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, August 29, 2010

Better Letter

You guys are sooo great! Thanks! Is this better?

Dear School Teachers and Staff,

My name is Mary TheMom. I am the parent of 9th grade student, Kitty. Kitty is served by the district as a student with an Emotional Disturbance (RAD, bipolar, C-PTSD), Other Health Impaired (medicated ADHD), and Learning Disabilities (cerebral dysrhythmia). If you have any questions or concerns regarding any of these diagnoses or the others that she has, please feel free to e-mail me at _____@_________.com or call me at (###) ###-####.

It is my hope that Kitty will have a successful school year. Because she is quiet and a hard worker in class, Kitty tends to not always get what she needs to reach her full potential. I would like to share some information with you to help you better understand Kitty’s reactions, anxiety and issues, so you can better support her and provide an appropriate learning environment.

Kitty is a former foster child, who was discarded into foster care at age 9, because she was “out of control.” This was due to the lack of proper parenting provided by her mentally ill mother, abusive males, and Kitty’s untreated mental health issues. It is rarely seen in her behavior at school now.

Due to trust issues, Kitty’s reactions are often subtle at school, but believe me she is frequently under major emotional distress - at which point she “shuts down” (not learning or remembering!) and is extremely emotionally fragile and at risk. Her Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – causes her to overreact to things you or I might consider minor. It’s difficult to learn math and spelling when you’re in the middle of a war zone!

Some things to watch for:
• Gentle teasing, constructive criticism, or even just the feeling of disapproval, is often perceived as yelling, accusing, and hateful. Kitty has difficulty with teasing, (both peers and adults). She “dishes it” (we are working on this), but she can’t “take it.” Kitty’s usual response to this at school is to dissociate (freeze, change the subject, or tattle – based on her interpretation of events).
Tip: Kitty responds best to caring structure. If she doesn’t believe the person cares about her, she will attribute all sorts of negative motives to them (especially males).
• If Kitty’s speech or laughter sounds loud and pressured, she appears agitated, is overly sensitive, or she is popping her knuckles – she is very distressed and overwhelmed.
Tip: A calm, quiet space so she can emotionally regulate, and a calm, supportive person can really help.
• Although fairly stable now, Kitty has been both suicidal and aggressive. Due to her attachment issues, the child you see at school is not the same one that lives with us.
Tip: Please believe and support us when we tell you how Kitty is doing and notify us of any issues.
• Kitty’s distress frequently exhibits as physical illness (nausea, stomach aches, tiredness, ear aches, headaches…). This feels very real to her, and occasionally it is real.
Tip: Ask her to rate the pain on a scale of 1 to 10, with over 5 or 6 allowed to go to the nurse. (I believe this is in her BIP). Otherwise she will be in the nurse’s office frequently - days with substitutes almost guarantee this. Calling me as needed is always fine.
• FYI, she has some bladder issues and may not be able to “hold it.” I strongly recommend letting her use the restroom if she requests it. We can keep a spare change of clothes at school if needed.

Please contact me for any and all issues with Kitty. I need to be kept abreast of all situations, and I will do the same for you. I am available 95% of the day. I do work, but have flexibility on my job and can be reached by phone at almost any time. I will return your call as soon as possible if I am in a meeting, or you can reach my husband, Hubby, at (###) ###-####.

Yours in Partnership, Mary Brush (###) ###-####. _____@_________.com

New School Year Letter to Teacher - Kitty

What do y'all think?

Dear High School Teachers and Staff,

My name is Mary Themom. I am the parent of 9th grade student, Kitty. Kitty is served by the district as a student with an Emotional Disturbance (RAD, bipolar, C-PTSD), Other Health Impaired (medicated ADHD), and Learning Disabilities (cerebral dysrhythmia). If you have any questions or concerns regarding any of these diagnoses or the others that she has, please feel free to e-mail me at _______@_______.com or call me at (###) ###-####.

It is my hope that Kitty will have a successful school year. To help ensure this I would like to share some information with you.

Kitty is a former foster child, who was discarded into foster care at age 9, because she was “out of control.” This was due to the lack of proper parenting provided by her mentally ill mother, abusive male caregivers, and Kitty’s untreated mental health issues. It is rarely seen in her behavior at school now. I bring this up to help you understand Kitty’s reactions, anxiety and issues, so you can better support her and help her learn. Kitty responds best to caring structure. If she doesn’t believe the person cares about her she will attribute all sorts of negative motives to them (especially males).

Due to trust issues, Kitty’s reactions are often subtle at school, but believe me she is frequently under major emotional distress at which point she “shuts down” (not learning or remembering!) and is extremely emotionally fragile and at risk. Some things to watch for:
  • Gentle teasing, constructive criticism, or even just the feeling of disapproval, is often perceived as yelling, accusing, and hateful. Kitty has difficulty with teasing, (both peers and adults). She “dishes it” (we are working on this), but she can’t “take it.” Kitty’s usual response to this at school is to dissociate (freeze, change the subject, or tattle – based on her interpretation of events).
  • If Kitty’s speech or laughter sounds loud and pressured, she appears agitated, is overly sensitive, or she is popping her knuckles – she is very distressed.
  • Although fairly stable now, Kitty has been both suicidal and aggressive. Due to her attachment issues, the child you see at school is not the same one that lives with us.
  • Kitty’s distress frequently exhibits as physical illness (nausea, stomach aches, tiredness, ear aches, headaches…). This feels very real to her, and occasionally it is real. We suggest asking her to rate the pain on a scale of 1 to 10. I believe this is in her BIP. If this is not done she will be in the nurse’s office frequently - days with substitutes almost guarantee this. Calling me as needed is fine.
  • FYI, she has some bladder issues and may not be able to “hold it.” I strongly recommend letting her use the restroom if she requests it. We can keep a spare change of clothes at school if needed.


Kitty has many gaps in her education – some of these are due to her:

  • Cerebral dysrhythmia (brain damage) and learning disabilities.
  • Constant moving and changing schools throughout her traumatic childhood.
  • Severe Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – which even now can cause her to react as though she is in a highly stressful environment. It’s difficult to learn math and spelling when you’re in the middle of a war zone.

Please contact me for any and all issues with Kitty. I need to be kept abreast of all situations, and I will do the same for you. I am available 95% of the day. I do work, but have flexibility on my job and can be reached by phone at almost any time. I will return your call as quickly as possible if I am in a meeting, or you can reach my husband, Hubby, at ###-####.


Yours in Partnership,

Mary Themom

(###)###-####

__________@_________.com

Friday, August 27, 2010

Why I blog




Wednesday was my little blog's 2 year anniversary!




Coincidentally I got to have lunch with 2 fellow bloggers. One of my good friends, Struggling to Stand, and frequent commenter, GB's mom. I also got to meet GB herself and GB's Dad, who is a new blogger.






Meeting GB was fun. She was fascinated by my hot pink heels (even took pictures of them and said goodbye to them!), and was ultra charming. She barely sat still and never met a stranger (which made me so nervous - I'm overprotective and never let my kids out of my sight and she flitted everywhere!). I realized I've not been around other people's RAD kids very often, and I have to admit it was kind of nice to be on the charming side of RAD for once.




I do understand how other people can be so suckered in by RAD kids. GB seemed to make her mom seem strict and a little stand offish (of course she had a lot going on and she was still absolutely lovely!). GB was uber sweet, but I was paying attention, and GB got in a few little jibes. I know most people wouldn't have even noticed them. Yup, exactly what my son does to me, and how he acts around other people - as though they're absolutely amazing and mom is a second class citizen and a shrew.




GB's dad is starting his own blog, and he asked me why I blog.






  • Venting - as posted in my very first post, I blog to keep from over burdening my friends and family. I have the "three vent rule" which means instead of ruminating and focusing on all the problems, I limit the number of times I talk about any one incident to three times and I try to spread around who I complain to.


  • Tracking - I like to keep track of what's going on in my life. I can look back and see progress, remember when certain events happened, and keep track of incidents that otherwise I might forget (like when I need to update the kids' life histories.


  • Support - Keeping my family up to date, asking advice from others who "get it" and a different perspective from those who don't.


  • Just like Cheers - "Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name."


Lisa from Life in the Grateful House and I connected because we adopted our children in the same month from the same state. They were out of state adoptions for both of us, and she finalized way before I did so she had some great advice for me in what to ask for. She introduced me to blogging with the blog Pioneer Woman I loved her series Black Heels to Tractor Wheels and read the entire blog from start to finish. I was hooked. Then Lisa started her own blog and next thing I knew she'd talked me into doing it too.



The rest, as they say, is history.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I'm going to be a big sister!

Ok, obviously I "borrowed" this picture - my name is not Peyton and you can't order this t-shirt by clicking on it.

My dad and step-mom are considering adopting one or two boys. The boys are youngest of a sibling group of 3, ages 11, 13 and 15 from South Africa. Their mother died of MS, their father is in jail and parental rights are most likely being terminated if they aren't already. The boys are currently living with their mother's sister who is friends with my parents, but the aunt also has MS and is dying. Noise actually physically hurts her and of course the two youngest boys are noisy. There is talk of splitting the boys up among family members, but this would keep them close by (oldest would stay with the aunt), and the suitability of some of the other family members is in question. An aunt is considering moving to Colorado to be near the other boys so she may take one of the younger boys instead of my parents taking both.


My parents have apparently been taking care of the two younger boys off and on all Summer. When first I heard of them my dad was calling me from an amusement park, and assumed I already knew of their existance (that's the problem with living in different states and having 5 kids - the parents forget who they've told what). My parents are rapidly approaching their 70s, but feel called to adopt these boys.


I have to say it's an interesting idea. I never thought of my dad and step-mom as particularly nurturing or interested in adoption - in fact they discouraged us (but I think more because of the kids traumatic background than anything else, and they've been supportive after the adoptions, albeit from a distance since they live across the country).


I do think it's ironic that the boys are 11 and 13 (since this is the age Kitty and Bear were when they came to us, and the age my sister and I were when my mom remarried). The good news is that it doesn't sound like these boys have the traumatic background my kids did, and my parents are retired so will have lots of time to spend with them. Still... a lot of new concepts. Wow!


Anyway, nothing is official yet. Just trying to wrap my head around this. (If they end up adopting the 11 year old boy that would mean Ponito, my sister's oldest son, and the boy would all be the same age! Add in my new niece (the one who dresses and acts like a boy) who is exactly one year younger than Ponito (6 months younger than my nephew) and that would be a lot of little "boys" running around.


Ponito (grey jacket), my nephew, my new niece, and in front hanging on to his sister's jacket is one of the twins, my new nephew.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Behavior Intervention Plan

At the ARD I kept asking for more rapid consequences both to keep Bear out of trouble and to help him learn that there are consequences for his actions. Loud Lady kept fighting me because what I was asking for was stricter than what other students got (like I care!).

One of the proposed consequences was a referral if Bear got two tardies or two absences. We were OK with that, except they meant in the same class. Bear likes to spread his tardies and skipping around. He's a smart kid too. This gives him 9 "get out of jail free" cards and he knows it. Also I don't think skipping class should have the same wussie consequence as being late. Not only does he not care about referrals (I think he actually enjoys detention), but if he's late, what's his motivation to bother to go to class at all if the consequences are the same anyway?

I was pushing for a Central Reporting Person - someone who's job was to keep track of Bear's moods, attendance, behavior, etc. Bear's case manager supposedly did that last year, but I think we all knew it didn't really happen. The ARD team said that Bear's new case manager wouldn't have the time to do that. Supposedly the behavior program is supposed to keep track of it, but we'll see. With him at the special school for most of the day though it probably won't be much of an issue.

Loud Lady and others kept saying, that the special school (and a lot of the restrictions we were asking for) is not real world. They kept fighting us on getting the structure and rules that Bear craves/needs. I finally said toward the end of the meeting,

"You keep saying that Bear's home school is "real world," but it's not. Not for Bear anyway. Bear is setting up his life so that it is very small, structured and safe, and that's what's right for him. This high school has 4,000 students! This is not the real world for him. The special school is much closer to real world for Bear."
***************************

We didn't get to use the amazing site with all the IEP goals that Struggling to Stand found for me and I painstakingly cut and pasted all the ones related to behavior. The meeting was 2 1/2 hours long and having him in the special school meant most of our concerns weren't going to be addressed because they are non-issues when he's as supervised as he's going to be.

**********************


Did I mention he's admitted to doing drugs at school with his friends? This year. Usually he doesn't confess to stuff for at least 1 1/2 years so he's sure he's not able to get consequences for it.
******************************

Speaking of consequences I could use some help determining consequences at home for missing the bus, spending hours in the bathroom with the water running, and not taking meds. This behavior needs to stop.

Actions speak louder than words

Finally the results of the ARD/IEP meeting!

Bear is going back to the special school!

When last we had an ARD we had requested this, but were told by Loud Lady that it couldn't happen until he had a new Functional Behavioral Analysis and he was given a new BIP (Behavior Intervention Plan). So not for 4-6 weeks at best.

The meeting started with discussion of a new BIP, but when it came time to discuss consequences for behaviors, things got bogged down and that's when it was casually mentioned that on the table for discussion was sending Bear back to the special school at least part time! (We were shocked to say the least!).

Loud Lady was back, and it turns out she's Assistant Director of the special education department for the entire school district. So we're apparently stuck with her. She still didn't appear to know Bear's records any better, and frequently commented with "typical teen" examples, but she obviously wasn't taken by surprise about the special school so they must have had a meeting that filled her in.

Bear's school case manager "resigned" from his case (although she participated in the ARD because she knows him). It turns out it was being acknowledged that she was ineffectual due to Bear's issues with her, and the school has decided to use Bear's last year math teacher as his case manager. This teacher was male which means Bear didn't give him any trouble, but Bear pretty much slept and struggled through the man's class so he has an understanding of Bear's issues. Wish he could have been at the meeting, but we're happy with the change in general.

BIP goals:

Identify target behaviors to be changed and replacement behaviors:
A. Excessive tardies and lying about his whereabouts/ Be on time and truthful with staff.
B. Non-compliant with teacher directives/ Comply with teacher directives.
C. Verbal aggression, intimidating & blullying others/ Be respectful and refrain from bullying &/or verbal aggression.

Basically the "solution" of what to do about D's behaviors was to call the behavior program anytime he misbehaved or was late to class and praise him when he was doing things correctly. The problem was that the behavior program was pretty ineffectual last year, and Bear didn't trust them. He accused them to being "out to get him" and even tried to prosecute one for sexual harassment.

We finally tabled the BIP and moved on to discussion of placement.

It went back and forth, but we decided Bear will go to the special school all morning including lunch (where he has the most issues) and then back to his home school (regular high school) in the afternoons. Ideally he'll check in with the behavior program when he gets to school and check out with them in the afternoon (as they coincidentally escort him to the bus).

Needless to say, Bear is NOT happy with going back to the special school, or the additional supervision at his home school. By the time the reality of this set in, Bear had shut down, and he informed me later that he signed the acceptance sheet at the end because he didn't want to drag the meeting out any longer (it was over 2 hours so I "get" this).

What this means of course is that he'll blame everyone else for "not listening to him." He did suggest an alternative that did not involve him going to the special school, but it was mostly "I'll be good, and I'll talk to the behavior program in the morning and at the end of the day."

Later when we talked about it, I pointed out that we were listening to him, but his actions last year spoke louder than his words now. He's going to have to prove that he's changed.

At the end of the meeting he discovered that it was a strong possiblity that even though he will be at his home school part of the day, the class that he wants most may not be available. (Since his new life goal is underwater welding, he wants to take a shop class that includes welding).

I got his new schedule. It is NOT on his schedule. We get to tell him at therapy today.

I know this will shock you but he's been surly, pouting and sleeping ever since.

World's Meanest Mom


In response to my post Reader Question, Miz Kizzle commented:


"Yikes! No Sponge Bob? No rock music? In your room by 9 p.m.?
I'm an adult with three kids of my own but just reading those rules gives me a hankering to sneak out of my window in the middle of the night and ride around with my friends, blasting hip hop and defying authority.
I know you have good reasons for your style of child rearing but for some kids, the harder you clamp down on them the more they rebel. I suspect that Bear will be over the hills and far away the second he turns 18."


- You'd think that wouldn't you? I think the fact that they don't rebel against it shows that they are as emotionally delayed as I know they are. If those were the rules for a 6 year old it wouldn't surprise you, but the truth is that in most ways my kids are 6 year olds with major issues on top of that. Kitty thrives on our rules. Bear was going to leave anyway whether we were super indulgent or even stricter. Bob of course is "neurotypical" so she doesn't need rules quite this strict, but is given quite a bit of leeway, just not blatantly so it's not rubbed in the face of the others.

If you've read some of my past posts you know that I feel media can have an overwhelming influence on people. Music especially taps directly into the emotions (although we do listen to rock and rap - it's just Christian Rock). My kids, especially Kitty, are incredibly vulnerable to this so I try to keep out the unnecessary trauma-inducing stuff whenever possible.



Obviously Bob can handle a lot more than the other kids, but truthfully why should she? Am I any better off for having watched Kick-Ass? There are exceptions made all the time based on the child's individual abilities though.

The 9pm room thing is not really for them. It's for Hubby and I! We want to be able to do things without having to worry about having a kid watching over our shoulder, and to know they're not getting in trouble without having to watch them. Could be watching a rated R movie, having a private conversation, or just getting some needed downtime.

The time was arrived at by what time the kids could stay up until without having issues the next day. Kitty is actually going to bed a little earlier because she needs more sleep. Ponito is a morning person so he also pretty much goes straight to sleep. Bob stays up reading. Bear, spends an hour in the bathroom (doing who knows what with water running the whole time - I hate that!), and then does who knows what in his room.


And of course the main reason my kids have strict rules?! Because I'm the Meanest Mom in the World and I have to maintain my status!!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Reader question

Option 1: Normal Teen
Option 2: Attachment to Committment
Option 3: Status Quo

Purplewalls: "Anxious to hear what you all decided, though I have to admit I don't see how option #3 is better than #1. (#2 I don't get at all... me being an "outsider" and all.)"


We haven't actually made a decision yet. As of Saturday's discussion with Bear's therapist I strongly felt we should go with Option 2, but Hubby apologetically came to me and said he didn't think he had the stamina to get through it. So we decided to stick with Option 3. Then his behavior has gotten even worse, and we're discussing Option 3, but even stricter.

To answer Purple's, question, 3 is different from 1 because none of my kids are treated like other people's "normal teens." Actually there are a lot of people with "normal teens" who are as strict or stricter than I am, but not a lot.
  • My son doesn't have a cell phone.
  • He has a 9pm bed(room) time.
  • He is not allowed to go anywhere, even church youth group, without an adult family member. This includes leaving our front yard. We adults are pretty busy so he rarely goes anywhere.
  • He is not allowed to watch PG-13 or rated R movies.
  • Only Christian music is allowed.
  • He is not allowed to watch most cable channels. Even if it's an appropriate movie, if it's on a channel that advertises inappropriate shows like Degrassi and 16 year old parents. No Spongebob, Grossology, Recess... nothing on Cartoon Network (it has one or two appropriate shows, but it was easier to nix it than to argue about it).
  • I don't buy fried or sugary treats, sodas, or keep the house stocked with junk food. No caffeinated beverages allowed.
  • Even when he earned an allowance (which he doesn't anymore because he owes everyone money), he wasn't allowed to keep it in his pocket. I had final say on what he spent it on.
  • If he has friends over, especially girls, they must remain in the common areas of the house. Not even in the upstairs playroom because an adult needs to be able to see them easily.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Dramatic Shut Down!


Bear had a meeting with his study skills trainer this morning, and I thought it was a good opportunity to address his issues with shutting down in ARDs. We started with just chatting, and the trainer commented on how animated and awake he seemed compared to how shut down he often is during their meetings. She attributed it to the morning hour (normally we meet in the afternoon).

We started by talking about the upcoming school year (school starts Tuesday), and what concerns Bear might have. Bear participated in the conversation and was very animated. He couldn't give details in how things are going to change though. Mostly he just said things like, "I'm going to do better in school," and when asked how he was going to do that he said, "I just am."

As things slowed down, I suggested talking about how Bear can address his shutting down in meetings and/or when he feels criticized. He needs to participate so he has input and has a chance of getting what he wants. Bear immediately focused on the fact that I hadn't told him he had an ARD that afternoon. I told him I hadn't wanted him to stress about it.

I wish I'd videotaped this. Within minutes, Bear went from being animated and participating to laying down with his eyes closed, his voice slurred, answering everything with "I don't know." So much for helping him work on not shutting down. The trainer and I talked to at him for the remainder of the session, but were never able to "get him back."

I did suggest to Bear that if he wanted, then he and I could talk about what he wants before meetings like this and that way if he gets overwhelmed then I could speak for him. He was too far gone to talk about it. I do continue to make suggestions and give advice even after he shuts down like this, because I've learned that sometimes more gets through then it seems at the time. If it is a true "fight, flight, or freeze" reaction he remembers nothing, but sometimes he's not totally gone. Plus, to continue to speak calmly sometimes helps him emotionally regulate (or at least it gives him time to calm down).

Obviously I've seen him shut down like this before, but never this quickly or dramatically. Actually I was surprised at how animated he'd been to start with since he's been so cranky lately, and is usually shut down during the entire training sessions. I think the surprise of the meeting helped (he'd forgotten she was coming).

At the conclusion of the meeting, Bear left the room and laid down on the couch in the living room, "NOT sleeping." Grandma had arrived while Bear and I were meeting with the trainer. Kitty came over with $.10 to buy a brownie (did I mention the issues with Bear about the brownies?) I was talking to mom about her opinion on selling brownies, and she told me the story of how selling baked goods came about. She said it was really supposed to be a joke.

Bear was furious we were talking about him, and started complaining about how I was, "always telling him he's wrong." I told him this wasn't true, and gently pointed out that he was upset and therefore his perception is off.

A few minutes later Bear, with his eyes shut and in his most burly and intimidating voice, continued arguing with me. He said he wasn't going to the IEP/ARD meeting. Children don't have to go so he wasn't. Hubby (He used Hubby's first name which he hasn't done since before he went to residential, and only does when he's super mad) and I could go to the meeting without him. I told him he's 17 now and he needs to go. I repeated what we said in the skill training meeting that if he doesn't speak up in the meetings, then of course he's not going to be heard.

Bear said it didn't matter if he said something in meetings, no one listened. I reminded him that just because they didn't do what he wanted didn't mean they weren't listening. Sometimes his actions speak louder than his words, and decisions have to be made based on those, not his promises. He is a vital member of the team, but he is not the boss and he does not get to make all the decisions.

I felt guilty but I left the house with him still mildly upset. I knew they would be going swimming soon (they'd tried to go earlier but the pool wasn't open). I hoped he would stay calm enough to be safe with Grandma, but my PTSD was so triggered I was shaking and I had to get out of there.

Two hours later he called me. As usual it was as though the whole morning hadn't happened. He started asking me questions about the course schedule so he could tell the school what type of welding class he wanted.

What happened at the ARD will be my next post, but I have to tell you guys this:

Bear arrived at the ARD, awake and animated. He spoke up and volunteered some information. He shut down a little toward the end (it was a 2.5 hour long meeting so I can't say I blame him!), but not completely. He handled the critiques and frank discussion of last year's behavior pretty well. I was totally impressed and said so a few times during the meeting. (I worried a little that people would see this Bear and assume he'd changed/matured over the Summer, and we would have a set back in our progress on getting Bear what he needed, but their decisions were already made so this didn't have an effect after all).

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What to do? What to do?

Bear's ARD - IEP meeting is Thursday. On Saturday, Hubby and I discussed our options on how we want to proceed this next year and that of course effects how we'll proceed with what we want at the ARD.

We started thinking we should back off on fighting to get Bear in the special school because he seems to be motivated to do well in school this year so he can get his license and go to Oklahoma to live with his Grandfather (whom we know nothing about, including whether or not this is a valid option for Bear). Then I started getting ready for the meeting and reviewing the reasons we made push for changes at the last ARD, and remembered the feelings and events. Oh yeah! Now I remember. Guess I'd repressed it.

Tonight we'd arranged an emergency meeting with Bear's therapist to discuss how we should proceed. He asked me to describe the options we'd come up with and how we felt about them.


1. Normal teenager - basically give him a clean slate and let him easily earn all the "normal" teenage stuff. This seems to be the option of choice of the caseworkers, school and therapists.

*Sometimes feels like Hubby thinks this way too, but as an option this one bothers Hubby the most. He feels this should be earned. Plus it would require us to trust Bear at home alone and in other ways that we don't feel comfortable with.*

Grandma prefers this option. She suggested it's too late for him to really attach to us at this point (let's face it, 17 is not the typical age and might even seem abusive), and our best bet is to focus on getting him ready for the real world. Her advice, if we must try to link his behavior with the family to his objectives is to make it very concrete and short term. Ex. Bear must behave appropriately with the family for one week, at which point he will be allowed to get a job. He must work well for 2 months at the job, and surrender all paychecks. At the end of 2 months if he's behaving appropriately he can start Defensive Driving (if at any point he's not behaving, then he loses his job and can't try again for a month).


2. Attachment to Commitment - basically commit to Katharine Leslie, and if we can afford it, do some consulting with her. Put Bear on notice that if he wants to do family stuff, then he has to be part of the family. Step up therapy, step up everyone's commitment and dedication.

Attachment techniques are often counterintuitive to normal parenting techniques and could even be seen as abusive.
  • Having to earn the right to a hot meal with the family, can look from the outside as though you're scapegoating or emotionally abusing the child who eats a sandwich in another room.
  • Teaching reciprocity requires making the child earn things (like help with homework, a ride to school, time to talk to parents) that are just naturally given by parents to healthy kids.
  • Enforcing parental control (so the child learns to trust that you can keep him safe) can look over controlling and severe.
  • With Kitty we did have to use physical restraints to keep her safe. This was what she absolutely needed. Bear needs to know that we can restrain him too (for the same reason - he is full of fear and MUST feel safe). On the other hand I am 95% sure we won't need to actually restrain him, he just needs to know we CAN.

This is one reason we've not totally committed to doing this for Bear. We did do this for Kitty and I firmly believe this is why she is attached now. If we choose this option, I feel we will need at least one strong professional support/advocate. So far all those concerned have said they'd "support" us, but all that means is they'll back us up (if we're lucky) not advise or help us. I'm afraid to make this choice without someone saying we're doing the right thing (not just to me, but to outsiders and the school, caseworkers, and family) and helping us figure out what that is. Then as Bear's therapist also pointed out, I need one more person to be fully committed, and that's Hubby.

Hubby's biggest concern is the effect this is going to have on the family. He is miserable being warden, and he’s already pretty overwhelmed as it is. Plus he knows I'm off my meds and taking on something like this, knowing confrontation and dealing with Bear in a bad mood is always stressful for me, well….

He worries most about the littles dealing with this, but in this respect I feel this option is better for the kids, because it gives us an "excuse" to protect them that we don't use now. (A kid in this program is not wanting to be/able to be part of the family, and therefore is not allowed to interact with the family on any terms but those set by the parents - which means we can say, "NO interaction with the other kids at all until he's ready to handle it.) We'd also go back to Grandma having extremely limited interaction with him as well.

The way I see it, the most we'd have to handle this intensity is 11 months. After that Bear turns 18 and leaves, or it "worked" and he's willing to stay. Still this is a MAJOR commitment, and until we can get our ducks in a row, then it looks like we’ll be sticking with status quo… with a few new twists.

I don’t think status quo will make any improvements for Bear, but it is evident that we’re kind of stuck with it for now.

3. Status quo - keep Bear under fairly close supervision, but still allowing him to do all the family stuff and a little "normal teen" stuff. I worry that this means keeping up the Mexican standoff and continue to let him treat women and kids as though it's OK to snap at us and be grumpy.

This is a combo of the other two options and is really a compromise. My concern is that it compromises so much that it loses the benefits of both (just enough Normal Teen to torment him like a carrot he knows he cannot have and be able to blame us for keeping it from him... and just enough Attachment to "poke the bear" and make him want to rebel against it and make us look "bad" to outsiders).

*This option makes me unhappy because I think it keeps everyone miserable - including Bear, and it means we're giving up hope that anything will improve because we're not doing anything differently. Over the years Bear's made lots of improvement, but it feels like we're regressing now.


********************************

I didn't adopt Bear thinking, "Oh, I want to adopt kids so I can keep them from killing themselves (joining a gang, getting someone pregnant, taking drugs...) until they are 18, and then be done with them." I'm also not foolish enough to think my kids are going to fall in love with me and think I'm the best thing since sliced bread and I'll be the perfect parent (not that I would have been adverse to this, just saying I am realistic). I do love my son and want him to at the very least have some idea of how to love, trust and respect females. Doesn't have to be me, but if not me... who? and if not now... when? My goal for Bear and our family is not, "Do no harm," it's more like "Help them 'be all they can be.'"


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Over the past few days Grandma and all the kids have come up to me and commented on how hard Bear has been to live with for the last month, and how unhappy he's made everyone else - grumpy, irritable, rude, and of course sleeping. I don’t know what happened today at Grandma’s, but when I came home and said something to him (I think I asked who made brownies – this is an ongoing issue between Grandma and I. She apparently hates whole wheat flour and rarely uses artificial sugars. So the kids, especially Bear, love to eat and cook at her house. I have a horrible sweet tooth so I can’t resist either. Bear is majorly straining all his clothes, Kitty is gaining back the weight she lost this Summer. It’s frustrating. Plus, Bear put the dozens of brownies on the counter right before dinner, ate a few or more, and put a sign on them stating they were for sale $.10 apiece. I don’t like the idea of having them in the house in the first place, let alone making a profit off his siblings, or having cash in his pocket. I didn’t tell him no, just questioned what they were made of, who made them, and commented that I do not like the idea of charging for treats made with ingredients paid for by someone else. I plan to hide them before bed so the “Midnight Muncher” won’t eat them.)

Anyway, Bear bit my head off and then told me he didn’t want me to talk to him because he’d had a bad day. A little while later I dared speaking to him again, asking him if he’d had his mid-day meds (it was 7pm. He’s supposed to take them by 4pm at the latest). He snapped a “No” at me and said he’d do it. Flash forward to 15 minutes before bedtime (8:45pm), when he should already have taken his night meds. I asked him if he’d taken his mid-days and he jumped down my throat again. When I fussed at him for not taking them when he said he would, he denied my having mentioned it earlier. I also told him not to speak to me that way, and he justified his behavior by saying I’d irritated him earlier by fussing at him. Hubby mostly just listened, but did call him on his attitude a little.

Tomorrow is the ARD and I've been ignoring all the amazing IEP resources that Struggling To Stand gave me months ago. Guess I better get my rear in gear! And get some sleep right now!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Movie Reviews



Our family is big on movie watching so we get kind of desperate for new movies to watch on the weekends. We saw a couple of movies this weekend that were really good, and a couple that were really bad.

Letters to God - watched this movie last night with the three oldest kids (Ponito was playing at my sister's). Very good movie, but definitely have a box of Kleenex. EVERYone cried even though it was mostly happy. It's reminiscent of Facing the Giants (which Bear loves because it's about football). Not amazing acting, but a good message that doesn't totally blast Christianity over your head to the point you want to rebel from it.

The second movie was more subtle, but triggered a lot of discussion for Hubby and I.

Den Brother - This is a "made for the Disney Channel" movie, about a self-centered high school student who only cares about the fact that he's a star hockey player. His friends and father are fed up with him and his attitude. He gets suspended from the team, and in an attempt to motivate him to change his attitude, his father dangles the possiblity of getting a car and assigns him lots of chores and to watch his little sister and her scout troop. It takes him a lot of tries and the assistance of adorable little girls, but of course the finally gets it.

I'm wondering if it was too subtle to use this as an example to Bear. I pray for the change of heart the boy in the movie shows, but of course the boy in the movie "only" lost his mother. Other than that he's your typical privileged Disney character (although of course not having a parent or two is practically required for main characters in every Disney movie).


Kick - A$$ - NOT for kids. Think Kill Bill, but the person doing most of the blood-spurting, gory killing is a cute 11 yr old girl with blond pigtails (although her superhero character "Hit Girl" sports a lavender anime style wig).

Sunday, August 15, 2010

It's all about Bear


Still struggling with what to do about Bear.


Public Speaking - Bear met with one person about speaking. This person was a youth minister who has only lived here one week. His wife was in foster care, and his brother bipolar. In other words he "got' what Bear was talking about, but it didn't seem to give Bear what he wanted/needed. Bear talked to the minister, but didn't make a connection. I suspect it's because the minister didn't fawn over Bear and feed into the poor little me routine. I've heard nothing from Bear about public speaking since.


Bear gets a job? - We often go to a neighborhood thrift shop that's owned by a real character and his wife. This guy could be described as rough around the edges, REALLY rough. He likes to flirt with me and tease the kids. He knows I'm not tolerant of cussing around the kids and that I'm uber protective, and he mostly respects that (with a lot of teasing), but he's not above going against my wishes if he thinks I'm wrong. In other words he'd cuss around Bear, give him caffeine and candy, possibly pay him for work without telling me.... A couple of weeks ago, the guy offered Bear a job doing lawn work, but I said no. Then Grandma arranged for Bob to work folding and putting clothes away for a day and get school clothes in exchange. It went fine, and Bob chose appropriate outfits.


Then Bear was offered work outside, in the Texas heat, cleaning out a storage unit. He claims he's talked the guy into giving him $100. We've had this conversation before so he plans to give all the money to me to pay off the last of the Zune, and apply the rest toward the lawnmower repair bill ($100). I've been worried about what to do when he pays off the Zune because we don't exactly have the cash to buy a $100 MP3, but this would solve that problem. I fussed at Bear for saying he'd do it without checking with me first, but I'm thinking I might allow it. I'm making him wait until tomorrow to find out though (it would start at 10am).


Double agent - Hubby and I talked about whether or not Bear should still be so distant and obviously PTSDing (what?! it can to be a verb!). Anyway, you know me and analogies. I came up with a new one that I think helped Hubby understand why Bear is still acting as though he's under the same stress as he would be in a war zone, even though we've removed most of the chaos wherever possible. Hubby was questioning whether or not Bear was faking it or maybe this was just habit. I suggested it's like being an undercover agent during war time. You might not be surrounded by bombs, and everyone around you is going through life as usual, but you have to constantly be hypervigilant and aware. Bear's perception of what's going on is totally different from everyone else and the stress is never ending.


**********************************


Hubby and I talked about what to do with Bear this year. I think we have 3 options:



  1. Status quo - keep Bear under fairly close supervision, but still allowing him to do all the family stuff. (Basically, keep up the Mexican standoff and continue to let him treat the women and kids as though it's OK to snap at us and be grumpy). *This one makes me unhappy because I think it keeps everyone miserable - including Bear, and it means we're giving up hope that anything will improve because we're not doing anything differently.*

  2. Normal teenager - basically give him a clean slate and let him easily earn all the "normal" teenage stuff. This seems to be the option of choice of the caseworkers, school and therapists. *Sometimes feels like Hubby thinks this way too, but as an option this one bothers Hubby the most. He feels this should be earned. Plus it would require us to trust Bear at home alone and in other ways that we don't feel comfortable with.*

  3. Attachment to Commitment - basically commit to Katharine Leslie, and if we can afford it do some consulting with her. Put Bear on notice that if he wants to do family stuff, then he has to be part of the family. Step up therapy, step up everyones' commitment and dedication.

I think Hubby and I are leaning toward option 3, especially after Hubby saw how Bear talks to me (Hubby's home this weekend instead of working), but Hubby wants to wait until next weekend when we meet with Bear's therapist to put this all on the table. In the meantime I need to work out what this would look like.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Chameleoning


On Sunday, CASA (advocates for kids in foster care) gave a presentation to Bear’s Sunday School class. There were several video clips of kids in foster care whose lives were affected by CASA volunteers. One was a 15 yr old who got into drugs, gangs, stealing… mom kicked him out because he was out of control and he was homeless for awhile. Then he got into foster care right out of juvie. His new foster parents were strict and had him under very close supervision (searched him and his room daily). The kid stated he felt like he was being treated like a criminal, and the CASA worker agreed with him and got him into a new foster home. Needless to say I cringed when I heard the story because it made it sound like the foster parents were horrible for doing what we basically do to keep Bear safe (although we don’t search him daily).

Anyway, Bear apparently broke down and cried and had to be comforted. He got a lot of supportive back patting and sympathy and told his sob story (well a variation of it). He then decided to tell his story/testimony to the youth group during the next hour which got him a LOT of praise and support. He rambled for about 20 minutes (disjointed, contradicting himself, with very little point), but didn’t break down.

I found out about his presentation so was there. He decided to call me up to the front, I guess so I could affirm his story. He hugged me and told me he loved me, but it was all for the audience. When I said something (I quietly asked him, “What do you want them {the audience} to do?) to help him focus his presentation a little, he bit my head off, but quietly so no one else heard.

After the presentation the CASA worker asked him to give a presentation to the CASA board on Monday night. Which he did. It was moving and he did a good job. He told everyone that he wants to be an underwater welder for a few years to earn enough money to open an orphanage.

Now he’s obsessed with giving speeches about being in foster care. He apparently is loving the attention and is chameleoning (I know that’s not a word, but he’s adapting, changing and even obsessing a little on this new role).

He's constantly asking for help for advice about getting in front of an audience - especially of kids. I suggested finding an organization (like CASA) that he can work with. Instead he has chosen to do it all by himself. On the one hand I'm impressed, he's got the phone book out and introducing himself,

"Hi, my name is Bear _____, and I'm starting public speaking about helping kids in foster care and I was wondering if I could talk about foster care to see if I could help get support for places like CASA, and possibly get kids to know more about it. I wanted to see if I could come and talk there."

On the other hand I know it's going to be me dragging him around to any talks he manages to get organized. I'm OK with public speaking, but time wise....

I don't want to mess with this!! *pout*

Monday, August 9, 2010

Van therapy

We've had SUV therapy and Car Conversations now we're having Analysis in an Auto.



Bear and I had an hour and a half long conversation after therapy on Saturday. We sat in the car and talked about the fact that Bear didn't want to be part of our family and I want him to be. We talked about how Bear is not satisfied with his life and is not making progress toward his current goals (becoming an underwater welder and moving in with his Grandpa in Oklahoma the minute he turns 18).



Bear wants to get his learner's permit so he can drive to Oklahoma instead of walk(?!). I told him that we have a clear list of what he needs to do to get it, but basically he needs to be part of the family. He said he didn't get the connection and refuses. I explained the connection involves trust, wanting to spend time with him, wanting to do things for him and help him get what he wants. Of course he not only doesn't need help he doesn't want it, and doesn't care if that means he doesn't get what he wants - he'd rather do without.



I tried to explain that what he learns from us, including getting along with people and giving them what they need (in my case Words of Affirmation - I explained the 5 Love Languages), will make him a better person and help him get what he wants in life. He said he didn't need people and was setting up his life to do underwater welding (few people) or live on a farm (ditto) where he won't be around people. He's never getting married, never having children. (I asked what happens when he gets horny - no answer).



I talked about how no one knows what their life is going to be like down the road. Things we think we don't need to know now, may be essential for the future. He may think he doesn't need people now, but God designed us to need people. Bear was damaged and will have to work hard, but take my word for it it really is worth it. Don't think he believed me.



2 1/2 hours of our life. Do I think he heard me? Kinda. Do I think I made an immediate effect? Heck to the No. Did some of it sink in? Maybe a teensy tiny bit. He has repeated some of it since then, but I don't think he believes it.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Mexican standoff


Lately all Bear does all day is sleep unless he's getting to do something he wants (fishing or... well, pretty much fishing). His pdoc had recommended that he try to stay awake during the day so that he'd sleep better at night (he gets only 5-6 hours a night and according to the sleep study he's not getting enough REM sleep).
When I say anything to Bear about sleeping he denies he's asleep and bites my head off. I hate confrontation, always have, so I stopped bugging him (which was his goal I'm sure).
Over the years we've tried many different sleep meds, but nothing seemed to work more than a couple of weeks. Both kids have been on Melatonin for years, but recently I looked at how it works and realized that didn't make sense. I took them both off and it doesn't seem to have effected their sleep patterns at all (Bear still doesn't sleep and Kitty still does).
Yesterday I was hormonal and really tired of watching Bear sleep through the day. I'll admit to some passive aggressive behavior over the last couple of days (driving jerkily - pun intended - to make it difficult for him to sleep in the car and being noisy and "clumsy" when I walk around the room he's "not" sleeping in).
Apparently Bear has given up. He's stated many times that there is no point in making plans because no on lets him keep them. When he's asked to participate in things like IEP meetings, study skills trainings, therapy, family meetings... he chooses instead to shut down. Then says no one listens to him, and blames everyone for judging and controlling him.
So yesterday during the silence of the drive to Bear's therapy I started fuming and decided that I was tired of avoiding confrontation with Bear. He may want to sleep through the next year, but I choose to see this as one last year to reach him - and if I don't, then at least I can say I tried.
We got to therapy and Bear threw himself down on "his" couch, closed his eyes as though he were exhausted and then sullenly answered the therapist's questions as briefly as possible. Pretty much saying everything's "fine." I probably snorted made a polite, ladylike sound of disagreement because the therapist turned to me and asked me how I thought the week went.
I talked about Bear sleeping through the week unless he was actively participating in an activity of his own choosing. I mentioned I was strongly considering "poking the bear" as I was tired of avoiding confrontation. The therapist asked what I meant and I told him I was thinking about not letting Bear get away with his avoidant and verbally abusive behavior. Bear started getting irritated and shut down (he hates "criticism"). Actually he told us he was not going to talk anymore. The therapist asked Bear a question (sometimes this works), but Bear refused to speak.
So the therapist continued to talk to me, about what Bear could do to earn his way back to the way things were at the beginning of last Summer (we had allowed Bear quite a bit more freedom until he started skipping school, drinking, hanging out with kids doing drugs, and generally getting into lots of trouble). I told him I thought Bear needed more support and rules and that's why he struggles.
Bear tried to talk to the therapist and the therapist cut him off. Telling Bear that Bear had said he didn't want to talk. Bear got torqued and walked out.
The therapist and I continued to talk. I assured the therapist that Bear wouldn't go far and that he would return on his own (Bear did about 10 minutes later). Bear participated (ish) in the rest of the conversation. Bear was calm and the incident was completely forgotten.
We talked about some ways he could participate more in family life (like we could eat together as a family instead of in front of the TV). This most likely will not happen, but we decided that at least one parent eating with Bear was plenty.
All the way home Bear and I talked. We sat in the driveway and talked some more (over an hour!). Did I mention the Texas Heat is HOT?!!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Birthday cakes

Hubby finally uploaded some pictures off the camera and I got the network to work. So I felt like sharing birthday cakes!



Ponito's 11th birthday Lego race car driver/astronaut cake (he wanted an astronaut, but secretly I believe this was really a race car driver). I forgot to take pictures before we cut into him so this guy is actually missing his legs, but I think he turned out pretty cute and a lot like the toy.

Kitty's 15th birthday cakes are here. I actually had pictures of them.



Bob's 14th birthday Runaway Turtle cake (before the turtle's escape attempt).



Didn't take a picture of Bear's b-day cake, but it actually turned out as pretty as this. It was rectangular though.

Bear on his 17th birthday holding a Bugs Bunny balloon made for him by my fav neighbor, Sharon. Bear shares a birthday with Bugs. Doesn't he look thrilled?!

I can't believe I'm the mom of 3 teens (and a tween). I can't believe the girls will be in high school in less than 3 weeks!



Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Resetting Normal


Sometimes when I launch an updated version of a computer program I find that I can't transfer my old documents or projects to the new program. Sometimes they're corrupt. Sometimes they're so old the new program doesn't support them. Sometimes I found I've added features that the new program doesn't have so it doesn't recognize parts.


I used to have lots of time on my hands so I played with designing our house and interior decorating. I had a CAD (computer aided drafting) program that I'd purchased off a bargain table at a discount book store. I spent hours and hours entering exact dimensions, moving walls, figuring out how to put things at an angle or adding features so it looked exactly like our house. I quickly discovered I really liked it so I searched the internet and found some upgrades. We wanted to add on to our house so I felt really productive.


I decided I wanted to upgrade the program and discovered that the new version could do amazing things, but it wasn't compatable at all with the original so I would have to start over. I was having fun and I still had all the dimensions so I decided to go for it. Fun!! Then I had to reload the program a few times (changed computers), and I upgraded several times. Each time importing the old files and playing with them, tweaking them, and adding to them.


One day I decided to start from scratch and design a new space. I discovered that the latest version of the program I was working on had all sorts of features and abilities that I had not been able to access because I was working with the old project files. There were things I could and did add (like new furniture and surfaces), but some things were not compatable with what already existed, and some of them were designed to be used in the "building" process which was already complete, so they weren't even listed as options. The program viewed the existing options already in place as "customized." So most of the cool new options weren't listed because the program assumed I'd already chosen.
At this point we'd already used the program to add on to the house. I no longer had real access to a computer that would support the installation of the program (it used floppy disks!). And I no longer had the motivation to play with it all. So I just let it go.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
I think of Kitty as fairly stable. She has her quirks and her moments, but she has improved so much that I don't tend to see them. Not only do I compare her to the "original document", but I compare her to her brother and since she is currently doing so much better in many ways I still see her as doing "OK." I've always made a conscious effort not to compare her to Bob and Ponito of course. It would not be fair as they are completely different kind of "files."
Now I'm wondering if I'm making a mistake. I have access to new and improved upgraded programs. Am I allowing Kitty to plug along limited by the constraints of my expectations?
The other day we were in my bedroom (yes, it's Hubby's too) going through the girls' wardrobes to figure out what was needed for school. Both girls have lost a little weight. I was also going through the storage bins of clothes (I've lost some weight too) and it took a little longer because I wanted to put them back away neatly. Kitty got bored. All of her jeans were too big. Most of them were dirty.
I told Kitty she couldn't leave the room until we were done. Since I was there to supervise I started directing her in putting away her clean clothes (she keeps her clothes in my room because she's not able to handle them on her own). Already a little triggered because she was restless, Kitty lost it. She snatched a pile of dirty clothes and dumped them in a laundry basket (including a shoe, a belt, and who knows what all.). She refused to pick up the shrapnel (a pair of tights, a couple of socks, a shoe...). After a few minutes of defiance she stormed out. A second later her door slammed and her radio blasted. I went back to what I was doing to give her some time to calm down.
A few minutes later I heard her begin sobbing. I've recently decided my PTSD flares when the kids have meltdowns or I get in a major argument with Bear, and maybe I'm having more trouble with that than with bipolar disorder, which might explain why I haven't been having too much trouble with having stopped the mood stabilizers - the kids have been fairly stable. So when Kitty began sobbing, I cussed a little under my breath and decided to ignore it.
Ponito came in and told me Kitty was crying and Daddy couldn't get her to tell him why. I told Ponito to tell Daddy to ignore it because she was just mad about being told to clean up.
Then I heard her in the hall saying I want my real family. That's when I knew she'd escalated even more and I went to confront her just before she walked in her room. I was pretty frustrated with her, but then discovered she was no longer upset about our disagreement.
Apparently she'd decided to call Biograndma (probably for sympathy) and one of her little sisters answered. Biomom had just recently told me she rarely went to Biograndma's because it was too expensive to travel. This was a shock for Kitty (and combined with already being upset triggered a major meltdown). She said she didn't know what to say to her sister and she hung up after a few seconds conversation because she thought I'd be upset with her talking to them while Biomom was in the house (this was against the rules in the past).
I finally got her emotionally regulated. I reassured her that I knew she could handle talking to the sisters with Biomom in the house and it was OK to call her sisters back, but not until she'd had a chance to calm down ("No, you're not calm yet."). Before that could happen we had to leave the house (Bear's therapy). She did get a chance to call though. Obviously having two events happen right after each other made this event much worse and she's already worried about starting high school in a few weeks.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
I stayed home from work today because Kitty couldn't do her chores without major meltdown. Evil mom wanted her to put up a laundry basket of clean clothes (been telling her to do this for 4 days), pick up the plastic grocery sacs that had somehow gotten spread all over the pantry floor (her job was to clean the floor - she chose to interpret that as move the bags to one side, sweep, move the bags, sweep - but not put away the bags!), and it's her day to do kitty litter.
She's supposed to keep her floor picked up all the time, but she doesn't. She is so easily overwhelmed that several years ago we removed most of her stuff, but cleaning/organizing again was on my "to do" list because it's gotten pretty bad - especially under her bed. Still, there's a couple of piles of sand from volunteer work (it's a sand filled arena) and one of her pillows with microbeads had leaked all over the floors. I do think she's perfectly capable of handling a little sweeping.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
So anyone got a manual of new upgrades and suggestions and whether or not I should completely reprogram or try to patch and tweak? *grin*