The Reality of Lent with Special Needs Children

*This is going to be a bit of a lengthy post. The first half was written last night, as a reflection on what we’ve done so far this lent. The second half was written this morning, after I realized just how difficult this season can be with special needs children. If you’d rather just skip to the honest truth about the reality of celebrating Lent with special needs children, scroll down. – Tammy*

I have to admit, I am enjoying Lent. I have observed over 40 Lenten Seasons in my life, but this year, things are finally making sense.

I am finally understanding how wonderful it feels to make more room for God, and less room for me.

I want the family to live simply and austerely for the next forty days; to grow closer to God and truly appreciate how much He has blessed our family. I already mentioned how we are abstaining from all unnecessary, material purchase.  I also want each family member to step out of his comfortable (okay, call it what it really is: disrespectful or rude) interactions with the family and take these 40 days to make conscious efforts to grow and change they way we communicate and engage with each other. [Read more…]

Morning Fail: Special Needs Parenting Slip Up

Morning Fail

Simpler Times… My baby is now a 3rd grader!

Special needs parenting is rife with slip ups.

I know better. I restrained myself for a good 7 minutes. Then I let loose.

Our 14 year-old daughter struggles with a panoply of mental health issues.  Sadly, she carries with her the baggage of the early abuse and neglect she suffered before she joined our family. Most days, her behaviors and actions remind us that she still has not healed from her past – and maybe never will.

This morning was no different. She awoke on the wrong side of the bed. Things were not going her way, and she wanted to blame everyone but the real culprit – herself. My husband and I listened to her complain and blame us while we nodded and sympathized. Such is the daily requirement of special needs parenting.

On the drive to school, the tirade continued. I bit my tongue, knowing no good would come from me pointing out how her logic had failed her – how the quandary she found herself in currently was squarely because of her own actions.

But the rudeness and disrespectfulness got the best of me. [Read more…]

Breaking Rules as He Flies

My son climbs up slides, and I’m OK with that.slide

I’m not the playground parent with the half-hearted, “Oh honey, um, please don’t climb…”

I’m not the playground parent who goes zero to 60 in 3 seconds with a shrill, “Get down from there right now! Why? Because I said so! That’s why!”

I’m the parent that sees her son struggling to climb up a slide and says, “Take your shoes off. Bare feet are better for climbing.”

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t always this way.

I grew into my role as a barefoot mom over time, and it wasn’t easy. I was a hoverer like no other when my son was little. Ok, I was a hoverer when he could actually tell me to sit on the bench because this was a boys’ slide. (Thank goodness that only happened once – my heart!)

But this summer, something changed. As my toddler became a preschooler, I realized that kids are actually quite durable. You’d think I would’ve learned this, being a kid myself not too long ago, and seeing my younger siblings grow up with nary a broken bone, despite some of the crazy things they do.

I did, and I didn’t  I laughed at my husband when he asked if my siblings were going to get hurt with all their roughhousing, then proceeded to pick my little brother up and slam him on the couch, to his giggling approval. But ask me to let my son do that? Oh no, no way. That’s too dangerous for my son.


Sometimes you’re so close that you can’t see the big picture.

  [Read more…]

They will never “grow out of” Reactive Attachment Disorder

I blog for World Mental Health Day

The other day, I was discussing my 14 year-old with another mom I had recently met. She was asking about the issues my older children struggle with because she is considering adoption, possibly an older child. I am asked about adoption frequently, especially by people contemplating adoption or foster care. I usually explain that adoption can be difficult, and not just the whole process leading up to placement of the child. However, I always temper that with the blessings that I have realized as a result of the child joining my family.

I did not paint a particularly rosy picture for this mom because the adoption of an older child can be trying for some families without proper training. I ended my answer by telling her about all the progress I have watched with my children; I beamed telling her about the first hug I recently received from one of my children.

After listening to my lengthy answer, she nodded her head and said, “Well it’s good to know they grow out of these behaviors, it would be tough dealing with these things forever.”

I wanted to look at her and ask “are you kidding me?!” I either made mental illness and disabilities seem like a cakewalk or she zoned out and didn’t hear a word I had just said.  I bit my tongue and smiled.

Hopefully, if she moves forward with the adoption process, a good social worker can correct her misconceptions. I just did not have the energy that day.

A child does not “grow out of” Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). A plethora of behaviors can flow from the disorder, which can look like a defiant and highly-reactive child. With intense therapy and a good deal of understanding by the family (and possibly a hospitalization or five), a child with RAD can learn to trust a little more, form some basic attachments, and overcome some of the associated behaviors. However, a stressful situation or trigger can bring it all back in a heartbeat.

Children do not grow out of RAD.

[A child diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder is typically neglected, abused, or orphaned. RAD is believed to develop because, during the early formative years, the child’s basic needs for comfort, affection, and nurturing were not met or were met inconsistently. Therefore, loving, caring attachments with others are never really established. Studies have shown that this lack of attachment permanently change the child’s growing brain, hindering the ability to establish future relationships.]

I chuckle when a parent tells the story of how his child drew on the wall with crayon. My child smears feces on the wall.

I can relate to a parent who is struggling with a child who bites a sibling. My child pushed a sibling down a flight of stairs…and smirked.

I love the stories of a child who found a pair of scissors and cut her own hair. My child tried to stab me with a knife.

Parents tell me about their visits to college campuses with their teens and ask if I have attended any yet. No, my meetings with the Country Attorney for truancy keep me busy enough, but now that my child’s probation is over, we can leave the state to travel with the child without permission.

My stories are very real [and common in my household], but I rarely share them with other parents. Parenting a child with RAD is not for the faint of heart. Nevertheless, it can be an exciting journey for someone up for the challenge. It is a life filled with constant learning and paradigm shifting. A life with rewards few and far between, but when they happen (and they do), THEY ARE HUGE!

The day I stood before the adoption judge and swore I would love and protect my children, I meant it. My [vow/goal/promise] is to help them heal and, someday, leave my home in better shape than when they entered it.

…but my children will not grow out of RAD.

{This article was originially posted on my previous blog, The Durable Mom}

It’s Not Easy


It’s not easy to explain it to him.

It’s not easy for him to understand.

Sometimes, even I don’t understand.

Then I remind myself, it’s all for him.


The decision to get up every morning, sometimes leaving before he’s awake, it’s all for him

Making a schedule that allows me to go to school, work two jobs, keep my body healthy with exercise, my soul healthy with prayer, and my grades healthy with studying, even if it means sometimes I’m coming home after he’s asleep, it’s all for him.


Being a full-time student is non-negotiable. Working is non-negotiable. But I’m also a mom. Where does that fit in? Sometimes, I just don’t see how it does.

Sometimes, I feel like this lifestyle was designed to tear my heart in two. Make me doubt my decisions.

Make me question my worth as a mother.

Am I doing the right thing? Is this really what’s best?


When I think about it one day at a time, sometimes, it’s just not. How can I justify letting someone else watch him, letting someone else take care of my son? Surely, homework and studying are not as important as spending every minute with him.


But sometimes, it is.


I’m going to school to earn a degree that will help me advance in life. That advancement will help me support our family. I’m working to help support us in the present. Toys, clothes, and preschool fees aren’t cheap. 

Thinking about it as just another chapter, and hopefully a short one, helps me to see what this is really all about. Why I’m really doing these things that I feel like I can’t justify.


It’s not easy to tell him I’m leaving when he’s upset and “Why don’t you want to stay with me, mommy?”

It’s not easy, but it’s something I need to do.

I focus on the quality of our time, not the quantity. We both love our time together, and we cherish it.

Someday, I hope he’ll understand why I couldn’t always be there.


Why I have yet to write

I have yet to write a post on the blog that is technically half my responsibility.

When Hannah and I first brainstormed the idea of writing a blog together, it sounded so perfect.

Of course, life gets always seems to get in the way.

We had decided we would start writing after Hannah and Sean’s wedding, in June. Then we wanted some time to relax, so we waited. Then we were prepping to travel down to Iowa, for a reception on the Mac side of the family, so we waited.

After that, it was August. Things were slowing down a bit in our house.

The quiet before the storm, really.

Come September, sun up to sun down would be packed with school, chauffeuring, after school activities, volunteering, chaperoning field trips, and sports practices and games. I just wanted some down time.

Then September hit, but not as hard as I expected. In the past, there has been no down time in September – until this year. For the first time in fourteen years (Yes, fourteen. I’ve been a SAHM or WAHM since we adopted Tav, who will be turning 16 this December) there is finally a time during the day when I am alone. Granted, it only happens three times a week for 2 1/2 hours when Aiden is in preschool, but those 450 minutes are all mine!

With all this luxurious free time, I’ve been doing some thinking. These thoughts have been churning around in my brain for quite some time, but now I finally have the quiet to hear myself think.

This is the one life we’re given.

This is our only chance to do well by our Lord, and raise up those around us to Heaven.

I don’t like where society is going. This culture of mindlessness, living too fast, and unnecessary excess is not one I want my children and grandchildren to live in.

It’s time for me, and my family, to live more mindfully.

It’s time for me, and my family, to become more involved in our church.

It’s time for me to say all the things I’ve wanted to say. All the rants I’ve been holding inside.

It’s time for me to write. Just write. Because I can. Because God gave me this voice and this ability and I’ll be damned if I let my talents go to waste.

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

And blog all about it.


Making Time & Making Excuses

In life, I usually do what I want to do.

Let me explain.

There are certain things that I like to do. These things are prioritized, have time made for them, and are accomplished.

There are other things that I do not like to do. These things are pushed to the bottom of my to-do list, put off and procrastinated, until one of two things happens: I have to suck it up and do it (often last minute and hurriedly), or I’ve put them off so long that eventually they are obsolete and no longer need to be done.

I always have the same number of hours in the day. When it is something I want to do, I have all the time in the world. But when it’s something I don’t want to do, suddenly there’s no time to spare.

After working a full day, I’m exhausted. Sometimes too tired to take my son to the park. Rarely too tired to go to the gym after he’s asleep. There I go – making time for what I want to do, making excuses for what I don’t want to do.

These are things I’m working on improving – more time, less excuses.

Well, not literally making more time – we don’t bend the laws of physics around here – but making more time in my routine or schedule, even for the things I don’t want to do.

Being honest with myself is usually the only way I can bring myself to make time for the things that I don’t want to do. Yes, I’d much rather sit in the air-conditioned house and play Legos than go to the park and run around, especially when it’s hot and buggy.

But is that really the kind of mother I want to be?


I want my son to remember me going to the park, even when I came home from work tired. I want him to get outside. I want him to swing on the monkey bars and slide down the slides. I want him to remember that, when it comes to him, I have nothing but time.


Do you ever have trouble bringing yourself to do what you really don’t want to do? How do you deal with it?