Sunday, November 08, 2015

Surprise Changes and Request for Prayers

Hello Everyone -
Our lives continue to be interesting as always.  About the time we were celebrating the first anniversary of adoption day we learned that there was a new biological sibling getting ready to enter this world.  And thus, that quick, we're unexpectedly back into cases and courts.  I cannot share any information at this time other than to say we do not have this baby in our care, we have a HUGE uphill battle to fight if he ever will be, and would desperately like to parent him because he is family.  He's our children's brother and they all deserve a chance to be raised together.  Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we try to reunite our kids.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Guest Post: Back to School Safety Tips with Mario Cattabiani

This year Summer started Kindergarten at the public elementary school.  The special education process for her was overly hellish, so much so that we needed to hire an attorney just to get her the basic services she needed.  One service we insisted on was transportation provided by the special education bus to help keep her safe.  I remembered how one of my other children who was remarkably capable and intelligent ended up being abused on the regular school bus for nearly a year before we found out and through all of the district's fight against transportation for Summer it left a terror in my heart that she would face significant danger if left to ride the school bus with the other children.  For some reason, the district fought this service hard to the point that at 2:30pm on the first day of school I had to rush home to pick her up lest she be left to wander off the school campus or be sent to ride a school bus she wasn't equipped to ride.

Our children cannot protect themselves.  As much as we want to try they need our help and yet as parents we know we can't be with them every minute of every day.  It is often an agonizing situation especially for those of us with large families.  For that reason, I want to share this guest post with you on Back-to-School Safety Tips from Mario Cattabiani at Ross Feller Casey, LLP.  We can all use a good reminder and maybe you'll get a new bit or two to add to your family system.  

Back to School Safety Tips

Parents throughout history have been tasked with the monumental role of raising children, teaching them right from wrong, and doing their best to keep them safe and healthy. An unfortunate reality for today’s parents is that it is becoming increasingly more difficult to ensure the safety of their children. With predators lurking behind the computer screen, bullies in the school highways and individuals completing acts of violence on innocent bystanders, safety is not something that can be taken for granted.

One of the primary concerns for parents these days boils down to this simple question – “How can I keep my child safe, even when I am not around?”

Parents and guardians relinquish control when their children are off at school or hanging out with their friends. Fortunately, there are still ways for them to play an active role in keeping their children safe.

Talk About School

It is extremely important for parents to maintain an open line of communication with their children, and an easy way to get the ball rolling is to simply ask them about their day. Find out how their classes are going, and ask about the other kids that they encounter each day. There is a good chance that they won’t want to come right out and say they are being bullied, but that shouldn’t stop the conversation. Ask if there are any other kids being bullied or if there is anything at all going on that is making them feel uncomfortable.

Additionally, parents should be conscious of any changes in behavior or attitude. Warning signs may include loss of friends, a drop in grades or not wanting to go to school. While parents may not be able to prevent the bullying from happening, they can make an intentional effort to know what is going on. Knowledge is power, so parents can then teach their children how to deal with the bullies or remove them from the situation.

Keep Technology Out in the Open

The internet is the gateway for both information and trouble. With new software and apps being released constantly, it can be overwhelming for parents to stay up-to-date on what their children are doing. One way to help combat this divide is to keep computers, tablets and phones out in the open. Kids are less likely to get themselves into sticky situations during “homework time” when they know that their parents have full access to what they are doing online.

Kids should be educated about proper internet use. By educating them about the risk of talking to strangers online and how easy it is for information to spread, parents and guardians can help prevent a dangerous situation from occurring.

Make a Plan

It is easy to control the schedules and activities of young children, but things can get a little trickier once they are teenagers and driving on their own. Parents should sit down and make a plan with their kids so there aren’t any surprises throughout the day. Establish when they will be heading to school, who will be riding with them, when they will leave school and how they will get permission to do anything once the school day is over.

Obviously, just having a plan in place won’t prevent all accidents from happening. But when parents have a say in where there kids are going and who they are going there with, a greater emphasis is placed on safety.

As much as they would like to, parents cannot keep their children safe from everything. Fortunately, with proper communication and education, parents can stay on top of what is going on in the lives of their children and make their best effort to guide them from unsafe situations.

Mario Cattabiani is a father of two and the Director of Communications at Ross Feller Casey, LLP.

Letting Go of Mie Disclaimer: Though we hired an attorney to help us with Summer's ARD process neither I nor my family have any personal or business relationship with Ross Feller Casey, LLP or any of its employees. No legal service or compensation was provided as a result of this post.  Though I personally believe these tips are smart no reasonable effort will guarantee your child is safe at all times and this blog does not make any endorsements as such :)

Thursday, June 25, 2015


Now there's Baby BabyLittle Sister, and Summer.  Next in Line is Evan.  Evan is our middle boy, now 7.  He's spunky and wild and nothing really like Logan and Aaron.  He's a spitfire for sure but he's got a heart of gold that's been scarred by repeated rejection.

For the 6 months we tried to get the siblings into our home, while they lived in a shelter, Evan was always held as the reason why they didn't want to rush anything.  He struggled significantly at the shelter and in other locations where CPS saw him.  He was aggressive during visits.  He tried to run away from visits.  He tried to run away after visits, at the shelter.  He screamed and yelled and raged.  CPS (and CASA) seriously questioned whether it was the best option to add 3 kids to our home, making the total kid count 6, given one of them had these more serious behavior challenges.  There were times people would talk and say "he can only go with them IF he stays at a basic level", meaning there was serious talk that they would move him to a moderate level of care due to his behavior.

Evan is the one we all said "didn't have any more moves".  There was serious talk about needing to place him in a residential facility at some point.  He was 5 at the time.

Nothing meant more to me than to have all of my kids together under one roof and to pursue adopting them if reunification couldn't occur.  That being said, honestly, I was scared they would put the kids with us.  I'd faced two RADlets in the past and I knew it was a possibility Evan would face a Reactive Attachment Disorder in the future.  And we'd have 5 other kids to raise, young ones.  I saw the possibility that we'd see all of the things that a kid with RAD could bring in a large family, chaos and harm.  I knew I didn't want to go down that path again.  I knew, especially after visits and overnights and weekends that adding RAD would possibly be the straw that broke the camels back.  We pursued anyway for the sake of all the kids, but I was really nervous.

I also considered what would happen if we didn't fight for them to stay together in our home.  The argument CPS made was "How are you going to handle HIM when you have 6 kids"?  My argument back was "How is a parent with no experience going to handle HIM and 3 others (assuming they didn't have any other kids, therefore no experience) or how is an older parent (whose kids are grown, therefore experience but no other kids) going to be able to have the energy to parent HIM and 3 other young siblings?  In reality, other than separating the kids, there wasn't a great option and we knew we were at least in the running for best chance for everyone.  We had experience.  We were young.  We had resources.  If anyone could do this, we could.

Granted, this is all before Summer began having challenges like she does today.

He was a challenge, but the more time went on the more we realized his aggression and instability was less about chemical imbalance or biological causes and more about the trauma he'd experienced in his young life.  He'd never had a stable environment, learned to act out to get any attention, took the antithetical approach to his sister's need for perfection, and had very little trust that adults would stick around to love him through it.  He missed the familiarity of the chaos he'd had in his former life so he did his best to create it at our home.  He missed his father and cousins and didn't know how to identify that emotion or what to do with it.  Any type of correction sent him into a rage with horrible screaming and flailing.  He'd hurt himself (unintentionally) during the rages and then say stuff indicating we'd hurt him, even if we weren't anywhere around.  He was wild and out-of-control.

Except he wasn't.  He could sometimes control himself, with help.  As we learned more about what he was dealing with inside, we learned we could help him avoid the rage by reassuring him we love him and that we're not going to hurt him.  We did our best to show him we weren't going to leave him or stop loving him when he does something wrong but we weren't going to tolerate it either.  We had a therapist come work with him for a long while.

Slowly but surely he began to turn the corners.  He began to learn to control his emotions a little more like his age should, rather than like a child significantly younger.  They sometimes say a child can get developmentally stuck, especially emotionally, in the age of their trauma and that was true for Evan.  He was 5, then 6 but emotionally he was 3.  Evan was on Risperidone, an anti-psychotic sometimes used to control aggression, when he first came to live with us.  About 8 weeks after coming to live with us we took him off.  He didn't need it.  He needed love, consistency, firmness, and a resolute approach to parenting that said we were here for the long haul and we aren't leaving.

God continues working on him (and us).  He had very challenging behavior in the classroom in Kindergarten.  Some hitting and "kicking under the table" but more not listening or paying attention, goofing off and being a bit of the class clown.  He'd do irritating stuff all the time, like intentionally cutting his uniforms or lying about his lunch to get a different one.  In 1st grade though, a year after being with us, his behavior was completely different.  He still struggled academically in the classroom but he wasn't a behavior problem at all, except some of those irritating things like lying about his lunch.  He was recently diagnosed with ADD and medication was added.  It's worked wonders for him.  It's also opened a door to a wonderful friendship and bond with Logan.  Logan never tolerated his bad behavior.  Where Evan was emotionally 3, Logan is well advanced for his age and just couldn't handle the "weird" stuff Evan did.  This summer though it's different.  They're friends.  They're separated right now (one in CA visiting family) and you can tell how much they miss hanging out with each other.  Logan even cried before leaving "because he was going to miss Evan".



Evan, we love you so much.  You're a survivor.  You've pushed through so much and you're so brave even though you don't really know it yet.  You're incredibly strong and a gifted athlete.  You are silly and have learned to entertain yourself in so many interesting ways!  You love your family and desperately want them to love you back.   I pray that as you grow you  FEEL the love everyone has for you, that you become comfortable in your own skin, proud of who God has made you to be.  You have your own unique talents, gifts, and abilities with a great purpose.  You're loved just for who you are, not only by mie but by your dad and your Heavenly Father as well.  Life is not going to be easy.  Keep trying.  Keep pushing.  You've made such great progress these past 2 years and I'm excited to watch as your journey continues.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


So you've now learned the "real" identity of Baby Baby and Little Sister.  The next in line at our home, youngest to oldest, is Summer.  As a reminder, for those of you new here or at least since her adoption, she was adopted in 2011 after a year+ placement in foster care and is not part of the recent sibling group we adopted in 2014.  Summer has two siblings that do not live with us.  One lives with his biological mother and one lives with his adoptive parents.  We keep in contact with the latter of the two (Hello!).

Summer was a perfectly "normal" child when we adopted her.  (Here's her introduction after adoption day).  She struggled developmentally but only slightly, as if she was always one-small-step behind everyone else.  When she was 2 she struggled with potty training and toddler behaviors (biting, etc.).  When she was 3 and her peers started to develop further, learning critical social skills and starting to mature a bit like preschoolers do, Summer's delays became more pronounced. She did not continue maturing like the other children did.  Her behavior seemed to be the most obvious issue as she was more and more aggressive (or, really, her toddler aggression never stopped), she never sat still, she ran out of the class, and still didn't master potty-training.  She attended a great school that required strict adherence to rules, didn't reward expected behavior, and actually taught the preschoolers.  This was great for our oldest and he excelled here but wasn't working out for Summer.  We withdrew her before she was kicked-out and found a program willing to work with her and her needs.  At the time, Summer was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder, all areas, and was "the worst case of sensory defensiveness" the therapist had ever seen.  She attended therapy 2x a week at a fantastic facility at our cost of $160 per week.  It helped, but after a year they acknowledged they felt they'd reached the end of what they could offer her.  By her 5th birthday it was clear Summer was anything but "normal" and parenting her would be (or is, for now) a major challenge.

Summer has been diagnosed with severe disabling ADHD and Cognitive Disorder.  She has been evaluated for High Functioning Autism and her results come back "likely" but with the detailed evaluation she received the doctors believe her Executive Functioning Disorder (leading to ADHD) is causing symptoms of Autism, not the other way around.  I'm not convinced yet we have a final diagnosis but at this time this seems to be most appropriate.  Everyday with Summer is a challenge.  Nearly every minute with her is a challenge, honestly.  (See my open letter).  She cannot be left out-of-sight for any period of time at all and I'm not exaggerating.  On rare occasion we leave her within ear shot (maybe, in the kitchen as I open the front door or use the restroom with the door open so I can clearly hear her) but most of the time we have her within our sight.  This includes bed time - we've moved her into our room.  She does go to daycare and is about to complete the state's preschool program but the preschool program has been a wild failure (in terms of behavior and education) and daycare is only successful because they're very patient with her and understand her special needs.  At this time she's seeing a psychiatrist (and takes 3 medications a day), a behavioral therapist in-home (this guy is no joke and I love his work so far), and will probably start seeing a play-therapist over the summer.  She also needs physical and occupational therapy on a regular basis and will likely be put in a PPCD-type program in the fall (after a YEAR of advocating for her and finally hiring an attorney - apparently the school thinks we're bad parents and are making up her diagnoses to excuse her behavior).

Summer is a beautiful girl.  She loves to dance, be active, and play make-believe.  She also loves posing for pictures, which is fantastic because I get to capture "good" moments like these ones above where she has a genuine smile on her face and appears to be a happy, well-adjusted child.  These moments do exist and I cherish them.

I think pictures like these are more common.  I dunno, maybe they're not.  Looking through my pictures I have a good mix of the types you see above.  Some are great and some show a little bit more of what we're dealing with.  You can see in these pictures a little more of what we see on a regular basis.  Her face has food all over it in one - she literally doesn't care most of the time whether she has food or dirt or anything else on her where it doesn't belong.  This is part of the problem with potty training; she doesn't care one iota if she's wet, at least on the surface.  We all think she cares underneath, that she has no self-confidence or self-esteem.  :(


Summer loves adventure.  She loves to hunt for things (on her own terms) and be outdoors.  If she could spend all day outside by herself hunting for bugs and critters she would.  Thankfully, our yard permits that.  Unfortunately, our schedule as a busy family of 8 does not provide the opportunity nearly as much and letting her explore outside of the totally fenced in yard is not an option because she'll wander away.

This is the type of thing Summer does when she doesn't have direct supervision.  She "washed" her hair with toothpaste.  Though this type of behavior is common among 2-3 year olds and maybe explorative older children, it typically fades out as they learn other more productive and "normally accepted" types of play.  Summer has not learned the benefits of "normal" play yet and therefore gets into lots of mischief for her age.  

 Summer loves her siblings and wants to be a good helper, when she wants to be one.  She really wants to do the dishes and liked helping with Aaron when he was younger.  She wants to play with everyone as long as they want to play on her terms.  This is her haircut after Lizzie got hers - she wanted one too.  Shortly after she got less of a bob and more of a shaggy medium/short cut to help cover up all the times she tries to cut her own hair when she comes in contact with scissors.


Summer loves posing for pictures.  Here are a few more that show day-to-day life with her.  The second picture is totally normal...she's in a bat girl cape tied around her waste so we can go into Target to buy her new underwear and shorts because we were on the road and she'd wet through several pairs of dry things that morning.  She's got her hat on, a sweatshirt, and no shoes, and she's totally fine with it.  This girl loves adventure and has no interest in helping mom's self-respect taking her into stores like this.  She broke her thumb, slamming it in the door, and though she cried never told us it was hurting until we noticed how unbelievably bad it looked a couple days later.  They put a cast on her, knowing she wouldn't leave it alone for the required 4 weeks.  I'm not sure how close to getting her cast off this last picture is but as you can see, it's disgustingly filthy and you may notice there's not much of the white gauze left around the top - she ate most of it.

Summer, I love you so much and I love those moments  before you go to sleep where I can have a heart-to-heart with you to remind you how much I love you and how much I'm going to continue to fight for you.  I pray God will heal you and help you recover from the last few years.  You're going to soar Summer.  Keep your adventurous spirit and may your love of life be rounded out with joy, all the time, whether you get what you want or not.  You're beautiful sweetheart.  I pray we're able to tell you always and forever how much you mean to us and that you're able to hear it through our parenting, even as we're correcting you and coaching you as you grow.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Little Sister

I tried to look back at my blog to see if I ever referred to each of my kids by blog names.  If I could, I couldn't remember them or find them at all so forgive mie if I don't make a connection here.  Our family now consists of three boys and three girls, so today's update is about the youngest of the three girls who, if I haven't used the term before, fits "Little Sister" to a T.


Ok, this girl.  Let me tell you.  Her name is Lizzie.  She'll correct you in her 4-ness and tell you she is Elizabeth OR Lizzie, and then frequently tell you she wants to be called Elizabeth, with the incomplete "th" sounding like an "f". She loves Frozen, princesses, dolls, dress-up, pretend play, and anything imaginative.  

She was a few months from turning 3 when they came to live with us, almost 2 years ago now.  It's such an odd thing to consider now that Aaron is this age.  Her hair used to be down to the middle of her back but she desperately wanted it cut about a year ago, hence what you see above.  It's grown back out now, about to her shoulders, which is EXACTLY what she wants now that she knows all about Rapunzel.


This girl has attitude.  She's got a flair for fashion and creates all sorts of "looks", including the facial-expression kind on the right.  We get these looks from her daily, at least.  When she gets caught doing something she knows she's not supposed to do she freezes up and won't respond to your questions. She has this stare though...the one that says...I am very mad at you right now.  It's not a morning unless Lizzie has cried.  Nevertheless, we get a lot of  comments on how BEAUTIFUL this one is.  We're working to make sure our insides are as beautiful as our outsides :)  She's actually really smart and independent, so we need to make sure we're giving her the attention she needs even though she doesn't "demand it" the same way some of the others do.

 Oh Lizzie - What would we do without you.  I love that you try to read to mie every day in the car and I love that you know exactly how to work your charm to hide your natural impish-ness, even though I won't tell you that now.  It makes me smile.  I know sometimes I won't do things for you and it makes you cry.  It's because I believe in you, even when you don't believe in yourself.  I want you to know how awesome you are in every way, every day.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Baby Baby

Life.  Life happens and it is so unbelievably full in our home right now and as I'm realizing, will be forever, God willing.  (Though I hope for rest and peace and obedient children growing in Truth and Love.  Amen.)

Here I am, as I promised a long time ago, to introduce you one by one to our kiddos.  I'm going to start with the one who's placement in care brought this whole crazy family together.  You've known him for 2 1/2 years as Baby Baby.

His name is Aaron, a name we gave him on adoption day.  As you can see he is no longer a baby. He's talking in full sentences, though you can't always understand him, and is every bit of a two-year-old.  He's very active but loves nothing more than to hang on mommy or daddy, not both - just the one he chooses at that moment.  He can keep up with his brothers and sisters and has learned the art of being louder than them all in order to be heard.  

He is our silliest boy, I think.  Or, at least our silliest one where silly is super-age-appropriate.  He's always doing something to make everyone laugh and he gets a thrill out of it.  He's almost always smiling that big super-happy grin, as you can see.  In the midst of our chaos and the moments of tension/drama in the house he tends to break it up with his crazy antics, super cuddly hugs, or handsome, happy smile.  He loves Cars (especially Mater), trains, and planes.  He's fascinated by motorcycles as well and knows that Papa rides one.

Here are a few of him a bit younger.  Love these.  The one with the paci is him at the hospital...this kid by far has spent the most time in the hospital than any of the other six.  He is seen by several specialists including a cardiologist, orthopedics at Scottish Rite, opthamologist, and a pulmonologist. He has severe asthma (or, at this point it's called Reactive Airway Disease), so any kind of illness hits him pretty hard.  (and boy does he love that paci, though he knows that it must "go to bed" when he wakes up and gets out of his toddler bed.  Yes, we're done with cribs.  *Sniffle*

Oh boy howdy.  How did I forget his love of tractors. 

Aaron, you are such a joy in our lives.  You have such a special role in bringing our family together and you brighten our days.  I can't believe how much you've grown recently and I look forward, every day, to being your mommy.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone!

Life in our house is busy and crazy as usual.  We're currently getting ready to go back to school (and I'm back at work today) after the holiday break.

I wish you and yours a wonderful 2015.