This year I decided to participate in the adoption blogger interview project. My partner, Brooke has been more than patient with me as I struggled to meet the deadlines. In the next few posts I will tell you why.
Brooke and I found we had a lot in common. First and foremost, adoption 🙂 After that, autism, attachment disorder, following Christ and dying to self… I would love for you to “meet” her. So here are her responses to questions I asked her:
1. Could you please tell me about yourself, your family and what makes you you…how did you become the woman you see in the mirror?
I am a daughter of the King of Kings, a wife, a mom, a teacher, and a scientist.
These verses from 1 Thessalonians have helped to define my life “And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
My other favorite verse is from James chapter 1, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
I lack wisdom daily!
I grew up with wonderful parents, who faced many struggles, but who always took in stray kids and loved them. My husband wanted to have a home like my parents’ home–and we have taken in many stray kids–and loved them.
My husband and I have been married for 19 years. We’ve learned to love God and love each other through the trials we’ve faced.
We have five children. Three of them entered our family in the usual way, with morning sickness, bed-rest, and medical intervention. The other two joined our family in an unusual way: they were both twice-adopted. Garrett, our oldest biological child, is 15. He introduced us to the world of special needs when he began going developmentally backwards after turning 3. He had many symptoms of autism and life became a constant struggle. Through him, we learned that brains could heal, and that kids with special needs are not frightening. Connelly, our oldest daughter, is 13. She is amazing and has already published a novel (Torn), the first book in a trilogy (Jida’s Quest). She is currently writing book two. Annika is our 10 year old. She loves babies and animals, baby animals, and especially any baby or animal with special needs.
Back when Garrett’s behavior was so severe that we couldn’t take him in public, I remember thinking, “Either all the difficult children I’ve worked with in my life have been preparing me for Garrett, or Garrett is preparing me for something down the road. If that’s the case, I do NOT want to know what is ahead.” Now we know that Garrett perfectly prepared us for Kristina and Kelton. Kristina, who is now 8 years old, was originally adopted from Eastern Europe. She was adopted by a family who did not feel capable of parenting a child with her degree of developmental delay and special needs. They immediately sought a forever family for her. Kristina has been diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. We adopted Kristina from them shortly after she turned 4 years old; she was developmentally between 15 and 18 months at that time and weighed just over 20 pounds. She is now doing awesome! Because Kristina was doing so well, we received a phone call about Kelton. He was originally adopted from Eastern Europe at age 5. He remained with his first adoptive family until he was 11, when they chose to terminate their parental rights due to his extremely difficult behavior. Kelton has been with our family for nearly 2 years. The first year was the hardest we have ever lived through, but now Kelton is healing. Nobody can believe how much he has changed. He is a new creation.
I have always loved learning, and I still do brain research as a hobby. I love researching things that might work, then trying them with my children and seeing if they help. Our family doctor said she loves it when my kids have check ups because she always learns so much. Sometimes she has people call me. I love sharing what I have learned with other people. She wants me to write a book, but for now I’m just doing a blog.
2. Currently there has been a lot of bad press concerning adoption after disruption. How did you decide that your family was willing to walk that difficult road?
We decided to adopt after disruption for the same reason we decided to adopt in the first place–we met Kristina. In all my brain research to help Garrett with his autistic symptoms, Tourette’s syndrome, and learning difficulties, I ran across information about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. I read that because of their damaged digestive systems, kids with FAS do very well with a diet similar to what we were feeding our other kids (free of gluten, cow milk, soy, preservatives, colors). When I heard about a local family who had adopted a little girl with FAS, who didn’t want to parent her because of it, I sent information about the diet to them through our mutual friend. To make a very long, miraculous story extremely short, we knew we were supposed to adopt Kristina and feed her our diet.
Nothing about it was easy, but it has been very good.
Two years later, someone who had seen Kristina’s progress, thought of us when she prayed about a family for Kelton. She was Kelton’s teacher in the Juvenile Detention Center where he stayed for 5 months because the caseworkers couldn’t find a foster family who would take him because of his behavior problems, ADHD, RAD, and Oppositional Defiant Disorder. I had been studying Reactive Attachment Disorder for two years, because of Kristina’s high risk for RAD. Somehow I knew that our next one would have it. We met Kelton at my friend’s ranch. He just thought we were some random family who happened to stop by there while he was visiting the horses. We knew he didn’t belong in the detention center, so be began the foster licensing process to adopt him.
Bringing Kelton home was hard. We had to get permission to home school him, because we knew that would be crucial to his healing process. He had raging meltdowns that lasted for an hour or more, several times a day. It was exhausting. I am so thankful for our Classical Conversations homeschool co-op because it kept my other kids going on their studies when I couldn’t be available to help them. The older kids matured tremendously that first year. It was hard on them. They had to learn to forgive and to love difficult people.
Now, two years later, we are in a totally different place. Our home is filled with peace.
3. How does your husband’s wisdom and his parenting help in raising your children?
My husband is amazing. I am eternally in awe of his wisdom. He is much more calm and patient than I am. I know he is exactly the dad that Kelton needed to help him heal. They have a lot in common. They both love to play their violins. My husband works many hours, but when he’s home, he’s totally present.
4. You have mentioned that you, like our family have struggled in the traditional church setting. How did your decision to home church come about, and how do you feed your soul without the structure of church? and how could a church meet the needs of a special needs family in a more effective way?
We do attend a traditional church which has a special needs classroom. Kristina loves her “trampoline” class–so called because of the mini-trampoline, padded floor, large balls, and other gross motor toys and activities. Annika helps out in the special-needs class every week. She loves a little boy with Down Syndrome.
5.. you mention nutrition as an aid in helping the children who struggle both physically and mentally. Can you describe in more detail about the link of nutrition to healing and how did you discover it?
When Garrett, who is now 15, was 5 years old, he was going developmentally backwards. He had many symptoms of autism. He screamed for hours every day. He was very aggressive. In desperation, I prayed for answers. The word, “wheat” would not leave my brain. That was not the answer I was looking for. I wanted someone to call me with a new parenting book. We were attending a parenting class at church, and I was certain that his issues were because of something I was doing wrong.
After arguing with God for a week about the wheat thing, I gave up. I told him, “I will do it for 1 week, because anyone can do anything for a week. I already know it won’t make a difference so I’m not telling anybody about it.” The fourth morning, Garrett woke up and smiled. He was pleasant. He was cheerful. It typically took me an hour to get him dressed each day, and longer than that to give him a bath (with both my husband and I holding him to wash his hair). That day, he undressed himself and got into the tub. He let me wash his hair–just like a normal kid! I left the bathroom to help baby Annika, and he got himself dressed. Then he cleaned up the bathroom. To see such a huge change in such a short time was incredible.
After that, any time Garrett accidentally got “glutenated,” he reverted right back to screaming and aggression. The reactions would last for four days. We sent him to school, but they couldn’t keep the environment safe enough for him, so we reluctantly began our homeschooling journey. (My husband had said we would never homeschool.) After I got a major attitude adjustment by listening to some very wise people, I loved homeschooling.
When Connelly was three, we wondered why feeding her yellow treats turned her from the most compliant, sweet, pleasant little girl you could ever imagine into a screaming maniac who threw fits until she threw up. Why did feeding Connelly candy turn her into what Garrett used to be? I started researching food dyes, and learned that Yellow #5, tartrazine, is derived from coal tar, is a known carcinogen, is banned overseas, and is responsible for causing behavior changes in children. That’s when we eliminated food dyes.
We learned through the years that eliminating certain foods made our children behave much better. The list grew to include gluten, cow milk, soy, preservatives, and artificial colors. With Kristina, sugar and salicylates also had to be removed. Soon after Kelton joined our family, he remarked, “Eating your food makes my brain feel different. I feel less angry. My old mom didn’t love me enough to give me the food I needed.”
I replied, “No. She just didn’t know. Many people don’t know that food affects behavior.”
Recently, our nutrition journey has taken a new turn. Four months ago, a friend asked me to do a 30 day cleanse with her to lose weight. I was desperate to lose my stress-induced post-adoption weight, so I agreed. It was a difficult decision to make, because I don’t usually spend money on myself, but I had tried and failed so many times that I was ready to admit I needed help (pride is always the sin that ensnares me). After two weeks on the cleanse, I felt like a new person. I had energy. My feelings of stress were gone, even though my life was still stress-filled (Kelton was still having melt downs a couple of times a week, and my conflict-seeking-Kristina was continually provoking Kelton into outbursts.) My husband, who was very skeptical, saw the changes in me and wanted to begin sharing my products. I was happy to share, because I wanted him to experience the energy and peace that I was feeling.
After a month, Kelton had a major meltdown and even threw toys at my mom. The next day, I started sharing my shakes with him. I only gave him a little bit, but it made a huge difference in his behavior. That was his last major meltdown. For a few months, we had been keeping behavior charts to document Kelton’s fussing, whining, arguing, complaining, and unkind speech so that he could visually see how his words affect people. After one week on the shakes, his speech became kind. He literally stopped whining and complaining. I asked him if he noticed a difference and he said he just felt like he was changing. He thought the shakes were changing how he felt, and he just felt better.
I started Kristina on very small amounts of the shakes every day, and she stopped antagonizing Kelton. Their relationship changed. They actually tell each other “I love you” now. A month before we started the shakes, Kelton very seriously approached me about Kristina one day and said, “It won’t work for the two of us to live together in the same house. There is no way we will ever get along with each other. I think you need to get rid of one of us.” The whole atmosphere in our house has changed now. I wish you could feel the peace in our home.
Besides the peacefulness, another side benefit to adding in this nutrition has been the cognitive development in all three of my struggling learners. Writing has always been a struggle for Garrett. Last year, in ninth grade, it took him two hours to write a paragraph on a subject he loved. A few weeks ago, he was required to write a persuasive essay. It took him 30 minutes to write a 5-paragraph essay with an introduction, thesis statement, three body paragraphs which had topic and clincher sentences, and a conclusion. When he read it in class, his classmates applauded. It was a very good paper!!! He wrote a different paper a month ago, and his classmates told him he should have it published. This would have been impossible for Garrett four months ago!!!
We were told that Kristina would probably never read, but she can now read chapter books if I move a bookmark below the words to help her keep her place. She still has vision problems, but cognitively, she is growing by leaps and bounds. She can understand math now. She is working through a first grade math book, understanding the concepts, and doing most of the work independently.
Kelton is understanding math concepts for the first time in his life. He got 100% on his math test for the first time this week. He is also able to work independently. His thinking is much more logical now. He is able to engage in conversations rather than delivering monologues.
Many people from our homeschool co-op, who are astounded by the differences in our family, have asked where to buy the shakes we are using. We get them from brainhealth.isagenix.com, and if people order from that link, we do receive a referral fee which allows us to purchase more of these nutritious shakes for our kids.
6. Are any of your adoptions open/semi- open or closed, and why.
Kristina’s adoption from her adoptive family was open. We did a direct-consent adoption. They wanted to choose the family where she would be placed. Kelton was adopted through foster care so his first adoptive family does not know where he was placed.
7. What advice would you give someone considering adoption of an older child from a disrupted adoption?
Make sure your marriage is strong.
Make sure that both parents are totally committed to the child.
Research. Research. Research.
I had to speak at an adoption fundraiser, and Kelton wanted me to give this advice to the parents. He called it, “The Wise Sayings of Kelton.”
When you adopt, expect to get a bratty kid and don’t be surprised when you do. You have to teach the kids how to have good behavior. They don’t already know it. You have to teach them. Don’t yell at them; it only makes them want to argue with you. Correct them, then give them a chance for a “do-over” and let them do it right. Try not to get upset, but when you do take a deep breath and EVACUATE! Go to your room or somewhere and calm down. After you are calm, then go tell the kid what he did wrong. You have to have patience to adopt a kid, but the kid will teach you to have even more patience. Kids will teach you lots of things you never knew you wanted to learn. The sign at the chiropractor says, “Healing takes time and repetition.” Healing backs takes time at repetition, so does healing hearts. Don’t believe the kid when he lies to you. When he says, “I don’t love you” he really does. He’s just saying it because he’s afraid you’re going to get rid of him. Have integrity. When you say, “We aren’t going to get rid of you,” actually mean it. If you don’t, you cause heart break for the kid and make the next parents have a much harder time. Read Proverbs every morning and pray before you get up so that you can get wisdom. Also, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds. For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. Let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. I any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God who gives generously to all, without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
It’s hard when you adopt a kid, but do it anyway.
If you would like to follow her blog, here is the link: http://howtocooklikebrooke.blogspot.com/
If you would like to see the whole group of interviews and my responses to Brooke’s questions, you can follow here: http://wp.me/p2b7F2-1tA
Participating was a lot of fun, I enjoyed meeting Brooke, and I hope she enjoyed meeting me! Adoption makes you part of a community that helps you meet families that you would never have known.