Thursday, October 23, 2014

Check-In. Random Updates from Our Pre-Adoptive Home

I'm relieved to say that life in the King family has been much more enjoyable in the last ten days! I am so very thankful for the peace that has replaced some of our turmoil. There are so many elements at play in our family dynamic that I don't even try to figure out the reasons behind our happier days. I just know that God's grace is allowing us to fumble through the crazy. 

We took our first road trip together last weekend. I was a little nervous about driving a full seven passenger mini-van four hours away, but we accepted the challenge. I booked two adjoining rooms (because we are apparently that family now), bought a third car-friendly video game device, and packed our essentials. We woke up early, attended 8AM Mass, and headed west.  We saw my sister's family, spent a couple hours in the hotel pool, visited Crown Center, and did some quick shopping before heading back home. 

We started an experimental reward system with the youngest three kids. Hourly (or close to hourly), I assess each child's behavior toward others. Each child who has used only kind words AND a loving tone to speak earns a star on my phone app. Kids who ear all of their stars get to play video games on the next car ride that is longer than 30 minutes. So far, the system seems to have produced more loving relationships-- and more peaceful van rides. I am praying that 1) I am able to keep up with it and 2) that the newness of the system and games holds out long enough for the loving words to become habit. 

Mr. J called Noah his brother the other day. I wish I would've captured Noah's face. It made me smile and want to cry all at once. That sweet kid is dying for acceptance from his little brother. He is doing an amazing job of hanging in there and being patient. I've watched Noah mature in leaps and bounds the last few weeks. It has been amazing to watch. Don't get me wrong. He's still an 8-year-old boy, but his self control alone has matured a year's worth in just a few weeks. My sons aren't best buds yet, and they may never be, but they are learning to live with each other. For now, I'll take it. 

Miriam had us pretty worried at school when she started showing some signs of stress there. We hadn't seen much of anything concerning at home, so we were blindsided when her behavior at school spiked. A meeting with the teacher. Typical Miriam issues. Strategizing. Lots of praying. Her behavior coincided with end of our honeymoon at home, and for that I was thankful. I bought her a sketch book and was startled to see how much she poured into the pages. All her sadness and frustration that she'd been saving up spewed out in words and pictures on her pages. After that day, she was back to her best self again. 

My teenagers are doing well. Miss J is helpful as ever and is learning how to be a big sister to A instead of ONLY a friend. It's been a great blessing so far. 
We have a few unknowns that we are working through with both girls- I think that comes with teenagers. I'm always half-expecting some giant issue to surface. In the meantime, I am working teaching the girls about self-respect and serving others... and I am enjoying both girls as much as possible while the going is good! 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Wash Day

I dislike dwelling on the negative in my life. Honestly, I am blessed with so much daily grace, and my children are full of love for each other and our family. In the interest of giving a transparent look into our foster adoption, I'm going to be real for a moment.

Life in my house is a mess! 

We tend to have several decent days in a row, and by decent I mean that we have no physical fights or raging meltdowns from anyone. Is it sad that I call it a win when no one screams at or hits anyone?

Every few days, we have a "wash day", the kind that leaves me so overwhelmed that I can barely make myself sleep because I know I have to wake up to do it all over again in the morning.

On these days, the boys are typically extra irritable. The teasing, kid-parenting, and hatefulness are ridiculous, and I am baffled by their seeming inability to just LEAVE EACH OTHER ALONE! On wash days, Amos and I spend the majority of our time refereeing the boys and trying to keep the girls from jumping in and dog-piling the arguments. It's a whole lot of awesome.

Wash days consume two days because it takes my crew a day or so to recover. I am beyond blessed by my weekday respite while the kids are at school, but the aftermath of wash days usually leaves me wanting to curl up in bed after the kids are delivered to their buildings. I usually settle for laundry and Hulu. There is always plenty of laundry.

I've watched this cycle for a few weeks now, and we are strategizing with family therapists and each other. The general consensus is that our boys are competing for Dad's attention. It seems to make sense. Mr. J is so excited to finally have a dad, and Noah has been Amos' only right-hand man for eight years. There is some major turf marking going on! Amos and I are trying to treat the problem and the behaviors simultaneously-- as much as one can ignore, nurture, and reprimand all at once.

Each week, Amos and I revamp our parenting strategies to try another approach. First we spent two weeks ignoring hatefulness that was, at the time, largely directed toward us. Next, we attempted to implement a time out strategy for all five kids. We used time out when they had any physical contact or hateful words. Most recently, we have been focusing on giving the kids choices instead of telling them "no." This has been particularly helpful with Mr. J who seems to ALWAYS require us to threaten a consequence before he will obey. It is exhausting to retrain myself AND my kids on a weekly basis, yet I am thankful to have a coach looking at our larger picture and helping us keep our heads above water.

We are weary, so weary. But I catch glimpses, when the boys are tree climbing and bike riding or when they are chuckling together over cereal bowls, of what our life will look like when the dust settles and the pieces start to fit together. When Miss A invites Miriam to play director while she practices for band, when my teenagers sit whispering together in the back of the minivan, I see the beauty that will remain when the push and pull of claiming each other subsides.