Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Fall

My son will be spending his thirteenth birthday in Juvenile Detention. 

I've thought about this "thirteenth birthday" milestone for the better part of a year; tossed around ideas of what would be appropriate gifts for such a significant birthday.  I've wondered what kind of cake I would bake and how I would decorate it, which is a big thing in our family.  My husband had even been planning a sort of "man trip" this fall to mark our son's passage into the teen years.  They were going to go to a professional baseball game and a car museum and eat big burgers and do all things "manly".  They were going to discuss Biblical manhood and what that looks like in this fallen world.

And now our son is incarcerated. 

Of all the ideas whirling around in my head for Mr. J's thirteenth birthday, I can honestly say that this scenario never entered my mind.

Now I can't get it out of my mind.

How do you celebrate a birthday when your child has been threatening to kill you?  When he's threatened your baby and your husband and is smashing windows in your home?  How do you say "Happy Birthday!" and "Welcome to the next stage of becoming a man!" when he's assaulting police officers and being arrested and refusing to cooperate or even be civil to any adult charged with his care?

How do you celebrate that?

2010 - and a very pregnant good witch!
And there's even more than that on my mind this month.  Mr. J and Miss M came to us two days before Halloween.  On that first night, less than two weeks shy of six years ago, we carved our family pumpkin together, ate donuts and apples and drank cider, and watched the Charlie Brown "Great Pumpkin" movie.  It was the first thing we did as a family, and it became our first ever family tradition.  We always make a big deal of "family togetherness" at Halloween, completely avoiding any of the dark aspects of the holiday and focusing on being together.  As the years have gone by, we've turned costume-hunting into a family affair, too, choosing a theme and doing it up in grand style.  All of us.  Together.

We have so much fun this time of year.  Gathering final costume pieces, warming ourselves around a bonfire, apple orchards and cinnamon donuts and pumpkin pie and hot apple cider.  And there are hayrides and snuggling barn kittens and the crunch of cold apples plucked from the tree, piles of freshly-raked leaves just begging for romping children, Artprize and Halloween at the zoo and hunting out the perfect pumpkin from the pumpkin patch...always an agonizing decision.  This year, for the first time, we're choosing from our very own pumpkin patch that we planted as a family in the spring. 

And then we don our coordinating costumes, and tramp through the store to get our picture taken amid laughs and cheers of intrigued on-lookers.  We soak it in and laugh along, because this is our family, and it's what we do.  Our family is happy and silly and fun.
And this year, our family is broken.

We'll be celebrating half-heartedly, doing our best to keep our traditions and our smiles for the rest of the kids, hoping that next year there will truly be a happy birthday and a season of whole-hearted celebration. 

I'm choosing to trust that God is doing something big right now, in His own time, and that the joy will be overflowing in the morning.  I'm clinging to this with everything in me.  Begging God to make it be so, to keep the hope alive inside me and inside my husband and our kids.

Please God, give me the faith to believe that this time of suffering will someday come to an end, and that there can be joy for our family in the morning...

...and if not in the morning, Lord, then maybe by next fall.

Mr. J will be incarcerated until the end of the month.  He has five charges against him, and remains hostile towards staff.  We have had very little contact with him, although my husband was able to visit him for a short while this past Sunday.  Mr. J maintains that he is doing "good", and would like us to believe that he's having a grand time, although the reports from staff, his probation officer, and social worker prove otherwise.  He continues to blame his actions on anyone and everyone else, and seems unable to relate consequences with the choices he's made.  His cause and effect thinking appears nonexistent.  We have been working tirelessly to make arrangements for him when he is released, are working with many agencies and Mr. J's therapist, and are exploring every avenue we can find.  The unified goal is residential care, but the timing and funding are yet to be determined.  He may still be coming home.  Please continue to pray for God's guidance and wisdom, and for healing and safety for our family...especially for Mr. J.   


  1. I love you Lisa:)

  2. Please know that while we walk our parallel journeys, I am praying often for you; thanking you for putting your heartfelt emotions into words.

    Isaiah 41:10 "fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

    Love you!

  3. Lisa - please give neurofeedback therapy a shot. His present team may pooh-pooh it - ignore them. This is YOUR child, and you do get to have input in the therapies he's exposed to. Brain Paint is a very up-to-date, modern program (new) -- and the worst that could happen is that it has no effect on him at this time (can always be tried again). To the person participating in neurofeedback - it's like watching a computer game. In the hands of an expert in this program -- it may really help his brain re-wire itself. I'm praying for you - and have since the first blog of yours I read. :) 12/13 was when the you know what hit the fan in our happy, fun, silly home --- suddenly things were dark and seemingly hopeless. I, too, had plans -- I had hair to help curl, first tries at mascara, going to dances, slumber parties, taking her to the movies with friends. None of that has ever transpired - and it is now 5 years later. But things ARE better. Life is good again. There are things that we cannot change, to be certain -- but we have gotten through grieving for the losses, and are thankful our daughter is going to have a good life. The right therapists, the right therapies, and being at peace with knowing you are doing everything you can is the answer. Hang in there!

    1. Neurofeedback therapy does work. We have adopted 8 children, 5 of my children have or are going through the process and it works. I just wish I had known about it with our oldest son who has RAD.

  4. How on earth will your son learn to attach to you if you send him away? It's abandonment and I've no doubt a smart kid like him will see it as such. And shipping him off to that not properly licensed CALO place pretty much sounds like a recipe for disaster! Exiling the poor kid.

    The Dr Frederici mentioned by several commenters has a decidedly questionable reputation (just google him).

    I'm so sorry to hear your son is in such a bad place and I will pray that he gets healthy soon. The techniques of "theraputic parenting" (I loathe the term almost as much as the term trauma mama) are utterly unproven - you're kid is in jail! Worse than before!!

    1. True...sending him into residential care is not ideal and not what we ever wanted. But we have five other children to consider, and daily violent rages including death threats coming our way when our son is home. Certainly not a safe environment for anyone in the family. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do, whether it breaks your heart or not.

      Our son is beginning puberty and is entering a phase of life when EVERY child (especially an adopted child) struggles with self identity. The RAD and PTSD make it look different than typical kids. Is he going to choose to be like his biological father or his adoptive father? Who is he really? He's struggling to find that out for himself.

      Mr. J's rage and his miriad of problems are in NO WAY caused by therapeutic parenting. In fact, we've ALWAYS parented him quite traditionally, as the severity of his problems has often been hidden. We've only recently been learning new techniques (and he hasn't even been home to experience any of them) because traditional parenting is no longer working.

      I would respectfully suggest that you try not to be so judgemental. We are doing the best we can. We didn't cause our son's trauma and we are working diligently to help him any way we can. If we were planning to abandon him, we would let the state have him and be done with it. To suggest that we are exiling him is simply hurtful and rude. I would dare bet that if your teenaged son consistently threatened to kill YOUR baby and had been violent enough to make you believe it, you would be singing a different tune.

  5. Lisa, I don't know of any family with a teenage RAD child (Esp. 16 -18 years old) living with them that can be classified as "happy, silly and fun!" These kids worse years seem to be then. Be glad that you had a couple good years -- and hold on for the roller coaster ride of your life.

  6. Hi Lisa! I just read your blog and I wanted to hug you!You're a strong women,raising a child altered by trauma can be a nightmare.I have an 18 year old stepson with RAD and it's been very challenging and sometimes a very heart breaking experience.My stepson couldn't live with us, we had to release him back into CAS care...the violence, manipulation, stealing was ripping our family apart.And you're right, we didn't alter his brain, his mother did.

  7. Lisa - we had to hospitalize our daughter at Halloween one year -- and we do the holiday up big as well. In fact, she'd come up with the idea for the costumes and missed it all. I was heartbroken (and so was she, even though she didn't show it or admit it until years later.) You are doing a remarkable job giving them a healthy family amid all the chaos their early childhood trauma can bring. Keeping everyone safe is paramount!

    BTW - I've seen marvelous results in several teens who have been to CALO -- think highly of their program!

  8. Reading your story, I feel "moved" by the love you have and the care and commitment there..... the maturity too. I have no experience of my own, but my husband and I are in the process of being able to adopt through the foster care system.

    Praying for you today and your family.

  9. Lisa,

    Be uplifted because the body of Christ is lifting you up.

    I read your post and am crying for all of you. For you son because he cannot control a lot of what is happening and for the rest of your family because of the beauty of God's healing and the pain of watching it all.

    I don't understand what you are going through and I won't pretend to. I did feel led to tell you about one person (whom you may have already heard of). Before I moved oversees I was an adoption social worker. During that time we had to train and attend many training seminars. One lady that I was always drawn too was Hollie Van Gulden. She works with that hardest of hard children that have had horrific histories and she had one of her own. She and several others found a way of reversing the fight or flight hormones in the brain and help it rewire itself for normal function. She has traveled to many other countries to also help implement some of what she is doing. I believe her clinic is in Minnesota. If you feel led...Google her.

    I am sure you get a million and more people advising feel free to disregard this is you want.

    Be encouraged...God is going to do something, he has already, and he is absolutely faithful. You are doing an incredible job..please believe it for at least a half of a second for a sister in Christ.


  10. I hope it's o.k. to ask a question. We are working towards possibly adopting through the state (or an international adoption) and w/ a state adoption, were you able to prepare in the beginning for RAD and understand the journey you were embarking on with your new kids or did you learn of their need and how to help them as you went along?

    I'm trying to learn as much as I can before we embark on this new path of adoption. We have 4 sons now.

  11. This is very heart wrenching.
    I will pray for your family.

  12. We have had the same experience with one of our adopted daughter. She was in and out of mental faculties since age 9. Each time we hoped and prayed it would be her last, that she could give up her hatred, anger and aggressive behavior. We had her in RAD counseling for over 2 years and she wasn't getting better, they discharged her and said they thought she was bipolar. She ended up in a Residential Facility for kids/teens with severe mental health problems for a year. It was the hardest choice I have ever had to make. The residential physiatrist said she had RAD not bipolar. It was an hour and a half drive away and we visited every week, and talked on the phone 3 to 7 days a week. When her year was up I was also scared and excited to have her come back home. That was 4 years ago and it is still a roller coaster ride. She has good days and bad days, she was kicked out of 3 schools, charged with aggravated assault (got probation and community service) but now goes to a school to work program and has lasted a whole year in that program. She had her first job this summer at a local Amusement Park but ended up getting fired for cursing out her boss. Still has tantrums once in a while, like a 3 year old even though she is now 17. She is still self centered, can't keep friends but is better then she used to be. It has been a long journey and only by the Grace of God is still in process. I can relate to you Lisa as one who has done their very best to raise and love one of God's broken children. We have 2 biological and 4 adopted. I imagined our life as more like the Walton's ,but the Lord often reminds me His plans are not our plans.