Thursday, December 23, 2010

The house I've always wanted

It was a good day today!

I had six kids at my breakfast table. Pancakes and sausage.

A couple more came over on and off in the morning.

I had eight kids for lunch. Sandwiches and chips.

More kids in and out all afternoon. Video games. TV. Dart guns. Coloring. All the good stuff.

I had seven kids around the dinner table with my hubby. Chicken fajita spread with all the fixins.

All I've ever wanted was to be "that house". The house kids wanted to come to. Yes, there were more video games this week than normal. Kids stayed up later than normal. (They had fun watching the lunar eclipse.) Yesterday we went to the roller rink with a van full. And the TV ran way more all week long than it usually does. But it is Christmas break. And it was a lot of fun.

The two boys we did respite for this week have gone back to their foster home. Cherubs 2 and 3 are actually in bed on time. And, Lord willing, Cherub 1 will come back home on time tonight so he can start catching up on sleep too.

We road the anxiety roller coaster. TT got nervous three days before the boys came. Then he was nervous after they got here. Then, this morning, he freaked out because they were going to be leaving. But he learned he can do this. He can be a foster brother.

Bart is terrific therapy for everyone. The two boys here on respite were worshiped during their entire visit.

And Herman got to make a couple new friends. He opened his social circle up to include two kids that needed something to do for a week. He shared everything he owned with a smile on his face. I'm really proud of that kid.

And me - I got to have the house I've always wanted. I got to love on a whole neighborhood of kids all week long. It's kept me from feeling horribly homesick with the rest of my family so far, far away. I even managed to handle wearing shorts and turning on the air conditioning as the temps reached 85° and higher without going completely insane. And, whew, my cooking isn't as "nasty" as our last group of guests insisted on. Nothing like a houseful of teenage boys to make you feel good about your cooking!

It was a good day today! I'm thoroughly blessed! And I'm ready for that next phone call. Somewhere, a child is hurting and needs a safe place to call home for awhile. Our home can be that place.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Anxiety

We talk about his big feelings.
We talk about his big feelings.
We talk about his big feelings.

He's always allowed to stay close to us if he's feeling particularly anxious.
We do everything we can prepare him for changes in routine.
We puke on perfection.
We stomp out stress.

We talk about his big feelings.
We talk about his big feelings.
We talk about his big feelings.

Yet, I still feel very helpless.

I know that ultimately he has to own this. I can't feel the anxiety for him. I can't take it away.

We talk about the fact that God is the only one that can actually take it away.

This morning he pretended to reach into his belly button to grab the anxiety and throw it to God.

He knows what to do. But it is so difficult for him.

How do we continue to follow through with our calling to foster without sending Cherub 2 into an anxiety fit every single time the phone rings?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Random thoughts

Christmas break has started off nicely. I'll be honest, this is more of what I thought (hoped anyway) fostering would really be like.

When we fostered back in Iowa, we really only had one placement. (I don't count the adoption of our son. That one was just too unbelievable to count as a foster placement.) But the little two year old that lived with us for 6 months was "real" fostering. It was easy though. Amazingly easy. It hurt to say goodbye. But even that part was cushioned for me due to the fact that I was pregnant and about to have another baby in the house.

Then we got the girls.

Wow!!

That experience really threw me for a loop. Nothing like getting pulled into the deep end of mental illness within the first 24 hours of fostering! Those were 8 very long weeks and several more difficult weeks of healing after they left.

Now we're doing respite. Easy stuff really. Only a week. Two boys - ages 16 & 14. (They aren't related.) My heart is broken in two for these boys. As they share snippets of what they've lived through, well...my heart just breaks. I'm glad to be able to help out their foster family right now and show the kids that they can trust adults. That they are safe. That they will be taken care of. This is what I want to be a part of.

Now I'll go all random...

I'm starting to wonder what kind of therapy cameras are for foster kids. It's only happened twice now - but to me I see a pattern starting. The girls LOVED playing with my digital camera and my flip video camera. They would take picture after picture of themselves. They would simply video themselves walking around the house giving commentary on everything they saw.

The subject of my camera came up today with one of the boys. He asked if he could borrow my camera and I said yes. It was just like the girls. He immediately started walking around the house talking about everything he saw. As I rounded the corner while he was playing, without even thinking he said, "and there goes mommy".


My heart broke into about a million pieces. (I managed to keep it together though so I didn't embarrass him.)


I know almost nothing about this kid other than some paperwork that his current foster mom left when she dropped him off. He's probably been in dozens of foster homes. I know he's been hospitalized. He's been in a residential treatment center. He's got six brothers and sisters but he's not living with any of them. In fact, he has no contact at all with three of them. Parental rights have been terminated. He's placed on the "specialized" level due to all his past problems and diagnoses.


I've seen no negative behavior at all!
(I know. I know. Honeymooning. I know. I know!!)


To me he's like a seven or eight year old more than anything. He's just a little kid!!! He's been very well behaved. You can tell he really worked on some manners while in therapy. Every time I have to tell him no he responds, "I understand". (Actually, compared to the way my own cherubs have been behaving, he's a breath of fresh air.)


But this camera thing has me all interested. I think there's a connection between multiple disruptions and a lack of a past that you can hold on to and wanting to capture the place where you're at right now. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with this connection other than make sure I let kids play with my camera and video recorder. I think it's healthy for them. I'm going to burn the videos he made today onto a DVD for him to take when he leaves. I'm not sure if he'll ever get to watch them, but at least I will have validated something that was important to him this week.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Goin' with the flow

CPS never called our agency back last night about the placement. I just have to assume that they found a home that could take the entire sibling group of four. Sure would have been nice if someone could have called to let us know we weren't being affected.

So, for right now anyway, it's just our family of five and the two respite boys that are staying for the next week. (a 14 year old and a 16 year old)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Still waiting...

CPS still hasn't called our agency to let us know if the boy is coming to our home tonight or not.

Huh?!

I realize paperwork takes forever. But we were called five hours ago. You would think they could let us know if we need to stay up and wait or if we can go to bed.

The two boys are here for respite. That's all I know so far.

This fostering stuff is a trip.

See if you can follow this...

1. It all started with just Mr. Amazing and our three kids. No fosters or respite. December looked like it would be an easy month.

2. Got a call for respite for two little ones. Said yes.

3. Got another call for respite for the following week for four teenagers. Said yes.

4. The first foster family called on their little ones. Said they wanted us to take their adults instead. Didn't give us enough notice. We said no. They decided we didn't need to watch their little ones either. We ended up with a "free" weekend (last weekend). I managed to fill the house with cookies and chocolate covered goodies.

5. For this weekend, our agency said that we couldn't take all four of the teenagers for respite. Our license only allows us to take a maximum of three. They decided to split the four kids up two and two. No problem.

6. I called the foster family of the teens we are doing respite for and spoke with their foster mom this morning. I wanted to find out what time the kids were coming this evening. Through the conversation she informed me that I was taking three of her kids. It seems the other family that was going to take two of them accepted a placement of a teenage girl this week. (Which incidentally is probably the teenage girl that we turned down earlier this week.) Anyway, if that other family took two kids for respite, it would put them over capacity. So they had to split the four teens up three and one.

7. At about 4:30 this afternoon our agency called again. A sibling group of four was removed from their home today. Three girls and their older (12 year old) brother. They are also from our same town so keeping them together is going to be difficult if they stay in our county. (Remember, our county requires homes with more than three foster kids to be licensed as group homes. And said group homes need to have full sprinkler systems.)

I informed the intake worker that I was going to be at capacity for the next week. She said it would probably be easier for her to find a respite home for one of the teenagers than it would be for her to find a placement home for the brother that was removed today. They're probably going to split up the sibling group with the girls going to one home and the boy to our house.

So now we wait.

Our agency was able to locate another respite home for one of the teenagers. So we are down to only getting two of them tonight. CPS approved our home for the placement of the 12 year old boy. However, they are still trying to locate a placement home that would be able to accept the entire sibling group of four.

I'll keep you posted.  :)  This is going to turn out to be a very interesting Christmas!!

Friday, December 10, 2010

I almost called the cops

10:00PM: Mr. Amazing and I turned off the TV after watching my absolute favorite show Burn Notice. He went upstairs to get ready for bed. Me, I turned on the computer one more time. Christine had a new blog post up. New people had commented. It seemed just natural that I should click through the comments to new blogs and read even more. (It's a compulsion. I'm going to work on it. Just not yet.) Besides, Charlie the dog was outside and I needed to wait for him to do his business and then let him in. Mr. Amazing called down and asked me to bring him some eye drops. I went upstairs with the eye drops.

10:38PM: I put my book down (I'm reading The Shack again), turned off my reading lamp and went to sleep. Ahhhhh....sweet sleep.

3:30AM: Oh my. There is a dog outside barking its fool head off. Somebody should shut it up.

4:00AM: That stupid dog. I should get out of bed and call the cops.
It's just not OK to let your dog bark all night long.

4:15AM as I'm drifting in and out of sleep: I should call the cops.
But my bed feels so good. I don't want to get out of bed. I'll put a pillow up over my head. Oh, I just want to sleep.

4:37AM: Cherub 2 startles me awake again. He was upset because he had had a bad dream. Really, I think that stupid dog woke him up. I think I should go look out the window to see where that noisy beast is at. I got out of bed and put on my glasses. Walking over to a window in the playroom I looked into our backyard first.

4:39AM: Oh holy sh*t!

4:41AM: Hey Mr. Amazing, guess what... it's probably a good thing I didn't call the cops.
Charlie, where he usually sleeps.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Constantly changing

I got a call from the respite coordinator at our foster care agency again today. It seems the foster parents of the little ones we had agreed to watch this weekend wanted to change things. Instead of having us watch their 2 and 3 year old foster kids, they wanted us to watch their 19 & 20 year old foster kids instead.

I think it's pretty cool that there are 20 year old foster kids in our area. One of the many problems of foster care is the issue of kids aging out of the system with nowhere to go. By not getting kicked out the minute they turn 18 down here, it gives them a chance to become more mature. It gives them somewhere to go. I'm sure it makes it easier for them to continue their education. (I believe Texas offers up college assistance to current foster children and all children adopted out of foster care in the state.) I think it's terrific.

As much as I think it's terrific to have older kids getting the support they need, it sounded like a pretty big change for us with almost no notice! Little kids to adults. Changing a few diapers to totally rearranging the meal plan and having to go grocery shopping so I've got plenty of food for two more big people. I've got enough on my plate that changing things up like that didn't seem like a good idea. So, I said no. Then the foster parents decided to not leave the little ones with us either. I'm not sure what's going on, but it looks like my weekend will be completely free to work on Christmas crafts and baking.

Things had to be switched up with the teenage boys that are scheduled to come next week too. We are only licensed for three foster kids. Our particular county has determined that any more than three makes it a group home. Those guidelines would require us to have a full sprinkler system in our home. That is not going to happen -- waaayyyyy too expensive of a remodel! I thought they'd make an exception with the four respite care kids though because it's not an "official" placement.

Turns out they can't bend those rules. So, only two of the teenagers are going to be coming. That's not going to change things up much at all. Should be pretty easy. For what it's worth though, I've already got the meal planning done. And since I won't have two little ones underfoot this weekend, I'll get a start on the muffins, cookies and snack food that I want to have on hand for the extra kids.

One thing is for sure when you're a foster parent (or any kind of parent for that matter), things are constantly changing!

Monday, December 6, 2010

So much for that pregnant feeling

My land line almost never rings. Most everyone calls my hubby and I on our respective cell phones. We keep the land line though because when the cherubs are home alone (with the oldest babysitting) we want them to be able to reach us at all times. It's also the number we use for local contacts.

So...when the land line rang this morning, my heart skipped a beat. Somehow I just knew.

Sure enough, it was our foster care agency. They wanted to know if we'd be interested in taking a respite placement.

I quickly got in contact with Mr. Amazing to check with him but it was an easy "yes".  We're going to be caring for a two year old little girl and her three year old brother from Thursday morning until Sunday afternoon.

Then, this afternoon, the phone rang again.

More respite care. This time we would be needed from the 17th through the 23rd for...get this...four boys ages 14, 14, 14, and 16.

This one took a little bit more conversation before we came to our conclusion.

Four boys. All teenagers. Plus three boys of our own. One of them a teenager as well. (I'm outnumbered for sure!) Three "basic" foster kids and one "specialized". (Though their current foster mom says we won't have any problems at all.) Tons of groceries. School will be out. How will we entertain everyone? (I'm sure there will be too many video games.)

I consulted with Cherub 1 first. This respite placement will affect him the most. He seemed almost excited as he said yes. I had to remind him that they may not want to have anything to do with him. He's convinced though that he'll have four more people to play football with.

The littler cherubs weren't quite as excited but seem OK with the idea.

Mr. Amazing and I weighed out the pros and cons and couldn't come up with anything too negative. So, we agreed to say yes.

Their foster mom nearly jumped with excitement on the other end of the phone when I called her with the news. From what I could gather, she hasn't had time alone with her husband and their two bio-kids in over two years. This is a well needed (and well deserved) break!! I'm glad we are able to help.

So now I get to do a quick "nest" to get the house ready. It looks like I've got to put away all the empty Christmas decoration boxes that are currently scattered all over our guest room. And I've got to get the clean sheets back on all the beds. So much for that pregnant feeling. The kids are coming.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

No, I haven't gone into hiding

It feels like I've disappeared the last month. I stopped doing the book reviews for The Connected Child. (Though, I tell myself every week that I'm going to catch up!) I haven't been posting much at all. But I don't want to go into hiding. I got so much support when the girls were here. I don't want to lose that community.

I feel like I've been on something of a roller coaster. The girls left on November 6. That made me rather depressed. As a family, we cycled through some interesting behaviors as we began to heal. The girls were only in our home for eight weeks but they sure made an impact! At first we seemed to almost revel in the fact that the huge weight of unending stress was gone. Then, it seems, all three of my boys had to "try out" some of the behaviors the girls so readily displayed while they were here. It was almost like all three of them wanted to see what would happen if they acted that way. I had to learn how to not overreact (again). I found myself tightening up the minute something stressful would begin. I had to remind myself that just because an argument was going on didn't mean we were going to be in for hours of dysregulation. The boys had to learn that the rules hadn't changed.

After a couple weeks of healing, we began to get excited for the company that came to visit us over Thanksgiving. We were blessed to have my Mom, Dad, sister and her kids come for the holiday. It was positively wonderful.

Then, even more wonderfully, Mr. Amazing came back from his 3 1/2 week long work detail that had him all the way across the country from us. We had missed him and it was terrific to have him back home. He came home the day before Thanksgiving.

Unfortunately, my stress level didn't dissipate completely. On the last day of my family's visit here, my dad suffered a TIA (mini stroke) while we were on our way home from South Padre Island. I was driving and watched it all happen in the front seat right next to me. At first I could see it in his face, though he wasn't saying anything. Something just didn't feel right. Then his speech got all mushy and hard to understand. Then he said, "Something's wrong." We pulled into the closest hospital and Dad was monitored. Thankfully he began to recover almost as quickly as the symptoms had started. So, just a couple hours later he was released and we went back home where they packed up that night. The next morning everyone took off for the 1255 mile drive back to Iowa.

I'm always depressed the day after my family leaves. I absolutely hate living so far away from everyone I know and love so deeply. The TIA didn't make things easier for me either! I was doubly depressed. My dad told me "goodbye" before he left. Not..."Goodbye, I'll see you soon." But "GOODBYE". It really messed me up in the head! (Thankfully he's agreed to talk to a therapist about his depression.) I know my dad is not well and isn't going to be here forever. But I'm not ready for goodbye just yet.

So, that was Monday last week. On Tuesday, Cherub 2 had surgery. Minor surgery (tubes in his ears)... but surgery nonetheless. I woke up at 3:30 that morning and never fell back asleep. Nothing is worse than being depressed and tired. Needless to say, I was a mess on Tuesday. I did try to take care of myself and went to bed just after 8:00 that night. Wednesday was better. I drug myself to Bible study and church and actually had a good time. I'm an extrovert by nature. I have to be around people if I'm going to snap out of my funks. Unfortunately, Mr. Amazing and I had a disagreement of epic proportions on Thursday. I was still pretty ticked off all day Friday. (Thankfully we kissed and made up!)

This weekend has been pretty good. I am bound and determined to NOT stay in a funk. I even managed to decorate for Christmas with the family and didn't get grumpy during the process. For me, that is progress. I don't do well with the putting up and taking down of decorations. I enjoy them enough once they're up. But I'm just not a fan of all the hassle.

Mr. Amazing went on a motorcycle fund raising ride for licensing agency. We are also members of the Christian Motorcycle Association and they take part in this big annual Christmas fund raiser for the Foundation every year. Yesterday they raised thousands of dollars plus collected many, many toys to donate to the foster children in our region. While at the party after the ride, Mr. Amazing got to talk to the director at our licensing location and the SW supervisor. He let them know that we're "ready" for our next child(ren). So, I'm back to having that pregnant sort of feeling.

The house is ready. All I have to do is put clean sheets on the beds. We've got room for up to three kids. Any age and sex BUT middle school girls. (We just don't need those hormones in the house with our middle school son.) We aren't ruling out anything. We're just going to wait to see what God orchestrates. It's quite a ride to be on.

Keep your arms and legs inside the ride at all times. Here we go....

Friday, November 19, 2010

Just for fun

I friend of mine posted this list on her blog. I thought I'd share my list too.

Bold these if you've ever...

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band (marching band counts LOL)
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disney World
8. Climbed a mountain (not the whole thing - but I've climbed ON a mountain)
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping

27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community (lived close to the Amish and saw them in town all the time, but I never drove out to their "community")
36. Taught yourself a new language (I took a few classes but I did manage to learn quite a bit of sign language)
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater

55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class (watched tons of them with Herman though)
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies (I sold Camp Fire Candy)
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy (I still have my Cookie Monster from when I was 4)
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone (just a toe but I got to go to the ER)
78. Been a passenger on a motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person

80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Kissed a stranger at midnight on New Year’s Eve
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating (did the preparing but NOT the killing)
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club (online - and I'm behind by a couple weeks - but I joined)
93. Got a tattoo (I really, really want one...does that count? I'm just too chicken and too cheap.)
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Possible or Probable

I saw the girls at school yesterday. They were being dropped off by a social worker and were a couple cars ahead of us in the drop-off line.

Cherub 3 got all excited in the happy-go-lucky way that IS Cherub 3.
(I swear...he is the happiest person you could ever want to meet!
Except of course when he's ticked off. Thankfully that doesn't happen too often.) Bart was bouncing up and down he was so excited to just "see" them walking in to school.

I didn't share in his excitement.

I miss the idea of having the girls in our home. I liked their ages. I liked how they so perfectly fit in the gap we've got between Cherub 2 and Cherub 1. I liked having girls to help balance out all the testosterone that flows so freely in our clan!

But the ODD, PTSD, possible RAD, anxiety, depression, and more were pulling our home apart.

So here's my confession. I don't miss the girls.

I'm trying to not feel guilty about that. Every single person that knows our story has told me we did the "right thing". It's a difficult concept for me. I read so many adoption blogs from moms that are sticking by their kids through all that same garbage. I know that multiple moves on foster kids is really hard on them. I struggle with the guilt.

I'm not putting this post out there so I can get a bunch more of replies telling me we did the right thing. I'm saying this to simply be honest. Fostering is different from adoption. I'm going to allow myself that one "out". My husband and I agreed that we would not foster to the detriment of our legal family. The warning signs were there and we couldn't ignore them. Disruption of the placement seemed like the smartest thing for both our family and the overall safety of the girls as well.

For what it's worth, we want to stay involved in the girls' lives if it's possible. I'm not sure if they're capable of making the distinction of why they could still see me but they can't live with me. I'm hoping that with the help of their therapist they might be able to do just that. Because - after we disrupted this placement last Saturday - people in our agency and CPS worked a minor miracle and the girls still get to see the wonderful therapist they had been seeing while in our care. I'm not sure that would have happened if we hadn't disrupted.

Is it possible or probable that TurtleTurtle and MissArguePants will one day receive the help that they need in a more therapeutic environment?

PROBABLE!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

More aftermath

Separate from the aftermath...but still more CPS fun...our family has been randomly selected to have a home walk-through this month. We're not under investigation. They just randomly picked our home. I was told they like to make it to all homes every couple of years.

Oh joy. It's not like I haven't had about a million walk-throughs now.
Sure, come on in. I've got nothing to hide.

As for more "Big Decision Aftermath"...
I was instructed that I had to call the CPS hot line today to report the "incident" from Saturday. No one would tell me why I had to call. I was just supposed to do it and then give the ID# of my report to our social worker.

It sickened me though. The "incident" was honestly so incredibly minor. It was just a red flag to me about where the placement could be headed. We didn't want to take any chances.

So, I called. And basically, by doing this, I'm setting myself up for yet another investigation. I'm betting someone all official is going to have to come and question my children. Someone will have to walk through my home again looking for violations. I was told today that this will probably be a "standards violation" of some kind - even though I didn't do anything wrong!

If I am supposed to be doing God's work by taking care of the orphans, the devil sure must not want me to do it! We are definitely going to take a break from fostering for a few weeks, if not for a couple months. I am reeling from all we've gone through to get where we are right now!!

Abandonment

Cherub 2 has lots of bad dreams. From the time he was born, he's never been a terrific sleeper. I should explain though...he obeys and goes to bed without any problems! (much unlike Cherub 3!!) It's just that if there's any kind of stress in his life at all, you can be sure he will wake in the middle of the night with a nightmare.

For years he would crawl in bed with me. I was too tired (and too big of a fan of co-sleeping) to kick him out of bed. However, he's seven years old now and we only have a queen-sized bed. If anyone is going to get sleep, he can't be in bed with us. So, we put a mattress on the floor of our room right next to our bed. TT knows that he can climb in bed right "next" to me any time he wants. 99% of the time the mattress isn't used. But heaven help me if I put it away...I'll have a visitor in my bed the very next night!

When my husband travels, I do make an exception for TT. Since there's room in the bed, and since he's usually fighting stress due to Daddy being gone, he's allowed to actually climb in bed with me. Needless to say, with all the added stress our family has been feeling, TT has joined me the last couple days.

As I was cuddling TT this morning, I asked him what his dream was about. His last round of bad dreams always involved me leaving him when we were out in public. After discussing the dreams, we made several suggestions. One of them was that he could try to remember to always hold my hand in his dreams. This did the trick and we didn't have a nighttime visitor for a couple weeks. Anyway, last night's dream was about TT being left in an empty school. The doors were locked and the only person there was the janitor who spoke a different language. TT whimpered to me, "I couldn't even ask him to unlock the door." He told me the school had an afterschool program - but when he got there everyone was gone.

I asked TT if he wanted to talk about a "big feeling". TT has learned that big feeling conversations don't always feel good right away. He knows that most of our big feeling conversations are about adoption. I try to let him stay in control of any kinds of conversations like this. He said yes.

I went on to tell him that, "some kids who don't live with their biological families have deep, deep feelings of abandonment". I asked him if he knew what that meant because I'm not sure if I had introduced that word to him before. He thought for a second and said that abandonment means being alone. That was good enough for me so I told him he was right.

He pulled away from me just a bit and said, "So, I'm normal." I said yes but I wanted to go on with this conversation to end it with a positive feeling. I wanted to remind him that we will love him forever and ever...no matter what.

Instead, he turned and looked at me and said, "Can I ride the bus this morning?" When I answered yes he jumped out of bed and raced through his morning routine so he could get to school way earlier than he needs to be. No more talking was necessary for him. It was like a giant weight had been lifted.

I think abandonment issues are so overlooked with healthy infants who are adopted at birth. When that beautiful baby was placed in my arms, I never would have believed how much he could hurt just because he was adopted. But so much happens during those nine months of pregnancy. I do believe a connection - and a strong one at that - is made. And he was abandoned by his biological family. They made a choice to not parent him. I believe it was a choice deeply rooted in love because they wanted the best for their baby. But Wesley still has to spend his entire life wondering if WE are going to continue to parent him or if we will abandon him too.

The bad dreams aren't going to go away just because he knows he's "normal" now. I will continue to keep the lines of communication open at all times.


I don't have an answer for this. I just think it's important to talk about.

FOOTNOTE:
Not everyone is familiar with Cherub 2's adoption story. Here's the VERY brief rundown.

  • We were a licensed foster family in Iowa when the call came to foster/adopt a newborn.
  • We said YES!!!
  • We met TT in the hospital when he was not quite 24 hours old and brought him home as soon as the hospital would let us the next day.
After talking with the social worker we were able to piece together a few bits of information about his biological family:
  • They were from Minnesota and wanted to take advantage of Iowa's Safe Haven law. However, when labor became too difficult for TT's first mom, they chose to deliver in a hospital in Iowa (as opposed to a home birth).
  • Upon delivery, they discussed things with a social worker and decided that "formally" relinquishing their parental rights would be better for their baby as opposed to actually just leaving him at the hospital under the Safe Haven law. (The process would go faster and would leave less of a chance of something going wrong and complicating things for the baby.)
  • So...we had something of a private adoption but it wasn't through an agency. His first parents didn't want an open adoption so we know very little other than the medical forms they filled out. 
We didn't go in to fostering with the idea (or even hopes) of adopting a perfectly healthy newborn. Honestly, that just doesn't happen! However, I thank God every single day that it did happen for us! Our family is so much richer because of TT.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Big decision - aftermath

Before this weekend even happened, I had scheduled a therapy session for myself. I knew that if I was going to continue to effectively parent children with the level of behaviors our foster daughters have, I was going to need all the support I could get!

Then, when everything blew up, it just made sense to go ahead and keep the appointment. I'm wrestling with a huge amount of guilt and I really need to stop calling my husband (who is out of state with work right now) and my sister (who also lives out of state) every 15 minutes. A little personal conversation seemed necessary.

So, I went to a lovely church office and sat down across from an very nice doctor who came highly recommended. He cut to the chase right after getting all the "confidentiality" stuff out of the way. (Obviously I'm not too worried about that. LOL)

I spelled everything out pretty quickly. He seemed to think, without passing judgment of any kind, that I need to "reframe" this experience. He took out a piece of paper and had me write on it.

In the left corner I wrote:
POSSIBLE
1% - 45%

In the right corner I wrote:
PROBABLE
50% - 100%

He then had me write down five questions.
  1. Is it possible or probable that TurtleTurtle and MissArguePants would not be able to receive the therapeutic intervention necessary in our home environment?
  2. Is it possible or probable that setting and establishing boundaries, limitations and consequences in children's lives is the most loving action one can take, often referred to as "tough love"?
  3. Is it possible or probable that "tough love" is labeled such because doing the most compassionate thing can be painful?
  4. Is it possible or probable that many times the most responsible, loving, and effective action one can take is "tough love"?
  5. Is it possible or probable that TurtleTurtle and MissArguePants will one day receive the help that they need in a more therapeutic environment?

Good stuff to think about. And for what it's worth, I answered all questions as "probable". I teetered with questions #1 and #5. But if I'm honest, I have to answer "probable".

As I was leaving, the therapist looked me in the eye and said that he's a father to three and a grandfather to eight. He then said that I did the right thing.

I wasn't looking for validation at counseling. But so far, the aftermath of this hasn't been as difficult as I thought it would be. I woke up this morning with the praise song from yesterday stuck in my head again. "He makes all things work together for my good." This was encouraging. Yesterday when I heard it, I wasn't sure what we were going to do. Today, the decision had been made.

I don't feel "good" about it. I never will. Children shouldn't have to end up in foster care to begin with.

But our family will heal. And He will make all things work together for my good.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Big decision - more thoughts

A phrase from one of my favorite praise songs got stuck in my head this morning.

"He makes all things work together for my good."

Ugh. This is where I started to argue with God.

"Yeah. I know. I know that You will make all this turn out for good. I'd still like an answer God. I'd still like to know how You want me to handle this! Should the girls come back here? Or should they be moved to a home where the potential for acting out isn't as great?!"

Sometimes I wish God would just send me a fax. Maybe an email. Just tell me what He wants me to do. I'm totally OK with whatever it is. I just want to stay within the will of God.

The Bible tells me to take care of widows and orphans. The Bible also tells me to take care of my own family. Friends and family counsel me to definitely take care of those that are legally mine. The agency director tells me that I need to pray. She can't tell me what to do.

So, after much prayer and conversation with my husband (who just happens to be on a work detail thousands of miles away for the next few weeks), we have decided that we do have to disrupt this placement.

We want to remain in the girls' lives. I'd love to have them come back here to celebrate their birthdays (both are yet this month). I'd love to have them come over and play every now and then. It would just need to be in a time and place where I could devote all my attention to supervising them. I highly doubt that this is going to be possible. I'm not sure the girls would be able to understand why they can play here but why they can't live here anymore.

I'm sick to my stomach today. I wish this decision was a little more cut and dry. But ultimately, we can't risk the safety of our legal family. Now all I have to do is tell the agency and deal with the aftermath.

This sucks!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Big decision

As I've written before, our current foster placement is a HUGE challenge. Not just an adjustment...but the biggest challenge I've ever had to face. It has consumed me. The little girls that have been entrusted to us have suffered through the depths of hell. All I want for them is safety and healing. I'm doing all that I can to take care of our family; because as many of you know parenting children from the hurt places is a different kind of experience. I've read blogs. I've purchased books. I'm even starting therapy for myself on Monday.

The girls argue. The girls yell and scream. They tantrum. They hit, kick and scratch. They require a tremendous amount of monitoring. But, for the most part, all of their behaviors have been "normal". About 100x the amount of a typical child. But normal nonetheless. Especially when you factor in the hell that they have come through.


MissArguePants is the angriest person I've ever met. (She's also got the sweetest smile and gives the best hugs.) She deals with her stress by being angry though. Thus the nickname MissArguePants.

TurtleTurtle turns into a turtle when she gets stressed out. TurtleTurtle does not have an outlet for her deep seeded anger and shame. She goes deep inside herself.

However, TurtleTurtle acted out this morning.

On the surface, it could look like she was just "playing around". The whole incident took less than a couple minutes. But to me, it's a huge red flag that cannot be ignored. I had to call our agency.

I've discussed things with my boys. They say she has "acted out" before. (It'd be nice to go into detail but this blog just isn't private enough.) I've seen a couple things before today but nothing that concerned me too deeply. The acting out today though scared me. And after talking with the boys, it appears that it might have happened in small doses many, many times before. They just thought she was playing around.

The girls have been moved into emergency respite care. Due to the extreme nature of this case, everything is now up to us. Our social worker literally told me this week (before this happened) that she fully understands where we're at with things. "You can only put up with so much," she said. Now we have to decide if the girls will come back here or if we need to give our 30 day notice and have them stay in respite until they get moved to a different foster home for long-term care.

I want to keep all five kids safe. I just don't think I can do that anymore. I don't have eyes in the back of my head and I can't be in five places at once. The level of monitoring that I would feel is necessary is not something I can do.

I feel like shit today. I hate decisions like this!!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Court update #2

We have to stop seeing the really awesome therapist. The one we have an established relationship with.

We have to start seeing the court appointed therapist. The one that is really hard to get a hold of and doesn't communicate well with anyone.

Visits have been approved with the bio-mom. Even though no therapist has said this is a good idea.

I have to cancel the girls' psychiatric appointments that are made for next month. Because despite the fact their psychological evaluation diagnoses them with Alphabet Soup, the court therapist hasn't seen them yet so we don't know if they "really" need psychiatric care.

Needless to say, I have been very clear with our agency if behaviors escalate from where they are now, we will not be able to maintain this placement.

Court update

We arrived at the courthouse ready to deal with things at 1:00. I had the pleasure of speaking briefly with the girls' GAL. The girls then spoke with their lawyer for about 5 minutes.

Then we were told we could go home.

I got to have all the anxiety and stress of a court hearing. And now I don't get to hear first-hand what is decided. The girls seem reasonably regulated - even after briefly seeing their mom.

Thankfully I've got a great worker at the agency who has promised me she will let me know all that is decided today. I'm on pins and needles. I think the worst part of fostering it the not knowing and the waiting. (That and the fits, tantrums, disrespect, etc. etc. - but I'll save those issues for a different post. LOL)

Court today

I've got about three hours until I have to go get the girls from school and take them to court. It's not a state of Texas rule. It's not a CPS rule. It's the judge in the county where we live. He requires that children attend every court hearing. The only thing he will excuse them for is the annual TAKS testing done at school in the spring. One of our workers told me that even kids who are placed with relatives out of state have to fly back in for court hearings.

Ugh!

Today should be somewhat simple. I don't think too much is being decided on. The only real issue that could rock my world is our current therapy situation.

We needed our girls to be in therapy as soon as possible. They just had too many behavior issues and baggage. We couldn't handle it alone. And when nothing was moving forward with the court ordered therapy (that was ordered back in September), CPS and our agency worked to get the girls in with someone else (who, BTW, is marvelous!!). I was originally told that the girls would be able to work with both counselors as necessary.

As I understand things, the judge in our county orders ALL cases like ours to attend therapy with the same therapist. (possible racket?!) This therapist has become so overwhelmed that new cases simply sit for a long, long time. Voice mails and emails don't get answered. And even when therapy does start, it can be rather sporadic. None of this is a good situation. I really feel our girls need once a week therapy from someone they can rely on.

However, this "court ordered" therapy is a pretty big deal. Whether or not we get to stay with our current therapist will all depend on how good of a mood the judge is in. I have been assured that the girls' lawyer and our CPS worker see the value of them staying in their current situation. But everyone has made it very clear that this judge sometimes won't let anyone plead their case. A court order is a court order.

I got a call earlier this week that the court ordered therapist can finally see us. Our appointment is scheduled for today at 5:00PM. (Acck!) I'm hoping the judge can see past the end of his court order to realize that keeping two attachment challenged girls in an already established (and positive) relationship would be best for all parties involved. Even if that means that their bio-mom has to drive a bit further to attend family therapy once that starts. If not, my night is totally going to suck.

Prayers are appreciated. I'll let you know how it shakes out.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The book arrived

My copy of Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control, by Heather T. Forbes and B. Bryan Post, arrived today. I picked it up about an hour ago and read through quite a bit of it.

Here's my review. And yes, I'm giving a review without completely reading the book. I do promise to go back and own up to anything big if I missed it.

Traditional attachment therapy says that as a parent I'm supposed to stay calm and in control of myself. Not lose my cool. Prove to the traumatized kid that I've got their back and that they're safe now. The safer they feel the more they will trust me the faster they will heal. Beyond Consequences says that their approach is different.

However, if I'm getting the whole "Beyond Consequences" thing, it says I'm supposed to understand where the root problems are with the negative behaviors. All negative behaviors are rooted in fear. Supposedly if I understand this, somehow I'll be able to keep myself in control. This knowledge, and how it applies to me and my past, will help me stay calm in the moment and not trigger a greater fear response from my child.

Ugh.

Either way it's all up to me to not lose my cool.

Sure, there are great stories and references in the book. And honestly I found the brain research information fascinating. But I already understand that trauma changes brain chemistry. I know that my children aren't "out to get me". I know that I need to be approachable. And in all cases, logical consequences are the best way to help our children learn to become fully functioning adults. I'm sure that when I sit down to read the book completely I will glean some more good strategies.

However, I still have to figure out a way to not let their behaviors trigger me. 'Cause I know this stuff... and they still rub me raw.

The Connected Child: Chapter 4

Disarming the Fear Response with Felt Safety

My girls don't trust adults. They don't feel safe. They believe that they alone are responsible for their needs. I know all this to be true because we've been living it for seven weeks. It also was fully apparent in their psychological evaluations that we just got back from the professionals. (Which, BTW, my diagnoses matched exactly with what the doctors diagnosed for the girls. Alphabet soup.)

This chapter of The Connected Child deals with helping a child navigate their fear based responses to everything. It covers a lot! I spent most of the chapter saying, "yep. uh uh. oh yeah. yes. oh my". This chapter goes over so many different parts that I'm not going to effectively capture much. Really, I just recommend that anyone affected by fostering or adoption should read the book. This chapter especially helps shed a light on some of the wonky behavior you're sure to encounter.

Helping a child feel safe builds trust.

One of our big focuses as a foster family is to make sure our girls understand that they are now living in a safe home. We constantly point out all the things that are in place to keep them safe. Because they were living in a dangerous place for so long before, that is what they were conditioned to think of as normal. In fact, (for many reasons) they denied being abused the first time they were confronted by officials. I believe it's important for them to value safety. In the event that they leave our home, they need to be able to recognize what is not safe so that they can stand up for themselves. As everyone knows, it is common for the cycle of abuse to continue after the children leave foster care.

And, like the books says, felt safety increases trust. The more the girls trust us, the better we're all going to get along.

One of the triggers for my children is food. We're still playing detective. I can't exactly place what kind of a role food played in their neglect/abuse. But, it played a role. Adding our Food Rules has helped. The girls feel safer knowing that if they don't like what is being served, they won't have to go hungry. They trust that they will be fed.

I also think that this fear of the unknown is part of what causes so many problems on the weekends at our house. Despite my best efforts to reassure the girls that all their needs will be met, they ask a lot of questions about food all weekend long. So, sometime before next Saturday, I'm going to sit down and draw up a schedule listing out some of the things that do stay constant each weekend. One of those is food - both meals and snacks. I think posting this loose schedule outlining the fact that they will be fed, will help increase the girls felt safety.

Give appropriate choices to share control.

MissArguePants is all about needing control. Of course she now has the "official" ODD diagnosis. Precious falls on the spectrum a bit as well. These girls need to control all aspects of their lives.

I am all about the choices. I always have been. I guess that's my inner Montessori coming out. However, I learned the hard way that my girls can't handle too many choices. This has been a major shift for me as I used to take a hands-off approach to so many things. For example: before, at snack time, my boys would simply have to choose between a healthy snack (if that's what I said was necessary) or they could have what we call a junky snack (if allowed). I knew that the girls would need educated on the differences between "healthy" and "junky". But I quickly realized that they couldn't handle being given all the choices that fall within a particular category. So now I'm back to making a lot more of the choices and taking a much more active role. It's all about balance.

For those are are used to controlling more aspects of your children's lives, you have to let go. It's as simple as saying something like, "Would you like to put on your PJs first or brush your teeth first?" Both things need to be done. But now the child feels more control as they get to pick the order.

Be approachable.

TurtleTurtle doesn't trust that I'm going to meet her needs. She is petrified to ask me for things because she has already convinced herself that I'm going to say no. However, instead of just clamming up and not saying anything, she will whine or simply bark orders at me. At breakfast time, the choices are pretty open (given what I said above, they are probably TOO open - ugh). The girls know that I will prepare food specifically for them. I'm not a fan of being a short order cook, but right now they really need all the extra love and attention I can muster. However, instead of asking for me to make her oatmeal, TurtleTurtle will sit at the table and announce, "I'm hungry." Then, if I don't immediately read her mind and start preparing something just to her standards, she'll get upset with me. Then, most of the time, she'll announce quite rudely what she wants, "I want oatmeal".

Well, this is a trigger for me. (I'm figuring out that I've got a lot of triggers too.) You see, I have no problem making her oatmeal. I really don't. I just don't like being ordered around by a 9 year old!!

After much soul searching this weekend, and a good conversation with my favorite social worker in the world (my sister), I made a compromise.

I caught TurtleTurtle in the afternoon during a time when she was regulated and not hungry. I sat her down and asked if we could talk about something briefly. I started by validating that she has a hard time asking me questions. Of course, by now, she couldn't make eye contact with me. She realized we were going to talk about a "big feeling". Anyway, I told her that her feelings are normal. I told her that it will get easier for her to ask me questions and to talk to me respectfully when she trusts me more.

I then went on to let TurtleTurtle know that I do want to give her good things. But, I'm a grown up. I am in authority over her. I do need a certain amount of respect.

The compromise is that she can use sign language to ask me things.

I told TurtleTurtle that all three of my boys knew sign language when they were babies and before they could talk they could ask me for things in sign. Her eyes got big and she insisted that babies aren't that smart. I was able to quickly point out that they are. I reminded her that she's nine years old and is fully fluent in Spanish and English. Surely a baby could learn a few signs. I assured her that she could learn too and it might make it easier for her to ask me for things. I also reminded her that MissArguePants will sign "sorry" sometimes because that's easier than actually saying the words.

I showed TurtleTurtle the sign for "eat" and the sign for "please". If she needs me to help her get something to eat and asking a question is too hard, she now has permission to sign Eat Please and I will meet her need.

All this is because TurtleTurtle can't approach me. I scare her to death. It's my job to play detective and then come up with the best way to handle things so that she feels safer.

Feelings of safety take time.

I particularly like the way they ended this chapter:

Despite their scars of past deprivation and lingering fearfulness, at-risk children can learn to take comfort and safety from their families. Be patient, and do everything in your power to let your children understand they are safe and welcome in their new homes.

Deeply encoded fear responses take time to ease, but eventually, as your child heals and grows, situations and circumstances that were once scary and threatening become less so. Eventually you won't need to be as vigilant with his or her environment.

Healing can't be rushed, but you can help it progress dramatically – by giving your child the gift of felt safety.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Weekends stink

I've always been something of a free-range parent. And I used to look forward to the weekends. Kids would come and go in and out of my house all day long. We almost always had an extra mouth to feed at one meal. My cherubs would roam the neighborhood playing with tons of different people. And as long as I new who they were with, where they were at and what they were doing, I was totally OK. They would disappear for hours. Everyone in the family would do exactly what they wanted to do.

My girls cannot handle that level of freedom. In fact, they require a higher level of structure than I am actually able to provide. And now, I dread the weekends.

The girls are always bored. Attempts to ask them to "find something to do" are met with great resistance. Then it becomes a battle of wills. If I suggest something, it is never anything they want to do. If I tell them to leave the room or consequence them with a chore, my day goes down the crapper in a hurry.

I am not the kind of person that is capable of structuring my weekends like a day camp.

So I'm not sure what to do. For now, we simply ignore as much of it as possible. When it gets really bad we will tell the girls they have to leave the room. It's always a battle. But I can't see past the end of my nose to a solution.

I'm open to any and all suggestions. Please keep in mind that anything I implement will have to either work well for my three neuro-typical children or will have to be something that applies only to the girls. If that's the case, I need advice on how to explain the "double standard" in a way that isn't demeaning to anyone. 'Cause honestly, I get so fed up that I just want to scream:

"I'm sorry you were hurt before. I'm sorry you never had toys and you don't know how to play. I'm sorry that we've got a playroom full of more toys than you can imagine. I'm sorry you don't even want to ride the bikes we went out and bought for you so you could be fully included in all the neighborhood fun. I'm sorry this is too damn difficult for you. Please. Oh please. Cry and tell me how horrible it is at my house. Tell me how mean I am 'cause there's nothing for you to do."

We survived today with a minimal amount of breakdowns. In fact, I even got a "sorry" from TurtleTurtle for her last one. That, in and of itself, is nothing short of a miracle. So, yet again, I do know that we're making progress. But it is slow and hard to see most of the time. And for now, I hate weekends. Monday can't come soon enough.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Beyond Consequences

Whenever I have a less than stellar parenting moment with one of our foster daughters, I usually end up getting sucked into the blogosphere. I click through from one foster/adoption blog to another. Sometimes I just want validation that I'm not crazy. Sometimes I want specific tips and tricks. I have gone through a lot of training - both formal and on my own. But when I'm knee deep (waist deep, neck deep) in parenting trauma, it seems I forget all that I've learned. When my girls trigger me...well...they trigger me! And then I'm just as mad as they are. Not a good combination.

Most of the time I would say my big triggers have to do with attacks on my character. I can't help but take it personally when they call me a liar. Or when they say I love one child more than another. Or when they say this isn't a safe house to live in. Or when they accuse me of any other atrocity. Usually, these accusations are screamed and then the defiance sets in. The girls (especially MissArguePants) will yell and scream at me about something. Then they will immediately refuse to do whatever it is I'm asking of them.

I came across this information today. It's from the book Beyond Consequences. I have yet to read the book myself (it's on order and should be in my house within a week or so). I've heard nothing but good things about it and I'm anxious to sink my teeth into the entire book.

Anyway, I'm thinking I need to print this out snippet that I ran across today in huge letters and hang it somewhere where I can read it over and over.

Remember that defiance:
  • Is grounded in fear - it is a fear reaction. (yep)
  • It is preceded by a fear response. (yep)
  • Can move quickly to aggression if fed with more fear. (yep)
  • Happens when a child perceives a request as a threat, even the simplest of requests. (Oh holy heck does this happen a lot in our house)
  • Is predictable in four areas for children with trauma histories: transition, school-time, bath-time, bedtime. (yep, yep, yep and yep)

When discovering this behavior recognize that your child needs you to:
  • First be aware of your own reaction to the defiance. (somehow I've got to not get triggered)
  • Step back and give her the space to process the fear. (definitely don't hover over MissArguePants or demand eye contact from TurtleTurtle)
  • Verbally acknowledge the fear to her in a loving way. (even though this will be met with a loud "I'm NOT afraid!")
  • Listen to the defiance and reflect upon this unconscious response. (I have a hard time "reflecting" when I'm being screamed at. But I'm working on it.)
  • Link this defiance to his past experiences.
  • Validate the trauma feeding the defiant fear-based reaction.
  • Interrupt any negative repetitious conditioning.
  • Understand that he cannot make logical choices in this fear state. (Oh this is hard! I want them to obey!)
  • Open up communication in order to express this fear with you.
  • Teach the life lesson later when he is calm and more cognizant. (I'm still working on this. It seems that the girls like to experiment with things that aren't safe. I just don't like to wait to discuss why running through a parking lot isn't OK or go into detail about why you should buckle up in the car. I'm working on it though.)
I'm really looking forward to reading the entire book. I have a gut feeling that it's a lot like Love and Logic but with a focus on kids from a trauma background. I need all the help I can get right now. This is the hardest. thing. I. have. ever. done!

And just so I don't end every post with a downer, I'll add that this experience is stretching and growing our family in wonderful ways too. I know that we are making progress with the girls. I know that my boys are learning to give and love unconditionally. And my hubby and I are becoming the most amazing parenting duo around! Our neuro-typical kids won't stand a chance. Muaa haa haa haa

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Food Feuds

Can you imagine sitting down to dinner every single night to something you've never eaten before?

Unfortunately, that's what my two foster daughters are dealing with since they moved into my home.

We're one of those really strange families that eats dinner together almost night of the week. Shoot, most of the time we all eat breakfast together too. All this family bonding time and healthy food options are really throwing my girls for a loop!

I've been playing detective as much as I possibly can. Food has been an issue in their past. I just don't know what the problems were. They don't hoard. (whew!!) But they do tell me they remember going hungry when others ate around them. They tell me that all they were allowed to eat was sandwiches, ramen noodles, and breakfast cereal. And I know they didn't eat together as a family! But I'm having a hard time discerning how much of this "history" is real and how much of it is imagined.

Because if you asked them right now, they'd probably tell you all they get to eat are peanut butter & jelly sandwiches.

Every. single. transition. is a trigger for my girls. Waking up in the morning. Eating breakfast. Getting dressed for school. Coming home from school. Eating a snack. Doing homework. Deciding what to play before supper. Sitting down together as a family to eat. Etc. etc. My girls have literally gotten so nervous at meal time that they will purposely pick a fight so they have a reason to stomp off out of the room.

We have had to add way more "structure" than I'm used to -- and I've always had a pretty structured home life!! We try to do everything at the same time every day. I do my best to keep things as predictable as possible. And we added family Food Rules. These are posted right next to the dining room table.

1. One bite of everything must go on your plate.
2. Eat what you want from what is being served.
3. Peanut butter and jelly is always available to eat. Water is always available to drink.
4. Mom or Dad will choose your snack options. If you don't like what is offered, see Rule #3.

I'm trying my best to serve foods that my girls will enjoy. But, to my dismay, they opt for PB&J almost 95% of the time. They'll eat breakfast. But that's about it. Apparently, I've gone from being a pretty good cook to someone that only makes "nasty" food. Precious won't even try the new things. MissArguePants will put the tiniest amount on her tongue, screw up her face, and then ask for a sandwich.

I try to not take it personally. I try to make foods that should be familiar to them. But not only are they completely new to eating home cooked food - but I grew up and learned how to cook in the Midwest. A lot of the food I serve is completely different that what is served down here in general. They are from The Valley where everything is Mexican! Not Midwest Taco Johns.... not Central Texas Tex-Mex... but true Mexican! There are cuts of meat in the grocery store I've never seen before! Anyone for chicken feet? How about some menudo (soup made from cow stomach)? Maybe some barbacoa (stew made from cow head)?

So, every day they sit down to something that's unfamiliar to them. Every day they complain. Every day they eat PB&J. Food Feuds - definitely more than just a show on the Food Network!

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Connected Child: Chapter 3

Today we're talking about Chapter 3 in The Connected Child, by Karyn Purvis, David Cross & Wendy Sunshine. The chapter is called Solving the Puzzle of Difficult Behavior.

As a foster parent, playing detective is one of your first primary roles. When our girls came to us, we were initially told that CPS hadn't been involved with them other than helping to orchestrate the kinship arrangement they had been in for the past three years. That couldn't have been further from the truth!! One of the workers at our FGC (Family Group Conference) indicated Friday that CPS has been heavily involved with our girls for at least the past seven years! That means that these two beauties haven't had safe and stable living their entire lives.

All that the girls have endured has shaped who they are today.

According to The Connected Child, adopted and foster children can bring with them
  • abandonment, loss, and grief issues
  • attachment dysfunctions
  • neurological alterations
  • cognitive impairments
  • coordination and motor skill problems
  • sensory processing deficits
  • fear
  • anger
  • flashbacks and post-traumatic stress
  • shame
  • anxiety
  • depression

The book goes on to point out that these types of impairments are rather subtle. I know that I have to constantly remind myself that some of the misbehavior is simply because the girls CAN'T do what I'm asking of them. It's not willful defiance. They literally can. not. do. what a healthy child could in the same circumstances. They are playing catch-up and it's going to take time!

Going back to that bullet point list, my foster daughters have issues with every single point except the coordination and sensory processing. That's some serious baggage to bring with them everywhere they go. It does significantly affect how they interact and behave.

Because my girls are showing that they want to heal, we're being rather up front with this. MissArguePants has actually asked me, "Why do I argue so much?" I answered her honestly. We never try to talk bad about anyone that has hurt the girls in the past. But I'm not going to deny the fact that abuse has occurred. I explained that the reason she argues so much is largely due to the fact that she doesn't trust adults. Adults have hurt her in the past and she has every reason to not trust them. I reminded her that she's safe now and that with time and consistency, she will start to trust us and she probably won't argue as much.

Of course I didn't actually use the word "consistency" as concepts like that are over her head. I have to keep conversations like this incredibly simple! Academically,  our girls are both third graders. But when it comes to emotional development, they are much younger. (I'm anxious to get their psychological evaluation back to see if it covers this and to see if I've come to the same conclusions as the doctors did.)

The last section of Chapter 3 is Seeing Beyond Misbehavior. The book says we need to look beyond a difficult behavior and ask ourselves:
  • What is the child really saying?
  • What does the child really need?
For me this means that I have to first try my hardest to not let the misbehavior trigger ME. (Whew that's a hard one sometimes!!) I have to stay calm so I can figure out what the child is trying to communicate.

Then, I have to try and meet the need. For example: when MissArguePants is completely dysregulated and upset, but I know she didn't eat anything for supper and opted to not have the PB&J that was offered as a substitute for what we were serving, I have to meet her need first. She's hungry! And until she eats, she's probably not going to be able to process anything else that is going on around her in a healthy way. It doesn't do me any good to talk to her about being disrespectful or how she shouldn't throw things in the living room until I can get her to actually eat something. And as much as it sometimes feels to me like I'm rewarding bad behavior, that's really not the case. Bottom line, MissArguePants doesn't trust me yet. And if she has a need I'm not meeting (whether or not she has effectively communicated this need) I'm not going to get her to trust me until I meet that need.

Like I said...tons and tons of detective work!!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Listerine Works! Listerine Works! Listerine Works!!

I made the girls do another Listerine treatment on their hair tonight. (To see where the story started visit here.)

I didn't find any bugs!!!

I think that this chapter of our foster parenting adventure just might be over.

I made the girls promise that they'll tell me if they itch again. But for now, it looks like the only funky thing in their hair is the minty fresh scent!!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Family Group Conference

Friday morning started off with the girls going in to school to get their "Vocabulary Parade" costumes judged. They didn't get to be in the actual parade, but they did get to take place in the costume contest with the rest of their classmates. I was thrilled that the principal arranged things so my girls could go first. We scooted out of school with enough time to get over to the CPS office.

The Family Group Conference started roughly at 9:00. As much as I'd love to spill out all the details, I'm going to refrain. Let's just say everyone showed up that was supposed to. We were there for about two hours. Thankfully the girls only had to stay in the meeting for the "positive" talk. As we shifted gears and discussed our concerns, the girls were moved to a separate conference room.

The whole thing triggered TONS of behaviors. Immediately after the FGC, TurtleTurtle seemed fine. In fact, she wanted to go back to school. So, I took her back just in time for lunch. MissArguePants however was still much too upset and I let her come home with me.

The afternoon went OK with MissArguePants overall. She did process some. However, when all the cherubs arrived home from school it wasn't pretty!!! There were behaviors all over the place from both the girls and also from Cherub 2.

As far as the girls were concerned, it felt like the first week they were here. Arguments that had faded away came back in full force. Suddenly, nothing was fair. MissArguePants was on the attack for just about everything. TurtleTurtle went deep inside herself and didn't want to talk at all. As the evening progressed, the nervous giggle that TurtleTurtle has (the one that indicates she is completely dysregulated) was a constant sound.

Somehow, we managed to keep everyone from completely losing it. I was very thankful that Mr. Amazing was around to help. (I'm totally scared about how I'm going to handle this kind of stuff when he's in Oregon for the month of November.) None of the children had eaten much for supper - mainly due to nerves I think. I served quesadillas, to help regulate the blood sugar levels, for a snack. That helped tremendously.

The girls got their PJs on. Then TurtleTurtle actually told Mr. Amazing that she wanted to talk. MissArguePants decided to read stories to Bart. That left me free to talk with TT.

To make a long story very short, TT is trying very hard to figure out how his story parallels with the girls'. He doesn't live with his biological family. The girls don't either. THAT is about all that is parallel. But deep down, he feels some of the same pain they do. It's confusing for him to rectify that he is with us FOREVER but we are working towards reunification with the girls. He has been safe his whole life. His adoption was because of a decision made entirely by both of his biological parents. The girls haven't been safe and yet everyone is working hard to figure out how to put them back in that (potentially unsafe) environment. It just doesn't make sense to him!!

He was filled with such a protective amount of concern last night. It consumed him. It broke my heart. But it also is what I want for my kids. I want them to see the bigger picture. Even though we can't make any promises to the girls about what is going to happen, we can love on them right now. God's plan is bigger and better than anything we can imagine. I want my kids to see that they are part of God's plan of love. I think TT was totally "getting" that last night.

The girls did process their feelings some more as we went through the bedtime routine. MissArguePants isn't sure she wants to give her mom another chance. (I practically put a hole through my tongue to keep from interjecting my own opinion.) TurtleTurtle has no idea what she wants. Both girls are so conflicted. The pull towards their family is so incredibly strong (as it should be). I pray that their mother truly has changed. I do believe that everyone deserves God's grace and mercy. But both girls recognize now what true love feels like. MissArguePants told me she's never been loved before like she is being loved now.

MissArguePants says that it's not fair. If she had never been hurt she wouldn't have to go through this. She said it was a big, bad day. I have to agree. There is no part of foster care that is fair.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The joys of fostering

Our family was a licensed foster family several years ago when we lived in the Midwest. We went through all the training and kept our license for a couple years - discontinuing only when we moved out of state. So, despite the fact that this is our first placement in Texas, most of the concepts of fostering aren't new to us.

That doesn't mean I have to like some of the concepts of fostering!

For example - We are the low man on the totem pole!!

There is a Family Group Conference scheduled for tomorrow morning from 9AM to Noon. Guess when we were told about it?! Did you say, "Yesterday at 4:30 when they called to remind you?"

If you did - you're right!

I nearly choked when the secretary said that she was calling to "remind" me. What if I worked outside the home?! What if I couldn't just drop everything for a three hour meeting?! I know the lawyers all got more warning that this. We are definitely the low man on the totem pole.

Here's the kicker though. The girls have to go too.

I get it. I really do. Despite that fact that reunification is currently planned with someone they (basically) don't know. It is still reunification and the girls need to be a part of that.

But again, a little forewarning would have been nice.

There is a Vocabulary Parade at their school tomorrow. It is for the ENTIRE school. It starts at 9:00AM. My girls have been working on their homemade costumes for the parade. They don't like to miss celebrations like this. And personally, I don't think they should have to. So much of their life is in upheaval right now. School should be a safe and consistent place for them. Besides, if I had known about this meeting ahead of time, I could have prepped the girls before they made their costumes and possibly worked out something special with the school and the costume contest. As it is, the principal has been kind enough to say that the girls can come in before school to have their costumes judged. They just won't get to participate in the parade with their classmates.

But, despite the fact that their education is important. Despite the fact that they are going to be PETRIFIED tomorrow. Despite the fact they don't even "know" the person the courts are currently working with for their permanent placement. They get the pleasure of being removed from school to go sit in a meeting with a bunch of lawyers, social workers and me. (Mr. Amazing does work outside the home and cannot take time off tomorrow!)

Oh the joys of fostering.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Turtle loved on me tonight

We like nicknames at our house. Everyone gets at least one or two (if not more). However, they can't just be made up on the spot. It has to be something that's catchy and fits the person.

When our girls came, they noticed right away that a couple of Cherub 1's friends have these nicknames. They noticed how proud they were of their nicknames. In fact, believe it or not, Herman's friend Joel says his first car going to have a vanity plate with his official nickname SmellyCat. Totally hilarious!

Well, the girls wanted nicknames too. But we couldn't find something that fit "just right".

Until this weekend.

The younger girl (MissArguePants - originally called something else on my first blog) was regulated. She seemed happy enough. However, she was arguing with me about something stupid. I couldn't even begin to tell you what it was. But I turned to her and said, "MissArguePants - would you please stop that?!" Then I cracked up and called her MissArguePants again. She smiled.

I immediately got down to her level and told her that she didn't have to accept this nickname if she didn't want it. And even if she said it was OK, she could tell me at any time to stop and I would completely respect that decision.

She giggled and said that MissArguePants is a fine nickname.

The older girl (TurtleTurtle - also originally called something else on my first blog) doesn't argue quite as much. She argues! But not as much and not in the same way. When she is having a hard time with something, she usually shuts down and goes deep inside herself.
Her new nickname is now TurtleTurtle.

Having nicknames like this has actually made it easier for us. We can address difficult behavior in a fun way. We pretend that TurtleTurtle is actually a superhero and wears a cape. And the ArguePants... they are covered in hot pink sequins with a silver stripe down the side. We've taken their behaviors and turned them into these characters. Now when TurtleTurtle is having a hard time, we can just smile at her and say TurtleTurtle to make her aware of her behavior.

Earlier tonight I told MissArguePants to put on her ArguePants if she was going to argue with me. She cracked up and said she threw them away. Then later, when she was playing around and arguing with me at the same time, she told me she bought a new pair. It's really opened up a new line of communication for us.

But now, the reason why I'm posting tonight.
TurtleTurtle let me love on her.

To make a really long story short, she and I got into a disagreement about getting into the car to come home after church tonight. Ya know. I wanted her to get in the car and she said no. Typical ODD defiance.

I didn't have one of my better therapeutic parenting moments. I might have picked her up a bit and put her in the car myself (not allowed). I might have tried to buckle the seat belt for her (again, probably not allowed).

Ewwwww that level of defiance is a big trigger for me.
I'm working on it.

Anyway, she did end up buckling herself in. I got back in the driver's seat and attempted to calm down. I braced myself for the inevitable tantrum that was surely going to follow at bedtime tonight. I felt sick to my stomach.

But, trying to make things better, I attempted a conversation with TurtleTurtle. (Keep in mind that any conversation like this in the past would have been met with stone cold silence.) I said right up front that I didn't handle that well. I said that I shouldn't have put her in the car and tried to buckle her in. I then asked her what she thought I could have done differently. She actually answered me. She said she didn't know! (This, in and of itself, is progress!!)

I told her what I thought. That I probably should have just waited until she was strong enough to get in the car herself. I then added that I'm not a fan of taking away the only privilege my kids really have during the school week (playing outside). So I explained that in the future, if she chooses to be defiant like that, I'll do a better job of waiting but she'll have to write sentences or something the next day.

She actually paid attention to what I was saying and told me she understood.

Again I braced myself for the huge fit I just knew would be coming.

Just a few blocks down the road and the conversation turned to birthdays. Both girls have a birthday next month. TurtleTurtle was regulated enough and participated in this conversation. She said that she wants me to decorate her birthday cake with a picture of our whole family on it. MissArguePants wants a cake with our family on it as well but she wants to make sure I include our dog, Charlie.

We got home and I was sure the fit would be starting soon.

TurtleTurtle curled up on the couch like a turtle.

I asked her if she wanted to go talk.

She. said. yes.

We went into the guest room we have downstairs. (We call it the Big Feeling room and have since we moved in here. It's where I take the boys when they need to talk or need to be separated from the family because of their Big Feelings.)

I showed her how I usually lie down on the bed and cuddle with my boys when they are upset. She climbed up next to me and snuggled in. I then said this is when the boys tell me the Big Feeling that is bothering them.

TurtleTurtle said she didn't want to talk.

I pushed her ever so slightly. She told me her Big Feeling.

She's afraid that they're going to take her from our home when we go to court in November and her birthday isn't for about another week after that. She didn't want to make birthday plans because they make her scared and sad.

We hugged. We cuddled. I told her I was so proud of her for talking about her Big Feeling. I told her that I can't make any promises. Things like this ARE up to the judge. But most kids in foster care have to have visits with the people they are going to live with before they leave their foster home. The girls aren't having visits yet so I said that most likely she will be at our house for her birthday. She even allowed herself to cry a couple tears. She made eye contact with me when I told her how much I love her. It was awesome getting to love on her and actually having her love me back.

The Turtle loved on me tonight!
That, my friends, is major progress!!

Be sure to keep your kids straight

Our two foster daughters display extreme ODD behaviors. They will argue about almost anything. Their brains are hard-wired to want to do the opposite of what we ask of them.

That said, one of the best parenting tools you can use is to "prescribe the fit". For example, if MissArguePants is going to get really mad when you tell her it's time to take her bath (because this is what she does every night....even though you prepped her in the afternoon....even though you've counted down....even though she knows it's coming) I will prescribe the nasty behavior that she usually gives me when I tell her it's bath time.

"MissArguePants...I'm going to tell you something. It's going to make you mad. Please be sure to stomp your feet really loud as you go up the stairs. Yell at me a little. Make sure everyone in the house knows how mad you are about it. OK?
MissArguePants, it's time to take your bath.
Now, stomp really loud and argue about it. OK?"

This changes something in her behavior.

She is hard-wired to do the opposite of what I tell her. Therefore, if I go ahead and give her permission to throw a fit, it confuses her in a big way. Most of the time she will be upset, but she won't actually throw the fit. Because, it's no fun to get mad if she's been given permission to do it.

We're getting pretty good with this parenting technique. In fact, if I don't see the fit coming, I'll be sure to give them permission as soon as one starts. Quite often it will diffuse extreme behavior rather quickly. I'm not saying it makes everything all lollipops and rainbows. But the fits aren't as explosive. We've been doing this for about the last four weeks with pretty good success.

But you've got to keep your kids straight.

Cherub 2 likes to throw ginormous fits himself. However, he is neuro-typical and does NOT have ODD. His fits are often diffused by scooping him up and holding him tight. In fact, we've had to restrain him in the past. He is always warned before we restrain him. But he has been known to throw a fit just so we WILL restrain him. It's like he wants the physical touch so bad but doesn't know how to ask for it in the heat of the moment.

The other night Mr. Amazing and I each took two of the kids to help them get ready for bed. He chose the boys and I was going to help the girls. TT was NOT pleased about having to come inside. He did NOT want to stop playing football with the big kids. But...it was bedtime. As he was coming in the house he made it obvious how ticked off he was.

Mr. Amazing helped him up to his bedroom and started to oversee the process of putting on PJs and brushing the teeth. As TT got more and more dysregulated, Mr. Amazing reached into his parenting bag of tricks and "prescribed the fit".

Oh boy oh boy!

Cherub 2's eyes lit up and he said, "OK". He then immediately trashed out his room. Pulled all the blankets off the bed. Threw all the pillows and stuffed animals across the room. Dumped out a huge box of hot wheels. Emptied some baskets that were on his shelves. It was a mess!!!

Mr. Amazing realized his mistake almost immediately. But, rather renege on what TT had been given permission to do, Mr. Amazing let him go for just a minute. (Yes, he trashed his room that bad in under 60 seconds.) Then Mr. Amazing told TT that it was time to calm down.

Thankfully both Mr. Amazing and I were able to laugh about this. We switched places and I helped TT straighten up the bedroom (he did end up calming down quite quickly). Mr. Amazing went out with the girls and sat with them while they read stories to Cherub 3.

So, as wonderful as our new parenting techniques might be, here's some advice: be sure to double check what kid goes with what technique or things might get messy!  :)

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Connected Child: Chapters 1 & 2

Dr. Karyn Purvis has written a wonderful book on bringing hope and healing to your adoptive family entitled The Connected Child. I bought this book awhile ago to gain a little insight with Cherub 2. However, now that we have foster daughters that obviously have some attachment problems, Mr. Amazing is reading the book and I'm going through it again. I am also taking part in an online book club started by Sarah Thacker. Each week parents of foster and adoptive kids are reading through and commenting on different chapters of the book.

Our road is slightly different than the ultimate goal of the book. We want to help our foster daughters heal. We want them to learn to attach in healthy ways. But ultimately, they are in foster care so forming a deep attachment specifically with us probably isn't the healthiest. We can't have conversations about "forever". Shoot, I can't make any promises past November 5 (our next court date). I would say the fact that the girls are our foster daughters is the biggest obstacle to attachment. Nobody knows what's going to happen next.

The book does open my eyes to ways in which we need to parent differently. One of the points made in Chapter 1 that really struck me is the notion that my children don't look any different from any other child. On the surface they look healthy. Honestly, I have to remind myself that sometimes when I'm asking something from one of my foster daughters, they truly might NOT BE ABLE to do what I'm asking. Not because they are defiant. Or headstrong. Or purposely disruptive. Something as simple as eye contact can be impossible for Precious at times. Rather than demand it, I need to meet her where she's at. Before I do anything, I have to first make sure that I am regulated. Then I have to totally get down to her level - even if that means lying on the floor so I can look at her as she hides under her bed. Like the book said, I have to:
"Respect and honor the child's needs,
even when you don't entirely understand what drives them."

Our pastor gave a wonderful message yesterday about being Faith Filled and being Faithful. It really struck close to home. I know that we are being faithful to God by becoming a foster family. We are doing good works in His name. The journey has been incredibly faith driven so I would say that we are a Faith Filled family. We are trusting Him in all of this. But our pastor made the comment that if we continue to be Faithful without being Faith Filled - we will run out of steam. We will be completely drained. We will have no energy.

When I feel myself being completely drained by MissArguePants as she argues with me yet again about something, I've got to stop myself. It's up to me to become Faith Filled again. I feel like I pray a lot - all day long some days. But I need to let go even more when these girls are pushing my buttons. I can't do this on my own.The only way I can show them true compassion is if I get that kind of love from the original source. If I keep trying to manufacture faithful works without turning to God constantly, I will run out of energy.

We are seeing small amounts of progress with our girls every day. I thank the true Healer for that!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Listerine update

I ended tonight with another Listerine treatment on the girls. My original plan got smacked out of the calendar this week. We haven't done the Listerine since last Saturday.

I'm not sure if we're having ultimate success or not. I'm going to guess that we are. I only pulled about a dozen or two bugs off of each girl tonight. The positive thing is that all the bugs were really little. I have to hope that they simply hatched this week and are new. I'm going to pray that they didn't lay any eggs yet.

It's my plan to do Listerine again on Monday night. Plans like that have to stay rather loose. I'm not about to pour alcohol on top of a fitting 8 year old. Lord willing we'll be done with this chapter of parenting soon.

----

The stupid doctor that wouldn't prescribe any new form of treatment for lice on my girls isn't going to be investigated after all. I heard back from the medical board of examiners today. They said my complaint didn't warrant investigation as the doctor was acting within the standard of care.

That's a bunch of baloney!! But ultimately, I know that the doctor will stand judgment someday. It's not really a battle I have to fight.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Why I have the on-call worker on speed dial.

My two foster daughters have PTSD and ODD. Granted, these are diagnoses are what I've come up with on my own. We don't have the psychological evaluations back yet. But I'm pretty sure the ones with the degrees are going to agree with the ones that live with it.

So you might ask...just how does this look at your house?

Weeellllll.... let's just say there is a LOT of arguing going on. Then, at bedtime (where the abuse occurred all too frequently) they get freaked out.

When my girls are freaked out they do. not. listen.

Not to me. Not to my husband. Not to each other.

However, I've figured out a system that's been working pretty good. And since it's all I've really got, I'm using it.

My girls will listen when I'm talking about them to someone else.

My girls are very scared. Bottom line - they don't trust grown ups. When they start freaking out at night, they are literally trying to push me to the end of my rope. They want to know how much it will take before I'll hurt them. They don't believe they are safe. They don't believe that there is a support system doing all they can to take care of them.

The agency we are licensed through is wonderful! We have tons of support. Someone answers the phone every time I call. When I leave a message, it always gets returned. And when I call after hours, I always get a hold of the on-call SW right away.

So, I take advantage of this.

When I really need to get my girls to listen to me when they are dysregulated (especially at bedtime), I call the on-call social worker. I do this right in front of the child that is freaking out. I calmly describe what has been going on. I make sure the worker knows that the kid is listening and that this call is mainly for their benefit. Because you see, as soon as I start talking about the child to the worker, the kid starts listening to me. Sure, the child is usually in the background calling me a liar. Yelling that I'm stupid. Insisting that they aren't going to talk. But...they are listening to me.

A conversation could easily sound very similar to this:

"Hi. This is Cherub Mamma. I'm calling tonight about my girls MissArguePants and TurtleTurtle. They are having a very difficult time settling down for bed tonight and I would like to give them an opportunity to talk to you about it."
Usually this is where the SW asks what the problem is.
I spell it all out. I validate the girls feelings and let the worker know what my expectations are.
"My girls have been with me since September 10. From everything I've been able to learn, they were hurt quite terribly in their last house. This often happened at bedtime. I totally understand that they are still scared at bedtime but they haven't been able to follow our two simple rules.
We only expect them to stay in their beds and to not disturb others.
However, TurtleTurtle is kicking MissArguePants and both girls have been spitting water at each other tonight."
This is where the girls will of course scream out that I'm lying. They'll usually throw in an insult or two if they can.
"I am hoping that TurtleTurtle can talk with you about this behavior. I'm sure she wants to settle down and go to sleep. She's just having a hard time right now. Can you talk to her please?"
Most of the workers I've talked to have figured out that I'm doing this mainly for the girls. And most of the conversations go on a bit longer before I try to pass the phone off to the child. I usually try to include as many positive things about the girls and their behavior as I can. I also include a line about why I'm calling.
"I'm having a hard time with their behavior right now. I'm tired and I need to be able to relax and go to sleep too. More than anything, I want these girls to know that they are safe. There are lots more people than just Mr. Amazing and I looking out for them. That's why I called. They are obviously very afraid right now or else they'd be able to go to sleep as it is quite late and they are quite tired. I need them to hear from someone else that cares about them that they are safe."
So far, this has worked for me almost every time. The girls just can't keep fitting while I'm talking about them to someone else. They want to hear everything I have to say. I get a chance to spell out the simple expectations. And, if they manage to calm down enough during the call and actually agree to talk to the worker, they get my message reinforced by someone else.

I worried a lot about calling all the time. But as this placement has become more and more difficult I decided I need to have as much of their behavior documented as possible. I feel better when it's not just all being documented by me. My agency has also made it very clear to me that this is what they are here for!! So, I'm taking them up on it.

And that is why I have the on-call worker on speed dial.