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!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Lights out!

Every year after Thanksgiving we put up the Christmas tree and decorations. I remembered there being something wrong with the lights last year, but couldn't remember the extent. Apparently we had a power surge or something because all the strands of lights, except for half of two were completely burned out. So will need to go buy some lights before we can hang the ornaments. *sigh*

Did I mention how much I love decorating with children? Bear and Kitty have an excuse (ADD and ADHD), but ALL of the kids had to be drug back every 5 minutes to decorate. They did put up the tree, then opened all the boxes, and took enough stuff out to completely trash the room/hall and make it impassible. Bear decorated himself (pictures soon I promise - he even commented that this picture would be going on my blog as he posed! Goober!), but after that they wandered off. I did manage to get them back to move the boxes out of the walkway.

We watched the movie Up tonight. Very cute. Well, I say "we," but really it was Bob and I who watched the movie. Kitty usually argues for the movie she wants to watch and then watches about 10 minutes before she wanders off. She needs her down time walking in the backyard or talking to herself in her room. Makes Hubby crazy, but I'm kind of glad she's not a TVaholic. Bear spent the whole time on the computer (Hubby was in charge of making sure he stuck to his alloted computer time of 45 minutes, but obviously Hubby let it slide). Bear is not a TV/movie person either. Ponito watched whatever Bear was doing on the computer, with maybe a little bit of attention for the TV. Hubby was reading business plans for a competition he judges every year. Otherwise Ponito would have been watching Hubby play computer games on his laptop.

Only at the end of the movie Up, do you realize the little boy is apparently in foster care. It was actually fairly well handled.

So far this year we don't seem to be having too much holiday drama or issues. So much better than last year (when Kitty ended up in residential treatment). Knock on wood!

Friday, November 27, 2009

My sister is getting married!

I had a great day today. My little sister is getting married and we (Sis, her daughter, Bob and Kitty and I) spent all day shopping for her wedding dress. Even though this is a second wedding for both Sis and her fiance they have young children (Sis a 10 year old son and a 7 year old daughter, Fiance - 9 yr old daughter and boy/girl twins age 5!) and want to involve the kids in the wedding, so they are getting kind of "fancy."

Sis and her daughter are "girly girls." I must admit it was kind of fun to dress up Sis like Barbie - well, more like Dolly Parton! Sis and I are... um.. well-endowed to say the least, but have tiny ribs. It was hard finding the perfect dress that fit both top, ribs and child bearing hips. She has long gorgeous light brown hair with blond highlights too. She loved all the compliments she got.

The girls were all so well behaved! Her daughter is used to shopping and is usually quiet and easily entertained - although she'll tell you when she is ready to go! I don't know what my girls did while I laced Sis into dress after dress, but the fact that I don't know tells you how far they've come! We all loved looking at Sis in wedding dresses. Did I mention this was kind of like having a dress-up Barbie?

Sis did find "the dress." It was even less than she'd budgeted and will be ready in plenty of time for the wedding. She and her fiance got engaged on Saturday on a recent business trip to New York City - while on a carriage ride in Central Park! So romantic!

They plan to get married in March because Fiance doesn't want to wait. So sweet. This means they have a LOT to get done to make their lives together a reality.

Sis is now laughingly comparing her life to tons of reality shows! Today was of course, "Say Yes to the Dress" (We've all agreed she will NOT become Bridezilla.) Soon it will be Ace of Cakes (or Cake Boss), and Sell This House (they need to sell their homes and get a house with 6 bedrooms). After that will be Super Nanny or Nanny 911 (5 kids all of whom have been through painful divorces in the last 5 years, and my niece who was enjoying her spot as the youngest, a lot - need I say more?).

One of the girls dresses and acts like a boy - right down to the haircut and undies, and my sister is planning on this girl being a junior bridesmaid - wearing a dress. The girl does have a therapist, and I hope my sister at least consults with the therapist. Sis does not have a lot of patience and understanding for this kind of situation. *sigh*

I've offered to sew as many bridesmaids dresses (or pantsuits) that she might want, but so far she's not taking me up on it. I'll be the Matron of Honor and will definitely be sewing my dress. I'll be doing alterations for Sis's dress.

BIG QUESTION: I know Kristina P. reads my blog (Hi!) and maybe some of you others are Mormon as well. The man my sister is marrying is Mormon and she plans to convert. Is there anything we need to know about what kind of dress is acceptable? Hers is strapless, but she is planning on adding cap sleeves. We can easily add a Bolero jacket if necessary. She doesn't have alot of time for research so I figured I'd ask for her.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Holiday Help

Deborah Hage is a great resource for children with trauma issues. Check out this link to a helpful article she wrote - Holiday Help for Your Family.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

50 things about Lil Ole Me

50 things about Lil Ole Me
I haven't done one of these in for-evah! So here you go. I'm way too lazy to tag anyone so feel free to copy and paste to your own blog.

1. What do you add to your coffee? Ice cream? I don't do the caffeine thing.
2. What are you reading now? Attachment Focused Family Therapy by Daniel Hughes, Coming to Grips w/Attachment by Katherine Leslie (I call these bathroom books cause I read them while getting ready in the morning or whatever). Mostly I read paperbacks I can read in the bathtub. I just finished a couple of vampire books by Katie McAllister and The Uglies by Scott Westerfield. Bought some more books for Christmas and I'm trying to talk myself out of pulling them out of the Christmas presents.
3. Do you own a gun? Sold mine just before Bob was born
4. Are you registered to vote? No
5. Do you get nervous before doctor appointments? A little before the "girly one"
6. What do you think of hot dogs? Ok in beans or mac'n'cheese - as long as I don't think about what's in them
7. Favorite Christmas Song? Tough one. Christmas Shoes makes me cry every time. I like Santa Baby sung by Marilyn Monroe too.
8. What do you prefer to drink in the morning? Pretty much only drink water
9. Can you do push ups? Probably?
10. What was the name of your first boyfriend/girlfriend? Mark, he was an ROTC geek who sat next to the boy I liked (guess my flirting bounced)
11. What’s your favorite piece of jewelry? My wedding ring, but it doesn't fit right now
12. Favorite hobby? Reading and blogging
13. Do you work with people who idolize you? HA! I work with my husband!
14. Do you have ADD? Probably not
15. What’s one trait that you hate about yourself? I can get judgmental and short-tempered when overwhelmed
16. What’s your Middle name? I changed it to my maiden name
17. Name 3 thoughts at this exact moment. I have a massive headache, I'm too lazy to get up and pee, Kitty has no volume control
18. Name 3 things you bought yesterday. Nothing. Mom bought me groceries, smelly stuff for Bear and makeup for Kitty to help finish up my Cmas shopping.
19. Name 3 beverages you regularly drink. Water, water, and the occasional wine cooler.
20. Current worry right now? Money.
21. What size do you wear? Mostly a size 18. Which stinks!
22. Favorite place to be? In the bathtub with a new book
23. How did you bring in the New Year? Don't remember, but probably stayed up until midnight watching TV and kissed Hubby
24. Where would you like to go? A beautiful resort - because the only way we'd ever do that was if we were financially stable
25. Name three people who will complete this. Beats me.
26. Whose answers do you want to read the most? Anyone who feels like answering it.
27. What color shirt are you wearing? Lime green with Pooh Bear looking at flowers - I know, sooo Thanksgivingy.
28. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets? It's OK, but makes Hubby sweaty, so no thank you.
29. Can you whistle? yup
30. Favorite color(s)? Green and to wear - red and black
31. Could you be a pirate? Nah, I guess I could be a nerse. A nerse? Oh, you mean a nurse, yes, there is a nurse named Ruth. I don't want to know it's name, silly girl. How fast does it run?
32. What songs do you sing in the shower? I only take baths now, and I'm reading so I don't sing.
33. Favorite girls name? If I had another daughter (that I got to name) I was going to name her Delia Rose.
34. Favorite boy’s name? I really like David.
35. What’s in your pocket right now? Lint.
36. Last thing that made you laugh? Don't remember.
37. Best bed sheets as a child? Rainbow stripes.
38. Worst injury you’ve ever had? I've been pretty lucky. I guess the time I stepped on a pin cushion of rusted needles on Christmas Eve and had to get a tetanus shot. No wait, one Thanksgiving I dropped a can off a high shelf onto my toe and damaged the nail. When they poked holes into it to drain it it got infected. Eeew that reminds me, I think the worst was an infection I got after refusing an episiotomy... oh sorry. I'll stop now.
39. Do you love where you live? I love the town. I love living near my family. I mostly love my home, but wish it were easier to keep clean
40. How many TVs do you have in your house? 3- one in the family room, one in the playroom (for the PS2), and one in the master bedroom.
41. Who is your loudest friend? I don't have a lot of friends, and they're all pretty quiet. Kitty is the loudest person I know.
42. How many dogs do you have? Three. Prince Cuddles, Scarlet Claus and Princess.
43. Does anyone have a crush on you? The manager at Salvation Army, he's pretty creepy.
44. What are the most fun things you ever did? Dang, I know I've had fun, but at the moment I can't think of anything.
45. What are your favorite books? I love funny books - Katie McAllister who writes funny romances, Terry Prachett who writes funny fantasy, Piers Antony who writes funny fantasy and sci fi, Dick Francis who writes mysteries. I've been reading a lot of inspirational romances too - and sharing them with Bob. I especially love prolific writers.
46. What is your favorite candy? Do chocolate covered strawberries count? Probably Reeses, but anything chocolate.
47. Favorite Team? I hate sports, so my favorite team is my kids.
48. What songs do you want played at your funeral? Anyway by Martina McBride
49. What were you doing at 12 AM? Sleeping for once. I had a massive headache I couldn't get rid of.
50. What was the first thing you thought of when you woke up? Ooh, better hurry so I can get the pies done!

Answer on your blog (or email) and tell me about it!

Community Service

Struggling to Stand - Technically yes, $3/hr is not a fair wage, but we've been very clear that while his consequence is paying us back, we don't actually need $90 of work done, nor do our neighbors. In the past he has incurred big debts and never paid it back (in fact recently I'd given up and deducted it from his allowance/savings). So that is why I've chosen community service instead. If it were about money then he would be getting paid and have to turn it over. The problem is that in our neighborhood some of our neighbors will pay $100 for just a few hours of work. I don't feel guilty, he's worked for less when he was doing lawnwork, and that was a price he negotiated.

All the kids are home from school today because of the holiday so I figured this was a great time to start tackling Bear's hours. Most of the time it's going to have to be done/ and should be done with Hubby (they do need the time together), but Hubby is at work today so I though I'd start with some of the neighbors who are aware of Bear's need for supervision. I am not giving him a choice in who he helps, what he does, or when it gets done (that's not how it works in the real world and he's not really capable of organizing this anyway).

On the phone today I referred to this as community service to a neighbor that doesn't need to know all of his business (the parent of one of my friends), Bear perked up and (after I got off the phone) asked if it could count toward the community service he is supposed to do for ROTC. Bingo! I actually prefer this kind of service (in which I can oversee his supervision) to leaving him on school campus to do who knows what with his friends, so I'm fine with him "double dipping." This means he's "buying into" the project too.

As for the cards... he's sticking with the lie that his pen ran out of ink. I told him I don't believe him. End of discussion.

(The teacher who is responsible for making sure Bear turns in his cards is the one who keeps insisting that Bear doesn't belong in the special school - doesn't keep this a secret from Bear and apparently doesn't check up on Merit students.)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Forging ahead

We finally decided on consequences for Bear's drinking of Hubby's alcohol. He owes double the cost of the bottle, which was $45 so he owes us $90. We don't have any projects around the house so we've decided to loan him out to family and friends. Kind of like doing community service. I'm thinking $3/hr for manual labor is fair - so 30 hours. Of course the weather was uncooperative this weekend so he'll have to get started tomorrow. Hubby won't be home so I'm going to be the one enforcing this. *sigh* Wish me luck!

It bothers me that Bear has received very few consequences for what really was a pretty major event. Plus, we're all having to deal with some of his consequences. We've locked the pantry (to stop the midnight munching) and the laundry room which leads to the garage (to give us a place to lock up more food and keep him from sneaking out and hiding stuff). This means anytime we need food, to do laundry, to throw out trash, to get bikes or put them away... the kids have to find me. Hubby put his key on the car key chain so when I have the car...


This morning Bear brought me his weekly point sheet to be signed. This is for his special school. The one he won't be going to after this semester because he's "doing so well." He used to have to have these signed daily, but now he's a "Merit" student. Which means he's doing so well he gets extra privileges (of which the school has mentioned that sometimes he takes advantage - I know!! Color me shocked! *sarcastic emoticon*).

I quickly skimmed the teacher's notes on the point sheet. All positive - as usual. Then I notice some scribbles near where I usually sign my name. Kind of looks like when someone was writing the pen ran out of ink so they did that swirly scribble we all do to get the pen to start writing again. But what was being written was the beginning of MY signature!! Instantly suspicious, I pointed this out to Bear and asked why it looked like he'd started to sign my name. He of course denied it and claimed his pen had been running out of ink so he'd scribbled on the "nearest piece of paper" and proceeded to tell me he'd done it in several places on the card (when I looked at it later he hadn't).
I stopped talking. Why argue with him? He was escalating and obviously ready to try to intimidate convince me that he was right.
Hubby and I went to the school and informed them that we felt that Bear had tried to forge my signature. They got the card and Bear had rubbed off the part with the recognizeable beginning of my signature. (I'm so glad I'm a believeable adult). We were concerned that this was not the first time he'd forged my signature, especially since neither of us could remember having signed his cards in awhile. so we asked to look at earlier point cards... they weren't there.
The principal asked Bear where they were (they're supposed to have been turned in weekly and kept in a folder in one of the teacher's classrooms - this is the teacher that has been saying since the beginning that he doesn't know why Bear is at the special school to begin with, and never kept this from Bear). Bear said they were in his locker at his home campus.
They were ready for us to leave, when I pointed out that missing cards aside, we hadn't talked about any consequences for the forged card. As a Merit student Bear earns points that he can trade for stuff (this tends to be candy). He spends his points as soon as he has enough to trade for pretty much anything so he didn't have a lot, but his points were wiped and he will not be able to earn any more for the rest of the semester (he won't be at this school next semester).
So Hubby and I went to the home campus and searched - no cards. Called Bear... "Oh, maybe they're at home..."
For once the issue was finally about something school related! The school actually had to care. It was kind of a refreshing change. Hubby wanted to let things go a couple of times (like wait to confront Bear on the cards not being there until he got home), but I pushed to make sure that we took this as far as we could, because Bear will be under less scrutiny at his home school so I want to take advantage of the fact that this was something they would pay attention to (stealing and drinking are not their concern unless it is done on school campus).
I did go and search Bear's room (of course) and found the cards. Unsigned. Nothing negative on any of them. I didn't find any "practice" signatures either. Maybe this actually was his first attempt.
We question why he did this. There was nothing on the card that he wouldn't want us to see. Obviously he hadn't turned in cards in months so he most likely wasn't concerned he would get in trouble for not getting it turned in (I thought he might have done it at some point when I wasn't available). Maybe he was thinking he'd sign all the ones in his room so he could turn them in before the semester ended and just started with this one. The only thing I know for sure is that he won't tell me the truth.
And of course the big question -
What to do about this.
Hubby wants to start using the law as a guide. What would have happened if he'd been caught forging a signature on a document by the police? Sometimes that has helped us (fines, community service, house arrest...), but in this case the police wouldn't seem to care unless there is fraud, and then it depends on the monetary amount as to whether or not it's a felony.
Then there's the fact that Bear was already in trouble when he did this. When we were still using the FAIR Club, this meant he would go on Restriction. Maybe we'll still do this.
I'm sooo tired of this.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

10 Ways to Tell He's Lying

This article is about dating relationships, but it seems very applicable to our life in a lot of ways.

10 Ways to Tell He's Lying
By dating editor Ranya Fattouh for Glamour

We're all guilty of a little white lie here and there, but when it comes to major dishonesty, there are a few telltale signs every woman should look for. Here are 10 tip-offs that he may be hiding something from you.

1. Your gut tells you something is wrong.
If you feel like something is off, it probably is. "It may not be exactly what your imagination is suggesting, but we don't experience knots for no reason," says Brenda Della Casa, author of "Cinderella Was a Liar: The Real Reason You Can't Find (or Keep) a Prince." Most women know they're being lied to long before they actually admit it, but they don't immediately act on their intuition. "Women tolerate a lot of excuses," says comedian Steve Harvey, author of "Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man." "A guy that always has an excuse or lie as to why it didn't happen, why it couldn't happen, why it won't happen, is no good."

2. The details don't add up.
"Generally, liars mess up and change a detail in their story," says Ian Kerner, Ph.D., a New York City-based clinical sexologist. Ask yourself: "Does this really make sense?" says Robert Feldman, author of "The Liar in Your Life: The Way to Truthful Relationships." "Look beyond what he's saying and try to be an objective observer of his behavior."

3. He suffers from TMI (or TLI -- that's Too Little Information!).
Guys who lie tend to give too much information or keep very quiet -- be cautious of both. "You know your guy and you know when he's not acting like himself. If your guy is chatty and suddenly he's not, something's up. If your guy is very quiet and suddenly he's giving you too many details, something's up," says Jenny Lee, coauthor of "Women Are Crazy, Men Are Stupid."

4. He refuses to get personal.
Most people who are comfortable in a relationship are open to sharing details of their lives. If a guy is unusually distant and keeps almost everything about himself secret, he's probably holding something back. "Don't be fooled by a guy who says 'that's too deep; I don't want to discuss that.' Good guys will appreciate the depth of your questions; liars will run from them," says Harvey.

5. He starts covering his tracks.
If your guy is constantly deleting his browser history or shutting down his email, or if there are numerous occasions where it's impossible to reach him, you might want to get out of there -- fast. "If you're with a guy who carries two cell phones, but one of them never rings, or if he only pays in cash or immediately heads for the shower when he gets home, those are all major red flags," says Nancy Dreyfus, author of "Talk to Me Like I'm Someone You Love: Relationship Repair in a Flash."

6. He's super defensive.
"If you find that he pauses a lot when responding to your questions, becomes overly fidgety and defensive, or can't look you in the eye, be suspicious that he might not be telling you the truth," says Kerner.

7. He repeats his story.
"Men tend to say the truth just once," says Howard J. Morris, coauthor of "Women Are Crazy, Men Are Stupid." "It's the truth, after all. It doesn't need to be repeated three times."

8. He constantly blames you.
Although it's natural for a guy to be a little testy when interrogated, if you notice that he's always shifting the blame so that you look like the guilty party, question his motives. "If every concern you have gets twisted around and thrown back at you, he's pulling a classic guilty-man move. Keeping you on the defensive keeps him out of trouble," says Della Casa.

9. He has an answer for everything.
Watch out for excuses that are very buttoned up, a little too perfect, and rehearsed. "If you find yourself making sense of something that doesn't make sense or making exceptions, stop yourself," says Dreyfus.

10. He makes the lies seem like no big deal.
Liars have an advantage because what they say is what we want to hear, and they know it. Even if he's feeding you little lies that make you feel good about yourself, remember that they are lies. "It's hard to constantly be thinking, Is this the truth, is this not the truth? Even if it seems innocent enough, someone who lies about little things is going to lie about big things," says Feldman. "If you do stay in the relationship, rebuild trust slowly and be clear that if he lies again, it's over."

Bear doesn't love me

We first met Bear's current therapist a couple of years ago when he was working with a known attachment therapist. He didn't take our insurance so we found another therapist who was pretty good, but a talk therapist (FYI talk therapy does not work well for kids with RAD). The talk therapist worked with Bear for over a year and was able to get Bear to talk (something we had trouble with in the past). The talk therapist finally said there wasn't much more he could do with Bear.

I felt that the talk therapist hadn't helped Bear deal with his past and how it effects his future. We tried EMDR therapy with Bear, but again, Bear refused to talk so we stopped. Bear didn't go to therapy for about 6 months, but we were still having difficulties of course.

After Bear's adoption was final, he qualified for TX Medicaid. We didn't use it much because most of the doctors we used didn't take Medicaid. Then we just couldn't afford the $25 copays anymore and I started looking for someone who accepted Medicaid. I remembered the attachment therapist we'd met with way back when, and called him. He was taking Medicaid patients and we started seeing him.

We just kind of started seeing him, and didn't really go through an interview process. We didn't fill out any paperwork, because I had a 25 page time line (which the therapist didn't want to read until a couple of weeks ago so he could "form his own opinions. While I know that at age 16, Bear is a little old for attachment therapy I figured it couldn't hurt. Apparently the therapist didn't realize that attachment was my goal until this session!

He mentioned that he does EMDR therapy which I didn't know. In explaining this to Bear I mentioned that we'd originally come to this therapist for attachment therapy. The therapist made a comment about Bear of course being attached to our family. I apparently made a surprised derogatory noise - it could possibly have been a snort. Maybe.

The surprised therapist asked me if I didn't think Bear was attached to the family. Say what?! Why doesn't he know this?

I said that while Bear thought we were nice people, he has always said he didn't feel he was part of our family. I also said I understand that, and I do. The therapist seemed totally surprised. I turned to Bear and he confirmed this with a nod.

The therapist didn't seem to believe us, and asked me if I thought Bear loved me. Bear didn't say anything, but he made an expression with his mouth. The therapist didn't see it. I said no I didn't think Bear loved me, and told the therapist about Bear's confirming expression. The therapist didn't ask Bear if he loved Hubby, and that was probably a good thing. Bear would probably feel pressure to lie, while I felt that so far he'd been telling the truth.

It did hurt though. A lot.

Frankly I was glad that Hubby and the therapist heard it though. Hubby has been insisting that there is no difference between Kitty and Bear, and I've been saying over and over that Kitty is almost attached to me, while Bear is not. It effects how I treat them and how I feel about them.

It's hard to love care about someone who doesn't love care about you.

But I'm used to it.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Sugar Free

Bob loves Crystal Light Raspberry Tea. I've never really liked it, but whatever keeps her hydrated is fine with me (the kind we buy is caffeine free). Recently though I found out WHY she likes it. She saw that the label said Sugar Free... so she added it. Over a cup of sugar to each pitcher.

I explained that the drink is "Sugar Free" because it had artificial sweetners in it, and told her no more extra sugar.

Bob hates Crystal Light Raspberry Tea.

Consequences for Bear

Struggling to Stand has left a new comment on your post, "Stealing":

I too, feel for you. Would it help to know that bio kids can be that bad?

Oh believe me I know, but thanks.

I think that before worrying about consequences of this instance, you should
find out if there has been more alcohol usage. Being a spy, again, checking the
garbage cans. Although the meds he is on may make the signs of alcohol use more

Oh you know how much I love being a spy. *sigh* The only alcohol left in the house is one wine cooler which I hid in the garage (will be drinking that this weekend believe me!), one bottle of unopened champagne and one unopened bottle of red wine (we only drink white) both from who knows how long ago, both sealed, and both in the locked pantry. So if he is still drinking, he is getting it from friends, not us.

I wonder. Does he just play at thinking anything unlocked is his, or does
he really not get the difference? I bet there are social skill games that help
to teach a "kid" the rules for what is personal and what is public. Maybe as a
punishment you make him play these games. If he already knows, it is a
punishment, but if he doesn't already know it helps him learn...

I have no idea what he really "gets," and what he deliberately does. I'm also not sure what he is capable of learning. I'm assuming that he "gets" stealing, because as far as I know he is not stealing from school; however, his sense of entitlement and impulsivity is a different story. Even at school if he can manipulate others into giving him candy or priviliges he will. His special school has commented a couple of times that because he has earned their highest level - "Merit" student, he gets many privileges. They have found him "taking a mile" with these privileges.

He has often used ignorance of a rule as an excuse at school too. For example, he showed up with lunch (before we were on the free lunch program) and snack/soda money. We do not give him money, and the school knows it. They usually warn us when he turns up with extra cash. At one point we discovered that he had quite a little enterprise going. He had talked me into letting him buy Gatorade powder mix and was mixing it up and putting it in water bottles. He's always drunk a lot of liquids so this slid under our radar. He was selling these, and the homemade goodies he was taking from home, to his buddies at school for extra cash. Many of the kids at school are special ed so the school stopped this. He did not get in trouble because he "didn't know any better." Of course his home campus has no such policy so I'm sure this has/will start up again. It's hard for us to catch the selling of the treats because he could be eating them.

Food is an especially sensitive subject. I know kids of trauma have issues with food and hoarding. I've always tried to be super understanding about this. Kitty's meltdowns especially are usually 10 times worse if food is involved. I know that food is a major control issue too, and as a teen whose life was out of control, I have had problems with anorexia myself. I know Bear feels a strong sense of entitlement about many things, but food is at the top of the list.

After reading this comment I searched his room and bathroom again. Not only has he been lying about doing his chores (like cleaning - don't ask how I know!) for several weeks (I know because the moldy tupperware and empty ice cream container I found last time are still in a bag on his floor), but he had an empty bag of caramels on the floor beside his bed. I can only assume that someone forgot to lock the pantry (probably me).

So where do I go from here? Locking everything up is beyond a pain. Our youngest keeps his bike in the garage so every morning someone has to give him the key to get it (he's up before me and Hubby is usually still in the shower when Ponito is ready to go), and then we have to make sure he remembers to lock it all back up (which he occasionally forgets). Bear often gets up before everyone else or after Ponito leaves, eats and who knows what else, and goes back to bed. I want to just alarm Bear's door, but Hubby is still resistant to this.

I hate that the kids live like prisoners in their own home. I can't keep the doors unlocked when Bear is not home because he immediately goes into the unlocked rooms, before I realize he's home and they aren't locked. The lock that keeps Bear out of the garage, also keeps everyone out of the laundry room, which is a pain, and the humidity in there from running the machines with the door shut is beginning to damage the room and everything in it.

As for the alcohol, an idea I have that probably isn't good, but may spawn
better ideas, is to have your husband offer Bear a drink on Thanksgiving or
Chirstmas, but the drink be 90% water, which Bear would discover upon
drinking. Tit-for-tat. "Well, I thought since you put all that water in my
alcohol, that is the way you like it!" or "It isn't nice to sit down to a
good drink and find it is mostly water, is it?"

We talked about this as an option. Beyond the fact that we don't feel comfortable even implying that it is OK for teens to drink alcohol, I'm pretty sure that Bear would bluff his way through it and in his mind this would be yet another example of what horrible parents we are. Hubby even thought about letting him drink all he wants until he gets sick, but of course there are major health, moral and legal issues with this... and we don't think it would be effective either.

I have thought about doing something similar though. Maybe giving him treats, only to find they are half eaten, or letting everyone else have a slurpee and giving him water - with just a bit of what they're getting. Again, I don't think he would make the connection - he would just see it as yet another example of how mean we are and how much we hate him.

Would it be wrong to put laxatives or something similar in a bag of candy in the pantry and "forget" to lock it? Technically it's a logical consequence for stealing and replacing the item with something else.

Passive Aggressive

I have found that Bear is making me very passive aggressive and I hate that feeling.

I've never liked confrontation, and Bear makes confrontation (when Hubby is not present) particularly odious. So I'm finding myself avoiding him more and more, doing detective work to avoid asking him about things (and maybe to deliberately get him in trouble - although it is him who is actually doing the lying and stealing) , complaining about him here and to adult family members, and sniping at him (for example a TV character was commenting on how being called Ma'am made her feel old, and I "subtly" told Hubby, "See, I'm not the only one who feels that way!" Bear resentfully muttered, "I get it Mom." I told him I was talking to Dad not him. Is that a "teachable moment" or a jab? I don't know. He hadn't done it again since I'd asked him not to last time.).

It seems like he is always mad at me, because I am always getting him in trouble and keeping him from doing what he wants to do. He doesn't seem to make the connection that it is him actually doing the stuff for which he is having to deal with the consequences - not me making up punishments just to torture him. He doesn't like that I hold him accountable and don't start with a blank slate (he calls it holding a grudge). I don't like that I seem to be the only one doing so. Don't get me wrong, Hubby always backs me up, and I'm the "expert" in the family so it's kind of natural that the discipline decisions fall on me, but it gets really old to always be the bad guy/ judge and jury (although I appreciate not always having to be the executioner).

I don't like being around Bear and it is showing more and more. I used to be able to keep it from him, but I'm not feeling like being subtle any more. Of course he's not home much so maybe it's not as noticeable... oh, who am I kidding.

Wish I had time to finish these Medicaid applications. It's probably time to amp up my meds again. Kitty is very linked to my moods too so when I'm irritated and/or depressed she is too. She's had several minor meltdowns this last week that under normal circumstances I would have been able to avoid.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

School Assessments and Other Issues

Sept 23rd
ARD/ IEP Meeting - For the school this meeting was supposed to be confirming that Bear's academic classes and IEP did not need any adjustments. Instead I took over the meeting and began talking about all the trouble we had over the Summer (skipping school, sex, drugs, skipping football practice, dropping off the football team at the last minute...). We learned that Bear had failed the first session of Summer school with a 37 and the second session with a 72. The vice principal asked if the class were for credit, and we explained he'd made good grades in the class, but kept failing the TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills). The VP stated, that Bear probably knew it wasn't for credit and he didn't really blame him. Uh, thanks for the backup. I'm sure that wasn't the only person Bear got that reaction from though.

Most of those present barely knew Bear. He had spent most of his Freshman year of High School at a special school for emotionally disturbed youth. This year he would be spending the majority of his time at his home campus. I wanted them to be aware that he needed to be well supervised, because I knew he was sneaky and would slip under the radar.

We also reaffirmed that we wanted to have a school assessment done on Bear - cognitive, behavioral, and of course academic. We felt that the school was ignoring, or at least not applying, the many psychological reports we'd brought in over the years. We felt Bear's academic difficulties were being glossed over and that he would be graduating without the skills he needed to survive in the working world. We also felt that there was an underlying issue(or 10) that wasn't being caught that was keeping him from being successful on standardized testing and with anything that involved reading and writing.

November 10th
ARD/ IEP Meeting - This meeting was to talk about Bear's plans for what to do after graduation to determine what courses he needed to be taking. The school had him on the "highschool plan," but Bear wants to go on to college so they talked about what he'd need to do. Of course they didn't really address the fact that he just won't be prepared, because of the type of classes he is taking (applied classes - which are small groups 4-6 students who are studying the same subjects as their regular ed classmates, but are getting just the basics).

We talked about the fact that Bear will not be attending the special school next semester. The special school has stopped being supportive because Bear is only there for a couple of hours two or three days a week so I'm fine with that. One less thing for Bear to hate me for (he blames the fact that he's still in the program all on me - I kept saying he needs the structure).

Minor irritant was the transition plan that Bear's caseworker put together for him because she couldn't find time for him to do it. She made more spelling and grammar errors than Bear would have - and she spelled his name wrong throughout the whole thing.

Assessment was supposed to be done - wasn't. *grr* The whole "team" was a little confused as to how we're supposed to make these decisions without this, and why we didn't delay the meeting until it's done - which we were told would only be a few more days. We're afraid we'll have to have another meeting to redo his schedule at the last minute. I talked to the coordinator of the assessments after the meeting. She wasn't in the meeting and claimed she didn't know the meeting was imminent. She promised to call me the next day to give me a brief summary.

November 11th

Hi Mary,

sorry, I didn't get a chance to call this afternoon, but I wanted to shoot
you an email to give you an overview of Bear's testing results. Academically,
Bear's skills are significantly below age-level expectations. Broad skill
weaknesses were noted. Cognitively, he had a relative strength in fluid
reasoning, which is his innate problem solving ability that contributes to math
development. Also within normal limits was his short-term memory and auditory
processing skills (which underlie language development). Normative weaknesses
were noted in crystallized knowledge, which develops through schooling and
largely based on the investment of other cognitive abilities. Additionally,
weaknesses were noted in long-term retrieval and processing speed as well as
visual processing. Findings indicate that Bear's cognitive weaknesses and
history of mental health issues impeded his performance academically. I will try
to observe him next week and then will write up the report, which will have much
more information and interpretation of data.

Needless to say I'm anxiously awaiting an interpretation of this and how it will effect his school work, and of course the actual report. So of course, this is the e-mail I get over a week later (after I'd left several messages).

November 19th

Hi Mary,

Sorry for the delay in response, but it's been hectic and I've been out
sick. I will have Bear's report written by 12/01, so I can have a copy ready for
you that Wednesday, if you want to come by {Bear's special school for
emotionally disturbed youth} or I can mail it to you. I think {his
home school's counselor} emailed you in regards to scheduling a meeting to
discuss the results and address any questions you have. As for cognitive
deficits, those aren't remediated; Bear will learn to compensate for his
weaknesses through strategies. This, of course, would be an investment on his
part. Academically, the applied classes appear to be a conducive setting in
meeting his learning needs. Hopefully, within those settings they are working on
developing strategies for solving problems and dissecting texts. Bear will need
to learn a systematic way to approach similar tasks, which will help him to
organize and analyze information. I will get the report written, so this will be
more integrated and not so disjointed. Sorry, I know you're eager to get the

Eager? Ya think?!!

Not only am I having trouble understanding what she wrote (and I have a Masters and a very big vocabulary!), but "for some reason" I find this extremely frustrating.

Then I got this e-mail after sending out an e-mail about Bear's recent theft.

Thanks for sharing the update about Bear. I will let Bear's Home campus' Support Counselor, know about what is going on with Bear. I think it would also be helpful for the campus to have consent to speak with his outside therapist. If this is okay with you, I can send home a consent form for you to give the school permission to communicate back and forth with Bear's outside therapist.

Should I give the access to Bear's therapist? We're struggling to get everything done as it is. Do I want to potentially be left out of the loop?

Guess there is nothing to do but wait. This stinks!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I feel like we keep locking the barn doors after the cows are already gone. Bear, our 16 yr old RAD son, has been busted yet again, and we don’t know what to do next.

We recently discovered that he has been raiding Hubby's rarely used bottle of Grand Marnier (an expensive liquor) that Hubby keeps in a top shelf in the pantry. Bear had been drinking it and replacing it with water, and had finally drunk so much that Hubby (who rarely drinks it) finally noticed.

When confronted, Bear admitted to having drunk it, but claims it was only this Summer and not recently (a lie although it did probably start this Summer). I think he’s just saying this because he’s hoping that there won’t be consequences for something that happened in the past (He’s done this before – confessed to doing drugs in the house... over a year ago . When this happened in residential treatment, he was actually praised for confessing that he was using chewing tobacco. We pointed out that while, no, he hadn’t been caught and therefore didn’t HAVE to confess, his supply was almost out anyway and this way he got “extra credit” and no consequences.).

We feel stupid for leaving the bottle accessible, but he’d shown no interest in alcohol before (yes, lame excuse, but we don’t want to live like we’re wardens in a residential treatment center – he’s supposed to be better).

So what should we do for consequences?

We did cancel his ROTC meet this weekend that he was going to be allowed to skip weekly therapy for.
Because of his food stealing, the week before this discovery we’d put locks on several doors in the house that prevent access to the area we kept the alcohol in (he drank all the alcohol so that was no longer a concern anyway).

He’s not on line of sight supervision, but he’s pretty close, so grounding wouldn’t make a lot of difference. We could take his house phone privileges, but that’s not a very logical consequence. He’s already working on a DARE project at school. He’s already been to visit prisons while he was in residential treatment. Alcoholics Anonymous meetings would probably trigger his C-PTSD issues, but we could probably work around everyone else’s schedules to get him there. He doesn’t have a cell phone, will probably never be allowed to drive a car at this rate… I don’t know what to do. If we don’t do anything I know he will feel that he has “beat the system and won.”

Since he usually doesn’t commit the same offense twice I’m freaking out over what he’ll do next. We don’t want to be jailers/ wardens. None of his siblings deserve to live in a prison, but neither do they deserve to have their stuff stolen.


Back story if you’re interested:
A few weeks ago, several PS2 controllers that I’d confiscated from the boys for breaking who knows what rule (probably having food in the playroom and not getting off when their time was up), were discovered to be missing. Since Bear is the only one who steals, and he usually prefers to steal family electronics, we assumed that it was him that did it. I searched his room and the garage, but didn’t find them. I’m now assuming he sold, traded or gave them away – I don’t even want to think about for what. Bear has finally stopped hiding most stuff in his room because he knows I search occasionally, but the junk food I always find in there, I feel he is flaunting in my face.

Recently I’d gotten tired of finding icing containers, candy wrappers from entire bags of candy, moldy food, ice cream containers, etc. in his room that, added to the missing controllers to me said it was finally time to alarm his bedroom door. Hubby was against it. When confronted about the food, Bear says he’s a growing boy and hungry in the middle of the night. Bear officially stopped growing 2 years ago (his growth plates are closed). What he is taking is all sweets (which we rarely have in the house anyway). We’ve discussed the fact that he has an addictive brain and at the moment his addiction appears to be sugar (although it has also been drugs, tobacco, and apparently alcohol…). He’s never been a good sleeper and the idea of him wandering the house at 3 am is nerve wracking.

We’re taking him off of Seroquel (which he’s been on for over a year) since it’s been known to increase appetite, but it’s also known to help with sleep so I’m worried he’ll be up even more. Not to mention he’s highly volatile emotionally right now so I’m nervous about taking him off of one of his mood stabilizers (he’s still on Lamictal, Trileptal and Amantadine). None of the sleep meds he’s ever taken have helped him sleep (he’s on 6mg of Melatonin right now- the max).

As a compromise, last week I put key locks on the pantry and inside garage door. This means that he no longer has access to food in the middle of the night except for approved snacks. Everyone was so excited because we can finally have ice cream in the house again. It also means he will not have access to the garage or outdoors (all outside doors and windows are alarmed. The garage was too, but the new lock now prevents him access to the control panel where he could turn off the chime that goes off when a door is opened. We’re not sure if he’d discovered that feature of the downstairs control panel, but better safe than sorry). So he can no longer hide stuff in there or steal tools.

There are several big problems with the new system. One, it means we’re constantly having to let someone in to those rooms. I guess we could leave them open when he’s not home, but most likely that means we won’t remember to lock them later. Two, in his mind it means that anything not protected is OK for him to take. In fact he apparently feels it is permission to take it.

Carrot Cake

Note: This is not a picture of the cake I made. This is just a funny picture from one of my favorite websites Cake Wrecks. A neighbor loaned me the new book and it is just as funny as the site.
This was the yummiest, moistest healthy carrot cake I have ever made. We had it for our 3 yr anniversary of the day Bear and Kitty moved in with us. (I still can’t believe it’s only been 3 years!). I tripled the recipe and used the extra in muffin cups for snacks – icing wasn’t necessary (but still yummy). (Sorry it took me so long to post the recipe!)

Carrot Cake

Blend together
2 cups sugar (I used Splenda)
1 cup yogurt (I used fat free – plain).
4 eggs (I used 2/3 cup egg beaters)

Add and blend.
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
2 cups flour (I use whole wheat)
2 cups grated carrots
1 small can crushed pineapple (optional)
Raisins and/ or walnuts or pecans (optional and to taste)
Pour in greased pan and bake at 350. (25 minutes for sheet cake to 50 minutes bundt cake). If it jiggles, it’s not done.

Icing (I was lazy and whipped some fat free cream cheese into a reduced sugar cream cheese frosting from the store).
½ cup yogurt
2 tsp vanilla
1 8 oz package cream cheese
Add and blend.
1 ½ cup powdered sugar
1 cup finely minced pecans (optional)
OK, now I'm hungry for cake again!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Christmas Traditions - 3 gifts

Our Family Christmas Traditions: 

When our kids first came to live with us it was right before the holidays. Coming from a blended family myself, and having read everything I could, it did occur to me that the new kids probably had holiday traditions that they would want to continue. I didn't want them to feel left out or excluded by our family traditions, inside jokes, and other things like that.

Try as I might I couldn't get much out of them beyond that they celebrated Christmas (versus Hannukah or something else - or nothing). They did not, of course, still believe in Santa Claus. My kids learned very early that if you don't believe in Santa, that’s OK, but you better not say so out loud or he doesn't bring you presents! Sadly, I don’t think any of my kids believe anymore. We've had a lot of trouble with Kitty thinking I'm a liar because I say Santa is real. I did find a solution for this one.

Christmas Tree -

We usually put the tree up on Thanksgiving weekend and try to take it down New Year's day. This definitely doesn't mean everything is put away right away. We've been known to be thinking about whether or not we should decorate the tree with hearts for Valentines' day. I admit I am a perfectionist so in the past I pretty much did all the decorating myself. Now I'm kind of done with the whole Christmas decoration thing (feeling a bit of Little Red Hen over all of this) so the kids get the boxes down and do everything themselves. They don't tend to even open all the boxes and do the whole house like we used to and I'm OK with that.

When the kids were little, we put the tree inside a baby gate play yard (one of my favorite child proofing items because I could use it anywhere to keep kids and pets out of or in places) and we decorated with little stuffed animals (I picked up from thrift stores) so I didn't have to worry about broken glass ornaments.

Presents under the tree -

Where did his shirt go?!
We usually don’t put presents from the parents under the tree until after the kids have gone to bed on Christmas Eve (keeps them from being tempted to peek or compare). This started more because we were procrastinators than because we wanted it to be a tradition, but it stuck.  For a long time we wrapped all of each child's gifts in the same wrapping paper so they knew which ones were theirs even if they couldn't read yet. That way the youngest child could put on the Santa hat to play Santa's Helper (a role that is often fought over!) and hand out the gifts to be opened.

Christmas Pictures -

Many years ago, Bob had a huge growth spurt just before our first family Christmas picture. I wanted her to wear something nice (I was thinking green velvet). We went to a thrift store and the only thing that fit her was an evening gown (adult size 2 - she was only 9). We take a family picture every year and evening wear has became a tradition, but the boys are totally against it. Every now and then we take a break from it. One year we even did pajamas. We have a cousin who is a professional photographer and she has been taking our photos for years.  One thing I love is her willingness to use PhotoShop. Inevitably with a family of 6, there is one child who doesn't smile (until we realized what was happening and threatened his life if he didn't smile!) and of course the one shot where everyone looks amazing is the one where a child sneezed. It especially helps impatient bodies who can't sit still while we try to get the one perfect photo.

Christmas Eve Gifts

We have a family tradition of giving Christmas Eve gifts. This is usually a pair of new pajamas and a book (was a toy or stuffed animal back when they couldn't wait until Christmas to open a present). I think my parents did this so we wouldn't have on ratty pajamas in the "Christmas morning gift opening pictures." We usually open these after Jesus' Birthday party.

Jesus' Birthday Party

On Christmas Eve we celebrate Jesus' birthday with a party. Everyone writes on a piece of paper what they are going to give Jesus this year (or I write them for anyone who doesn't want to write). It's kind of like a New Year's Resolution, but more about making ourselves a better person that Jesus would be proud of then about losing weight or something. You can read last year's gifts here.

Each person can choose to read theirs out loud and then we put the papers on the tree in a little felt envelope usually used for Santa letters (we have 2 - the other one is for Christmas wish lists). The next year we read them and see how we did. The kids initiated going around in circle and praying about what we are thankful for (is this starting to sound like we're getting our holidays mixed up - Thanksgiving, Easter, birthday, Christmas...??).

Afterward, we all eat Jesus' birthday cake (helps my antsy ones sit through this, knowing there's cake when it's done!).  

Jesus' Birthday Cake

We've tried a few variations on Jesus's birthday cake (you can't really see the layers in this picture so I added a sketch). I guess it's more along the lines of an Easter cake, but I like it better than just a plain old birthday cake. The bottom layer of the cake is chocolate with chocolate frosting for our sins. The next layer is strawberry for the blood Jesus sheds for us. The top layer is vanilla, colored with green food coloring for the everlasting life he gave us. The top two layers are covered with white frosting to symbolize our new purity, and that's covered with multi-colored sprinkles to symbolize  joy and celebration nothing! We just wanted yummy sprinkles!

Like many trauma mamas I was resenting that Santa got all the credit for the "good stuff" so we switched it up a little. Santa brings stocking stuffers (but the kids know that Mommy and Daddy always add things to these too – that way I don’t have to worry about them having seen me purchasing something!) and one big gift, but not the "best" gift, the one that they wanted the most. We leave Santa gifts unwrapped next to their stockings so they know it's from Santa (and so I don't have to worry about the kids recognizing our wrapping paper!).

Last couple of years instead of individual gifts, Santa has brought one big present for the whole family. He's brought things like a Husky dog (named Scarlet Claus), a big plasma screen TV, a ClearPlay DVD player with a bunch of movies the kids hadn't been allowed to watch before...

Opening Gifts

We open gifts on Christmas morning. Kids can get up anytime after 5am (*eek!*) to run downstairs and look at their gifts. They can open their stockings and quietly play with their Santa gift. They are NOT allowed to wake anyone, especially parents (we were usually up until the wee hours wrapping presents!). When everyone is present (no pun intended) we all take turns opening gifts handed out by the Santa's Helper so everyone can watch.

Three Gifts
A few years ago we decided to start only giving 3 gifts to the kids on Christmas morning. (It was good enough for Jesus and the three wise men!). It has helped us me out in many ways (the kids are not quite as fond of it).

  1. Taken some of the focus off of gifts and put it back on the “reason for the season.”

  2. Reduced some of the pressure to get the exact same number and equivalent gifts for each of my 4 children (I remember my sisters and I counting gifts on Christmas Eve – cost wasn't important it was all about quantity!).

  3. Decreased the clutter. My adopted children can’t handle too much stuff in their rooms or lives.

  4. Reduced the cost! Christmas is expensive enough with 4 kids.

  5. Made shopping easier. It’s HARD to find presents for teenage boys (assuming that like us you do not want to buy expensive electronic stuff he’s only going to break or lose anyway and/or can’t handle – ask me about the cell phone bill and texting his birth family and girlfriends at 2am!).

  6. Less wrapping!

  7. Reduced overwhelm and fidgeting - less time sitting watching everyone open presents (better for my ADD kids).

Usually at least two of the three gifts that the children get are “themed” gifts. So it’s more than one item in the package. For example, one year several of the children started private school, so one of the theme gifts was school supplies – each had a personalized and decorated magazine holder for their workbooks that held the coolest pens, pencils, staplers and other supplies I could find (think glitter, sparkles, rabbit fur and lights), and stuffed with paperbacks from the used book store that I knew each would like. Bear, who was not going to the private school, got an art set – colored pencils, artist’s notebook, book about drawing, sketchbook…. Kitty needed a new bed so her gift was a bed (used) and all the bedding (we just put a big bow and her name on it). Bear got a bike (we actually wrapped that – LOL). Bob got her first set of contacts. Ponito loved dragons, so he got a pair of jean shorts and a t-shirt with dragons on it, a bank in the shape of a dragon, and a kite in a dragon shape. Here's another post about this.

Some years I put horrible, punny "hints" on the packages.  Bugs the kids, but it entertains me. :)

The cost of the gift seems to be largely unimportant – the most envied (meltdown inducing) gift was a box of highlights that one daughter got and the other (RAD) daughter didn’t. Kitty got very expensive makeup that year, but all she cared about was the highlights (which I thought would show up too much in her gorgeous black hair, compared to Bob’s dishwater blonde where they would blend in). Here's the post about it if you're interested.

Another RAD parent was feeling guilty about not wanting to buy gifts for her RAD child who tore everything up and had horrible behavior. She had other non-RAD children that she wanted to get nice gifts for.

My advice: I’d say go for cheap gifts from the dollar store. The bigger the better. Personally I appreciate the fact that Bear is death on electronics and Kitty loses everything, because it means I can just buy cheap replacements the next Christmas or birthday and don’t have to get creative or worry about them having cluttered rooms they can’t handle.

Some other suggestions by trauma mamas:
  • 4 gifts - Something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.
  • Drawing names - Everybody draws one name and makes a gift for that person. So each person gets only one gift. (If you have enough kids, you could have the kids draw each others' names, leaving parents to gift as usual).
  • Non-tangibles/ Experiences - instead of stuff, you give things to do/ coupons/ gift certificates -- Guitar lessons, cooking classes with mom, a family trip, planning and building a tree house...
  • Charity/ Volunteer work - have a family tradition of working in a soup kitchen, wrapping brown Santa gifts, adopting a family to gift to...

Created by my mom when I was a child. This is a family tradition that it wouldn't feel like Christmas without. Link to the recipe. Hubby spends hours working on making his homemade rolls for Christmas lunch and surrenders a small portion of dough to be used for this Christmas morning treat!

What we do when our kids get the "gimmies" 

*Ugh!* Holidays and other traumaversaries! All the kids go nuts around this time, but it's especially tough on Kitty and Bear. Post about Holidays, Birthdays, and Other Traumaversaries

Like many kids with trauma issues, my kids were/are emotionally MUCH younger than their physical age. This sounds like something they would do (in fact we had a similar conversation on the way home today - and she's 21 now! *sigh* ). Post about Parenting Based on Emotional Age

It helped me to remember their developmental age and parent accordingly. A 3 year old whining for candy makes more sense to me. Especially if they're new to the family, and don't know how things work. Seems like all the media says you can (and should) have everything you want, especially for Christmas.

We had to teach our kids repeatedly how all this worked (they don't generalize well and don't learn from role modeling). 

They needed to be told, that it wasn't polite to tell Grandma what to give them. It wasn't something they just understood or picked up, like the bio kids did.

When I was a kid and we begged for some treat or toy, my mom taught us to say, "Someday I would like to have ______."

We had the children write Christmas lists with many things on it at different price points. With reminders that putting just one item  on the list (a horse, a laptop, gift cards to ___, ____, ____...), did NOT mean you would get that item. We also had to point out to them that a lot of people don't like to buy impersonal gift cards or be told what to give someone.

We also try to focus on the giving of presents. Ignoring the comments about, "I want Grandma to give me a gift card or cash," and asking, "What are you thinking about getting Grandma for Christmas?"

We usually gave them a list of people they needed to buy Christmas presents for and set them loose in the dollar store. (I'm sure Grandad loved the Whoopie Cushion and Hubby greatly enjoyed the cologne that smelled like a sailor on shore leave... who'd been napping in a garbage bin.)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

No Ma'am! Yes Sir.

Here in the South, kids are expected to address their elders as Sir and Ma'am. This isn't the way I grew up though, and to be honest it makes my hiney cringe (as Pioneer Woman would say) when people call me Ma'am.

One thing that was so hard for me about reading a lot of the attachment books like Nancy Thomas is that they recommend having the child treat you like a queen. That just doesn't feel right to me. I want my kids to love me and while I know that to do that they also need to respect me, I just don't feel right demanding it.

Still, Bear especially does have a better relationship with me when I am assertive and hold him accountable. When he first got here I wanted him to like me. I catered to his needs and tried to make him comfortable. I was lenient and accommodating. He saw me as weak and manipulatable. Once I realized he actually preferred one of his teachers who called him a turd when he was being a turd, it was easier for me to be authoritative. And when I realized my other children needed protection from him, I became more like a Mama Bear (no pun intended).

I still hate confrontation though. If Hubby is around then I prefer to have Hubby be present when I have to talk to Bear about something he's done wrong. Otherwise I'm tempted to be kind of passive aggressive about it. I'm working on it.


So back to the beginning of this post.

When I was a kid, my mom remarried. Her husband was 9 years older than she and at the beginning of their marriage, she always said, "Yes Sir" or "No Sir." Very respectful, but it mad me upset. I'm not sure if it was because I thought this was a sign of a bad relationship, if it was because I saw my strong Mom being submissive, or if it was because I was used to having a father figure that I could boss around (my dad was a weekend daddy) and not someone in authority. (FYI, after over 25 years of marriage she doesn't call him Sir anymore).

When the kids first got here, Bear would occasionally say "Yes sir" or "Yes Ma'am" to Hubby or I, and I would gently correct him. He stopped.

Now, 3 years later he's started this again. Some of this I'm sure is because of the ROTC. He's supposed to call everyone by a very respectful Sir and Ma'am. But I strongly believe that some of it is to distance himself from us. I think he doesn't want to use a more familiar or affectionate form of address.

What do you think? Should kids say "Yes sir" or "Yes Ma'am" to their parents?

I've already made up my mind. I'm MOM, not Ma'am.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Developmental ages

This is how old they LOOK on the outside.

This is how old I need to remember they really are.

By the way, how adorable are these kids??!!!! Both then and now of course. Look at those sad eyes on Kitty. Even she recognizes herself as sad.
I especially had to remember how young they really are this morning as I cleaned up a poo mess in the bathroom. I just love being a mom of "teenagers!"

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Da Rules

A new reader of this blog sent me an e-mail with some questions about some of my latest posts. She doesn't have special needs children, but she is a mom. It made me think about why I do things the way I do. Thanks.

“Have you thought about having Bear make up the rules/values and define himself what the consequences will be?”
Unfortunately Bear’s cognitive and trauma issues usually prevent him from being able to make decisions like defining his own consequences. He’ll just shrug and say, “I don’t know.” I do forget this and sometimes attribute craftiness and manipulating to the few times he’s suggested his own consequences. If he’s broken the rule before, then he thinks he should have the same consequences. I like to mix things up so that the kids can’t decide if the crime is worth the time. He prefers being grounded to anything because then he can isolate himself in his room (which I dislike because it does not encourage him to learn how to be part of a family). It also makes consequences become punishments – which he can handle with ease (having had much worse), and he can blame us for (mean Mom makes me suffer vs. I made a bad choice and I’m learning from it). We’re also trying to teach him the concept of restitution which he doesn’t get yet.

“I bet he will pick consequences that he feels are tough, yet are swift, to allow him to move on with life and try to focus on positive things.”
You would think so wouldn’t you? The kids don’t think they deserve positive treatment.

“Sorry, I think I have to side with Hubby on this because if the number of rules overwhelm a grown woman used to countless details, it’s got to be overwhelming for kids coming from where they are. Hubby’s idea to reduce the number of rules and just stick with the values deserves some more consideration (sorry to stir this up!).”

Yes, we do have a lot of rules. Bear must have very concrete rules. Neither he nor Kitty can generalize at all. So if I say keep your room clean – that is too general, is overwhelming, and they don’t get it, and so won’t/ can’t do it. So I break it down into its components. If I say pick up your room floor, neaten your desk top, put your clothes in the hamper, and make your bed - that might happen (although a check list is better because they can get overwhelmed if you are telling them what to do – it is perceived by them as criticizing and yelling at them). However, do not expect them to do something that is not specifically on that list – like clean up a spilled drink right away instead of waiting until they are supposed to be cleaning the floor next; if the desk is neat but sticky they would not clean it; not removing used Kotex from clothing before putting it in laundry (no, of course this doesn’t apply to Bear); if they try to darken their homemade tattoo with India ink and spill it, they will not ask for help, but instead will let it dry (yes, Bear, not Kitty)….

“And think about letting him make his rules. he will have to do that in a couple years anyway.”
Bear appears more normal, and he does a lot of normal teenage boy things, but teenage boys are not that normal to begin with. *grin* Plus, I don’t know about you, but when I went to college I went a little crazy. I cussed; I drank; I skipped school; I partied… In the end, I realized that I was making bad choices that went against my core values (values my mom had taught me since childhood). I grew up and started using my head. I fully expect Bob (my biodaughter) to do the same thing. To rebel for awhile, make her own choices about what she knew was right, and then follow her heart and head. Bear doesn’t have those core values to fall back on. He still needs to have those taught to him.

When your kids were little, you watched over them like a hawk right? You wouldn’t let a two year old wander in the street. You wouldn’t like your 3 year old gorge on candy (well maybe once if they were stubborn and you knew it was the best way to teach them a lesson). You removed dangerous objects from the reach of your toddler and preschooler. As your child got older, you lightened up. You knew you could trust them to understand right and wrong and generalize this to new situations. Not only are my kids not out of this preschool phase where they need a lot of direct supervision, but they have the added disadvantage of having access to more dangerous situations.

When Bob was young she was very big for her age. Everyone assumed she was older than she was and expected a lot from her. It was very hard on her. She could reach things she was too young to know how to handle. Imagine if everyone expected you to let your 6 year old to be allowed to drive? So while it’s tempting to say he’s going to be on his own soon we should let him start now, we have to remember that he’s just not ready and we need to take advantage of all the instructional time we have left.

“you might be trying too hard to be a perfect mom with perfect results which causes some push back.”

You are probably right. I am a perfectionist. It is most definitely hard for me to draw the line. I wish there was a manual.

Keeping up the pace

I wanted to talk some more about Kitty's backyard pacing.

Extrovert vs Introvert

Normally Kitty is a very outgoing child. Not sure how much is the Charming RAD, and how much is her normal personality. I'm an extrovert with strong introvert tendencies. Meaning I get my energy from being around other people, but need some down time too. In a personality test I scored almost even between the two. Everyone else in the family are pretty strong introverts. I'm guessing Kitty is a lot like me in this respect. It's hard to tell with all the diagnoses interfering.

I do know that the more stress Kitty is under, the more she paces. I think that's why there has been such an increase in it lately. She's repressing more and more stuff and this is her way of venting. If you try to make her do something, especially chores, before she gets a chance to decompress, you will most definitely get to see a meltdown or rage. I try to avoid interrupting or setting time limits on her walking, and sometimes send her back out there.

I do not think Kitty is actually processing anything when she walks. I think she's just trying to regulate her emotions enough to feel safe.


You guys have come up with very valid points. Of course I wouldn't want anyone to listen to my thoughts anymore than I would want them to read my journal. Oh wait, I guess I'm OK with that or I wouldn't be blogging. Still, that's my choice.
I would never read Bob's diary (if she had one). On the other hand, I would and do read what I find in Bear's and Kitty's stuff. For me this is because they are in danger of hurting themselves and others. Plus, I need as much help as I can to reach them. For different reasons, they are both so closed off.
Bob has occasionally been outside when Kitty is pacing and recently said that when Kitty is pacing she is telling stories. I'm curious what kind of stories my non-imaginative child is telling, but I will probably drop this quest to find out for sure until and unless something drops in my lap.

Warm and fuzzy

The other day in therapy, Kitty asked if she would have the same issues if she'd been born into our family. The answer was of course no.

We did talk about how some of her problems were genetic (bipolar, ADHD and learning disabilities - which do actually run in our (Hubby's and my) family, but that because of the way she grew up (moving a lot, trauma, missing school) most of these are probably worse than they would have been. It was a tough conversation for all of us.

Still it was the first time she ever expressed wishing she'd been my daughter by birth and I have to admit that gave me a HUGE warm fuzzy feeling.
She's got a long way to go, but I'm getting spontaneous hugs and kisses, she comes to me for help if she's hurting, she asks me to do her hair and makeup... we're getting there.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

He must be crazy

Read a really funny post on Kristina's website where she showed off her husband's "grinstipation" expression. It made me think of a disturbing trend that I've seen in my sweet Hubby's pictures. It's a slight psychotic expression. Something about the eyes.
I married him because he was weird enough to put up with me so... it's all good!

Backyard Pacing

I’ve talked to Kitty and her therapist about the increase in the walking and talking to herself. During therapy we briefly touched on the fact that it is keeping her from doing her chores, and she got so agitated we were unable to continue the conversation. I think she felt criticized. I do not think this is to avoid chores though and I reassured her of that.

I did ask her what she was saying when she was out there (I forget who mentioned I should just ask! Even though it didn’t answer my questions, I can’t believe it didn’t occur to me). She pretty much said she didn’t know. The therapist and I asked if she thought she was hearing voices and she said no. She was pretty activated by this point though.

She did say she thought she’d heard voices for awhile after a 16 yr old family member died under traumatic circumstances (She still lived with biomom and I think she would have been about 6 years old – she was in a different state when it occured.). She’s referred to the 16yr old as her guardian angel who she talks to sometimes. She’s also said she’s talking to the dogs, but that is extremely unlikely as she is not paying any attention to them.

The backyard is large and the area she walks in is very open (no trees or bushes to hide things in). She used to swing and liked that better than walking (although she did walk too). The swing broke though (it was old and she weighed more than 175lbs). We bought a minitramp, but it is inside and apparently is too close to the family; she’s never used it.

She appears to be less stressed when she comes in from the yard. If I can catch it early enough we can stave off a meltdown if I can get her to go out there to calm down. She has major issues with emotional regulation and walking appears to help. When she has to be with the family though she pretty much needs me to help her emotionally regulate.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Spy Gear

Kitty spends hours in the backyard pacing and talking to herself. The more stressful her day, the more she walks. She’s been doing this for who knows how many years (foster family mentioned it too). I don’t want to stop the behavior because it apparently helps keep from raging, but I worry about what it means. She usually seems pretty upset and gesturing emphatically as she talks and walks.

In addition to the walking, she used to play Barbies/ Bratz with Bob and it apparently was very therapeutic for her. From what I overheard on occasion, the dolls were pretty vicious and full of attitude with each other and sometimes reenacted scenes of domestic violence. We finally had to prohibit the girls from playing dolls together because it was inappropriate for Bob. I tried to get Kitty to play with me, but she won’t.

Kitty is not diagnosed with schizophrenia or dissociative identity disorder (DID), but DID was mentioned by one of our more experienced therapists. The psychiatrist didn’t seem to think that was likely. She’s never mentioned hearing voices or seeing things that aren’t there to me, but she might not.

Lately she’s been spending even more time outside, and I’m worried. I decided I need to know what she’s saying in her backyard walks, but I can’t hear her from in the house and she stops if I go outside. I bought one of those As Seen On TV Silver Sonic XL sound amplifiers that looks like a cell phone earpiece, but it was a piece of junk and didn’t work at all (took it back to the grocery store and got my $15 back). Money is definitely an issue.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Family values - RRHAFTBALL

We've been talking a lot about our family values. Hubby wants to chunk the rules and just have the values instead. I don't feel that most of our kids can handle something this abstract. Yes, they come up with loopholes or behaviors that the rules don't address, but they still need concrete rules. I agree that we can let the kids know why it is a rule, by giving them the value that it falls under.

When it comes to values instead of rules I added two new letters to RRHAFTBA. Now it is pronounced "raft ball" instead of "raft bah." That's because loving and learning are not really rules.


This is a loving family with strong values. Our family is always Respectful, Responsible, Honest, Fun To Be Around, Loving and Learning (RRHAFTBALL), and in return we enjoy the rights and responsibilities that go with being part of this loving family. We do NOT try to make everything equal for everyone. We respect that each of our children has a different personality, is a different age, and has different wants, needs and abilities. Unlike the FAIR club, being part of our family means we sometimes cut you some slack and sometimes we’re here to help you live up to being more than average or equal.

1. R – Respectful – We are kind, courteous, and helpful in everything we say or do. Think before you act and remember words can leave irreparable scars on your relationships. Leave the world better than you found it.

2. R – Responsible – We meet our rights and responsibilities. We are also responsible for taking care of ourselves, and taking care of the people around us –especially the people that love us to the best of our ability. We love each other and are there to help.

3. H – Honest – Not only does this mean not lying, but includes being honest and true to ourselves. It also means being open and honest about our feelings and needs to those who love and care about us and are trying to help us (like therapists). We do not gossip or tattle. It is not tattling if it is to keep someone safe. We do not discuss/ burden our friends and others with our issues. We tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

4. AFTBA – Attitude/ Fun To Be Around – We try to be fun to be around all the time. This is not easy to do, but all of us are capable of it. If you are not feeling fun to be around, then you need to think about how to fix this (you can ask for help), and/or how to protect others from your bad mood or whatever is making you not fun to be around (this might mean staying away from others while you work this through). Your attitude is contagious.
We think about others. How are they feeling? If they are upset, is it helping if you are talking about your latest accomplishment? We use pleasant, calm voices. This does not mean we don’t get excited or talk about things we are interested in, it just means others have rights too – do they want to hear the “I hate Barney” song, or anything else, sung at the top of your voice while they are stuck sitting next to you in the car? Is it fair to demand they sit in silence or whisper because you are in a bad mood or have a headache?

5. L – Loving - Sharing and caring. We watch out for (actively helping) the emotional and physical well being of all family members including ourselves. This means having give and take in our relationships with each other (not expecting others to do all the work and caring). We work on issues we might have with being loving. Isolating yourself is not usually going to help you with this.

We are Christians and believe we should love our neighbors. This means we ask ourselves what would Jesus do? We act with kindness and charity and help others. We attend church and have Christian values.

We love ourselves. This means we take care of our bodies and our minds. We do not do things that hurt our bodies (like drugs and caffeine). We exercise and eat right. We ask for and accept help. We participate in therapy and take our medications. We try to fill our mind with things that are good for us (positive media and friendships), and avoid things and people that could tempt us down paths that don’t help us and might hurt us.

6. L – Learning- We are always trying to improve ourselves and our lives. We educate ourselves both in school and about being a better person. We want to be productive, helpful citizens of the world. We believe we should be the best person we can possibly be.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Marriage problems

Hubby and I disagree about how to handle Bear and his issues and it is starting to damage our relationship.

The part we agree on:

Bear lies. He steals (mostly food and electronics as far as we know). He's sneaky. He is aggressive and intimidating. He has an addictive brain and his current addiction is sugar (in the past it's been drugs, caffeine, tobacco...). If Bear is not sexually active he definitely wants to be, and is certainly capable of getting girls to participate. The biggest one - if he thinks a rule is unfair or that we are wrong, he sees that alone as justification for breaking it or getting around it.

The part we disagree on:

My side:

Developmentally Bear is somewhere between 6-9 years old. This does not refer to his intelligence, he is not mentally retarded (although he is definitely below average in this area), this refers more to his emotions and his behaviors. Because of the damage to his brain from years of trauma this may never be resolved. He has appeared older developmentally, but when presented with more privileges and freedoms (I'm thinking in particular of last Spring), he couldn't handle it. Whether it was because he couldn't resist temptation, it was inevitable, or he actually did it because he feels safer with more structure and restrictions, I don’t know, but he blew things big time.

I believe that kids should be given only the freedoms they can handle. If my 10 year old can handle a 9pm bedtime and his 14 year old sister needs an earlier one then that’s how it will be. Kitty and Bear need more supervision than Bob and Ponito. It’s not a punishment, mostly it’s a safety issue. Yes it’s hard work, and I don’t want to be a warden, but I think that is what Bear needs. Bear lied, stole, and lied some more this week. After much argument with Hubby I thought we had come to an agreement. That we would put an alarm on Bear’s room door and be more consistent in giving consequences when he breaks the rules.

Hubby’s side:

We have only 2-3 years left with Bear if we are lucky (In TX kids are pretty much adults at 17, so even though Bear won’t graduate high school until just before he turns 19, he could move out much sooner). Hubby feels that if we are over protective, not only will Bear hate us, but he won’t be ready for the real world. Plus, the structure and restrictions we do currently aren’t working. Bear is still getting in trouble and we can’t watch him 24/7, especially at school.

My counterargument:

In the Katharine Leslie seminar that I attended, Katharine pointed out that just because we have x number of years left does not mean we can force the child to be ready by then. Plus, because of his issues he may never be ready – or not until he’s much older. Bear is going to hate us anyway, whether we are easygoing parents (who don’t care) or super strict parents. Hopefully he will look back at our relationship later in life and realize we did what we did because we love him.

I agree that what we are doing isn’t working, but I feel if we back off we’re throwing the baby out with the bath water. I think we don’t have a lot of choices and if we back off, Bear will get worse. I saw our only choice as being to continue to be structured and clarify the rules – make them even more concrete.

Hubby’s counterargument:

Hubby thinks that because Bear is an older teenager he will chafe on these strict rules. He did agree that we needed to be more clear about the rules and adapt a zero tolerance policy. He did not have a really good idea on what consequences should be, but Bear’s therapist suggested we should talk more about the values behind the rules. Hubby apparently interpreted this to mean that we should stop trying to have so many rules to cover all circumstances – since Bear usually came up with something new and took advantages of loop holes. Hubby’s solution to this was to clarify our values, and the behaviors would follow (ex. If our values say you should be responsible, and a child doesn’t do their chores, then they are in trouble for not being responsible, but there will no longer be a family rule saying you must do your chores)

My last (ignored) point: Bear and Kitty do not understand abstract concepts. They cannot handle / understand this.

What happened:

I thought Hubby and I were now mostly on the same page. Last night I held Bear accountable for missing the bus on Friday. It is possible it wasn’t totally his fault he missed it (assuming he didn’t miss it on purpose, which he could not prove), but that wasn’t the point. I had fixed it so that he was escorted to the bus. If he’d been escorted like he was supposed to then he would have had a witness to his attempt to make it (plus, the escort was pulling him out of class a few minutes early so he was getting there sooner). Instead he chose to allow the school to stop the escort without telling me. I’d found out only the day before. Therefore I held him accountable. He argued and started to raise his voice, but Hubby was there in the background so instead he stormed to his room. Hubby followed him and talked to him for over an hour. Hubby said he didn’t need any help.

Next thing I know, Hubby has agreed to take Bear to Basketball team try outs the next morning. Say what?! Bear doesn’t even like basketball. I feel, and I’m sure he feels, that he’s getting off the hook for his behavior over the last couple of weeks. Bear has told us repeatedly that he wants as little to do with family as possible and wants to be at school whenever he can. Here’s a great way for him to get to do that. Hubby and I have talked about him needing to be home more and interacting with us.

I was furious! I was ready to tell Hubby if he felt this way then fine. He could handle everything to do with Bear from now on. He could be the one telling Bear if he could stay after school. He could be the one dealing with the consequences.

While they were at practice I calmed down a little. Bear did not make the team. Crisis averted? Not in my opinion. By letting him tryout we were implying we approved of his behavior. OK, I’m still frustrated and ticked off. Time to see if I swallow my anger before it damages my marriage even further.