teacher gives my mouse a cookie, he'll fake being "SO hungry," every day, so he can have more.

My children are broken, both of them. They lived years of their lives in the midst of chaos, trauma, and abuse. The moment I begin to think of them as healed, better, normal...things quickly spiral out of control. 

One of the things that really worked for us in the beginning of our therapeutic parenting experiment was "Listening Practice." I had kind of forgotten about it, but I had to bring it back this weekend because the disrespect and defiance were growing by the hour and my sanity was fading. 

Listening Practice is all about building trust and respect by making a game out of getting your child to do what you ask them to do, when you ask them to do it. You can't do it when you are upset. The point is that you make it fun, and through the game they practice the right, respectful responses to your directions. 

It goes like this…

"Okay guys, we're going to play a game. When I say your name, you will say, 'Yes, Mom.' Then, I''ll tell you to do something, and you'll say 'Yes, Mom,' and do what I said to do. Are you ready?"

At this point you reassure them that this is a game and it's going to be fun. You smile a lot, maybe dance around a little, giving evidence to the fun factor. 

I start with simple instructions like "Go upstairs," "Sit down," or "Take a deep breath". I get really excited about how well they are listening and praise them when they say, "Yes, Mom" loud and clear. The more silly and dramatic I am, the better. They call this "pizazz". Kids like "pizazz." If a kid gets the most "pizazz" from negative behavior, they'll keep it up. But if you give them more "pizazz" for positive behavior, they will be more likely to repeat the positive. 

Sometimes I have them go get a toy and show me how to play with it. Sometimes we play a game with a ball and make baskets (into a box or laundry basket) from different places. Sometimes I tell them to eat a piece of candy. Listening to Mom is quite rewarding!

At some point in the game I send them to their rooms, because apparently if a child does not go to their room when sent that is a huge indicator that you have a major defiance problem and things are really bad. Joe used to refuse to go to his room when sent all the time. I really think this game has helped. He practices going to his room when there is no threat or anger involved. It's just a game. It's fun. Not a big deal.

Since we played the game on Saturday, the defiance and disrespect have gone down, and I have actually received some "Yes, Mom" responses when I've given actual instructions. A month ago we were requiring this response at all times. We had gotten away from it, and we were starting to see them both grasp for control once again.

Respect is HUGE. In their earliest years, my kids learned that adults, especially parents, were not worthy of their respect. They were not to be trusted. They would only hurt and disappoint you, and the only way to be safe was to be in control. This is especially true for Joe, as he was the oldest child. The reality is, they both feel much safer when it is clear who is in charge (and it's not them), but they do everything they can to grasp for control before they will submit to that reality. My kids need their parents to be strong, to be firm and demand respect, to stay one step ahead of them at all times, literally. 

Another thing we have done to work on trust and respect is to give them boundaries about where they are allowed to walk when we are in public together. Their impulse is to lead the way. It doesn't matter if they don't have a clue where we are going, they will charge on ahead because it feels good to them. So when we get to a place and they begin to creep past us, we remind them by telling them they can walk "behind us or beside us." 

The first time we did this we were at the mall. We told them the new rule, and then every few minutes we would have to remind them again. We eventually realized it worked best to stop and have them come back to the right place, and then start walking again. They don't like this rule, at all, but they follow it pretty well. We stopped a lot that first day, but now we usually only have to remind them once. 

Behind us or beside us. We have to be careful not to let them get ahead. It's not safe, or pleasant, for any of us.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

What's Working (Part 1)

When people ask how Joseph is doing, I've been saying, "Things are much better."

The next question tends to be something along the lines of, "So, what do you think is doing it?" What's working? What's making the difference? The answer is not as straight forward as you might think. It's a lot of things, a lot of small things all put together.

This post is an attempt to describe what's working for us, for those who have been following our story, those with troubled kids of their own, and for myself so I don't forget!

People sometimes make suggestions like, "Do you think he's just growing out of it?" or "Do you think he's just getting used to you guys?" No. That's not it. He has lived with us for over two years. Things were completely and insanely out of control until this summer when we figured out he had an attachment disorder and began learning and implementing therapeutic parenting methods. We are working really hard over here. He wasn't going to grow out of it, he was going to go to juvie, or something worse, not to mention destroying our home and our family along the way.
(Deep breath. Rant over.)
The marker was permanent. The sentiment was not.
You can't really see it, but what was supposed to say
"hate" is marked out with pen and "like" written above.

Before, we were having major defiance (refusing to go to his room when told), running away, suicide threats, destruction of property (tearing through screen in window, holes in walls, etc), cursing at or provoking us, all on a regular basis. One of these things would happen about once a week, if not more.

I am excited to report that in the last 2 months, NONE of these things have happened!

So here's what's working…

Understanding Attachment Disorders - First and foremost, John and I now understand what is wrong, where the root of the problem is coming from, and we are learning how to handle behaviors differently. Joseph is 11, but emotionally he is a toddler. Keeping this in mind makes a huge difference. We have also been able to have a few sessions with a pretty great attachment therapist who "gets it". She tells us what not to do and lets us troubleshoot with her and gives us ideas of things to try.

Intentional Touch/Affection - Hugs are still not always welcomed, although I try. I do lots of gentle head scratching and shoulder squeezing, also cheek kissing when I can get it in, and sitting close when I get a chance, while watching something or reading a book together. And then there's bedtime.

Bedtime - I almost always do bedtime, usually don't miss more than once a week (this can be exhausting, but seems to make a difference). When I have the time and emotional energy, I lay down in bed with him and scoot really close, and we chat about the day or what is coming up, just for a few minutes. It's never a lecture time, and usually I let him start the talking. Even if I don't do that, I tuck him in and pray with him, always with a hand on him. This is new. It did not used to be a possibility (hard to explain but it just wasn't). I use prayer to speak positive affirmation to him ("thank you for Joe, for the great kid he is," etc), and of course to ask God to help him with anything he is struggling with, and always to help him have "really good dreams and no bad dreams" and to get good rest. Then I kiss him on the cheek dramatically (which almost always makes hime smile) and tell him I love him and goodnight.

Sweets - We used to only do sweets on special occasions. When you have hyper-active kids, sugar never seems like a good idea. But I read that sugar can be helpful in attachment, especially milk based sweets. It makes sense if you think about it. So now we have a scheduled daily dessert time and I started buying small ice cream treats or doing cookies and milk. It's still conditional on if they finish dinner and they can lose it with particularly bad behavior, but they at least know that I intend to give them something sweet every day. They are not allowed to ask for it (or any sweets for that matter) and I always give it to them (don't let them get it themselves), to get it through to them that I want to give them something sweet. I also give them caramel chews sometimes during homework, or send a small piece of candy in a little pouch on their backpacks where I leave notes and treats every now and then.

One-on-One Time - We changed Joseph's bedtime to give him an extra half hour after Michael goes to bed. Sometimes we use it as quiet bedroom time, which helps him get his reading done for school, but we also use it for one-on-one time with him. Sometimes he sits by his dad and watches football. Sometimes he sits at the table with us and has a snack and we talk. I am trying to do more one-on-one time at other times as well. Last week Michael had a playdate after school with a friend, so I took Joseph to the lake. He liked having a special outing just for the two of us.

Eliminating Stress/Responsibilities - I'm a pastor. I love my job but it takes a lot of time and energy, and a few months ago I was all out of both. My generous, loving church gave me 12 weeks of rest, with no preaching and minimal responsibilities, kind of like maternity leave. This has allowed me to slow down and focus on my family, to give all of my time and energy to the boys during the summer weeks, and now that they are in school, to stay on top of their school work, get our household in order, do some self-care, and take care of all kinds of things that have been shoved aside for the last year because our life was such chaos. And, what do you know, the church is doing great. John is also in his second year of not coaching (a really tough sacrifice for him) so he is available to be at home with the boys and also has time to take care of himself (work out, go out with friends, etc). We also have to say "no" to things and help other people less. This is hard for us, and I'm still kind of bad at it (I signed us up to coach Michael's football team! Oops!), but there have been many things we have not done that we would have done before and it has made a difference.

Getting Help/Breaks - Our therapist says we have to get breaks and not to feel bad about it because if we don't get breaks we will go crazy. She is so right. We now have a part-time nanny. No, you didn't miss the part where we got rich… Our house happens to have a "mother-in-law suite" attached apartment space, where my actual mother-in-law used to live. Our hope was to find someone who would help out with the kids in exchange for living (bills paid) in this space, and we did! We found a wonderful young woman who moved in right before school started. Her name is Natasha and we love her! She works another job full time, but picks up the kids from school twice a week, helps with homework, and keeps them through the evening when we both have meetings or other things going on. She also helps us a little on the weekends when she can. For example, last Saturday, she watched the kids for a couple of hours in the morning while John and I had a much needed brunch date. It was magical.  Natasha was also adopted at age 12 from Russia, so she can relate to the boys and understands our issues and special rules. I also have amazing parents who have been taking the kids one weekend a month. This is so huge. They are amazing. And we have some great people in our church family who help us out every now and then. We are blessed.

Well, that was a lot. And I haven't even started on responding to behaviors! I think we will have to do a "Part 2"!

Before I end this post, though, I have to say, I truly believe that along with everything we are doing to love our son and help him heal, your prayers (and ours) are making a difference. We are not strong. We are not amazing people or parents. Our strength comes from God, and our motivation from the love we believe God has for all of creation, lived out by his Son, our constant example of self-giving love. I wish God would choose to work more like a magician, and just heal Joseph overnight, without our help, but it seems that God doesn't tend to work this way. Instead, we are called to join God in the work of loving this hurt child back to health. Healing and restoration come through relationship. In order for a person to feel loved, they have to be loved by people, and for a child with an attachment disorder this is really hard to communicate clearly, and really hard to do. Thus, the need for God's help, or maybe we are helping him…either way, it takes us both. Please continue to keep our family in your prayers!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Confessions of a Not-So-Natural Mom

Things have been better, so much better, but when things get better I tend to relax a little, and it isn't long before things start to fall apart again and I am rudely reminded that this job of mothering does not come naturally, at least not to me.

Back when I was longing to become a mother I felt like mothering was what I was made for, like I could not possibly be the "me" I should be without becoming a mother. I still think there's some truth to that, but for some reason this deep, innate desire to be a mother made me believe that once I was a mother, the mothering would come naturally. I would just be good at it. I'd be a natural, just like my mom was, or at least it seemed (still seems!) to me!

As it turns out, nothing about my motherhood has been natural. Babies did not come naturally. Then we went a completely different route and adopted a 4 and 9 year old, starting the parenting process as complete rookies with kids who were already half grown and half raised. And let me tell you, there is nothing natural about that.

I thought becoming a mother would bring out all of my nurturing, creative, and loving tendencies, but instead it mostly conjured up selfishness, anger and a capacity for violence that I didn't even know I was capable of. Even if you are able to restrain yourself, just having the impulse to spank a child out of anger or slap them across the face (even if they did just spit at you) is enough to make you hate yourself.

Ugly, ugly impulses. Human reactions, sure. But from a mother?
I thought I was going to be good at this.

From the very beginning, I found myself having to try SO hard to be kind and loving, patient and selfless. The amount of natural affection I have for my kids is nowhere near what I thought it would be, although it is slowly growing. It's easier with Michael, our now 6 year old, because he returns affection, has from the very beginning. But dear Joe, 11 years old, affection is not his strong suit. I realize not many 11 year old boys are particularly affectionate to their parents. In fact, it seems to me that most of them are just downright awful. It is not an ideal time to work through attachment issues, but they say that 12 is basically too late, so in that sense we should consider ourselves lucky.

With tons of reading and research behind me, I know the right things to do. I know that I can't just react to bad behavior, I have to think about where it is stemming from, and help the child work through it. I have to be kind and loving even when they are being awful. I have to not take it personally. I have to be intentional about giving hugs and affection and quality time so they don't have to ask for it through negative behavior. I have to be attentive to their needs, meeting them before they have a chance to ask, in order to build trust.

All of this is really hard work, and it does not come naturally, at all.

But it's not hopeless. I just need a whole lot of Jesus, and a whole lot of intentionality. I have to work really hard at it, every moment of every day. When I get lazy, or selfish, or start to wallow in self pity, I have to recognize it and get back on track. This is not about me. The work is not over yet. We've come a long way, but there is still much work to be done.

And I have to say, when I am intentional, when I'm on top of my game, when I remember to pray for patience and help and understanding, and I put in the hard work of loving my kids with everything I've got...I can pretty much rock this whole motherhood thing.

So, if there are any other not-so-natural moms out there, don't give up! You don't have to be a natural to be a good mom. Some of us just have to work a little harder at it. Some of us have to pray for help in all the areas we lack, read books and blogs and Scripture, and go to yoga, and practice deep breathing, and remind ourselves over and over again that it's worth it, even on the days when it doesn't seem worth it at all.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Back to School: Sauce, Hugs, and Happiness

Things are good.

I'm almost afraid to share because I don't want to jinx it, but I have to tell you all that things are going awesome in the Chapman household and it's been quite a while since I could say that.

Stress ball in hand, happy as a clam!
Yesterday was the first day of school. The most stressful part of yesterday was when I tried to make Swedish meatballs for dinner and the sauce wouldn't thicken! I was actually really stressed about it, but once I got through dinner and realized that SAUCE was the worst part of my day, I was pretty thrilled.

We have seen a good amount of progress over the past month of very intentional, attachment-focused therapeutic parenting. But we were bracing ourselves for what might come with the start of school (as much as I was also so very excited for the 7 hour break each day!!).

Academics are tough for kids with attachment disorders, and in the past school has been a source of strife in our relationship with Joe.

Last year there was an "All About Me" poster assigned the first week of school. Joseph swore he had no homework the whole first week and we didn't find out about the poster until weeks after it was due. And that was the fun homework! He had a school-issued planner that everyone was instructed and helped to use…would. not. use it. He wrote half of what he was supposed to write and conveniently left out (sometimes even erased!) things he didn't want to do.

BUT. Yesterday. Seriously, this is amazing. Joe came home with a fully filled out planner! He TOLD me about all of his homework before we even got home, and then he DID it without any arguing or crying or yelling!

Today, he got this year's version of the "All About Me" assignment almost completely done and it's not even due until Friday!
(Cue the fireworks!)

Something else really awesome happened today.
Joseph gave me a hug, a real hug.

This a really big deal for us. The attachment disorder causes Joe to reject affection from his parents and seek it out from strangers and acquaintances. With the help and advice of our therapist we have been working on this by defining for him who hugs are for (right now we are keeping it to close family), and asking others not to hug him (church friends, babysitters, etc), encouraging high fives and fist bumps instead. This is super awkward to have to say to people, but it is really helping! I have also been finding ways to give him physical touch/affection without making him resist, like lying beside him and talking to him when I put him to bed at night (this has seemed to really make a difference), and also tickling, shoulder rubbing, head scratching, and cheek kisses when I get the chance!

You may remember that we got big, tight, happy hugs when we picked Joseph up in Georgia after a month apart, but after a few days he was dropping to the ground when I tried to hug him. Since then we've made some progress, but what happened tonight literally has not happened for me with Joe ever, that I can remember, in the two years we have been his parents.

Tonight, we went to leave for Meet the Teacher night and he came over and gave me a real hug. It wasn't a hyper, super-tight squeeze. It wasn't a manipulative, "I want something" hug or an awkward, porcupine hug; it was a soft, calm, sweet, natural, REAL hug. I almost cried. I'm really not sure how I held it together.

First Day Decorations! The boys were pretty anxious about
school, so I had them write down bad/nervous thoughts and
then crumple them up and put them in their dump trucks!
Speaking of almost crying, last night as I was washing dishes after dinner I was choking back tears as I was listening to Joe talk to John about his day. He told him about the notes he got from people at our church from Back to School Sunday. He told him about the little monster pouch I gave him to attach to his backpack where I would leave little notes and treats every now and then.

I could just hear in the things he was sharing that his little love tank was being filled up and it was making a difference.

Reading notes from church friends at breakfast.

As I listened, I thought about our church and the incredible support they have been to our family. I thought about all of the people praying for us, and I truly believe it is making a difference. We have put so much time and work into learning how to love and parent this child, and finally, it is seeming to matter. Finally, we are starting to see progress and hope as the icy walls around his heart begin to melt away.

Happy, happy choked back tears.

We are so very thankful for all the wonderful friends and family members who have been supporting us, reading up on attachment disorders, offering to help however they can, hanging out with us when we are stressed and frustrated and depressing to be around. We are so thankful for our church's love and support and the time they have given me to focus on Joe. I am so grateful for the messages of encouragement I have received and all the people cheering us on, some who barely know us or don't even know us at all!

I truly believe that God is at work in all of this, through all of you, to help and encourage John and I, and through us to love Joe and help him heal. I think we are healing too.

"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; 
 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." 
- Lamentations 3:22-23