This blog is my place to vent and share resources with other parents of children of trauma. I try to be open and honest about my feelings in order to help others know they are not alone. Therapeutic parenting of adopted teenagers with RAD and other severe mental illnesses and issues (plus "neurotypical" teens) , is not easy, and there are time when I say what I feel... at the moment. We're all human!

Monday, December 29, 2008

My Computer Cubby

I figure a lot of you are dying to know where I type my amazing blog posts. Well the pictures are finally downloaded off the camera and can now be shown! Pay no attention to the many baskets of (clean!!) laundry piled near my open cubby door! See what looks like a little black box just outside the door? That's my trashcan. On top of it rests my powerstrip, my only source of power. Yes, this is often unplugged by laundry baskets and children's feet! (Ok, I've just maligned my poor children. Tonight it was Hubby's feet that kicked the trashcan when he kissed me goodnight before going to bed. Luckily for him it did not unplug my computer causing me to lose this ever so important historical documentation!)

For those of you that can read floorplans. This shows my charming Computer Cubby under the stairs. At the doorway the room is 5'9" tall (not including the doorframe which is 5'8"). The door itself is only 22" wide. The room drops off at a dramatic slant down to a height of merely 18". There is just enough room for my little "desk," my office chair which rotates so I can get out (unless I gain a few more pounds then I don't fit in the remaining space between my doorway and desk - as it is I have to make sure my hips go under the lip of the desk as I lever myself out), and 2 milk crates stacked on top of each other full of files. In the vast space beyond (down to the 18" wall) I keep various odds and ends (more on my transdimensional engineering later - think Tardis and Mary Poppin's carpetbag).

So you won't think I'm completely out of the loop when I'm "working," here's a photo of the view I see through the door of my cubby. Notice that I have a perfect view of the doorway into the kitchen and, more importantly, I can see the TV in my artfully arranged decorative mirror. Luckily, I can read backwards quite easily.

There is one small downside to this arrangement. All it takes is one child standing in my doorway and I am trapped. For as long as they stand there. And I can't see the TV!

I know. You are incredibly envious of this space where I can be totally alone (no one else will fit!). And my vasts amounts of storage space. Yes it really is vast. On the wall in front of me are 2 pieces of paper pinned up with dressmaker's pins with inspirational sayings. Ok, it's one, the other fell down a week or two ago, but I'm going to put it back up. Soon. Really.

Then there's my broken desk lamp (it has no base) that I've attached at the highest point of my cubby with a nail. To illuminate my work. Attached to the door is a storage device with computer software CDs, an unmade felt Christmas stocking, all the remnants of the made Christmas stockings, a fire extinguisher (isn't that where you keep yours?), a package of lavendar scented shelf paper (it was a gift), a half eaten bowl of Goldfish crackers that I confiscated from an upstairs bedroom, chopstick, black ribbon, a silver polishing cloth, and a package I've been meaning to send to my friend Lisa.

On my table/deskthere is of course my monitor, mouse with my deserted tropical island mouse pad, speakers, network thingy, and keyboard. And an empty drinking glass, a bottle of Delsym (Kitty has a nasty cough), an unopened jar of odor absorbing gel that I haven't put in the Kid's bathroom yet, self-stick tape for Bear's healing removed tattoos, a metallic gold painted homemade clay bell in the shape of a pumpkin, a multi-colored clay creation that is a mouse or a puppy I don't remember which, the charger for my laptop I haven't started using yet, Cindy Lou Who Candy cane headband, my yearbook (I wanted to look up some people before my high school reunion), 2 plastic bags full of things I took out of the car before the holidays - 1 cute empty Christmas bag, one Christmas bag with hot cocoa and tea in it, printer ink cartridges that we were going to take to Office Depot to replace, Bear's report card with all As and accompanying certificate, business cards, little pieces of paper with notes and numbers scribbled on them, the girls' holiday schoolwork assignments, the digital camera I got as a free gift when ordering office supplies, children's artwork, every FAIR Club assignment they've ever written, important adoption paperwork, a Weight Watchers microwave brownie package, tons of pictures... and NO PENS! (where do they all go?)

In the huge storage area beyond my desk are pieces of carpet, tube lightbulbs for the kitchen lights, holiday bouquets that didn't make it to the attic storage, and anything else that could be stuffed back there. Under my desk is my CPU, a milk crate I sometimes rest my feet on, and tons of spilled food.

Of course the most important thing in my cubby is the contraband food. I began hiding the bulk bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips in here about a year ago, hoping to be able to slow down consumption enough that we'd have some when I actually wanted to bake with it. Didn't work. For example, tonight, when Hubby came to "kiss me goodnight" he snagged a whole handful! It is a good way to get affection and snuggles from the kids - as they reach across me to get at the chocolate. *sigh*

It's beginning to look a lot (less) like Christmas

Meltdown city again with Kitty. Saturday nights all the kids go to Grandma's for the night (yes, I know we are blessed and Grandma is masochistic!). Kitty came downstairs with a HUGE suitcase. We argued for 10 minutes that she didn't need to take ALL her stuffed animals with her for an overnight visit. She finally switched to a smaller case. Bob told us the next day that Kitty had been planning to run away. *sigh*

Turns out that one of Kitty's biggest complaints was that Kitty was not happy with what she got for Christmas. She got many things on her list, but she wanted what her sister got - highlights for her hair. Kitty has always wanted to be blonde (which of course would not go with her coloring), and no matter how many times I tell her others would kill for her naturally wavy black hair, she of course hates it. The private school has a policy against unnatural colors and highlights so I was very resistant against doing anything to Kitty's dark hair because anything I did would show dramatically.

Bob on the other hand with her light brown hair could have subtle highlights without looking noticeable different. I was hoping it would give her a confidence boost (she's my introvert and I know she's going to have a tough time going to public school). I have always tried to emphasize that my kids are different, and therefore I never give them the same presents, but I guess in this case it didn't work.

I asked Bob nicely if she would share (I knew there would be plenty in the bottle). Bob very sweetly said yes. Kitty asked if I'd had to bribe Bob to share, and I think she was impressed that Bob hadn't needed incentive.

Kitty has been fighting doing schoolwork and I told her yesterday that because she hadn't been doing the full amount each day that she would have to work this weekend. This did not make her a happy camper. I asked her to do 3 pages in every subject (total of 18 pages) while I went shopping with my mom (to vent and get her opinion on the biomom issue). Kitty was very proud of the fact that she'd finished the pages in less than an hour.

So when I told Kitty she could have highlights if she finished 2 more pages in every subject she was ecstatic at first. She begged me to stay in the room and keep her company. All the other kids were enthusiastically playing PS2 (got a new game for Cmas) so I hung out with Kitty. I helped her with her word building PACE, and read a book while she did math and science (I did discover that she's been working the workbooks out of order and made her go back and finish one before she started the next).

Kitty required a lot of assistance to stay on task. She could hardly tolerate the noise the other kids made on the other side of the house. If she didn't understand something, her first instinct was to write anything, and fix it when she did corrections. Having something to look forward to, while an amazing motivator, actually made things more difficult for Kitty because she had to wait. She kept saying she was never going to be able to finish. I pointed out she'd done more work in less than an hour, but that didn't help. I got to the point that I ignored her and that seemed to help. (I was laying right next to her so it's not as bad as it sounds).

She did eventually finish and I gave her a few face framing highlights. They were noticeable enough for her to be happy, but I don't think the school will notice. Both girls look great.

In an attempt to better medicate Kitty’s bipolar disorder, her psychiatrist upped her Trileptal and Geodon and began weaning her off of Zoloft (anti-depressants can trigger mania). Kitty did better on the increase in meds, but as we’ve reduced the Zoloft we saw more and more meltdowns and issues. As of late last week we completely removed the Zoloft (looking back the holidays might not have been the best time to do this!) We were informed by our other daughter that Kitty has not only been threatening to jump off a bridge (suicidal statements to us have been on the increase as well), but that Saturday night she actually packed her suitcase intending to run away. She tried to take the suitcase to Grandma’s (to run away from there I assume), but I refused to let her take that large a bag to Grandma’s. She did not end up running away. Bob did not tell us of Kitty’s plan until Sunday afternoon.

Kitty’s psychiatrist is out of town until January 5th (yes, she already has an appointment for that day). I talked to the on call psychiatrist and Kitty started back on 50 mg of Zoloft today (she’d been dropped to 25 mg for the last week and a half and has been off of it for a few days).

It’s the holidays, Kitty was pre-menstrual until yesterday, we’re mucking with her meds, she felt Bob got a better Christmas gift than she did, she’s being forced to do schoolwork during the holidays, and I’ve been so stressed that I’ve been spending a lot of time in my computer cubby (of course my teenage children don’t want me bugging them either so this isn’t entirely a big deal), and did I mention it was the holidays?! I'd say I can't wait for them to go back to school, but that's full of pitfalls for Kitty too.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

E-mail from biomom!

So I received this e-mail yesterday and I'm still reeling. I have no idea how to deal with this. My first instinct is to say h*@l NO! I did NOT sign up for this. We never agreed to anything but a closed adoption. Because my children are older we really didn't have a lot of choice about allowing contact with biofamily (siblings (when biomom wasn't around), grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins). They had the numbers memorized. I did draw the line at contact with biomom, which the kids were fine with - they "hate" her. Long story, but biomom got my e-mail and began communicating with me. She gave me baby pictures and answered questions about their past so I decided to go with it.

Dear Mary,

I am sorry that is has taken so long to write back. I have been busy with the semester ending and the baby was sick with RSV and in the hospital. She is better now. I would like to answer some of your questions.

As far as the childrens fathers, the information that I have already given is all I know about either of them. But do know (Bear)s dad didn't know about him until he was 5 years old, and (Kitty)'s dad, doesn't know about her, I have seached many times to try to find him. I have come up with nothing.

I thought the children were already diagnosed with childhood bipolar, that is what the dr. here told me. They both were on many medicications, and we went to a psycologist for these problems. Yes, there are many relatives who are diagnosed with this and also, ADHD. and learning disabilities. As far as (Bear)'s tatoos, I don't know when he got those, because he didn't get them while he was with me. And M (ex-husband) is the only one that hurt him, J (ex-husband and father of one fo their sisters) was very good with (Bear) and wanted nothing more than a father son relationship with him.

I have a very big question to ask you and will understand if you say no, but my friend and I are coming to Texas in a couple of weeks for a class we are taking (the study of another culture) We are going close to the border to examine the Mexican Culture and the ways of life they have there.), and I was wondering if in a theraputic session, if maybe I could see the children. I know this is a hard decision, however, I am asking you from the bottom of my heart, it has been 4 years since I have seen them. I would also like to meet the wonderful woman who is has taken in my children and given them a good home. I will come alone, but I asking you from one mother to another if there is anyway this is possible. I would love to explain to my children what had happened. Mary, I am not a bad person, and I care deeply for my children, this is why I asked for them to be helped, because I couldn't do it myself. I wasn't strong enough, if I knew then what I know now, it would have never been done. I wanted my children to have a good life and be taken care of, and that was something I couldn't do at the time, I have grown up alot in the past 4 years, and am really trying to get my life back together.

I am now studying to get my Bachlors Degree in Businees, Computers and Sociology. It has been a very hard semester last one, but I am hanging in there. I am attaching some pics that we have had taken. The kids grow so fast. (Bear) and (Kitty) are absolutly gorgous Children.

I do want to say thank you that you keep in touch with me, that does mean alot to me. Anyway I am done rambling and am hoping that we can work something out, about me seeing the kids. But I do understand if it isn't possible.

My phone number is xxx-xxx-xxxx, if sometime you would like to call me.. and again, Thank you so much.


Here is the e-mail she was responding to.

--- On Wed, 11/26/08, Mary wrote:

Hi (Biomom),

I realized it had been awhile since I’d sent you any pictures. These are from (Bear)’s birthday. He was being awfully silly! His hair has grown out even more since then and he has gorgeous curls! The bandages on his arm and hand are from tattoo removals (don’t know when he did these to himself, but it was before he came to us. Removing them was his decision.).

Both (Bear) and (Kitty) are making good grades. (Bear) made all As on his last report card and (Kitty) was pretty close. They’re still having a tough time in school, but are working hard to get caught up. Everyone is impressed with how hard (Kitty) works to compensate for her learning disabilities.

(Kitty) in particular is asking a lot of questions about her birth father lately. She eventually wants to search for him. Any additional information you have would be greatly appreciated. You mentioned he was in his 40s – I assume you mean now and that he was in his 30s then? Do you know what state he was from? The name of the fair. Anything that might be helpful? Also we would love any photos or stories you might have of him or (Bear)’s biodad. You mentioned (Kitty) looks like your Aunt, she’d love to see pictures of her too.

(Bear)'s account of yours and his relationship with his birthfather and after is a little jumbled. An adult’s account might be very helpful in his therapy.

Also any medical history would be great. Specifically is there anyone with bipolar disorder related to the children? (Bear) was diagnosed with this fairly recently and they are considering it for (Kitty). Learning disabilities, any other mental illnesses, or health issues, in the family? I assume ADD runs in the family since you mentioned that one of their sisters was recently diagnosed with it too. Also was there any head trauma for either of them that you know of? I know when (Bear) was hurt by Mike (and others?) that this could have occurred, but wondered if there were any specific instances you were aware of.

I feel I need to assure you that I would NEVER make judgments about you, I didn’t live in your shoes and I don’t know what you’ve been through. I want you to know I NEVER say mean things about you to the children. I have ALWAYS reassured them that you loved them, but just could not take care of them at the time. (Kitty) still misses you and the girls very much, but mostly understands that she is where she belongs now. (Bear) is still hurting (and angry), but he gets better every day. The children are blessed that they have two families who love them very much.

Thank you,


" Life isn't about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain."

So I forwarded the e-mail to all the therapists, but of course it's the weekend so they won't respond until next week. I was going to just go with my first instinct and tell her "H*@l NOOOOO!", but then I realized that all the biofamily would probably know about the trip, which means the kids would know too, which means if I make the decision without telling them, they will hear about it, and that could damage MY relationship with them.

I think Bear would say no as he is still VERY angry with her, but I could be wrong. I know Kitty would want to see her. So of course Kitty is the one who is in the worst emotional place to deal with this. *mega sigh*.

We've kept biomom away from the kids because the NE therapist and social workers recommended it. They said biomom repeatedly claimed it was the kids' fault she put them in foster care (and had no problem saying so to them). It took almost a year of therapy to convince Kitty that she didn't lose her whole family because she threw a chair and was out of control. It was hard to convince Kitty that biomom's choices caused most of Kitty's behavior issues, without putting down biomom.

To be honest, I know biomom hasn't changed much in regards to her lifestyle (abusive men, running from her problems...), but what concerns me most is that she didn't lose custody for abuse (although she should have). She only has to convince the kids that it was for their own good, or that she didn't actually want to give them up (which biofamily has told my kids repeatedly). I KNOW this was not true. NE was totally floored when biomom decided to TPR (terminate parental rights) and tried to talk her out of it - they even required that she take a class first, but she still TPRed).

If I allow the kids to see her for an hour or so she has no reason to act anything but wonderful, sweet and loving. It's a short period of time, and out of context. Biomom gets to look good in the kids' eyes. With their black and white thinking they are likely to forget all the nasty history and think of her as wonderful. Which makes me the evil woman that keeps them from their loving Mommy. This could be a great opportunity for closure, but 4 years after the fact, with a mom that doesn't have to explain why she terminated rights? I can't win!

So what would you do?

Downloaded pictures!

Bob recently won Student of the Month at her private school. To be honest I don't remember what the characteristic was. I think it was Service. She's an excellent student and very conscientious. I took many pictures, but in almost all of them she had this blah, kind of sad expression on her face. I worry about depression every time I look at her. It does run in our family. Very proud of her!
(Yes, I got rid of this too small shirt as soon as she took it off! Yikes!)

She did smile occasionally. Isn't she gorgeous?!

Here's the whole group of winners. The two to Bob's left are high schoolers (Bob is in middle school). The ones in front are elementary students. Bob is only 12 and in 7th grade. Every time I look at her next to other kids I have to LOL!

Christmas Pictures

This was how Bear spent most of Christmas. Totally sleepy!

Kitty's gift was two sizes too small. She loved it anyway and tried to convince me she could still wear it. She has no idea how curvy she's gotten in the last couple of months! This was probably my fault in conveying sizes to the grandparents.

LOL! A buff Ponito!

Hubby with new charger valet (no description or pictures so this took us awhile to figure out! *grin*)

Bubble wrap! Best gift ever! Thanks Grandad and Grandma Sandi! LOL

Friday, December 26, 2008

How to get girls to do chores!

For Christmas one of Bob's gifts was to have her room redecorated. To this end she actually "cleaned" her room. Her room is very cluttered so her definition of clean and mine are never the same. We're working on it though.

So today she came to me with her thoughts on how she wants her room painted. Night - with stars and horses. I told her she could ask Bear - the rule is no more than one wall could be painted dark, and NO black. Since one of her walls is already a fairly dark blue, that was the best she was going to get. Back to the drawing board! *grin*

We discussed what her room needs in order to be ready to paint. Since she wants to take out the two twin beds in her room and have some more book shelf space, we have decided that she will use the extra bed with a bookshelf built in that was dumped in the playroom when Ponito got his new bunkbed last month. This means that it has to be cleaned off (it became a storage facility quickly!) and both beds in her room need to be stripped and ready for storage in the garage.

{*sigh* We have a 3 car garage that is overstuffed with items for the garage sale we are having "someday" as well as all the usual junk a big family of pack rats accumulates. Bear's Christmas gift to us, the only one he gave anyone, was that he neatened the garage. It looks great! You could almost fit an actual car in there. Of course his solution to storage was just to pile everything in one huge, well-stacked, pile on one side of the garage. So it is all hopelessly mixed together and inaccessible. *deeper sigh*}

I finally just gave her a list.
1. Clean off bed in playroom. Make sure all stuff on it finds a home and is not just dumped on the floor! (HA! Thought you'd get me with that one! Mom knows what your 12 year old brain was planning!)
2. Put away everything on all surfaces.
3. Find a home for all stuff on the floor (boxes, laundry baskets, etc.)
4. Ask someone to help you move beds.
5. Take everything off the walls and doors. (All her walls are covered floor to ceiling in posters, pictures, calendar pages, junk).

Kitty wants a neighborhood girl to come over (she's kind of friends with both girls and went to school with them when they attended public school still). Truthfully I think that Kitty is too dysregulated for a sleepover, but I decided she could if the girls got the house looking presentable enough for company (sneaky Mommy trick).

Now Kitty is cleaning her room (chores!) so that her friend might possibly get to come over (I told her her room smelled too much and there were dirty clothes all over the floor). I also told them the playroom has to be cleaned up (today's chore!). Bob is working on this (hopefully with Kitty's assistance), because Bob needs a piece of furniture out of the playroom to go in her room. Kitty is mostly finished with her room, has a load of laundry going and is taking a break before she helps Bob. Bob has already cleaned off the new bed in the playroom and is now working in her room.

And now for the fireworks

Christmas was quiet, but I should have known we weren't going to get off that easily. It could just be that I'm not home all day (I know Grandma, our childcare provider, would say they're always like this).

Because Kitty has missed so much school (due to starting a month late, daily "illnesses", being a slow worker, and days we take her out of school for assessments and mental health days) she had schoolwork to do over the Christmas break. Her sister, Bob, did too. Bob counted all the pages each girl had to do and divided by the number of days of break (not counting weekends). Kitty ended up with 20+ pages. She had Christmas day off, and hasn't been doing all her pages every day so she is behind, again. This morning I let everyone have the morning off and then start on chores. Kitty was to start on school work.

So my oppositional-defiant 13 year old daughter came to me about half an hour later and ranted for about 10 minutes. This is a typical pre-meltdown conversation. If I'm lucky, I can keep her calm enough not to have a true meltdown, and if I work it out just right I can actually get her to do/fix/calm down about some if not all of whatever it is she's upset about.

So you can picture the scene: Kitty comes up to me, kind of out of the blue, while I'm answering my e-mail (more on that later). She has a defiant look on her face and is clearly upset. This is just the highlights of the conversation. It was a lot more involved, but I don't remember it all and won't bore you with all the details (I know, I know, too late!). EVERY bit of it was interspersed with "You hate me. You don't care about me," but that gets repetitive so I won't bore you with it either.

There was No way I am EVER going to do my schoolwork. (I calmly sympathized that it is hard and I understand that she doesn't like it, but it has to be done.)

Schoolwork is NOT hard! she claims she was not thinking well on the day they did diagnostics and now she's having to relearn all that stuff and she doesn't want to relearn it - that's stupid. (I told her if she really felt that way we could have her take another diagnostic like they did last year. She didn't want to do this.)

I hate math and I'm not going to do it. (I reminded her that everyone needs math. I use it everyday. I confirmed she still wanted to be a doctor - which of course means she needs to continue school, math in particular...).

You're an idiot if you think I'm going to do any schoolwork again and you can't make me. (I admit I got a little frustrated at this point and spoke firmly about calling me names. I warned her that if she didn't do her school work she would go to work with me - where she would have to do schoolwork. She calmed down a little so I was able to switch back to "nurturing mode." I told her that she can't drop out of school. That she didn't want to be 14 and held back to 5th or 6th grade...).

I'm just the kind of girl who doesn't do schoolwork. (I reminded her that she has been doing well in school for the last year and a half).

I'm going to go emo. (I hear this a lot and she knows how I feel about it. I told her that I would have to assume that someone/something was negatively influencing her and would start taking away TV shows, makeup, music...)

You hate me. You don't care about me. I'm going to crawl in a box and not eat. You want me to be in a box and die. (I told her I love her even if she doesn't believe that right now. That she can only know how she feels, not how I feel. That if I didn't love her I wouldn't care if she was in a box.)

It is STUPID that I have to work on vacation. (I pointed out that she was behind and needed to catch up. That she had been sick a lot this year - not my fault either - and that it was much less work than she did on a daily basis in school. She did not have to spend "ALL" day doing school work. That it really wouldn't take that long...)

I want to go back to my old school in Nebraska where I didn't have to do this. (when I pointed out that it wasn't me that pulled her out of school in Nebraska she declared we should have moved to Nebraska to adopt her. Just because I hate snow was no reason not to live there. I pointed out that I also didn't want to move to Nebraska because I loved my home, my friends and family that live here, and we own a company that cannot be moved to Nebraska.)

Toward the end of the "conversation" she asked me if Dad was home yet. I said no, but I expected him home in 30 to 45 minutes. She said she was going to work on her homework until he got home, but then she was stopping for the day (and there was nothing I could do about it). She left. I almost called Hubby and told him to stay at work a little longer.

About 20 minutes later she returned and told me that she'd done some work and could she stop and take a break and go outside? We talked for a little bit about what all needed to get done (in which subjects she had the most pages to do). Then I said sure. She could go outside for 10 minutes, but then she needed to come back in and do 3 pages of math and 3 of word building. She had a snack. Went outside. Came back in, and verified that she only had to do 6 pages and she was done for the day. I said no. When she was done with the six pages we would talk. She left and did it.

Success! No meltdown. No regression to fight, flight, or freeze mode. AND some actual schoolwork done!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas to All!

Guess I better hurry or it won't be Christmas anymore!

This was a calm Christmas although Kitty and Bear had a hard time. Bear was the most shut down, but he hid it best too. He basically was "sleepy" all morning. Maybe he really didn't sleep well - I don't know. He disappeared in his room for quite awhile. Maybe he didn't really like his presents. He's hard to shop for!

Grandma commented that she thought Kitty didn't like her presents. I told her it was just that Kitty was having trouble sitting through opening presents (took over 1 1/2 hours!). Kitty spent some time decompressing in the playroom afterward.

One of our Christmas traditions (started last year) is that the kids only get 3 presents (just like Jesus). I do this for several reasons:
1. With 4 kids, making sure everyone has the same number and equivalent value of presents gets ridiculously difficult.
2. We often have other family there and that gets even more complicated (nieces and nephews especially).
3. My kids don't need a lot of stuff (especially Kitty and Bear who get overwhelmed if their environment is cluttered)
4. I want to help the children focus on the reason for the season, not presents.

Of course the kids got around this by giving each other presents! Silly Bob decided to give joke presents. She also did a lot of regifting this year! Including some of my Christmas decorations! *sigh*

So one thing I realized is that because I do a lot of thrift shopping, a lot of times the gifts I've chosen are small and inexpensive (but will be liked/loved/wanted by the child). I don't want to make a small paperback book the child's entire present when they only get three! So last year I did "theme" presents. One present was all books and school supplies. One present was a big one (couldn't afford that this year). Bob got contact lenses, Bear a bike, Kitty a bed, Ponito got Heely shoes.

This year the gifts were a little more random. As I tried to group things, sometimes the theme of the gift was not obvious. I didn't want the kids to think they were random! So this year I decided to write fun "clues" on the packages. (I didn't put them out until Christmas Eve so the kids wouldn't have much time to think about them!)

Axis or Eyes (with a pair eyes - one winking ; ) - this made Bob nuts! She could not figure it out. Inside was a big purse, a bunch of head bands, etc. She didn't get it until I reminded her of the game Mad Gab and she said it several times out loud.

The pen is mightier than the sword - school binder/organizer, movie called Warriors of Virtue, Teen advice book, some fancy mechanical pencils...

Here there be dragons (with a compass rose) - for Ponito who loves dragons! A pair of jeans and shorts with dragons on them and a fancy coin bank that looks like a dragon.

Dragon rider (like a rider on a contract this one went with the other present that I found after starting the Cmas wrapping) - a couple of t-shirts with dragons on them

Beauty is only skin deep - Although she'd never heard this expression before, Kitty, who'd asked for makeup figured it out quickly.

"Life is a work of heart. You've got to paint it colorful." (This is a quote from Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen which the girls know by heart!) In that one was a paint brush, a roller brush, and a lime green fuzzy pillow sham. I'd already told Bob we were going to redecorate her room so she figured out what this odd assortment meant.

Don't hold your breath - a gift certificate to the dive store for Bear.

Anyway, it was a lot of fun. I think the kids had a good Christmas. I did end up making the Cinnamon Roll Christmas Tree, and it was totally worth breaking my diet for! I'll include pictures as soon as I get them downloaded and uploaded!

Yikes! Two minutes till midnight! Merry Christmas to all! And to all a good night!

Attachment therapy comment

"Have you ever thought that you might not have the relationship you want with your children because of the therapy and parenting methods you are using? Attachment Therapy is not lawful in Texas. It is denounced as abusive by the American Psychological Association's Division on Child Maltreatment and by APSAC. These organizations claim Attachment Therapy is not appropriate for any child and advise child welfare workers to investigate where it is used as "suspected abuse." While Attachment Therapy gets a lot of word of mouth and Internet space, you aren't going to find any reputable journal publishing research recommending it. Quite the contrary. And EMDR hasn't been shown to have anymore benefit than just talking to a therapist. This is quackery -- expensive quackery. Your family has been exploited by it. You should know that any of your children treated with Attachment Therapy will have grounds to sue you and your husband on reaching age 18. - Linda"

I wanted to address this comment.

There are many different methods of attachment therapy. The therapy we use is not "holding therapy" or "rebirth" therapy - which are the controversial therapies where some of the children have died. In fact I do not know anyone that uses rebirth therapy anymore. My children are not forced to stay in their rooms for long periods of time, or even do strong sitting (a yoga pose that is supposed to be very helpful). We focus instead on understanding their behavior, reassuring their fears, loving them even when they are abusive (but not letting them hurt themselves or others), keeping them close (often line of sight supervision), and helping them work through their pain.

When we first got our children they were 11 and 13. We had never heard of RAD, and had very little knowledge of attachment disorders, despite my being a licensed LMSSW (social worker). On I found the special needs forum and they gave me a LOT of great information and advice.

Our first therapist was a female talk/play therapist. It was not a good match and the kids did not respond. We decided to try attachment therapy and looked for a male therapist for our son, but couldn't find one that took our insurance. We found a good "talk" therapist for him that "gets" him and holds him accountable. At 15 and with RAD (among other diagnoses) I do not see a big need for attachment therapy for our son (although I use many of the techniques I learn with his sister when I can). I think it is "too late" in his development to expect him to truly attach to us. We of course continue to mentor (and of course love) him and show him what a healthy family looks like. Now that he has received treatment for his bipolar disorder he is able to stay stable enough to function in our family. I still hold out hope that we can access and help him heal from more of his "issues" before he leaves our home.

For our daughter we found an attachment therapist who was willing to take us on despite the fact that she wasn't covered by the children's insurance. At the time, we thought the children's adoptions would be soon so she waited until our daughter got Texas Medicaid. One and a half years later our daughter was adopted and this amazing therapist is finally getting paid! She is absolutely amazing!

At the beginning of attachment therapy we experimented a little with having my daughter lie in my lap and make eye contact. She couldn't handle it and couldn't do it. We have had to restrain my daughter (not holding therapy), but this was using the techniques I was trained in by our adoption agency and only to keep our daughter safe from hurting herself.

Attachment therapy has mostly consisted of helping our daughter learn who she is really angry with (biomom and her abusive men) and keeping her attachment to me a focus and priority. Eye contact was something we worked on a lot - it took a long time. We worked our way up to Kitty allowing me to touch her and sit next to her. At the end of two years, Kitty will still not let me hug her in public, but she will occasionally actually seek me out for affection, helping her with injuries and problems, and has developed some trust. Even though she said in therapy that she doesn't trust me, and this hurts, I do believe that she was mostly being dramatic. I know she doesn't trust me as my biokids do, but she is able to admit now that I have her best interest at heart.

Because of my adopted children I have developed discipline methods that I find to be better and safer then the methods used by many of my friends with "normal" kids. My children are NEVER spanked. We work on concepts like restitution, behavior management, writing skills, family and friend relationship development, and other life skills. We do "time-ins" instead of "time-outs." My children would have no ground on which to sue me for abuse.

As for EMDR therapy I have undergone this myself, and disagree with you completely. There are many things about our body that science does not have an explanation for - this does not mean that it is not true. I have watched my daughter address issues in EMDR therapy that we have previously (attempted to) discuss in talk or attachment therapy - which she was not able to handle and began a fight, flight or freeze reaction (both my kids have severe PTSD). In EMDR therapy she is able to talk about these issues without immediately dissociating or completely losing it. I'm not saying EMDR is a "perfect cure," but it has definitely helped us make advances and work through issues that she previously couldn't handle. My only wish is that I could combine her AT who knows her VERY well (but after 1 1/2 years of helping Kitty address things that upset her appears to occasionally inadvertantly set off an episode just by triggering a memory of past sessions) with her EMDR therapist.

I know that there is more that I could be doing to help my children heal (as evidenced by my amazing friend Lisa), but I have to balance their needs with that of the family as a whole. I also know that they are severely "damaged" children who came to me as older children - which makes healing even harder for them. I am doing my best to help them as much as I can, considering the difficult circumstances that they have grown up with. I will never give up on them, and I know that while they will never trust or love like my bio children can, I have to believe that I make a difference in their lives.

Jesus' Birthday Party

Wow, what a week!

So Christmas is "over" and now the children are playing quietly upstairs while Hubby and I rest (he's sleeping on the couch and I finally get time on the computer).

Jesus' birthday party (our newest tradition) went OK. The kids weren't gung ho about it, but my sister loved the idea. She and her children wrote their Jesus gifts before they came over. Her littles didn't want to read theirs out loud, but my sister did (it was to be a good mother). Most of my kids (and Hubby) acted as if they had never heard me talk about this so were kind of put on the spot. I ended up writing everyone's on the same piece of paper (except Bob's). We hung the papers on the tree. We'll pack them away with the ornaments and read them next year.

Bob had already written hers (Yes, I peeked) - hers was to have a better relationship with Jesus.

Kitty said she would try not to fight with Grandma (HUGE!!).

Mine was to respect myself - to take care of my body, my time, going to bed at a reasonable hour, being active and eating well.

Ponito would try not to cuss (we changed this to using respectful language).

Hubby will try to follow the path God sets in front of him with less hesitation and disbelief. He will quit fighting it.

Bear will spend more time with his family and be more active in church.

Kitty and Bear got a little antsy, but the promise of cake helped Kitty sit still longer. I still am amazed at the changes in Bear. He is able to control himself now under circumstances that would have triggered an episode before.

After we hung our gifts on the tree, we opened our traditional Christmas Eve gifts (pajamas - and for the last couple of years a book). Then we had birthday cake and watched Ice Age 2. Ok, so Ice Age 2 wasn't exactly a traditional movie, but it was on TV and the kids really wanted to watch it! *grin*

Post of one of my favorite Jesus Gifts

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Check out the post before this!

For some reason, I guess because it was a draft I started last weekend, my newest post is before the one about cinnamon rolls! I want to make sure no one misses it. Especially the angel picture I worked so hard on! *grin*

Merry Christmas to all! I've got to go start on getting the house ready for Jesus' birthday party!

And apparently get the kids out of the candle wax!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Cinnamon Roll/Bread recipe

OK, I started South Beach again 3 days ago, so I decided to torture myself with this recipe my friend asked for. Yes, I have decided that Christmas is a holiday and I will be cheating.

Yeast Mix:

  • 1 TBS yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 TBS sugar

Mix together and let rise.

  • 2 TBS Sugar
  • 1 TBS salt
  • 2 cup milk
  • 2 cup flour
  • 1 stick melted butter

Mix all together (including yeast mix). Cool to lukewarm. Stir in 1 egg. Wait 15 minutes and add 4 cups flour. Mix dough and knead. Let rise one hour.

For bread, Knead then let rise one hour before baking.

For cinnamon rolls:

Cinnamon Roll Filling

  • 4 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 cups of sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter

Blend cinnamon, suger and butter together with a fork.
After first rising, roll out the dough and cover evenly with Cinnamon Filling.
Roll up the dough (see picture).
Cut roll into slices and place in muffin pan.
Bake until done (approximately 20 minutes at 375 - burn easily!!).

Or do what I do and when Hubby makes the dough for rolls, have him make an extra couple of batches, and when all the hard work is done - steal some to make into a Braided Christmas Tree Cinnamon Roll!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

It's all about trust (now in black and white)

A little while back I was reflecting on how far the children have come, and how well EMDR therapy seemed to be helping Kitty without causing all the behaviors I was warned about. *sigh* Guess I should have knocked on wood or something.

At her last therapy session, Kitty, who has been more and more disregulated lately, stated that she didn't trust me (or anyone) and would never talk about anything in therapy because I was there. This upset me for several reasons.

The biggest was that I thought we'd come farther than that in our relationship, but we seem to have hit a stumbling block. This could have been more for dramatic effect though. She still doesn't like me to touch her in public, but that is probably semi- "normal" teenage girl behavior. Over the last couple of days she has come to me with her problems and illnesses (of course she gets furious if I refuse to solve them or immediately take her to the doctor).

I also wonder if I should be attending all her therapy session. Attachment therapy - of course I go, but I've wondered about the EMDR. I do think that if I didn't go, she'd end up spending the whole time talking about the Jonas brothers or how much she hates Grandma. "Tough sessions" are usually initiated and run by me because I know enough of her history to keep her on track and focused, but she's getting better about avoiding discussing traumatic events. If I bring up an event she claims not to remember it, even if she discussed it passionately a few months before.

As I look back over the past few months, I realize that she isn't dissociating in therapy as much, but she's really avoiding talking about the past too. Don't know if this is because she doesn't trust me (or the therapists) or if it's because she is applying black and white thinking (very common in children like mine with borderline personality disorder characteristics). There seem to be no shades of grey with these two - ever.

Bear does this a lot. People, places and memories are all good or all bad. In therapy with Bear, we were talking about how unrealistic this is. Bear is supposed to be thinking about his relationships with this is mind. We were talking about people in his past and started discussing one of biomom's husbands who'd been particularly violent and abusive. The therapist asked Bear to remember a good thing or time involving the man. Bear mentioned that the man had once taken Bear hunting (Bear loves to hunt - makes him crazy that we don't take him. We can't imagine arming him and Hubby is not a big outdoorsman). Of course Bear mentioned the man had been drinking and Bear was nervous about the man carrying a gun, but apparently other than that the trip was a good memory.

We talked about the revered grandfather, and pointed out how much it must have hurt that the man hadn't taken custody of Bear when he went into foster care, and that the man has/had a drinking problem. I mentioned that former foster dad stopped talking to Bear a couple of months after Bear moved here (and those rare times before that were at the request of the social worker), and how abandoned and hurt Bear felt about this. The therapist commented that he'd never heard anything negative about former foster dad from Bear.

My training as a social worker and adoptive parent has really helped me see the world in shades of grey - to learn and apply what constitutes politically correct behavior - non-judgmental and unemotional analysis of events and people. Good thing I have received so much training in this!
This makes me perfect - and everyone else an evil sinner wanna be. Coal is so much cheaper too!

OK, not really. I really do try to remember to see the world in shades of grey and remember why the children act the way they do and help them become better human beings, but I know they will never be perfect. We just need to continue to do our best, and that is all that can be expected of us.

God is forgiving and merciful, He forgives us when we fall short of the mark. God expects us to strive to do good, but knows that we are but human and imperfect.

Michah 6:8 says :
"It has been told you, O' man, what is good, and what the LORD does require of you, only to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God".

Boobies in my armpits

and lard in my arteries.

Went to my annual "woman" doctor appointment yesterday. I was a little worried about some extra flesh under my armpits - no lumps just extra flab. I'd noticed it awhile ago, but thought it was just caused by my bras being too small now that I've gained "a few" extra pounds. My regular doctor had been keeping an eye on it for me. Turns out it is just "extra breast tissue." As I gain weight the boobies in my armpits will grow too. *sigh*

Oh why can't Hubby be a "boob" man?!

Also found out my cholesterol is high too. *sigh* 276 overall. My biggest concern is my ratios, which are usually good. Not this time though. I'm "borderline", but 3.22 is bad and I'm at 3.21! Both my dad and my mom are on meds for high cholesterol so I've always had to deal with it. My mom's body even creates its own cholesterol. My maternal grandmother had arterial sclerosis (just like all her siblings) which mimiced alzheimers.

Yesterday I found a Tapping website and I hope it will help me get back on South Beach and be good about it. I need to lose over 50lbs (and keep it off this time). I did most of it (the free part) last night. I had weird dreams, but this morning felt motivated to start my diet. Now all I need to do is get motivated (and find time) to exercise. Wish me luck!


Level 1 is absolutely free, and is life-changing. The Tapping in Level 1 covers some of the most powerful processes in the personal development industry, and because it's tapping they are fast, simple and easy. No-one else can give these away free because they are usually done in workshops or one-on-one with skilled practitioners.

No strings attached - apart from I hope you'll love it so much you'll pay to upgrade to Levels 2 and 3, which essentially open up a channel of communication between your Conscious Mind, your Higher Self, and your Sub-Conscious.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Year In Review

1. What did you do in 2008 that you’d never done before?
Adopted 2 children. Started a blog.

2. Did you keep your New Years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I didn’t really make a New Year’s resolution last year, but if I had it would have been to lose weight and get more exercise. So No, I did not keep my resolution. This year my resolution will be to spend more time with my kids and lose my “baby weight” and get more exercise.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
I had a bouncing 12 year old girl and a bouncing 14 year old boy!

4. Did anyone close to you die?
One of our kitties, Lady Moonlight, passed away.

5. What countries did you visit?
I didn’t leave the country, but I visited many different states. The states of Chaos, Confusion, and Disorder. I visited Hell, Insanity and Terror and decided I didn’t want to live there.

6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?
Money, sleep, peace of mind, a stronger faith, calmness and wisdom.

7. What dates from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory?
January 7, 2008 The day Bear came home from the RTC
March 25, 2008 Kitty’s adoption day!
July 25, 2008 Bear’s adoption day!

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I survived an emotionally and financially very tough year with most of my sanity intact!

9. What was your biggest failure?
My weight, and not living up to Hubby’s expectations of me at work.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
This year I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and the doctor is worried about my thyroid.
Bear separated his collarbone.
Kitty was tentatively diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Until he was let go, I was loving the great deals we were getting from one of the guys at Salvation Army. Bags of clothes for $2-4. It was a life saver.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Bear made a HUGE turnaround this year. His time in the RTC and corrected diagnoses and medications have made such an amazing difference. We were afraid we weren’t going to be able to adopt him.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
I was very disappointed in Bob’s behavior this year. I expected more from her (maybe too much).
The employee we let go because she was insane. She shared way too much personal information (the fact that she gave up a child for adoption, her boyfriends erectile dysfunction…) with everyone (including Hubby) and was verbally abusive to staff. After we “laid her off” she e-mailed and left verbally abusive messages with staff, consultants, and Hubby. She even sent job postings to staff, talked to clients about when they were going to pay us so she would get her commission…

14. Where did most of your money go?
Into the business.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Nothing. I’ve been on mood stabilizers most of the year!

16. What song/album will always remind you of 2008?
Anyway, by Martina McBride. This is my “motto”

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: happier/sadder, thinner/heavier, richer/poorer?
Happier (we were so worried about Bear). Heavier. Poorer financially, but richer spiritually.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Spending time with the littles.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
At home. Mom and step-Dad, little sister and her kids will come to our house on Christmas Day.

21. Who did you spend the most time on the phone with?
Kitty, calming her down.

22. Did you fall in love in 2008?
I fall more in love every year with my family.

23. How many one night stands in this last year?
5-6. (With HUBBY!) Sometimes it feels like Hubby and I are just ships passing in the night.

24. What was your favourite TV program?
So embarrassing, but Rock of Love Charm School. It’s a reality TV show about trashy girls (from different seasons of a show I’ve never seen – something about wanting to date a rock ‘n’ roll star – like the Bachelor, but slutty). Sharon Osborn is the principal of Charm School and she teaches them manners and how to behave. The girl who doesn’t get expelled at the end, wins $100,000. - 146k -

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
I try not to hate anyone.

26. What was the best book(s) you read?
I read so many I couldn’t tell you. Katie McAllister – funny romances. Terry Prachett – punny fantasy/sci fi. Deborah Hage – attachment. Too many!

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Weird question. This was the first year where we didn’t listen to anything but Christian Rock. I’ve discovered I REALLY like it.

28. What did you want and get?
Kitty and Bear – no more social workers!

29. What did you want and not get?
All the answers. To be able to “fix” everyone and everything.

30. What were your favourite films of this year?
Ratatouille was good. So was August Rush. I even liked Tinker Bell. Meet the Robinsons. I really need to watch something besides the Disney channel!

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I was 38 this April. Honestly I don’t remember what I did (-barely remember what I did yesterday!). Guess I’m getting old! Hubby’s b-day is 3 days after mine and Kitty’s is 9 days after. I was probably too focused on Kitty’s b-day to even notice my own. I’m sure I ate chocolate though!

32. What's one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
I was going to say more money, but the truth is stronger faith would have made it more satisfying. More money just would have made it easier.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?
Costs less than $3, fits over my boobs and tookus, doesn’t show my rolls of fat, and still looks OK.

34. What kept you sane?
Mood stabilizers and anti-depressants!

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Santa Claus!

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
Nebraska’s Safe Haven Law. Hopefully it brought needed attention to the broken foster care system.

37. Who did you miss?
Me. I used to sing and smile a lot more. That’s my New Year’s resolution -to be the happy person I used to be.
" Life isn't about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain."

38. Who was the best new person you met?
My friend Lisa. I think I actually “met” her last year, but she has been one of the most inspirational people in my life.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008.
I learned so many!
I learned that Love is NOT enough, but it is still necessary.
I learned I’m stronger than I thought I was.
I’ve learned that I can’t control everything.
I’ve learned that there is more to learn!

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year?
Martina McBride/Brad Warren/Brett Warren

You can spend your whole life buildin'
Somethin' from nothin'
One storm can come and blow it all away
Build it anyway

You can chase a dream
That seems so out of reach
And you know it might not ever come your way
Dream it anyway

God is great, but sometimes life ain't good
When I pray it doesn't always turn out like I think it should
But I do it anyway
I do it anyway

This world's gone crazy and it's hard to believe
That tomorrow will be better than today
Believe it anyway
You can love someone with all your heart
For all the right reasons
And in a moment they can choose to walk away
Love 'em anyway

(Repeat Chorus)

You can pour your soul out singin'
A song you believe in
That tomorrow they'll forget you ever sang
Sing it anyway
Yeah sing it anyway

I sing
I dream
I love anyway

Speaking of clothing

This is how my baby girl dresses herself when left to her own devices.

Can't wait to show this to future girlfriends!

My Pretty, Pretty Princess.

She's so cool!

My silly kids!

LOL!! I'm sure these fit him eventually.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Public School Clothing

My kids are so used to thrift shopping that they don't recognize labels. They choose clothing by color, style and bling. I choose their clothes by how worn it does/doesn't look, does it show body parts I don't allow (belly, cleavage, upper arms - all my kids are sun-sensitive, wrists and ankles showing- if it's supposed to be long sleeve), and whether or not it fits (nothing skin tight).

When I told my sister that the girls were going back to public school and I was worried, she said, "Just make sure they're dressed really cute and they'll be fine." The sad thing is, she's probably right! For Bob at least - Kitty is going to have other issues.

I told Bob yesterday that she was going to go to public school in January. She sobbed. I felt so awful! After she calmed down we talked about ways to handle it (smile!!!) and her wardrobe. Saturday (before I told her) I took the kids shopping and had told them to get clothes for Winter Break - not uniforms - I couldn't get her to buy any clothes! Truthfully that's one reason I told her, so that she will start looking for cute clothes.

Kitty likes cute clothes so I'm not worried about her (except that she likes baggy pants that sit on her hips so she always looks like a plumber!) I can't get her to wear belts (or suspenders) either! Add that to the fact that she's long waisted (meaning short shirts) and I've actually seen pubic hair once or twice! *eek* And of course she has very little sensory feelings so she walks around with food dripping off her face (and stains on her clothes) - hugging her in the morning often means I have to change my clothes too. *sigh*

Bob looks more like Baby Huey. I mean that in the nicest way, but she's got a tummy, so she wears her pants like most men with a dunlop - under her tummy. And she's super long waisted so her shirts are too short. *sigh*

Ponito wears the same clothes several days in a row (if I don't catch him), and all his pants and half his shirts have holes in them, but he loves them so that's what he wears.

At least we finally broke Bear of wearing a thousand layers. Even in TEXAS in the SUMMER he'd be wearing shorts AND jeans, an undershirt, a t-shirt, AND a dress shirt. A sweatshirt and jacket too when he first got here, but that didn't last long.. Now we just have to force him to wear long pants on days when it's below freezing! Goober.

Some days I'm embarrassed to take them out in public! But I love them.

Christmas shopping

I figured I'd answer Purplewall's comments here instead of in the Comment section.

My budget per child varies because I go for the thrift and bargain. For the younger three's Santa gifts I found new MP3 players (last years all got lost or broken) for $10-20 each (yea Big Lots!!!). I'm assuming I'll have to spend about $40 for an "equivalent gift" for Bear. I'm thinking a dive/ water resistant watch since he's so rough on his watches. I got him a nice cross necklace for his adoption gift in July (which he's misplaced again, but not lost) - so that's out.

I try to get one "nice gift" for the kids from us. This year, Bob's is to finally paint her room. Kitty is getting real makeup. Ponito - I went in with my sister and bought him a $45 dollar toy. Bear wants an expensive cologne/body spray gift set. (Usher or Curves - $30-45).

Then there are lots of little gifts - books, clothes (mostly from thrift stores), special school supplies (usually with favorite characters or higher quality), hair brushes, new tooth brushes, socks and undies for Bear... Some of these will be stuffed in stockings. Some will be bundled into packages with a "theme." I will try to stick to the "three present - just like the wise men gave to Jesus" rule again this year. I think I overbought on Kitty this year, but her birthday is in April so some of it can be stored until then.

And the Christmas Eve gift of PJs and a book.

So I don't really have a budget exactly, but I try to keep the appearances about equal. Last year the big gifts were a bike for Bear, a new (used) bed and fun bedding for Kitty (I've got to remember to add the cute photo of this when I get home), Contacts for Bob, and Heeleys for Ponito (which were the wrong size and he ended up waiting months for). Santa brought a flat screen TV for the whole family. Everyone got an MP3 player loaded with Christian music. The third gift was school supplies and books.

I try to make sure everyone gets a few things they really want and something they can play with. If it sounds sparse it really isn't.

Christmas To Do list.

Our tree is artificial and went up the day after Thanksgiving – when the boxes came out of the attic. Of course 2 days after the tree was decorated ALL the lights stopped coming on. No one knows why, and I haven’t bothered to investigate. Could be as easy as something getting unplugged - or a cat chewing a wire or the first bulb burning out – knocking out the whole tree?

For the kids first Christmas I made those fancy felt stocking with their name on them. It took me months and I only finished Kitty’s (who of course has since changed her firstname!). The next year I finished Bear’s. This year I actually finished Bob and Ponito’s, but now we can’t find Kitty’s! It’s probably in a box they missed when they took down the tree. Or it never made it in the boxes and is buried somewhere in all the clutter. Looking for it is on my To Do list! (Yes, that's a scary place to be!)

I’ve gotten almost all my Cmas shopping done. Bob's list was 137 items long!! So she was easy. Kitty's was only 9 things,but she's fairly easy to shop for too. Ponito's list was long, but fairly expensive (most things were remote control and cost $40-80, but he's still pretty easy going). I've finished all the shopping for the girls and only need a couple of little things for Ponito -but I have almost nothing for Bear!

Bear's list was impossible. On his 9 item list he asked for nothing that cost less than $100! Or for things he can't have.
1. A certain type of phone.
2. Another phone that he would like if he can't have the first one.
3. Still another phone that would work just as well.
4. A bluetooth accessory to go with his new phone. Did I mention we're NOT GETTING HIM A PHONE?! He doesn't need one. Ran up 2! $450 phone bills on the one we got him his first Christmas here, and he uses it to text inappropriate people as well. So NO!!!!
5. A scuba wet suit - $120
6. A BCD vest - $550+
7. A hunting trip - like we'd allow him anywhere near a gun, and we don't have anyplace to shoot anyway, and Hubby would have to get a license, all in all VERY expensive and VERY inappropriate.
8. A pair of Ropers (boots). He has a perfectly good pair of boots that fit and these are expensive.
9. I don't remember what 9 is, but I'm sure it was something he can't have either.

So I confronted him on the fact that his list was all big and expensive and mentioned siblings and other family (hoping he'd give me something I could use too). So he gave me about 6 thing under $10 (mostly socks and underwear type stuff – yea, that’s helpful!). So I’m still stuck. Can’t afford the expensive stuff – still need something fairly nice for a Santa gift. *sigh* Got some ideas, but still not sure what to do. Will have to wait and use part of next week’s grocery money to try again.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Speaking of Christmas Miracles

I think I mentioned that Kitty has been calling me a liar because I won't tell her Santa is not real (and she says the Spirit of Christmas doesn't count). I'm so excited to have finally found a solution to this that I can live with!

On the way to therapy Kitty and I discussed this again. You know when you give money to a homeless person or help someone - people say you are doing God's work, or acting as Jesus' hands?! Even though we don't see Jesus, that doesn't mean that he doesn't exist and work through us. We are literally Jesus when we are doing his work.

Well if a parent or another person gives a child a gift or toy in Santa's name. Then they are literally Santa's hands. The Spirit of Christmas works through us, just like the Spirit of God.

Therefore Kitty can no longer call me a liar! Merry Christmas to me!

Yes, Kitty there IS a Santa Claus!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Dreaming of a Christmas Miracle

So now I have some decisions to make. Kitty failed two PACE workbooks (Science and Social Studies). Normally the school would have her repeat them, but since I told them Wednesday that she'll start public school on the 20th of January, they wanted to know what I want done.

I told them to leave the failing grades, and focus on her other subjects. I want to get her as close to "finishing the semester" as possible. Not sure how we'll explain that to her since we're not telling her about starting public school until after the Cmas holidays so she'll actually do the schoolwork over the Cmas break.

Hubby and I were talking about school starting and one option we have is to request that they move Kitty down to 6th grade. (Academically she's "finishing up" 5th grade, but technically she's in 7th grade). She's already a year "behind" since she didn't start Kindergarten until age 6 so she won't graduate until age 19 on her current track. Another concern - she is 13, hit puberty and is tall for her age (5'3 1/2").

One problem is this "No Child Left Behind" law. I think it means that she has to take classes and tests "on grade level" - which means 7th grade. Since she is nowhere near being academically ready for 7th grade she will be overwhelmed and feel "stupid." - According to past history.

In therapy on Friday we discussed some of her issues with anger and vindictiveness. She HATES people who she feels are "judging" her or "mean" to her. She's super sensitive so that's a lot of people. Luckily teenage girls are not known for being sarcastic, judgmental or cruel! (I really need a sarcastic emoticon!) *sigh*

I'm SOOOOOOO worried about public school for her. Maybe we'll get lucky and she'll get all the services she needs and it all will all just magically work out. My own little Christmas miracle (sarcastic emoticon inserted again!)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Attachment Book?

So I met a man who has adopted with his wife two children of relatives. One is older now and seems to have adapted well (8 year old girl). The other was a more recent adoption and I believe the boy is 4 years old. He is showing classic attachment issues (of course I've never met the boy and have only talked to the father twice).

Of course attachment disorders came up in our conversation and I mentioned some local support groups and attachment therapists. The man seemed intrigued, but not enough to take any numbers. Today he sent me an e-mail and asked me:

"Also, out of all the choices available, what would you suggest as the first book or resource to read on the area of rejecting new parents?
-IF you had only one to choose..."

Now my kids are MUCH older and I do not want to scare him with Nancy Thomas. It didn't sound like the child was that severe. I do think the child needs an attachment therapist, and because this was a relative adoption the parents have had NO training whatsoever.

So what would you recommend for the parent of a young 4 year old with obvious attachment issues - he's been with the family for less than a year?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Going back to public school

Due to financial difficulties, it doesn’t look like we’ll be able to keep our daughters in private school. This means going to public middle school (7th grade) for our 13 year old adopted daughter. I had pulled her from public school 1 ½ years ago because we were informed that going into 6th grade they wanted to mainstream her with a little inclusion help (she had failed the one mainstream class they tried in 5th grade and couldn’t handle the stress of being around her peers, but they insisted they didn’t offer resource rooms in middle school).

Academically she’s working on a 5th grade level. She has learning disabilities, particularly in the area of reading. She tests with an IQ of 76 (although in 3rd grade she tested at 106). She has ODD, PTSD, ADHD (medicated), and depression – probably bipolar and is on meds for it, but is not officially diagnosed. She has attachment issues, but luckily not RAD. She has lived with us 2 years and after 1 ½ years of attachment therapy she is “insecurely” attached. She’s also been in EMDR therapy since July.

Her school assessments, which have to be done every 3 years, “expired” in February. Last year she had a full psych eval done by a private psychologist that may show more issues then they were aware of when she left public school (admittedly I don’t really understand it all). So a new assessment may qualify her for more services, but I’m not even sure what to ask for! We have started the assessment process, so she will be tested while in the private school. Not sure if that’s a good or bad thing. They are “pretty sure” she’ll be labeled emotionally disturbed. Because of the location of her private school she will be assessed by a different school district then she will be attending.

Her private school does not have a special education program and no experience working with IEPs, but she has done pretty well there. There are only 40 children in the whole school (age Pre-K to high school), and her sister is the only other girl in the middle school program this year. Even with the lesser stress at the private school she misses at least 30 minutes a day due to “illnesses” (stomach ache, headache, toothache, dizzy… nothing “really” wrong). She doesn’t have homework unless she doesn’t finish her work. When she does have homework it triggers her ODD and is very hard to get her to complete even though she wants to please her teachers (the ones she doesn’t “hate”). Some days I just take her to work with me and let her do her school work sitting next to me. This can get embarrassing if she’s having an “ODD” day, but I’m the boss so the staff ignore it.

Kitty has major issues with her peers. She is very friendly and makes friends easily, but she doesn’t know what to do next. Her world is completely black and white too. If one friend tells her that another friend did something “mean,” then she immediately HATES the “mean” friend and will spread nasty rumors about them and try to get others to not like them. She will do “anything” for the popular girls in an effort to be popular. She also gets overwhelmed in groups and shows off. She teases and “play fights” and doesn’t understand when it leads to hurt feelings (or worse). Or she gets overwhelmed and shuts down. She has threatened other children (but doesn’t usually follow through – especially at school), and she’ll probably be able to control this at school (saving it for home).

My worry is that we’ll be forced to put her in mainstream classes (which will be academically way over her head) where she will struggle and fall apart, but she probably won’t be aggressive (which is what eventually got her brother into a special school program for emotionally disturbed youth). I worry that she’s high enough functioning not to get put into special classes, but that she’ll stop learning and lose what ground she’s made due to being emotionally overwhelmed. They have a program to help children with behavior issues, but it’s only designed to be a place where the child can leave class until they “get it together” usually a few minutes or a few hours. Her brother ended up being in there all day, but the program was not designed for that and it happened only after the police had to come to the school when he was charged with “terroristic threat.”

I don’t want my daughter to “fall through the cracks” just because she’s not a complete mess. I would love some advice on what to ask for. I know the system and I’m a strong advocate, but I also know the school isn’t going to give me any more services then they have to (as evidenced by her brother), and they won’t voluntarily even tell me what those services are. I kept hoping the money for the private school would come through, but barring a Christmas miracle, we’re going to have to make the best of it

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Special-Needs Christmas Carols

Another great link!

Special-Needs Christmas Carols

Website for adolescent parenting

Found this great article at
"Make few rules, but keep them. When you think about all of the do’s and don’ts in the world, most can really be summarized into a very short list. I try to remind myself that God Almighty only needed ten rules, so I should need even less. Center the rules around the fundamental ways that you want your child to live and treat others."

“Everyone wants a new car and a new baby. They both smell fresh and new. But by the time the car and baby are thirteen years old, you cannot pay anyone to take them off your hands. But, with care and love, avoiding too many dents and mishaps, the car and the child will eventually turn twenty-five. Then both of them can be considered classics, worthy of distinction."

Good luck on your way to rearing a classic.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Adventures in Cooking

I never seem to have a camera around, so you guys are just going to have to settle for "way back when" pictures! The boy was sooo much cuter then! (Just kidding - he's still way too adorable!)

So yesterday I was tired and cranky and didn't feel like dealing with anything at all. Hubby was judging a business plan competition and wasn't going to get home until after 11pm. I sat down at my computer and started making the pictures for the homemade cinnamon roll tree for my friend. It took a lot longer than I thought I would, but that's the advantage of having older children right?! They don't need constant supervision (as long as they're all in the house, all downstairs where I can hear them, and I'm close enough that I can lean out of my computer cubby under the stairs and handle anything desperate).

Meanwhile, Kitty and Ponito want to make cookies, and Bob wants to make dinner so she can decide what we're going to have. Finally I give my permission as long as I have veto power (and can continue working at my computer - which is right next to the kitchen).

Kitty and Ponito dive into a children's cookie cookbook I have that's full of lots of cutely shaped cookies. Some of them are vetoed because one of them doesn't like it. Some are vetoed based on missing ingredients. Finally they agree on ladybug cookies (?!). I toss out a veto because black and red icing are almost impossible to "make" using food coloring. They consult and come up with a compromise. Cream cheese frosting dyed red (turned out pink of course) and chocolate icing for the spots. in the search for icing recipes they switch cookbooks (unbeknownst to me) and apparently finds one they like and have the ingredients for in Daddy's gourmet cookbook.

Kitty starts on the cookies (they have cornmeal in them?!).
Ponito starts on the chocolate fondant icing! He's following the directions well, but needs to boil water on the stove. He gives me a saucepan with a quarter inch of water in it (I do all stove top cooking). Of course it boils almost immediately. I ask him what he would like me to do with it as he's frantically stirring chocolate chips and butter with a wisk "until they melt" (which of course isn't going to happen with no heat!). He tells me to pour it in the chip mix. This doesn't sound right so I check the recipe (discovering the cookbook change). He is supposed to boil about an inch ("that's about an inch isn't it Mommy?") of water in the saucepan and melt the chocolate mix in a pot on top. I had him reread that section of the recipe and he figured it out. Then I mixed the chocolate. He finished the recipe. It was bitter, but not too bad. We didn't have confectioner's sugar which I believe was in one of the icing recipes (not sure which one), so I'm sure he made a substitution (or left it out).

Kitty put her 12 cookies (was supposed to make 24) into the oven, and helped Ponito with the cream cheese frosting they'd chosen for the "red" frosting. We had one ancient sealed package of fat-free cream cheese in the fridge. A little while later she pulled out the cookies which had melted - growing bigger and were now dripping off the cookie sheet. When she tried to put them back in the oven they all slid on the overly Pam coated cookie sheet into a smoosh at the back of the cookie sheet and globbed off the end to land in a smoky mess on the bottom of the oven.

*Heavy sigh* I got up - stopped Kitty's hysterics - and rescued the cookies. I tried to divide them back into real cookie shapes - using the spatula, but there was still apparently too much dough and once back in the oven they melted back into one solid sheet. But at least they weren't all on the back half of the cookie sheet and didn't drip on the bottom of the oven - much. They were left in a little too long and were brown and crispy, but at least not burnt. (Don't worry, we still had plenty of smoke from the mess on the bottom of the oven). So of course the cream cheese frosting never got stiff so they just poured it on, and then dotted a small portion of the chocolate on the top.

By now it's dinner time. We all stop to eat Bob's gourmet meal of 2 boxes of macaroni and cheese with a handful of green beans and 1! cut up hot dog in it?! This lasted about 10 seconds and everyone was still hungry (I reheated some leftover rice and threw some cheese in it - What?! It was better than starving! - which they obviously weren't since no one ate the rice). Kitty insisted that no one could eat the cookies - they were for tomorrow's afternoon snack. Of course by morning they were half gone, and I had to stop her from putting the other half in a bag to take to school for lunch (don't even get me started about the Lunch Wars!).

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Braided Cinnamon Roll Christmas Tree

A friend of mine requested this recipe, and because it took so long to make the sketches I decided to put it here! (No wasted efforts!)
Mom's Braided Cinnamon Roll Christmas Tree
(Don't worry! It's way easier than it looks!)

I told my Mom that mine didn’t always turn out like hers (On hers, the red filling bubbled out through the spaces between the braids, making "Christmas ornaments). She thinks it's probably because I use too many low fat, whole grains, fake sugar substitutes.

Take your basic homemade bread recipe (probably doubled). Make the cinnamon sugar mixture (she says use real sugar not Splenda or substitues because it holds the color better, enhances the cinnamon flavor, and makes it bubble through the spaces between the braids).

Cinnamon Roll Filling

  • 4 tsp cinnamon
  • 6 cups of sugar (I still use Splenda, even though it's not as awesome)
  • 2 cup (4 sticks) butter (I still use light butter)
  • Red food coloring
  • Green food coloring

Add red food coloring to 2/3 of the sugar mix and green food coloring to the remaining 1/3. Set the green sugar mix aside for later.

The Fun Part

  1. Line a cookie sheet with foil (preferably one with sides so the juicy cinnamon filling doesn’t drip all over the bottom of the oven)
  2. Roll out the dough until it is about ½ - ¾” thick. This should be in a rectangular shape. I usually roll it so it fills my whole cookie sheet.
  3. Spread the red sugar mix in an isosceles triangle (Mom’s a math teacher). The top point of the triangle will be in the middle of the top edge. The bottom points of the triangle are the bottom corners of the rectangle (see picture!!). 
  4. Outside of the triangle, slice the sides of the rectangle into matching strips (about ¾ to 1” in width) from the edge of the triangle to the right sides of the rectangle (see picture!).
    TIP: Make sure the strips on the left side line up with the ones on the right!
  5. Basket Weaving!

Fold down the top left strip (I call it "a") so that it covers the right side of the triangle. It should just meet the bottom edge of the triangle. Try not to stretch the dough too much. Now do the same with the top right strip (b) so that it overlaps a and covers the left side of the triangle.
TIP: Weave it loosely so the red sugar mixture can bubble up through the gaps.

Now fold the next left strip (c ) over b and lay it adjacent to a down the right side of the triangle. Remember to keep the end of the strip even with the bottom edge of the triangle.

Now lift up and gently fold back strip a so that it’s out of the way (again, be careful not to stretch them too much). Fold down strip d (over c) and lay it adjacent to b down the left side of the triangle. Gently replace strip a so that it covers the right side of the triangle.

Do the same thing on the other side with pieces b and e.

Now lift up and gently fold back strip c so that it’s out of the way. Fold down strip f (over a and e) so that it lays adjacent to d down the left side of the triangle. Gently replace strip c back down the right side of the triangle.

Do the same thing with pieces d and g on the other side.

Now lift up and gently fold back strips a and e. Fold down strip h so that it lays adjacent to d. Gently replace a and e.

Continue to basket weave the strips until the entire “tree” is done and all the strips are used. Press the bottom edge of the strips to the base of the triangle to “seal” the edge. Carefully spread the green sugar mix over the top of your woven triangle tree. Don’t worry about getting it in the cracks of the weave, it will melt in.

Trunk (Optional): 
Use a little extra dough at the base of your tree for a trunk (if you have room). You can cover it with any remaining sugar mix (mixed together the red and green should make brown! Or you could just use uncolored cinnamon sugar mix). You can make this a "lump" and coat it with sugar mix, or you can roll it like a regular cinnamon roll (Roll a flat strip 1/4" to 1/2" thick. Coat it with sugar mix. Roll up the strip.

6.   Allow the dough to rise.
7.   Preheat the oven to 375°F. I can't believe I never wrote down how long to bake this for! I guess you'll just have to start checking on it after about 20 minutes.  The red cinnamon sugar mix inside will bubble up through the cracks of the strips creating red “ornaments.”
This is a beautiful, decadent treat that doesn’t really take long to make once you master the basket weaving. It's now a Christmas morning tradition along with Daddy's famous rolls.  OK, my mouth is now watering!!