Monday, July 11, 2016

This Says it All -- She Did It!

  It was a long road--but, this picture says it all! A few days before graduation Makaylah was asked what song sums up her feelings about finishing high school and she said, "Dora's, 'We Did It.'" I flashed back to those first few years--when I became the mother of a beautiful five-year old... and that song...over, and over.

 If anyone took the time to read this whole blog, they would see there were times--I was not sure we would make it. And "We Did It."

All things considered, I could not be more proud of Makaylah! It has to be hard to go through the things she did when she was so little. It had to be heart-breaking to be separated from her birth mother, the only mother she knew--the mother she loved. It had to be confusing to move from one foster home to another foster home and then into my arms.

 Makaylah was a strong little-girl and she will be a strong young woman. It's funny how some of those "RAD" traits I now think of as very good qualities for my daughter to posses. Her strong--will and ability to manipulate any situation to fit her needs could be very beneficial in some career choices she might make.

  It is clear there was/is only one really annoying trait/behavior/whatever you want to call it, that none of the help, therapy, special education, punishment or reward systems managed to knock out of her. That would be her snappy-mouth with the look on her face. I guess, if that is the worst thing a mother can say about her 18 year old high school graduate, then Thank God! And, as a snappy-mouthed woman who has been in trouble for the look on my face more than once I can't help but recall the warnings from my mother. The warnings that she hoped I had a daughter who had a sassy-mouth like me--I can live with this and smile to myself ever time I do my best to be supportive to Makaylah and remind her to work on that.

Here is to a fantastic future and wonderful life Makaylah Maureen (Joy) Ferlitsch, I am so proud to be your mother!




Wednesday, March 23, 2016

No Longer the Mommy of the Underage Crowd (Almost)

  There comes a moment when every mommy has to look up and face the fact, her little ducklings are no longer innocent children but have transformed into grown-up (or nearly grown-up) people that call you Mom. Or, Ma (which I oddly like?).

  All those amazing moments in time that we remember our little ones are just memories they remembered the way they remember them. (More about all that kind of stuff in a future blog post). We still see our baby when we look at the fully-grown man with a beard, a wife and expecting a baby of his own--is still that little baby in our hearts.

  That is a mom's perspective we will always remember the moment we knew you would be our child, and while we might mix things up or forget something here or there, we will forever remember the feeling of becoming our children's mommy. Either by birth or adoption, I should know I have had two of each. Two boys, two girls. Two close together, Two fours apart. One of each at a time. I tend to think of my mommy days as being a Noah Mother....two by two. It seems that way when a mom raises two and when the youngest of them is about to become an adult, starts all over and adopts two more. Add's up to 32 years of hands-on mothering of at least one minor child. By the time I am done, I believe my hands-on mothering experience of minor children will total of 37-years non-stop. Or you could say, I started at the age of 20 parenting my firstborn and I will be 57 when my youngest turns 18.

  I never got tired of being a mommy. Even on the days when I was not the mom I wanted to be and had to make decisions to adjust my own attitude or behaviors.

 I do not have a favorite age of child I enjoyed mothering. I enjoyed all of the ages and stages and to be honest as much as I did not think so, I found the closer the kids age to each other the more fun I had. The oldest two are 14-months apart; the youngest two are 4-years apart. It was hands-down more fun as a mommy when then were closer in age, although according to them it sucked as a child. As a mommy, I loved my little Irish twins and would personally recommend closer the better--for mommy. The 4-years apart was more difficult because of developmental stages and finding things that both children connected with at the same time. Someone was always either too young or too old for half the things I wanted to do with the kids. Which on another level has meant I needed to develop a more personal and individual relationship with the two younger children, that I didn't think of or recognize I might have needed to do with the two older ones.


But, those are just the thoughts of a mommy. I have special memories of all my babies that they may not remember--or remember differently than I do.

  It is an interesting transition from Mommy to Mom (or Ma, I actually kind of like that, Tori). I think a mother learns more about herself than she even thought anyone could imagine when her children reach a certain age where they start telling their own memories. Sometimes it's completely shocking to hear how our child's perspective is 180 degrees from the perspective the same child gave during the memory they share years later. I am not sure if the kid was just blowing smoke up my butt way back when--or if their memory of events is completely twisted, but some of the stories are interesting if nothing else.

  Three of my 4 are grown up. Four years to go for the baby! (I can still and might always call him that, because I call all 4 of them my baby!). At the end of the day and this long journey, I go to sleep every night Proud as punch about each one of them.

 I always believed I would be the mother of adult children much longer than I was the mother of minor children, and as far as my individual relationship with each one of them I expect I should have that chance. It doesn't matter if any of them call me mommy, mom or ma I will answer to any of them, any time, any day, and always love them all the same way I did the very first time I laid eyes on them.





Monday, March 21, 2016

She turned 18

When I started this blog 13 years ago, it was the beginning of an adventure I never expected would take some of the twists and turns it ended up including. Of course, I already knew children seem to take forever to grow up so fast.

But here we are, Makaylah turned 18 and will graduate from high school in just a few short months!

I realized this morning I had stopped sharing as much as I once did about OUR JOURNEY together. There came a time when it just didn't seem right to write so much about our personal struggles and the issues we faced. Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), is never a story about just the child in fact RAD is almost always a story about the whole family.

This past weekend I was thinking about the RAD part. And, realizing that some way and somehow she and I are doing very well. In fact, I believe I was able to find a way to her heart. I actually think she has found some positive attachment behaviors and that she and I may be okay from here on out. It's hard to identify attachment disorders in the first place, and sometimes as the "primary caregiver," it's hard to recognize this little person I met when she was nearly 5 years old does not really even remember those early days that are so clear in my memory. It feels like yesterday sometimes and while nearly every day of the past 13 years are etched permanently in my mind nearly as clear as yesterday for me--for her it's the blurry memories of a little girl who hardly remember her life before me.

I also realized that as the mother of an 18-year-old I have nothing but PROUD to feel about this last stage of parenting a "child." My youngest daughter has turned out a lot like me. To brag, she has become a wonderful young lady! She has strong values and respects herself and I have noticed over the past few years--My daughter with RAD respects ME! Can I get a Wow!

She follows the rules. She tries to listen to direction. She doesn't run away. She doesn't use drugs or drink or smoke. She gets permission and calls when her plans change. She successfully fought to leave 100% Special Education to attend the public high school full time for her last half of her last year in high school. I have not had a phone call from school about inappropriate behaviors, in a few years. It has been a year or so, since her IEP Team recognized some of the behaviors she had early on--were no longer necessarily negative. In fact, some of us women on the IEP team actually agreed some of her behaviors had transformed into behaviors we wanted her to retain as an adult woman. What was once a huge power struggle had become personality traits most of us women need in our lives. No one is going to walk all over Makaylah in life. She will probably not end up as a man's doormat. She will have confidence to ask for a raise and want to move up in her life. She will be able to walk away from things that bring her down.

It is difficult to find the words or correct way to express why I feel she has overcome RAD. Just like it was always difficult to find the right words to say why it was clearly RAD when it was. I think it is kind of like "porn" hard to define, but you know it when you see it.

She and I were talking a few weeks ago, about the tantrums she once had for five or six hours every day, when she was little for five years in a row. She doesn't really remember. To me, those tantrums feel like yesterday, and she hardly remembers! At first, there was a part of me that was pissed off she didn't remember. Because  I sure do and sometimes I can still feel the pain of something that occasionally hurts as a result of some of those dark and terrible days. She brought out the worst in me back then. She scared me, I was scared for her, mostly. There were times I wondered which one of us was going to end up snapping completely. I was pretty sure she was going to be the first one to make me a grandmother.

I remember the "door alarms" I had to use on nearly every door in the house. For her protection. For my protection. For the protection of her baby brother. For the protection of the cat. For a break! It has been a long time since a door alarm was needed.

I remember the heartbreak I felt when I had to make the decision to place her in residential treatment. It was more than heartbreak it ended up being the end of my marriage. I could never have made it to now in that situation. I had to choose HER or my marriage. No one needed to tell me I had to make that choice, it was obvious to me and all the support system I had in place. A child like Makaylah needed a life I could not offer her in the marriage I was in. I really did not want to give my little ones another trauma in life, like divorced parents. Especially, divorced adoptive parents. But, for her--she needed to see me stand up and make the healthy decision. It was bad enough she was dealing with RAD the last thing a RAD child needs is a primary caregiver who "appears" to be living in a dysfunctional marriage. She had a magical way of bringing to light every single problem there was in my marriage. RAD kids are amazing about spotting the weaknesses and working them.

So far, the divorce was the right thing to do and child support has been adequate to support the home I have put together. I could not have done this without my brother. Together we have literally provided a 24/7, line-of-sight, safety plan -- with two adults at all times. I don't think most people would be able to put together the support system my brother and I managed to create. It came at a huge cost for all of us. It brought benefits for five of our combined seven children. My brother and I managed to stay on the same page the whole way. We both have sacrificed the quality of our own personal lives. We both have reenacted the values and standards of the childhood we shared. We both have done whatever it took to get these children up and on their own feet.

A united front is probably the most important thing a child with RAD needs. Somehow, someway between the excellent therapy she received at Scarr Jasper Mountian and the time she spent with her therapeutic foster mother to the services she was able to receive through the Beaverton Oregon Public School system and the changes I had no choice but to make in my life and the support system I managed to figure out--SHE is doing Awesome today.

I am looking forward to posting her graduation pictures. I am looking forward to SEEING where she takes her own life. Most of all, I feel amazing that today she tells me she isn't not ready to run out the front door and sow her wild oats. She wants to stay with ME awhile longer and she was afraid she would not be able because of all the things she hardly remembers about the childhood that was pretty darn traumatic. I mean, really--she was taken from her mother at the age of four and then placed with me nearly a year later. Who would not be traumatized just by that?

-- three kids grown and one to go.


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