Monday, July 9, 2012

The Hope Connection: Today's Takeways--No more RAD and Jenga

Today was Blaise's first day at The Hope Connection Camp hosted by The TCU Institute of Child development and Dr. Karyn Purvis.  Today was also a full day of parent training for me.  Blaise had a great time--his favorite part was "Crash and Bump" which is a sensory activity.  He also self-corrected when commanding me to put on his shoes and said, "Will you please put on my shoes?"  When I complimented he said, "I learned that today!"  It's great how the same lessons work so nicely when delivered by someone else.

I met some great fellow adoptive parents and heard many stories.  Today I felt like I learned a great deal but two things stuck with me.  First, we talked about how the diagnosis of RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder) is being eliminated or discouraged by many of the authorities in the field.  One big reason is that many RAD "experts" are treating it as a terminal diagnosis.  Phrases such as "some children just can't get better" are an example of such thinking.  Too many parents are led to believe that their children cannot be helped and they must simply learn to cope or, worse, send their children to a residential care facility when all hope is lost.  The new term is "Complex Developmental Trauma" indicating that the issues these children have are related to the trauma that arrested their development emotionally, physiologically, etc.  More importantly, it can be helped, repaired, healed.  Our fancy phrase for the day is, "recovery of function recapitulates development of function."  So, yes, many children from hard places are hurt and damaged, but if we take them back and recreate the developmental stages they missed then they can recover the functions essential to becoming well-attached, self-regulating children and adults.

This leads to Jenga.  While I read this illustration and heard it at the Empowered to Connect Conference, it was really neat to see it.  That said, I don't have a Jenga game here at the hotel to photograph for you so you'll have to read about it and re-create it on your own if you really need the visual.  So, picture a Jenga game set up in the middle of a tube with only the top 1/3 of the game showing out of the top.  Several pieces are missing.  These represents the holes and issues that ALL children have as the grow up.  Now, assume we are speaking of a "typical" child. When these "holes" appear we fill them in with correction--"No hitting--Use your words," "We don't jump on the couch," "It is impolite to discuss that at dinner," and so on . . . Illustrate filling in these holes with the missing Jenga pieces.  Now, remove the tube--your "typical" child has grown up and your correction has filled in his "holes"; everything is hunkie-dorie.  Now, consider a child from a hard place.  Go ahead and remove all those behavior corrections up top again.  This child has "holes" like any other. BUT here is the difference, see that nice solid Jenga base your "typical" child was built on?  These kiddos don't have that, they have holes there too.  Pull out a supporting buttom piece for all those developmental traumas--neglect, abuse, abandonment, drug/alcohol exposure in utero, malnourishment, inconsistent/inadequate care giving, lack of human touch as an infant,  and the list goes on. The whole thing is looking pretty "holey" now, huh?  Now, let's treat this child the way we treated the "typical" child.  Let's employ all the child-rearing techniques that worked with the other kids, the ones we learned about in our parenting study at church, the ones our parents used, etc.  Take those corrective blocks and place them back in the top of our Jenga block.  Correct all those undesirable behaviors. What!?!?! It all fell over!  Yep, because there was no base.  If you don't repair the base first it can't support the correction.  When that tube is over the game all we see are the behaviors--that's all our friends, family, the cashier at Walmart see.  But if you remember to look below the tube at the base, you'll realize there is repair work to be done there first.

This is harder in reality than in practice--many adoptive parents are a part of the Evangelical Christian community--as I am.  Believe me when I tell you that you will get plenty of tongue-clucking and subtle hints at someone just needing a good whoopin' when you seemingly permit certain behaviors.  They just don't see the big picture and it's hard to not care what people think; it's hard not to feel the need to stop and explain this all to them. But once you get used to the horrified looks at the playground when your child gets to return to playing after throwing a major tantrum, or you decide not to fight the battle that would ensue if you attempted to make your son stand on his feet instead of his head in the hotel lobby and get not-so-subtle disapproving looks from older people whose children never misbehaved, then you realize that you can do what's best for your child no matter what works for "everyone else."

Monday, June 25, 2012

Happy Birthday Series: Part 1 Science Edition

Okay, I know that many people feel that kids' birthdays have gotten out of hand, and while you aren't going to see us on some "My Sweet 16" type reality show any time soon, in our family we like to really do up the birthday parties.  It's not about spending a lot of money, or getting lots of presents, it's more about celebrating these childhood years.  Soon enough they'll be teenagers who'd just assume I pay for the pizza and scram; so, I pour plenty of time and effort into each party.

I really enjoy home parties. It probably is because that's how I grew up, but I just like memories being created at home (or at Mimi and Grandpa's as we often do).  Parties at jump places, pizza arcades, and such are fun but sometimes they just feel a bit generic.

Each birthday around here starts with a theme.  This year, my oldest son, Brooks, turned 7.  In the past we've done themes such as basketball, Star Wars, Superheros, safari, Bob the Builder, etc.  This year I just knew he was going to pick a football party.  However, I timidly suggested a Mad Science theme and was thrilled when he said yes! Theme chosen, I picked a color scheme and moved forward.  Here's how it all went down:

The hand-assembled invitaions (made easier thanks to my mom and her Cricut!)

As they arrived, each child was given a white bag to use to hold their experiments.  The experiments were set up in stations manned by helpful friends and family. We encouraged the kids to go to which ever they wanted in whatever order they chose--this kept things more spread out.

This was the slime making table.

Insta-Snow from Steve Spangler Science was so, so cool! Easy to do but made a huge impact on the kids. You can buy it on-line from several sources.

The kids had fun makng their own "lava lamps" here. I did realize too late that I should have gotten an actual lava lamp to show them since none of them really knew what one was!

I ordered these geodes from Oriental Trading Company. They were really neat and the kids LOVED them even more than I anticipated. I would recommend ordering more than you need because some proved impossible to break.


In my opinion, the coolest thing we did was Naked Eggs.  Because these take a few days to prepare, I made them all ahead if time and had them on display for the kids to touch and look at and then take home.  On another table we had various insects in little jars with magnifying glass lids; these were displayed with Brooks's academic fair project for which he had taken various pictures with his computer microscope and then made a lift-the flap style guess what this picture is game.

What can I say, kids + exploding Diet Coke= chaos. The Diet Coke/Mentos geyser was really a blast (pun intended). We did it several times using the different tips in the geyser tube kit--you can order it on-line, but I later saw them at Hobby Lobby as well. Just a word of caution: The unexploded portion of the Diet Coke quickly became used ina Diet Coke battle of sorts--it gets messy. That, by the way, is the reason for Diet--it's less sticky.

Up until this point, I will take credit, but not for this one. My husband declared that there was going to be a volcano at the party. I agreed and began talking paper mache and baking soda and vinegar. He said no--he wanted a big, giant volcano. I told him it was his baby--count me out. Well, in collaboration with his dad, I will say that they produced one heck of a volcano. It had recorded eruption sounds, popping streamers, dry ice steam, and spewing "lava" made of jello. It was a huge hit. Come to think of it, I think it deserves a video segment. Watch the fun:

We also had fun with the food. A chocoalte fountain was filled with toxic slime (white chocolate and food coloring) for dipping pretzels and fruit. Petri dishes were filled with specimens (gummy critters) and green jello Dishes of gummy worms sat ready for disection. Peanut Butter in celery topped with raisons were "Ants on a Log". I ordered a set of cookie cutters from ebay and used the beaker one to cut PB&J sandwiches. Water, labeled H2O was available to drink.

The next activity took some advance planning and got messier than I anticipated but it was worth it. I split the kids into pairs and they made their own ice cream to go along with the cake. It really tasted good and even the adults were impressed.

The party favors were a science book that I got at the 99 cent store, a sparkly green test tube full of nerds, and a booklet giving instructions for each experiment and explaining the "why" behind each one. I found the test tubes without lids at the Dollar Tree (they were supposed to be shot glasses; believe me I got a weird look when I said they were for my 7 year old's party). I also got coordinating plastic shot glasses there which were the perfect size for the Insta-Snow experiment. The test tubes with lids, petri dishes and plastic beakers were purchased on-line. 

I'm going to be honest; this was the most exhausting party to plan, prepare for, and execute. It required help from our families and a whole bunch of work. But it was totally worth it. More than one child told me it was, "the best party ever." And more importantly, Brooks was happy, and we created a wonderful childhood memory as we celebrated my first baby boy.

I'm going to post my entire party planning list with the recipes I used and the explanations I published in the party favor book.  Please understand that I gathered this info and ideas from all over the place--internet, books, experience. Just click on see more to view the entire document:

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Perfectionism Trap

Those of you out there who happen to be perfectionists understand the paradox that is perfectionism.  We want things to be done so right, so perfectly that we are often unable to complete anything because its just impossible.  We procrastinate because we never have the time to do things the way they need to be done.  "Good enough" is not something we're happy with.

So, those of you who don't deal with this tendancy might wonder why my house is a mess, why the yard is horrific and why I can't seem to maintain any sort of routine.  It's just that everything I do is "all or nothing." I have a real hard time just wiping things down and staying ahead of everything because every time I think about doing a better job on the house it results in elaborate charts and systems and plans and schedules that take longer to understand than just doing the work.

It's the same thing with exercising--I did it again, right here on this blog for you to all witness. I decide to get fit, lose the weight, and firm up ALL at once.  I set myself up for failure so I have an excuse to quit.  If I can't maintain the "perfect" workout schedule, I may as well quit, right?  I already missed a day, so it's all over and I may as well stay out of shape and flabby.

The 30/300 ab challenge looks remarkable and I hope to return to it someday when I'm a little further along in my fittness journey. For now, I'm going to concentrate on my diet plan and losing some weight and working on my cardiovascular fitness by using the Couch to 5K program.  Wish me luck!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Heading to UPS with boxes of spit & pee

Yep. You read it right. Today I handed the unsuspecting UPS employee 3 boxes filled with lots of tiny vials of spit and pee.  Really, this is an exciting thing.  It is a part of the preparations for our participation in Hope Camp at TCU's Institute of Child Development under the leadership of Dr. Karyn Purvis.

This July Blaise and I will participate in 3 weeks of day camp (Chris will join us for the last week) in Fort Worth.  The camp will help us to better understand the effects that Blaise's background has had on him emotionally, psychologically, and physically.  It will give us insights that will help us become better parents to him and it will help him cope with his unique struggles.

I highly recommend Dr. Purvis's book The Connected Child to anyone who is in any phase of the adoption journey.  I also really think that if you have a close friend or family member adopting or with an adopted child it would be a blessing to them for you to read this book. Finally, if you work with kids as a teacher, volunteer, social worker, etc this book will provide insights into many of the children whose lives you touch.
So, what were the vials of spit and pee for, you may be wondering? I guess if I'm going to lead off with that, I should explain. As a part of the study, Chris, Blaise, and I will be evaluated for the levels of various stress hormones and such.  Children from hard places like Blaise often remain in such a state of awareness and alert that they have high levels of these stress hormones.  There are several other factors which will be tested and I can't wait to see the results!

Blaise and I head to Fort Worth on July 8. I will definitely be blogging about our experience and what we learn. If this is an area of interest to you, get the book and get reading and maybe you can get some benefit from our camp experience.