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!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Bear goes to the doctor

Bear is getting ready for football practice to start so he went for his physical.

I forget how many issues he has until I see him shut down and get surly. He cooperated with the nurse, but he was not happy!

He has a hernia! No football practice for him until we see the specialist, confirm the diagnosis, have the surgery (if needed of course) and recovery time. One unhappy Bear! He keeps insisting he doesn't have a hernia. *poor Bear! Denial will NOT make it go away son!*

He also has problems with heartburn (never told us). 3 blemishes that are swollen and irritated on his forehead (he claims they're old, but the doctor says he still needs to see the dermatologist. $50 specialist copay, ouch!). Thought about it, but didn't have the nurse practitioner yell at him for using snuff. She already gave him a hard time about not using sunscreen. Got one immunization for Meningitis. Flunked his urine test (?!), apparently he's not supposed to have proteins in it, so he had to get his blood drawn. Oh, and his spine has a slight curve to the right, but she just casually pointed it out, so I'm assuming we don't need to do anything.

Still laughing at the expression on his face when he found out he was going to have to wear the cute little robe. The Female nurse practitioner and I stepped out of the room while he changed. My son of course can never have less than 3 layers so he only took off his jean shorts and left on his undies and gym shorts. LOL. He did take off all of his shirts (cause he had to).

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


I am on overwhelm. While I try to figure out how to get caught up from all I've volunteered for, here's something for you/me to contemplate.

To get something you never had, you have to do something you never did.'

When God takes something from your grasp, He's not punishing you, but merely opening your hands to receive something better.

Concentrate on this sentence... 'The will of God will never take you where the Grace of God will not protect you.'

Friday, July 24, 2009

Do you know Clay O'Connor?

There's a woman who has had a vey tough life and is trying to find her way. She is searching for someone from her past named Richard Clay O'Connor. She is on the line of having faith in God and I would love to be able to help God reach her. So if you have heard of this man, please contact her by clicking on his name and leaving her a comment. Or leave me one, and I'll pass it on. There's a time crunch here so please let her know what you know!

Richard Clay O’Connor, most often called Clay.
Long blonde hair (back then)
Dad owned a tattoo shop
Had a foster mother who was a cop for a hospital
Lived in Florida for a while (post foster care)
Lived in Oklahoma for a while (post foster care)
Worked at a KFC or Wendys (can’t remember which)

This woman made a deal with another blogger, an adoptive mom of 12 named Claudia. Claudia asked this woman, if she believed religion was a crutch, what would happen if they prayed, and then he was found... What would that mean? So they talked about it and the woman agreed to give it a chance. Claudia asked her what her deadline was… the woman told her, "I didn’t know you could give God time frames." Claudia laughed.

So Claudia and this woman made a deal. If they find Clay by Nov 2nd, the woman opens herself up to the possibilities that religion might be more than a crutch. She’ll research christianity a little harder than she has and give it a fair looking over. If they find him by September 1st, she’ll allow Claudia to talk to her about God. The last was if they find him by August 1st, then without question she will seriously start considering that God is not only real, but he cares about her personally because that gives hardly a week to move mountains… she agreed to those terms.

Then she told Claudia that like in Pretty Woman when they were bartering… she would have let Claudia talk to her about God anyway…

People say that if you pray, you should generally let God know what you want and why. Then, it’s up to God to determine if you need it, and when to give it to you.

"If you pray, please pray. Please pray that God steps in and takes control of this situation and leads me down a path that will not only find my friend, but be reunited with him as well. Please pray that God takes control of this situation and the outcome is something that I’m emotionally strong enough to bear if the worst has happened."

A cRADptastic week.

So the fun continuous.

Remember the pictures of girls in their undies (mostly, apparently there were a couple that showed full frontal) that I Ponito found when searching Bear's room? Well, I had paid Ponito to help me with the cleaning (mostly doing the lugging - trash, laundry, confiscated stuff).

Apparently while throwing away the bag of trash, Ponito pulled out the pictures. And proceeded to sell most of them to a neighbor kid (also 10 years old). If you're thinking oh just typical boy stuff - he hasn't hit puberty, yet, and he used the money to buy a stuffed animal!
So he's grounded. His stuffed animal is confiscated (as are the pictures) and he will have to pay a $20 "fine." (twice the cost of the "stolen" items.). Now I get to figure out what to give him for a FAIR Club assignment. The neighbor family already told him he can't play with their kids for "a while."
Of course he knows that it was Kitty who told on him so he's already threatened to kill her. *sigh*
Bear's 1st anniversary of his adoption is tomorrow. His 16th birthday is the next day. I had already decided his girlfriend (who is allegedly going to be out of town all next week, one of the excuses he gave for skipping school to spend time with her) could come to the family party on Saturday, but that was it.
I let him talk to GF this morning and he claims her dad died of cancer yesterday. Her mom, stepfather and brother went to Sea World or Disney World or somewhere and she's staying with her best friend in our neighborhood again. *sigh* So of course she "needs" him. What do you do?!
I told him she could go run errands with the family for a couple of hours (library, hardware store), but then she needed to go home. Grandma apparently forgot to drop her off (or didn't get the message). So the GF was here for lunch, watching a movie afterward, and now is planning on meeting them at the pool.
I'll get no "credit" for allowing this time together. All he'll remember is what a restrictive witch I am. *sigh*
Last but not least. Got a all from biograndma. Apparently on Tuesday, Biomom packed up the girls (my kid's bio half sisters) and moved from Nebraska to Texas! She didn't tell anyone, just did it. Grandma reached her (I guess via cell phone) and Biomom said it was to be closer to my kids and because she thought she could get more assistance for school (she's been getting grant money for college for 5 years - spends it on other stuff).
Not sure who she knows in this city, but she went there before when she visited my kids in January. She mentioned she'd be visiting there in September and asked if she could see the kids then. I hadn't answered yet, because I couldn't decide what to do. I want the kids to see their sisters, but not Biomom. The town she's now in is still almost 7 hours away from us (Texas is huge!), but I'm freaking out!!

RAD boy

You asked what Bear did to get in trouble.

So far we’ve discovered that:

Bear’s lied about where he’s been for the past week and a half (or more). He’s missed at least 3 out of the 5 days of Summer school so far and we have no idea where he really was (he's admitted to wandering the school when he was unable to get off the bus without getting caught, working out at the rec center, and spending time with his girlfriend).

His girlfriend and friends have lied to us about where he was.

He’s started using tobacco again. Although he swears it's not his.

He’s hoarding food again. Wouldn't bug me so much if he didn't keep every single dish in his room (full of rotten rinds and things), leaving the rest of the family with no dishes. Plus according to the amount of candy wrappers I found he must be so high on sugar it's no wonder he can't sleep.

He is not regularly taking his sleeping medications, and probably not taking others. He admitted that when he doesn't think he needs them he just doesn't take his sleeping meds. Of course he firmly believes that it's normal to only sleep 4-5 hours a night. It's "my fault" he doesn't take his mid-day meds, because I forget to fill his box (mid-days are the one type of meds we let the kids take with minimal supervision - someday he's going to have to remember to take meds on his own.

He’s stealing electronic equipment from elsewhere in the house and using it to watch and listen to movies and music that are inappropriate. Not sure where all the CDs and DVDs are coming from. His little brother is happy to have his MP3 back.

He’s staying up till all hours. I’ve found evidence that he probably has a trac phone again so he’s most likely back in contact with bioparents, and texting until all hours of the night. This could explain some of the recent behaviors.

FYI, he never confessed to anything and denied most of it. The rest was OUR fault. This is not everything, just the stuff I can prove.

Right now he is defensive and angry. He's mad that he's in trouble and therefore mad at us/me.

After an hour long diatribe about how fast our heads are going to spin when he turns 18 and blows this popsicle stand, and how we're crazy if we think we can keep him locked inside all the time. (I pointed out that between school and swimming, he'd been out of the house most of the day, and I wasn't keeping him from going out, just not without supervision).

I told him he'd only been grounded for 2 days so far, and he knew this was coming. There was no way he wasn't going to get caught. He grumped, loudly, for about an hour - then Hubby came home and he shut down.

Within an hour he was watching the movie he'd chosen (so much for hating TV), I had doctored his hand from where a kid at school had somehow managed to get pencil lead stuck in it, let him talk to his Nebraska Grandma on the phone, talked to him about college and possibly being a police officer, he got to choose what we were having for dinner, and I gave him a haircut (his request).

But we're horrible parents who love the other kids more than him and want him to be miserable.

So which is the real story? He's miserable and we don't care about him or he's totally fine?! *sigh*

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Why I've been MIA

Howdy y'all!

Sorry I've been away for so long. I am a moderator on a new website! It's for people involved with Reactive Attachment Disorder (adult survivors, parents, and the "community" - social worker, therapists, caregivers...

It has many forums and a chat board. I've been up past 1am most nights chatting with the founder of the board (that's the only time I can find to do it). It's exciting but exhausting at the same time. Good thing I'm mostly a "stay at home mom right now."

I'm also trying to keep up with "real life."

We're still on hold with Kitty getting in to residential treatment. I think we're just waiting for state funding (I'm going to say once again Thank God for Lisa! If not for her, we wouldn't have gotten residential treatment funding put in our adoption subsidy and would be up the proverbial creek without a paddle). Kitty actually wants to go and is upset at the delay.

Bear got in major trouble on Monday and in searching his room I discovered that he's such a horrible packrat I couldn't even find all the "contraband." So I decided to strip his room. Took me 4 hours, 10 garbage bags (5 trash and 5 "stuff that doesn't belong in his room"), and 10 loads of laundry (or more). I'm removing all the furniture except his bed and a glass desk so it's easier to search next time.

At first I had the littles helping (so I could get it done before he got home), Bob could lift the bed so we could get stuff out of the bed frame, but then Ponito found some soft porn pictures and I decided they needed to let me finish.

You don't even want to know what all else I found! The "good news" is he's such a packrat that he never got rid of all the OTC sleeping meds he's been palming, and he kept the wrapping for the new Trac phone (still haven't found that).

I did "his" bathroom too (also disgusting). It's supposed to be used by all the kids, but no one else will go in there. Had to laugh at some of the stuff I found in the cabinets. Apparently it's been awhile since I "decluttered." I found little plastic barrettes and diapers!

Next is the garage. With the temperatures in the mid-100s though, I'm not looking forward to that.
Still haven't figured out what we're going to do about his birthday this weekend. The 25th is his adoption day too. Thought about waiting until the following weekend, but that's my nephew's 10th birthday. With Bob's birthday last weekend and my niece's a couple of weeks ago, we get birthdayed out.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Family and Contest

"You're not my real family."

"That's funny, I feel real. Honey, do I look plastic to you? Believe me baby, this is not a Barbie body!"

Real families are made from love, not blood. You do not have to be blood related to love someone. Mom and Dad are not blood related, but we still love each other very much, and we are a family. You are part of our family and I love you. Even if you move away and never speak to me again, I will always love you.

My friend Tiruba Tuba is having a contest about family to add to a book for older children in foster care waiting for a family.

Kids are waiting. Waiting for permanent families to adopt them. They are in foster care. They are nervous. Scared. Family hasn’t always meant something good or permanent to them. They may even still have family in their lives that they love and don’t want to lose those connections. This is a stressful time.

Let’s share with waiting children what family means to us. What does it mean to you???

Your Mission should you choose to accept it:
I challenge you to say why a permanent family is important TO YOU. If you are a parent, you can say why you wanted a family. If you are kid who was adopted, tell kids who are waiting what the good parts of being adopted is. Even if you have not adopted or are not adopted, tell me: Why do you love your family? You can show this in a million ways and I expect to see a million different results.

You have til Monday to LEAVE A COMMENT on this post on what family means to you. For another entry, LEAVE ANOTHER COMMENT on how adoption has impacted your life. Remember, these will all be going into a book for older children waiting for adoption. You will get an extra entry if you link to this contest on your blog.

Mary's Family-

My family has changed over the years. My parents divorced when I was young and both remarried. Some of their new spouses had children so I had step siblings, step cousins, and even more grandparents. My family moved often too (9 different states and countries before I was 5). I can't say I understand everything my kids have been through, but I understand some.

When we adopted our children I knew I would love them just as much as I love my children I had by birth. They have had a hard time believing that, but they are learning it's true. I know that it will take a long time for them to truly trust me, and that's OK. We've got time. Even when they graduate high school and leave home they will continue to be part of our family -forever.

Our children still have contact with some of their birth family and foster family. I know they have enough room in their heart to love all their families just like I do. Even if they can't talk to a family member right now, that person is still family and it's OK for them to love them.

Family Expectations -
  • Saying no to you does not mean we don't love you.
  • Being in a family doesn't mean things will be fair. Life is not fair.
  • It's a parents' job to help kids learn to deal with life in the real world and being part of a family.

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

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Teenagers and time

Didn't get the job. I'm assuming that's a good thing since I can't seem to find enough hours in the day as it is. I've got a new volunteer job that I'll post about soon.

Kitty is still napping and melting. Napping when she takes her meds. Melting when she doesn't. You'd think it would click when she starts yelling and crying that she hasn't taken her lunchtime meds, but it never does! Hours after I've gotten her calmed down, or she's out on the swings, I'll realize she's missed the med.

Bear has been giving us some trouble lately. He has a new girlfriend. Nothing new there, and wouldn't be a big deal, but his girlfriend is staying with her best friend who lives in our neighborhood. The best friend has a younger friend who is friends with Kitty from the special ed classroom at school. Kitty has become friends with the older sister and her friend (she always seems to do this - especially the ones with mega issues). With me so far?

The older sister is a junior in high school and drives. She'd brought her little sister to our house to hang out with Kitty. Then she recognized Bear from school. She started calling the house to talk to him. She is a large girl, and Bear prefers petite little girls, so he found the older sister annoying, right up until he met her tiny little friend.

So here's where the trouble comes in. Bear is sneaking around to spend unsupervised time with the new girlfriend. The older sister and girlfriend are hanging out here a lot (because I don't let my kids out of my sight - I refuse to become a grandma). Kitty is "bonding" with the older girls.

Kitty is upset with me because I've told her I don't want her hanging out with juniors and seniors in high school (she's only in 8th grade). Nothing against the girls, but Kitty is a mess right now and doesn't need to add to it, plus I'm pretty sure the girls are using her to get closer to Bear. This isn't the first time this has happened. The younger sister doesn't even come over anymore. Also, the girls are nice to Bob too. This sends Kitty into a jealous rage. People are not allowed to like Bob.

Bear is upset with me because he's been busted for lying to me and sneaking around (which he will deny to his dying day). He's also thinking he doesn't need his meds anymore. I've seen some evidence that he's starting to reduce them on his own (unconscious lip movements and irritability).

I need to start channeling Claudia, especially now that I'll have almost all teenagers in the house.

I'm finding that now that I've figured out the key to parenting them {teens}
(you can't control them, no matter what you do, so instruct, consequence, and
observe -- but treat it like a movie that you're watching, and enjoy seeing how
the plot unfolds). Parenting teens by attempting to control them is as foolish
as sitting watching a movie and thinking that by your own will power you can
change then ending.

It's something I need to work on. Probably won't happen for awhile though. I'm still dealing with feeling rundown since I have had to start weaning off my medications. We can't pay for our private health insurance anymore so I can't get my meds or see my doctor. The adopted children are OK because they qualify for Medicaid. The rest of the family are sickeningly healthy.

Better get some sleep. Tomorrow we have to view properties to move our business to, and I'm going to have to take Kitty with me (who will be "BOOORRRED, or take Ponito (to protect him from Kitty). *sigh* Plus I have to be sure to be home at 11am so I don't miss the police officer delivering my summons to small claims court. One of our clients has decided she doesn't like our work so she wants us to refund her money.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Where have I been?

Well I had a job interview on Friday. I think I did very well, but I'm not sure if this job is the right job for me. It's working with a therapeutic foster care agency called The Bair Foundation as an intake director.

My job would be finding, interviewing and training potential foster parents. It's something I would be good at, but would be making less than half of what I make in salary now (if I were making a salary that is). This concerned the staffing agency as well, but I told them that I was looking at this as volunteer work that would still allow me to contribute to my family (I implied Hubby was drawing a salary).

This would also be a major step back for me career-wise, which would not help me with future jobs. Hubby is a little upset with me, for not applying for higher level jobs, because I think I'm not qualified. He has been teasing me that I'm taking a job at McDonalds (because the pay is so low).

Last concern is a big one. The hours are probably going to include a lot of nights and weekends. That may be a deal killer.

I just haven't found any better jobs that appeal to me though (and that I feel qualified for). I really want a job that allows me to help others. I have some networking resources I haven't tapped yet. Will try to get off my rear and get my resume out to them.

I've really got to do something soon though. We can't afford our health insurance and I have run out of almost all my meds for my bipolar disorder. The kids have Medicaid so their meds and Kitty's therapy are covered, but their psychiatrist and pediatrician do not take Medicaid.

Had a long talk with the kids' biograndmother I need to post about.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Word cloud 2

New word cloud. The more you mention a word the bigger it is in the cloud.

LOL! Think I may mention birthday cake a little too much on this blog?!

Wordle: marythemom

Media and RAD

Michael is an adult RAD survivor. He is not a licensed therapist, but I see him as an expert in his field. He recently wrote a blog post called Media and RAD - The Ugly Truth in which he discussed his reaction to a crash scene in the movie Armageddon. 

Ironically, our issues with media, particularly with Kitty, had recently become such an issue that I had decided to have the kids do an assignment to reinforce why I am so strict about this. Kitty especially wants to be allowed to watch shows and movies that I feel have a negative/ triggering effect on her.

Almost a year ago, I had Bob do a FAIR Club assignment about the effects of media on kids (posted here). She did a good job. So a few days ago, I decided to have the kids take a quiz on the report. Mostly fill in the blank stuff, but I wanted to be sure they actually read it. (Kitty couldn't do the quiz though. *sigh* She just didn't understand the questions. I'll have to sit with her to do it.)

So here is my comment on Mike's blog post.

As a preschooler, my daughter (RAD) was allowed to watch horror movies (like The Scream and Jeepers Creepers). In foster care (age 9-11) her favorite TV show was CSI. She loves violent shows, the more blood and gore the better - I know this is typical for kids with RAD and PTSD.
Personally, media of all kinds has always affected my moods (I dealt with depression and attachment issues) so I choose to watch nothing but comedies, and read nothing but books, that have happy endings. I don't like horror, thrillers, drama, or tragedies.
With all my kids, both adopted and bio - ages 10-15, I don't allow them to watch PG-13 movies, and seriously limit what they can watch on TV (not even certain cartoon channels and shows), and what they play (no E-10+ computer games, no Bionicles or Pokemon).
All my kids think I'm the meanest mom ever and swear they can handle it. When I do give in or they see something at a friend's house, sometimes their reactions are immediate (agitated, talking loudly, aggression, leaving the room), but other times it's delayed or less obvious (especially if they know it means I'll remove approval to watch something).
So my question is, am I the meanest mom ever?
Would it have been helpful to you [Mike] as a teen to have your media "censored?"
I realize my "censoring" doesn't change their past at all, and they ARE dealing with the issues media could be bringing up both in therapy and reality all the time but I don't think they need the exposure to upsetting media all the time.
My adopted son (15) appears to be dealing with his life well right now, and could potentially be able to handle it (he sneaks it anyway), but our adopted daughter (his biological half-sister, age 14) is emotionally fragile - truthfully, I expect her to be in residential treatment within the next couple of weeks.
So what do you think? My adopted children were abused and my bio kids have PTSD caused by living with angry, "acting out" older siblings. Should I lighten up or get stricter? I know lots of moms who don't let their kids watch TV at all.
Mary Themom
And here's his response:

Dear Mrs. T,
Ironically, for not being a professional therapist, I get the same question “am I the meanest mom ever???” question almost daily now. My resounding answer most assuredly is NO. I am of the belief that while being a mom or a dad is a great thing, there is a limit to the amount of “coolness” or leeway that you can provide. If you feel that they don’t need the added pressure and exposure to certain media, be firm and be confident in the fact your making the best call that you can. You’re the mom and that’s the way it goes.
I find it refreshing that you want to be able to filter what your kids see. I think that in today’s society it’s easier to toss a child a T.V. [phone or tablet] while parent’s pursue other interests. It speaks volumes to me that you want to have such limits in the interests of your children’s safety in your household. It’s a very inspiring value.
“The meanest mom ever” comment of course is not accurate and remember with R.A.D. kids, no how matter much they push your buttons and give you trouble, don’t take it personally. Their outbursts aren’t about YOU it’s about THEM. I remember holding a knife to father’s throat, not wanting to kill him of course, but to assert authority. It wasn’t about him, it was about MY anger.
Sounds to me like you're making the call for your family that you have to make, in a society that tells you to do otherwise. You're sticking to your guns and your values. I think your kids will not only say, “Thank you” one day for your sense of values you have impressed upon them, but the “Greatest mom ever” mug you eventually receive from appreciative young adults will prove me correct. 
Sincerely with regards and the warmest of wishes,
Michael S

So what do you think? 

I know I'm not the meanest mom ever (I know too many moms of RAD kids to ever believe that), but am I doing the right thing? Should I be doing more? I know a lot of moms that don't let their kids watch TV at all.

How should I handle the different needs of my 4 very different kids? Some of whom can handle what we have now, and others who would probably benefit from even more restrictions.

I believe that children should not be treated equally. Life is not fair. Each of my children has different needs, but it's hard for Kitty especially, to accept that without being jealous. She can't see the privileges she's getting that others don't (like not being held accountable for her inappropriate behaviors). All she sees is that she's older and yet isn't being treated like a 14-year-old (because developmentally she's not one and she can't handle it).

One reason I've questioned our decision to adopt children older than my oldest bio child is that it makes it more difficult to allow the younger kids to have privileges they've earned and can handle. Even though in my head I know that treating my children equally is not in their best interest, explaining that to them and others is hard! 

(Blog Posts on This Subject:
Explaining Age-Appropriate Parenting to Your Child
Dear Person Who Just Doesn't "Get It"
Adopting Out of Birth Order

OK, I've babbled on long enough. Time to get ready to take Kitty to her psychiatrist appointment. I'm expecting him to write a recommendation for her to go to residential treatment tonight.

Edited to add:

Here's how we handled Media: 

I subscribe to the Garbage In, Garbage Out” philosophy.  I have removed anything I don’t think is GOOD for them (not just "not bad").  
  • Movies
    We purchased a 
    Clearplay DVD player and any videos rated PG or higher must be played on that. This allows them to see the movies their friends are talking about, without all the violence, language, and sex.
    Movie Reviews - Adoption at the Movies -
  • Streaming
    At the time of this writing, streaming, Netflix, Amazon Prime... didn't exist. My understanding is that Clearplay claims to offer filtered versions of streaming movies but probably no longer does. Currently, a company called VidAngel still does. But the studios are fighting this, so I'm not sure how much longer they will be able to do so.
  • TV Shows
    We don’t allow any TV shows rated higher than PG (no PG – 14), and we completed banned certain channels and most of the more violent cartoons. 
    *  No Cartoon Network at all, because the majority of the cartoons were violent, rude, inappropriate -- No Spongebob – too violent and rude. No shows like iCarly which is pretty much rude all the time.
    *  Nothing on Nick at Nite.
    *  Pretty much everything on the Military or History Channels {the violence and blood and stuff really triggered Bear}.  *
    *  We even dumped the ABC Family channel which played some great movies, because they were advertising really inappropriate shows (Degrassi, stuff about teenage moms…).
  • Music
    I had the children switch to all Christian music (there are all kinds – rap, heavy metal, pop…). I loaded their MP3 players with it and listen to it exclusively on the car radio. It wasn't about it being Christian, it was just the easiest way to filter out all the stuff I didn't want them exposed to (violence, foul language, drugs...).
  • Computers and the Internet
    We have a "kid's computer" that does have access to the internet (some of their homework assignments require it). It's in a common area of the house where we can see the screen at all times. No TVs or Computers allowed in kids' rooms. {Although once Bob entered high school, she was allowed a laptop in her room for homework. She often studied late into the night and during the day, it got too noisy and distracting for her in common areas of the house.}
    *  If I don't feel that the school can properly supervise my kids on the school's computers, then I don't sign the permission slips for that child giving my permission for him/her to have internet access at school. In fact, I specifically told them we were not giving permission. If the school provided a computer to my student, I said, "No, thank you." I especially wasn't going to sign for liability if there was damage to the laptop!
  • Passwords - Kids were required to give us passwords to everything and ask permission before signing up for things.
  • Parental Controls - We put parental controls on everything, but I'll admit, they figured out how to get around them pretty quickly.
  • Mobile Phones/ Smart Phones - According to my kids, we were the only parents who didn't allow our kids to have smartphones by age 12 (and in our neighborhood, they might have been right). Once we felt they were ready, we did allow the kids to have phones that could text and make calls (no internet). Bob got one first because she could handle it and needed to be able to reach Grandma (if Grandma needed to pick the girls up earlier or later from school or other activities).

    When Bear first came to us (at age 13), he had a pre-paid phone. We decided to put him on our phone plan because we figured it was cheaper than getting cards and allowed us more supervision if we bought it and were paying the bill (plus it gave us more ground to stand on if we took it away as punishment). Let's just say he charged a few crazy bills (10-hour calls to Alaska among other things!) and we took it away. We never gave another one to Bear because we felt he wasn't ready. He did borrow/ steal them often. We mostly tried to provide line-of-sight supervision to deal with this. (Lying and Stealing)

    Phones went on a charger in our room at night so the kids didn't stay up until all hours texting friends (and biofamily). They were in high school before Bob and Ponito got hand-me-down smartphones. Kitty purchased one with her own money her senior year - I'm still not sure she was ready.
  • Gaming Systems
    No games rated Teen or above. The gaming system was in a common area where what was playing could be supervised. Ponito did manage to get access to games rated Mature when he went to friends' houses. We tried to stop that wherever we could, but he seemed to handle it OK, so we weren't very vigilant about it.
  • Picking It Apart/ Teachable Moment
    One thing my mom did when I was young (which made me crazy at the time), was point out the flaws in shows and movies, most especially in commercials. They also became opportunities for talks about better ways to handle things, sex, relationships, values, faith, even politics.

    I still remember ignoring my mom's advice and buying something I'd seen on TV. A beautiful real diamond ring with a free matching necklace for the bargain price of $14.95. (plus S&H). When it arrived, it was a minuscule diamond chip surrounded by a setting that made it look like a bigger diamond when it was on TV, but in real life, didn't look like a bigger diamond at all. I learned a valuable lesson.

    My sister also ignored her and got on one of those Columbia Records deals where you get 7 albums for a penny, but they sign you up so you receive a lifetime subscription for records (they send you 2 a month unless you remember each month to tell them not to- at full price of course).

    For my kids, watching PG-13 movies often led to a sex ed talk which was highly embarrassing to have with mom! It also led to some discussions in therapy about issues and triggers brought up in the media.

    I liked using movies in analogies (for my kids who understood analogies) - see our Integrity Study.

Maybe some kids can handle the innuendo, adrenaline-inducing, emotionally-triggering, violence…  mine can’t.  My kids are developmentally much younger and have very black and white thinking that makes it hard for them to understand when it is (and is not) appropriate to emulate what they see on TV.  

We decided that to treat them as though they were their chronological/ physical age, or as if they are able to handle things we have recognized as triggers, was just cruel and unfair. 

It is definitely hard to follow through on this!!  Providing all this structure is draining, to say the least. Most people don’t understand it, and my kids certainly don’t love it, but we’ve had fewer meltdowns and the foul language and attitudes have improved, for both my kids of trauma and my “neurotypical kids.”

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Word clouds

Wordle: Mayhem

My computer will finally let me use this fun website that creates word pictures. It can even use all the words from your blog. I have to laugh at the fact that cake is one of the most prominent words!! I hope it's just because it's one of the more recent posts.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Teens everywhere!

Bob turns 13 next weekend. Bear turns 16 only 5 days later. Kitty is already 14. This means 10 year old Ponito is my only baby and the teenage hormones will be the majority. *sigh*

Anyone else's kids always "turds" around their birthday? Bob and Ponito both have ALways been horrid for one month before their birthdays. Kitty and Bear always have issues with holidays and special days in general. Bear ended up in residential treatment 3 days before his 1st birthday with us. Kitty had only come home from psychiatric hospitalization the day before her last birthday.

Of course last year we decided to finalize their adoptions right before their birthdays. No extra pressure there! *sarcastic drip* Kitty two weeks before her 14th birthday. Bear one day before his 15th birthday.

So this year we have to decide how to handle the birthday parties. We've already told them this is a "small" birthday party year. Maybe a friend or two over, and a birthday cake shared with the family. I usually make the cakes myself. We've had some doozies.

Last year for Bob I made a monkey cake, because she LOVES monkeys. It ws supposed to be a monkey eating bananas on a small island.

I ran out of icing so decided to use pudding dyed blue between the layers of the cake. Guess what? Pudding is slippery! The cake crumbled, parts of it slipped off, the island "refused" to float (unless you count "floating" right off the cake). *sigh*

I had discovered that Tootsie Rolls could be molded like modeling clay. I spent days making an adorable (if I do say so myself) monkey holding a banana (wish I'd gotten some good pictures). There are different colors/flavors of Tootsie Rolls. So I made cute colorful fish, bananas, and even a coconut tree to put on the sand covered (graham cracker crumbs) island, made from Tootsie Pops! (the lollys were the coconuts). Then I discovered that while Tootsie rolls look like modeling clay, and if you put them in the refrigerator they would "harden," that when they warmed, they drooped. The adorable monkey and tree would not stand. Bob didn't care. They tasted delicious!

Have no memory of what Bear's cake looked like last year. This is what Bear looked like though. He outshone any cake possible!

We haven't taken pictures of every cake. I'm notorious for forgetting to bring the camera. Here's one from Ponito's 6th birthday. He wanted a dragon cake. This one was made with wings made from fruit roll ups on licorice frames. His scales made from gum drop slices. His gold was Nestle Treasures and jelly beans for gems. He was supposed to be one of those long snake-like dragons that curved in and out of the top of the cake (think Nessie the Loch Ness monster). Horrible picture - sorry. This lizard for my nephew turned out cuter. It had chocolate chip spots that spelled out his name and the message. We call this picture the "two headed boy."
This was one of the best years for cakes. Bob had wanted a princess theme. One cake was Cinderella. The other cake was Little Mermaid. The Little Mermaid "cake" was actually made from Rice Krispies made with colored marshmallows divided into different colors. This cake ended up feeding almost 200! We took it to Bob's daycare since it hadn't been as popular as the chocolate cake at her party. The entire school had it for snack and then there was tons left over that the teachers took home. I think the whole school ate it two days in a row.!
So have to decide what we'll do this year. Bear will probably want a carrot cake. It's his favorite.
Saw some lovely pictures of cakes on Cake Wrecks (an absolutely hilarious blog about cakes gone wrong). Think these will make good choices?
Can you believe someone actually had this made for their daughter's 12th birthday?! Poor Holly.

Stress management e-mail

Received this e-mail recently and felt it was very apropos. There was no listed author.

Stress management

A young lady in front of the room, confidently walked around while leading and explaining stress management to an audience; with a raised glass of water, and everyone knew she was going to ask the ultimate question, 'half empty or half full?' .... she fooled them all... 'How heavy is this glass of water?' she inquired with a smile.

Answers called out ranged from 8oz. to 20oz.

The lecturer replied, 'The absolute weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long you hold it.''If I hold it for a minute, that's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my right arm. "If I hold it for a day, you'll have to call an ambulance.

''In each case it's the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.'

She continued, 'And that's the way it is with stress management. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won't be able to carry on.''

As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again. When we're refreshed, we can carry on with the burden - holding stress longer and better each time practiced.

''So, before you return home tonight, put the burden of work/life down. Don't carry it home... pick it up tomorrow.

''Whatever burdens you're carrying now, let them down for a moment if you can.

Relax; pick them up later after you've rested.

Life is short.

Enjoy it and the now 'supposed' stress that you've conquered!

And then she shared some ways of dealing with the burdens of life:

1 * Accept that some days you're the pigeon, and some days you're the statue.
2 * Always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat them.

3 * Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.

4 * Drive carefully... It's not only cars that can be recalled by their Maker.

5 * If you can't be kind, at least have the decency to be vague.

6 * If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.

7 * It may be that your sole purpose in life is simply to serve as a warning to others.

8 * Never buy a car you can't push.

9 * Never put both feet in your mouth at the same time, because then you won't have a leg to stand on.

10 * Nobody cares if you can't dance well.. Just get up and dance.

11 * Since it's the early worm that gets eaten by the bird, sleep late.

12 * The second mouse gets the cheese.

13 * When everything's coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.

14 * Birthdays are good for you. The more you have, the longer you live.

15 * You may be only one person in the world, but you may also be the world to one person.

16 * Some mistakes are too much fun to only make once.

17 * We could learn a lot from crayons. Some are sharp, some are pretty and some are dull. Some have weird names and all are different colors, but they all have to live in the same box.

18 * A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

July 4th food and relaxation

What a lovely day.

Stayed up too late and a debt collector called at 8:30am (on a holiday!), but it was still good.

I made star pancakes for breakfast (put the batter in a baggie, cut off a corner and drew stars on the griddle). Yummy!

We sat around watching movies all day. I had a long nap (which I needed since I stayed up until almost 4am last night). It was great!

Tonight we're having hamburgers, sweet potato fries, corn on the cob - shucked by the kiddos, homemade cheesecake covered with cherries and fresh blueberries... tonight we'll eat watermelon as we watch fireworks.
Great food, a good nap, and kids that barely argued. Like I said, a lovely day!

Things I wish I knew when adopting an older child

One of my close friends, Lisa, is thinking of doing a CD on adoption parenting strategies. Kind of a Cliff Notes on What to Expect When You're Adopting. She asks us to think about what we wish we'd known. What would be the most helpful to know? Would you rather know strategies or techniques? Expectations?

Things I wish I knew (in no particular order) -

1. Don't Make Plans, have visitors, throw parties, or even leave home at all for the first 6 months after bringing your new child into the home. Even after the first 6 months, do everything you can to keep the child from being overwhelmed - Downplay Holidays, Birthdays, and Other Traumaversaries, limit presents, keep rooms stripped to just the essentials, remember there is nothing you can give them to make up for their life before you.

2. Don't Put Off Enforcing Rules and Structure because they "don't know any better," are "having a tough time," or "going through so much right now." Rules are like fences, they need them to feel safe. Consistency! It's easier to start with all the structure and rules while they're in the honeymoon period than to try to establish rules and boundaries later. You can always lighten up if/ when they don't need the Structure/ Support/ Supervision

3. Developmental Versus Chronological age. I wish someone had explained to me that like most kids with trauma issues, my child would not "really" be 13 in any way but physically. How do you cope with a child who thinks they should have all the rights of a teenager, but can't really handle it? How do you deal with others who think the child is just acting like a typical kid his or her age, and you are overreacting, too strict/ structured, or not strict/ structured enough? 

Therapeutically parenting my kids based on their Emotional/ Social Developmental Age was tough, but I still wish we'd started it from day one, because it was what they needed and life was easier when I focused on parenting my kids where they were, rather than where they "should" be. "Normal" parenting pushed my child into immediate Dysregulation and Meltdowns and Rages. The "thinking part" of their brain stopped working and they'd be operating with the reptilian part of their brain. Chores, Responsibilities, and Other Things My Kids Can't Handle

3. What Works With "Our Kids" and What Doesn't. We had to learn by trial and error... emphasis on the error!  My Top 10 Things I Couldn't Do This Without This blog documents the results of all that trial and error, based on the research, seminars, advice from support groups and other trauma mamas... I hope you check out the right sidebar for more.

I felt we were told don't spank them, don't yell at them, don't, don't, don't - and that was about it. Love and Logic is great, but it is based on "neurotypical" children who understand cause and effect and care what their parents think. Knowing what not to do and why is important, but what to do would be better! I did manage to find Katharine Leslie and some other amazing supports, but it would have been great if they had a manual you got when you adopted! 

4. How to Find Support - local and Finding Online and Local Support - forums, Facebook groups, list serves, chats... for all those questions you need an answer to yesterday and all those answers you didn't even know to ask the questions about.

5. How and When to Hire and Fire members of your child's team like therapists, psychiatrists... what questions to ask them (Questions to ask a therapist and Interview Questions for Caregivers and Respite Workers), what constitutes a good or bad relationship, when to let them go and move on. For example, if they insist they want to see your child without you, want to do a type of therapy you know doesn't work with your child (like talk therapy), or make you feel patronized or incompetent... fire them. A bad therapist is worse than no therapist at all!

6. Prioiritizing Yourself, Your Family, and Your Child - In That Order - You have every right, in fact you NEED to prioritize yourself first. Your family needs you and if you're overwhelmed by PTSD and Caregiver Fatigue, then you're not able to help anyone. If you ignore the needs of the family as a whole and focus all your time, energy, and efforts on one child, then the whole family suffers. 

7. How to Advocate for Your Child's Needs. How to find out what services are available and then how to get them. 

  • School -- What is an IEP and how to get one, who can be present to support and advise you at an IEP meeting. What are Wright's Law and IDEA and how do they help? How to get around the stupid rules like "No Child Left Behind," Least Restrictive Environment, "mandatory" state testing.... 
  • Medical - Medication, getting a child diagnosed, understanding the many diagnosed our kids get labeled with {Overlapping Behavior Characteristics}, what is RAD/ ODD/ CD, PTSD, FASD?) why some doctors won't diagnose bipolar disorder in children, are labels always a bad thing {Labeling}...? 
  • Diagnoses and Therapy - helping others understand your child's diagnoses and all the different types of therapy (Attachment TherapyEMDR, DBT...), Finding and Funding RTC....

8.  School. My child needed relationships and emotional healing WAAAYYYY more than he needed an education.   I'm a firm believer that what happens in school stays in school.  We have enough problems with relationships at our house; I don't need to fight the school's battles as well. Think about it, do you really want to raise a well-educated psychopath?  Advocate to make sure they get what they needed, but leave the rest to the school.  Family relationships are way more important, and you're not able to work on that if you're fighting about school.

Homework is NOT your problem.  If I force my kids to do their homework then in their mind it becomes MY problem (meaning no longer theirs!).  Also, the school doesn't get an accurate picture of my child's issues (Like most kids of trauma, my children have severe executive functioning and memory issues, which means they canNOT get/stay organized). My son would act out to hide the fact that he couldn't, or didn't think he could, do his homework.
I need the school to grasp and acknowledge my child's academic issues, and they won't get that if I walk my child through the homework. I give my child adequate time to do homework and offer help if they ask for it and remain respectful, but I will tell my child to put it down and walk away if it's obviously triggering him/her.  Maybe I encourage them to come back later.  Maybe not.  It depends on what's best for the emotional health of the family as a whole.

9. Where to Find Resources and Information on Attachment and Trauma (and someone to tell me that NO child in foster care comes without attachment issues despite what all the "professionals" claim or deny). I'd never even heard of RAD! Someone to say that there are several different methods for dealing with RAD and you have to pick and choose the techniques you use based on both you and your child's needs. {My Top 10ish Things I Couldn't Do This Without, RAD and Trauma}

10. It's Not All In My Head. Adopted kids, particularly those with RAD, will triangulate parents and deliberately create chaos. Family scares them. Love hurts. Moms, as the female caregiver, are most likely to be targets. {The Frozen LakeWhy Do They Act Like That?}

11. Adoption/ Foster Parent Training - tells you almost nothing! Don't expect them to know or be able to help you! Most of them have only been working at the agency for a very brief time. Most have never even met your child (or think they know them, but don't really). Most have only gotten the same training they give you (all one month of it). Ours never even mentioned attachment disorders, and while they did say something about sexual abuse - it was mostly, "report it," which doesn't help much with living with and helping the child.

12. There Is Always More Trauma, abuse, issues, diagnoses, history than you will ever be told about by the agency, caseworkers, or child. Sometimes this is deliberate (to make the child more "adoptable"), but most of the time they just don't know. {Why Won't My Child Just Behave?}

13. Parenting Biokids and Adopted Kids Together is hard. I learned way too late to shift my priorities so that everyone's needs were prioritized instead of focusing on the needs of the squeaky wheel. There were a lot of difficulties raising kids with differing abilities, needs, issues, likes, dislikes... {Biokids with Adopted Siblings}
Adopting Out Of Birth Order - adopting a child older than your oldest child. It's an unwritten rule that you shouldn't. I wish we hadn't done it! I'd be afraid to adopt if I had a birth child under the age of 7 or so, as I'd be worried that younger children would be unable to protect themselves (pets too). {Advice to a Parent of Young Children Thinking About Adopting a Child with RAD

14. Adopting siblings. Trauma bonds can potentially slow down or stop healing and can actually trigger more trauma. {Trauma Bonds - Adopting Siblings} An excellent article by Nancy Thomas -

15. Document! Document!! Document!!! This is probably one of the most important things you can do! And keep everything organized. All 4 tons of it.

16. Supervision. Just because they are school aged does not mean you won't basically be a stay at home parent. Finding childcare is not easy. After school care is still needed when our kids finish 5th grade, but no one provides it. Even after we got all the immunization records and IEP stuff worked out and got the kids in school, we still had to attend meetings, parent /teacher conferences, and recitals and programs (if you're lucky). My son was suspended on his 3rd day of school for threatening to throw another child out a second story window and then cussing out a teacher and threatening the principal. Several times the school had to call the police. Then there are all the appointments: Doctors, therapists, psychiatrists, psychological assessments, conferences... {Help! It's Summer! (and after-school and a holiday and my kids's suspended...)}

17. SELF-CARE!! Caring for the Caregiver. Go ahead and get your own therapist now. Don't wait. These kids will drag up issues you'd swear you'd dealt with, bring issues to a head, cause you to have new issues, make you feel paranoid, depressed, anxious, and probably dealing with symptoms of PTSD yourself (Caregiver Fatigue). Not to mention post-adoption depression which is very real.

Sleep whenever you can. You will lose as much sleep as you would with a newborn baby. All the things they tell new mommies (like remember to take care of yourself, eat well, exercise, sleep well, pamper yourself on occasion) are incredibly important, and you're probably going to ignore this great advice just like all new mommies do, but it's true! If you give, give, give, then kids will take, take, take until all that is left is... nothing. Which isn't good for you or them.
Also, be aware that many children of trauma have huge issues with sleep and you may want to invest in door alarms to keep everyone safe.

18. Triggers: All sorts of things can trigger issues for your kids --
  • Traumaversaries - Holidays, birthdays, traumaversaries (most of which you probably know nothing about, like the anniversary of the day they were first removed from the home, or their pet was killed, they moved to a new foster home -again, or a sibling was hospitalized...), Mother's day, adoption day, placement day, school starting, school ending, a big test, someone or somewhere that reminds them of something, crowds, overstimulation, scary movies, violent music, criticism (real or perceived), seeing another child get something they want, sounds, smells, food, bathrooms, bedrooms, hugs... 
  • Feeling unsafe, boredom, anxiety, HALT - Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired... Safety is PERCEIVED safety - the child feels unsafe even though there is no longer any reason for them to feel unsafe. {Why Doesn't My Child Feel Safe?} 
  • Calming Techniques
19. How to handle it all. How to stop feeling guilty for all the mistakes I made/ make. My need for validation. What to do when I want to chuck it all and am feeling overwhelmed. I think I've made a start with Finding the Joy

20. What to do when... When is someone going to write a reference book?!  A "What to Expect When You Adopt an Older Child" manual. This blog is my attempt. 

If you've ever read the series: What to Expect When You're Expecting, What to Expect the First Year... it breaks things down developmentally, and by issues, with an index in the back.
I want one of those! 

 I want to be able to cross reference my child and find the solutions to how I should handle every issue: 

  • placed in foster care at age 9; 
  • younger siblings still at home with biomom;
  • diagnoses: bipolar, ODD, PTSD, RAD, ADHD, abuse (victim); 
  • placed for adoption age 11, 
  • adopted age 13; 
  • currently age 14, 
  • emotional developmental age 4-5...

I want to know: typical developmental milestones, things to watch for, best discipline methods, how to deal with recent nightmares and bedwetting, what to do when your child lies and steals, poor hygiene, how to deal with jealousy of younger siblings, what can be expected from attachment therapy...

  • Most attachment books address younger children only.
  • Most discipline methods assume the child is neurotypical.
  • Most books on specific diagnoses assume the child only has one diagnosis, maybe two.

I want to know how to deal with my physically older but emotionally/ socially developmentally younger, severely mentally ill child with 6 or 7 big issues. My child has a below average IQ, is now in 8th grade, does 5th grade work unless stressed, when she does 2nd grade work (she's pretty much always stressed). has screaming meltdowns when asked to do chores {Chores, Responsibilities, and Other Things My Kid Can't Do}. When should I push her to improve, and when do I say this is all she can handle (or this is too much)?


OK, way too much for a 1 hour CD. Truthfully, I know Lisa utilizes many amazing strategies with her kids and I would love to see her therapeutic parenting in action.

I hope I've made some progress with sharing this with other trauma mamas on my blog. Please check out the right sidebar.

Time to take my own advice and get some sleep. Oops! It's after 3am here. NIGHT Y'ALL!