walk the line: some thoughts on boundaries, trust and attachment [part 3]

walk the line:  some thoughts on boundaries, trust and attachment, part 3

Act 3. The curtain rises. It is months later.

It is a hard day, and I’m holding a fighting boy who is mad at the world.

He’s mad at his choices, mad at his consequences, and especially mad at his mama for not letting him drive through the fence. (see part 1 here)

I look into dark eyes and tell him not to fight me because I am on his side, and when he fights me, he fights against himself…and he is the one that loses. (see part 2 here)

RAD is so bizarre and parenting them is so backward in many ways. It really is an experience where you learn about God’s love for us though, because it is often years of loving them with no love in return. If other adults give them attention, it only makes it worse and prevents them from attaching to the parents longer. So many parents, though, feel so judged as they try to parent these kids.

In order to parent them effectively you have to quit caring about what others may think and care only about what is best for the child. Hard to do as a first time RAD parent and I think why so many disrupt. Hard enough to have your child not love you, but then to have others judging you too is just too much for many. I try to remind people that if the child is “reacting” then it is because they are “attaching” even if you aren’t seeing it and feeling it. If they didn’t feel themselves wanting to get close to you then there wouldn’t be so many behaviors.

Amanda Unroe

We make it to lunchtime.

It’s a treat for most of us on this day because we have veggie sushi. I know Andrey and Reagan don’t like it, though, and there’s just enough cucumber in the fridge to make an alternate meal for them – tarator, a traditional Bulgarian cold soup that they love. I don’t usually accommodate with options, but we need to use the ingredients up anyway and it sounds good to me. Perfect.


I’m grating cucumber. “I don’t like sushi,” Andrey announces from the table, amid cheers from the other kids who love it.

“I know. I’m making tarator for you and me and Reagan.”

I finish grating the cucumber and start chopping mint leaves (not sure if these are traditional, but I like them).

“I don’t like soup. I want sushi.” I mix in yogurt, drizzle in olive oil.

“I want sushi.” Sprinkle salt and pepper. I’m getting tired of these announcements and make one of my own.


“Today I’m not going to feed you food that you complain about. If you complain about something, you will not get it, whether you change your mind or not.”

Silence. I can hear him coming to a realization. The wheels are turning.

I arrange seven dishes. Sushi for four kids, tarator for Reagan and myself. Bread and apples for everyone.


Bread and apples for Andrey. And he says nothing, but his mind is learning. Those wheels are still turning, and he’s trying to decide if he wants to steer down the straight and narrow, or try driving through the fence.

Someone asks for tea, and I start pouring.

“I don’t like tea,” he announces.

“That’s okay, you have a water bottle.”

A few minutes pass. We have prayed and we are eating. We are happy…six of us, at least.

“May I pwease have tea?” he asks aloud. But what he is really asking is, Did you mean what you said when you said I couldn’t have something I complain about? Or can I get you to let me get away with pushing the rules?

Can I set a moving target?

And the answer is no. No, no, and no. “You have a water bottle,” I remind him. Remember to smile, mama.

“I don’t like my water bottle.” And then he gets a look on his face that clearly says, Oh, crap.

And he is learning what I want to teach him, instead of the other way around. We have set a boundary and he is learning to respect it. To respect others. To respect himself.


We know there’s progress. There has to be. If they didn’t feel themselves wanting to get close to you, there wouldn’t be so many behaviors. But it doesn’t feel like it when we’ve hit our one-year anniversary and both kiddos seem to be regressing in one form or another.

What we’re doing must be working to some degree because they are rejecting it. Sincerity pushes them out of their comfort zone, and a year into this, suddenly basic routines are out the window and met with defiance.

Not asking to be excused at meals. Not asking to have a chore checked. Not flushing the toilet (so help me) without being reminded.

It’s a game that’s not fun for anyone.  The reminder isn’t necessary.

Patience is. Also, liquor.

Just kidding.


The lunch scene replays itself shortly after our one year anniversary. Sushi for some of the kids, tarator for others.

“Oh! Yummy sushi! I wike sushi! I wike soup, too!”

Well. You don’t say.

We don’t want to over-prune, and neither can we under-prune. We must prune with a purpose, working toward the vision of a thriving life that will bear much fruit.

It’s hard to walk the line every day. We’re not heroes. We continue to covet your prayers…and your occasional gifts of coffee and chocolate.


May adoptive families find encouragement, healing, and grace as they walk the line throughout their community, in all of their days. The victory is here.

End of Act 3. Curtain closes.

(In case you missed it: Part 1 and Part 2)

anxious for nothing

I love bread dough. There is something instinctively comforting about warm, rising dough that is as fluffy as toddler cheeks. I love the ppfffffff sound of punching the dough down after the first rise and then dividing it into little loaf portions and tucking them into their pans.  I love folding in mozzarella and sauteed onions and so many herbs that they fall out when you lift the dough into the big loaf pan.

I love watching it rise.
And…I really love eating it. Hello, my name is Shannon, and I love, I adore, I highly esteem, I less-than-three carbs and gluten. Don’t tell our naturopath. 

Baking bread used to be so intimidating to me. Silly, hmm? It was unfamiliar territory and seemed like a big process. I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to tackle it.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

– Philippians 4:6

So tackle it I did, and then got a little braver. I learned to play.



I learned to make new things, and discovered the love of stretching strips of pizza dough over calzone filling, rolling long thin triangles into crescent rolls, and layering other strips of dough together with a ridiculous amount of cinnamon sugar in between. Nothing fancy, just comfort food…but I’m harboring a longing to try homemade hotdog buns soon. We’ll see.

Recently we learned to make doughnuts, and I loved cutting out floury circles, and – the best part – little floury doughnut holes. Oh, joy! Oh, bliss!
Oh, dentist!

Just kidding. No cavities so far.



Playing is messy but so necessary. We need it from the earliest of ages. When we are little and don’t have enough play and touch and interaction, many things that should just be routine are anxiety-provoking, unfamiliar territory.

Fear comes into play. Literally. 

We learned a little – just a tiny bit – about this during some adoption trainings. We’ve learned quite a bit more, as usually happens, through actual experience. 

Our first experience was during our first trip to Spaghettia in March of last year. We gave Reagan some playdoh – all kids like play-doh, right? – and when she squeezed it, she cried. She was scared of it. 

We thought, Hmm, that’s weird, and found different toys to play with. 

We’ve been home together for almost a year now, and we’re learning more and more. It’s tricky; there don’t seem to be any hard and fast rules about sensory issues. Not all symptoms or characteristics may be present. A child can be both hypersensitive and hyposensitive. And – I just love this – “Inconsistency is a hallmark of every neurological dysfunction.” 

Well. Thanks so much. That’s just great.

Anyway, we’re doing lots of play. So many things are new and intimidating, and we focus on making new things familiar so they lose their fear. Messy play, creative play, textures, temperatures, movement, sound…sensory play. Of course, we never called it that before. We just called it…play. The only difference is that we don’t take it for granted anymore.



…My object is to show that the chief function of a child – his business in the world during the first six or seven years of his life – is to find out all he can, about whatever comes under his notice, by means of his five senses; that he has an insatiable appetite for knowledge got in this way; and that, therefore, the endeavor of his parents should be to put him in the way of making acquaintance freely with Nature and natural objects.

– Charlotte Mason, Home Education

She loves playdoh now. And not just for eating.
(Kidding. She’s only eaten it twice…I think…) 

Tonight after bedtime, Chamberlain came downstairs with a splinter in her fingertip that, while certainly painful, somehow magically did not become so until after we tucked her in. Vince and I took turns poking with the tweezers amid her shrieks and tears, but to no avail…we can’t pinch the splinter out, the tweezers can’t grasp it, and it’s unavoidable…the dreaded implement must be used.
You know the one. 

The fearsome sewing needle. (gasp!) 

Say it ain’t so! 

Actually, I’m not saying it at all. I’m handing her a stuffed doggie that happens to be within arm’s reach and what I do find myself saying is, “I think Pup has a splinter, too. How about you check him with the tweezers -” putting those useless things into her right hand, “while I look at your splinter a little more?” 

It was a stroke of divine genius that didn’t come from me at all. And it worked. 

She is engrossed in Pup’s right paw while I am holding her left paw and poking it with the needle. She has no idea I’m even holding a needle. She hardly notices that I have exposed the end of the splinter and she is jabbering to Pup about how he must be more careful in the woods around the rosebushes… 

I ask her if we can trade. She looks at me with surprise and hands me the tweezers and takes the needle that she didn’t even know I had and continues Pup’s surgery. One more pinch on her rosy fingertip and the tweezers grasp the splinter…and it’s out. 

We look at it together. Out in the open, it’s just a tiny little thing.

Cham toddles back to bed. I toddle back to the kitchen, thinking about what just happened…and He tells me: 

You are the one holding Pup. 

I almost dropped the tweezers. What?
He explains. He says that as we learn about these kids…all six of them…and we look for their owies that need healed and the things they need to learn, and we kiss them and cry over them and are engrossed in their need for restoration and growth…He is holding the needle. He is working on us. 

There are owies and impurities inside me, and He is calmly, carefully, quietly pulling them out as I jabber on and on to Him about the pups that I’m holding. Things that used to intimidate me are almost normal now, and I don’t even cry over other things that used to scare me, and I’ve hardly noticed because my attention has been focused on these pups.

As we teach and comfort our kids, He is pulling fears out – these little bitty things that cause so much pain – and brings them out to the open so we can look at it together.

He sends us toddling off, free, showing us new ways to play so we can be anxious for nothing…because He loves to watch us rise.

whatever works

Almost every night, same thing. After bedtime, various ailments suddenly appear: one is called I Have a Fuzzle in my Eye, another is My Throat is Sore Even Though I’ve Been Playing Happily All Day. Often, it’s I Lost my Best Stuffed Animal and I Think He’s in the Car and Can I Please Go Get Him? or I Left my Water Bottle Down Here and I’m ReallyReallyReallyReally Thirsty.


Last night Afton had the one called I Have a Tummy Ache. I offered apple cider vinegar diluted with water (which really is a good remedy for tummyache) and he hesitantly agreed, but asked me to add honey to it.

“Nope, no honey after bedtime.” I looked over at Andrey, who was watching the scenario carefully and I could tell he was seriously considering whether or not he wanted a tummyache. “Still want some, with no honey?”

Afton puts on his best, most decrepit voice and weakly whimpers okay. A few minutes later, I’m back upstairs with a tiny cup of what I hope will fix I Have a Tummyache for at least a few weeks.

I hand it to him. I sneak a look at Andrey across the room. He is sneaking a look at Afton and holding his tummy, letting out the faintest moan.

(It should be noted that these children were healthy all day,
had no signs of a fever, illness, or any other ailment than not wanting to submit to bedtime)



Afton takes the cup, and Andrey experiments with a louder whimper and looks at me. “Watch Afton,” I tell him, totally grinning. This is so exciting!

Afton takes a drink. He swallows and makes a face that reminds me of something I’ve seen in a Calvin and Hobbes strip. He shudders and hands the cup back, and…it’s a miracle!

Andrey is watching, and suddenly he is healed, too!

As I mentioned, apple cider vinegar (also known as ACV) is incredibly effective for tummyaches. It’s so amazing that they don’t even have to be the one drinking it to be cured.

Every week is full, and every day is full, and I usually can’t even tell you what happened on a particular day. I saw a dear friend this afternoon and she asked how long we’ve been home. I counted the months off: “August, September, January…three months.” Really. Yes, it’s that bad sometimes.

The littlest Lullabies and I took a walk to the mailbox this week to drop off some orders, and it was so good to breathe fresh air. I am a homebody and sometimes spend days inside before I realize I haven’t ventured beyond the porch to check on the kids while they’re playing.

Two by two by two, trooping down the road to the mailbox. Trooping back home to play.

Trooping inside for soup.



This is ham, two kinds of leftover sausage, celery, onion, garlic, lima beans, and kale. We make soup at least once a week, and I always think of my grandma, who also loves soup. She taught me to make it this way: “Whatever falls out of the freezer goes in.”

“E’cept for ice cream?” I’d ask, and she would reassure me that ice cream does not go into soup. I learned why as a college student…when I discovered that ice cream makes an excellent breakfast.

Sometimes we troop to the timeout corner, and sometimes a baby goes in timeout too, because misery loves company.

Can you guess what happened here? You might have seen something similar in this post a month or so ago. This time we got to clean out underneath a different bookshelf. We are still scrubbing, and He is still scrubbing us.

Other issues have come up, too. Vin has fixed our washer three times for three separate issues, and though it washes and spins and rinses now, it rattles the house. No problem. I figured out that the noise is diminished when you put at least one kid on top of it.


Chamberlain is a huge help with the laundry.


So, it’s bedtime again. Cups of tea steaming, books on the couch, kids in bed.Afton comes downstairs, scratches his tummy, and says it itches. I offer two choices of Solution for an Itchy Tummy that he can retrieve from my bathroom (coconut oil or lavender lotion), and he says, “But I’m supposed to not get out of my bed.”

“Then what are you doing down here?”

No comment. About face, back to bed.

Before he has gone up three steps, baby sister appears, pointing to her chin:

“I ‘pilled my wadder boddle an’ I hab a wet ‘pot on me wight here…and…and…it’s…wet.”


P.S. Yes, I do realize it’s November. It’s been a long three months. I will call it January if I want to. I’m totally ready for Christmas dinner this week.


P.P.S.  Just kidding.

peanut butter smash, and other necessities

For the record, I think pie makes a terrific breakfast. I think cheese is lovely – with fruit, with meat, with bread, or by itself. I think creamy soups are made for Alaskan winters, and there’s nothing like warm, crusty bread fresh out of the oven and topped with melting butter to go with it. So it was a real bummer when we recently had to make some dietary changes and grains, sugar, and dairy went out the window. Then a few weeks ago some allergy results came in, and (for one of us, at least) eggs, chicken, soy, gluten, and certain fruits jumped out the window as well. We’ve had an interesting few months of learning how to un-cook and simplify things.

We have a few favorites that I’ve been meaning to share for a while. I have a handful of friends who are also on similar restrictions, and we’ve been back-and-forth for months figuring this stuff out. Hats off to those of you who have done this for years – me, I’m just getting a handle drinking coffee without sugar and not having dessert for breakfast twice a week. So here are some of those favorites, and even those of you who can eat tiramisu should enjoy this (but please don’t eat it in front of me, or I might cry and be really sad for a while).

Okay, this isn’t really a favorite, but it’s pretty, yes? It’s one of our staple snacks – it goes to class with us when all of the other kids are eating cheese-its and goldfish and small cupcakes, and our child-who-almost-never-complains-about-it dutifully eats her nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. What a champ.

This. Now, this, my friends, is what we call Peanut Butter Smash. Vince thinks this is the best thing since Reese’s peanut butter cups. Making this is a highly sophisticated process, but I think you can do it. You take peanut butter (or almond butter, whatever) and put on any or all of the following in amounts that only you can determine: sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cinnamon, cocoa, honey, raisins (it’s way more fun if you pretend they’re chocolate chips), chopped dates/other dried fruit, etc. Then you smash it all together with your spoon and eat shamelessly. It’s not so pretty after the smashing; that’s why the picture shows it in its pre-smashed state.

 This is roasted winter squash soup, in a pot that used to be my great-grandmother’s (we called her Grandma Great). I found the recipe here and changed it some – nixed the milk, the celery (I’m not opposed to celery, I’ve just never had any on hand every time I’ve made this), the cinnamon stick (who buys those, anyway?), canned broth (used homemade, so there), coriander, and bread crumbs. I added garlic, cilantro, ground cinnamon, freshly ground pepper, and (when the kids weren’t looking) a few dashes of hot sauce. It’s a winner every time. If that doesn’t light your fire, you’ve got wet wood.

 This is homemade, from scratch, egg drop soup. Easy. Wish I had a real recipe for it, but I don’t, so here’s what you need and we’ll wing it from there (because we’re formal like that):

Four cups of chicken or turkey broth (or use water and don’t tell anyone)
About 1/4 of a cabbage, roughly chopped
An onion, sliced thinly
Minced garlic – a good spoonful
A carrot, thinly sliced
Two eggs, beaten
One or two finely chopped green onions
Salt and pepper to taste

Throw everything except the eggs, green onions, salt, and pepper into a pot and bring to a gentle boil. Cook until veggies are tender and onions are translucent. Turn the heat to low and whisk in the eggs. Add green onion and cook for another minute or two. Season as you wish, Buttercup.

These are cooked plums, but you can do the same thing with peaches or nectarines. Melt some butter in a pan (“some” is a little ambiguous, but it can be anything from a teaspoon to 1/4 cup, it’s your party) and add a few chopped peaches, plums, or nectarines. Cook until all the juices come out and it turns into a beautiful, syrupy yumminess that resembles pie filling. Add honey and/or cinnamon if you want and eat for breakfast in lieu of real pie.

One more thing I really like (that I don’t have a picture for, sorry) is chopped apples with walnuts, sauteed in the same ambiguous amount of butter until the walnuts are toasted and the apples are tender. If you can have dairy, this is wondrous with some crumbled feta or blue cheese.

I don’t think this will be our diet forever, but for now it’s what we’re doing. In time I hope to be adding this and this, and I’m making this for Thanksgiving no matter what, come what may, at any cost (altered some, maybe), and I really think these will be a big part of our Christmas, when all bets are off anyway.

In the meantime, here are some beautiful things that inspire me in the kitchen:

100% Cotton Woven Kitchen Towel 100% cotton woven dish towel from my friend Ruth at Purple Design Studio

Reversible Cloth Napkins Forever Love Set of 2 Eco-friendly Reversible cloth napkins from Helen’s Corner

30 Pack- Burlap Bottle Bags "love"  Burlap bottle bags from Sweet C’s Designs

Sushi - 12x12 CAFE MOUNT Sushi 12×12 cafe mount from Red Letter Words (and just fyi, sushi with brown rice is not so bad…three times in the last month, and I still like it)

And, just because I adore, love, prize, greatly value, highly esteem, and treasure pecan pie (sigh)…

Dessert Plates, set of 4- Rustic Red  Set of four dessert plates from NS Pottery

PS: I find it shocking that Blogger doesn’t recognize the word “tiramisu” in its spell checker. Tsk.

summer school

Happy summer! Hiking, berries, buddies, and gardening…it’s been a fun-packed time!
Da Butte 2010 – RAAAHH!

Oh, how quickly Hello Kitty becomes Mommy’s charge. We were not five minutes into the hike here. Exploring the top

Messy little snookums!

Berries from our woods! Clockwise from left: currants, watermelon berries, rosehips (in varying states of ripeness) and cranberries (highbush and lowbush).

Taking a break to go to the airshow…head accessories were not provided by Baruch’s Lullaby.

Teaching Cody how to make sushi! We learned a few months ago, so we’re paying it forward. It made a great excuse to get together with some good friends we don’t see nearly often enough. (miss you guys! ♥ )

Star gentian, Hatcher’s Pass
We’ve been reading our book on Alaskan wildflowers for the past year and are having such fun recognizing the flowers and plants around us everywhere we go. Who needs annuals?

Alaska cotton, Hatcher’s Pass
Picking blueberries at Hatcher’s!

Some of you intellectuals out there will recognize this game…

Getting in a little Poohsticks at Independence Mine.

We still have a few more hikes that we’d love to do, rain or shine. We had painting to do, but…well, there’s always next summer, right?