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!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween - Cancelled


I'm working hard at getting the "Meanest Mom in the World" title. I decided we won't be celebrating Halloween this year. - They don't need the candy, I don't need the supervising hassles, the private school is adamantly against it, and I've made gorgeous, elaborate costumes for too many years that were never worn. Plus it's overwhelming for Kitty.

I'm trying to think of how to make this a fun evening. So far I'm looking at games we can play, pizza (not whole wheat for once!), movies from Blockbuster (haven't done that in awhile), and probably doing it all in our PJs. Possibly letting them sleep downstairs (I haven't allowed that since Bear snuck out and ran away and we discovered a steak knife under his mattress. Kitty saw him leave and it freaked her out to see "somthing" in the back yard). Wish me luck!

Great news!


Bear has pulled all his grades up, even in math and has all As!!! He had a 76 in Algebra last report card so this is huge for him!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Kitty Therapy

The original plan for Kitty's therapy was for her to go to EMDR therapy for the Summer and then go back to attachment therapy. She was having a lot of issues with her PTSD (post-traumatic stress syndrome) and dissociating and meltdowns. We watched a video of how EMDR works and it basically said 2-3 session and the person was able to process the event(s) without the emotional turmoil. So I have been pushing the sessions to get Kitty to address her biggest triggers/ issues.

I talked to Kitty's attachment therapist about setting up appointments again, and she asked if I had talked to the EMDR therapist about it. Well, no, I'm a big e-mail communicator and the EMDR therapist is not, plus she's a super busy person. She reads this blog sometimes though! So tonight, I/we pushed Kitty through another session (we've been alternating difficult with easier sessions and tonight was scheduled to be a tough one), and then sent Kitty out of the room for a talk.

Oops! Basically the EMDR for a single event (like a rape or car accident) is 2-3 sessions. For long-term trauma and abuse it could take more like 2 years. Guess which the therapist was predicting for Kitty?!

Kitty is much better. She no longer obviously dissociates when we talk about birth mom or her abusive men -before, she wouldn't answer and would focus on anything else in the room, would change the subject, would walk/run away, and even got violent. Now she stays put, and only sometimes says, "I don't remember."

I was very interested in working on Kitty's somatic issues with the attachment therapist (something we were just starting when Kitty switched to EMDR therapy), but according to the EMDR therapist Kitty is not ready yet. That basically her lack of awareness about her body (not sensing hunger, food on her face, not caring about body odor, not being ticklish, actually inviting others to hurt her by pinching or hitting her to prove that it doesn't hurt her...) is part of her dissociating behavior, and that when she is (much) further along we'll see a dramatic improvement in her awareness of her body.

So now I'm thinking it would be great if I could see Kitty's attachment therapist to help and support me in continuing to provide the therapeutic parenting and deal with attachment issues, while Kitty and I continue with her EMDR therapy. The only problem is that the attachment therapist is not on our health insurance. She would be paid through TX Medicaid which of course I don't have. I'll call her today and see if we have any alternatives.

Squeak!

Kitty Assessments

I spent all day yesterday talking about Kitty and getting her assessed and now I'm even more confused!

So yesterday morning Kitty and I had the initial interview with the psychologist for Kitty's psych eval. I really liked her. As usual, I brought in tons of documents including the psych eval from last August. She wanted to know why we wanted another psych eval - she had a good point. I was interested in getting her diagnosed for bipolar disorder, but she's already on 3 meds for it (Trileptal, Seroquel and something else). The psychologist said it would be very difficult to "tease" out the bipolar from the ADHD and other issues. I think what I might really need is just someone to explain the results.

One thing she mentioned was that Kitty's IQ is only 76 - borderline mental retardation. We've always believed that Kitty doesn't present and test well due to all the trauma, moves, learning disability and ADHD, not being stable on her medications yet, and not being comfortable with the testers - so we were working on the assumption that in reality her actual IQ is higher; however, the psychologist said that if she can't adapt or adjust well that this could actually be lower. (Kitty's EMDR therapist believes that our initial assumption is correct and that Kitty is actually higher functioning than this).

The psychologist (after Kitty left the room), pointed out that we did the right thing by keeping Kitty in a small classroom setting. That she would not be able to handle all the chaos, stimuli and social issues that go along with being in a regular classroom. She also noted that the previous psych eval had included a lot of academic assessments. Her biggest concern was that Kitty doesn't appear to be able to generalize information so a little time each day teaching her tips and techniques (which is all I figured she needed) would not be enough or very helpful. Right now Kitty is working on about a 5th grade level (she's in 7th grade). She is not making big leaps in the academic area so I'm afraid she's going to continue to be 2 years behind. She'll already be 19 when she graduates. Add on 2 extra years or more (as things get harder I worry she'll get further behind) and she may never graduate! Did I mention Kitty's current goal is to be a surgeon?!

The meeting took only an hour so I decided Kitty should go back to school (Kitty was not thrilled!). We went to Salvation Army and picked up appropriate clothing for school (didn't make sense to go all the way home and then all the way to the school when she needed more uniform pieces anyway), took her to lunch, and took her to school. My car is on the critical list, so my Mom drove us around. After we dropped Kitty off, we went to the middle school closest to Kitty's private school (according to the law they are responsible for Kitty's assessments and providing special services because she attends a school in their district) to meet the woman in charge of assessments. I'd already given her a heads up that I would be coming by to pick up and drop off paperwork, rather than mailing them (I am not a patient person).

So here's my biggest concern. Kitty's private school, while very willing, does not have the capability of providing more than minimal accomodations for Kitty. They do not even know how to read an IEP and as far as I know have never bothered to read the one Kitty came with last year. I doubt seriously that we could get the school to train them or provide a one on one aide at the private school. It's really starting to sound like Kitty will need more than a couple of hours a day of help. If the school district insists she needs to be enrolled to be able to provide all the services she needs then I have to decide if I want to pull her from the private school. She has to be in a resource room environment (which I would have to fight for), and since she is so high functioning, I worry that she's going to look around and give up because, "everyone thinks she's stupid."

I'm this close to deciding that the new psych eval is unnecessary, plus we think we will have to pay the $1500 insurance deductible, but if the school district assesses her and decides that they can't accomodate her at the private school, then I will need something showing that she shouldn't be mainstreamed with inclusion help (which was their plan in 6th grade- regular classes with 15 minutes a week of in class assistance!). I'm guessing that proving she is mentally retarded (based on her low IQ and inability to adjust) might force them to allow her the resource room classroom.

So most of the paperwork is turned in, now I just have to wait for actual assessments.

Mary

Friday, October 24, 2008

Parent/Teacher Conferences

4!! Parent/ Teacher Conferences in the last 3 days!!

Ponito - Wednesday


Ponito is doing very well in 4th grade. He's making A's in almost every subject, particularly math. Their only concern is reading comprehension and studying. Basically he skims books and isn't getting enough comprehension (60% instead of 80-100%). This was a concern at the private school too. He "got it" so quickly that he rushed ahead and sometimes he missed something important. He either made 100s on his tests or 80s. 80s meant he missed something. Hubby and I are a little concerned that Ponito will make it through school without needing to study (like we did). When he finally comes across something requiring study (didn't happen till college for us!), he will not know how! Still, he's only 9 so we're not too worried. Just something we're watching.

Bear - Thursday

Actually this was a Parent/Therapist conference - Bear wasn't there. Therapist read us the riot act again, for not spending enough time with Bear (I don't totally agree with this one) and for being too restrictive. We've always been concerned with the line between keeping him out of trouble and allowing him to fail. Since every single time we've loosened the reins he used poor judgement and messed up, we've gotten to the point of not loosening the reins. The therapist has talked us into allowing him some more freedom (such as the out classes in regular school), but basically doing so in a very supervised way (such as academic instead of athletic classes -which have too little structure and supervision). He warned that if we did not lighten up some, two things were likely to happen:
1. Bear would start rebelling and acting out.
2. When Bear graduated he would do all the things we had tried to prevent, but now it would be on his adult record.


I wanted to talk about the fact that Bear is not expressing any emotion. Before Bear went to residential treatment and got on his current medications he exploded on about a monthly basis. All emotions were stuffed inside and converted into angry lava. You could see it seething and bubbling inside him. When he lost control the volcano exploded in an angry outburst. Afterward, for about 10-30 minutes he would exhibit true emotions - he usually cried and talked about his feelings of abandonment, fear, anxiety and anger (accessing the emotions he kept stuffed inside). We felt that therapy would not reach Bear until we could get the volcano under control.


Now Bear has his anger under control, but he still stuffs his feelings inside instead of processing them. Now they go in what appears to be a huge box inside him. When Bear had an outburst, that box got opened and examined and maybe processed a little. Now that he has no more outbursts, the box stays closed, the emotions untouched and buried deeper and deeper. Bear is making progress academically and socially. He does talk about things and has even cried, but it tends to be current stuff. He is getting more mature, and can control his emotions- which is a good thing don't get me wrong! But I can't believe that not dealing with all the bad stuff that I know is in that box is a good thing. I can't believe that him not dealing with most of his feelings is a good thing. Before he wasn't able to learn anything because his life was in constant chaos - and now he is advancing academically and socially. He will never be off medication completely, but I wonder if it's time to start lowering his doses so that he can access his box, deal with his emotions. Or should we give him more time to be successful in all the areas that had been falling by the wayside?

Friday - Bear


So we had a parent teacher conference with Bear's school and told them we'd be willing to allow Bear to attend out classes at the highschool. For scheduling reasons it has to be two classes. We decided on English and remedial math (he's taking 2 math classes has an 83 in the applied math class and a 73 in Algebra - we think it's stupid that he has to take Algebra, but No Child Left Behind right?!). We are insisting on someone to escort him to and between classes.

We are also requesting he be tested for dyslexia. Technically they only have to test a child every 3 years and it's only been two (since he was tested in a tiny town in rural Nebraska), but we might be able to push it since he's been diagnosed with ADD and failed the 8th TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) three times (never passed).

Friday - Kitty


Kitty's parent teacher conference was to ream us for
allowing Kitty to attend school smelling disgusting (hard to catch for us as the odor builds through the day, and in the enclosed car on the way to school, Hubby has no sense of smell),
being a wrinkled mess (Kitty is incapable of putting her clothes away - she shoves them in a drawer, dumps them on the floor and leaves them in baskets which she then mixes with dirty clothes),
not having extra clothes at school (she uses them and doesn't replace),
forgetting her workbooks at home -recently Kitty went home sick and when she went back to school she discovered that she'd left all of her workbooks at home. We did not want to make the 30 minute round trip because we needed to get to work (45 minutes to 1 hour, one way). My suggestion was to have her work on a report or clean. They apparently didn't like that suggestion. We did make Kitty do all the pages that she missed after school.
not picking her up right away when she was sick - I'm going to blame this one on Hubby since he took the call and did not pass on any sense of urgency to me. We were told she had a stomach ache/cramps - this is a standard thing for Kitty although it's been awhile. Hubby told them to give her some Tums and he'd call Grandma - he thought they said they would call back if the Tums didn't help. They thought he'd call back if he hadn't been able to get hold of Grandma. I wasn't able to get hold of Grandma, but luckily she showed up early so she could do portraits of the kids in the school (she's an amazing artist). They sent Kitty home with her.

We wanted Kitty in on this meeting so she would understand that the hygeine/ appearance concerns weren't Mom being picky. Even though they obviously felt the onus was on the parents, when they addressed her they emphasized that she is 13 and responsible for herself. I think they got through to her, but there is the issue that she is probably not really capable of doing this on her own (in a lot of ways she is a very immature 6 year old). We will have to take back over her laundry and wardrobe.

I let them know that Kitty has a psych eval on Tuesday - we want to get her tested for bipolar disorder, and that we are trying to get her assessed through the school system for dyslexia. Getting the assessment is going to take some time. Then we have to figure out what services she needs and how to get her those services. We'll have to advocate for the school to come get her or work with her at school. Her private school is in another school district so she gets services through them, so we'll have to work with another system (yea!), but I've heard good things about this school districts special educations services so that will be good.

Luckily I have lots of friends who are able to help me advocate for my kids' needs. They WILL get the services they need.


OK, while she was mentioned at Kitty's P/T conference, Bob didn't get a conference, but I didn't want to leave her picture out! *grin* So here's my baby girl! These pictures are from last year. I really need to work on getting out the camera more often!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Family by Bob


Family

Family is important to me because without family, I would be all alone. I wouldn't have a house, any clothes or food, and I wouldn't be able to go to this school. Sometimes I don't like my family, but there is always a reason to love them, even if I think the world is out to get me.

My family consisted of two boys and two girls until we adopted Kitty and Bear. My family decided to adopt because they wanted to give some unlucky kid the chance to have a great life. When I was two (she was actually 4) they tried to adopt, but the state said I was too young to let my parents adopt. So we waited until I was eleven.

When we adopted Kitty and Bear, Kitty was named ____________ (we allowed Kitty to change her first name when she was adopted). We had to share a little bitty rome, so my mom and dad had us move into Ponito's room, and we sorta switched. Anway, we had to split Kitty and I up because we kept fighting, and my mom thought it was because we shared a room. Now we don't fight. I mean every once in a while I fight with my mom. A lot of times actually. The best thing about fighting is making up.

There are a lot of good things about having a big family. If you have a problem there are so many people to talk to. You get a lot of presents during Christmas and your Birthday. But family is there to keep you up, not throw you down. Even if you don't do anything and they blame you, you may hate them for awhile, but you forgive and forget, right?

Yes, Kitty there is a Santa Claus


Santa still comes to our house. Several years ago he brought us our Husky, Scarlet Claus. This year he brought us a 50" flat screen TV because "Scarlet said we'd been really good this year." (Our main TV had died).

When Kitty and Bear moved in (November 4th!) we told them that if you said you didn't believe in Santa Claus, he wouldn't come. This was my "subtle" way of saying do not tell your siblings if you don't believe! I have NEVER said I do not believe in Santa, and was thrilled that Bob and Ponito still believed, as far as I could tell, at least until last year.



So in therapy awhile back, Kitty confronted me on the Santa issue. She had accused me of lying to her. I said I do not lie. She said, I know Santa existed a long time ago, and that the "spirit of Christmas" still exists, but I want you to tell me that Santa Claus doesn't exist as a person now, and if you don't then you are lying to me.

The therapist confronted her and asked her to stop. I repeated my previous statements that if you say you don't believe in Santa he won't come, but other than that refused to answer. Was I wrong? Should I have told her that Santa doesn't exist? Am I lying?

She thinks children should never be told that Santa exists. That adults are lying to kids. It is so sad that she wants to deprive everyone of the joy in believing in magic probably because she didn't get to experience it herself. She assured me that none of my children believe anymore - she claims friends at school told them. She was the one to tell her little sisters that Santa didn't exist (they would have been at most 3 and 6).

I do allow the children to watch some shows and read books about witches and wizards (Wizards of Waverly place, Sabrina the teenage witch, and Harry Potter - before they got so violent), but we often talk about the fact that magic and ghosts and things are not real. I do not allow the kids, especially Kitty, to watch violent, gory, scary shows (no matter how much she begs), because Kitty seems to have difficulty processing it. You've also heard my opinions on how media negatively influences children. I try to raise my children to be respectful, responsible, honest and happy to the best of my ability.

I rarely lose my temper with the kids, and I am not a liar. The ONE time I lost my temper, was in a crabby, irritable mood with the kids and yelled at them was early on in their lives with us and I went on an anti-depressant/anti-anxiety medication almost immediately after. This is CONSTANTLY thrown in my face by both Bear and Kitty (as an example of how it must be OK to get angry and yell since I did it).

I fully expect Santa to be Kitty's example proving that I am a liar. Kitty talks often of the two times that Bob got into a physical altercation with her - as though they happened yesterday instead of almost 2 years ago. This is her reason why she doesn't get along with Bob - because Bob is mean and hits her. Yet, both children have no memory or tolerance for us bringing up times when they lied, got physical or acted out. Their slate is wiped clean and if we use it as a reason not to trust them, then we are "holding a grudge," if the child doesn't deny it completely. That is in the past and irrelevant.

This is so frustrating. Does telling children that Santa is real make me a liar? Do I have to be perfect to parent these children? When I am not perfect, how do I convince them that this doesn't mean they can do anything they want all the time just because I did it once?!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

My three families by Kitty


This was a report written by Kitty at school. The teacher worked with her on it. I'm not totally sure how I feel about this being part of her school work (I'm sure it wasn't an assigned subject), but I'll talk to her teacher about it soon. Will also share it with her therapist of course. It says Part 1. I don't know if there are more parts to come.

Part 1: Biological Mom

I am different than most people. I have three families. My first family is my biological mom and sisters. My mom's name is Barb {name changed}. Boy is she something else. She is more then a person who gave me birth. She is a mother who loves all her kids. I know you must think she is horrible for giving me up like she did. But you are wrong. She did it because she wanted me to be happier and not angry at the world. It took me a long time to figure that out, two years to be exact. It also took me a long time to get over the fact I was not going to be living with her, but I am doing just fine (I hope). My biological mom was always out clubbing, so I did what I pleased, but I also had to watch my sisters all the time (it was so annoying). {Ages 6 and 3 when Kitty left home for good at age 9 by the way!} Don't get me wrong; I love my sisters, but I was only in elementary school.

Sometimes I wish I was still with them, as in Barb and the girls. When I think of it my life would have be miserable. I would not know that my grandma and grandpa love me no matter what mood I am in {referring to biological grandparents}. I will also not know that there are good people in this amazing world God has put us into. I would be moving from place to place. I would have to watch my family get hurt by all of Barb's boyfriends. I would be a couch potato, and that is not fun. But most of all I would not know the family I am living with now.

I still love my biological family and no one can change that, not even Barb. What I am trying to say is I love the life I have, even when I am angry at the ones that I love and accept in my heart as my new family. And isn't that the way life is? You always argue with the ones you love. I just realized I love my life, and even at the hardest times I have people who love me for me. Isn't that great?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Special Education in Private School

So now I'm working on making sure that Kitty is getting what she needs in school. A good friend of mine, Kathy, works as a vision and hearing specialist and she goes to daycares and small schools to test the children. One year when I was working at a private preschool, she noticed that my thyroid didn't look right and warned me to get it tested. She caught what could have been a very serious issue (so far it's not, although I've been delaying getting the nodes tested for cancer because we can't afford the deductible right now).

While testing Kitty's vision, Kathy noticed Kitty's difficulty with reading. Kathy has a son with dyslexia and she called me and strongly suggested I get Kitty tested. Now we've always known Kitty had Learning Disabilities with a focus on reading, but our priority was to get her into a setting where she could function. The public school had told us that when Kitty started 6th grade she would be mainstreamed for all her classes (in elementary school she was only mainstreamed for one class which she failed miserably). We said heck no! 15 minutes of inclusion a week would not be sufficient! Plus, Kitty cannot handle the social aspects of school - it is totally overwhelming for her. A stressed out, overwhelmed child cannot attach to her family and most definitely cannot learn.

So we decided on a very small private school, and it worked. Kitty is able to function and has progressed from being 2 years behind to only one and one-half years. This Summer we wanted to help Kitty catch up even more, so she continued with her school work all Summer (let me tell you this did not make her a happy 'non-' camper!). Her diagnostics revealed that not only did this not help, but she was actually a little further behind! *sigh*

Then Kathy pointed out that while the school was not making Kitty worse (unlike the public school), she wasn't learning what she needed to learn to become successful either. She wasn't learning the "tricks" that I learned to help compensate for my dyslexia. She wasn't learning to spell.

If we hadn't addressed her emotional needs Kitty wouldn't be able to handle or focus on her academic needs, but now it's time to figure out how to get it all. So I'm looking at getting her assessed for bipolar disorder and dyslexia. Neuropsychologist and/or regular - will my insurance pay for both?! The school tested her for learning disabilities 2 years ago in a tiny little town in rural Nebraska, so they feel that their responsibility is over in that respect (until 12/09). I do have calls in to them to find out if we can access any special services based on that testing, and to get copies of her testing. The tiny private school Kitty goes to accepts children with special needs (ADHD, Aspergers...), but they do not have a special education teacher or the wherewithall to get one.

The next question will be what to do with the information. Force the public school system to provide services (will that even be possible without making her attend public school?)? Hire a private tutor or therapist to work with her one on one before or even during school? (I can't even imagine the expense). There are free special programs that work with kids after-school, but she's either too old, or they won't take kids mid-year. There is a special school just for kids with dyslexia, but they aren't sure they can handle her other special needs and cost more a year then it costs to put all 3 kids in private school.

Meanwhile, we have a parent teacher conference with the school next week due to Kitty's poor hygeine (this week she was almost sent home because her shirt smelled "soured" - normally it's body odor). I have to admit I'm a little frustrated with this because they haven't talked to her about it! She thinks we're crazy, and being picky and mean to her when we make her change because her shirt is stained with breakfast (or other mysterious marks), or wear socks with her shoes, or wash her hair with conditioner and shampoo, or wear clothes that have seen the washer since she last wore them.

We will be bringing her to this conference and they will address this with her! I've already got tons of points in the hygeine category of The Meanest Mom competition - they need to handle this. I'll handle the fact that my 6 year old niece won't play with her because she smells and that she has 4 loads of dirty laundry a week, but never has anything to wear.

Squeak!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Supportive Words

Following are words and verses that have been given to me in the last few days.

Some quotes from a book called The Secret.

-"Everything that has been invented and created throughout the history of humankind began with one thought. From that one thought a way was made, and it manifested from the invisible into the visible." (p 57)
-"Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step." Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) (p 57)
-"All that we are is a result of what we have thought." Buddha (563 BCE - 483 BCE) (p 73)
-"Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life's coming attractions." Albert Einstein (1879-1955) (p 91)
-"Oftentimes you give others the opportunity to create your happiness, and many times they fail to create it the way you want it. Why? Because only one person can be in charge of your joy, of your bliss, and that's you. So even your parent, your child, your spouse - they do not have the control to create your happiness. They simply have the opportunity to share in your happiness. Your joy lies within you." Lisa Nichols (p 122)
-"What you resist persists." Carl Jung (1875-1961) (p 142)
-Praising and blessing equals love, and love is the greatest power in our lives. (p 151-153)
-"Erase everything from the past that does not serve you and be grateful it brought you to this place now, and to a new beginning. You have a clean slate, and you can start over - right here, right now...." (p 178)

The book The Key to the Secret by James De Havilland is supposed to be better than The Secret. De Havilland teaches that unused capability becomes the lost capability therefore you must unfold your own capability. He doesn't tell you to simply believe, he tells you to "do".

DeAnna sent me the following verses from our talk:

The first verse is Jeremiah 29:11 -
"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

This verse is for you and your family. Be blessed by it. Meditate on it and thank God for the great things he has in store for you and your husband and your entire household.

The 2nd verse I spoke to you about was Proverbs 18:21 -
" The tongue has the power of life and death."
Look also at Psalms 141:3 which says
"Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord: keep watch over the door of my lips."
You can ask God to help you with what you say over yourself, your family or anyone else so you are speaking life and not death.

The last verse I spoke to you about was Job 22;28 -
"Decree a thing and it shall be established."
This verse goes well with the verses above because what we say has an impact on what happens in our life. I want to encourage you to pray for God to show you the treasures that are in yourself, your husband, and your kids and begin thanking him for each one of these and call them forth in each one of them. You will start seeing a great impact in your whole family.

Negative thoughts will come and when they do, make a choice not to entertain them.
I Cor. 10:5 says
"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself against the knowledge of God, and take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."
Your mind can be your worst enemy. But the word of God is like a sword and cuts through all the garbage. So, I encourage you to read the word of God as much as possible to strengthen your spirit.

I hope all these things encourage your heart. Remember what I said that God is your biggest cheerleader. It's not just a cute statement. It's the truth. He loves you unconditionally and is always for you.

More to think on,
Mary

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Down the path



So last week I had organized a lunch with other Mommies who run thier own companies. It was fun! I am a total extrovert so I get my energy from being around other people. I don't get a lot of that anymore (just the way my life is set up now), so this was a good time. I even got a chance to vent a little (without saying too much since some of these women are our clients). Afterward a sales rep for a local office supply store happened to come in. She seemed nice, and she was a working mother, and there was tons of dessert still on the table, so I offered her some snacks and tea and we stood around chatting.

It really is a small world. Turns our her 14 and 16 year old teenage daughters go to the same highschool as my son would go if he didn't attend the special school. She lives only a few blocks away from us. The best friend of one of her daughters attends the tiny private school that my girls go to. This is even weirder because we are currently in downtown Austin, and the small town we live in is North of Austin. The school the girls attend is in yet another small town. I was in a talkative mood and admittedly vented a little about Bear, and probably all the kids. It's not often I get to talk to another mother with teenagers, and this lady was very sympathetic.

The next day, the lady called me and said she didn't believe in coincidences and would I like to have lunch with her next week. I said sure! Sunday, my Mom and I were wandering around Costco (a big member's only bulk food warehouse) and run into the lady again! We chatted for awhile and I got to meet her husband.

So yesterday I had lunch with DeAnna. She bravely broached the subject of religion (she knew my girls attend a Christian school and we'd touched on it at our first meeting, but in my opinion this was still brave. At first I was a little nervous that she was going to preach at me and try to convert me to something though!).

She said that something I'd said about Bear (I think it was that he has a sign on his forehead that says if you have major problems then you must date me!), had bothered her, because it was so negative. I hope I can explain this like she did! Recently she had been reminded that while most of our prayers are asking God to help us or our children, that God had already stated that he will give us all the help we need. We don't need to ask for it because it is already ours! She has started thanking God for providing her and her children with protection and skills needed. -Taking what God promised. It is our right. She has seen the power of this kind of prayer have an immediate and positive impact on her family, and gave me an example involving her daughter.


This led us to a tangent about self-fulfilling prophecy -which wasn't what she was talking about, but tied with recent events seem to have illuminated a path that it feels like God is trying to lead me down. I'll try to show you the twists that got me on this path.

Recently I started reading a blog written by a parent with an adopted 11 year old son. This parent has been through a lot with this child and nothing seems to help. In his blog he states that he believes his child is a psychopath. Medically you cannot be diagnosed as a psychopath until you are 18. It is an adult illness. If you look hard enough though there is testing that will allow you to have a child as young as 12 be diagnosed with a youth version of this; however, his child is only 11 and noone will allow this diagnosis/label. This parent insists that his child meets all the criteria. In listening to his rationale, there are so many things that make me cringe.

One thing he mentions is that nothing gets through to the child. He says they would put the child in timeout for 10 minutes and it wouldn't have any effect. So they increased it to 30 minutes, an hour, several hours... days! When he asked the child what he thought about the grounding/time out time spent in his room. The child said, it was nice because he didn't have to do anything. It bothered me a lot that this man often took discipline methods that weren't working and then took it to such an extreme that it could be considered child abuse.

What bothers me most is that in one post he predicts the child's behavior for the next 5 years. 6th grade -sexually assault another student, steal a cellphone or gaming device... 7th grade - another sexual assault... 8th grade - his first rape, his first serious attempt on our lives. 10th grade - I honestly don't think we'll be involved in his life at this point. (You can read this for yourself http://raising-a-psychopath.blogspot.com/2008/09/another-thing-that-began-to-happen-at.html ).

I've heard this described as self-fulfilling prophecy. Yes, this child is severely damaged, and yes, this is not out of the realm of possibility, but by saying it you are almost making it happen. You are certainly not working to change it. There is no hope in this blog, no striving to make things better, and I think that is what bothers me the most about it. He is raising his son to be a psycopath - there are no other options. I know people who have raised psychopaths (legitimately diagnosed), but they do not give up on the child - they still strive to make his/her life a little better.

When Bob was less than 18 months I belonged to a playgroup. Bob was a "spirited" child (she started the "terrible twos" at 17 months and didn't really stop until age 4 1/2). While the babies played on the floor I used this time as a chance to vent to the other mommies. I didn't really think she was listening or understanding me, and maybe she wasn't. At one point though I realized I was complaining about her a lot. I decided to rethink how I talked about her, even when I knew she wasn't present to hear it. Instead of relaying the stories of all the trying things that she did, I praised her creativity and how smart she was. I tried to not only stop being negative in what I said to others, but in how I perceived her and how I treated her. I was amazed that it actually dramatically changed her behaviors!!

DeAnna also commented on the fact that my Mom made a comment about how she had planned to write a book about all the trouble I got into as a little girl. DeAnna worried that my childhood of being a "bad kid" might be influencing how I reacted to my children. She wanted to tell me that I should draw a line and say that is in the past, and keep it there. I quickly reassured her that my Mom has always told stories of the trouble I got into as a child, but it was always said in such a manner that I knew she actually thought I was creative, fun-loving, smart and didn't have a malicious bone in my body. I love hearing the tales of my childhood (well, except when she told them to my boyfriends, boss, employees, or my children - who take notes!).

It was a good reminder though that my mom's tales of Kitty do not have this same feeling of love and admiration. I'm sure it's not intentional (and I know she reads this blog so I'm apologizing now because I know this will probably hurt her feelings and I don't want to), but it is very negative and is having a detrimental effect on both Kitty and I. I know it is VERY hard to deal with a child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and Kitty's disrespect has bled over to all of the children causing frequent mutinies, but somehow Mom and I are going to have to work at changing not only what we say, but how we perceive her (and Bear's) behaviors.

Another book I've read recently is also helping me with this. Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control by Post. I don't agree with everything he says, but one point that is a big influence on my recent attitude regards his opinion on emotion. he says there are only 2 emotions - Love and Fear. Children's behaviors are caused by one of these 2 emotions and for children like Kitty and Bear it is usually Fear.

I had always been told, and felt, that both children were very manipulative and controlling (just like biomom). It was very annoying and frequently scary. I believe I've mentioned that I trust both children about as far as I can throw them (and Bear is 5'9" 200lbs!). I don't like being manipulated, controlled, or lied to (who does?!). Now I try to take a deep breath and remember that the child is behaving like this because they are afraid and trying to protect themselves - this helps me tolerate it.

While I am not discounting what DeAnna said at all (she had very valid points that I will most definitely try to incoporate into my life) - What I came away with was a very vived reminder that I am guilty of "self-fulfilling prophecy." I am focusing on the negatives and the difficult behaviors of my kids. While I have always avoided putting them down, complaining about them or showing my frustration to them, it still colors my interactions with them. By allowing others around me to criticize them I am also influencing how I feel about them.

I KNOW that Kitty especially is very sensitive to other's moods (truthfully I am too). If I am irritable, she has meltdowns and becomes defiant. If Bob is in a silly mood, Kitty becomes hyper. If Bear is in a bad mood she becomes subservient. Lately, I have been so frustrated with Kitty and Bear that I do not want to even be around them. Compounded by guilt, because I "should" want to be around them, and this makes me feel like a bad mom - which makes me more irritable! One reason I want to go on a mood stabilizer is to try to break this cycle.

So I'm embarking on a new path. I hope it will be easy to stay on it, and that at the end of the road I will have a happy, healthy, well-adjusted family.

Travelin'
Mary

Monday, October 13, 2008

The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman


Quality time! That's the 5th Love Language I couldn't remember! It's a big one and Hubby's primary.

We've done the 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman about 1/2 a dozen times in Sunday school classes. It's a required book for marriage counseling for engaged couples for some churches (a really good idea by the way!). I highly recommend it. I thought I'd give y'all a quick summary.

Basically everyone has a primary love language. This is how you know people love you. You can tell someone you love them until you are blue in the face, but if their love language is physical touch and you rarely touch them - they will not believe you love them!! This is especially important with children in my opinion, but in all relationships knowing their love language (and your own) keeps you from getting frustrated and relationships from ending miserably. It's not totally obvious sometimes what someone's love language is, and some people are "bilingual", but generally here's the highlights.

1. Physical Touch - a big one with guys. This is physical affection (obviously), touches, kisses, hugs...
2. Acts of Service - this is how my Mom expresses love (although it is not her love language). This is doing things (making a meal, knitting a sweater, getting up and getting a drink for someone, mowing the lawn, paying the bills, taking out the trash...
3. Words of Affirmation - this is me and my Mom! This is being told you are doing a good job at something, saying "I love you," little love notes, even wolf whistles...
4. Quality Time - this is spending time together. (This is Bear big time! If you are not spending time with him, listening to him talk then you do not love him!) This doesn't have to be talking, can be just watching TV together, going places together, looking into each other's eyes...
5. Gifts - this is one of the few that Hubby and I do not have at all! It is however one of my Dad's, if not his primary. Not that everyone doesn't like getting gifts, but this person has a special place in their heart for the gift. It is a symbol of that person's love for them. They can tell you where they got it, who gave it to them and under what circumstances. They usually keep it in a special place and take great care of it. Think the Last Doll in The Little Princess movie/book.

Children need ALL FIVE languages and do not have a primary love language until they are early elementary age. This makes a lot of sense if you think about it. Babies especially need ALL of these things done for them.

There are tests you can take (here's one although it's not a great one - http://www.greaterquest.com/LoveLanguages.asp ), and reading the book(s) really helps, but even then, sometimes it's hard to tell what people's love languages are. Some are obvious, like Bear, others not so much. Sometimes how they express love is a good clue, but that can be altered by experience (for example, my Mom is ACTS OF SERVICE all the time, but her love language is actually Words of Affirmation. I don't know if she was taught to do acts of service - a generational thing, or, more likely, she learned that if she does things for others they are more likely to praise her and give her the words of affirmation that she needs).

There is a 5 love languages book for children as well. They suggest a test if you really can't figure it out of trying by completely removing one of the love languages and seeing if it makes a difference (like not touch the child for a week). I suppose the opposite would be to go crazy with one and see if the kid blooms (that would be my preference - especially while we're still trying to get some of our kids to attach!). My kids would love treats and presents for a week!

Finding out someone's love language is essential! Basically it effects people's self-esteem if no one loves them (and if you're not speaking their language then you "don't love them!"). Also, if your "love tank" is empty then you are unable to give love or really even function well. You need love! Because half my kids are attachment disordered they are not going to fill my love tank. Dealing with them regularly drains it in fact. Because I am the only Words of Affirmation speaker in the house (that I know of!), it is not easy for me to get the words of love that I need to function. I have learned to encourage others to speak in my language (they can be taught!! *grin*) and I have learned to go elsewhere for ways to fill my tank. This is one reason I blog!! I love hearing from others that I'm doing a good job.

I have no idea what Bob and Kitty's languages are. I was thinking of trying the experiment of giving them tons of one language for a week and seeing how that worked. Then I started thinking that with Kitty, emotionally she's still only 4-6 years old, which means she still needs ALL of the love languages. I need to step up ALL the languages for her and see if that helps with some of the behaviors this week.

I also talked to her therapist and I'm trying to get Kitty set up for psychological testing for bipolar disorder. Will let you know how that goes. Speaking of which, I have a doctor's appointment this afternoon to see if I'm going to go back on a mood stabilizer - preferably one that doesn't cause me to gain weight this time. Better get back to work now!

Mary

Here's some articles about it too. http://marriage.about.com/cs/communicationkeys/a/lovelanguage.htm
http://www.sharedpaths.com/personal-growth-tools/5lovelanguages.html

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Priorities

So Hubby has become pretty verbal on the fact that he thinks the reason I'm having trouble has more to do with lack of sleep then having bipolar disorder. He is anti-meds anyway, but has said he doesn't object to me taking them, just that he's not sure I need them.

We had a big conversation in the car on the way to work yesterday about my priorities and whether or not I was spending too much time on the computer (as the therapist and Hubby believe) and not enough time with the kids. So I decided to write down what I actually do all day, to help me decide what to give up - since something obviously has to go, and sleep is apparently not the best choice.

I realized there is very little "Me" time that doesn't involve the computer. If you're familiar with The Five Love Languages (a very good book by the way), my love language is "Words of Affirmation" which means that I crave/ need people telling me I'm doing a good job and that I'm a good person. (The 5 languages are - physical touch (Hubby's!), gifts, acts of service, words of affirmation and ... dang, I can never remember the last one!). So anyway, I need lots of affirmation that I'm doing the right thing. I do not have any "local" friends that I talk to on a regular basis (everyone is as busy as I am!) so I love the internet because I can "talk" to anyone at any time - even midnight, and that I can meet people who not only "get it", but who have BTDT!

So when people say, get rid of the computer time I panic! I'm an extrovert working in a tiny office where everyone is super busy (no gossip or chatting), with very few friends. Having noone to talk to but Hubby, kids, Grandma, and my friends on the internet.

Anyway, here's my priority list. I didn't add up the hours - a lot of them overlap anyway. I learned my time with the kids is highly influenced by the fact that I feel like I do nothing but listen to complaints about them and by them.

Priorities

Computer Time/ Me Time
- Morning Routine (makeup/ clothes/ reading) 45 minutes
- Bath / reading (1 – 1 ½ hours 3-4x weekly)
- Sleep (6 hours)
- Hide in potty and read (5 minutes)
- Read e-mail at home (30 minutes 2x daily)
• Forward jokes
• Answer any actual e-mail
• Read the list serves -Teen and Little Zebra
• Forward daily parenting reflection to Mom
- Skim “Decorating” message board (3 minutes)
- Check Google reader for blog updates (15-20 minutes 2x daily)
- Read Adoption.com message boards (30-45 minutes)
• Special needs
• Attachment
• General parenting
• Others
- Write blog – (1 – 1 ½ hours 3-4x weekly)

Work - Write proposals (30-60 minutes)
- Read/answer work e-mail (3 minutes but all day)
- Write Proposals/ work with Chuck (30 minutes)
- Play Spider Solitaire (5 minutes x all day)
- Attend meetings (0-3 hours a day)
- HR (5 minutes)
- Watch TV at work (and doze) 1 or 2 hours

Kids
- Call doctors, fill out paperwork, read/write teacher e-mails, read articles (10-45 minutes per day)
- Redirect kids for not doing chores and force them to at least attempt them
- Argue with Kitty (30-45 minutes - total)
- Check if have homework
- Mediate argument about what to watch on TV (5 minutes every half hour – or 10 minutes for a movie)
- Placate Ponito when he gets outvoted, calm down Kitty when she gets loud (5 minutes+)
- Cuddle with Ponito (10-15 minutes)
- Tell Bear he can’t do something (5 minutes)
- Listen to Bear ramble (10-20 minutes)
- Force Bob to take a bath, take out her lenses and get to bed (10 minutes)
- Watch TV with kids (30 minutes to an hour)
- Attend Therapy (1 – 1 ½ hours 2x weekly)
- Write FAIR Club assignments (30 minutes to an hour weekly)

Household-
- Cook (30-45 minutes)
- Laundry (15-20 minutes 2-3x weekly)
- Shopping
• Prescriptions (15-20 minutes 3xweek)
• Grocery shopping (1 - 1 ½ hours weekly)
• SAM’S Club (1 - 1 ½ hours weekly)
• Salvation Army (1 hour weekly)
• Big Lots/Bread store/Dollar Store/Pet store (45 minutes weekly)

Hubby -
- Talk in car (1 hour)
- Lunch 20 minutes
- Crossword (20 minutes 1-2x week)
- Date night (2-3 hours weekly)

Grandma-
- Sunday lunch (2-3 hours)
- Venting after work about kids(20-30 minutes)
- E-mail (5 minutes 1-2x week)


So I'll be deciding soon what to do about it all. Maybe I'll limit most of my computer time to work hours. Maybe with more sleep I can actually start participating at work and doing more there - instead of being overwhelmed and doing nothing but cruise the internet and play solitaire. I went to bed at 9pm last night so we'll see if that helps today.

Mary

Friday, October 10, 2008

Insurance dodge

Almost forgot my favorite part! After being transferred to yet another person in the insurance company, who was very nice, but still couldn't find me in the computer, she says,

"Well, I'm sorry, but I'm going to need to talk to someone from your Hubby's company - specifically someone from HR."

I got to reply,
"Well you're in luck then! My hubby and I own the company, I'm the president and I do all the HR! So, 'Hi, How can I help you?!"

She stammered,
"Oh, I've never had that happen before."

And then she proceeded to ask me NOTHING that I, as the spouse of the employee, couldn't answer! So yes, I believe this is just a way to say I have no freakin' way to help you and I want to get you off the phone.

She was always perfectly nice while giving me the runaround though so I won't tell you the name of the insurance company. See, customer service pays off! Well, that and the fact that they are the only insurance company that our psychiatrist accepts and we don't want to change psychiatrists.

Mary
Mother to Kitty
Spouse to Hubby
President of _________
The entire HR department!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Phhbbt!

So Wednesday night we took Kitty to the psychiatrist. I asked him about possible bipolar disorder (Bear has it) as her moods are swinging hard. It's so confusing because it could be hormones, starting school, biomom giving birth, but who knows! She is so angry and defiant sometimes, but it's just out of the blue lately. We had moved past this, but maybe it's just time to revisit it. *sigh*

So the psychiatrist said we have to get her tested by a psychologist. No worries, I called the one who saw her a little over a year ago. He doesn't take our insurance. I called the insurance company to find someone who does. They couldn't find us in the system! They would say, "Oh here you are!" and then say it would be the account through my husband's former employer, or they found Kitty, but under her birth name, or they found Hubby, but couldn't access his account. My favorite part? They switched us to another person who was very nice. She said she'd found Kitty, but for some reason she wasn't associated with any account and they had her last name wrong. She is fixing it for me, but it will take 5-7 business days to get it correct and be able to tell me what our benefits are! *sigh* I love insurance!

So after getting off the phone with the insurance person it was time for Bear's therapy. We started with the "Pumpkin Patch incident" and the Ipod borrowing incident. As usual, he was telling the truth and someone else "misunderstood." The therapist got Bear to admit that he lies, steals and is sneaky, and that he should not expect us to have a lot of trust.

Hubby approached the knife issue in an interesting manner. He said, that following the conversation we just had, he knew it was going to be very difficult for Bear to tell the truth. That he wanted Bear to stop and think before he answered Hubby's questions and be sure it was the truth. He then asked if Bear felt threatened and unsafe by anyone in the last few months. Bear said he felt threatened by some kids at school and that he always made sure he was near a teacher. Well, we know he has PTSD. Hubby worked his way around to dicussing what Bear was doing about it - whether or not he had any weapons (at this point I'm sure Bear knew he was busted) so he admitted to the knife, but claimed he gave it away (but the boy may not have heard him say he could keep it). Basically he tld the truth, largely, but I sincerely doubt it was completely.

So the question was why hadn't he told us. Well that was because we weren't around enough of course and never listen to him! When he tried to talk to me I "didn't listen" and "spend too much time on the computer." Hubby was "always working" and never does anything with him. The therapist said this was a recurring theme in their sessions. Bear said his foster brothers had never talked to him and his foster dad was always too busy (this is funny because he always says he wanted Hubby to go hunting and fishing with him like foster dad always did!). Bear said the reason he wanted to be adopted was to have a family that would spend time with him. He started crying and talking about how he wanted to spend time with us.

Am I a horrible person that it didn't really move me? The therapist asked, again, how much time I spend on the computer. I told him I usually go on the computer about the time I put the littles to bed (about 8:30) - this is less time than I used to spend, in fact I deliberately started putting it off until then after the last time I got fussed at by the therapist (before, I would get on as soon as I was done with dinner because the kids were all just sitting around watching TV). Bear tends to corner me in my computer cubby about 5 minutes before bedtime and talk for about 10 minutes after bedtime.

Today, Hubby and I talked with Bear and the therapist about how he always wants to talk on his schedule instead of ours. He didn't think it was fair that we only wanted to talk when it was convenient for us! Impasse. I mentioned that I'm available for hours before bedtime, but he's off doing something else. The therapist said he needs to join in the activities - helping with dinner? And that bedtime is a vulnerable time and I needed to stay off the computer until after Bear goes to bed.

So tonight I come downstairs from tucking in the littles, and Bear and Hubby are watching ESPN - not interesting to me (or really to Hubby, but they're together). So I got on my computer. 10 minutes later Bear hunts me down in my study - the boy has the attention span of a gnat. We talk for about 5 minutes about whaat he wants to do with his day off tomorrow, and then he decides to go to bed early. I don't want to sit around waiting for him to have time to talk to me. I don't want him to feel totally ignored either. Not sure how to handle this.

Now the really fun part. I'm getting on my computer later so it's later when I get done with my e-mail, blog reading, forum reading, and blog writing. Now I get to go upstairs and take a bath. Lets hope it's not after midnight again. Maybe if I get more sleep I won't actually need the mood stabilizer!

Sweet dreams!

Mary

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Mack the Knife


So it isn't the biggest knife in the world, but it's not the little pen knife I was expecting (this is not a picture of it, but it's similar). We stopped by the former nanny's house to pick up the knife. I was shocked. I was expecting cork screws and a little blade that could barely be used to pick your nail. This flip blade pops out with a slight flick of the wrist. Her son says Bear has it because some "Mexicans were threatening him." He also thought that Bear had "jacked" it. He's had it for at least one week. We checked at Wal-Mart (a couple of weeks ago he went with me and disappeared several times), they don't carry it -so it wasn't stolen from there. So that's one less worry.

Bear was apparently also seen by the nanny and son with a very expensive Ipod with video capability. We saw him take the charger to school today. I contacted the school. We told them that we wanted to address the knife issue tonight, but when the Principal asked if he could conference with Bear on the other issues (and search him for contraband per my request) I agreed. He found nothing on Bear except some "knick knacky stuff" his MP3 and his CD player. The Ipod was a loaner and Bear and the boy who loaned it to him have been informed that this is not allowed at their school. Bear "knew he was in trouble", but we're not sure how. He wasn't thrilled about the search. Bear made some complaints about Hubby and the fence, but the Principal didn't pay much attention.

Yesterday our stupid dogs dug under the neighbor's fence, broke some boards on our gate, and got out. The kids caught them, but the dogs had to stay inside until the fence was repaired. When we got home yesterday, Bear was standing in the open garage with the lid of a can of spray paint next to him and some wood pieces. I confronted him on the spray paint (we have a little I should have gotten rid of). He said it wasn't spray paint it was weather treatment stuff for the wood he was using to repair the fence - this is of course designed for upholstery and fabric and isn't made anymore. *sigh* I told him to put it away and not to use it again.

Hubby tore down all the "repairs" Bear had made and fixed the gate correctly. Apparently this irritated Bear.

I confirmed with the Principal that he never told Bear that he would be going to take Baseball and weight lifting in the Spring (I had a feeling Bear had lied or exaggerated). He did say that several of the teachers see how "well" Bear is doing and have expressed (in front of Bear) that they think he would do well in regular school. I asked the Principal to please discuss this at the next staff meeting as this was NOT HELPFUL and NOT TRUE!

The teacher that "caught" Bear lying about the pumpkin patch gave me a little more details. Bear had told her dates and times that he would be working the pumpkin patch! When she showed up Friday night and he wasn't there, he told her we'd had to take Kitty to the emergency room with an asthma attack! She's "planning to talk with him about this over the next couple of days so we can begin to repair this part of our teacher/student relationship." Yea, good luck with that.



Last night Kitty had therapy - at the beginning of which she had a total meltdown and called me a fat jerk and said Scr@w you when I told her to straighten up. She then made some veiled references to burning down the house (when confronted she told us it wasn't a threat and explained how she wouldn't be able to do it because she had no matches, lighters and no way to get fire away from the gas stove - doesn't sound like she's thought about it at all! *insert sarcastic emotie here*). She ranted about how Grandma (and some other people) hated her guts. It felt totally out of the blue! The little EMDR tapper paddles were acting very strangely because they needed new batteries. Instead of alternating vibrations they were constant. Kitty played with them while we waited for the therapist to get new batteries. If they work well calming her down, I wonder if the opposite triggered this attack! The therapist pointed out some of Kitty's errors in thinking, but she ignored it. She went off on many tangents. Overall it was a very unsettling session.

When we got home from work, we realized that I had accidentally arranged to attend a mandatory parent meeting for the girl's school on the same night as therapy. So rather than discussing the knife with Bear, Hubby ran off to attend the meeting - it was actually very interesting and he came home with lots of new ideas - I'll research it and put it here later. Mom (Grandma)stayed with the kids while I took Kitty to therapy. Bear was "sick" so he just layed around. When the garbage disposal exploded, little Ponito helped Grandma clean it up. Grandma was a sweaty mess when I got home to find that Bob had ignored her 8pm FAIR Club bedtime.

I fussed at both girls and sent them to bed. I do not like being yelled at, and it triggered a bad mood for me. I probably will go back on a mood stabilizer. There was a lot of stress today (more for Hubby then for me), but I do not want to feel that irritable. Will call the doctor later.

Today I have a lunch with a bunch of Mommy Business Owners. I thought it sounded like a fun excuse to get together and chat! I wanted to invite a potential client or two, but most of them decided not to come. So it will just be a group of women I know and like. I was going to really make a big deal out of it, but as usual, life intervened. Oh well. The ladies won't mind!

Mary

I don't trust him!

Bear at the Residential Treatment Center

I've been very frustrated with Bear's school because they insist that he has reached the top of his point levels and needs to be doing out classes at the high school. They talked to me about it on the phone, with him in the room with them, so he blames it all on me. Yesterday I started to write a letter to the school asking for a parent /teacher conference so they could explain to me what's changed in the last month that makes him now ready to go.



While typing, Hubby walks in and asks if I've seen an e-mail from the school? The e-mail asks for pictures of Bear doing a service project for the church involving selling pumpkins at the pumpkin patch. The teacher says she came by on Friday, but he'd had to leave because of the family medical emergency. This was all a total lie - no working the pumpkin patch, although he'd asked but been told no, and no family emergency.



Thank you Bear for giving me a concrete example of how you are not better!



This morning I found out that he had left a pocket knife at a friend's house. He does not own a pocket knife (he threatened to "shank" a kid at school in 7th grade).

Thank you Bear for yet another example.



So I haven't decided if we'll use the trust jar for Bear yet. I've told the kids that the jars aren't ready yet. I'm now thinking that removing the "age" component of the jars might help. Saying you have the trust level of a 2 year old could easily be an insult. Dropping "levels" might be potentially less self-esteem damaging. Rainbow colored jars...



Because we have 4 children I am also very concerned with them stealing each other's beans (we decided to use large lima beans instead of cotton balls due to the size of the jars I found). This is getting very complicated! I did go ahead and start the youngest on the system. It has been very enlightening for him to lose beans when he lied. I think he gets it. He's a bright, fully-attached bio kid though. Still, the girls watched it happen too - which I think is a good thing.

Monday, October 6, 2008

It's all about trust


So I got everything I need to get started on the trust jars and then started really thinking about how to implement it. I decided that rather than having them earn their way up to levels I would just start them out where I think they are - so now I have to figure out where that is.

I asked Grandma - who watches them after school. I asked the kids, which actually surprised me. All of them agree that Ponito (the 9 year old) is completely trustworthy. I don't know what to do about Bear though.

Bear is 15, he is diagnosed with RAD, bipolar disorder, PTSD, ADD, cerebral dysrythmia... He came into our home at age 13, and spent 8 months in RTC (which helped him a lot and got his meds and diagnoses straight - he's been home 8 months), his adoption was final in July. He attends a special school for emotionally disturbed kids that has only 20 kids in it and is doing great!

The school is pressuring me to put him in out classes at the high school - I've been saying no because this Summer we tried Summer School and he got kicked out after 2 weeks for bringing a toy gun (that looked real) that he'd stolen and was intending to trade to a kid that sells drugs for drugs!

So my dilemna. On a normal day, Bear is fairly responsible and semi-reliable - does his chores, behaves in school. When no one is watching, he sometimes orders his siblings around, borrows their stuff without asking (or tells them to give it to him), breaks it, and then returns it. Not malicious, but definitely not appreciated. I trust him about as far as I can throw him (he's 5'9" and about 200lbs), because he is so inconsistent and doesn't seem to understand the consequences of his actions.

He thinks I am "holding a grudge" and knows that I will not let the school give him out classes (which makes him angry, but he never lets us see that - he just stuffs it all inside). He sees himself as fairly reliable and trustworthy and having "earned his way up" (gotta love all the levels at school and RTC).

I love the idea of a trust jar, particularly for him, because I think having a concrete, visual reminder of his trust level will make it seem less vindictive. Because his level would be so low, my sister feels that this will be a big punishment and self-esteem damaging. The more I think about it, the more I think maybe he is not actually capable of building trust with me - because when he's good, he's very good, but when he's bad -he's scary. This trust jar may actually be punitive and damaging for him.

So what would you do? I realize this is part of his illness, and I am not mad at him. Despite what he says, I am not holding a grudge. He has recently begun asking for priviliges like going to the highschool for homecoming, and I keep having to say NO. I know it is damaging our relationship. I've talked to him a little about why I don't trust him, but he doesn't get it. Again, part of his illness, and years of building high levels in school and treatment centers gives him a feeling of entitlement.

He maxes out his level card every day. This is why I succumbed to the pressure this Summer to let him take classes out of his special program. Now I feel that the reason he is doing so well is because he is in the right place for him, school wise and structure-wise at home too. He is no longer under line of sight supervision, but he's close. This seems to be what he needs. How do you tell that to a 15 year old boy who's being told that he should get "normal teenage boy" privileges?

I really think the other kids will benefit from this concept for many reasons, and definitely want to do it for them, but maybe I shouldn't for Bear. Advice please?!

Mary

Saturday, October 4, 2008

20 year high school reunion!


So I decided to just go to the casual "pre-party" rather than the fancy party on Saturday night. Saved $110 and got to see pretty much everyone I think.

Friday started pretty well. Because of Kitty's nasty cough I decided to take her to the doctor. Was just a nasty allergy attack, that could have led to bronchitis or something, but we caught it in time. Treat the symptoms and no antibiotics unless she gets worse. She's still pretty wiped, and it's a long drive to her school so I take her to Grandma's instead where my Aunt has just gotten into town. My cousin, her daughter has just had her first baby (Mom is 43 and NO ONE thought she would ever have a baby). My cousin and her family live in Germany so we only get to see pictures, but my Aunt brought plenty. My biggest regret? I am not blood related to my aunt - this woman is GORGEOUS! I hope when I am 70 years old I look half as good. Ok, I'm 38 years old and I do look half as good. *sigh*

Still it was wonderful to sit around and chat with adults and family. Since I'd taken the day off I decided to make an appointment with my doctor about getting off (OK, I admit it, I stopped taking it 3 days ago) my mood stabilizer. I have gained easily 40lbs and no end in sight. Doctor was a little nervous about going cold turkey, but I have 3 weeks to watch for symptoms (mania and trouble sleeping are my biggest issues). Of course, I am an extrovert and I'm getting to spend serious time talking to adults so I'm already a little manic!

So I'm in a great mood, Grandma has all the kids, and I go home to get ready for the party. I hadn't thought about the fact that I've gained so much weight. None of my "date clothes" fit!! After 45 minutes and some tears, I finally manage to squeeze into some control garments and an OK outfit. Makeup makes me feel a little better. Find some hot glue to fix my shoes, and we're out the door - only 1/2 an hour late.

I went to a school with a graduating class of about 600 people. I was only there my Junior and Senior year and I was NOT popular. Out of the about 150 people that showed up at the party (plus their spouses, a little overwhelming for introverted Hubby!)4 people were there that I was kind of friends with. Half the reason I went was to network, but most of the people were A) Drunk B) Only interested in talking to people they hung out with in High School or C) Both. I had some decent conversations with some spouses.

The first person I saw that I recognized was Darla. I'm not sure we were even friends, but I did remember her. When we were in high school she had used an eraser and literally erased her boyfriend's name onto her shin. Then it got infected and she had to walk around with her pant rolled up exposing her ex-boyfriend's name. WE did laugh about this.

Next person I knew was the first guy I ever kissed, Corey. He was still short and geeky, but now he was fat and balding too. He did think I looked great - like Geena Davis in Thelma and Louise (did I mention he was drunk too!) His name tag said "Ritchie's friend." Richie was my prom date! I asked if Richie was there. He warned me that Richie was almost blind, and then called him over. Richie never really looked at me, but he did remember me. We had gone to prom together, but he was so excited about the limo he and his friends rented that they wanted to leave and drive around downtown. I didn't want to go so he left me (not really a big deal -I had a ride home). Corey says Richie's always told the story as me dumping him.

I stood around in my 4 inch heels (I'm a little over 5'7"), thinking I didn't realized how short everyone was! It seemed like there were only 10 men in the whole room who were over 5'10"! Made finding Hubby (5'11 3/4") easy when I was ready to go! I only stayed about 1 1/2 hours. I had longer conversations with the spouses then anyone else. I was amazed at how many people had preschoolers! One woman I talked to had 9 month old twins and a 4 year old. Wow!

So I'm glad I went, but I'm equally glad it's over. I'm SOOO glad I didn't pay $110 for the experience!!

Today I went shopping for a little black dress. Didn't find one, but it's my new goal. Every woman should have one!

Mary

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Cr@ppy day! Whining and disgusting stuff - feel free to skip!


I thought I could ignore it and all would be fine, but apparently not. Apparently Bob's tummy bug was contagious or the drink I just discovered is full of citric acid is triggering an allergy attack for me (I'm super sensitive to citric acid).

I admit it, normally I have a cushy job. I sit around and play Spider Solitaire and read people's blogs for most of my day. My job is really a part-time job because I am not a designer or engineer. Especially now that we've hired a sales guy. If I didn't ride in with Hubby every day, I'd get there at 10am and leave at 4pm. So of course today, when I start out the day nauseous (I now realize I drank a glass of the Fitness Water that I didn't know was full of citric acid with breakfast - even brought it to work with me).

So I spent two hours at lunch hiding in the break room watching Tim Gunn (from the Runway Project) in his show about what not to wear. This is the first time I've seen it, so of course it's about a full-figured mom who wears capri pants and untucked t-shirts - pretty much what I wear most of the time. So now I'm looking at my used to be stylish wardrobe until I started taking a mood stabilized and gained 45lbs, and thinking I could be that woman!

After lunch I started feeling a little better, and went back to work - did I mention I actually had to work today. No Spider Solitaire and the only time I got on the internet was to enter proposals on Salesforce.com. Send the last e-mail and run out of the building - late for Hubby to get to class (he teaches scuba every night this week and weekend).

Ponito and Bear are at friend's houses. The girls are happily watching movies, so I throw something together with leftovers and grab a drink (yes, the stupid fitness water). During dinner I start feeling bad again and even have a few blood blisters in my mouth, but I'm distracted by both boys getting back late, and Kitty coming down with what appears to be bronchitis (coughing like a sick seal).

So I drag myself out, go get Ponito from across the street - where of course he's pigged out on junk food and doesn't want dinner. Then I hand out meds and collapse again. Movie ends 5 minutes after bedtime - chase everyone to bed - except Bob - who hasn't showered in two days, and Bear who's talking to his biograndpa on the phone. Feeling worse. Dope up Kitty with her inhaler (actually Ponito's, but he's never used it, and I left Kitty's in my car all Summer which probably isn't good for it), a decongestant and Delsym for the cough.

I don't want to keep her home tomorrow because I have a new client meeting at their location in the morning, my Aunt who I haven't seen in 2 years is coming in just for lunch with my Mom and I, Bear has therapy at 4pm and that night is my high school reunion - the casual meeting, not the "prom", but I don't want to go to the "prom" because I don't have the $110. Guess I'll have to send her to Mom's for the meeting and then take her to the doctor in the afternoon.

So now the disgusting part. You have been warned!


So the kids are all in bed, and my tummy hurts, and I feel awful so I go to the bathroom. When I try to flush it decides to clog and starts flowing over - yes diarrhea everywhere (no idea why it got stopped up!). The plunger is upstairs too. So I finally stop it and then get to start cleaning up. Hubby is in class and everyone is in bed. Takes me an hour and then I have to drench the bathroom in Lysol cleaner and clean up. So now I'm nauseous, dizzy, and VERY clean.

The cherry on top of my day? Kitty got up while I was stripping off my sopping pants and kneehis (luckily she didn't look downstairs), and went into the bathroom. While I'm looking for a plunger I discover, yup, she didn't flush. Luckily this toilet didn't overflow, because I've had enough cr@p for the night.

Going to bed now!

Mary

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Trust jar


The following is Aspenhall's description of the trust jar.

The trust jar is an large old random vase (from my dating years) filled with cotton balls (pink balls). It is placed on top of a bookshelf in the main living area of our home and visible from many places in my home. For each age you are, I expect the jar to be mostly full no matter the age.....so if you were 6 and the jar was less than half full, you would only get the life of a 3 yr old....constant supervision, no friends houses, or paints, or scissors etc... If the jar is near full you have full rights to everything a 6 yr old can do....playdough access, bike riding, friends houses, big kid books etc...

In order to "gain trust points/balls", you must meet my expectations. One point/ball per expectation met. If you make poor choices, you lose points...but not just one at a time. OH NO, trust is EASY to lose FAST, but very hard to gain back fast. Depending on the infraction, you may lose 2 up to EVERY SINGLE BALL. I never take less than 2. Because trust is twice as hard to earn once lost. I never tie the trust points to MY emotions unless my dd is attached fairly well. (for example, "I'm dissappointed with your behavior, and you now lose 3 trust points/balls.")

For EVERY SINGLE request, I consult the trust jar to see where the level is at. My basic response to any "can I..." priviledge request is always "I don't know, lets go check the trust jar". She is learning to build up her points, after a few bad days, before even asking me.

Now a child of mine, is a child who gets things randomly as I see deals or specials or things I think they'd enjoy. HOWEVER, it is up to my daughter to decide if she is trusted enough to receive the very cool things I buy her ( a 2 yr old cannot be trusted with a DVD etc..). They go up on the shelf next to the trust jar until, or unless, the jar is above half full, AND IF she has not -lost- a SINGLE trust point that day...which includes all of bedtime...the item of her choice is given ONLY the following day.

Some of the items include toys she has been grounded from, as well as books, DVD's, horse related items, etc....

On the items she has been grounded from, I may decide I no longer care to store them and I will be selling them on ebay for cash, OR she has the option of buying them back from me. 1 chore per toy is the price.

All in all it helps me see her good behavior (as she is quick to remind me she's doing well) and it helps illustrate the idea of trust VERY WELL. We started this awhile ago and she responded well, both when she had attachment/selfish issues, and also now. The jar takes all responsibility off of my shoulders and puts it squarely on hers. I don't make the choice of whether or not she may go to a friends house, SHE does, by the choices she makes. And it's futile to argue with a JAR.

As a special bonus, I have agreed to buy my child a HORSE......if she can keep the trust jar full (or near full) for an entire year.

The cotton balls were chosen, because anything cool would have been to tempting to take down and play with....also they're cheap. Also, points may NOT be earned by patronizing me...extras do not earn you points (such as rubbing my shoulders) only a happy attitude and trying your best will earn you trust. If you drag your feet and I have to remind you multiple times to hurry or keep going or stop playing around, you no longer get a trust point for that thing even if you complete the task I have asked you to do. I expect to have to remind a 7 yr old once to finish a 30 min chore. I expect a school age child to arrive home from school at a certain time (15 min allowed for only a 5 min walk home).

I expect the same to do as they're told, WHEN they're told. 2-3 points are given when you do the task before I even have to ask (brush teeth, put dish into dishwasher, start your chore, do your homework...etc...)

I try to keep my expectations reasonable, and I penalize HEAVILY for intentional deceit such as lying or leading me to believe a lie, or ANY sneaky behavior. I also never confront her about the obvious lie, I just remove the points. Plus, I base whether or not I trust your story on the trust jar! Even if I'm sure it's true, I'm not allowed to believe her if she doesn't show any trustworthiness (in evidence by the jar). My common response to her choices, nowadays, is "Oh, I'm sorry you chose to do that, because I know how hard it is to earn trust back, once it's lost". It took many weeks of being treated as a 2 yr old, for her to catch on. As it began I was a bit lenient because I wanted her to establish good habits quickly and without too much work. Over time, I adjusted my expectations slowly to the level she is at now. It hardly ever occurs to her to fight me when I ask her to do something...she nearly NEVER whines at her chores, or small requests such as put your shoes away. AND more than that, she is quick about it. I smile and Thank her as I put a trust point in....immediate consequences for good as well as poor choices. She hasn't needed a time out in months.


Because my children are substantially older than Aspenhall's I asked her some questions.

Re: Trust jar question

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Would this work for a 15 year old teenage boy?

I think it could work......the "trust points" are earned for meeting realistic expectations, so for example a 7 yr old would earn trust points differently and a bit easier than a teenager. If he does everything you ask when you ask without whining, he would get a trust point. Or if he does it without being asked he would get one. If he lies, or intentionally decieves the jar gets emptied. So really, how long it takes is totally up to him. Sneaky acts lose trust.
Line of Sight supervision stops at around age 5-6, so the jar would need to be 1/3 full before that stops...But once it stops, he can either lose points or earn them....the point being that HE is in charge of how quickly and fully he gets trusted....by his own actions/words.


How many cotton balls are typically in a jar?

I think the jar size could stay the same for any age child, and the amount can be the same as well. But a 5 yr olds responsibilities are different than a 9 yr olds, so they could earn them at the same rate, but a 15 has MORE opportunities to LOSE trust, where a 9 yr old has a bit less...because the perks of being trusted at 9 are less than being trusted at 15. A 15 yr old NEEDS the trust more than a 6 yr old would...so I would think the impulse to earn trust would be greater as the stakes are higher. Think of the level of balls in the jar as a percentage of trust. All kids screw up, so the expectation isn't to get the jar FULL, that gets you extras....beyond your years....I try to help dd aim for near full. No one is perfect and it isn't expected. She's gonna lie and possibly empty the jar, but to come to me voluntarily and tell me it was a lie, and "make it up to me" will let her earn back points immediately. So yes, the level dropped to zero, but within seconds it was building up again as she took responsibility for her actions.


My son has RAD, bipolar, ADD, PTSD, cerebral dysrythmia... do you think this will work for kids who may not understand consequences? (I linked this to my blog about him choosing to bring a "gun" to school.)

I think that trustworthy actions can be made if the desire is strong enough, even if they don't call it being trustworthy.....but since it is easy to lose trust and very hard to earn back, it establishes a good habit of checking your choices....if he cannot process action/consequences like with some FAS/FAE children it would be much harder.... So no I think almost anyone can learn to be trustworthy....you just have to find a way to make it matter to them. They may not care if being untrustworthy makes someone feel bad, but they would care if being untrustworthy affect their level of priviledges. I think for some people empathy may never develop. But the visual thermometer helps them pay attention to the effects of their choices. Like checking the weather to see what you'll need to wear, you check the jar to see what tools are needed to live without stressing. If he really wants to get above zero he'd have to show he was trustworthy consecutively for quite a awhile, because when you lose points you lose fairly big amounts at a time, and when you earn them back it takes awhile because you only earn them back one at a time... His good choices will have to be at least triple the amount of his bad ones to build up the jar...


Do you mind if I post this on my blog?
I don't mind you giving me credit or using it on your blog.....my own blog which I may discuss the trust jar concept on can be found at punkrebelmama.blogspot.com

Thanks,
-aspenhall

So now I have to work on my list of expectations for kids, and then I think this weekend I will be able to introduce the concept of the Trust Jar. I'm actually really excited by this idea, because Bob has started lying and being untrustworthy and I need her to understand that her actions have consequences. Plus, I think Bear will really benefit from such a visual reminder of why I don't trust him. I really want Grandma (our after-school provider) to be involved in this. I feel the kids are not benefitting from what appears to them to be her uninvolvement with their consequences. I also don't want her to have to feel she is "tattling" - this way she can handle it herself without having to commit us to the FAIR Club.

Yesterday, Bob was feeling poorly. She spent all evening, the time I was home anyway, laying on the couch - she didn't even eat dinner. However, she told Grandma that she'd done her chore for the day - cleaning the bathroom. This was blatantly untrue! Since I now apparently have her stomach bug, I feel total sympathy for not doing her chores. Lying about it on the other hand - is huge! I wish the Trust Jar was already in place!

Nauseously yours,
Mary

I am a "Very Superior" 1930s wife!


111
As a 1930s wife, I am
Very Superior
<>http://www.magatsu.net/maritaltest/"> Take the test!


I scored 111! Of course some of that was “cheating” I write regularly to my husband’s parents (e-mails count!!) I never wear pajamas instead of a nightie (I wear neither!). *blush* did I just admit to that?! I work with my husband so I "show interest in his work." And my Mama raised me to never swear!

Take the test and see how you rate?

Mary

Progress?




Lately Bear has been asking for more priviliges - mostly being allowed to go places like church events, friend's houses, walks or runs by himself, out classes at the high school... when I told him the other day that I didn't feel comfortable letting him do something - he wanted to know why. Usually he doesn't ask why, he just pouts - so I was glad he'd asked. I told him that I didn't trust him, and mentioned what happened in Summer school. He asked why I was holding a grudge?!





I've tried to explain to him that he has to build trust with us. I told him that it feels like every time we relax the rules a little bit, something bad happens (I mentioned the incident in June, but Bear is very much an out of sight out of mind kind of kid!). I'm looking into an option that was created by a woman on the special needs forum at Adoption.com called The Trust Jar. Quick summary, as the child slowly builds trust, the jar is added to with each trust building episode. If the child does something that damages trust they quickly lose a lot of trust points. The best part for me is that you treat the child based on how full the jar is. So if the jar is half full, then the child has all the trust and privileges of a child half his age. If the jar is empty, and say someone steals something - even though you may know it wasn't the child who did it, you say, "I'm sorry but I have to assume it was you." We do this now (often search only Bear's room when something is missing), but this gives me a concrete visible way of showing him why we do this. Instead of him assuming I'm just holding a grudge or something.





I'm asking for permission from the lady to post the details of The Trust Jar here. Plus I had some questions I hope she'll answer about the actual application. I'm hoping she'll say it's OK to post this, and will answer my questions. I really think this could help Bear understand. My only concern is how easy is it to earn trust? I don't think he's anywhere near ready for some of the normal priviliges a 15 year old is allowed. One thing this lady has done is tell her daughter that if she keeps The Trust Jar full (or nearly full) for a year, then she can have a horse. For Bear, I'm thinking Driver's Ed would be a good option. This gives me a year (or more) before I start having to worry about him driving.





Another thing I need to do is get a list of responsibilities and privileges of children of different ages. For example, I know a 1-2 year old is definitely not allowed to watch TV or use the phone, plays with playdoh and toddler toys (no choking hazards) and has a bedtime of 7:30pm.





I'm thinking a child age 7 and under should only be allowed to watch G movies and TV shows(no child is allowed to watch PG13/Y14 movies/shows in our house), isn't allowed to spend the night at friend's houses, can only play in the back yard - not the front, cannot use tools, can only use the phone with a parent sitting right there, and has an 8pm bedtime.





The hard part will be determining what is appropriate for each child and then sticking to it. Sticking to discipline plans has always been hard for me. Having 4 kids at 4 different developmental stages and levels of trust is equally hard. Plus, I have to be "true" to what I actually allowed my kids to do at the age they are operating at - the biokids know exactly what those are!!


Would love advice on what to do at the different levels. I figure I need 1-2 years - for those with empty jars. 4 year old (Ponito) and 6-7 yr. for those with 1/2 full jars. And a list for full jars for a 9, 12-13, and 15 year old. I'm kind of excited about this idea, and kind of nervous too.

Mary
"How full is my jar?"