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, Alan'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.


Investigation time

I got the privilege of speaking with the CPS investigator today. I enjoyed telling her all about our lovely trip to the doctor on October 5th.

It seems the doctor thought it necessary to turn me in for two allegations. One because I asked for a sleep aid for the girls. And two because I "shoved one of the girls down in a chair".

Both are laughable!!

I had already spoken with CPS about using melatonin at night with my girls. They said I just needed to get "permission" from a doctor. They were completely fine with it but because the supplements do say not for use with kids under 12, CPS needed a medical OK from a doctor. We haven't been given the green light to go to a psychiatrist yet so my girls are on no meds at all. I need something to help take the edge off at bedtime. We probably won't get to a psych doc for at least another few weeks. The fact that I wanted an OTC med that is commonly used is certainly not CPS allegation material.

I found out that the investigator had to sit and watch surveillance video of us while we were at the doctor's office. (We waited three hours for our appointment! Boy I bet she had a blast doing that!) Never did she see me shove a child down in a chair. Hmmm. Both the children said that this never happened either. Hmmmm. Think this doctor just had an axe to grind?! How dare a woman advocate for her foster kids! How dare she question the authority of this medical god! The investigator did get to see the girls' behaviors escalate as we waited and waited and waited for our appointment. She did see me have to politely redirect them many, many times. But never did I look like I was yelling at them. Or hurting them. Hmmmm. Not even as I was storming out of the office.

I'm certainly not worried about how all this is going to shake out. It was a minor inconvenience to me this morning. But, I do hope that I hear back from the Board of Medical Examiners soon. This doctor deserves something more than a minor inconvenience. She had a lot of nerve lying about the situation just because I stuck up for my kids and wanted what was best for them!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Awesome therapy session

I don't have time to post much today. The cherubs will be getting off the bus in exactly one hour and I've got about 3 hours worth of work to cram in to those 60 minutes. But I have to give a quick update.

We drove an hour to meet with a new therapist last night. And guess what...she's a REAL therapist!! She's kind, compassionate, intelligent, and most of all - she cares about the same things I do...the girls! She met with me first to get a quick low down on their history. Then she met with the girls. They played. They talked. They worked on some anger management coping skills. They started a behavior mod to deal with "listening". It felt good to hear the therapist agree with me that the behavior mod exercises will work better coming from her rather that from Mr. Amazing and I. She only wanted to deal with one behavior at a time so she actually does have a clue. The girls enjoyed themselves and didn't freak out when we got home. That for me was a huge indicator of the level of success this relationship potentially holds.

While the girls were in therapy, I got a chance to have a heart to heart with our agency director and the SW supervisor. They listened to me. They took me seriously. They totally accepted where my husband and I are at with this particular placement. They didn't try to sugar coat anything. It was awesome! I got my own little personal therapy session.

It was made very clear to me that the agency is there to support us. We are to call the on-call SW at any time!!! (Even if we have to call every single night - that's OK.) They promised me that if there's a serious problem, they could get a worker to my home very quickly. In fact, knowing that many kids freak out after therapy, they even offered to send a worker home with me last night. I declined as I don't want the kids to think that we can't handle things. But it was nice to have that level of support available.

We all want the girls to stay put if at all possible. I need to be honest here, the sexual acting out hasn't been anything more than inappropriate dancing and playing. I'd like to think it was picked up from watching too much MTV or something like that (but I know better). The physical nature of their aggression isn't dangerous either. It just seems that any behavior the girls had when they came to our house has been magnified over the last four weeks. So many of them seemed small and harmless enough that I didn't worry at first. Everything seemed quite manageable. However, I've watched the behaviors become so much bigger. I know that the acting out and the violence could do the same thing in a heartbeat. I made it clear to our agency that if it does escalate, I won't accept a 30 day waiting period while they try to figure out where to move the girls. It will need to happen immediately!

For now though, I went from feeling like a deflated balloon to someone who can function again. I've got energy I haven't had for awhile and a certain clarity in my brain that had been slipping. It's amazing how fast they can suck you into their broken world. I'm stronger though and I can get through today.

One day at a time Sweet Jesus. One day at a time.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Where do we go from here?

Things are getting ugly at our house. Everyone is feeling the stress our two foster daughters have brought with them to our home. It is sad and frightening, scary and angering, and so much more that I can't even begin to describe.

Like I said in my last post, I don't like the way I'm starting to feel all the time. I don't like the anger level that permeates everything and everyone. We always said that we wouldn't foster to the detriment of our existing family.

But I don't like the alternative either.

We are at a crossroads. Something HAS to change.

The girls are either going to need to be placed somewhere else. Or we are going to have to do something different in our house. I'm just not sure what that different thing will look like.

In the meantime, I'm waiting for a call from our agency. They have to know where we are at with this placement. I can't let it be a surprise to them if we have to disrupt.

I'm praying A LOT!

And, like always, I'm waiting.

Yesterday was an interesting day. Many horrible ugly things happened. There was lots of crying and yelling and stomping of the feet. Mr. Amazing and I have decided that the girls no longer will be allowed to play outside with friends. (The girls don't know this yet. Please pray for me at exactly 4:00 this afternoon when I have to tell them.) It appears that they truly can't handle that level of freedom. More and more this is turning into the strictest form of residential care possible. And I'm just not sure I can successfully pull off that kind of an environment and still give my own kids who are both younger and older than the foster kids what they need.

As I pray, I wait to hear an answer. I want more than anything to be within God's will for my life. As of right now, I don't think we're being told that we have to maintain this placement. However, I also got two interesting bits of encouragement that most certainly came straight from God.

1. I got a call from the speech pathologist at the school. This was a little strange because the kids didn't have school yesterday. I suppose the administration still worked. It just caught me off guard. It seems that TurtleTurtle used to attend speech therapy when she was in this district several years ago. Now that she's enrolled back in the district, they have to have a formal meeting to determine if she still needs therapy or not. During the conversation with the therapist, she thanked me for being a foster parent. I've never spoken with this woman before. She doesn't know me or my faith at all. However, the conversation quickly turned to her saying that God will bless us and that she will pray for us. That meant a lot to me! Just knowing that people all over are praying for us gives me great comfort when I need it most.

2. A friend from my past, who I haven't spoken with but one time in over two years called me out of the blue to wish me a happy birthday. My birthday isn't until November. Through our brief conversation I let her know that we are a foster family. She took time right then and there to pray for our family and for our little girls. Again, comfort right when I needed it.

So....since I don't think God is going to send me a detailed fax letting me know exactly how He wants me to handle this situation we're in...I guess I've got to make my own conclusions. For now, I've got to let our agency know how serious the behaviors are and how our family is barely hanging on at times. But it looks like I'm not supposed to throw the towel in on fostering in general.

Whew!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Hypervigilance

Once again I must admit that no amount of training can really prepare you for parenting trauma.

My girls have PTSD. (How could you not after living through the trauma they lived through?!) I can't say that they are hypervigilant to the point of it disrupting their lives. But it does become more noticeable as evening comes closer. I think it's also why they have such a hard time falling and staying asleep.

I have read about hypervigilance. I thought I knew what it was. However, I now know what it feels like. And I don't like it one bit!

I have always wanted to have the house where all the neighborhood kids hang out at. I do enjoy having tons of kids around. It's fun to watch them invent games and the rules that go with them. I love having an extra face at the dinner table. We've been in this neighborhood for a year now and we're finally in that place. I think there were at least a dozen kids or more in and out of my house all day yesterday.

Unfortunately, two of those children come from a history of trauma.

A dozen neighborhood friends and trauma do not mix well.

I was in hypervigilant mode all day yesterday. I was dealing with arguing, tattling, fights, fits, tantrums and more. I felt an overwhelming need to helicopter over everyone. Not physically -- I am such the OPPOSITE of a helicopter parent! But I had an ear out to everything because the little fits escalate so fast with my girls.

Maybe I'm just whining here. I'm not exactly sure what my point is.

Except maybe to say that I have a glimmer of understanding as to how they feel. I was physically exhausted yesterday. The stress level I carried all day hurt. I had to stop regularly and force myself to take deep breaths. If they even feel half as uncomfortable as I did yesterday, it would explain a lot of their behaviors.

I'm just not sure what to do with it.

I don't want to stop being the house where neighborhood kids play. I don't think that would be fair to my boys. I know cutting the girls off from friends wouldn't help them either. The only time things are "normal" for them are when they are playing. Everything else scares them to death. (You know, things like family dinners, hygiene expectations, bedtime, rules, structure, etc.)

I'm struggling with how to parent them separately from the three children we already had in our home. My boys have started to pick up their nasty little behaviors to see if they work or not. I'm so damn limited as to how I can parent the foster kids. I'm not with my boys. I've caught myself saying, "I will NOT tolerate that from YOU young man! The girls talk to me that way and I don't like it. But you absolutely will not!!"

But what do I do about it?! I really don't want to start going corporate on my boys.

The arguing, tattling, fights, fits, tantrums and more are wearing me out! I feel guilty wanting my old life back. I feel guilty about how angry the girls make me. I don't enjoy so many of the things I used to be able to enjoy. The constant disrespect and sense of entitlement drain me.

So I guess I am just whining. I picked it up from my girls.  :)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Listerine update

We did the Listerine treatment again tonight. Got only a few bugs off of each of the girls.

I'm going to pray that this means we've made progress.

We'll do this again Monday, Wednesday (or maybe Thursday if we are able to go to church) and then either Friday or Saturday. From there I'll wait one full week and do the Listerine treatment again. I'm hoping by that time I'll be able to tell if the lice are really gone or not.

There were tons of tears tonight from MissArguePants. But all in all it will be worth it to be done with the bugs!!!

I love having connections!

Remember that awesome brother I told you I have? He's a family doctor many, many states away from Texas. When I need medical help, the most he can do is offer up a phone consultation. I'm very lucky though as I have an honest doctor (basically) at my beck and call. Sometimes I wonder how I would parent without it. I call him after most appointments and get a second opinion. It has saved me tons of money and unnecessary hassle.

I told him yesterday about the investigation. He was already mad about how the doctor had treated me and the girls. He immediately told me I needed to report the doctor to the board of medical examiners. He then went online with me and walked me through filling out the complaint form.

I'm not trying to be spiteful. More than anything I want this doctor to become a little more educated on the subject of drug resistant lice. I'd also like her to think twice before becoming so hostile to her patients.

My brother helped me word the email perfectly. All I did was spell out what happened and ask for the doctor to increase her education level. I referred to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine. This statement alone will ensure the review board takes my report a little more seriously. And, in the meantime, this doctor will have lots of extra paperwork to do. Also, every time she fills out insurance paperwork she's going to have to mention that she's currently under investigation.

I felt so good hitting "submit" last night. The pit in my stomach is now gone.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Just what else is going to complicate my life now?

I went to pick the girls up from school early yesterday. They each had a dentist appointment. When I arrived, I was told that TurtleTurtle was in a meeting with CPS.

Interesting. I was told that our worker was in a judge's conference all day.

The worker cut the meeting short with TurtleTurtle and stepped out to meet me. Nothing seemed too strange. I asked "who" she was. She explained that she's someone that oversees all the parties involved in this case -- our CPS case worker, the agency worker (I think anyway) and us to make sure that minimum standards are being met and things like that. It seemed like just a bigger bureaucracy to me. But I'm new to the standards in the state of Texas.

This worker told me that she'd just meet with the girls another day and that she'd stop by the house to meet with me. She wanted to come today. I mentioned that I was going to be gone on a date with my husband. She didn't seem phased and said she'd get with me next week. I blew the whole thing off.

At dinner tonight I asked MissArguePants if the CPS worker had met with her during school today. She said yes. Then she volunteered that this worker just wanted to know what had happened at the doctor the other day.

Oh my!!

I went online and looked up the official title that is on the worker's business card that she left with me. It seems that she isn't exactly just keeping an eye on things. It looks more like she's actually an investigator. It looks like that nasty doctor really did call CPS on me.

On one hand, I can handle this. I knew all along that it's not a matter of IF you'll be investigated. It's a matter of WHEN. But really?! Our first placement?! Within the first 30 days?! Unbelievable.

I know that I've done nothing wrong. All I was trying to do was advocate for the well being of my girls. And, deep down, I know this is a good thing. CPS was responsible for them in their last placement - the one they were at before they came to us. The one they had to be removed from. I know CPS has to be extra careful now for many reasons. At least someone is looking out for the best interests of those kids...finally!!

But you know that feeling? Like when you get called into your boss' office and you're not sure if it's for a good reason or if something is wrong? Or if your significant other says, "we need to talk" and you have no idea why? That knot in the pit of your gut that just won't go away?

I've got one of those.

It's hard enough managing the behaviors of these girls. We've got a three day weekend. Somehow I've got to let this go so I can place all my energy into the family and not waste any of it on needless worrying. But crap! I'm just not a fan of this. If there was a "dislike" button, I would be pushing it right now!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Listerine and lice

The girls' stupid doctor wouldn't give us ivermectin on Tuesday. And my family doctor hasn't called me back yet to go over how he would handle the problem. So, I took it upon myself to use my Google Degree to combat the chronic lice issue plaguing my girls.

After extensive research, I decided on the Listerine method.

First you douse the hair with Listerine, taking great care to avoid getting it in their eyes. Then you cover the hair with a shower cap and let it sit for about an hour. I tucked two washcloths in around their forehead and the back of their neck to catch the drips. Then we rinsed it out.

I decided that the nit comb is the part we all hate the most. I know it's important and all. But spending over an hour combing through tiny sections of their hair piece by piece is just about the worst way to spend an evening ever. The girls can't stand it. And after three hours of monotonous combing, and fussing, and whining, and complaining, I'm usually just about insane. (FYI: all parties involved fuss, whine and complain...even me.)

So our deal was that tonight, I would just use the nit comb to groom their hair like normal. As long as I was pulling bugs out with it, I'd keep combing. But I wouldn't be as meticulous as I had been all the other times.

This time we groomed with the nit comb while in the tub. Before tonight I had tried sitting on the floor and using tissues to wipe off the comb (as suggested on the Rx box). I had also tried sitting next to the sink using running water (as suggested on the OTC gel). We decided that a plop in the bathtub would be the fastest way tonight. By the time I was done with MissArguePants, she had somewhere around 40-50 bugs floating around her. (Keep in mind I did the permethrin treatment just 9 days ago and pulled tons of bugs that night too.) TurtleTurtle didn't get as many bugs but I think it might be because I had her wash the hair spray out of her hair before I put the Listerine in. I'm wondering if starting with dry hair might be more effective.

The cool science part of this is that the FDA just recently approved the use of benzyl alcohol for the treatment of drug resistant lice. From everything I can gather, the alcohol in Listerine works in the same way. Benzyl alcohol lotion inhibits lice from closing their respiratory spiracles which allows the product to penetrate lice, causing them to asphyxiate. It appears the same thing happens with Listerine. I'm not sure how well known the benzyl alcohol lotion is to most doctors. And from what I could tell out on the web, it's quite expensive.

The Listerine was cheap and was way easier than spending hours in the doctor's office and then the pharmacy. Sure, it smells pretty strong. The girls complained! But even they could see all the dead lice and were pleased with the results. And because there's no harm to the girls (unlike repeated applications of pesticides) we can do this treatment as frequently as we want. So, we agreed that we'll do this every other day for a week or so. By doing this treatment frequently over the course of at least 8 days, we should catch the full cycle of live lice on their heads and kill all those blasted things.

I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

It gets worse.

Just when I thought that the therapy experience would be the worst...I took the girls to the doctor today.

Going to the doctor in the Valley (DEEP South Texas) is unlike anything I have ever experienced before. I have lived in multiple states all over the country. Never before have I had to wait like we do down here. It is not uncommon to wait 2-3 hours for a scheduled appointment.

I know this. But still, I show up early. Just in case. So, we arrived for our 10:30 appointment at 10:15.

We waited. And we waited. And we waited.

Keep in the back of your mind what happened to my girls just three short weeks ago when they were removed. They didn't come straight to my home. They had to endure a visit with an unfamiliar doctor. A long and very detailed visit. Use your imagination and you can picture what they had to go through there. I bet if something like that happened to you, going to the doctor would not be something that you would look forward to. So, using your imagination again, picture all the behaviors I got to experience while in the waiting room with two nervous little girls.

The doctor came in the room to see us at 1:00. Yes, 2 hours and 45 minutes after we arrived for our appointment.

The appointment was supposed to be a simple one. My girls have sleep issues. I wanted the doctor to give me a written OK to give them OTC melatonin at bedtime. I can't give it to them without a note of some kind because the bottle does say "not for use with children under 12". However, I don't want them on psychotropic drugs. I just want something to take the edge off. Melatonin is proven safe. It's a natural substance our bodies already make.

She talked to me like I was an idiot. Said that she will not, under any circumstances, give anything to children to help with sleep issues. I smiled and said OK. Of course this means that we'll end up in a psychiatrist's office. And that visit probably won't be scheduled for at least another month or so. (I can't just decide to take them myself. I must wait for the referral from our agency.) And I'm sure the girls will end up on drugs much too strong for what they need. But my hands are tied.

I'm not an idiot though. I didn't argue. There are many family docs out there that express extreme caution when treating children. I already had a feeling this is how the situation would turn out.

So then I addressed the next health item. My girls don't remember a time in their lives when they have been lice free. They can tell me about all the different treatments that they have lived through. (One would make your hair curl! Let's just say they're lucky they didn't end up with permanent damage of some kind.)

Since coming to our home we have use the Rx lotion three times. I have also used an OTC gel once. We've combed and combed. I even cut their hair myself (after getting permission from the bio mom of course). I can't take them to a salon until the lice are gone. I have washed everything they own - over and over. I have vacuumed and cleaned.

My brother just happens to be one of the most amazing doctors on the planet. In fact, it was his recommendation that the girls use a low dose of melatonin as a sleep aid. He also mentioned that it really sounds like the girls have drug resistant lice. He recommended that I request a drug called ivermectin. It is an oral drug originally used for a parasite but can also be used to treat drug resistant lice. Due to the fact that the girls mention going through so many different treatments and the fact that I've not made a dent in anything using the permethrin, he said that he would prescribe ivermectin if they were his patients. I asked for this drug by name.

This is where the doctor really ticked me off. She said she absolutely would not prescribe that drug. I could keep using the Rx permethrin lotion. I could cut their hair. I could keep using the comb. Then she went so far as to say it's almost winter and lice were less active in the winter.

I have to call B.S.!! We are still having highs in the 90s. There is no sign of winter for a long long time. Not to mention the fact that if you have one louse...you have a lice problem! It doesn't matter how active they are or not. I just want them dead!

I was a little frustrated. I expressed my level of frustration by mentioning that we waited for nearly three hours, we were tired and hungry and the doctor refused to help me with either of my problems. She seemed proud of herself as she said, "yes, that's right." From there, she accused me of being angry and said that she was going to call CPS on me.

I walked out of the office with my girls. I let the doctor know that she could call CPS if she wanted to!! I'm not afraid of a doctor who ticked me off a little. Yeah I was angry. I'm trying to advocate for my girls! I just wanted to help them get rid of a lice problem they've had their entire life! They are embarrassed and annoyed by all the itching. No one likes spending several hours a week getting their hair combed. I just wanted to clear up the problem!!

As I got in my van with the girls, I immediately called CPS. No answer. So I called my agency to let them know some stupid doctor has her panties in a bunch.

I will do whatever it takes to get the services we need! Bring it on lady. Bring it on!

For what it's worth, we will not be going back to that doctor's office. I am going to try some home remedies I've seen on the internet. I will not give up.

Therapy?!

All these things were heard last night at our first home therapy session with the girls. Most of it was not said in front of the girls. And of course these quotes aren't verbatum. But you can get the gist of it all...

It shouldn’t matter if I’m a man. The girls just need to get over it. They will be around men their whole lives...unless they go live in a cave. But even men will find them out there. It isn’t a problem.

I’ve seen hundreds of foster kids. It doesn’t matter why they were removed. They are all cut from the same cloth. They’re all the same.

Your girls are “chiquiada”.  (Loosely translated it means they’re spoiled brats.)

Basically, they just need to get over it. They’re playing you. They are in a safe house now. They have no reason to be afraid at night. Sure there might be a trigger or something if the abuse happened in a bathroom or something like that. But it’s not the same bathroom so they really should be OK now.

I couldn’t imagine being a foster parent. Your hands are tied with discipline options. The system is broken. Sorry.

This really isn’t therapy. The girls aren’t going to speak with me. I can try and help you guys out as parents. But there really isn’t much I can do.

The other therapist does less than me. (Oh joy. That’s the court ordered therapy we’re supposed to start sometime in the future that he’s referring to. I have such confidence in the system now.)

(Speaking of bio kids – specifically his own...) Every kid needs to get beat. Not just with your hands over a diaper. Get out a belt. It’ll only take a couple times they’ll figure it out.

You have to out manipulate them. No, it’s not good parenting really. But that’s how you handle these foster kids. They’re so manipulative themselves. You just have to stay one step ahead.

_____

This?! This is what therapy is going to look like?! My girls need help. They need to be in a safe place where they can process through the demons in their past and be given tools to help move forward in a healthy way. I can't be their mom and their therapist. Not effectively anyway. I don't have the knowledge or the energy. Not to mention the fact that I'm trying to parent five children and it's not possible to spread me out that thin. I'm going to need some outside help. Mr. Amazing is just that - amazing! But the two of us can only do so much.

I like our agency overall. But they're not going to serve in a therapeutic way. The last home visit ended with our worker making a "deal" with DramaQ. IF DramaQ can behave for a month...our SW will buy her a Taylor Swift CD.

A month?! I'd like two days in a row!

They need realistic concrete goals. Not just arbitrary ideas like "behave". And, due to the nature of the ODD, I think some of these conversations have to come from other people outside our family unit. Is that too much to ask for?!

Thankfully our agency just called me back concerning therapy from last night. I basically just read off the list of the things the therapist said. She immediately said that she would work on getting us a new home therapist. Whew! At least I'm not totally crazy in thinking that this wasn't a good fit.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Figuring out the triggers

Well, we are three weeks into this adventure today. I feel like we've been doing this for three years. Every day is a brand new challenge though. I'm constantly on my toes to try and stay ahead of the game so to speak.

Yesterday I discovered that things work best in the afternoon when I have snack ready and waiting for them when they all get off the bus. Food seems to be a trigger for the girls though I haven't been able to put all the pieces together. Due to privacy issues, I'm not going to explain all my theories here in such a public forum. But food in general, mealtime with family and choices over what to eat are difficult things for my girls.

My boys are used to snack smorgasbord so having things ready for them doesn't change up their routine much. For the girls, having the food ready eliminates them having to figure out what it is that they want. Yesterday I made up PB& J sandwiches that I cut into small pieces. I put them out on a tray along with some oranges and pears. The kids were able to come in and immediately start eating. They had a few choices so they could maintain power over the situation. But ultimately, I was feeding them only things that were OK with me so it wasn't a problem.

I am going to try and do this kind of a snack routine EVERY DAY from now on! All four of the cherubs immediately started eating and I didn't see any of the arguing and acting out that was so common right after school. (This problem wasn't reserved for just the girls either. My boys were having issues after school as well.) It was so nice to have the kids sitting around the table talking with each other instead of fighting. In fact, the rest of the afternoon went so much better it was actually enjoyable.

Wednesday night we had horrible bedtime issues. I kept thinking it was all due to the psychological evaluation they had gone through that afternoon. That seemed like such a logical connection. The behaviors were bad. The girls were feeding off of each others anxiety and they just wouldn't settle down. During the midst of the arguing, fits, yelling, etc. (and...I have to admit...it wasn't just the girls participating in that kind of behavior) Mr. Amazing got the girls to talk some more. The girls shared how in "the house they used to live in" their bedroom didn't have a window air conditioner. The bedrooms on either side of them did, but they had to sleep in a hot, stuffy bedroom. Mind you, we're in October now and still have highs in the 90s. So, you can imagine what their bedroom felt like this past summer.

Our nighttime temps have been getting a little bit lower. I was thrilled on Wednesday to finally open the windows up on the house. I left them open all day because I'm so tired of running the air conditioning all the time. But, by Wednesday night the house was pretty warm and the bedrooms upstairs were stuffy. I clung to the fact that it was still supposed to cool off that night. I ran the ceiling fans in all the bedrooms. I even went and got another floor fan for the girls' room.

In hindsight, I'm sure the warmth of their room was contributing to the behaviors. Bedtime is difficult for them every single night. But the added discomfort of a warm room had to have reminded them of what they were living in and dealing with before. Mr. Amazing, after hearing this element of their past, immediately shut up the house and turned the air conditioning back on. It was definitely the right thing to do! I can't say it solved the bedtime problems that were happening right then and there. But it's not a trigger we're going to force them to live through again.

There are so many challenges in foster parenting. One of the biggest ones has to be figuring out all the triggers to the difficult behavior. We got such limited information on our girls because NO ONE knew their history. Slowly but surely we're putting the pieces of the puzzle together. These girls aren't doing these things just because they want to drive me nuts. All of their behavior is in response to what they've been living through all of their young lives. Even if they are trying to drive me nuts, it's only because they're trying to figure all the new things they are being exposed to in our home. Am I going to hurt them? Am I going to yell at them? Do I really mean it when I tell them they are safe now? In a way, they are doing just as much detective work as I am.

I remember looking at my tiny babies and saying, "Oh, it will be so much better when you can talk. Then I'll know what you're thinking and what you really need from me right now." I guess, in a way, I'm thinking the same things about the girls. "Oh, it will be so much better after we've been together for awhile and you've been able to start and make some progress in therapy. You'll be able to better tell me what you're feeling and what you need from me right now." At least I hope that's the way this will work out in the long run. It's what I'm praying for.