My friend Courtney over at Adoption Connect and Storing Up Treasures In Heaven has put out a call for help for those families who have chosen to grow their families by adoption. I want to be a small voice answering that call for help so I decided to tell everyone who I am and how I am connected to adoption, adoption issues, and parenting.
My name is Amy and I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). I received my Bachelor's of Social Work from Monmouth University (Long Branch, NJ) and continued my education to receive my Master's of Social Work from Fordham University (Manhattan, NY). After several years of training I became a LCSW.
Describing some of my experiences or some of my life will help describe how I might be of some help to others who are struggling. Here it goes:
I have two bio daughters ages 15 and 9. They are both multi-ethnic, both African-American and Caucasian. I have 15 years of experience as a white mother doing my black daughters hair. I have learned how to corn row, braid, straighten, and twist my daughters hair. I have faced ridicule, comments, and sometimes even compliments on how I do their hair.
Having children of a different race than myself I have faced stares, questions, and well racism. I have created a household that celebrates differences and multi-ethnicity. I use toys, dolls, and books to celebrate diversity. I have educated my relatives, calmly and not so calmly fought for justice, and have taught and continue to teach my girls how to be proud of their race and culture.
My youngest daughter Autumn is my heart. She has been gifted with many diagnosis' which include Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), and Pervasive Developmental Disorder- Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) which is on the Autism Spectrum. We are also trying to figure out if she as an Auditory Processing Disorder. You can read about her story here.
Autumn has tremendous behavior problems. Here are a few of the therapies and techniques I have used: individual therapy (age 4), group therapy (age 4- social and coping skills), occupational therapy (age 7-present - sensory issues), medication (age 5 - present -Adderall prescribed by her Psychiatrist), therapeutic horseback riding (age 8-present- sensory issues, social skills, self-esteem), art therapy (age 6-7), weighted blankets (sensory issues), massage (sensory issues), diet modification, behavior plans, reward charts, brushing (sensory issues), and PRAYER are a few of the things I have used.
My primary job is in the disabilities field. I currently am the Residential Coordinator a non-profit organization. I supervise 3 group homes and 13 apartments for individuals with multiple disabilities. I started here in 2000 as a school social worker for children ages 3-21 with multiple disabilities, mainly physical. I now work primarily with adults. Our clients and students have major medical and physical difficulties.
My secondary job is as an adoption caseworker. I work for a private New Jersey adoption agency. I have been doing this for over 8 years. I love my job. I primarily work with the adoptive families, not the birth families. I conduct home studies, and perform post placement supervisions. I prepare court documentation as well as post placement reports. I have experience with both domestic and foreign adoption (China, Russia, Korea etc).
I am an advocate for special education. Because Autumn struggles so much I am constantly fighting with the Child Study Teams and school staff. I am finding my way through the system and am willing to help others do the same.
I am currently helping a mother reunite with her children who are in the custody of the State (DYFS). I am doing this on a voluntary basis and have been giving counseling to both the children and the parent. I have helped the mother organize and clean her home and have guided her in learning new parenting techniques. I enjoy this type of work and thrive in a crisis situation. I have no problem getting my hands dirty to help someone in need.
My family has been touched by surrogacy. My older sister was the gestational carrier for her best friend and his wife. This couple had trouble conceiving coupled with the mother's battle with cancer led my sister to agree to carry their biological child. Their son was born 5 years ago and I had the privilege of being in the delivery room with my sister and the couple. It was a beautiful event and we all became family that day.
I have a deep desire to become a foster parent. Someday I know I will be however I am a single mother raising 2 children with my sister who is also a single mother of 3 children. Together we are raising our children together.
I have experience with raising two daughters who feel like they have more differences than similarities. Their differences range from skin color, to fathers, to intellect, to emotional self-expression. They have both grown up with out a father figure and have both experienced feelings of abandonment however they have dealt with these experiences in very different ways and I have had to parent both of them in very different ways. My youngest had and has huge abandonment issues. My oldest does not.
I believe every child deserves a chance. I'm learning more and more that the way we parent can determine how our children thrive and grow into who they are as adults. If I think about it too much it becomes overwhelming. So I don't think about it :) I just do it. I do the best I can everyday. I am not the perfect mother but I'm the best I can be on any given day.
So this is who I am and who I am to the adoption world. I will pray that I can help whoever needs me and that I can be used for the Lord's perfect plan.
Well I've been thinking about Mr. Trouwbottom. What he would "look" like, who he "is", and more importantly who he "is not". So here are my thoughts, in no particular order except number 1, that must stay at number 1:
1) Mr. Trouwbottom must be a born again Christian who loves the Lord with all his heart mind and soul.
2) Must love diversity which includes tattoos and piercings! I have 5 tattoos and will be getting more shortly. He does not have to have tattoos but must be accepting of them and not think they are ridiculous or anti-Christian. After all Jesus loves me and my tattoos!
3) He must love to have fun. Laughing is a big part of my life. I laugh all the time and crack jokes all the time.
4) Must "get" sarcasm. I am very sarcastic and so are my family and most of my friends. You will not last long if you don't get it.
5) Must love church. I love my church and church family. If I can't make it to church I miss it and I love my Tuesday night small group.
6) Must not drink alcohol. I don't mind the occasional drink. And when I say occasional I mean occasional. I once dated a guy who said he was an occasional drinker which to him meant at least 1 to 2 drinks a night! Not my kind of guy. By occasional I mean maybe drinking 4 times a year . . . now that's occasional!
7) Must love overbearing and close nit families! My family is extremely close, but in a healthy way. It includes my parents, my two sisters, and my one brother-in-law, as well as my 5 nieces and nephews. We see each other almost everyday. We email and call everyday. We have keys to each others houses. We vacation together. We will do anything for each other. We never hold grudges.
8) Justice . . . . it's one of my passions. I love serving the disadvantaged specifically the poor. I also have a passion for racial injustice. If you have a problem with people of different race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or religion we will probably not be close. I have a high tolerance level and am willing to talk to anyone. I love learning about different cultures, religions, and backgrounds. The more diverse a place is the better, if people are all alike I find it boring and stiff.
9) Mr. Trouwbottom has to like sports. I'm not looking for an all out fanatic but my kids and nieces and nephews all play sports, so you can often find me watching either soccer, baseball, or basketball on most weekends. I was an athlete in high school and still love to play when I can.
10) He must not be super political. Ahhem . . . I am a democrat and proud of it. He does not need to be a democrat but must be willing to be married to one:). He must be willing to at least view the world from my eyes and not put me or my party down for our beliefs.
11) Mr. Trouwbottom must be willing to take my last name!! Just kidding, but that would be fantastic wouldn't it?????? He must be willing to allow me to keep my last name or if I am led to change it keep Trouwbottom in my last name. I am very proud of all my accomplishments as a Trouwbottom and I do not want that ever, ever to go away. I want people to know me and continue to know me by Trouwbottom. This is very important to me. Oh and my two little Trouwbottomett's will also have my last name so you see how important it is not only to me but to them. My history will not end when I get married it will just continue on with maybe a new name attached!
12) He must be kind and generous. I am kind and generous so I expect my mate would be also. If you need my shirt, I'll give it to you. If you need my bed, have it. If you need my food take that too.
13) Mr. Trouwbottom must be a hard worker. There's nothing sexier than a strong work ethic!!! I work extremely hard every day, I expect the same.
Well I'm going to end with #13, my favorite number. I will be adding to this list as I think of it! If you know anyone that fits my requirements, forward his resume to me!!!!
I am amazed at how Riley is doing and I am excited about God's work. When this all started we all questioned "Why?" As our story unfolds I am realizing that God does have a perfect plan and am enjoying what is happening to my family. In the mist of crisis we are all growing closer to God and isn't that what it's all about??? Here is my sister's update from Riley's care page, enjoy!
"Thursday's Update from Hilary"
How many times do you hear people say, "Oh,Thank God"? A million, right? Well, today when I say "Thank God", I really mean "THANK GOD!!"
Riley's first PT session was at 10am, and the whole hospital knew it. Mataj came in our room, and the pure sight of him sent her into a rage. I had to watch her scream and almost hyperventilate again, yelling, "Mommy, please dont....Mommy please please MOMMMMMMMMMMMYYYYYY"! I sat and cried for a while, wondering how can this continue? I took some time to gather myself together and get ready for the long draining day that seemed to be evident. As I watched the clock tick away, I saw out of the corner of my eye, a little girl riding a scooter!!!!! To my astonishment, it was the same little girl who, just an hour ago, was a lunatic. Again, I sat and cried, but this time it was pure joy.
Her second OT session was at 1:00pm. Heather picked her up, this time there was only a pout. No cries, no screams, just a sigh and a "hummmm"!
Her third PT session went very well - Heather dropped her off to Mataj with no trouble, and their session was very productive. When she came back to the room, she was greeted by a special package that came from Carol (my friend at work.) Inside was a big bag of M&M's - her favorite. What a great reward, thanks Carol!!!!
Her last OT session was the best! We had an hour break prior to this session in which we played multiple games of Hi Ho Cherrio and Memory. Riley won every time except once (I couldn't give up all my competitiveness!!!!). She kept watching the clock and asking, "how many more minutes?". She put her shoes and her safety belt on all by herself and climbed off the bed and walked hand in hand with Heather to the elevators. Once again, I sat and cried.
My big news is.....the entire team met today to discuss and collaborate on a plan for Riley along with a tentative discharge date. April 6th is the date that looks most promising. At first I was disappointed but after letting it sink in a bit, I have to count my blessings. At least she's coming home, and in reality, whats two and a half more weeks, in the scope of things. So, this is why I say, "THANK GOD......THANK GOD"
So I've been hesitating blogging for the past few days. I don't know why but I have been heavy hearted. I have been updating my nieces care page so that has been my main focus but it also has brought to the for front how blessed I am.
Cancer sucks. It seems like more and more people I know are affected by it. Personally my family has been affected by cancer twice. Both my grandfathers died of cancer. My paternal grandfather, Theodore Trouwborst, died of lung cancer when I was 18 and pregnant with Rayne. Lung cancer is a gruesome and painful death. He went on hospice and died at home with his wife and all his children around him. Even back then I was okay with death. I never really thought about it until right now but the same skills I have now as a social worker I had back then. I sat by his side, I cleaned his house, I pulled resources together, I helped change him, and I was there for my family when they needed me to be. My maternal grandfather died about 5 years ago, he had a tumor on his neck that went to his brain. His battle was very quick and because he had a bad heart he went to bed one night and never woke up. He was living with my mom and dad at the time.
It turns out that Misty and I went to the same small Christian school together. She was about 6 years younger than me so I do not remember her much. We went to Central Jersey Christian School which has since closed down. She was the best friend of the little sister of one of my classmates who I graduated High School with. This couple's faith through Misty's battle with cancer rocked my world, literally. Toward the end of her struggle I became a fervent prayer warrior. I would pray out loud, I would pray in the shower, I would pray while driving. At one point I emailed my closest family and friends to tell them about how Misty's life had been affecting me. My friend Pina started reading the blog and shared my concern and empathy for Misty. When Misty conquered cancer and went to be with our Almighty God, Pina and I went to her celebration service together. The church was packed. They had an awesome band playing praise and worship music, that time was beautiful.
I have two people from the church I grew up in and went to school with that have also been affected by cancer and in turn have affected me. Michelle lost her precious son Malcolm to cancer a couple of years ago.
Malcolm's fight and his family's faith was amazing. I am still blown away by how faithful Michelle and her husband were througout this who ordeal. I am so blown away by their faith today.
Kim is currently fighting the battle with her son Nicholas. Their faith in God is remarkable and the angels and warriors that are battling with this family is unbelievable.
I'm not sure I understand why these children have to suffer and die. Or why anyone has to get cancer. It just seems like life is hard. Like it's harder than usual. I'm sure each generation before me felt the same way but I now know way too many people who are suffering or have died from cancer.
My niece's suffering is not cancer and I praise God for that every day but it's sad that every time one of my kids or friends kids or niece or nephew get ill . . . in the back of my mind I think cancer first. I know God's will is perfect. I know He is in control. I know that He is the one that spoke the world into existence but sometimes I don't believe. Sometimes my heart does not match my brain. Sometimes I want to scream that there is so much suffering and that little innocent children suffer everyday. I also feel guilty some days. I feel guilty that mothers are getting the bad news from doctors that there is nothing they can do to save their child's life, that fathers have to take their sons and daughters home to take their last breath. I feel guilty that I am burdened with my daughter's diagnosis of ADHD and Autism, I feel guilty that although she will have a life long struggle at least she has a life! I feel guilty that my family has been suffering so much with Riley's crisis but that at least she didn't have brain cancer!
I have learned that I have a heavy heart and an old soul. I know myself now and I'm trying to accept who I am and become prideful of the woman I have become. I know for a fact that I am affected by life much more than most people. I have always felt like the black sheep in many situations. I always wonder . . . "Doesn't anyone else feel this way?" Luckily I have found a few who do. I have found some who think the way I do, who take on the burdens of those who are suffering. Who can weep at a funeral of a woman I didn't even really know. God has given me a good heart. I am filled with passion, and I am learning to be proud of that. I have often hidden my passion but I am learning to fly high now.
These verses in Matthew have stood out to me lately and have given me comfort. I know I kind of rambled on today and I'm not even happy with this blog entry, it does not give my heart or mind justice, I just can't get it all out at once but I needed to start. So here it is!
Matthew 11:27-29 (New International Version) 27"All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Riley is walking with a walker now, my sister Hilary still needs to hold on to her "belt" but at least she is getting out of bed and moving around.
Hilary's back is killin' her!!!
Her smile will light up a room!!!!!!!!!
Hilary's company has put me and the kids up in a hotel here in Philly for the weekend. Autumn and I stayed there last night. Aedan and Teddy slept over her dads and will be at the hotel tonight. Autumn did not receive her Adderall yesterday (I was running out so I tried to get away with it) so by the time we got back to the hotel she was bouncing off the walls. She also had some tantrums in the hospital. It was a typical tantrum for Autumn, she pouts, ends up on the floor, fingers in her mouth, and begins to drool. I know it's very attractive. But she finally got through it and we moved on. I gave her Melatonin when we got to the hotel and she was sound asleep by 12am . . . story of my life!
Autumn continues to be amazing with Riley. This morning before we left for the hospital she announced, "I have to get my bag ready for Riley! She has a whole "kit" for Riley in a bag filled with a massager, webkin, Nintentdo DS, etc... I told her she was a little Occupational Therapist! She liked that! I gave her Adderall, I only have 2 pills left, my sister Jill will bring me the rest today . . . THANK GOD!!!
I am off today because I was supposed to go away for the weekend get away, I was going to take Riley's brothers to distract them but needless to say something got in the way so we are not going. I have to be honest with you I am quit upset we can't go. It hit me pretty hard, out of the blue, and even cried a little this morning. But God is in control and I know He has a plan. Instead of being in Lancaster I will be in Philly, trying to distract Aedan and Teddy, somehow, someway!!! Remember I'm superwoman so I can figure it out!
I just sent Rayne off to her first ever Lacrosse game! Should be really exciting, I can't wait until I get to see a game! Riley's illness has been rough on us, I only see Rayne for about 60 seconds each day. If I stay in Philly tonight she will spend the night with a friend and we will try to reunite tomorrow.
Well that's all for now. Please keep praying for my little bug, she's a trooper!
And if you have five minutes please go over to www.leblanclife.com and watch the recent video Darren posted. This video gave me the shot in the arm I needed to go on today. May we all be like Christ as these football players personified Him.
It's 9:35pm and I'm sitting next to my Riley Roo. It's great to see her without her IVs. She now takes all her medicine by mouth. I brought Teddy and Aedan here tonight so they could spend the night with their father. Autumn and my mom came with us too. Autumn amazes me how she takes care of her "sister" as she now considers Riley her sibling and not her cousin anymore. Riley is still attached to Autumn and Autumn is so patient and kind to her. This is a stark contrast to what Autumn's typical behavior is like, impatient, hyper, stubborn, and well annoying at times.
We got some answers today. Riley tested positive for the Rota virus which is a stomach bug. This virus traveled to her brain (very rare) and caused the swelling and also a mini stroke. She still cannot walk by her self, her left side is affected the most. She will start therapy in a pool tomorrow on the seizure floor here at CHOP. Today I got a little emotional today and blamed myself forgiving her the virus. The Saturday before she got it I had the stomach flu. I know I shouldn't blame myself but I can't help it.
Tomorrow I wil be back for my 6th visit in 6 days. She's worth it, she's my hero.
My mom, Teddy, Autumn, and I drove back to CHOP and surprised Hilary and Riley! We brought the Wii and a big package that arrived for the kids from Hilary's company. Riley is doing okay. Since she came off the anti-viral medication her viral counts went up so they put her back on the anti-viral. When she arrived on Sunday morning her counts were around 750, normal-high is 194, when she went on the anti viral the counts went down to 174, but then creeped back up to over 200.
The part of the brain that is affected by the virus controls her fine motor and gross motor skills, not her intellect, so that is why she is "normal" Riley but she can't walk. We are trying to figure out if it is only her left side that is affected. We definitely know her left leg is affected more than her right but her left arm has her IV board on it so we can't tell. They have also mentioned that she might have had mini strokes but they are not sure. Her EEG did not show seizures but it did show a slowing of the brain which we expected.
They have no discharge date in mind but she will probably be in longer than a week. Continue to pray because God is GOOD!
You can see Autumn is helping her cut play-doh. I think I have a future Occupational Therapist on my hands! I wouldn't be surprised since Autumn gets Occupational Therapy each week for her sensory issues, she's practically an expert!!!
Riley Ella's glass doors to her room.
Autumn had fun drawing on Riley's door to her room.
Riley and Teddy played on the lap top, her right arm and hand are so much better, she is even able to feed herself goldfish and cheerios now.
Riley is doing well. Hilary, Teddy, Aedan, Autumn, and all stayed at a hotel last night. Hilary got some well needed sleep and the boys had a great time with their mom. John said Riley slept most of the night. No results from the EEG yet. The occupational and physical therapists have been to see her. She still cannot walk unassisted and her neck seems to be week. She is extremely cranky and often cries for Autumn to play with her. She is off the anti-viral medication. They have tested for 7 known viruses that could cause this and so far all tests have come back negative. She remains on steroids, 2 anti-biotics, and anti-seizure medication. Keep praying, God has a plan and his healing touch has been seen already, WE SERVE AN AWESOME GOD!
Please pray for Riley, my 4 year old niece she was hospitalized yesterday for stomach pain and vomiting. Turns out it was not just a stomach virus.
Riley's MRI of the brain showed swelling of the cerebellum. She has been flown by helicopter to the Children's Hospital Of Philadelphia. Neurosurgeons are on standby in case she needs surgery. They have her on anti-biotics, anti-virals, steroids, and anti-seizure medication (she was having weird eye episodes like seizures), and a salt saline to ... Read Moretry to draw some of the water away from her brain. There were also signs of the blood vessels in her brain being constricted by the swelling. She was alert when she left, I was able to play with her and distract her while Hilary worked with the neurologist Dr. Phish (who by the way ROCKED!!!! she is great!), however she still can't walk, has no balance what so ever. Please pray for God's healing and that she will not need surgery!!!!
Yep, I've been looked into by the Division of Family and Youth Services (DYFS), yeah you know the big bad people that come and inspect child abuse claims. But it's not what you think, it wasn't for my kids (although some days I think DYFS could be called:). Remember way back in November when I told you I might become a foster parent for two of my friends kids? Well the kids are still not home and here we are in March. The two children are now living with the paternal grandmother which is a better situation than the previous foster home.
I have been approved to provide supervision to the mother and the children, which will help the kids and also help the paternal grandmother as well. They had to do a routine background check and thankfully I passed . . . woo hoo!!! I was not nervous please me, nervous, skeletons? NEVER! Ha!!! So anyway I'm going to call the grandmother to set up a meeting so that I can take the kids to see their mom.
I have to be honest, after hearing the case history I'm kind of nervous about what I have gotten myself into but I truly feel like God is calling me to do this. I have put a call into my pastor so I can talk it over with him. DYFS and I are on the same page. Although this mother is my dear friend I do see this situation through reality and through my social worker eyes. I do believe DYFS had the right and it was a necessity to remove the kids. I believe this family needs a lot of prayer and a lot of work. This will probably put me in an awkward place with my friend but we have always been able to be honest with each other. This time it will be brutally honest, things have to change.
So wish me luck, now there is another thing thrown into my crazy schedule but hey, I'm superwoman I can handle it . . .
As some of you might know I had gastric bypass surgery on June 11, 2008. Here are my before and afters so far . . . to date I am down 115 pounds, almost the equivalent of my 15 year old daughter!!! Praise God, for it is through Him I was able to do this!!!!
It's Sunday March 1st. I can't believe it's March already. Last year this time I was preparing for my surgery. I was getting all my tests complete and waiting for insurance to approve me. I have lost around 111 pounds, probably more but I don't weigh myself much. This weekend I have been stricken with the stomach flu . . . yuck . . . there's nothing worse than living in the bathroom.
I had to miss church this morning, second Sunday in a row, I hate missing church but I just didn't have enough strength to go out today. It's also snowing so that means I have to muster up the strength to clean my car off. The only benefit of the stomach flu is that I probably have lost a couple more pounds!
My 15 year old has been giving me an attitude lately. Last night in the mist of me running to the bathroom I gave her attitude back. I feel bad when I do this, I wish I could just discipline without getting down to her level. I'm excited about getting my new camera, then I will have lots more to post. I ordered it off of eBay for a great price. It's the same camera I lost a couple of months ago. Amongst my chaotic move to my sisters I misplaced the camera and I do not know where it went . . . the worse case scenario is that someday while unpacking a box I never got to I will find the camera. I will either sell it on eBay or give it to one of my kids or to someone who could really use it.
So it's another boring Sunday on my couch. I really hate being sick . . . tomorrow should be better:).