Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Things ARE Improving

My friend Kari's parents (hi Marge) adopted kids out of foster care 30+ years ago -- back when nobody knew anything about FASD or attachment. I don't think there was even subsidy!?!

And so when we complain about how slowly the system changes, I think it's important to note that things are getting better for adoptive parents.

1) We have subsidy and some states are increasing it all the time. In fact,
Washington DC just extended subsidy to 21

2) We have the internet. Wow has this made a difference for adoptive parents. We can connect and research on the phones in our pockets. We have access to the whole world in our hand. And when it comes to support and information for adoptive parents this is so awesome.

3) We have each other. Never before have we been more connected as a subgroup of society - and as we have seen this can be positive or negative. I see it as a huge plus that we can encourage each other -- not by always being sunshiny Polly Anna people with heads in the clouds -- but by demonstrating that it IS possible to live through hard times victoriously and with hope.

4) We have organized Post-Adoption Support. Most states have programs that help adoptive parents.

5) We have more information than ever about FASD, attachment, and brain trauma, things that effect our kids on many levels.

6) We have the tax credit. And even though we still don't have ours, I have met people who have received them. Instead of complaining that they are taking it to long to get it to us, I'm trying to focus on the fact that we are getting a nice chunk of change that was totally unexpected.

7) We have agencies and organizations that "get it" that are increasing their ability to reach people with information and services.

8) As people become increasingly more aware of issues, things are improving in our churches, schools, and health care systems because of the advocacy that we are doing to make changes.

I could go on, but you're getting the picture. Sometimes it's good to realize that while the system is full of flaws and our lives are hard.... things are better than they have ever been for adoptive parents.

So today I'm choosing to focus on that and be grateful.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Facing a Day Alone and a LOT of work

I'm a thinker and a doer. I'm not a be-er and I'm not a feeler. I like concrete measurable stuff.

And today I have a lot of stuff to do. When I get overwhelmed I have to see things ... on paper, or I have no idea how to tackle what is ahead.

So, I'm going to have to start my day by making a list with categories. It may even have to be color coded.

Call me a geek or neurotic, but it's the way I operate. My husband hates these comprehensive lists because he says they overwhelm him. Not having a list overwhelms me.

I am finding the older I get just how individual and unique each of us is. In the last chapter of the new book (which should be out in October we hope) I write this:

One of the most insightful things I ever heard a psychiatrist say was when we were getting help for our son John. He remarked that many adoptive parents are trying to change their children to fit into something that they can’t ever be. A very outgoing and talkative man, he said something like this: “My daughter,” he said, “is just like me. She talks a mile a minute and always has something to say. If she were adopted into a family of quiet, reserved introspective people, there is nothing that they could do to get her to become like them. And if they tried, her self-image would be damaged in the process.”

Kathleen Benckendorf, an Adoption Parenting Coach, reinforces this idea: “There is no consequence, positive or negative, that could motivate me enough to teach me to dunk a basketball. I am 5'4", and even when I was young and thin (which I am not now!), I had about a 3" vertical leap. If I was told that this was a necessary and important activity for me, I'd become very frustrated seeing other persons achieve, being told what I should do, and knowing that it is impossible. I'd probably "check out" of the process mentally. 

This is what many consequences are like for children with a trauma background - beyond their ability to obtain or avoid because they are living in fear, in fight/flight mode, in their brainstem.”

By the way, Kathleen, can I quote you in my book? How about on my blog?


Monday, August 29, 2011

Working all Evening....

Because this little stinker is nearly impossible to multitask... so instead of working 7:30 to 6, I'm going to end up working 2:45 to 10 or something.... but he's sure cute. During breakfast he had to clap between bites making it virtually impossible to keep him clean -- later he took a walk with Grandpa Bart while I went to the dentist.

It's a good thing he's so cute! :-)

And here we are again -- starting another week....

So far this morning things have gone like clockwork for me. I was at the Y by six, had a great workout, came home and had a healthier breakfast than is typical. We are watching Isaac as his mom started her new job today, finally, after several weeks of paperwork and orientations. She was at work by six and it was my hope that he would sleep long enough that I could get my final book chapter written for the new book before he woke up as well as finish this blog entry. So far, so good.

HA! I hear him now. ;-)

More later...

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Exhaustion and Anxiety

Yesterday when I was at the adoption picnic that gave me laughter and reversed my cranky self, I was interrupted by texts from Bart that he could not find his Ipad. I listed the suspects and he said that he had asked all of them and none of them knew where it was. I agreed to come home and interrogate because 95% of the time I can get the thief to confess and return items they have stolen.

I came home and did my very best, using all of my interrogation techniques. I was on the verge of calling the police when I asked Bart again if he had asked everyone. It was then that I found out that he had asked everyone BUT Sadie who was at work. I told Bart we needed to wait and ask her before I kept going with my torturous interrogation.

She knew where it was. She had found it lying outside our bedroom last night and taken it to her room and left it there. It was a huge relief but after hours of not knowing we were anxious and exhausted.

Phrases and thoughts run through our minds and sometimes come out of our months. Things like "I'm not sure how much longer I can live like this." Bart's expensive pen was taken a couple weeks ago and my old laptop has been missing since May, so there are two unsolved mysteries. A third, when it is something that Bart uses multiple times a day, was pushing him over the edge.

We sat immobilized for several hours as we tried to solve the mystery. Every fifteen to twenty minutes I'd think of a new interrogation tactic and head out to one of the three main item-takers in our home and go through it all again.

I don't think that most people know what it is like to live under the stress of being stolen from year after year. I was thinking about it last night and I have lived with this kind of stress for 13.5 years. It produces a great deal of underlying stress.

We have a lock on my office door and a lock on my bedroom door. We are very careful with where we put our money. Some of our kids who stole repeatedly no longer live here as they are adults and have had their last chance three or four times.

Residential treatment didn't help with the two who are now adults and can't live here. It kept everyone here safe and it made our lives less stressful, but it didn't help them. We are determined to do all we can to keep our younger kids with us at home so that they don't end up doing the same things their older siblings did and then blame us for the journey they've had. But sometimes it is really really hard to live here.

Today is a new day. But it's Sunday so I have had to be cursed at multiple times by the one child who actually was awake when he was supposed to be. Now I need to go wake up the rest.

I feel better today. That particular cloud is lifted and things are looking up once again. And if you are wondering if this post is supposed to discourage people from adopting, it certainly is not.

90% of the time I love my life. I wouldn't trade my kids for anything. I am a better person because I have done this.

But there are days.....

Saturday, August 27, 2011

You Know You're Cranky When...

you mutter to yourself all the way through your shower about how stupid it is that we all have to shower and get dressed every morning and getting frustrated with Adam and Eve for their stupid choice that brought us to this state and and and....

Woke up cranky -- not really a reason per se -- things are fine here -- but just cranky. Hopefully my day is going to get better but I'm spending it with Kari at an adoption picnic and when I called her to decide when we're leaving she was cranky too. Of course if you read her blog post today she sound all perky. Hmmm. Maybe her mood changed? Or maybe I'm the only one "fortunate" enough to see what she's REALLY like. (Oh my am I in trouble now... but she knows I'm kidding.)

I have to get my haircut first and go to the grocery store, two things I had to do with a passion.

I realized today that every single minute of my life I am trying to save time. I realized this when I saw two bottles in the shower and one of them I knew was shampoo but a cheap nasty kind and another bottle that I had not seen before (this happens if Bart happens to be buying those kinds of supplies). So I made the quick decision that while that could be shampoo, it might also be body wash, and if I picked it up to check I would be wasting that three seconds of time, so I grabbed the sure thing shampoo just so I wouldn't waste time.

And you people thought I was sane.....

Friday, August 26, 2011

It's All How you Frame It

This morning I was working on the next book called "Okay, Which One of You Took My Sanity?
A Fun Guide to Foster, Adoptive, and Other Kinds of Parenting"
that I'm writing with Matt Hoffman author of Hattie's Advocate: Adopting a Family through Foster Care. I was writing the a chapter about finding a moment of joy each day and realized that many of the stories I tell could lead people not to laughter and joy, but to dismay, heartache, frustration, disappointment, and anger. But to me the stories are simply funny, because it's all how you frame it.

This summer several of our kids have taken afternoon naps and it has frustrated me. I know that teenagers need a lot of sleep but to see them dosing when I have so much to do troubles me. However, I was thinking about how I was framing that and I realized something really important. This is the first summer that anyone COULD nap in our home. Previous summers there has been so much chaos and conflict that there was no way anyone could rest around here during the day.

The other neat part of this is that because they can.... I can. I have found that if I have about a 20-40 minute nap after lunch I can make it through the day with more energy -- even if I get up at 5 or 5:30 to go to the Y.

So if something is annoying you -- try to find a way to reframe it. It's brightening my day for sure.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Some Quick Updates and a couple Jimmy Stories from the Weekend

Snippets from our lives:

Mike may have lost his job. However, the employer said that he could come back to work when he gets out of jail. He gets out on Saturday last I heard.

John lost his job. He worked for five days and then lost his temper. He blamed his ex-girlfriend (at least the last I heard) at first saying that their argument the night before distracted him and so it was her fault. He has since recanted and apologized, but he is out of a job. Again.

Jimmy's work date has been postponed now for two weeks. Hopefully he will be starting soon.

Sadie seems to have returned to us after a couple months of super rebellion and is now settling down, working fairly steadily though only part time, and making better choices.

OK, now for some Jimmy stories:

This weekend Jimmy asked me "why is it called the Quad Cities." I said, "I am going to help you figure this out. The word quad comes from the same word as the word quarter. How many quarters are in a football game? "four?" he asked. "Right! So if quad and quarter come from teh same word, how many cities do you think make up the Quad Cities?"

He responded, "Eight?" Seriously, he really did. I just looked at Leon and we both smiled.

I must post this picture so that you can see why... but our friend Danielle's little boy is named Joel, but after seeing him with his shirt off and observing how he always looks so serious, I started calling him Buddha.

Later, Jimmy was talking about him and started chanting "Buddhist attack, buddhist attack!" I chose not to explain that that is kind of an oxymoron because Buddhists are pacifist because this conversation followed the Quad Cities being made up of eight cities and I just didn't think he would get it.

DISCLAIMER: In case you think I'm being disrespectful of Jimmy in sharing this, you'd have to meet him. He has told me many times that if stories about him make you laugh I should always tell you. In fact, the whole weekend he kept bringing up his most humiliating moments and begging me to tell our friends about them. So go ahead, have a laugh on Jimmy. It's what he wants. :-)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

It's 3:45 and this is what has happened so far today:

Sadie had eye appointment that took forever.

I had a 2 hour meeting.

Bart bought a car. Rand is buying the one we have been driving.

Bart took Rand to work.

Sadie bart and I had lunch.

Dominyk got arrested for shop lifting. I met with store staff and police.

Tony is with his PCA thus he is not getting arrested. Which is why Dominyk should still have a PCA, but I digress into political issues and I try not to mess in them.

Sadie went shopping and spent $35. That took 3 hours. She has a long ways to go to finish.

Leon had football practice

Wilson got picked up at friends where he spent the night.

Ricardo went to soccer practice.

Bart took Wilson to oral surgery appointment -- a pre-visit to get wisdom teeth removed. Leon went to a friends.

Still ahead: Leon and Wilson have a football event, Ricardo must be retrieved from soccer and a few of the kids need to go to youth group at 7. Rand will need his last ride home from work as he will be a car owner and be able to take himself where he needs to go.

I am now sitting at my incredibly messy desk. None of the before-school paperwork has been completed.

So, did anybody ask "What are you guys up to?"


If you want something meaningful to read you should check out Kari's blog about our kind of kids and school. It is very eye-opening.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Photos of the Weekend as Promised

Zero Kids Waiting August 2011

This is a Minnesota publication - but there is good stuff for everyone.


Returning to a ton of work but really glad I took a break. We had so much fun together this past weekend reconnecting with friends. I realized that sometimes we end up spending more time with people when they live far away than if they are close by.

Yesterday on our way home Jimmy said, "I wish we lived closer to Ben and Faith so we could see them all the time." And I told him, well, you know what? If we pick some friends in Mankato and add all the time that we spend talking to them for a year, we might not have as much time as we just did being with Ben and Faith for two full days.

Relationships involve intentionality. If we let life happen to us the important gets sacrificed on the altar of the immediate and life crowds in. Even when it comes to authentic conversation with spouse or kids, unless we plan times for it, it isn't going to happen as much as if we do.

I'm challenged by the fact that this coming week I don't have any authentic conversation scheduled. I have appointments, work related and family related. I even have my new Monvee spiritual direction plan imported into ICal. But I don't have any time scheduled to connect with anyone. Guess I should do that, huh?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Some Fun Now... oh yeah ain't we havin' some fun now...

Anybody know where that song comes from? Just wondering...

We've had such a great day.... Church in English, a break between where I talked to a family who is adopting from Haiti, church in Spanish, China buffet for lunch, a trip to the fire station to see the stuff (one of Ben and Faith's son-in-law, Jamie, is a paramedic and firefighter) and then swimming and grilled chicken at Virginia's backyard swimming pool.

Really good day! We leave to come home tomorrow and then I'll post pictures over the next couple days...

Really great people. Really fun times. Wonderful God. So blessed!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Here, Safe, and Tired

We arrived last night about four and hit the ground running as far as conversation goes. Both Ben and Faith have been very good friends of mine for 19 years and even though we have only seen each other periodically, we don't waste any time having very good, very intense conversations about important stuff. We bypass shallow immediately. So we had good talks, good food, headed out for ice cream, and then headed for bed.

This morning Faith and I started with a two hour conversation ... then breakfast -- and then the boys and I headed for lunch with my friend Eric and his family. He is the missions pastor and they are starting and orphan and adoption ministry, so he wanted to pick my brain about it and plan for me to come out for their kickoff in November. The boys were so well behaved but they have endured a lot of boring conversations -- boring in their opinion of course.

This afternoon Ben and Faith's daughter Danielle and her husband and kids came by. Danielle's husband is really intense and he and I had quite involved conversations as well.... leading to supper and then some more visiting when Virginia, another one of their daughters and her husband and two kids came over. They just left and I am exhausted.

I love authentic conversation. But I'm used to having an hour or two a week -- and I've ahd about 10 hours in the last 28. I need to to to bed early.

But Bart is having a decent enough time at home and I'm enjoying my time away.... so it's all good....

Friday, August 19, 2011


I'm leaving in a few minutes with Leon, Wilson and Jimmy to head to see some very good friends in Illinois.... These friends as a matter of fact.

I'm excited to get away. I haven't been away from Dominyk much at all this summer and he has been without a PCA. His behavior has been better, but last night, wow what a melt down.

I'm looking forward to some time with compliant kids... and even though Jimmy is the one who knocked me to the floor the other night, he is usually very compliant.

I have been working on developing my Core Values as a person and one of them I wrote down on Monday is to love intensely and to forgive freely and quickly, never holding a grudge. I'm trying to practice that with Jimmy.

So we are off. Hopefully I'll remember my camera so I can take some more great pictures of my wonderful friends.

Should you be saying bon voyage if I'm leaving in a Toyota to drive through Iowa?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Where was The Wood....

So I say the other day to a couple people what a good summer we've been having and how things are going so well.... and since then, I've been knocked to the floor with bruises to prove it by one kid, and have two who have had such severe meltdowns tonight that property has been damaged and one kid punched a wall and is bleeding.

I shoulda knocked on wood.

I've been gone all day and now am getting ready to leave for the weekend....

Next time I tell you things are going better than ever remind me that that is a dangerous thing to say!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Where's Claudia?

Out connecting ... that's where. Wow, yesterday I just connected myself to death -- but it was super fun. Doesn't leave much time for blogging.

Things here are going fairly well ... not much to report.

My email is still being annoying and I'm behind with that. Been getting some important work stuff done.. .kinda swamped really.

Need to let blogging edge up my line of important things....

Monday, August 15, 2011

The What Ifs....

I realized when listening to a sermon on my Ipod this morning while on the treadmill that one of the ways that I have survived the last several years is that I refuse to let my mind head toward the "what ifs" of the futures of my children. Can you imagine the list of things I would have to worry about if I decided that worry was going to be a part of my mental agenda? It would be endless.

The pastor encouraged his audience to focus not on the What Ifs but on the What Is. And for me the What Is is that God is Faithful.... 100%. He always has been, always will be.

So that's my thought for you today - not sure which of you needed to hear it, but I'm betting somebody did.

Spend your day focusing not on the what ifs but the positive What Is in your life...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

And the Routine is Back....

So after a three month sabbatical on my husband's part, which equaled a three month break from our local congregation for me as well, AND a three month break from the routine of our Sunday mornings, today we're back to the basics. Here i am blogging after waking everyone up and waiting for them to get up and get themselves ready for church.... oh yeah, and argue with me.

We had a wonderful night last night over at our friends the Coffees. Courtney and Isaac came, Salinda and Gabby were here for a day and a night and they were there, and the weather was perfect to be outside. The food was delicious, the conversation fun. Then our family all came back to watch Soul Surfer.

The addition to our lives of grandchildren makes family outings so much more fun. Much to our chagrin, Gabby has learned (not from us) to say , "Oh My God!" And unfortunately, the way she says it is so cute that everyone can't help but crack up each time she says it, reinforcing her behavior. It's beyond hilarious because she does it over and over again with the same emotional intensity that is a combination of surprise, shock, glee, and disdain all wrapped into one. Next time she comes I'm going to have to record it for you.

There is something almost magical about watching generations connect... to see these babies growing up with so much nurture and connection. It does something inside me that nothing else ever has. Maybe this is the point of adoptive parents -- to give the next generation a better start, even if the generation we adopt doesn't quite do things the way we had hoped.

Obviously, I didn't get this done before church, but we're home now. I wanted to wait until I could get these pictures uploaded. The one is of Gabby right after she uttered "OMG!" and as you can see, it sure tickled Wilson!

Saturday, August 13, 2011


I like Saturday mornings. I go to my desk and tell myself I get to do whatever I want. Today, whatever I want happened to be the FAFSA for Rand to get back to school. We just found out this week after he had been saving to pay for a class that Financial Aid Probation didn't mean what we thought it did a couple years ago. So now he is eligible. He is going to only take two classes this term though and get his feet wet before he tackles more. I think going slowly is his best bet.

Meanwhile, he found out yesterday that he was hired for a permanent position at Lowes. He had been working in a Seasonal position and his hours were getting cut more and more. But he now applied for and got what appears to be a full time and permanent job and he actually enjoys it.

He is very frugal, seldom spending anything and saving everything. He pays us a third of his income for rent and then he does a few chores in exchange for room and board. His next steps are to finish school while working and saving money for a vehicle. Once he graduates from college we will transition him into his own place if that is his desire. I'm in no hurry now to do so -- if we have 7 kids at home, who cares if we have 8 and he is nearly always helpful and causes little trouble, always obeying the rules.

He will turn 23 this week. Maybe his exit out of our home isn't as speedy as some kids is, but he is doing well... and considering the challenges he has faced his whole life, he's doing VERY well....

Now I'm heading for a less pleasant experience of trying to get Dominyk to get his room cleaned up.... FAFSA, though annoying, was a dream job compared to that!

Friday, August 12, 2011


Maybe everyone is like this and it's not just me but I totally and completely love my life and all the parts of it. It's just that I love so many things I can't fit them all in! I'm full of internal energy, especially on mornings that I work out, and I jam pack my days with as much as I can until I am nearly comatose with exhaustion by the time supper is over at night. My mind is in high gear all the time and I literally love everything I do.

In fact I always have a zillion ideas of other things I want to be doing that I can't fit in and so I have to say no to myself.

I had an important work document that needed to be done ASAP so I refused to allow myself to be distracted by emails, or facebook connections, or blogs or blogging, or recording my exercise in my No Excuses Workout System, or open up my Monvee to find out what my spiritual growth path was asking me to do, or read my YouVersion daily devotional. And that is just a few of the things I said no to in order to get it done.

Now I have a list of all kinds of wonderful options of things to do but only have a limited number of hours before this day, like all the others, will be over.

OK.... moving on to the next thing. ;-)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ignoring the Audience and yet not ignoring the audience...

Writing a blog is a tricky thing. I started writing mine simply to vent some of my frustrations with life in my world of adoption and I tried not to think about who might be reading it. But with Site Meter, you can't really help but look and see you know?

But as I have "grown up" my blog has changed some too. It is more "Christian" that it used to be because I stopped worrying about annoying non-Christians. It is more bold sometimes because I stopped worrying about annoying people in the system. However it is less intense at times because I don't want to hurt the feelings of others. And I share less about my adult children because they are connected to so many more people now.

I have considered taking it down and creating a new one many times simply because I'm supposed to be marketing my books somehow and I am not sure this blog has helped much with that. I'm too unprofessional, too personal, not at all polished, etc. But here it sits (just like all the books in Bart's closet in our bedroom).

I have concluded that I am simply not going to think about who I am writing to and I'm going to continue to share about my journey. An online journal that I let whoever wants to read.... it's become a habit and a part of who I am and if my readership goes up or down, it's still just going to be that for me. The feedback I get, if it is encouraging, is wonderful, and the negative stuff I just let roll off my back.

But now for a family update for those of you who think "geez, her blog is all about her -- she's always talking abou herself" (duh). :-)

We are at an all time high in regards to "success" around here. Let's go down the list: Kyle got rehired for his teaching job in the fall and he and Christy are doing well. She has been working at a day care and so she is employed, yet still hoping for a teaching job. Rand is still employed at Lowe's and we just registered him to take a couple college classes. Mike is in jail, but is working through the work release program and is applying to go to college. John got a job and starts Monday! and his girlfriend also got a job and is supposed to start this weekend. We are going to help babysit the cutest baby in the world. Salinda's boyfriend, Henry, has a very good job working with his step dad in carpentry or something like that, and Salinda is devoting herself to Gabby. After hearing Bruce Perry talk about the importance of attention and communication at that age, it is amazing to see how well Salinda is doing in raising her. She is really turning into quite a fun little girl and I overhear Salinda having constant positive conversations with her. Salinda is a very good mom and while I don't agree with everything that she is doing, I do support her decision to spend as much time with Gabby as she can at this point instead of working.

Paragraph break simply because the last one was too long.

Jimmy is supposed to be starting work in the next week or so at the MSU campus in their cafeteria, a perfect job for him. And Sadie is getting more hours than ever at Dunn Brothers. Leon is applying for a job.... and the other kids are actually doing better behavior wise than they have ever.

So... there is definitely success going on.

And me? I'm actually very excited about my spiritual life right now which hasn't happened in quite a long time. I came across the Monvee plan for spiritual growth and it has been awesome. It costs $20 to get the intro packet, but after you read some stuff and watch a video you can take an online assessment that is very accurate in my case. It then shows your learning style, your pathway to spiritual growth, and your personality and temperment. Does it surprise you that I am most like Sampson? I'm not sure that there are many female Sampsons out there but maybe that is why I've had such a struggle in the past with some of the resources that are out there.

All that to say this: I now have a road map with things each day that I can do to grow spiritually and it is all connected online and on my Iphone app. And it is things I LIKE to do -- not the things I've been told all my life I SHOULD do. In addition, I have signed up for YouVersion, an online bible study community and am reading their 21-day Spiritual reading plan for harried (not hairy, tyvm) women. If you sign up for it, let me know and we can connect on there. It has kind of a community "face-bookish" feel where we can actually see what notes people are making as they read the Bible.

All that stuff, in addition to going to the Y, keeps me on top of things instead of feeling like I am buried by my choices to raise all these tough kids. I remain determined to, without the assistance of psychiatric medications, remain upbeat and positive as much as I possibly can as I live out this journey.

Today I'm heading to do a home visit and spend some time in my office. One of the exercises on my Roadmap for Spiritual Growth is "Karaoke for One" and I'm going to love doing that -- cranking the tunes and singing my heart out where nobody can hear me in the car....

So there you have my brain dump for today. Always looking ahead, always hopefully, always adjusting this and that to try and do better and be better, and, when I find myself at the bottom emotionally I simply remind myself that every. single. day. is a brand new one, a new opportunity for me to be a better me -- the me I was meant to be.

End of sermon.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

HURRY UP Frontal Lobes!

I really need to remember that the frontal lobe of the brain does not fully develop until age 25. When we were in Denver we attended a seminar and the presenter asked, "How many of you have a kid between the ages of 15 and 17? She was pointing out what a difficult age that is. And we have FIVE that age. AAAAAAH.

I cannot understand why they do what they do. Four of the six kids we have under 18 are our "easy" kids, but I just don't get it. They make such dumb choices and the reasons they come up for for why they do things are so ... well, for lack of a better word .. STUPID that it makes me shudder to hear them.

I'm not talking about brains that are clouded with FASD or mental illness. Just teenage brains. And teenage girl brains... somehow even more foggy than the boys.

ANd yet I keep trying to reason with them, to figure it out, to modify their thinking and my head is so sore from beating it against brick ALL DAY LONG.

Is there another option other than just waiting until they grow up? Is there a way to push them towards faster frontal lobe development? If so, I need to do it!!!!

Tuesday, August 09, 2011


Yesterday was a crazy day -- sorry I didn't blog. I got up early, took Sadie with me to pick up Tony and later Salinda and Gabby, came home, rested a bit (didn't sleep much Sunday night) and then worked through the evening. Had a nasty argument with Sadie that was way too reminiscent of some of the arguments Salinda and I used to have.

One of the things that I am realizing a real need for in my life is authentic real life connections with people. My support network is very good and very strong, but it is quite small and I would like to increase it by building more relationships. There are plenty of people out there that I like and enjoy -- so I want to hang out with them more!

Last night we changed plans and made dinner about connections. John and Courtney had come to the park with Isaac to see Salinda and Gabby and we need to not have John back in our home so Bart was feeling sad we were missing out on seeing them. So we changed plans at the last minute and invited them to join us for pizza. It was really fun seeing the cousins interact and being with the kids. It's all about connections, relationships, stories, dialoguing.

Bart and I are reading a book together. It's the memoir of Eugene Peterson, who wrote The Message and is simply called Pastor. In it he talks about communities and/or congregations being places where people share their story -- which becomes a corporate story -- that then allows all of us to share the Jesus story. I like that and am hoping to incorporate the idea of stories and connections into our family life and our church life over the months to come.

Sunday, August 07, 2011


In case you didn't know, my BFF is blogging again. Yay Kari!

What is NACAC? The Resurgence of Hope

For the past several years I have written a blog post called “What is NACAC?” during or after the national conference. I am always inspired by the conference, some years more than others, but that has nothing to do with the quality of the conference and often more to do with the mental or emotional state I am in when I attend it. In 2010 from Hartford, Connecticut, I talked about NACAC providing perspective. In 2009, I used the word connection to talk about my experience in Columbus. In 2007, I wrote How's NACAC, year three, from Tampa. How's NACAC in 2006 came from Long Beach, CA. And my first blog post in 2005, from Pittsburg, in a post that actually was quoted in NACAC publications, I answered the question for in my blog "What's NACAC?"

So now, I offer you the 2011 version of How's NACAC from the city of Denver, Colorado:

This year I realized that NACAC is the resurgence of hope. Having shifted my primary role at the conference to an unknown part of the masses to a person who is up front for at least one seminar, I am now looking into the faces of many people who are at the conference for the first time, just as I was several years ago. And it is there that I see the dynamic at place - the hope that may have been long buried coming back to life.

I see hope being reborn in the eyes of parents who are tired and discouraged. They headed into the journey of foster care and adoption with the best of intentions, excited about making a difference in the life of a child. But somewhere along the way things have not gone as planned. The children aren’t changing, but the parents are. The children seem to be getting worse and not better, and the parents, in response to that, are losing their hope and their joy.

And then NACAC happens to them. They meet other adoptive parents and connect with them on a deeper level than they dreamed possible. They hear stories of those who have gone before them who are now raising grandchildren and find out that it is possible to live a fulfilling life amidst the stress and strains of raising children with mental illness, organic brain damage because of exposure to drugs and alcohol in utero, brain trauma issues, and attachment disorders. They hear a speaker who says one sentence and a light bulb goes on in their head and they internally exclaim, “She’s talking about my kid!”. They have demonstrates to them a new technique that they are sure will make a difference in their son or daughter. They buy a book by the keynote speaker and as they read through chapter one they are convinced that they will be able to apply the principles they are reading to their own live.s

I see hope being reborn in the eyes of professionals who have all but given up and started to look for an new career. They see the system around them and are afraid that they will never be able to change it. They have come to the conference wondering if they can make it another day in their jobs, completely discouraged.

And then NACAC happens to them. They connect with another person who has had the same job they have had for thirty years and they get solid helpful answers to the question, “How have you survived that long?” They sit in a session where a new approach to their job makes complete sense and they suddenly find themselves taking notes furiously, knowing that if they make a few changes here and there they will find themselves more fulfilled. They hear a passionate adult adoptee explain to the crowd how their life was changed because a social worker or a mental health professional finally understood them for the first time. And they rub shoulders with many others who remain committed to the task, though it is a difficult one, and come back convinced that they can hang in there.

I see hope being reborn in my own heart. I came to NACAC weary after a summer of unrest and frustration in regards to the negativity in the world of adoptive parenting. I was wondering about the usefulness of my blog, about what was happening to some of the people whose blogs I have read in the past, and scared at the trend of disruption, depression, disillusionment and destruction that has overtaken so many adoptive parents.

And then NACAC happened to me. I walked through the halls and grabbed quick hugs from some of the best and brightest in my field. I saw the smiling faces of fellow adoptive parents who have heard me speak at other conferences and who came up to tell me how much it made a difference in my own life. I connected with coworkers whose skill and passion always inspires me. And sitting amidst the camaraderie of those who daily fight the same battles I do -- the child welfare system in America and/or the battle to change myself, not my children, I recognize that we CAN remain positive and even victorious when living through difficult times. I know, deep within myself, that my passion can remain strong and that I will not only survive but thrive as an adoptive parent in the midst of it all. And I believe more than ever before, that my children are better of having been adopted and that some day they will arrive at a place where they are comfortable in their own skin and better versions of their former selves.

So what is NACAC? To me NACAC is the resurgence of hope. It is a place where parents and professionals alike can gather to once again remind ourselves of our purpose and passion: to help children heal by finding them permanency in a loving family. And so year after year we make the trek to the chosen city to have those brief few days when we can be hugged by, spoken to, listened to, encouraged by, and loved on by those whose hope is being renewed so that we can head back for another year of life in the trenches -- trenches in which we now are assured we can live in with strength, dignity, and most of all hope, regardless how difficult our situation.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Upcoming Trainings in Minnesota

Several trainings can be found by clicking here. Some of them are webinars and can be attended by anyone in the world it appears, so you don't have to be from Minnesota!

Another Unventful Day of Travel

We arrived yesterday afternoon and had a wonderful meal out with my "boss" at Adopt America. Today we will head over to the conference to register and hear Bruce Perry. It will be fun to hook up with some of my friends and to enjoy the atmosphere of NACAC. Tonight we have plans with some good friends from college and I'm looking forward to that for sure.

WE have not heard a word from home which means that things are either going really well or not going well at all. I guess we'll find out soon enough!

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Words to Live By

In light of some of the negative blogging situations that are going on among adoptive parents, my online friend Lisa wrote this post. It's well worth reading.

Check this out one more time if you live out east...

A Blissfully Uneventful Day

We are in Grand Island, Nebraska and our day has been blissfully uneventful. We got what we needed to get done and were out of town by 9:15. We drove all day and are now at a brand new hotel that even says Now Open on the front. We may very well be the first people to say in this perfectly new room.

Jimmy is great to travel with and Bart and I have had several great conversations....

Yesterday Sadie and I and Leon and I each had very productive conversations as well.

I'm quite tired for having done pretty much nothing but sit in a car all day, but it's great to be here in a quiet spot.... Bart and Jimmy are out exploring Grand Island.... I have opted to work. ;-)

Ah the silence....

My Bags Aren't Packed and I'm Not Ready to Go

But I'm standing here in your computer for just a minute or two to stay we're heading for NACAC today. WE will drive two days and make it more relaxing. We are heading to spend the night in Nebraska and Jimmy is wondering if it is safe to walk outside there. We told him Nebraska's a pretty safe place.

Anyone else going to NACAC?

Monday, August 01, 2011

MARN'S August Webinar: Helping Adopted & Foster Youth Transition to Adult Living: A Parent’s Perspective

MN ADOPT Announces August Webinar!

Helping Adopted & Foster Youth Transition to Adult Living: A Parent’s Perspective
with Terssa Markworth, adoptive mother of 17 and bio-mother to four

Transitions are often difficult, especially for young teens moving into adulthood. Teenagers need time to gradually learn and practice adult life skills, such as finding a job, managing finances, applying to college and forming close relationships with others and the community. Some adopted and fostered teens need extra time, attention and encouragement from a support system.

Join MN ADOPT and Terssa Markworth, adoptive mother of 17 and bio-mother to four, as she offers suggestions to help your teen become confident with their own situation and abilities. Terssa shares how she and her husband continue to guide their adopted children into adulthood, while understanding the unique challenges adopted and foster children have faced from multiple placements, transitions and attachment delays.

Terssa Markworth and her husband of 25 years have adopted waiting children from Minnesota, Missouri, Iowa and South Korea. She is currently completing her Masters of Communication Studies at the University of South Dakota Vermillion. Terssa enjoys speaking to civic groups, churches and professionals about how adoption has framed her family of 21 children.

WHEN: Wednesday, August 31, 2011
TIME: 12:00 PM to 1:30 PM (CDT)
ONLINE: All you need is a computer with internet access and a telephone
FEE: $15.00 webinar only; $25 webinar + CD
REGISTER: To register, go here
CEUS: CEUs are now available for an additional $30 per person; Certificates of Attendance are given at the end of the training.
CDS: CDs are sold separately for $15.00 each; please go to

QUESTIONS: Contact Janet Hammer at 612-746-5125 or or Anne Johnson at 612-746-5122 or

Spooning and Farting

Please do not read this if you don't want to. The title should warn you.

I sent the good part of 2 full days in the car with 4 or 5 boys ages 12-19. They passed a lot of gas. A ton. And every time one of them did, the others were forced to breath in deeply to detect how smelly it was and then to give their comments, along with many many giggles. On Saturday night, after a full day of this, we all got settled in to bed. Three completely quiet moments passed when suddenly, the boy's mother said, "uh oh" very quietly and then was able to produce the LOUDEST one of the day. Yes, I just wrote that. No, you don't have to tell Bart because he doesn't read my blog any more and so he won't ever find out if you don't tell them.

I also had the privilege of sleeping with Wilson in what he called a "2 star" bed. (We use priceline and in big cities Bart gets us great deals in 4 star hotels. In smaller towns you can't. Did I already tell you this? Anyway, 2 star hotels, according to Wilson, have 2 star beds.)

The 2 star bed tended to sink in the middle and Wilson reported that his choice was to slip into the middle and actually let his 70 pound body touch mine or hang on to dear life to the edge of the bed. He's 12 and a half now and so touching me is never something he wants to do. So I particularly enjoyed my night of cuddling. Bart says I shouldn't call it spooning -- so don't tell him I said that either, OK?

Anyway, we survived the weekend, I got to cuddle with the cutest 12 year old in the world, and I lived to tell about it!

Turn Around Day

Bart is home. YAY! Tony is at Bart's Mom's. Double YAY! I'm not sure who needed a break more -- me from him or him from me. When he gets anxious and agitated he is a piece of work and the combination of that and my stress this weekend was like throwing gas on a fire. I admit my part in it and I am relieved that I have some time to regroup. He is by far the most difficult kid we have raised and we got him at 20 months with nothing in case history to indicate that he would be THAT challenging. He had blonde hair and blue eyes and was incredibly charming and cute. Anyone would have believed they had won the lottery to be able to adopt him.

And we have.... I'm certainly not saying that I don't love him or that he hasn't given me some really wonderful gifts -- but let's just say when you win the lottery sometimes you have to pay a LOT of taxes ;-). When I say "Older doesn't mean better it just means longer" that isn't necessarily negative. It's just to say that if a child has several diagnosis and you start parenting them at the age of two or three -- that you're going to be dealing with stuff a LOT longer than if you get them at 13 or 14, plus, you know what you're getting. But it's not like that's a new statement for me to make, eh?

So yesterday we headed to church at Park Avenue in Minneapolis and I love to worship there. They are multicultural -- and the service in the summer is bilingual -- so I get very excited about being there. If we were living in the Twin Cities and Bart was not a pastor, I am certain we would make that our choice. If you are a transracially adopted family and are looking for a church where all your kids would fit in -- and you would as well -- check it out. (And no, I was not paid to advertise).

We then headed for a quick lunch and then saw movies, which was about all I could come up with for a very hot afternoon when I was emotionally exhausted. We then went over to spend time with my friend Tia and her daughters. Tia was in my wedding and I have known her for 17 years .... and in January I had the privilege of being part of her pre-adoption training. Yesterday I met her new 14 year old daughter and it's a wonderful match! I'm so excited for her.

After a quick visit and some pizza, we headed over to pick up Bart from the airport. When we got home Sadie and Leon had a zillion things to tell us about the missions trip and we had a really good conversation with both of them.... uninterrupted by Dominyk which is quite unusual. He had been really obnoxious most of the weekend, so I needed a break and for once he respected my wishes.

Today it's time to unpack and pack because we are heading to NACAC, driving, tomorrow. I'm speaking Saturday, and even though it doesn't give me goosebumps like it does my now unlinkable and non-blogging friend, Kari, I am excited to hear Bruce Perry. We also will get to spend some time with friends. Jimmy is coming along as his graduation trip and hopefully we'll connect with my brother....

So lots going on this week. I'll try to keep blogging!