Fun Fridays: Road Trip, Anyone?

Fun Fridays

As we load up the van to spend Christmas with Craig’s mom, it reminded me of a long-distance road trip I took with Sarah Reinhard and our kids a few years ago, to attend the Catholic New Media Conference in Atlanta. Do you need a “Road Trip Survival Kit” to get you through the next few weeks?

If you’ve ever taken a road trip with a van full of kids,  you know that there are certain items that you never, ever leave behind. Not if you expect to make it to your destination without one or more children strapped to the roof. Our “Road Trip Survival Kit” has a cooler containing . . .

  • Frozen juice pouches (to keep the kids from slurping them all in the first five miles),
  • Diet Coke (to keep YOU alert and headache-free),
  • PB&J (to toss in the back seat every time a kid spots a McDonalds and whines for sustenance),
  • Frozen container full of chili or other dinner you can zap in the hotel microwave (don’t forget the corn chips for scooping), and
  • Two bottles of Mike’s Hard Lemonade (for after the kids go to bed).

In addition to the cooler, bag of swim gear (one adult takes the kids to the pool while the other unpacks the room and gets dinner started), and Mystery Bag (full of treats from the Dollar Store, to toss in the back seat at regular intervals to keep the chaos down to a dull roar), there are two more items in my “Travelin’ Mom Roadtrip Kit”: a rosary . . . and a GPS. They stay on my dashboard, always in arm’s reach. After all, a girl never knows when she might need a little prompting to head in the right direction.

It’s been ten years since my husband and I foster-adopted our kids, both of whom have special needs. And in the past eight months, we’ve had to face some extraordinary challenges that have resulted in a kind of mental U-Turn. More and more, I find myself thinking about all those things that I wish someone had thought to tell me ten years ago. Perhaps you have been in the trenches a while, and feel the same way.

If that’s the case, I invite you to join me on this road trip.  Rosary and GPS in hand, let’s explore that “road less traveled” . . . together.

What’s the most indispensable component of YOUR “Road Trip Kit”?

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A Long and Winding Road

This weekend’s Gospel is one of those in which the Lord makes a pronouncImageement that seems rather . . . uncharacteristic. Certainly rather austere and forboding, to declare that it is better to enter the Kingdom of God maimed or half-blind than to be cast into outer darkness, perfectly whole (see Mk 9:47-48).

Tonight Craig and I are watching The Mermaid’s Chair, a movie based on the novel by Sue Monk Kidd, about a woman who returns to her childhood home on Egret Island when her mother, a cook at the local monastery, deliberately chops off her own finger and buries it near the island shrine dedicated to its little-known patron, Saint Sonora. There she encounters Brother Thomas, who takes her on a winding journey to rediscover both the power of the island . . . and her own interior landscape. None of this would she have been able to do, had the tragedy not occurred.

“It is better to cut it off . . .” The Scriptures are full of stories in which something is lost, so that something better might come. The Prodigal Son, had he not gone on his walkabout, would be merely ‘The Whiney Younger Brother.” The high priest’s servant who lost his ear, and had it miraculously restored by Christ, gave Jesus the opportunity to show that he was offering himself freely into the hands of those who sought to kill him. Through the centuries of every generation have cast aside wealth, prestiege, and even family in order to take up a particular calling. This stripping, this abandonment was a vital component of achieving the sanctity to which they aspired.

Sitting in church today, listening to the reading, I wondered how many of Jesus’ disciples heard his words and wondered at them. The road ahead was long and winding, and those walking along would not have been able to see very far along the path. But one by one, each of them faced their stripping. And from those seeds of martyrdom, the crop of finest wheat sprang up for the Kingdom.

As for me, I strain to see farther than the next bend in the road. Somehow it feels as though I’m being forced to cut off and cast aside something infinitely more precious than a hand or foot or eye. At least for now, we’ve been separated from our son — forcibly, painfully, and without recourse. Our singular hope is that, when the time is right, that painful cutting will produce a finer crop of wheat than we could now imagine.

What is God stripping from you right now? What is he asking you to release back into his hands? Nothing yet? Fear not. The bend in the road is just ahead.

Photo Credit: Kerry Olson, “Wicklow Road, Ireland” from “Scenes from Around the World.”

Attachment Therapy: One Family’s Story. Guest Post by “Forever, For Always, No Matter What”

Many children diagnosed with ADHD, ODD, and other “invisible” learning and emotional impairments are in fact struggling to heal from trauma stemming from their early years. Some adoptive parents have found that attachment therapy can greatly improve the parent-child bond. In today’s guest post, Jen Dunlap shares her family’s experience with attachment therapy. If your family has had experience with this type of therapy, what techniques or books did you find most effective?

Our decision to enter into attachment therapy wasn’t made lightly.  It’s easy to be lulled into thinking things aren’t that bad or that we have all the answers.  We ultimately made the decision that we weren’t going to let our pride get in the way of bettering our family.

It’s somewhat of a bitter pill to swallow, since we thought we did everything “right” when our children joined our family.  Co-sleeping, careful about others holding our children too soon, and I committed to being a stay at home mom with a predictable routine and structure.  Therapy has helped me realize that it wasn’t really about us and what we did, but simply about the trauma that happened to our children before they came into our family.

Even though we have only been going to therapy for a few months, and it’s definitely not a quick fix, we have noticed changes.  We have a better understanding of the trauma our children have experienced and how that trauma really does affect the make-up of the brain.  It has given us more empathy as parents, which is crucial in those moments when you need to remain calm yet you really just want to pull out your hair.  The therapist has given us some interesting insight to our children and some of their “quirks”.  Of course, no one knows our children better than us, but a therapist has a different perspective and often a more experienced, educated and objective view.

All of our children really like our therapist and enjoy spending time with her, but they don’t all like the actual therapy session.  Our oldest in particular is a bit resistant.  Our therapist likes to tell him “therapy isn’t for sissies” and she’s right.  It’s hard and quite frankly, he would prefer to keep all the uncomfortable feelings deep inside and not deal with them.  I can’t say that I blame him.  That being said, we’re hoping and praying that getting through the tough things now will only benefit and strengthen each individual but the entire family throughout our lives.

Jen is a wife to one amazing husband and mom to six energetic kids.  Visit Forever, For Always, No Matter What where she blogs about their Catholic faith, homeschooling and adoption.

Adopting Older Teens: Should You Consider It?

Today I came across Nissa Gadbois’ new blog “At Home with the Gadbois Family.” They are attempting to raise $30,000 in order to bring home three teens from Ukraine. (If you would like to help, a link is on her site to the Paypal account set up for this purpose.)

I admire Nissa’s passion and resolve on behalf of these kids who, without her help, are very likely to “age out” of the institutional care they currently receive. It’s heartbreaking to even contemplate.

I’ve come to believe that God puts a custom-designed hole in the heart of every adoptive mother, that only the children HE has in mind for her can possibly fill. And once that hole is there, you want to move heaven and earth to protect and nurture that little soul. The thing is, it doesn’t feel like anything extraordinary, just what parents are supposed to do. Because you love your kids, no matter what. That’s what that “custom hole” is for.

Clearly, Nissa has that kind of hole in her heart as well, which is giving her family the courage to respond to the call to adopt these three kids. At the same time, I would urge caution to anyone considering adopting an older child: Be sure you go into it with your eyes wide open. The older the child, the greater the chances of trauma that all the love in the world may not be able to undo entirely. Yes, these children are a gift, and may be God’s gift to your family. But do your homework, all the while realizing that you may not uncover the full story for years. Attachment and bonding issues (especially with sibling groups or institutionalized children), drug and alcohol syndrome/exposure, sexualization, and other kinds of trauma and impairments may be in store.

That’s not to say “don’t do it.” Only, “Go into it, prayerfully and cautiously, knowing that you are heading down ‘a road less traveled’ and will need extra help along the way.”

God bless you! (And please help the Gadbois family if you can.)

Are you listening, St. Dimas?

St. Dimas by Lu Bro "Bridge Building Images"A new friend of mine, who shall for the present remain nameless, recently gave me a beautiful rosary to intercede for my family.

This same friend also gently suggested that I ask St. Dimas for a bit of celestial intervention. Now, this was an unfamiliar name, and so a little research was in order. I came across this post by Lance Mannion, which offered the following explanation:

Dimas is the patron saint of thieves.  He is not their patron saint the way St Anthony is the patron saint of lost items.  You pray to St Anthony to help you find something you’ve misplaced, like when your car keys have gone missing.  You don’t pray to St Dimas to help you pull off a heist.  You pray to him when your conscience is bothering you and you want to go straight.  Which is why all of us can pray to him, not just those of us who have trouble with the notion of private property.  All of us need to give up our lives of crime and go straight.

St. Dimas, it turns out, was the “good thief” who was crucified with Christ, whom the Lord promised would be “this day with me in paradise.” He is the patron of those who have lost their way . . . and want to find their way back to the narrow road. Somehow, it fits.

St. Dimas, as you left this world for a much better one, the last faces you saw were the compassionate visage of Christ and his sorrowful mother. Remember my family to this family of God, that the Spirit of God would light our path and guide us safely to our eternal home. Lead us to the Blessed Mother who always takes us to her Son.

Who is your favorite “go-to” saint when you feel “under fire”?

Photo credit: St. Dimas by Lu Bro at “Bridge Building Images”