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, April 30, 2010

Heigh ho, heigh ho it's off to work I go?


I've not been at work much the last month (OK, to be honest, I go as little as possible now that Hubby no longer works there). The advantage of owning my own company is that no one can fire me for this. The disadvantage is...


wait, I'll think of one...


umm...


oh yea, I'm not the sole owner and co-owner Hubby is upset with me, and apparently the employees are talking to him about it.


Seriously though, why should I go in? I can work from home on the few things I do for the company (creating marketing materials, writing proposals... umm, can't think of anything else). Clients almost always make appointments for meetings, and I only live 15 minutes away so if a client ever "dropped in" (which I think has happened 3 times in 3 years), and for some reason I need to be there, then I could scoot right over.


The only reason I can think of to go is to prop up the ego of the sales guy. He's good (probably), but he needs to reassurance over and over about how well he's doing, it's because of the economy we have no jobs - not him, what the client thought of our presentation... He doesn't communicate well via e-mail and for some reason doesn't just call me either. I can only say so many times, "I think it went really well. I'm sure we'll get the job. I thought you did a good job when you... This is going to be our year. I see amazing things for the company now that the economy seems to be picking up. I'm so glad you're devoted to us. We really want you here." Sales guys are like that, and I get it, but it's still very draining.


Reasons not to go to work:



  • Same reason I never answer the phone at home. I have to deal with people who want money we don't have.

  • Why sit in an office and stare at my computer, when I can lay on my couch and do the same thing?

  • It means I have to stop what I'm doing and get in the car and drive over there. I hate transitions. (I don't even like getting up to pee).

  • I have to look the employees in the face to tell them we don't have money to pay them and it's probably because they're not doing their job fast enough (but also due to circumstances beyond our control).

  • It's even more obvious that I'm not doing anything to help the company (like make sales calls) which makes me feel guilty and upsets Hubby.

Hubby accused me of being "just as bad as Bear and Kitty about avoiding their problems."


Am I?


Why should I put myself out there to get yelled at? It doesn't change anything. If I thought there was a solution I would talk to them, but I can't even tell them when the next payment might be coming because I don't handle the finances.


I admit I avoid confrontation. It's how I grew up.



So am I depressed or have PTSD issues so I'm shutting down? Do I just need to up my meds or see my therapist more?


Is this a normal reaction to the amount of stress I'm under both at work and at home, and it will pass when the stress does? (Will the stress ever pass? It's not like I have a "normal" life, and even when the stress lightens up I somehow find myself looking for more - things are so quiet around here, let's adopt teenagers with major issues! That's not enough, let's put everything we own into and borrow even more from everyone to buy a company! Still not enough, I know! I'll run it myself and try to force myself to do things I hate, like cold calls and dealing with the finances...).


Am I really still under the weather or is that just an excuse? My allergies are still bothering me and I'm coughing my head off, but I'm probably just exhausted because I never sleep instead of really being sick.


Am I in the wrong job? I've always been a manager, but there's always been someone over me who's ultimately responsible. What would happen if I told Hubby I want to quit the company. Would it be less upsetting to everyone if I just said, "This is a part-time job. I will be here 10-15 hours a week. Deal with it." You know, that's not a bad idea. Right now it looks like I'm not living up to expectations. The employees are losing confidence in my abilities. In reality though I'm getting done what needs to be done. I never signed on to do the financial side of things. My job was marketing and HR. Not a lot of HR needed for three employees.


Make that 2 employees, Hubby just told me we have to lay one off. *sigh*


I haven't moved off this couch all day. Today none of the employees even sent me an e-mail asking if I was coming in. I'm going to take a nap now.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Bear tats


When Bear came to us at age 13 he had 3 homemade tattoos on his arms (he claimed there were more elsewhere on his body, but as far as I can tell this was a lie). According to Bear, his biodad was a tattoo artist which may explain the appeal.

The tattoos were crude and fairly small. On the web between his thumb and first finger of his left hand he had his initials. I don't remember where, but he had 3 dots that he said were the symbol for "my crazy life" (this was small and unrecognizeable and we didn't bother having it removed). And on his left forearm he had a series of dots that looked like they could have been a cross, but trailed off in kind of a hook at the bottom. This picture I made (at the top of this post) kind of resembles my memory of what it looked like. During the first couple of months Bear was with us he got hold of some India ink and sewing needles and darkened the tattoos. (The India ink got EVERYwhere in his room and ruined carpet, furniture, bedding...).

At Bear's suggestion removal of the tattoos was discussed in some of the team meetings. I finally found a place that would remove tattoos for free (for kids under 18), I think it was like $25 for adults. Central Texas Tattoo Removal Project - very professional and all volunteers (doctors were too). When Bear was released from residential treatment it was his idea to go forward with the removals. We never pushed it.

Because his tattoos were homemade, their removal was supposed to be easier and more complete (we were told professional tats require a lot more treatment and will probably never look like "normal" skin despite what they show on laser removal sites). Still they won't look like tats anymore either, and maybe if properly cared for they really would go back to looking like normal skin.

All in all, no one would know he had removed tattoos by looking at them. Boys have scars. Bear's are not really noticeable despite the keloiding.


If you're interested in the removal procedure:

A lasar is used to burst the skin cells containing the ink/pigment (these cells are below the top layer of skin). Once released this pigment slowly dissolves/ is absorbed by the skin. This whole process takes many months depending on the size and intensity of color of the tat. Frequently the process has to be repeated over a period of months to ensure all the ink is released (it's easy to miss some cells the first time around). It is apparently a little painful, but probably not more than getting the tattoo in the first place. Bear had two rounds of the laser, and probably needed one more, but the spots were miniscule so he decided not to. I think a similar process might be used for wart removal, but that's an assumption based on a scar my sister has.

The skin is treated as though it has been burned. Antibiotic ointment for the first few days, mineral oil sheets (to keep the skin moist), hydrocortisone cream (to reduce swelling), guaze, and pressure bandages are kept on for weeks. If this does not happen (Bear had the most trouble keeping the bandages on his hand) then the area can become a keloid scar which means it has raised scar tissue where the tattoo used to be (although it's not exact so you won't have a perfect outline of the tat or anything). Exposure to sunlight can also cause the scar to darken. If you've seen someone with a scar from a burn you probably get the idea. I found pictures on the internet, but I figure if you want to see them you can google keloid scars for yourself. I have a nastier one on my leg (from cutting it while working my garage sale and not doing anything about it for hours) than anything Bear has from his.

Bear went about 4-5 times over a period of a year (the last few were just to check healing). The staff were always very nice. There were usually interesting people in the lobby. Once we saw two juveniles covered in gang tattoos wearing orange jumpers with manacles and under guard - with as many tattoos as they had they were most likely looking at a serious time committment. Several very young women with babies. A couple of moms like me with their teenager.

An interesting process. Hopefully one that will make Bear think twice about getting more tattoos when he's older.

Kitty Carpet cr@p

Almost forgot to tell y'all that Ponito's bumps/hives came back the next night. This time not as bad, but now on his thighs and a little on one shoulder. With some experimenting over the next few nights we discovered that it is most likely the fact that he was sitting/ laying on the carpet to put his PJs on. He stopped doing that and his skin has been clear ever since (although he's still a little miserable from the airborne allergens giving him a runny nose, congestion, and headaches - Cedar fever in TX is miserable for everyone. If you don't have allergies when you come here, Texas will give them to you!).


The carpet came with the house and is now 16 years old. Of course we can't afford to replace it in the whole house, although when we added on to the house 4-5 years ago, we changed most of the downstairs to ceramic tile.

3 months after the kids came to live with us, Kitty got hives. Bad ones. Ones that wouldn't go away for weeks and made her totally miserable. Of course we had no idea why. I called her former foster mom and asked about allergies, but she said Kitty didn't have any and had never had hives in the 1 1/2 years she'd been there. We checked the laundry detergent, we tried removing foods (every try telling a child with food and trust issues that she can't have something? She instantly craved it and had to have it). We were pretty sure it wasn't the pets, but we made her start keeping her bedroom door shut so they wouldn't go in there.


We finally realized it was worse when she sat on the carpet in the playroom or her bedroom to play dolls with Bob. We told her to quit playing on the carpet (which she often forgot), and pulled out the carpet in her bedroom, and just painted the plywood because it was too expensive to redo the flooring in her room (at the time we figured we'd have the cash to replace the carpets soon - hah!).
Her room is on the second floor so it was super noisy right above Bob's room so we put down these rubber mats that link together like puzzle pieces (the back side is a dark grey so we use that side up because it makes Kitty feel more grown up).


Now I have to say I love this flooring! It's much easier to clean, doesn't hold odors as much as carpet (important in Kitty's room!), deadens the noise of her falling out of bed in the middle of the night or walking like an elephant to the bathroom), and if she damages a piece we can just switch it out and when we're ready to install carpeting room prep will be a snap. Still, it's not an option for the whole house, so Ponito is just going to have to change clothes without sitting on his carpet!


Speaking of carpet. I found a new product that really works to remove odors! Arm & Hammer Cat Litter Deodorizer with Baking Soda. The master bathroom is carpeted, and although the little "potty room" is not, when the potty overflows (which it does often despite everything I do for Kitty's constipation) it usually seeps right into the carpeted area as well. Needless to say after years of this the carpet in there does not smell great and I was getting ready to just rip it out despite having nothing to replace it with when someone mentioned the Arm & Hammer deodorizer.
They suggested sprinkling it on the carpet and letting it sit for several days before vacuuming. I have to admit it worked! The room no longer smells like body waste! Unfortunately the scented powder contained something I'm allergic to so I was miserable for the whole 3 days. Still... better than having to deal with bare plywood floors!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What it takes

Lulu at the blog, What Now, posted her thoughts about Faith A's blog at Adoption Under One Roof about what it takes to parent a traumatized older child. This got me thinking about my own answer to that question. In addition to agreeing with everything LuLu said on what traits a parent needs, which you can see here, these are a few more of the things I think it takes to raise my traumatized older children. Still not a comprehensive list, and I don't pretend to have all these traits, but like her, it's what I strive for!

Faith - a strong belief that things have happened for a reason, that you are where you are supposed to be, doing what you are supposed to be doing.

Counterintuitive - willingness to fight against your own instincts, sometimes even having to stand up to EVERYone believing that you are absolutely wrong, but you keep going - trying to do what you think is best for your child.

Stubborn determination

Acceptance - of your limitations, your child's limitations, the "system's" limitations... except when you need to fight against them and NOT accept them. (The Serenity Prayer comes in handy here)

Willingness to put your self and your marriage first - above the needs of your child(ren). Taking care of yourself, in spite of that feeling totally impossible because you just don't have the time, the energy, or it feels "selfish" to "neglect" your child to pamper yourself and choose your needs over the needs of your child.

Ability to continue on in the face of the absolute hatred of another human being for you, someone who is pushing you away as hard as they possibly can, who trusts no one. Who may even be abusing you or other members of your family.

Ability to deal/cope with the guilt - from your failure to "fix" it; your inability to protect a child (you didn't even know) from the horrible trauma that they suffered in the past and are continuing to suffer because their perception of the world is so skewed; of not being "enough"; for "inflicting" this child on your family, friends and neighbors; for not being able to always protect this child from family, friends, neighbors, the "system"; of not being able to protect your other children from having to deal with the realities of living with a traumatized sibling...

Monday, April 26, 2010

Animal allergens




Thanks guys!




Ponito's skin was absolute perfection this morning (although there are clumps of baking soda everywhere on his bed now). So I guess I can assume it was something on the new stuffed animals that he was allegic to or maybe a cat chose to sleep on his bed while he was at Grandma's. He's not allergic to the cats, but one of them "escapes" frequently ("You are an INDOOR cat Mr. Snuggles!!") so there might have been something on his fur.


Ponito is not really prone to allergies anymore (he was allergic to glutens as a little guy, but luckily outgrew it), but the Cedar/ pollen in our part of the world is super high right now. There's a saying around here that if you don't have allergies, moving here will give them to you! The airborne allergens could be making him more susceptible to whatever allergens were in his bed.


Obviously I'll wash everything in his bed, but I'm not sure what to do about the new Beanie Baby stuffed animals. He's been convinced by the thrift store owner that they will be worth a fortune someday because they still have their tags on - so I can't wash them. (Good suggestion that it could be bed bugs Purple, but since his skin was blemish free this morning I have to assume it wasn't bug bites).


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Bumps, Benadryl and baking soda


Ponito came in itching like crazy. As I watched the number of itchy bumps multiplying. I poured Benadryl into him and then tried to find the Calomine lotion. All I could find was hydrocortisone cream (we have tons from Bear's tattoo removals). We tried that, but it didn't stop the itching. Gotta love Google (and my favorite neighbor who didn't have any Calomine lotion either who looked it up for me) - it recommended an oatmeal or baking soda bath. I decided to try a baking soda paste and it worked. Stopped the itching and the bumps stopped multiplying too (could have been the Benadryl finally kicking in).
Now all we have to do is figure out what caused the rash. It was an hour after he went to bed that he came in. The rash was only on his face and torso (he slept shirtless, but in long pants). Dinner was leftovers so it couldn't have been that. The only thing I can figure out is he got some beanie babies at the thrift store on Saturday. He slept with them last night at Grandma's (he sleeps at Grandma's most Saturdays), but says he wore a shirt.
We put him to bed in his bottom bunk with no stuffed animals. We'll figure it out in the morning.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Confirmation

The problem with having a family of 6 is that the odds of getting pictures of everyone smiling, with their eyes open, and looking at the camera are like a billion to one. Bob got fussed at for this picture (we didn't even realize that Ponito was hiding his face).

Except for being able to see Ponito's face in this one, I have to say I liked the first one better!
At this point the 3 older kids weren't allowed to talk. Can you imagine? Three teenagers - not being allowed to talk. And they stayed at Grandma's that night so we didn't reap the benefits. They weren't allowed to talk until they walked into the sanctuary for church the next morning.

The brownies and cookies were a big hit at the reception. I ended up making 5 dozen brownies (we ate one dozen covered with "healthy" pecan coconut icing) - so that was 4 dozen brownies. Then I made 17.5 dozen chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies. I think I only "lost" about a dozen to tasting and bribes. All told, 20.5 dozen cookies and brownies made it to church. We only needed 18 dozen so that was good.
The kids seemed to like the Love Letters. Bob really likes hers a lot and has hers taped up in her room with her confirmation sash, a certificate and some other stuff. They got somewhere between 10-15 each. The ones I read were great.

Kitty's Birthday


Kitty turned 15 last week. I threw this cake together at the last minute because I had to rewash/ scrub every dish in the house (3+ hours of dishwashing!!) because the water softener apparently wasn't working and when the dishes didn't come clean in the dishwasher the kids would run it again... and again... and again - until the hard water white stuff was "baked on." *sigh* Plus of course cleaning house.
The cakes were decorated after the girls arrived.


Kitty chose Harry Potter's Hedwig for her cake and I threw in Scabbers from the leftover cake scraps. I made both out of chocolate poundcake (which used up a tiny bit more of the 25lbs of flour I foolishly bought to make the cookies and brownies for confirmation). I used white candy melts to make Hedwig's wing feathers, nose and tail, and Scabbers's ears and tail. I have no idea why Hedwig looks so mad!
I was going to make books for Hedwig to sit on, but that cake didn't cook in time and I didn't have enough icing to make colored book covers (I used all the white on Hedwig) so I just covered the third cake with chocolate - we decided it looked like a coffin. Black candles because that's what Kitty is into.
The cakes were overcooked and parts ended up too hard. Bob tried to eat Scabber's head and it was crunchy, but the kids loved asking for "rat butt."
One of my better looking cakes and I think Kitty did really well at the party! She kept both the girls engaged and involved, and didn't leave them alone once (no playing dolls in the closet this year!). My litle girl is growing up!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Driving rules and contract -edited to add stages


Here's the rules we'll probably implement when/if any of my kids ever get to drive! I added a section that breaks things down into stages with a graduated driving program. Many states require this so you might want to check to see if yours does.


Answers we need before you can use the car:
· Why do you want to drive there?
· Where do you want to go?
· Who are you taking with you?
· What would you do?
· When are you going and when will you return?


Teen Driving Rules for Beginning Drivers

· Never ride or drive with someone who is under 18 AND has not been driving at least a year
· Do not take any passengers until you are at least 18 and have been driving at least a year.
· No driving at night or under poor weather conditions (rain, fog, ice…) until you have been driving at least 6 months.
· No freeways and highway driving until have been driving for at least 6 months.
· No distractions (music, wearing headphones, eating, putting on makeup…)
· Hold learner's permit for 6 months before scheduling a road test.
Record 50 hours of supervised driving practice, 15 of those after dark.

Violation of Rules May Lead to Suspension of Driving


  • I must ask for permission to use the car, and parents must know where I am at all times.

  • I will not text, eat, dial a cell phone, change CD's, or operate any other device while driving;

  • I will pull over the car if I need to do anything other than drive.

  • I will not rush, because accidents are more likely to occur if I am rushing. I will allow myself plenty of time to get where I need to be.

  • I will not smoke, or allow others to smoke, in the vehicle.

  • I am financially responsible for any tickets, fines, or increases in insurance rates because of my driving.

  • I will abide by the curfew established by my parents. I understand that this curfew can be modified, depending on my demonstration of responsible driving.

  • I will not transport any passengers other than family members until the law permits me to do so; passengers will be limited at that time, as well.

  • I will have all passengers in my car, including me, wear a seatbelt.

  • No one else is permitted to drive the family vehicle unless prior, specific permission has been given by the vehicle's legal owner.

  • I will respect road and weather conditions and drive accordingly. If road conditions become dangerous I will call a parent immediately.

  • If I am upset or angry, I will not drive; my parents agree not to ask unnecessary questions about my upset so that I can maintain my privacy.

  • I must protect and care for the car I drive, keeping it clean inside and out. Oil changes and necessary maintenance are my financial responsibility.

  • I will maintain essential emergency equipment (flares, flashlight, jumper cables, and first aid kit) and know how to use them.

  • I will not allow passengers to behave in a way that will distract my driving or damage the vehicle.

  • I will pay attention 100% of the time while I am driving. I will not allow myself to become distracted.


Other Notes About Safe Driving1. Tickets will result in a suspension of my driving privileges for a period of time specified by my parents. Concealing any tickets, warnings or collisions from parents can also result in suspension of driving privileges.
2. My parents have no legal obligation to pay any fines associated with my driving infractions; I am responsible for these fines.
3. Any use or evidence of drugs, alcohol or weapons use by me or my passengers will result in suspension of driving privileges for a specified period of time, determined by my parents.
4. Not be in the car with a driver who is drunk or taking drugs, drowsy, or driving irresponsibly. If I ever find myself in a situation where I cannot find a safe ride home, I will call you. There will be no consequences for this call.
5. Road rage, thrill seeking, stunts, any sort of racing, or any other evidence of unsafe driving can result in suspension of driving privileges for a specified period of time, determined by my parents.
6. I will be respectful at home with all family members. Rudeness or disrespect could cause me to lose my driving privileges for a specified period of time, determined by my parents.
7. I will pay for the gas necessary to drive. If I am asked to run errands for my parents or other family members, I will be reimbursed for the gasoline cost involved in the extra driving.
8. This contract can be made more strict at any time if my parents believe that it becomes necessary to do so based on my behavior. I understand that if I consistently abide by all rules, my parents may choose to make this contract less restrictive.

My driving and this contract will be reviewed and discussed again on (date).
Structured Rules Tell Teens They Will Lose Driving Privileges for Violation of Family Rules
Stage one:
1) with his new driver's license, teen must drive with a licensed adult driver at all times, preferably his or her parent
2) no driving between 10 pm and 5 am or no driving after sunset
3) driver and all passengers must wear safety belts
4) no use of tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs
5) teen must remain ticket-free and crash-free for 6 months before moving up to the next stage
Stage two:
1) teen must drive with a licensed adult driver during nighttime hours, preferably his or her parent
2) teen allowed to drive unsupervised during daytime hours
3) passengers restricted to one nonfamily member during daytime hours
4) no use of tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs
5) driver and all passengers must wear safety belts
6) teen must remain ticket-free and crash-free for 12 months before moving up to the next stage
Stage three:
1) teen must be at least 18 years old or have driven at least 2 years at the previous stage
2) no restrictions on driving as long as the teen driver remains ticket-free and crash-free for 6 months
3) no use of tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs
4) all passengers must wear safety belts These graduated rules are being used by families throughout the country to assure their new teenage driver does not drive dangerously. It is also evidence that, as always, parents remain the first line of defense in protecting their children.

Other posts about kids with trauma issues driving: 

Driving and Kids with Trauma Issues
What we expect before you begin driving

What We Expect Before You Begin Driving


Knowledge and Skills


  • Demonstrate car maintenance skills

  • Demonstrate ability to take care of car, gear and equipment

  • Read, study for and pass the driver’s license tests

  • If you’re under 18, pass Driver’s Ed (and pay for at least ½)

  • Demonstrate knowledge of rules of the road

  • Ability to multi-task (need to be able to: listen to music and friends, know where you’re going, know what everyone in the cars around you are doing, aware of how the car is running, remembering the driving rules…)

  • Hand/eye coordination

  • Demonstrate map skills - Know where you are (are you near home? can you find where you’re going if you’ve been there before?)

  • Confident and comfortable with handling car

Taking Care of Business/ Responsible



  • Take care of school work and be attending school and making good grades

  • Be where you are supposed to be when you are supposed to be there – not missing the bus

  • Demonstrate you are able to keep people aware of your comings and goings

  • Cars need gas – demonstrate ability to pay for it and will remember to fill the car with it

  • Follow rules and do chores without reminders

  • Trusted to be left alone - without adult supervision

  • Trusted to interact with other kids appropriately – even without supervision

  • Show responsibility with electronics (cell phone, MP3 player, computer) – taking care of your things, borrow and return things in good repair

  • Ability to save and handle money

  • Emotional Readiness

  • Able to handle stressful situations appropriately (no Road Rage!)

  • Not running away/dissociating

  • Behave appropriately with people and during activities

  • Self-reporting – being able to admit when you did something wrong and restitution

  • Ability to tell if your judgment or ability to drive is impaired (alcohol, meds, anger, stress…)

  • If judgment or ability to drive is impaired – ability to ask for help, willing to call parent.

  • Good judgment – parents should have no worries about sex, drugs and alcohol

  • Ability to share – need to share car time with others in family, when in traffic you need to take turns

  • Able to handle delayed gratification

  • Empathy – can see other’s viewpoint

  • Cause and effect – understand that if you do something you will have to deal with the consequences of your choices

  • Don’t steal or borrow without asking – can be trusted with money and other things

  • Truthful – tell the truth to others and self – even about difficult things

  • Deal well with authority figures (including parents)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Glamour Shots Gone Wild!

One of my favorite funny bloggers, Kristina, has posted a Blog Carnival. That sounds so fun I can't resist, even though I never actually went to Glamour Shots or the like, but I do have some crazy shots gone wild!

The picture can be a Glamour Shots, Coverlook, Olan Mills, etc. Basically, any picture that makes you look like a member of Whitesnake, or one of Heidi Fleiss' call girls, will work. And don't worry, we don't judge. Ha ha, I am clearly lying. We will be judging. And laughing. A lot.

Photobucket

If you want to participate just click on this picture and enter your info on the Linky thing, and check out the hilarious other shots.

I never did Glamour shots, but I do have one that looks a lot like it, but I have to find it and scan it in. Anyway, here's my Senior pictures. Wish I had the one where we're wrapped in this weird feather scarf looking faux tube top thing.
Here's one of the pictures from the dating service pictures, I think the leather jacket qualifies me for this carnival!

This last one I think qualifies because of the Heidi Fleiss call girls thing. This is my "Crown Royal" dress. I made it from the scraps of a dress I made for a client. There was not enough material for more than 1/4" seams. I wore this to a club right after this picture was taken, and the back seam ripped right open within a few minutes of arrival! Luckily I was friends with the owner and he let me borrow his stapler. I didn't want to make everyone have to leave so my boyfriend had to stand right behind me the whole time just in case! Notice that I'm rockin' the banana clip! Remember those?

Love Letters

Part of the confirmation is that the children receive "love letters" from family and friends. So I've been bugging everyone to get theirs written. Thought I'd share mine with you.


Dear Bear,

We have been through a lot together in the last 4 years. I’ve watched you grow from an angry, lost boy to a kid who is working hard to make good decisions and trying to figure out who you want to be when you “grow up.” I’m not talking about what job you’re going to have, but what kind of person you want to be.

When you were baptized through Team Impact I was SO PROUD of you! I knew you were on the right path and really wanted to stay there. It’s not an easy path to be on, and you’ll fall off many times, but I KNOW you are going to keep getting back up, and you are going to MAKE IT.



I think being a part of a family is going to be the hardest thing you ever do. Being part of this church family is a step in that direction. You now have a lot of families who love and care about you, and you do not have to choose between us. It’s OK to have many families – it makes you very lucky.

In addition to getting to know you, a privilege of being your mom is that I get to help you become the best you that you can be (Kinda like the Marines!). Jesus often gave the people what was best for them, even when it was not what they wanted. I’m doing my best to be like Jesus and give you what you need. I hope that someday you’ll learn to trust that I have your best interests at heart.

I really do love you, and I’ll still be here when you’re ready (whether you’re 16 or 60!).


Love,
Mom
P.S. Congratulations on your confirmation!! Good work!

Kitty's was a pretty easy one to write.


Dear Kitty,

I hope I tell you often enough how proud I am of you! You have worked so hard to open your heart and trust again. You have so many people who love you (especially ME!!!) and you deserve every bit of it. You are an amazing kid!


I remember one time talking to you about God watching out for you (I think you’d had a bad dream). I made you listen to me sing, “GOD is bigger than the Boogeyman.” GOD really is watching out for you. Just like I always am.


I love you so much sweetheart! Just like I had enough room in my heart for a scared little girl, I think now you see that you too have enough room in your heart for an entire church family!

Love,
Mom

P.S. Happy 15th birthday! What a great birthday present to give to yourself!


Surprisingly, Bob's was the hardest.



Dear Bob,

My sweet girl! You have grown so much in the last few years (and I don’t mean in height!). I am so proud of the many great choices you are making. I can see your confidence in yourself blooming as you become a truly beautiful young woman, inside and out.

Your integrity, creativity, and concern for others makes you a joy to be around. You are sooo RRHAFTBA!

God has led me to a lot of choices and I sometimes worry about whether or not they were the right thing to do for you. I can see that God knows what he’s doing and I think it’s helped you become a stronger person - just like it did/does me. I look forward to seeing what God plans to entrust to you for which he thinks you need all of this strength!

I thank God for entrusting you to me. I love you soooo much!

Love,
Mom

Flour and Sugar and Oatmeal... Oh my!


The three oldest kids are getting confirmed (joining the church as an adult member) in the church this weekend. Even Bear has been participating in the classes and activities, although suspicious me always assumes it's just so he can get out of the house and away from us. There is a reception on Saturday for family and friends and the families of the 18 confirmands have been asked to bring snacks. We could sign up to bring cheese, fruit, or brownies/cookies. I decided it was cheaper to make the brownies/cookies than to purchase cheese or fruit plates. So that's what I signed up for... for all 3 of my kids... 6 dozen cookies/brownies... EACH!

So for the last few days I've been making and freezing 18 DOZEN cookies and brownies. Having no idea what all I'd need I bought in bulk. I AM AN IDIOT. I bought a 25lb bag of white flour (we only use whole wheat)... used maybe a pound... at most. Bought 4 lbs of butter - used a little less than 3. Actually that worked out about right. Bought a 10lb bag of sugar (we don't use sugar at our house). Never even opened it because we had some left from something else. I think it's 2lbs of brown sugar which I used a little of. Bought a pound of cocoa we never opened because brownies call for chocolate squares not cocoa. Bought a case of quick oats (we only use old fashioned). Used about 1/2 of one of the two packages.

I now have 16 1/2 dozen cookies (oatmeal raisin and chocolate chip) and 4 dozen brownies in my freezer.

So what do I do with the rest of the ingredients?!

Ponito's school is having a carnival this weekend and they could always use items for the cake walk. Do I spend the next 2 days baking billions more cookies? I'd have to buy more ingredients (eggs and butter mostly) to use up the ones I have.



Plus Kitty's birthday party is this weekend, she claims she invited four friends, and I need to make the Harry Potter cake she wants that looks something like this ----------->
and get the house and kitchen clean. Something is wrong with the dishwasher or the water softener so when the kids wash the dishes they open the dishwasher, decide it isn't clean, and re-run it! Needless to say it still doesn't get clean and neither do all the rest of the dishes that are piling up in the sink (and counters and stove top...).


I might be able to take back the sugar and cocoa since they haven't been opened, but I still have over 20lbs of white flour. YIKES! No one in this house needs to be eating more baked goods - especially those with white flour and real butter and sugar.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Kids say the darndest things!

Yesterday I was sitting in attachment therapy with Kitty and we started talking about her adoption story. I know a lot of people tell their kids this story all the time, but it feels awkward to me since my kids weren't young when they came to live with us and they know their birth stories. Not to say she hasn't heard the story before, but she doesn't know it by heart or anything.



That got me to thinking about all the little family stories that we don't even think about. The "in jokes." The little things that might have made us crazy at the time, but in a lot of ways make us love them anymore.



The Name Game
Kitty's adopted name is actually one of those stories. When my mom and dad were thinking of names for me one of the names Dad suggested was "Kitty" (not really, but use your imagination). My mom really liked the name and it would have been mine, but my mom asked what made my dad think of it. Apparently it was the name of a bar maid he'd met while on TDY (temporary leave) in a different state from where Mom was. I don't know what Mom suspected, but it did not become my name. I liked the name and when Hubby and I were discussing girl names for Bob (yes, in real life she has a girl name!), it was one we considered, but her initials would be unfortunate so we picked a different name. Bob also knew this family story and had taken to naming her dolls "Kitty," so when Kitty decided to choose a new adoptive name she picked "Kitty" (and she liked the unfortunate initials).



Disney Movies

Bob and Ponito of course have many cute little stories. The way Bob pronounced most Disney movies... Joshination Puppies (101 Dalmations), Perkolees (Hercules) and Pokey Nokey Oh (Pinocchio).

"He Bit Himself"

One of my favorites is the "He bit himself" story. Bob was rough on Ponito when he was little. She was 3 and did not want a brother, and he was very easy-going and let her pick on him without retaliation. Bob was going through a biting phase and had even bitten herself and tried to blame it on him. Of course her teeth were much bigger and we told her we didn't believe her and that we knew she'd bitten herself (we didn't discover until year later not to tell her how we knew what she'd done - because she learned from her mistakes and became a better liar!). Anyway, soon after he came up with a bite mark, and she confidently told us she hadn't done it. That he'd bitten himself... The Bite Was On His Cheek!

This beat the time she got caught coloring on the walls, and told us little brother Ponito had done it.  We told her we knew she'd done it, because she'd written her name.  So not too long after when she wrote on the couch with a marker, we told her again, we knew she'd done it because even though it was Ponito's name on the couch he was only 1!  She'd tried to teach little brother how to write his name, but it hadn't worked..



Smokey the Bear... fetus?

Kitty told the therapist and I one of her family stories that didn't actually involve any abuse (at first). Apparently Biomom told Kitty that while she was pregnant with Kitty, that every time she started to smoke, Kitty the fetus, made her throw up. Kitty then told us how she continued to hate Biomom's smoking after Kitty was born too. She talked about a time when she was in second or third grade that she locked Biomom out of the house because she was smoking. The second story obviously triggered some trauma for Kitty and she dissociated from the conversation until we were able to change the direction of the conversation.

No really, it's a Healthy Snack!

We have almost no cute family stories for Bear. So Monday I really appreciated it when he finally created a new one! On his way out the door to the bus, I noticed that Bear was holding what looked to be a peanut butter jar (taking the whole jar to school for a snack is of course not acceptable). Then it clicked. For Kitty's family party she'd requested German Chocolate Cake with Coconut Pecan icing... YUM! The'd had about a cup and a half of icing left over so I'd decided to bring it home and ice some brownies with it for dessert on Kitty's actual birthday on Tuesday. The jar of icing was what Bear was carrying out the door. I told him no way could he take icing to school for a snack. He said it was pecans and stuff so it was healthy! Say what?!! I said it is ICING, that means it is sugar and butter with a little bit of nuts thrown in. He started to argue with me, but I cut him off and told him to put it back. My friend witnessed the whole thing and she totally backed me up on the icing vs nutritious nutty snack thing. Don't know if that's why he didn't argue to much. He grabbed an old jar of stale soybeans?! and stormed out. We politely waited until his bus pulled away from the curb to laugh our heads off!

Got any cute "family stories" about your adopted kids?

Katharine Leslie seminar - Coaching

Our job is to teach our children a whole new game plan with a completely different set of rules so that they can be successful members of our team and society. This is more info from Katharine Leslie's great book Coming to Grips with Attachment, which has much more details and even practice exercises.

1. Apply verbal explanations to bad/wrong behaviors aka "connecting the dots." Using as few words as possible, explain why the child is behaving that way and how the child feels (your guess is pretty accurate and better than the child's). You can ask the child to repeat your words to see if you got it right.
  • "You hit that child. You are scared of him."
  • "You are changing the subject. You are afraid of talking about this."
  • "You are out of your chair. You forgot to look around to see that others are not."
  • "You are bossing/ parenting. You want to control what's happening."
  • "You hugged that stranger. Hugging her is less scary for you than hugging me."

2. Coach or cue positive behaviors that you would like the child to perform.

Say to the child, "This is when you...

  • work hard because you want me to be proud of you."
  • bring me a book because you love me to read to you."
  • go tell that child you are sorry because you hurt him and you feel bad."
  • greet me at the door because you are hurt and need me to help you feel better."
  • move close to me because a stranger has just come in the room and that makes you nervous."

3. Coach or cue positive/truthful verbal interactions. If you ask the child the following statements she will likely deny the feelings and be defensive, but when they say the words it triggers a different part of the brain and they are less likely to feel defensive. When not in defense mode they can actually assess the words and the lesson behind the words might be internalized.

"This is when you say to me... (finish with the word "go" or "repeat.")

  • I feel embarrassed when I do something wrong. Go."
  • I am really worried about something."
  • I feel really angry when you tell me what to do."
  • I don't want to do my school work. School makes me feel dumb."
  • I like when we do arts and crafts. Thank you."
  • Thank you for helping me." "I needed it."
  • I don't want to do my chores. I want to play."

If your child does not respond to the cues the...

  • parent does not respond
  • parent says to the child, "You can try again later."
  • Parent is minimally responsive to the child until the child takes action either with words or behavior.

Notes:

Never ask your child why. That makes them defensive.

Coaching -

  • Lowers the caregiver's expectations of love and reciprocity and prevents the child from pretending a parent-child relationship which he knows nothing of.
  • Allows caregivers to focus less on diminishing or changing highly resistant negative "stop" behaviors and focus more on teaching positive "start" behaviors (much more pleasant!)
  • Allows caregiver to distance themselves from their emotional reactions to the child's behavior.

Katharine Leslie seminar - Reciprocity

I've put off doing this post (or any post) because this was the hardest part for me. The part where I needed to reread the Coming To Grips with Attachment book because I'm still not getting it. I feel like I understand why Bear acts the way he does, and I think I'm better about forgiving him and being less angry with him... but I'm still working on changing things. Of course as always, I'm summarizing here. If you really want to know how to do this stuff, I can't recommend the Coming to Grips book high enough!



Here's what K.L. suggests you do to keep your level of resentment and anger low (and energy and kindness high).



1. Put yourself and your partner first!



  • Ask, "Is this good for me? What's in it for me?"

  • Are you including this child in a family activity out of guilt, pity, or because you would enjoy his company? - If it's the former two get a sitter.

  • Take breaks. It's OK to tell the child you don't have the energy to help them right now and you'll let them know when you're ready to come back (can be a day or weeks - as long as you're recharging). No emotional responsiveness allowed until you're ready to come back - this is what K.L. recommended for me.

  • Tag team with your mate. Neither of you has to be supervising and discipling all the time. I don't know how single parents do it!

  • Date night is an absolute must! No talking about the kids! It's the latter that's hard for Hubby and I.

2. Be responsible for your own needs and insecurities.



  • Your kids are not going to love or trust someone who is less in control than they are.

  • Know the difference between youtrait behavior vs your behaviors that are a consequence of the relationship. Easist way to tell? Ask yourself do you (or anyone else) act like this all the time with everyone or only in this relationship?

3. Stop beating yourself up! The "second arrow" effect. The first arrow is your "bad" behavior. The second arrow is how you punish yourself for launching the first arrow. You need to accept how you feel; and change how you behave.


4. If you are feeling awful and/or acting punitive (THIS IS ME!), you must shift roles (for me out of parent/warden role into coaching role).



  • You can give yourself permission to spend less time in the "parent" role. This is hard because parent role is a huge part of your life! You can think positive thoughts and reframe your thinking all you want, but you are stuck. Maybe you can think of yourself as "neighbor mom" to that weird neighbor kid who is always at your house - like Eddie Haskel from "Leave it to Beaver." Think group home leader or coach.

5. You don't have to love this child and they don't have to love you! Some of our kids just can't handle the love and intimacy of a family. An authentic parent-child relationship must begin without the expectation that we must love now.


6. Do not sacrifice your physical and emotional health! This is huge and takes practice, practice, practise and scheduling. Do not take on the problems of others either (this includes negative friends who drain you!).



++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


To get reciprocity from your child you MUST TEACH him what you need and how to satisfy you. He doesn't know how and cannot read your mind or learn by example.


For me this was the most confusing part of Nancy Thomas and the like, who said you must be the Queen Bee and demanded everyone rub your hands or brush your hair or something. Now I get it!


To feel filled up and comfortable, your child needs you to satisfy this need, but he can't be fixed from the outside.

So the question is what do YOU need? My responses were, "I need him to stop lying." "I want him to turn in his writing assignment." The former is a Stop Behavior and we're not ready to make those changes yet. The latter does not really answer the question of how is doing his writing assignment, or chores, or whatever, really benefit me and the relationship.

Hugs was the example in the book. Bear does hug me, but always on his terms. When I demanded hugs on my terms he fought back and even got his therapist involved ("Mom hugs me too much. I'm not used to hugs, and it makes me uncomfortable." He got the therapist to make this my issue, and I backed off.) Instead we have to figure out what we need. Maybe a good night hug? Katharine says Mom's arms are ALWAYS on top and only mom's are allowed to pat. She very specifically teaches the child exactly where the hands go and how tightly she likes to be held.

Ironically tonight the next example was "reenacted" by Kitty tonight! Today is her 15th birthday and coincidentally we had therapy too. Our attachment therapist has never approached Kitty for affection (that's for Moms!), but after 3 years of therapy with Kitty and I, Kitty is no longer RAD. Tonight after a walk down memory lane with Kitty, at the end of the session, the therapist asked Kitty if it was OK if she hugged her. Kitty said OK. And the therapist hugged Kitty. Kitty just stood there for a second, then she hugged back. Kitty has learned how to give good hugs! Before it was like hugging a plastic doll (tense/stiff and cold). Now she molds in and gently squeezes back.

  • Another example of a child who is "getting it" was K.L. overheard some of her children trying to figure out how to get her to take them somewhere. One child says, "Let's tell mom we'll weed the garden for her then maybe she'll take us." She taught them well!
  • A parent comments about the rain, "Wow it's really pouring out there." He says, "Not as much as yesterday." Rather than scold him for being contrary, she says, "Honey, this is where you say to me, 'You are right Mom, it is really coming down." He repeats after Mom and she goes on to talk about how great this will be for her garden.
  • A child gets upset when you ask about an assignment and yells, "F___ you!" Obviously this could mean grounding or some other punishment - which really punishes you as well. Instead you say, "Would you like a 'do-over?' Your response did not match the situation so I know something else is going on with you. This is where you say to me, 'Mom, I am so ticked off right now."

This would have been a great thing for us to have done Saturday night.

Bear made the mistake of "growling" a response to Grandma in front of Hubby (Bear is usually on his best behavior in front of Hubby). Hubby confronted him on it, at which point Bear instantly dropped into defensive, Fight, Flight or Freeze mode and denied that he'd done it. Hubby then argued with him. Bear then said Grandma started it by yelling at Bear (perception!). Hubby called him on that too. Bear got upset with Hubby for "yelling" at him. At this point Hubby said, what we always say or want to say, "I'm not yelling. You want to hear me yelling? I can yell at you!" It denigrated to Bear saying he didn't want to be part of the family and he was leaving as soon as he could, and Hubby basically threatening, "you're not acting like part of the family anyway."

There were raised voices and all the kids were upset by the hour long fighting/argument. Of course this happened in Grandma's living room where Bear and Ponito sleep on Saturday nights - so BOTH kids were an hour late to bed. Bear did calm down so he stayed.

I wasn't part of this so I can more easily see what "should" be done. *grin*

I think this probably could have all stopped by Hubby saying, "Hey bud, would you like to try that again? Your response did not match the situation so I know something else is going on with you. This is where you say, "Grandma, I didn't understand what you're talking about and I'm really tired right now." If Bear chooses not to "try again" and continues to argue defensively, then maybe Hubby could have said something like, "I can see you're not able to talk about this right now. That's OK. We can talk about it later." And walk away.

Which leads us to the next points:

  • Do not over explain or lecture. K.L. says, "Stop talking. Take action!"
  • Do teach appropriate family behavior and skils. Do not expect that doing so will guarantee that they will ever love you or that their past wounds will heal, or that their brains will function normally.

K.L.'s example, her son came in while she was working and began babbling. Not to get her attention, just doing what came naturally. K.L. finally stopped him and said, "Son, another child would have thought to himself, gee my mom is really busy I won't bother her with silly stuff. I'm going to help out and vacuum the living room without being asked and without wanting something in exchange. I am going to do it just because it would make my mom happy." He said to her, "Well I didn't know that's what you would want." And he probably didn't/couldn't. She is teaching him step by step.

Monday, April 12, 2010

In a Word

Hair –greyish
Your Mother - amazing!
Your Father –Grandad
Fav Food –chocolate
Dream Last Night –anxiety
Fav Drink – daiquiri
What room are you in? –family
Hobby –blogging
Fear - hurt
Where were you last night? – home
Something that you aren’t –perfect
Muffins –fattening
Wish List Item –lottery
Where you grew up –military
What you are wearing –dressy
Your Pet –multiples
Friends –supportive
Something you’re not wearing – shoes
Fav Store – Nifty Thrift
Fav Color – green
Last time you laughed – ?
Your Best Friend – several?
Best Place you go over and over – bathtub
Person who you email regularly – school
Fav Place to Eat – Grandma's

Now I tag…

All of you who read this!
Post a comment with your blog link! (or for my friends without blogs you can e-mail me!)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Bear's wife?




Bear looks older than he really is. Especially like he was yesterday when I took him in to get his blood drawn. He was wearing a t-shirt that shows his mature physique and he was very scruffy beard-wise. When he mentioned he was going to be late to school you should have seen the nurse's double take. She asked him how old he was, and was shocked when he said 16.



Then she turned to me and said, "I guess that makes you his mom. I thought you were his wife!" SAY WHAT?!!



I've been told I look like his sister, but NEVER his wife?!! Especially now that I've let my hair go grey.



Does that mean he looks really old, or I look really young?

I have been getting comments on how much weight I've lost, but I haven't lost that much weight. So I'm going to give you Mary's Three Cs... that you didn't ask for.



  1. Cheeks - To make my face look less round and jowly I brush on a darker powder in the hollows under my cheek bones all the way down to my chin to deemphasize them and create the illusion that they are in shadow. Then blush on the cheekbones as usual. Seems to be helping. ( I always think of Steve Martin getting advice from the store clerk about deemphasizing his nose with makeup in Roxanne).

  2. Clothes - I wear clothes with an empire waistline that emphasizes my ribs which are the smallest part of my body (just under the bust) and then flare over the tummy and lower body. When I gain weight I always gain in the bust so I feel like I'm staying more proportionate anyway.

  3. Caerobics - whenever I'm in the car alone I do stomach and lower body "flexing" to tighten my muscles and improve my posture. I've an hourglass figure, but I found my belly was rounding out all the way up to the bra line. Now that I've started the flexing I see a substantial difference there (nowhere lower unfortunately). Basically I push out my belly and then suck it in and hold it - 100 times- tightening my stomach muscles from the top of my pubic bone to the the bra line. Then 100 times of clenching my booty, thighs and lower abs, and squeezing my knees together (ala Suzanne Somers' thigh master). Kegel exercises work so I figure this can't hurt right?! I did say that I do this only when I'm alone in the car!
Will be blogging about Katharine Leslie's coaching/ teaching reciprocity next.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Katharine Leslie seminar* - discipline vs punishment?


OK, I've heard of Discipline vs Punishment.



Discipline is direct training or learning experience designed to develop self-control, self-esteem, moral character, responsible behavior.... It can be positive or negative, but almost always entails acceptance or submission to authority and control.



Punishment happens after the misbehavior. It can be mild (inducing discomfort, shame or guilt)to severe (physical or emotional pain and suffering). Most parents use removal of privileges or objects, time out or spanking as a form of punishment.



All my training classes said punishment is bad. Discipline is good.



Discipline Problems vs Behavior Problems

Discipline problems (noncompliance, misbehavior) occur when the caregivers have not structured the child's environment for success, or when parents are inconsistent (expectations or consequences), non-responsive, or inaccessible. When adults adjust their behaviors and attitudes, often children with discipline problems can be brought under control in as few as 3 to 7 days. This is the premise behind the show World's Strictest Parents.

Behavior problems on the other hand lie within the child. These are persistent behaviors that do not disappear even with the best parenting (although good parenting can help to control the behaviors). These can include impulsivity, inattentiveness, and other behaviors like ADHD, FAD and immature behaviors associated with missing capacities in object relations.



YOU CANNOT EXPECT PUNISHMENT OR DISCIPLINE TO "FIX" BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS!



Having behavior problems is like being born with poor eyesight. No amount of punishing or controlling is going to fix this problem. Glasses will help. However the parent will be responsible for taking the child for regular eye check-ups, teaching him how to care for his glasses, and restricting activities where glasses might break. The goal is that by the time the child is 18, he will be ready and able to take full responsibility for the care of his own eyes and glasses.



So how do you know if your child has a discipline problem or a behavior problem? The best way is to change the home environment. If the behavior stops or improves it is most likely a discipline problem. It it remains unchanged but more in control, and the parent is acting consistently, it is likely a behavior problem.



Punishment vs Consequences



Punishment usually inflicts pain and suffering in hopes of stemming a bad behavior, but consequences do not have to hurt to teach. Lately my FAIR Club assignments for Bear have leaned more toward punishments (reading and writing bible verses and studies about integrity when I know he hates reading and writing, doesn't "get" the concepts, and doesn't really learn that way).



Typical differences between punishment and consequences:



Punishment<-------------------->Consequences


  • emotional<-------------------->non emotional/matter of fact

  • physically painful<-------------------->not physically painful

  • humiliating<-------------------->not humiliating

  • arbitrary<-------------------->planned

  • sometimes illogical<-------------------->logical/natural

  • removal of object privilege<-------------------->adding of task/ responsibility

Both can restrict a child, but the logic is different. For example, after exhibiting poor behavior in a supermarket:

- PUNISHMENT - a parent may restrict a child by sending him to his room.

- CONSEQUENCE - if a child is unmanageable in public places a parent may choose not to take a child to these places until he can demonstrate some restraint.

So the consequence is being used as a preventative measure (like discipline).

Parents need to be "listening" to what the child's behavior is telling them (usually an underlying unmet need) rather than expecting children to perform at things they may not be ready for and then punishing them for bad behaviors.

Obviously Bear has behavior problems instead of discipline problems, and I'm happy to say that we've mostly been doing things right in regards to prevention versus punishment. It's good to have the words though, because I've been feeling more and more like a stubborn, vindictive witch instead of a parent who is lovingly avoiding setting my child up for failure. I need to adjust my mind set too so I can confidently defend my parenting choices for my children.

If my child were 16 months and I did not put a gate on the stairs or outlet covers on all the outlets everyone would agree that I am a bad mama. Child-proofing the house would not be seen as punishment at all in fact prevention is perceived as much better than having to practically sit on your kid and constantly be telling them no, No, NO! If I chose to leave the outlet covers in place, just in case, for many years (yes, we still have outlet covers on all our outlets)... no one would think anything of it because when the child is old enough to be able to handle access to the outlets the covers wouldn't stop him anyway.



If I took my 7 year old niece to the mall and dropped her off, I would be a bad mama. If I dropped my 13 year old off in front of the airport with no ticket (this happened to me at least 3 times), I would be a bad mama. If I dropped my 13 year old at the airport with my credit card (which the airline ticket lady refused to take), would I be a bad mama? What if I got my child her own check book? What if she were 17? What if she were mentally disabled?



What if I don't give my 14 yr old a cell phone? What if I ground him for skipping school? What if I let the well-adjusted appropriately-behaving biochild see a PG-13 movie that's too scary to the adopted one. Or to spend the night at a friends when I won't let the adopted child do the same? What if I don't let him go anywhere without adult supervision... at age 17... am I a bad mama?



FAIRNESS IS EVERYBODY GETTING WHAT THEY NEED. FAIRNESS IS NOT EQUAL.



Soon after the kids first got here we had a birthday party for Kitty. Like we'd always done for our biokids we invited family, friends, neighbors, any of her friends from school (you're supposed to give invitations to the whole class or not at all - we chose the whole class). We ended up with about 20+ kids, half of whom spent the night. Within minutes of everyone's arrival, Kitty was complaining that she didn't want everyone to play with her new game (Dance, Dance Revolution), which she'd tried and hadn't been very good at. Not long after that I discovered she had disappeared. I finally located her in her closet (it's a walk-in!) playing dolls with the youngest girl at the party (one of the girls from her special ed class).



The next year I got smart and blamed finances (not a lie) and told all the kids they could only have 4 friends over, or 2 spending the night (except Ponito who was devastated and everyone agreed he was young and deserved to have more friends over). Kitty did much better with the small group. Bob is an introvert and was fine with it. Bear's first birthday with us he'd been in residential treatment for 3 days, we'd known this was happening so had had a very small family party the weekend before. His next birthday was the day after his adoption and he just had family and a Kleenex girl there because he waited until the last second to invite anyone (I deliberately let that happen). For her next birthday, Kitty had just been released from her second psych hospitalization in a year - so we did just family - and she had to be OK with that.



This year (on Tuesday) Kitty is turning 15. She's doing very well and is pretty emotionally stable. Rather than allowing her to invite everyone she wants and go to some loud noisy place (not that we can afford that anyway), I will continue to use the finance excuse and keep her party fairly small. This is more a preventative measure than anything else. I think she can handle more than she did in the past, and she's not in the FAIR Club, but her world will probably always need to stay small. Honestly the fact that she doesn't protest much makes me think I'm making the right choice.




Paradigm shift:
Old paradigm:
  • Behavior is learned from parents
  • Children are too young to be diagnosed with mental illnesses
  • Parents need to learn to be non-toxic and less permissive
  • Child is seeking attention and is manipulatie
  • "Acting out" is respone to inner conflict from erly childhood
  • The child is ale to act appropriately but won't
  • Parents are not asked for input, provider to fix child
New paradigm:
* Behavior results from:
  • sensory overload
  • distorted perceptions and mood
  • inflexibility, anxiety, low tolerance for frustration
  • tic, "limbic storms," low impulse control,
  • low executive functioning, poor short-term memory,
  • difficulty with handwriting, cooordination.
* Child has good and bad days
* Focus on managing the illness
* Parents need extraordinary skills and support

Five Point Sar on Creating Mutual Well-Being
  1. Maintain an accurate frame of mind
  2. Build a Relationship
  3. Give useful consequences
  4. Contain/ prevent negative behaviors
  5. Coach positie behaviors








How can a traumatized child be expected to engage in reciprocal behaviors (giving) unless first their wounds are healed, they have self love and are willing and able to attach?


  • She won't reciprocate because she is wounded.

  • She can't reciprocate, because she doesn't know how and has not practiced giving behaviors.

Healing wounds and acting reciprocally are not achieved linearly or sequentially, rather they are achieved at the same time, and one advances the other.




* By the way, a LOT of this stuff is copied directly from Katharine Leslie's power points or books. I realize I haven't been saying this all along, but all of the brilliant stuff is hers and I'm sure all of the mistakes are purely my own.

Parent/ Teacher Conference - NO results



As you know, Bear is rapidly going downhill (grades of As and Bs now are Ds and Fs, he's depressed and telling everyone he is "over everything" and "giving up", he's told me he wants someone to hit him so he can "beat the hell out of him," he wants to go to the off campus suspension program, his attendance has never been great - but now he's skipping classes and tardy to at least one class every day...). Quite frankly not much has changed at home, but school is finally having to pay attention because this effects them.



I have a pretty good idea why the change.



First, we finally told him that his life plan of being in the military or the police is not an option due to his mental health and medication issues. Of course we've known this for years, but were trying to get him to consider other options before we told him for exactly this reason - no motivation means no work. He didn't see a need to consider other options when he had a plan and a back up plan, so we finally had to tell him.


Second, no matter how many times I tell him otherwise, he still doesn’t believe me that he can’t move out at 17 so he’s pushing us away in mental preparation for it (he turns 17 this Summer).



Third, he’s now completely lost the support of the small, structured school for emotionally disturbed students (transition was complete in January).



Fourth, the public high school is (finally) much more aware of his actions and behaviors and is really clamping down on him. He is no longer getting away with wandering the halls freely, picking on other students, or many of the little manipulations that he did before, and he has nowhere to blow off steam because he has deliberately alienated himself from all the staff in retaliation for them clamping down on him (vicious cycle!).

Yesterday was the big parent/teacher conference to try to figure out how to deal with this. Instead it ended up being Hubby and I explaining to the staff, why Bear acts the way he does and some ways to handle him. Good information, but should have been covered at the beginning of the school year... Not Now!!



In other words we didn’t address any of my concerns or how to handle them. So Bear will limp through the end of the school year, and since he did so well last semester he’ll still pass all his classes and get promoted to 11th grade. Nothing will happen until next year… after they wait to see if things magically improved over the Summer.



He probably won’t be able to attend Summer School because they don’t offer Special Ed most of the time. The last two years he’s managed to get himself kicked out or didn’t do anything anyway. I’m so frustrated I could scream!
What a way for poor Hubby to spend his 45th birthday. Frustrating Meeting. Then back to his Boring Job (he had a small project, briefly, but now he's back to reading manuals). Major Money Worries (we partially lost a lawsuit in which a former client wanted their money back because she was insane; we have no big clients so no way to pay payroll; back taxes; and we had to refinance the house because we haven't paid either mortgage in forever and they were threatening foreclosure). No Wife (although I did come to bed before midnight for once... and fell asleep while he played video games because for some strange reason he has Insomnia)...
On the bright side, it's better than last year! Last year on his birthday he had to take Kitty to the psych hospital (6 hours of intake waiting with her).
Plus, this year I made him a homemade chocolate birthday cake and gave him a box of Whoppers for his present (kids of course gave him nothing). I cooked him baked "fried" catfish (I rarely make fish because he's one of the few that likes it) and homemade corn bread muffins we didn't eat until 8pm, but it was pretty tasty.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Parent/ Teacher Conference results

Katharine Leslie seminar - positive behaviors


We tend to focus on "fixing" our child's negative behaviors, and not focus on their positive behaviors. The truth is that these are not opposites of each other, but unique independent sets of behaviors and every child is on a continuum of both.

This is why a child can exhibit all the negative behaviors (lying, stealing, destructive...) and we still love, value and care for them because they also give us a lot of positive/attachment behaviors, like warm eye contact, compliments, doing chores for us "just because," pleasant demeanor...

Positive Contributions

Low <-------------------------------------------> High



Negative Contributions

Low <-------------------------------------------> High

The quantity and frequency of positive behaviors better predicts relationship quality than the quantity and frequency of negative behaviors!

NOTE: Reducing negative behaviors does not automatically result in increased positive behaviors!!

I don't have to explain more about the negative behaviors , do I?!


Here's a list of some of the positie behaviors Katharine Leslie is referring to:


  • Shares Parents' Values
  • Elicits Positive Attention From Parents
  • Asks for Parental Help and Comfort
  • Is Caring and Thoughtful of Parent
  • Demonstrates Trust in Parent
  • Is Fun To Be Around
  • Expresses Love and Affection with the Parent

  • In Katharine Leslie's Behavior Typologies there are 4 types of children.

    1. Invisable Child - this child has low positive behaviors and low negative behaviors. Bob sometimes falls here, but not always. I think the term invisable says it all. These are the kids who sometimes fall through the cracks while you're dealing with the others!
    2. Incredible Child - this child has high positive behaviors and low negative behaviors. This is usually my Ponito. These are the kids that make you want to get up in the morning... and most likely this is not a common type for kids of trauma.
    3. Insufferable Child - this child has low positive behaviors and high negative behaviors. As you can probably guess, this is where I would put Bear. I'll talk next about why Hubby doesn't agree with me.
    4. Eclectic Child - this child has high positive behaviors and high negative behaviors. This is where Bob sits when she's not being invisable, but mostly this describes Kitty... for me. Although Hubby would put her as an Insufferable Child. These children give us all the behaviors that make us crazy, but also show strong attachment behaviors. I put Kitty here because while she whines and has meltdowns, she also comes to me for help, wants to spend time with me... in other words, she meets most of my needs. Bob was here during the "terrible twos" (that lasted almost 3 years!). She made me crazy, but I still loved her.
    Why Hubby and I disagree on whether or not Kitty and Bob are Insufferable or Eclectic.
    I'm not totally sure why Hubby and I disagree, but my theory is that it is because the children present themselves differently to each of us and we have different needs to be met (I tend to want more nurturing attaching behaviors; Hubby tends to want compliance (being responsible), honesty and a respectful attitude. In other words he wants RRH-and I want AFTBA. Of course another issue is that the kids are better able to meet our needs based on our gender (Bear has issues with women and Kitty has issues with men).
    Both of us agree that Kitty has high negative behaviors, but after over 2 years of attachment therapy, I feel that Kitty is finally attaching... to me. She has major issues with men so has kept Hubby at arm's length for years. Any attachment behaviors she does try to show to Hubby he perceives as manipulative... and maybe they are. I feel nurturing and attached to her so am more willing to overlook her negative behaviors.
    For Bear it's a little different. As the primary caregiver and most knowledgable about attachment issues, I perceive Bear's attempts at positive behavior as manipulative and fake. Some of this is my issues (I felt rejected by him in the beginning when I was giving him my best attachement behaviors and I probably suffer some PTSD from dealing with intimidation and control issues towards me, and of course the downright scary episodes).
    A lot of the cause of our disagreements is the fact that Hubby flat out does not see Bear's more negative behaviors because Bear hides them from him and none of it is directed at Hubby. From Hubby's point of view the more aggressive behaviors have gone, and Bear is generally compliant and respectful toward Hubby. Plus, Hubby is not around to catch Bear in the lies as often as I am.

    Hubby and I were talking about this while getting ready for Bear's parent/ teacher conference this morning. I'm guessing Hubby feels that I am acting vindictive and intolerant toward Bear... and I can admit that I am to some extent, but I also feel that we are doing Bear a great disservice if we allow him to manipulate and triangulate us. My approach to discipline is to structure and narrow Bear's world to a size he is more capable of managing. Hubby's approach is that Bear is about to be let loose in the "real world" so we should let him start dealing with real world consequences.
    I'm going to put my Swimming in the Ocean analogy in my next post.

    Tuesday, April 6, 2010

    Bear's parent/teacher conference tomorrow!

    This is the document I readied for myself of things I want to address at the P/T conference tomorrow. I also have a detailed record of all of his tardies, what class they are in, and referrals and detentions. The actual document also includes suggested study skills from the FIE to find out if they are being implemented.

    Topics for discussion:

    --- Attendance - Bear is tardy or absent to at least one class at least 3 days a week or more, and has walked out. He has been known to wander halls, but this appears to have diminished with teacher awareness.
    --- Referrals – mostly for being tardy or skipping class. But recently got one for teasing a boy for whom English is a second language and calling him "retard."
    --- Grades - Bear has decided that academics don't matter and is now failing several of his classes (even though allowed to turn in work late). He has mentioned that it doesn’t matter if he turns work in because he’ll still pass.
    ---Missing Work - Bear has repeatedly lied about turning in school projects and documents (he claimed he turned in this English SSR project and teacher lost it, he claims he did it again and set it down somewhere, he claims he couldn’t do it because his computer broke, he lost his jumpdrive….


    “I did make Bear work on his SSR project during Study Skills. He wasn't thrilled about it at first bc he said he didn't have the supplies. I told him forget about it not being on poster board, I showed him how to do the word splash and had another student work with him, I think she did most of the project but, it's done. I felt it was important that he turn something in, I will have to double check but I do think he is passing now or close to it. He can also pass study skills if he turns in his pink rubric to me Monday morning. {He did not turn this in}

    --- Behavior, particularly behavior changes since Christmas Break, possible reasons for, and where to go from here:


    • Bear was finally told by Hubby that he wouldn’t be able to go in the marines or join the police force because of his mental illness and meds. We told him because he wasn’t motivated to see the need for another back up plan. His new “plan” is to become a bull riding cowboy and then go work on his great uncle’s (by marriage) farm – which of course doesn’t require a high school diploma.

    • Possible taking or selling drugs and hanging out with kids who do.

    • After being caught in the halls frequently, issues with excessive tardies, leaving class frequently and skipping class, BEHAVIOR PROGRAM has begun keeping better track of his attendance, including escorting him whenever he requests to leave the classroom.

    • Bear feels persecuted by BEHAVIOR PROGRAM and has accused the staff of spying on him. Is no longer easy for him to wander and go to counselors.

    • Bear told Ms. S he didn’t feel safe going to resource room. Appears to be caused by a general feeling of being unsafe.

    • Is no longer attending SPECIAL SCHOOL so has lost that structure and support.

    • Thinks/thought that he could move out at age 17 and appears to be pushing everyone away in emotional preparation for this.

    • Bear has discovered the school will not let him fail. He can wait weeks to turn in something he threw together and he still passes.

    • Monthly psychiatrist visit -refused to talk about anything but some of his sleeping issues because he doesn’t want his meds to change. He says he feels like a guinea pig. I try to explain that no one’s chemistry is the same and it changes with time, but to no avail.

    • Bear is feeling aggressive has stated he wants someone to hit him so he can beat them up. Has stated he wants to go to the OFF CAMPUS SUSPENSION.

    • Bear feels that because he is not allowed to do PT team (not being where he was supposed to be, trust issues and poor grades) he is not getting enough exercise so that is why he’s depressed.
    --- Mr. P (BEHAVIOR PROGRAM staff)- Bear is now attempting to pursue criminal sexual harassment charges against Mr. P for recently following Bear into the restroom where he stood behind Bear while Bear was at the urinal. Bear mentioned he also fears Mr. P because he carries a knife. Bear claims to have discussed this with the SRO (School Resource Officer) and, I think, The Assistant Principal, and plans to speak to Dr. C (school district superintendent)?)
    --- Bear's Future - Bear discovering that he would not be able to join the military after graduation appears to have he greatly diminished his motivation and direction.
    --- Study skills class – what is he accomplishing? Can we add tutors for other classes he’s failing?


    MAIN CONCERN: Bear appears to be deteriorating quickly, but because he was doing so well last semester (As and Bs) I fear that nothing will be done this school year because it all "averages out."

    Ms. S, “He did mention he was "over everything" and "didn't care anymore." He also told me he wanted to go to the OFF CAMPUS SUSPENSION and that he has no one to go to at school, no teachers he can talk to. I just thought I'd mention that to you. “

    Other points of concern:

    • Unmedicated ADD (due to inability to take any meds without serious side-effects),
    • Inability to increase any meds despite Bear’s apparent increase in instability and other mood issues, and increase in aggressive thoughts and behaviors.
    • Bear‘s obvious depression and “giving up,”
    • Adaptive behavior skills seem overwhelmed by the reduction in structure. As stated in his FIE, he has great difficulty adapting and working quickly and efficiently when under pressure
    • As subjects increase in difficulty and complexity, Bear’s abilities and confidence decrease.
    • Bear’s vocabulary and ability to understand concepts is often much less than he is willing to let on.

    Criteria for Emotional Disturbance: (The part I plan to emphasize to try to get him back in the SPECIAL SCHOOL)


    1. An inability to learn which cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory or health factors. At the time of the FIE this criteria was not met because Bear was passing all of his classes. This is obviously no longer the case.
    2. An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers. Bear and teachers have expressed concerns in Bear’s decline in this area.
    3. Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances. Due to his past history of trauma, Bear tends to misperceive social situations which results in maladaptive behavioral reactions that do not appear premeditative. This has always been the case at home, but regarding school situations, the FIE stated that they were basing this more on Bear’s history at school than overall current behaviors and mentioned the ability to control this with medications. As he is maxed out on medications and the behaviors appear to be increasing, I believe Bear now fully meets this criteria based on current behaviors at school, not just history.
    4. A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression. Bear’s unhappiness appears to have increased this semester to be more general and pervasive than it was at the time of the FIE.
    5. A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears with personal or school problems. Bear responds to stress with physical symptoms that are habitual and persistent. While there is a slight increase in these at school, they do not appear to be pervasive there. His increasing and persistent inability to sleep however is greatly affecting him.

    ATTENDANCE SUMMARY

    Attendance issues per month (tardies or unexcused absences - there's an extreme likelihood that no one reported these during the first two months of school as they are mentioned in e-mails, but are not on the school attendance website).

    • October -8 ,

    • November -8,

    • December -1,

    • January-2,

    • February -5,

    • March-17!, remember they were out of school for a week for Spring Break!

    • April -2 out of 2!

    Tardy 1st semester -16, 2nd semester -20 Total -36
    Unexcused 1st semester -2, 2nd semester -3 Total –5



    Attendance per period - 26 out of the 36 were the last period of the day

    Tardies and unexcused absences may seem equal until you realize we still have 2 months of school left.



    Grades (APPL - stands for Applied which is the latest PC term for special ed).

    Class Grades for 9th grade and 10th grade per semester

    APPL Math 9th grade 1st -87 9th 2nd -93 10th grade 1st -79 10th Current -74
    APPL English 9th 1st -90 9th 2nd -89 10th 1st -83 10th Current -64 (last 6wk was 54)
    APPL Science 9th 1st - 90 9th 2nd -91 10th 1st -80 10th Current -61
    APPL Social Studi 9th 1st -97 9th 2nd -96 10th 1st -96 10th Current -82

    Bear is also failing APPL Study Skills with a 63. Social Studies (aka History) is his favorite class so a B in there is saying a LOT!