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 Alan 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 Precious and DramaQ 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. Wesley 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 Wesley 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.