Addicted

As you more than likely know, we brought home a sibling group of four in the beginning of 2015. We went from a household of three to a household of seven overnight. To say we were overwhelmed would be an understatement. But one of the first things we noticed was our son’s addiction to video games. He (Chief) was a month shy of 11 when we got him.

Now when we were told about the kids from CYFD, one of the things we were told was that he had been diagnosed with a learning disorder and he liked to play video games. “Okay, no problem,” we thought. However, the extent of it was not told to us. For the sake of this post, I am going to focus on the video game addiction and how it intertwined deep into his brain and personality. Socially he was awkward and behind. He was and still is a quiet kid. But when he did anything, draw, play it all centered around video games. He only drew video game related characters and scenes. He pretended (more like thought) he was in a video game. Seriously, it was strange and at times scary. We’ve all heard the stories of foster kids killing their foster parents. Well, those fears weren’t too far from home or our mids. To engage him in normal conversation was very hard. He hadn’t had much practice at it.

For the sake of everyone’s sanity we didn’t pull the plug on the video games right away, even though it was obvious that not only our second oldest son had a problem, but so did the other two. Our youngest soon got too used to watching videos, albeit educational. We did go through the gaming devices that they came with and got rid of the questionable games, apps, etc. We started to limit the screen time as well.

We also noticed that when the kids would get off of their devices or stop watching anything they really struggled transitioning back into reality. They would remain in a fog state for some time. The longer the screen time, the longer the fog time. It changed their attitudes and behaviors, never for the better. Today, they are very rarely on the computer for anything, unless at school. Video games are a thing of the past. Movies are only occasionally on the agenda. T.V., well, we don’t have one and don’t watch it online either.

Chief had the hardest time with the restrictions. Honestly, gaming was all he knew. No matter where they lived growing up, how little money they had he was never without an XBox or gaming device. In foster care he was able to stay up very late playing video games, watching inappropriate things without any supervision. It was a means of escape for him. He hated when we’d limit screen time or actually take away his devices as a consequence. He had withdrawals. But it was okay.  Not easy, but okay. We knew it was for his best interest.

Like I said we didn’t go cold turkey with him or the other kids, and at first, we watched way more movies than we ever did with our oldest two. Seriously, the movies started out as a way for all of us to be able to sit in the same room without chaos. But today after a long and hard, but definitely not the hardest battle, he has changed SO much. His sketch pads are filling with everyday items, happier storylines, and he’s even made up his own characters. His imagination has soared. When he plays he plays how a “normal” kids should play. I can’t remember when we have seen him act out video games. He reads. He creates. Best of all he engages. You should see his smile. Chief has really matured and grown into a funny, sincere young man. He knows he was addicted. He still wants to play from time to time but even though he hasn’t said it I believe that he is grateful we took the stance we did and took away screens of all sorts. (You can read a bit about our stance on screen time here)

A side note on learning disabilities and screen time. They do not and should not go hand in hand. It only hinders brain development and growth. What kids with LDs need are hands-on experiences, outdoor fun, books, engagement from adults, real life. They need to be challenged to learn, not pacified. They need to see what they are capable of in the real world, not some fantasy digital world. Though he still has his academic struggles, he has made great gains. He is learning to use his brain in ways he never has. He has even stated that his brain would hurt in the early days with us.

I also want to state that Chief was not the only person in our house addicted to electronics. His was just the worst. Yet God used it to reflect and show us our own shortcomings and pitfalls where electronics were concerned. Isn’t it funny how God does that? Sometimes our children are the perfect mirror.

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Power of a Game

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There is so much meaning behind this photo.

You may just see two people playing chess.

I see a father and son finding something that helps them bond.

I see a young man who has a diagnosed learning disability, who once was addicted to video games, who didn’t know how to function outside of video games almost beat his dad, who is very good at chess.

I see how our son, The Chief, being an example to his siblings and starting a wave of chess playing in our home.

I see a young man who has studied the game, went over plays in his head, practiced and even made his own chess sets.

I see the power of a game.

19 Years Ago

19 years ago God blessed us with a son. During his birth, he got stuck. I stopped pushing and spoke in tongues then he greeted the world blue and in need of assistance. After 18 hours incubated in oxygen and having fluid sucked out of his lungs, I got to hold him. Got to look deep into his eyes, breathe him in. He was mine. All thumb sucking, drooling sweet disposition was mine.j-18i

All-in-all he was an easy baby and child. Only a few rough teen years. However, through prayer and consistency, we got through it. He Gave his life to Jesus and is such a wonderful young man.DSCN6941IMG_1070redo

He and his oldest sister always have had a close relationship. He has always had a funny sense of humor.scan005900898_04

A natural gentleman.Kids' own pics 4-28-08 01310425172_10203572688390440_6389493670496607464_n

Always had a way with animals, not matter how big or small. He seemed to always have “pet” bugs of some sort.scan0005

SUPER talented. He can draw, play instruments, act…his imagination knows no end.IMG_0994

When we made the decision to adopt we knew this is who he’d be. We knew he would be the best big brother to each and every child we added to our lives.IMG_0454

He is a very healthy eater. Not one for sweets.IMG_0722

Born part fish, he was either playing in dirt or swimming.Jared pool 6-24-08 021Jared making mines 6-13-08 008

This boy, this young man has brought so much joy into our lives. We are so proud of him, the choices he makes, the stands he has taken, and the person he has become. It is an honor to be called his mom.scan0004

Dear Birth Mom

Dear birth mom to my son,

Yesterday our, your, my son became a teenager.

Yesterday I wondered if you were thinking about him at all, wondering how he’s turning out.

Our, my son is turning out to be one great young man. He opens doors for others now, helps out, is polite and a hard worker. He is one of the funniest, most real kids I know. He and I have some of the most straight-forward conversations, deep and lighthearted at the same time.

He has overcome many obstacles in these past couple of years. His grades and academic confidence have gone up. He works hard to achieve the grades he gets. He makes friends easy. Has begun to make wise decisions concerning his choices. He is not afraid to stand up for what he believes and is who is his.

He is starting to really see that he is much smarter than anyone has ever told him he was. Starting believe he can achieve many more things. He is stepping out of comfort zone and trying new things.

Our, my son has been giving wise advice to his younger brother. Seeing the same behaviors in him that he has overcome. He is compassionate and caring with the youngest in the house.

Though he may be quiet, he sure knows how to tell a good joke. When he gives a compliment take it because he sincerely means it.

Dear mom to my son, do you miss him or wonder how he is? Did you feel a twinge of loss yesterday in your heart? Dear mom, he his loved. He is cared for. He is growing into a fine and decent young man.

Thank you for relinquishing your rights so that I could be his mom.

Signed,

Our son’s mom

Puppets, Scared Dog and Good Times

On a much lighter note, this week thus far has been appointment free other than taking The General to his speech and OT!!

I have also had the privilege to work alongside our eldest son as he has taken on the project of fixing up the Children’s Church puppets.

YEARS ago I was involved in the puppet ministry and actually hand made four puppets along with another fellow puppeteer.

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These poor puppets have seen better days. We fixed up the tears, broken arms, and holes.

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Gave them all a good shave. Took years off of them.

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Removed old, missing eyes. Replaced them with new, bright ones.

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He fixed their hair, gave them new clothes, tongues (not shown here) and a few got accessories. A lot of work, but so well worth it. I love working alongside my son and seeing our new kids see behind the scenes and all the work that goes into these. The General LOVES the Granny.

The funniest thing was we had them all set up like this in the dining room, where the dogs go in and out. Our big dog would not come in with them in there. Hubby had to put them all in the playroom before she’d come in the house. They can give you the impression that someone is there at first glance.

Fractured Perspective

At the end of February, our little one suffered a second bone fracture. A new one! Read about the original one here.

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Long story short the preschool staff let him climb on playground equipment too soon and he fell. We are also going to see a pediatric orthopedic doctor to have our son’s  bones checked, blood work.

Having a child with a physical disability even a temporary one helps you see things in a different perspective. It gives you a much deeper appreciation for what the parent/s and caretakers of children with long term physical problems go through.

Can we talk about just the sheer number of doctors appointments involved? And the paperwork! This alone can be a part-full time exhausting job. Thank God we don’t live far at all to most of the doctors we have needed to see, but even that takes time. Getting the wheelchair in and out of the vehicle, helping your child into the said wheelchair. Finding the wheelchair accessible ramp (which is never a short cut), handicapped parking is usually taken, navigating in and out doorways (thank you every place that has automatic opening doors). Keeping your child entertained during the inevitable waits. Keeping your child calm when he is freaked out, doesn’t want to be examined, x-rayed, etc. Comforting him and apologizing to the staff afterward. Then there are the pizza (or whatever food treat you bribed him with) runs you promised if he were brave.

The diagnosis: You always hope and pray for the best, but brace for the worst. Okay, bad, bad fracture…so bad they are calling it a break. I can do this for 5-6 weeks. You learn to look at the light at the end of the tunnel. Then you get told a few weeks in that your son isn’t healing right and may need surgery. NOT what any parent wants to hear. You get a miracle, no surgery! Praise God. The weeks are over, you pushed it through. The cast comes off and your son can’t even walk without assistance for more than a couple of weeks. Just when he gets to walking fairly well, he falls…a whole new fracture in the growth plate, nonetheless. More diagnosis, more tears, screams of painful fear, more comforting, more tests. More waiting. More pushing it through. More enduring, grinning and bearing it. And yet our situation is mild to what I am sure a terminal diagnosis is like.IMG_2191

The added workload: our son is four, too small for crutches. He is dependent on us to take him to the toilet, put him up to eat, dress and undress him. Sponge baths are hard for all involved. You would think we are torturing him every time. So draining. He is really good at getting around on his own. Whether that’s scooting on his bum or in the wheelchair. His independent nature helps him in this area. His active imagination also helps him not get too bored being pretty much home bound. This boy is an outdoor kid and it hurts that he can’t go out and play. In a sense, we have gone backward. He was just getting to the point where he could pretty much dress himself and other such independent skill.

The emotional wear: It is NEVER easy when your child is hurt, really hurt. I can totally handle normal scrapes and bumps. When it goes beyond the normal you want to go into mama bear mode, build your child a safe bubble for him to live in the rest of his life. But that is not practical or wise. With the leg cast, we have bumped into walls more than once. Even though our little son hasn’t complained too much about it at all, knowing how tough and brave he is still gets to you. When he cries out while getting casted “I want to go home” ugh, it still brings tears to my eyes and heart. Knowing how much he has spent in the doctors, hospitals already since he was born saddens me. The anger you feel towards those to let it happen. The frustration you feel when people are not their nicest when you are just trying to help your baby and are at your lowest for that day. When you feel helpless. Again, I can’t imagine if it were long term or terminal.

I have found an unexpected loneliness too. No one can truly know the struggle this puts on a family, an individual unless they have gone through something similar. Not everyone wants to hear your story or even notice there is a story. Also a-not-so silent judgment at the looks we get. We already stand out because of our ethnic differences pair that with a bright orange cast. I want to loudly tell some people “It NOT my fault. I DIDN’T hurt my baby!”

The decisions: We have had to make many medical decisions for our four-year-old in these past two years. Most have been the right ones, and one, well we really had no choice and it may have caused him to talk differently. Another we are totally opting out which not everyone agrees with. As a parent, you are ALWAYS making decisions for your kids, for their short-term and long-term future. Yet the medical ones seem harder, no matter how much research you do.

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(This pretty much sums up how we all feel about the whole situation.)

To wrap this extra long post up, I know I don’t fully know the depths of the hardship having a child with greater medical needs than a two-time fractured leg, but I have a much greater understanding than I had before. I have a greater appreciation for life when these things don’t happen. Also, I have a gratefulness to our God who has strengthened us through it all. At times when I should’ve broken, God gave me the strength to rise above and keep the victory.

Brave Little Solider

The Wednesday before New Year’s the General suffered a broken leg. Long story short, he got tripped.

img_2068All of the boys were playing in the playroom and I was getting dressed after my shower when I heard loud, painful crying. I quickly went to see what was wrong. Oldest son had the General on our counter trying to see what was wrong. He started taking off his shoes, nothing, except crying. The General wouldn’t tell us were the pain was. We took off his pants, nothing except crying. Even thought we couldn’t see anything amiss I knew something wasn’t right. I took him unto my bathroom away from the crowd (sometimes our family can be a crowd) to see if he’d calm down. After about 5 minutes we were all on our way to the ER.

After about 3 hours of MUCH pain, MANY tears, X-rays, a nurse who I still want to yell at and way too much paper work for a mommy holding her scared injured little one to fill out, we found out his shin was broken in two places. Clean breaks but still. The nurses in the ER put the splint on him and sent us on our way, discharge papers and script in hand.

Our little guy was in pain every time we moved him to use the restroom, to clean him, to feed him, to go anywhere…the splint really wasn’t helping much. Again, one angry momma here wanting to yell at some people. The General has been through a LOT in his little life, enough doctors to fill his lifetime quota. With pain, the unknown, or things he thinks he may not like he gets TERRIFIED and screams, cries and fights. He fought us each and every time we took him to the toilet, every time we moved him. Hubby slept in the General’s room for those first two nights, just to comfort him, move him, give him his pain meds. It took two of us to put him anywhere. It was really a big ordeal for those two days.

The following Friday he got his cast on!

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(It was SOOO good knowing that we weren’t hurting him now every time. We surely needed the cuddle time together after the first three days.)

The actual getting casted was another huge tiring ordeal. Most of us were near tears. BUT once that bright orange cast was on the pain started to decrease. The fear wore off with each passing day. He even let Biggest Brother doodle on it.

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Thankfully we had kept our stroller. I seriously was going to get rid of it the week before. The general did so good adjusting to his new limitations and didn’t let it stop him too much.

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He scoots around for the most part. He rode around on a dolly you use while working under your car. He can get in and out of bed, open doors, look out the windows, get himself all of the way up to the arm of the overstuffed chair in the playroom, and even sneak into the garage to hang out with Dad. All while not putting weight on his leg!

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We were able to rent him a kid sized wheelchair. (It had to be ordered from out of state!) The wheel chair is so much easier than the stroller. He mastered maneuvering around the house and even Walmart (he wanted to) super fast. He loves the freedom it gives him. It also enables him to ride the school bus again. The General, as friendly and as talkative as he is, made a new friend since being in the wheelchair with another student on his bus who is also in a wheelchair.

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Using the toilet and sponge bathing are the biggest challenges for us. But if you find yourself in this situation I have a few tips:

*Get a lint roller, especially if you have dogs. The amount of dirt and hair your little one will pick up on his bum from scooting around is frankly, embarrassing, no matter how much you sweep.

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*Keep hand sanitizer near by in the restroom and in your purse. As hand washing proves to be tricky especially when not at home.

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*Rent a wheel chair if at all possible. Life saver! Worth it in every way.

*Improvise. There are so many things they can’t do in this condition.

*The bruises on your hips from carrying your casted little one will go away. So will the sore toes, from the wheel chair. And your sore back from lifting and caring him everywhere.

*Get old pants or buy cheap ones. Even if jeans fit over the cast, they are a bear to get down quick enough when your little one needs to pee. Cut the casted leg off of the pants if needed. Know that they are going to get worn out quicker than normal from all of the rubbing against the cast. Same with socks.

*Lotion…his little toes are so dry it’s not even funny. Even on his good leg.

*Enjoy the extra cuddle time you will get. For us, it has been good since we didn’t get to “baby” him as a baby. I truly think this has helped him/us in the healing (from the past trauma) and bonding process even more.

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One last thing I cannot fail to mention. At our second X-ray the doctor informed us that the General’s bone was not healing straight. We were possibly looking at operating. He waited another week. We prayed for a miracle. At our third appointment, they took the cast off, which I didn’t expect and took a third X-ray. (they can X-ray through the cast). I think they expected him to need an operation. The X-ray proved our God is a big God. His leg straighten out!! No need to operate! He was so brave this go-around. Got to wear headphones and hold some tools. We go back in one week. Hopefully, this will be it. Hopefully he won’t need a cast anymore.