Imagine With Me…..A God Sized Dream #MFCC

It’s been a while since you’ve received an Ottinger update, so today I hope to bring you up to speed and ask for your help for an important venture!!!!

As you know Mark and I have a huge crazy big heart for adoption and foster care.

In addition to growing our own family in through adoption:

  • We have had the honor and privilege of walking with hundreds of families through their personal adoption and foster care process.
  • We have been blessed with the opportunity to teach and train thousands of parents locally and across the US in healing attachment and healthy homes.
  • We have advocated for waiting children that are now safely home.
  • We have also seen God open up a thriving relationship with the Department of Children’s Services here in Shelby Co.

Over the last decade, through our personal journey and the journeys of those around us we have been come acutely aware for the need for a holistic care team of professionals for families and children.

There are many parents who desire to grow their family via adoption and foster care but are ill equipped for the challenges ahead as they begin to parent a child that has experienced loss, trauma, or harm. Families and marriages struggle. Children struggle. Despair and hopelessness grab hold.

The best of intentions don’t carry the family through the difficult transitions and day to day demands of parenting a child with a unique set of needs. Nor do they help parents when they begin to see their own need for support, healing, and care.

Specific trauma-informed care, support, and education are vital – literally a life line for a sinking family. For almost 15 years we have been dreaming and praying for a place that can meet these important needs.

  • Imagine a place where every child that was adopted or in foster care feels safe, loved and ready to heal.
  • Imagine a place where children are able to freely express their loss, fear and shame with compassionate adults.
  • Imagine a place where the unique physical and neurological needs of children who have been exposed to trauma and neglect can be understood by educated professionals.
  • Imagine a place where parents who are struggling with their own attachment and connection can be cared for and supported without shame or judgment. 
  • Imagine a place where adoptive and foster parents have the chance to experience true connection and care from those who are ahead on the journey.
  • Imagine a place where siblings of adopted or foster children are able to express their thoughts and feelings with therapists that understand.

Over the past two years we’ve worked hard to provide such a place. We’ve now put together a team that is diligently working on opening the:

k6ELADYX_400x400.jpg

Memphis Family Connection Center is a holistic adoption and foster care support center built on REAL HOPE, healing, community, support, education and care for the entire family. A place where families learn to move from simple survival to deep connection, awareness and joy.

And now, we need your help! Here’s a few ways you can help us communicate and connect:

  1. Today (December 1st) we launched our first-ever online giving campaign. This effort will enable us to begin construction and renovation on our new space. We invite you to give towards this, share the need with others, talk about it with your family, your friends your coworkers. We have a God-sized goal – $45,000 – but we believe it can happen!

https://givingtuesday.razoo.com/story/Mfcc-Prepourplace

2) Join our mailing list to get regular updates! We want to keep you informed of God’s move on behalf of this new effort.

http://eepurl.com/bC2XwP

3) Join us on Twitter or Facebook, and share this effort through social media! We can only spread the word with your help.

Facebook: http://eepurl.com/bC2XwP

Twitter: https://twitter.com/memphisfamilycc

Adoptive and foster families need a village of care and support to wrap around them. Will you partner with us in that work? We need you!

Thank you and as always – BLESSINGS!!!

Tona

Keys to an Effective Time-In~~Tuesday’s Tips

Time-In is one of the best strategies we use with our kids! All those I know, who initially started using this strategy to connect with their adoptive or foster kids, have chosen to implement it with their bio kids as well. It is a great way to help your child process their feelings, calm down, connect with them, and correct their behavior.

This new ETC article helps explain it in great detail –

http://empoweredtoconnect.org/keys-to-an-effective-time-in/

Here is a link to a blog post I did a few months ago on the bin we keep beside our chair.

https://tonaottinger.wordpress.com/2012/08/28/time-in-and-our-time-in-bin/

Blessings

Tona

Tuesday’s Tip – Ideas for Wiggly Kids Part 3

To view parts 1 & 2 of this series you can go here:

https://tonaottinger.wordpress.com/2012/09/18/tuesdays-tip-ideas-for-wiggly-kids-part-1/

https://tonaottinger.wordpress.com/2012/09/25/tuesdays-tip-ideas-for-wiggly-kids-part-2/

For part 3 I will highlight a few free or low-cost ideas you can do to provide a sensory rich creative environment at home.

Searching the web is a great way to get new inspiration.  All my ideas are “borrowed” from others.

A great on hand resource is “The Out of Sync Child Has Fun” by Carol Kranowitz. I consider it a must have if your child has Sensory Integration Disorder, but it is also a great resource to have on hand for typical kids.

http://www.amazon.com/Out—Sync-Child-Revised-Edition/dp/0399532714/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1349150221&sr=8-1&keywords=the+out+of+sync+child+has+fun

I have a Pinterest board full of ideas. If you are a Pinner you can check the ideas out here –

http://pinterest.com/tonaottinger/sensory-fun/

Shaving Cream Fun

All it takes is a nice day, swim suits, and some shaving cream. This is also a great activity to do in the bathtub or shower. Dollar stores carry shaving cream, so for a few $$ you have a fun sensory rich activity.

Box Creations

One of our kids FAVORITE things to do. We go box hunting behind furniture or electronic stores and load up on big boxes.

These boxes ended up being “space ships”, “cars” for a drive in movie in the living room, “tanks” for setting up an army fort, “beds” for playing pretend, and on and on and on.  The hardest part about this activity is convincing the kids it is time to get rid of the huge boxes!

Crash Pad

This idea came from “The Out of Sync Child Has Fun”. The “crash pad” is a great way to get some deep pressure input while doing a fun playful activity. At our house it usually ends up on as a “Daddy dog pile”, as shown above.  Gather up pillows, egg crates, bean bags, cushions and get to jumping.

Sidewalk Paint

This is a Pinterest idea. Corn starch, water, and food coloring. I ended up putting the kids in their swim suits and let them do finger painting. I was a bit worried the food coloring would stain their clothes.

Sensory Bin

Another great Pinterest idea. Rice colored with food coloring and then used in a sensory tub. I filled it with items from the Dollar Store. It lasted a few weeks and before I knew it the kids caught frogs and started using it as a frog house…needless to say it was emptied quickly there after.

Water Beads for Sensory Bin

You can buy these from Amazon. They are tiny when they arrive. After you soak them in water they expand making a great filler for a sensory tub. The boys played with dump trucks and bulldozer in them. The girls filled mason jars with them and “decorated” their room.

There are MILLIONs of  sensory tub ideas online. You can one around just about any theme, holiday, or interest. You can use beans, corn meal, rocks, pebbles, or rice as a base and add themed ideas to play in.

This website lists sensory ideas by the type of sensory need you want to meet. IE – tactile, sight, sound, proprioceptive, etc

http://www.therapystreetforkids.com/Sensory2.html

Happy Wiggling,

Tona

Tuesday’s Tip – Ideas for Wiggly Kids Part 2

Last week I posted some of our favorite sensory things for our wiggly kids.

Thought I would continue with that and post some more.

Next week I will focus on a few creative and cheaper =) ideas!

Weighted Blanket- one of the all around BEST items you can have to help a kiddo regulate and sleep better!!!

My mom (who is amazing!!!) made these for the kids one year for Christmas. You can google “weighted blanket” and find all kinds of places that sell them. They are pricy but a great investment!!!! You have to buy a certain weight based on the weight of your child so shop carefully.

Scooter Board

Yes that is kept inside my house.   Yes it drives me crazy.   Yes it is effective in getting out the “stir crazy wiggles”.

In fact as I am typing this, Dax just appeared in the kitchen on the board wearing his underwear and slippers…love that kid!!!

Mini trampoline

A great way to give sensory input without the danger of an out-door tampoline…which we can not have b/c of health issues.

Body Pillow

The kids LOVE these. They are great to snuggle with and they provide all kinds of comfort and fuzzy sensory input. A favorite for reading time or watching TV. They are carried all over the house. You can also use them to play the “oreo or hotdog game”- put a kiddo in the middle of two and apply some gentle deep pressure while pretending they are a cookie, hotdog, or sandwich and you are applying toppings…IE chocolate syrup, mustard etc.  Provides lots of giggles and helps calm and regulate.

These monsters are however banned from pillow fights….for obvious reasons =).

More ideas next Tuesday, until then….

Blessings and Happy Wiggling!

Tuesday’s Tip – Ideas for Wiggly Kids Part 1

Do you have wiggly kids?? I do =). Here are a few of my favorite things to help get the wiggles out, use up excess energy, and provide sensory input.

The Dizzy Disc:

It is like a glorified sit and spin…but way better =). The kids LOVE it…even the big ones.

The Balance Disc:

GREAT for helping them stay focused during book work or long periods of sitting. It allows them to wiggle in their seat while providing sensory input. They can also stand on it to practice coordination and balance.

Hopping Ball:

Good for balance, deep pressure sensory input, and it is just plain fun!!!

BodySox:

The kids love playing in these. They don’t even realize the bag is providing all kinds of good sensory input and helping them regulate!

I give them kids “sensory breaks” a few times a day during our homeschool schedule. It is such a vital part of our day! It gives them more focus and helps them stay on task. It took this task oriented mama a LONG time to realize that play and fun actually help get those items on my task list completed!!!

I will post more sensory ideas and wiggle tips next week.

Until then…

Tona

Empowered to Connect Devotional

I am honored to contribute to Empowered To Connect’s devotional for adoptive and foster parents titled “…and They Lived Faithfully Ever After.” The devotional will be available Dec 2012. Until then, a new entry will be placed online every Monday for the next 8 weeks.

Last week’s link:

http://empoweredtoconnect.org/and-they-lived-faithfully-ever-after/

This week’s link:

http://empoweredtoconnect.org/the-lord-is-our-strength/

Praying you find strength in Him today,

Tona

“Time In” and our “Time In Bin”

One of our family “Connecting while Correcting” strategies is using a time in/think it over/calm down chair.  After sharing a few pictures of a bin of goodies we keep by our chair on Facebook a few months back, I had several mommas ask me to tell them more about this strategy, how we use it, and what is in our bin.

A bit of background is necessary. Mark and I are total believers in Empowered to Connect (ETC) (www.empoweredtoconnect.org). ETC is based on the Trust Based Intervention Model (TBRI) laid out by Dr. Karyn Purvis (http://www.child.tcu.edu/training.asp).

We have seen and experienced great healing and hope in our family and witnessed it in countless other families that use the principles of ETC. We have been parent trainers with ETC for over a year and most of what I share here is taught in the Empowered to Connect Parent Training Course and the ETC conferences (http://empoweredtoconnect.org/conferences/)

…IE these are not my great ideas =).

Rather than typing out the strategies, I am going to include video clips to explain the concepts. If you don’t watch the clips you will not be able to follow my train of thought……

The heart of ETC is that connection is the goal with our kids. Therefore all correction is an opportunity for connection and building trust: http://empoweredtoconnect.org/keeping-connection-as-the-goal/

There is an “IDEAL” responses for the behavior exhibited by our kids. Watch this clip to understand more: http://empoweredtoconnect.org/the-ideal-response-for-parents/

After we understand the idea of an IDEAL response then we move into deciding what the “level of response” should be when we are “connecting while correcting”

The first strategy in responding to behavior is to be playful.  We can playfully redirect a child for mild misbehaviors without ever “breaking stride” as Dr. Purvis states in this clip: http://empoweredtoconnect.org/give-your-child-playfulness/

If a playful “try that again buddy” as Dr. Purvis says, does not get things rolling again then you can move into giving your child a choice. It would go something like this “Hey buddy you have a choice, you can put your shoes on or I can help you put them on.” or “I understand you do not want to, but it is time to do your homework you. You have a choice you can do it at the table or in your room.” or “I know you want to stay in your PJs but we need to get dressed for the day. You have a choice, you are welcome to wear this dress or these pants”…you get the idea…you are basically giving your child a “voice” and opening up the chance for them to cooperate with you and what needs to be done but give them little freedom of choice as they do what is being asked. It is very important to NOT use a consequence for one of the choices you give your kiddo….as tempting as that is =)….that is not the heart of this strategy. So you should not say, “You have a choice you can put your shoes on or you __________(fill in with a consequence or loss of privilege)”. Many of us cringe at the idea of shared power but it is vital to our kids!!! http://empoweredtoconnect.org/sharing-power-with-your-child/

If you and your kiddo are still not moving forward together then you can now go to a “time in”.

PLEASE do not use this as a TYPICAL TIME OUT!! That is not how this strategy is used!!! http://empoweredtoconnect.org/using-time-in-instead-of-time-out/ . The “time in/think it over/calm down” chair is not used as a place to punish our kids. It is used as a safe place to regulate, calm down, gather their thoughts, consider what they did, and prepare to repair the relationship. There are no timers used for how long they have to sit, because it is not a punishment.  When they are ready then the time is over. When we are able, we sit with our children while they calm down. If we can not sit with them we stay very close by and come to them calmly and compassionately when they are ready to repair. Next to the chair we have a “calming bin” full of a number of items

We included note cards for them to write or draw what they are feeling if they are not able to say it. There are sensory toys, calming toys and a book of verses and encouragement. We were careful not to put anything breakable inside in case it went flying across the room….just keeping it real =). It is safe, playful, refocusing, and calming for the kids and even allows us to fidget and play while we are waiting for them, which very often takes the heightened stress level immediately down. Frankly, there are many times the kids go to “time in” because daddy or I need a minute to take a deep breath before we are calm and ready to be available emotionally to help or kids. This “safe” calm down place has been a huge blessing to our family!!!!

I also want to add…. that after the repair has been made and you and your child are connected again then we do a “re-do”. This takes the child back to the place where the initial misbehavior happened and lets them “try it again” and do it successfully. This gives them not only the opportunity to relearn the correct and expected behavior but it gives us a chance to praise them for making a good choice, using their words to communicate needs, or responding respectfully. It is a beautiful and sweet time….even if is does take a lot of work and time to get to this point. It is WORTH IT!!!!!!!!!!

Have more questions??? Feel free to ask =) or spend more time watching clips and reading great resources at www.empoweredtoconnect.org.

Blessings

Tona

Wonderfully Hard

“What is it like adopting/parenting special needs kids?”

I get this question a lot. My hubby and I have even spoken at orphan conferences about this topic, yet most often I don’t have a great, formulated response. (I don’t even like the phrase ‘special needs’ but it is the language of today used to describe some of my kids….so the debate about it’s implications..I will save that for another post)

Why don’t I have a fast formulated response? HMMMM….because this is just my life. I don’t sit around much and ask myself what doing my life is like; by God’s grace I just live it. I take each morning and attempt to be present in the moment…loving, laughing, crying, dreaming, hoping, despairing, feeling, doing, being….just right there in that moment…being as presently connected and intentional as possible.  Sure, like all parents I lay down and night and let the reel of mistakes flood my mind and find myself begging God to help me the next day. Yes, I talk with my husband about the kids.  We celebrate their accomplishments and victories, we evaluate their behavior…I.E. try to figure out what the heck is going on up in their brain that might have motivated today’s meltdowns.

I spend most of my days staring at “the tree” right in front of me and I don’t step way out of “the forest” daily and ask myself what it is like. Maybe I should? Maybe I shouldn’t? Maybe if I did, I would not have enough courage and strength to go back into the woods? Maybe it is best to be in the moment God has me in and step into the next with blind faith, not always over analyzing where I am going?  Be present, intentional, gospel filled and just live?  I think something switched in me during those long years of parenting Dax when he was so chronically and critically ill. When I really could not, as much as I wanted to, know what the next day held. I think God showed me what it was like to lay down my control….OK really have control pulled out of my clinched-white-knuckled-fists.  It was actually very nice.  My “over- doing- Martha -self” saw for a moment the peace of being a “sitting-being-listening- Mary”.  But wouldn’t you know it…I being totally me…daily attempt to pick control back up.  It is like my drug.  Control.  I so deeply want it.  When I clamor for it, it steals my present moment living away. I think it is best for me to live focused and attune on the tree that God has placed directly in front of me. He knows the whole woods. He knows were I am going.

OK…sorry for the rabbit trail through the woods….back to my reason for blogging this morning.

I have a thought (I know crazy right??) about what it is like parenting my kiddos.  It is often hard. There I said it.  It is.  Please don’t hear me complaining.  I am not.  But I want to be authentic and real.  Parenting any kiddo is hard work. It just is.

I am missing church this morning yet again.  I can count the number of times I have gone to church this fall/winter on one hand.  Dax woke up this morning with, shall I say….not exactly correctly functioning intestines.  The first episode, I tried to ignore (don’t judge me, we all do it) with the hopes that it was a fluke.  The second episode, well that is just leftovers form the first time.  Right??  The third time, well crap (literally) I had to be honest.  Something was going on.  So back to my closet I marched to take off my church clothes and back into my comfies (hmmm…maybe it is not that hard=)!).

I am not sure what is happening with Dax this morning. So, I will spend my day watching and wondering. Is it because we changed 2 of his regular medicines last week? Did he eat something yesterday? Is this a normal kid stomach bug? Is something going on with his liver this morning? What exact color was his poop? How much was it? Has he had enough to drink? Are his eyes turning yellow, indicating a liver issue?  And the questioning will go on until I have a strong gut feeling and either take him to the doctor for blood work, or the Lord gives me peace to just keep watching.  Most of those questions all parents would ask. Right? Maybe I have a few additional questions stuck in there. But we all watch and wonder.

What is my point?  The journey of mommy-ing my kiddos is really much like yours. I am just a momma who has the privilege of parenting the little ones that God has put into my care on this side of eternity.  Parenting my kids is just like parenting your kids. My kids are…well just like yours; they are wonderfully and fearfully made. Perfect in the eyes of the Father who created them and dreamed them up before the foundation of the world.  Each child is different. Each mother must parent that child uniquely as God created them.  Millions of mothers around the world miss church because of unexplainable poop. It is just part of the role of mommy. We are all inconvenienced by illness and tummy bugs. We all have plans that have to be rearranged when one of our little ones get sick. We all miss parties and girls nights out. We all have to prioritize during these young years. We all worry about our kids futures, who they will marry.  If they will marry. Do they have enough friends? Do they have the right friends? Do they eat the right food to live to be 100yrs old? Do they brush their teeth enough not to need dentures if they live to be 100yrs old? Do they need a hair cut this week or next week? Is that bump on their leg, a bug bite, chicken pox or HAVE THEY BEEN BITTEN BY A BROWN RECLUSE, because I might have seen one in the attic 4 years ago when we first moved in? Was that response they just gave me acceptable or was that disrespectful? And ON AND ON AND ON AND ON AND ON the questions go……………… THANK YOU JESUS…you hold their yesterdays, todays and tomorrows  in YOUR hands!

I, like you, would lay my life down for them. Sacrifice everything for them. I hover, fret, worry, and love them with every fiber of who I am. I am often exhausted…asking all those questions would be exhausting for anyone!  But just like your kids, my kids bring me joy unspeakable. More joy and blessing than I ever knew possible.  I have the honor of discovering their special gift and talents, their little funny personalities. I have to advocate for them, when they are misunderstood.  I have to help them navigate disappointments and hurt feelings.  I have the joy of showing them the hope of Christ and the healing power of the gospel in a sinful fallen and broken world.

So……“What is it like adopting/parenting special needs kids?”

Simply put…it is wonderfully hard…just like adopting/parenting  “normal” (I don’t actually think there is such a thing, but that is for another post on another day) kids!

Off to wipe a bottom =)…..

Blessings,

Tona

One closing thought….I do believe 100% that all adoptive and foster parents need to be prepared and ready for the journey of raising our blessings. Check out www.empoweredtoconnect.org for training, help, encouragement and hope along the way!