Getting used to our new normal

It’s been a while since I last posted anything here.  Sorry about that.  We’ve had some job changes and life has gotten a little crazy.

The good news is that I am working in a school library again and I love it!  The kids at this high school are so great and the staff is amazing.  I finally found a great place to work.

So lately, the subject of Reactive Attachment Disorder has reared it’s ugly head at home.  AD is not attaching to the family and it bothered me.  A lot. I couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t treat me like a mom.  She would challenge my mothering skills like I’ve never seen before.  She didn’t care anything about me and it hurt badly.  I thought that since she wanted a family and we stepped up to the plate, it would be a slam dunk.  Yeah, no.

She has RAD, ADHD and PTSD- all stemming from her terrible past.  Her bio mom did not let her “attach” which means that as a baby, her mother did not pick her up when she cried, didn’t feed her and essentially abandoned her.  There are many holes to the story, but we’re trying to piece it together to understand it better.  Now that she has a mom, there is no real attachment to me.

She prefers my husband over me for everything.  He thinks I’m being too sensitive but she doesn’t talk to me, ask for advice, or do what I ask her to do.  She is overly friendly with strangers and it’s fake emotionally.  I’m learning that she cannot do anything emotional towards me because her mother did not show her love and affection, and subconsciously she resents me and treats me as such.  But I also know that she does it unintentionally and she just can’t show compassion or attachment.

She is socially and emotionally immature.  She will be going to high school in the fall and she is definitely not ready for it.  She still can’t take a shower correctly, tell time or speak clearly.  Even though she’s been taught by us for almost 3 years now.  It’s incredibly frustrating that she makes the same dumb mistakes over and over. She is irresponsible and has a terrible time remembering anything, at least she claims when it’s convenient for her.  She has to stay on a strict schedule or she cannot handle it.  She gives us the “deer in the headlights” look when we ask her to be flexible on anything.

I am desperately afraid for her future.  I cannot see her as an adult even though she is a few short years away from it.  I know we’ve only had her for 2 years as ours, 3 years in our house so not enough time has passed for any real change to occur. She is in therapy and her therapist is using EMDR therapy on her to help her deal with the pain in the past and allow her brain to learn new things.  So far, her brain has been in survival mode, incapable of learning anything social or emotional, or how to attach to a family that loves her.

I have been reading a lot on the RAD diagnosis and there is so much more to learn.  It explains quite a bit of what she is dealing with and how we can help her to grow up and become a successful adult.  Talking to her as I do our other daughter in a logical manner will not help her at all.  Much to my chagrin, everything I’ve done so far hasn’t worked.

The Institute for Attachment and Child Development has been very useful in learning on how to not let her actions affect me personally.  You can check it out here:  http://instituteforattachment.org/

I pray things get better before she hits the terrible teenager moods and actions.  This is going to be a long process.  But, I’m learning.

An Adoption Date!

We finally received our adoption date: August 17th.  I can’t wait to have this part of the process done.  The endless appointments, strangers coming into your house to make sure you are doing everything right, the waiting for documents to be signed and turned into court, etc. etc.  We’re just ready to be a family and have DCFS leave us alone.

AD is doing great.  She seems to be more excited now that we have a date.  It’s funny, she doesn’t speak her mind very often, but when she put on Instagram that she is going to be a Stehle soon to her cousins, she said that she wouldn’t have to worry about her life anymore.  I love that!  I wish she would have been able to tell us verbally, but at least we know what she’s thinking and feeling.  I always wonder what she’s thinking and yet she doesn’t tell us.

There are still some social issues that she needs to overcome.  She hid under someone’s bed when she was feeling lonely and left out when she was visiting our son’s girlfriend.  She’s learning that this is not how to react, especially as a guest of someone in their house.  And, she needs to talk about how she’s feeling.  If she’s feeling lonely or left out, she needs to say something.  My other daughter was there too and she could have talked to her sister about it and she would have been able to help.

She still has a speech issue.  This is clearly from missing two years of school since she uses a lot of slang, leaving off the -ing on words, using the wrong tense, etc.  She is struggling in math because the two years she missed was when she was supposed to learn about decimals and fractions.  She is doing summer school to catch up.  But, I believe she will struggle throughout high school since it is such a leap between where she should be and where she is now.  We are making huge strides though and I am optimistic she will do well.  The trick is to convince her of that.

I find myself getting angry at her bio parents often.  Most of her issues are directly related to being abandoned by her mother at a very early age and neglected by her violent father after that.  Then, he simply stopped trying to get her back and never contested the severance of parental rights. At 13 years old, that has to be hard to understand why he would do that to her.  She tells us of stories with her dad and they are mostly happy stories.  Some stories are hard to listen to but she tells them so matter-of-factly that it doesn’t upset her anymore.  Some of the things that come up I just want to shout at these parents who did such a disservice to this girl that was not deserved or wanted.  And she is left picking up the pieces. Hopefully as our family gets to know her, she will feel our love and bloom.  I’m waiting for the real AD to shine through.

Hurry up and wait

The system is slow, so very slow.  I thought our Petition to Adopt was sent in weeks ago.  But just last night we received the court documents to sign.  We signed them and they are on their way back to the lawyer to submit to the court.  Then it could be another 90 days before our court date for adoption.  Did I say how slow the process was?

Life is getting a little better around here.  The kids are out of school for the summer and I get to stay home with them.  There are camps and vacations to go on and we are ready for fun.  There will be some summer school, just to keep AD engaged and not have an epic memory loss when school starts in August.

She is having trouble allowing us to be her family.  She wants a family, but still won’t talk to us about what’s going on with her and won’t ask for help when she needs it.  She is finally doing simple hygiene tasks without having to be reminded.  Her grades are not where we would like them, but for missing two years of school and skipping a grade for social reasons, she’s doing okay.

So now we just hurry up and wait.  Reminds me of boot camp 24 years ago.  We wait for documents to be submitted to the judge, we wait for the subsidy to start and we wait for our court date.  It’s been almost a year and we are ready to be done with the process.

This is my favorite place in the world.  I love looking at this picture and remember the serenity of Ireland.

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

This is not what I expected.

What's Meant To Be

I don’t know what I expected.  But there are so many things I didn’t think about.  Like teaching table manners.  To a 13 year old.  Showing her how to wash her hair and take a proper shower.  She had never been taught how to do it, she was just told that water was good enough.  That was a hard one to understand.  I couldn’t believe her parents hadn’t taught her the most basic of hygienic routines.  But then I stepped back to try to understand.

For two years, she lived in a car.  That means she probably curled up in the backseat, being quiet and trying to be out of the way as much as possible.  They probably pulled up to a gas station and her father told her to use water to wash up quickly using only water and then got back in the car again.  What a terrible life, especially in the heat of Arizona.

She saw a lot of violence while she lived in that car.  She was taken from her father’s car after he pulled a knife and held it to his girlfriend’s throat.  I can only wonder at what else she saw.  Even when she was little.  I just learned last week from her social worker that she has been a part of CPS from birth, for neglect.  Unbelievable.

She’s a very quiet girl and uses as few words as possible.  We are a highly verbal family, so this is a stark change to our norm.  We don’t understand why she won’t tell us when she needs something.  One day, she had a blister on the back of her heel and she put a piece of fabric on it and used a hair tie to keep it in place.  She never asked for a band aid. This girl can take care of herself when she needs to, even when she doesn’t need to anymore.

God brought us to this new adventure. i have no doubt about it. There are just too many things that brought us to this to convince me that they are not just coincidences. When God has a plan, He makes it to where nothing else matters but what He wants us to do.  That’s how I feel looking back on the time when we were trying to find out what her situation was and how to help her.  None of the thoughts on what I would have to teach her at 13 years old, things I haven’t thought about in 8 or 10 years when I taught our bio daughter how to shower, table manners, social interactions, just about everything, came to mind.  If they had, we might not have tried to help her.

I get angry at her for some of the things that she does, or doesn’t do, that I expect from a 13 year old.  I have to remember that she is functioning at a 9 year old mental capacity and I can’t judge her against my 12 year old bio daughter. I pray a lot for patience and to help me correct her the way Our Heavenly Father corrects us.  With love.

It’s so hard.  I’m not sure I’m up for this new adventure.  The only thing I know is that God is with us.  And He will get us through this.

Just when you think you know how life is going to go…

I met AD in March, just after I transferred from a high school library to an elementary school library.  Yes, for now, I will not be revealing her name, just using initials.

I was working in the library when I saw her.  She was taller than all of the other 4th graders and there was just something a little different about her.  So I started asking questions.

I found out that she was living in a group home, had been homeless, living in a car for two years prior to ending up in Arizona and was in 4th grade since no one knew what grade she was supposed to be in.  She was 12 years old.

I got to know AD, I talked to her about books since she seemed to like them, as do I.  She freely volunteered information about her life and her situation.  It didn’t paint a pretty picture.

My heart was heavy for her for the next few months, never leaving my thoughts.  I shared my feelings with my husband and children at home.  We were sympathetic to her situation but didn’t have a solution. Yet.

Then I went to church on Mother’s Day.  The sermon was on taking care of orphans and widows.  In the Bible, James 1:27 states, “the Christian who is pure and without fault, from God the Father’s point of view, is the one who takes care of orphans and widows, and who remains true to the Lord—not soiled and dirtied by his contacts with the world.” The Living Bible.  Then I felt God stirring something in my heart about AD.  And, in His way, she was constantly on my mind.  The church had a Foster Care/Adoption event that weekend where we could learn more.  My husband and I thought, “What could it hurt?  Let’s go find out what all of this means.”

Well, we went to the information meeting and the orientation and learned what we could do for AD.  I called CPS to inquire about her case and the caseworker called me first thing in the morning.  Much faster than what I had expected!  And so, the adventure began.