Blogging and Social Media- A look back at 2016 and some changes

Happy New Year! Aside from the freezing weather, I really do love this time of year because I find it so motivating. A brand new year means brand new plans, dreams, and ideas. All things I love to do. Follow through is a bit more work for me but I’m working on that. But like any look ahead, I firmly believe you need to take some time to look back to see where you’ve been before you move forward. Which brings us to why I’m  here today…

 

Blogging and social media. A look back at what has and hasn't worked for me over the past year and what I'm doing differently in 2017. 24cottonwoodlane.com

 

2016 was a really terrific year for me and our family in so many ways. The boys were finally made Crown Wards (terminating parental rights for you US folks) which means the threat of removing them from my care is no longer in my face every single day. The agency also backed off on forcing adoption on us as it really isn’t a good fit at this time. Which means I can focus on long term fostering without fear and it’s made a huge difference all the way around. The stress I’ve been under and constant implied threats have taken their toll. I’m glad that piece has wrapped up.

Although we were forced to move over the summer, read those stories here and here, I absolutely love our new house. This space just works so much better for our family. PS….a few coats of paint can really make a huge change. Everything happens for a reason and all that good stuff. (Note to self the next time I freak out about change!) I will, eventually, get around to sharing some updates. No dramatic room reveals since I’m never really finished but some updates are in order.

New Websites

I launched two new websites last year. FASD Families has been a huge hit in providing practical (and sometimes humorous) stories and ideas for families raising children with FASD. Thanks to all of the readers who are so actively engaged and keep the love flowing. I wasn’t as consistent as I hoped to be in adding posts but I’m plugging away.

FASD families....supports and resources for families raising children with FASD.

 

Traveling Single Mom launched last spring and I’m adding material here and there. Our travels were much more limited than I’d planned since I went back to my social work career in early spring (part time), limiting the amount of time I have for blogging, travelling, and writing in general. Travel is my true love (next to sleep) so I have no intention of giving this site up. It’s just going to take some time to develop. Stay with us 😉

Travelingsinglemom.com- Ideas, stories, trips for single parents and kids

Which brings me to blogging in general. I love, love, love blogging. What I don’t love is the crazy pressure to be the biggest, the best, and having to be a social media guru. When I starting teaching college this fall, I took a huge step back from blogging out of necessity. It just wasn’t possible to plan, teach, and follow through on four courses and then DIY everything and write about it. The fact is, I’m not the biggest and most well known blog. I haven’t made a living blogging even though it’s more than four years. And as a single parent, making a living is kind of a big deal. Also, I’m pretty shitty at self-promotion so even if I made and shared something brilliant, the idea of being in everyone’s face about it just isn’t for me. Mad respect for you full time blogging ladies, but I just can’t. I need sleep, comfort food, and a fairly steady pay check…so back to work I went after my almost two year hiatus from social work.

 

feminine WordPress themes

Social Media

Oh, social media. I love and hate it all at the same time. I recognized that I maybe had a social media addiction when we came home from Cuba (there’s no wifi at any of the hotels unless you pay for it and stand close to a computer lol) and spent two hours at 3:30 am scrolling through Facebook while my boys slept in the hotel bed next to me. I acknowledge, in full, my addiction to Facebook and Pinterest.

But social media also makes me feel overwhelmed and kind of lacking at times. And the pressure as a blogger to use social media to promote my blogs has proven too much for me. I don’t want to spend hours scheduling and promoting my posts nor do I want my Pinterest feed cluttered up with blogging idea posts. I want to look at pretty things, funny memes, and inspirational quotes. Pinterest became a chore and a responsibility rather than the inspiration board it was intended to be. So I pulled out of all the groups I was in to promote my stuff, scaled way back on who I followed and have just starting pinning things for me again. I don’t care how to get followers or how to promote anything on Pinterest. I just want to be selfish and inspired. My boards are for me but if you like the same sort of things we can be Pinterest friends. 🙂

Twitter…not even going there. It is like junk food for my already scattered brain so I’m pulling out. I might just use it follow really funny people.

Facebook. God, I need a break but I just can’t. I have people to stalk and friends to share love with. And that’s it. If my post publishes to FB, that’s great. But I’m done with the attention seeking, like my post, follow me thing that I’m not so good at.

Genesis Framework for WordPress

Instagram. Oooohh…Instagram. So pretty. Except in the interest of being polite and doing Instagram challenges where we all have to follow each other it became yet another site full of things I didn’t care about. I’m unfollowing just about anyone who doesn’t inspire me with pretty pictures. That’s all I want on Instagram these days. Pictures of pretty rooms, flat lays, and beach photos. Maybe some bullet journals but that’s a story for another day. To my friends and family, I already see your lovely photos on FB so forgive me for deleting you on Instagram. Sixteen photos of your kids skating is great but I want a picture with pink flowers on a marble background.  No offence. I’ll still like and love all your stuff on FB, though. Promise 🙂

Blogging

Interestingly, I got some negative feedback this year over a few posts, features on my link party, and lost a shit ton of followers over my last post, both here and on my social media sites. That’s totally okay. In fact, that feels great. It tells me that you’re not feeling my vibe and I get that. If we don’t mesh, or our political ideals and my cultural heritage makes you uncomfortable, it’s cool to unfollow. It’s not cool to make racist and hateful comments about me or why I’m not a Trump supporter. I get to delete those types of comments because this is my happy space and that’s just not helpful or something I need to see when I sit down to write for those of you that still like me. I unfollow stuff that doesn’t interest me, too. It’s all good.

I’ve never shared anything about my Native culture and ancestry before on this site, nor have I shared anything political. But I stepped out of the lifestyle blog last week, took a chance on sharing my history and feelings about this past year and I’m so grateful for the love via comments, and emails that I have received about that post. It felt good to come out of the well designed pantry closet and just chat. Haters gonna hate, but the rest of you made me weep with gratitude. Love you all.

Ah. The Blog.  I have no idea where I’m going with it, but with teaching college and doing court investigations for custody and access disputes, I don’t have the time to be creating 15 fun ways to make Valentine’s day special. Truthfully, I never really did, but I tried. And if I do find some time and inspiration to create something crafty, you’ll be the first to know.

I have a feeling we’re heading in a different direction around here… more in the moment things I want to share and less planning and stressing about holiday posts and all that craziness.  Right now I’m all about taking care of the age spots that have crept over my face (because I’ll be 49 this year and all), organizing my life, and bullet journals. If you like those things, too, that’s great. Love you all madly and I hope we can still be friends.

 

2015- A Real Review and a Big Announcement!

It’s all about the introspection and resolutions this time of year, isn’t it? Just thought I’d take a few minutes to share what last year was like for us on a more personal level and chat about what’s coming in the new year.

2015 was a difficult year for our family and one that came with huge changes. If there was a word to describe the year it would have been “uncertainty”. If I were being really honest with myself and you, the word would actually have been “fear”.  And maybe “change”….but not the good kind.

2015 The True Story and a Big Announcement

 

Last year I entered 2015 with the threat of losing my boys and thought that maybe we’d had our last Christmas together. Basically, the child welfare agency threatened to remove the boys and place them for adoption elsewhere or “place” them with me under a court order removing all supports and funding if I didn’t agree to adopt. Either option pulls the supports and resources we do have in place for the boys but the court order would have destroyed us financially. We’d have lost our home, our services, and supports and I would eventually have had to give up the boys to foster care. Despite the fact that I was already a foster parent, that didn’t seem to matter to anyone. They would break us down by shutting down my foster home and the boys would go to a different foster home. With strangers because I wouldn’t be financially able to care for them as a single parent and the agency needs the boys “off the books”. Not sure how that makes them off the books except they’d find someone who could adopt and not need a subsidy, I guess. That seems child focused.

foster care memes

Such an insane situation. I’ve spent most of the year trying to figure out how to fight them. In December, I gave up and told them I’d adopt even though I’m pretty sure it’s a guaranteed path to failure for these guys. I’m coining a new term- “gunpoint adoption.” I know that our family isn’t alone in gunpoint adoptions and I plan to write more about this and fostering in the new year. (Just a teaser about our announcement there!) The senior manager in charge of our file was offended by that term. #sorrynotsorry

I also spent several months in battle with the boys’ former worker (former, ha!!) who did everything in her power to make sure that that boys did not get assessed and subsequently diagnosed with FASD.  Not to ruin the ending but they did get diagnosed. #sorrynotsorryagain

I suspect that the struggle was in part due to her power and control issues but also in part to not wanting the boys to be diagnosed as it would mean that the agency would have to acknowledge that the boys are high needs and therefore wouldn’t be “adoptable” by anyone else. That battle led to me leaving my social work job because I happened to work at that agency at the time and it became almost impossible to get my own job done as a result of the hostility and gossip. I also recognized that the boys needs were so high that I needed to be available to them full time. Which put us in an even more unstable situation since I was now relying solely on the foster parent funding to make ends meet until the blog became more profitable.

As a result of all that drama, I may have spent a few months thinking that I had anxiety or depression or was an otherwise awful person but a wise friend pointed out that I was reacting normally to some very awful and hostile behavior on the part of the organization that was supposed to support our family and these little boys. He was able to help me see that the system is broken and to stop taking things so personally. Basically they treat everyone like shit and I can’t fix that. I continue to worry about a system that is so broken they believe they can only fix themselves by breaking others around them. In this case that would be families. I wonder if they worry about their ability to cause damage as much as I do.

mean people

I also lost my two closest friends this year. By choice. I didn’t so much as lose them but terminated our relationship. The first because she had a serious drinking problem that resulted in her being mean, sarcastic, and made fun of just about all of my choices and how I parented when she drank. Which was pretty much every time I saw her. She’d get pie-faced drunk in front of my kids, falling down, banging into walls and then would proceed to drive home drunk no matter what I tried to do to stop her. I hear she got sober but it was too little, too late for me.

The second has always been a narcissist who’s definition of abuse is anyone who disagreed with her. I know she had conflict with pretty much everyone so I’m not sure why I was so surprised when she turned her venom my way. But she never had before so I was pretty unprepared. After my imaginary transgression and subsequent apology she continued to be mean and ugly, picking fights for months regardless of how hard I tried to smooth things over. When she started attacking my kids, saying no one wanted to be around them, I was outta there.

toxic people

I might be a little more alone (or a lot) but I don’t miss the drama one little bit. I think we need to be braver about cutting our losses when people just don’t fit, particularly when they don’t fit our value systems. If, like me, you value kindness then you probably shouldn’t make room in your life for mean people. Life changes happen and most of us can overcome the differences and challenges that come with boyfriends, babies, husbands, and new jobs. We can work towards a new balance. But there’s no room for people in our lives who are toxic, negative, and have major mental health or substance abuse issues. They need to go work those things out on their own. I’m really good at making excuses for bad behaviors and letting things go on way too long. Social worker hazard. Those days are officially over.

quit that job

The other major event is that our plan to relocate to Alabama has fallen apart. The child welfare agency is refusing to allow us to go. I’m fine with that but not how it played out. What burns my butt the most is that it became clear that they were never going to allow that to happen but refused to actually say so for nine freakin’ months. I’m fine with being told “no”. I’m less fine with selling my things, moving a ton of my belongings to Alabama in anticipation, and leaving my job thinking I’d be working on flipping a country cottage where I’d be able to live for free while doing so. And then waiting to leave for 9 months while they were “thinking about it” only to find out that we’re not going to be able to do that. Not cool, social work senior managers, not cool.

Enough of the ranting.

The upside of the decision to leave social work is that I’ve been able to write and blog full time. Which is pretty awesome!  Since part of the “treatment plan” is that the boys attend daycare full time, this has been a great opportunity to expand the blog and to start a second site which will launch today! Yup!! That’s our big announcement! Because clearly one website just wasn’t enough for me 😉 I can sleep next year. Or the year after that.

Fasd families header smaller

FASD Families was going to be launched 2016 but it’s up and ready to roll. The site is designed to be a place to support and share resources for families raising kids with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. The focus is on supporting foster and adoptive parent but also making a resource for social workers and other professionals to assist in identifying and supporting little ones who might have FASD. I think the biggest struggle for me and other foster parents I’ve met is the unwillingness or inability of social workers to address their concerns and to ensure that children are screened and diagnosed in a timely manner.

I’ve written a little bit about the boys, FASD, and fostering issues but it just isn’t a good fit our niche. I wanted to keep this as a design and DIY space but also have a space for FASD and fostering/adotion supports. That equals two sites and I’m super excited about it. It’s nice to think that all that fancy education and a masters degree in social work aren’t going to go to waste. Swing by and visit FASD Families and follow us! We can use all the support we can get as we get our new site off the ground:)

So while I’m all about leaving 2015 in my dust, I’m really excited to bring on some major (and happy) changes in the next year. This is going to be a big one for us and I personally can’t wait to get started. I think the word of 2016 is going to be “intentional”.

Good bye 2015

 

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) – Part 2

 

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder - Part 2

A couple of months ago I shared that my boys have FASD (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder) and I explained what FASD is. Since I talk about the boys and some of our daily struggles on the blog I thought it was time to share what family life can be like when one or more of the children have FASD. Because this weekend happened. And it’s still fresh in my mind.

 

fASD

 

On Friday, we skipped pre-school to head into town for the boys annual medical.  The boys made the move to a daycare center from home daycare in August and they love it. Although Liam was age ready for Junior Kindergarten, he was in no way real life ready. So pre-school it was.

I was excited about this trip since the boys had been doing so well lately. Aiden was less afraid of new people and situations and a lot more social, and Liam was presenting as a lot less impulsive and seemed to be processing things a little better. I wasn’t wrong to be excited because the medicals went great. Both little guys have gained 2 pounds since they were last seen in February. Kids with FASD often have trouble gaining weight and my two are no exception. Liam has been off and on the “failure to thrive” chart since birth because of his low birth weight (smoking and drinking during pregnancy will do that) and he doesn’t gain weight easily. Aiden has sat at the 50th percentile his entire life after also being born small for gestational age. Which brings me to the physical defects possible with FASD.

 

Physical issues with FASD

 

FYI- Some children can have FASD (or one of the variations) with absolutely no physical features or disabilities. In many cases, physicians and service providers are not aware of this and children do not get properly diagnosed because “they don’t have the features”. Most of the children I’ve worked with in the past twenty years with suspected or confirmed diagnosis of FASD did not have any of the the facial features common to FASD. Aiden has a few facial features consistent with the diagnosis. Liam has a minor deformity to one ear which is not really noticeable and a thin upper lip. That’s it. Kind of hard to spot, right?

On with the story….

The medical appointments are in the same building that I used to work in so I stopped downstairs to visit with friends in my old unit. Mistake number one. Because the visit went pretty well until it didn’t. It ended with Liam punching me in the groin and running off because a wheel fell off of his new car. I took that opportunity to leave. Mistake number two was I didn’t catch one of my friends giving the boys candy, until it was too late to do anything about it. Liam can’t handle sugar of any kind. In retrospect we should have gone home at that point. Mistake number three. But, I wanted to take the boys to see my oldest daughter at the mall and have lunch. I really know better. Experience and other parents of children who have FASD will tell you that doing more than one thing per day is a recipe for disaster. I didn’t forget….I was just overly confident because things had been going so well. So off we went to lunch at a crowded mall which actually went fairly well until we were finishing up.
Melissa & Doug-Leading Designer of Education Toys

I was keeping an eye on the boys pretty closely at this point because Aiden was getting clumsy and rubbing his eyes (my marathon sleeper) and Liam had already lost it once (that awesome groin punch) and was starting to have trouble sitting still. I skipped the fall clothes shopping and took the boys home. Aiden had a 3 hour nap and Liam fell apart for the next 2 days.  It started with being unable to sit on the sofa.

FASD- hyperactivity

He fell off (at least 7 times that Friday afternoon). He sat with his feet in the air, knocked the lamp over with his feet, stood on the top of the sofa, and all around couldn’t sit still. For 2 days. It’s annoying and we go through a lot of lamps, but mostly it’s just sad to watch. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to feel like you can’t stop moving. Or to constantly fall off of things.

(Like the time this happened right before the family arrived for Easter.)

FASD side effect- super clumsy

 

This is as good a time as any to mention the social and behavioral issues that go along with FASD which contributed me to keeping Liam from starting school earlier this month. Sometimes FASD looks a lot like ADHD since the kids are often really hyper and unfocussed. Which I believe is why so many kids are misdiagnosed as having ADD when the underlying issues are really prenatal exposure to alcohol.

 

social and behavioral issues with fasd

 

Back to our fun weekend. Along with all of the hyperactivity, the sillies kicked in. Liam looked like he was having a manic episode, complete with hysterical and uncontrollable giggling. Every single time I spoke to him for the next 2 days, he was out of control hysterically laughing at everything I said. It’s like he had left his body. I’d talk to him, look him in the eye and he just wasn’t there. I spent 2 days taking him over to the quiet spot to remove him from yet another insane situation. Because cause and effect don’t work on these fellows, you need to repeat things. A lot. That continued for the next 48 hours until he came down with a stomach virus and threw up. I was never so relieved to have a virus come through the house. He asked to go to bed at 5pm and slept the next morning until 9am. When he woke up, he was back to his semi-normal self. To minimize any further chaos, I kept him home from pre-school that Monday so he had some significant down time.

 

FASD- Brain and central nervous system

 

So that was our weekend. And, as a matter of fact, it really wasn’t a bad weekend at all. There have been far, far worse weekends. Like the time the boys punched, kicked, and bit each other and me for two days straight. That was fun. This is why respite is so important to families where one or more of the children has been diagnosed with FASD. A little time apart to regroup and pull it together is always a good thing. And it’s way better than hiding in the bathroom. Kidding. Okay. I’m not. But it only happened that one time.

The boys are a delight and I adore them. They make me laugh and bring joy and fun to our lives every single day. Even the really bad ones. I don’t regret taking them on and we generally do quite well. But FASD is hard. Getting to a diagnosis is harder yet. I’m not sharing these stories so you feel sorry for us. Or worse, judge. Jeez. That would be yucky. I’m sharing our story for all the parents out there who have no idea what’s going on with their children. This is particularly true for foster and adoptive parents who don’t have the benefit of knowing their children’s family or prenatal history and are struggling with their children at home and in the school system. If you’re reading this and wondering, send me a message. I’m happy to connect and help in any way I can. And if this doesn’t apply to your family and you’re reading because you’re nice….hurray! That’s awesome! Thanks for not drinking during pregnancy! 🙂

Interested in learning more? FASDfamilies.com is our sister site and is full of resources and supports.

You might also like: FASD- Part 1


Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder- FASD Part 1

What Is FASD?

 I’m taking a break from DIY projects today to talk about about FASD and my two little boys, both of whom have this disorder.

The story of how we got to a diagnosis is a long one and pretty typical for most foster/adopt families. It involved lots little concerns and a few major ones as I watched the boys grow and develop. I reported these issues, both to the medical team and to our social workers. For the most part, I was dismissed. Which is pretty interesting since everyone knew that the birth mother drank alcohol and used drugs. Additionally, Aiden was drug tested at birth and the test was positive for alcohol exposure.

Our Occupational Therapist had similar concerns but OT’s are not able to make a diagnosis. They work with symptoms and delays to help the boys achieve milestones and have a more functional life. It was her referral to a developmental pediatrician, however, that brought the diagnosis in the end. We are very grateful for her involvement and advocacy for these little fellows.

Both boys had full assessments in February and were diagnosed a week later. It was probably one of the saddest days for our family, even though I knew it was coming. I think I harbored a tiny hope that the social workers were correct and I was just guilty of high parenting standards and over-exaggerating issues. Nope.

FASD, if you’re not familiar with this disability (and I kind of hope you’re not), is an umbrella term for people born with brain damage caused by their birth mother drinking alcohol during pregnancy. The initials under the umbrella are the current types of diagnosis that can be given to children who have been exposed to alcohol in utero and are demonstrating symptoms of FASD. Liam was diagnosed with PFAS (Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrom) as he has very mildly affected physical features, making his disability largely an invisible one. Aiden has identifiable facial features and was diagnosed with FAS.

 

NOFAS

 

The alcohol exposure can affect people differently but all affected will have permanent long term disabilities in different areas.

 

Having FASD means having permanent brain damage and it will not get worse or better. We’re working on helping the boys achieve milestones and helping them function better on a day to day basis. I’ve learned that this mostly means modifying our environment and our expectations rather than assuming that the boys will learn to manage things like other kids.

With supports and services geared to addressing the disability, the boys have the ability to do well in life. Early diagnosis is crucial to a child’s success. Because early diagnosis means early intervention. Most children are diagnosed much later in life after they’ve experienced difficulty at school, with peers, or with the law. Which is why I was bulldog about getting them assessed early on. Apologies to the doctors and social workers who were probably tired of hearing me mention FASD. Except I’m not really sorry.

I’ve included a link to NOFAS and to a very basic Fact Sheet About FASD if you want to know more about this disorder. Included are some statistics about the prevalence of FASD in Society. I think those stats are on the low side. In almost 20 years in working with families in the child welfare system, mothers are rarely honest about their substance use during pregnancy for a variety of reason. In my experience, it’s not because they don’t care about their babies. It’s because they’re afraid of harsh judgement and that their children will be removed. This is a tragedy because I believe that there are large number of children with “behavior problems” or “ADD/ADHD” that have likely been misdiagnosed.

I’ll be sharing Part 2 our FASD Series in the next few weeks when I share some concrete stories and insight into what daily life with FASD is really like. There may or may not be a Part 3 if we’re having a good couple of weeks or so and I can come up with tips and ideas for working with children who have FASD. Things change around here by the minute. Which is pretty much what living with FASD is really like.

If you’re looking for some more information about FASD, check out our sister site, fasdfamilies.com

We’ll be returning to our regularly scheduled programming of fun DIY’s now 😉