Christmas Eve

It’s Christmas Eve. It’s been an interesting day. We made it to church this morning, for which I am very grateful! The day has been a bit tense but no major issues, another thing I am very grateful for. I know to take one day at a time, even one hour at a time, because the mood in our home can change so quickly. But right now, things are peaceful.

My husband and two daughters are upstairs watching Star Trek. I’m downstairs on my computer, putzing around with reading lists and dreaming about the possibilities for next year. I find it encouraging that I can dream just a little bit. Realistically, I know that I’ll accomplish very little of my dream list as life is just too traumatic right now. But I’m an ambitious and motivated person. Over the next week I’ll put together my new year’s resolutions and my year’s reading lists and hope for the best.

Christmas with trauma

I used to love Christmas. It was my favorite holiday of the year. When it was just the two of us, my husband and I watched It’s a Wonderful Life on Christmas day for several years in a row. I love Christmas music. I love watching cheesy Christmas movies.

My love language is gifts. I have such fun picking out the perfect gifts for people, paying close attention to things they mention in conversation, gathering clues as to what they would love to receive. Then I hunt for the perfect gift (and finding a good deal is always a plus!). I get such fulfillment out of the entire process. And then receiving a great gift from someone, that they took the time to figure out what I would really like, makes me feel loved.

So Christmas time plus the opportunity to give and receive gifts with my loved ones has long been my favorite time of year. That has all changed.

My birthday in 2015 was terrible. Christmas in 2015 was terrible. My daughter’s birthday in 2016 was terrible. My birthday in 2016 was terrible. This is very obviously a trend! Holidays are triggers for children with trauma. Gifts are triggers.

“What if my sister gets more than me?”
“What if my mom gets more than me?”
“You only bought me five gifts. That means you don’t love me.”
“This is my mom’s birthday, so the attention is not on me. I will rage because I can’t handle it.”
“Is that all??”

My daughter has no filter. If she doesn’t like something, she’ll blurt it out. To someone who spent hours looking for what I thought would be a great gift, this is devastating. I know it’s not personal but it feels that way.

This year I ordered a fake Christmas tree. That way, if the girls can’t handle it, we can take it down and store it until Christmas day or even until next year. The news we weren’t going to the live Christmas tree lot to pick out a tree was met with much resistance.

Buying gifts was incredibly stressful. I know that the gifts will be carefully evaluated by both girls. “Who does mama love more?” Gifts had to be picked out with a lot of forethought. “Can this be easily destroyed in a rage? Do I care if it can be destroyed? Can it be turned into a weapon?” Again, for a person whose love language is gifts, the whole gift buying process was extremely stressful this year. Four mornings in a row, until all the shopping was complete, I woke up and instantly felt panic. This morning, now that all gifts have been purchased, I didn’t wake up in a panic. Instead, I woke up with my normal ball of anxiety in my stomach. I guess that’s an improvement.

Because our family dynamic is so skewed, we have the additional challenge of “what happens if mama buys more gifts for baba than she bought for me? Does that mean she doesn’t love me?” Any perceived preference for my husband means my daughter feels rejection. Rejection = meltdown or rage.

Can this change? I don’t know. I can’t force my daughters to heal. I cannot fix all of the trauma they’ve gone through. All I can do is figure out how to stand strong in the midst of the storm. Right now, I’m very far from strong. I feel like curling up in my closet and only coming out after the girls turn 18 and leave home.

Therapy

I’m putting this out there as a reminder to myself that there is no shame in admitting that you need more help. We’ve been seeing a family therapist for a year now. We saw one therapist for a few months but didn’t feel she was a good fit. We absolutely love the therapist we are seeing now. She’s helping us with parenting issues, adoption issues, and a few other things.

However, my childhood trauma is triggered by my eldest’s extreme behavior. We don’t have time in family therapy to delve into my childhood so it’s not really getting addressed. My husband and I decided it was time for me to ask about a personal therapist as well. Our family therapist agreed it would be a great idea for me to see someone to help with the childhood issues, the anxiety, the depression, and whatever else I’m going through. I reached out to that therapist today. Hopefully she has room in her schedule to see me.

When I was a child, my parents briefly took my brother and I to family therapy. I resented the therapist prodding into our personal lives. I didn’t have a connection with the therapist and saw no reason to spill my feelings to him. As an adult, I didn’t really expect to be at this point in my life, needing both a family therapist and a personal therapist, in addition to medical support from my doctor. But that’s the season of life I’m in. I’m parenting two children with trauma histories and it’s triggering my own trauma. We need help. There’s no shame in seeking help.

Anxiety and depression

This week, I’ve been feeling like I alternate between anxiety and depression. I spend the days anxious about what type of mood my eldest will be in when she gets home from school. I spend my alone time in the evening (about 40 minutes) feeling depressed about how difficult our life is. Our family is not normal and I’ve lost hope that we will ever reach a state of normalcy.

An example of how much we struggle – Today my husband made me a pumpkin mocha. It’s one of my favorite drinks and I really enjoyed it. This evening, my eldest found the mocha cup in the dishwasher and freaked out. She likes making me mochas on Friday evenings and assumed that I wouldn’t want another. A normal, more neurotypical reaction would be to ask if I was going to want another. Our norm is for her to immediately jump to anger mode and scream at me. Or we could have the opposite reaction and she crawls in bed and starts bawling.

So I spend my days wondering what minor thing will tip my child into a rage or a meltdown. I haven’t yet learned how to go with the flow and relax in those times when everything truly is ok. Why? Because it can change in an instant. We could be laughing and talking when all of a sudden she turns on me. And a lot of the time, I have no idea why.

At this point I can’t hope for a normal family life. Instead, I look forward to the day when both of my daughters move out of the house. Then maybe I’ll be able to relax longer than 30 minutes at a time.

Just keeping it real.

Being real

It’s been ages since I’ve blogged. I simply haven’t had the time or the emotional energy. I miss blogging. I miss sharing my thoughts, hoping that my words will reach some potential adoptive family. I miss connecting with others who are considering adoption or have adopted themselves or are homemakers and share some of my homemaking interests.

Life is hard. Really, really hard. Since I last posted, I traveled to China by myself to adopt a 13 year old girl. My husband and I now have two daughters, a 14 year old from Taiwan and a 13 year old from China. Both have documented physical needs but their most pressing need is to overcome all of the trauma they’ve endured.

But they aren’t the only ones who have daily challenges. Both my husband and I have been heartbroken in the past two years. We have emotional scarring, some of which has healed and some of which is still raw and bleeding. We have a family therapist now. I can now claim an acronym of my own – PTSD. Daily life is a huge struggle. In the past few months, I’ve had two panic attacks and have fought off many others. I now have ongoing anxiety and am trying to get medical support from my doctor.

Hopefully I can start sharing some of the struggles I face and lessons I’ve learned as an adoptive parent. This is not easy. I’m sure that some children come home and meld right into the family. Neither of my daughters have had that experience. It has been a rough road and I often lose hope that everyone in the family will heal.

This is life. My life.

A Tapestry of Secrets – a book review

Tapestry of Secrets

Now in her eighties, Perla Phillips has carried a secret since she was eighteen years old. When she sees her granddaughter, Ella, struggling for perfection, she decides to share her secret to show that God can use even the biggest mistakes for good. But before she can reveal what happened during that summer sixty years ago, she has a debilitating stroke.

Carrying a secret of her own, Ella arrives back in Wise, West Virgina, to help her aunt Sadie care for Perla. Both know the woman wanted to tell them something, but she’s now locked in silence. Together they begin looking into the past, but they may learn more than they expected.
Will they have the courage to share their hearts? Or will the truth remain buried forever?

I love reviewing books by Bethany House! I eagerly read over each and every monthly email, trying to figure out if they are offering a book that I would enjoy reading. I chose A Tapestry of Secrets because of the cover. I adore quilting and novels about quilting.

Sarah Loudin Thomas is a new-to-me author. When I requested this book, I think I knew that this was in the middle of a series but thought it would be ok to read out of order. In that regard, I was correct. I have no idea which characters the two earlier novels are about. This book can be read on its own, without having to read the other novels. Unfortunately, that’s about the only good thing I can say about it.

The main character drove me insane. I wanted to reach into the pages and slap her until she developed some common sense and decency. Ella was recovering from a bad relationship and yet she continued to drool over multiple men at the same time. I understand looking around and contemplating your options. But if you are seriously considering dating one man, please do not talk about how the other one is a hottie and maybe you should date him! One at a time. Evaluate a man based on his own qualities, not compared to someone else in your circle of acquaintances. From her internal dialog – “then again, maybe she shouldn’t be too quick to lean in any one direction.” Really? When you cannot stand the main character, it doesn’t matter how well written the story is; it’s painful to read.

I wish that the author had spent more time talking about Ella’s art. That was what I was most interested in. She designed quilting art. Wall hangings, quilts, but with a nontraditional flare. Some of the descriptions of Ella’s work were very vivid and I was intrigued to learn more about the process of how Ella gained her inspiration, chose her materials, and created her art pieces. But other than a couple of short passages, the book never delves into the quilting aspect. I was disappointed.

Still, thank you to Bethany House in exchange for my honest opinion! All thoughts are my own.

The Queen of Katwe

The Queen of Katwe, One Girl’s Triumphant Path to Becoming a Chess Champion

Katwe

I have very mixed feelings about this book. Overall, I’m glad that I read it. It was an insightful look at Uganda’s culture, the living condition of the poorest of the poor, and how the chess program started in Uganda. However, the book took a long time to really get started. There were life sketches of people whose names meant nothing to me and I wasn’t sure why they were included in the book. There was a detailed history of the establishment of the chess program, which was interesting, but I wasn’t yet hooked because Fiona’s story had not yet started.

Even after Fiona’s story started, I still didn’t feel connected to her. It was almost like the author didn’t really know her and was only doing an outsiders summary of her life. It’s entirely possible that Ugandan culture, specifically that of the slums, does not allow outsiders to get to know someone. But I long for details, thoughts, and feelings of the people who are being written about. Not just a fact sheet. The details of life in the slums were absolutely heart breaking, but that didn’t give much insight into Fiona herself.

I will be interested to see the movie when it is released. I’m sure the movie will be a tearjerker, as it shows the horrible living conditions that Fiona is accustomed to. I enjoy real life movies, inspirational films about people who come from a rough past and overcome huge odds to make something successful of themselves. Hopefully Fiona is able to rise above her circumstances as well. It seems too early to really tell.

Much thanks to The ravū Collective Team for a free copy of the book in exchange for my opinion. All thoughts are my own.

Fitness Goals

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Me in Taiwan

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Our family now

I cannot believe how much of a difference seven pounds makes. When we left for Taiwan, I weighed about 120 and felt relatively fit and slender. Today I weigh 127 pounds and feel decidedly fat. My jeans barely fit, my tummy is flabby, and I get winded easily. I’ve lost the definition in my face and I’m starting to grow a second chin. Frankly, I feel disgusting. Last night I was looking at pictures from when I was my heaviest weight (187 pounds) and I do not want to look and feel like that again.

Why did I let myself get out of shape? That’s easy enough to answer – stress. Our lives have been turned upside down these past eleven months. The easiest way to make yourself feel better is comfort food. So I’ve been indulging. A lot. And our lives are so hectic that I’ve not carved out time for exercise.

It’s time for a change. Life is still crazy. My daughter’s mood and behavior are still very unpredictable. But I have to be healthy in order to help her. I have to feel good about myself to help her feel more confident in herself. So here are my goals.

Drink water. Specifically, I’m aiming to finish two water bottles per day. Right now I’m barely drinking half of my water bottle. That means I am chronically dehydrated. Ideally, I should be drinking three, but two is a reasonable goal for right now.

Exercise. I want to run a race again. Jeff and I haven’t run a race in five years. I want to register for a 5k in September. My daughter has agreed to run with me if I walk and run, rather than run the entire thing. I agreed to that compromise, but I’m going to register for a second race that I can run in its entirety. I have a love hate relationship with running, but I adore the races. Getting out there with a crowd of runners is exhilirating. I want to experience that again.

Food. I have no hope that our menu will change. My daughter is a picky eater and I don’t have much time for menu planning. Plus, since she still has regular rages and meltdowns, I cannot prepare complicated meals. I need simplicity. So I’m not going to change our menu. However, I will change how much I eat. I do NOT need to finish everything on my plate. And if I’m going back for seconds, it needs to be watermelon or an apple or cucumber or something healthy and much more calorie friendly.

I think these are reasonable goals, even in the thick of our crazy life.

Return to posting?

It’s been so long that I don’t even know where to begin. And yet I want to try. I had hoped to blog through our older child adoption in hopes of helping others who are interested in adopting an older child. But our experience has been so difficult that I have not had the energy or time to write. Plus, I struggle with knowing how much to share. I’m very open with my side of our family life but I want to protect my daughter’s privacy.

I have really struggled with parenting. My daughter has a very difficult background and has plenty of scarring to prove it. She does not know how to face life in a healthy way. It’s my job to teach her.

Secondary PTSD? Yup, we’re familiar with it. I now have some of my very own trauma as well. I have been stretched, tested, tried, burned with fire… and am slowly recovering. I will start trying to share some of my story.

King’s Folly – a book review

The gods are angry.

Volcanic eruptions, sinkholes, ground shakers–everything points to their unhappiness. At least that is what the king of Armania believes. His son, Prince Wilek, thinks his father’s superstitions are nonsense, though he remains the ever dutiful heir apparent to the throne.

When a messenger arrives and claims that the town of Farway has been swallowed by the earth, the king sends Wilek to investigate. But what Wilek discovers is more cataclysmic than one lost city. Even as the ground shifts beneath his feet, Wilek sets out on a desperate journey to save his people and his world. But can he do it before the entire land crumbles?

Kings Folly

I am really not sure how to review this book. Overall, I was extremely frustrated. But as I outlined my complaints to my husband, he told me that everything I am describing is normal for the fantasy genre. As I rarely read fantasy, I’m not used to these particular characteristics.

1 – The plot is massive. There are many events going on at the same time and it was difficult to keep everything straight in my mind.

2 – There are way too many character POVs. The characters kept changing. There were even a couple chapters written from the perspective of very minor characters, simply to present a minor detail that could not be shown from another character’s perspective.

3 – The book had no ending. The story just cut off! It is clear that this is intended to be a series. I read plenty of series and each book is usually a complete story in itself. The next book usually continues with the same characters or tells another story about a minor character from the previous book, that minor character now being a main character in the current book. King’s Folly, however, cannot be read on its own. If you want to know how the story ends, you have no choice but to buy or borrow the next book.

My final complaint is one that is independent of the fantasy genre. This book was published by Bethany House, a Christian publishing company. However, the book is not Christian in the slightest. Other reviewers have written that it is an allegory, but I don’t see it. It’s not like either Narnia (allegory) or LotR (religious themes). Maybe the second book will contain “conversion scenes” that turn this into a Christian story. But King’s Folly (in my view) was not a Christian book. I was disappointed.

Thank you to Bethany House for a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.