Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Learning to stay quiet

I just got off the phone with the rehab facility that takes care of the therapies for Pumpkin. The kind woman on the other end of the phone said, "Pumpkin has her six months evaluations today in OT, speech, and oh, um...PT too. You need to come by the office today to meet with the therapists."

Oh holy potatoes! No notice?! When I've got two little ones?! And I work from home?!

So my answer was, "I'm sorry. I can't do this today. I need more notice than calling me the day of these appointments."

And then I was quiet.

Quite often I would try to fill the uncomfortable space with random apologies or just niceties. But today I tried really hard to just be quiet. I did tell her that I have little ones at home and a job. But that was about it.

So the kind woman on the other end of of the phone said, "Maybe you could come by this afternoon then?"

I literally responded, "You mean when my children are taking a nap? Um, no. I cannot."

And then I was quiet.

She didn't know what to do. She stammered a bit and said she'd call me back.



This year I'm working on saying YES more. I want to say yes to my husband more. I want to say yes to my children more. Even when my answer is no, I can phrase it through a yes. For example, "Yes you may play video games...after you finish your homework." And little things like cookies can be for breakfast. If you're only going to offer up one a day to your kids does it matter whether they eat it after breakfast or after supper? Yes is so much more fun.


And when my answer needs to be no, I'm going to work on saying "no" and then just being quiet.


The kind woman at the rehab facility just called me back. It seems they are going to go ahead and do Pumpkin's evaluations today. Then the nice therapists will call me on the phone with the results.

____

And lest you think I'm insensitive here... I believe the therapies are being done completely wrong where I live. They do NOT involve the parents in the process at all -- except for every six months when they have an evaluation. But I try, as hard as I can anyway, to stay in contact with the therapists more frequently than every six months. I call when I have questions. I try to mirror what I'm working on at home with what they are doing in therapy. So really, I know what they are going to find out in the "evaluations". I'm no dummy. And I don't need to waste 3 hours of my day sitting in an office with two small children so I can meet with 3 different therapists to find out that Pumpkin is still severely mentally retarded, she's making very, very slow progress, and they will keep working with her.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Two weeks 'til court

Part of me wants to fill the next two weeks with as many awesome experiences as I possibly can.

Part of me wants to go into denial and just live life like normal. Total normal. Don't even think about it.


I really wish this story was ending differently. I really wish Grandma was trying to have a relationship with these precious children. I really wish I wasn't going to have to put these kids in a car with a social worker to have that person drop them off at a virtual stranger's house. I wish there was a way for it to be a healthy transition.

I can't even guarantee that the kids are going to get all their things. CPS has assured me that they will. But let's be real...I don't trust CPS all that much.

Will the kids ride in a car across the state? Will they go by plane? Will one worker take them by herself? Or will there be two? Will the kids even know the workers making this transition?

Will their grandma understand when the kids ask for Mommy? Will their grandma understand when the kids ask for Poppy? How about Herman, TT, Bart and Pumpkin? Will the grandma let them keep the things I send? What can I do for the kids to make this easier?

Part of me wishes it were just over with because I'm quite sure the waiting is going to be torture.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Scared

Dude and Dolly hardly know why they came in to foster care. I've had to piece together what bits I know of their story from what the caseworkers have (barely) told me. Their care was inconsistent. Their mom popped in and out of their lives. They may or may not have lived in a house. They were most likely passed around between different family members and friends. The day they came in to care they were found unattended (by anyone awake and sober anyway) in a hotel room.

It's been pretty obvious that Dude and Dolly weren't abused though. I don't even think they were neglected much. Of course they didn't know a thing about healthy eating. We're pretty sure they ate a lot of dry cereal and crackers before coming in to care. But overall, I think they were loved by those that did care for them.

So, I've had to explain their trauma to them. I've kept it simple, "Your mommy didn't keep you safe. You came to live with Mamma L*** and Poppy S*** so we could keep you safe. The judge, lawyers and social workers are all helping with a plan so you will be safe forever."

Rehab has been explained like this: "Your mommy wasn't taking good care of her body. A judge told your mommy she needed to go somewhere so she could learn how to take care of herself."

I try to focus everything around the word "safe". It's all I can do. I can't promise them that their grandma is going to love them. I can't tell them anything about their grandma. But The System is supposed to be vetting the situation to ensure that Dude and Dolly will be safe.

This morning Dolly came up to me with the picture of her grandmother in her hands. (They don't really know their grandma at all. I asked CPS to get me a picture so I could help Dude and Dolly put a face to a name.) Dolly was asking me if the room Grandma was in is her "new house".

I can't answer that question. I can't tell Dolly a single thing about her grandma. Her grandma has done NOTHING to start a relationship with these children. No contact (other than one obscure conference call via CPS several months ago) has taken place. I'm hard pressed to think that grandma really wants the children. My gut tells me she's doing what she feels like she has to do. (Either that, or she thinks she's going to get some kind of compensation.)

Dolly has been processing "foster care" a lot lately. She wants to talk about what's going to happen after court. I've told her that the lawyers and the judge will talk. They will decide if Grandma's house is safe. If it is, they will leave our home and go live with Grandma. They will say bye bye forever. I will be sad. I will cry. But I will be happy because it's a good thing for them to be with family.

Dolly is incredibly conflicted. Most of the time you can see her muster up all the courage she has to tell me that she loves her grandma and that she misses her grandma. But you can tell she really doesn't understand all this entails. It's pretty hard to love someone you don't know at all. She has also indicated that she doesn't want to leave our house. But most of the time, she's drawn to family. (As is every single person on this planet.)

Dolly was processing again at nap time today. She went through each family member and asked if they were going to cry when she left. It was a little frustrating for me. I want to be honest and tell her that yes, we will be sad. But I also want to honor the fact that I do believe family belongs together. Also, I don't want to puff her up and make her think that we are all going to be completely lost without her when she leaves. She doesn't need that inflated level of pressure!

I don't remember how it came up but I said something about Grandma having a job. I told the kids that they are going to have to go to daycare when they get to their grandma's house.

I haven't seen these kids that scared since the first day they arrived at my house.

Oh wait, yes I have. I've seen them that petrified every single time I've had to drop them off at daycare myself. They are petrified of daycare.

Dolly's eyes welled up. I think I shattered her dreams of what it was going to be like at Grandma's house. (I know they were told there were all sorts of presents at Grandma's house during the last visit with their mom before court in November.) It took everything Dolly had to not burst in to tears.

Dude put up a front too. His eyes went all hollow and he proceeded to tell me that, "I no cry when I go daycare at Grandma's." Dolly followed his lead and said, "I no cry either".

Both were using every bit of inner strength they had to not cry right then and there!

I looked at the cherubs and tried to give them permission to cry. I said they looked sad right now. I said that if someone told me I had to go to daycare I would cry.

Neither one budged. I'm pretty sure crying wasn't allowed before they came in to care. They try to be strong all the time during times when "normal" preschoolers would bawl their eyes out.

I double checked with Dude, "So...you're not going to cry when Grandma takes you to day care?" He stubbornly answered, "No. I no cry." I then asked him, "Are you going to cry the next time Mamma L*** takes you to daycare?"

He didn't miss a beat when he answered, "Yes!"

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

that's Mamma Bitch Ass to you

I'm going to start this post out with a disclaimer: I use swear words.

Not all the time. Certainly not in front of the children.

OK OK -- not very often in front of the children.

I don't aim to swear. I'm not proud of my swearing. But honestly, I'm not sure God really cares whether or not I say poop or shit. The Bible only says to not take His name in vain. (And I try really, really hard to not do that one. Ever. And it's not allowed out of my children either!)

But those other words slip out every now and then. Usually when I'm angry. Oh yeah, and I have a 14 year old son. His language is quite colorful when he thinks I'm not listening. And yes, he gets a talking to every time I hear him. He is to always be aware of his "audience". If it's just him and his friends...whatever. But if I can hear him...or if the little ones can hear him, the language is NOT appropriate for his audience.

At any rate, my 7 year old knows some swear words. Where he learned them at doesn't really matter. Now, on with the story...

Oh wait -- I'm going to write this post out just as it happened. I'm not going to use #$%!* or other codes. If you're offended, skip this post please.

Now, on with the story...

Bart has spent his 7 years of life watching TT like a hawk. He loves to copy everything his big brother does. And lately, he's been copying the huge meltdowns.

This behavior isn't typical for Bart. Because let me tell you, Bart is the happiest kid I've ever known! And I'm not exaggerating. He truly is very, very happy almost all the time.

But on Friday the 13th of this month, Bart decided to see what would happen if he tried flipping out like his big brother does. (Was it because of the day? Because of the weather? Because my family was on their way to our house for a visit? Who knows?! But Friday the 13th perfectly sucked for me until everyone showed up that afternoon!)

I believe it started with me needing to bring Bart in from playing outside. Honestly, I don't remember the story completely. (I've spent too much time laughing about how it ended to remember exactly how it began.) I think he was hugging Dolly when she didn't want to be hugged. At any rate, I hollered outside for Bart to come in.

Bart flipped out!! He started running all over the house away from me. And yes, like a moron I chased him. All I wanted to do was separate him from Dolly, remind him of appropriate boundaries, and then send him on his merry way.

As his flip-out got worse, I screamed back at him, "you're grounded".

I think Bart took this as a challenge. Because of course I got completely side tracked by another kid. Before I could realize what was happening, Bart took off out the front door.

After I finished with the child that side tracked me, I looked around for Bart. After I realized that he had gone out the front door, I went out to chase him down. Kicking and screaming I literally drug him back into the house.

Then I put back on my big girl pants and commenced therapeutic parenting. I calmed my breathing. Got down on his level. And tried to talk to him.

He was mad. Oh he was mad. We had made our way into the "big feeling" room so hopefully I could talk to him in private. I don't remember much of what was being said until he looked at me and said, "Bitch".

I smiled. I even laughed a little. Then I replied, "Oh. I'm a bitch?! Wow. It must suck to have a bitch for a mom. I can tell you're really upset. I'm such a bitch. I'm a bitch. Am I a fucking bitch?"

His little eyes got bigger and bigger and bigger as I used his swear word back at him. When I dropped the f-bomb he nearly fainted. Then he got all sad and started crying. "No mommy. You're not a bitch. I'm sorry. I love you." He crawled up like a baby into my lap and gave me a huge hug.

Lest anyone think that I come up with this on my own, this is where I got the idea. It makes sense really. If a kid is trying to "hurt" you with a swear word...and you use it right back at them...that word has no power over you.

I was so proud of myself for staying calm. For meeting my kid right where he was at. I really rocked it.

Four hours later Bart got mad at me again. Only this time he upped the ante. This time I was a bitch...ass.

Oh how I wish I could have had an audio of the moment. You see. Bitch all by itself didn't send me into a tizzy in the morning. He was digging deep in the recesses of his mind for another swear word. I'm sure the first thing that came to mind was shit. But he couldn't figure out how to turn that into an insult. So instead, he screamed, "You're a bitch...ass!" He literally paused after he screamed bitch and tried really hard to think of something perfectly horrible to add along with it.

I nearly died laughing again. And again, I just stayed super calm and told him it must really suck to have a bitch ass for a mom. Again I simply agreed with him. "Yup. I'm a bitch ass. A really big bitch ass. I can tell by the way you're yelling at me that you are really mad. I made you really mad. I'm such a bitch ass. I'm going to have to work on not being such a bitch ass anymore."

Again, he melted almost instantly. You could tell he felt horrible. He crawled up on my lap for another hug. This time I had to remind him that despite my best efforts to handle this in a therapeutic manner, I can promise that his father will NOT act the same way!

Good Lord I hope he remembers that and got all the swearing out of his system!!

If there is a next time though, my response is going to be, "Yeah. Well, it's Mamma Bitch Ass to YOU!"

(Mostly) therapeutic morning

I did OK this morning. I didn't rock the therapeutic parenting entirely. Old habits do die hard. But, we made it through. Here are some highlights:

"You may finish your homework or you may freak out. But you can't do both. Do you want some help putting away your homework so you can freak out some more?"

Giving TT permission to freak out tends to take any acceleration factor out of the equation. He won't always calm down. But it usually doesn't get worse. It's almost like he knows I'm going to stay calm myself so he doesn't ramp up further.

"I love you very much TT. I love you even when Mr. Wonky comes for a visit."

"Look into my eyes. Remember, Mr. Wonky doesn't like me. Look into my eyes and see me smile at you. I love you."
 This was repeated over and over all morning long.

"Do you know what the trigger is?"

He couldn't answer. He was still quite dysregulated. But he was listening to me. And he didn't want to stay dysregulated. I tossed out a couple of triggers. There are a lot right now. My family from out of state just left after being here for a terrific visit. Daddy is out of town for a work related training. And the whole homework thing last night never got resolved.

"Do you want Mr. Wonky to go away?" When he answered yes it gave me the opportunity to say, "Then do the hard work. Look at me. Do I love you?" He answered yes again. This back and forth really helps him calm down. It gets him looking at me and doing the things he knows work when he starts freaking out. He started matching my deep breaths and the soft look on my face. I also told him that since he doesn't know what the trigger is, we have to move on. Stop worrying about the trigger and focus on the behaviors only. If he really wants Mr. Wonky to go away he has to look at me and do the things I tell him to do. (ie. deep breaths, math problems, silly things, etc.)

As he was matching the soft calm look on my face, I made a silly face. I laughed quietly and told him to make a silly face himself. When he tried the first time he literally couldn't do it. The most he could muster was barely sticking his tongue out and grunting in baby talk. Still very dysregulated. (It seems to intentional...when he "can't" do something like make a silly face. But honestly, I don't think it is. He's stuck in his thought processes of negativity and shame. It affects everything about him. These behaviors that seem so intentional aren't and it's up to me to stay calm and not get triggered by the ridiculousness of it all.)

I reminded TT that Mr. Wonky doesn't like silly. He can't hang around when everyone is happy and playing. I made another silly face. TT tried to copy but still couldn't do it yet. He wasn't getting "worse". And he wanted to calm down. But he wasn't sure how to do it by himself. So I broke the silly down even further. (And yes, all this was in the car on the way to school with me driving and looking at him in the rear view mirror.) I made another silly face and told TT to just be silly with his eyes. Then I squished my nose down and told him to be silly with his nose. He pulled up on his nose and grunted like a pig.

This small sign was progress. He did what I was asking him to do but he did it differently than I did. He thought of his own silly. I knew we were turning the corner so to speak.

I reminded TT that Mr. Wonky doesn't like silly. I told him that he was doing a great job and to keep it up. I said he should be silly with his ears. He pulled them out. I told him to make monkey sounds.

By the time we were pulling in to the school drop-off I had a truck-full of kids making very loud monkey sounds. TT seemed much better. In fact, he offered to walk Pumpkin in to her classroom. (This is not something he's able to do when he's dysregulated. He can't think beyond himself when he's freaking out.)

I hollered out my goodbyes and I love yous and drove away. I sure hope Mr. Wonky stays gone all day long!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dear Mr. Wonky

I don't really like you much Mr. Wonky. I certainly didn't appreciate your visit to my home today.

You showed up first thing when my teenager couldn't seem to drag himself out of bed for school this morning. Somehow, that was my fault you said.

Then, you popped in for a visit when I had to pick up Pumpkin from school for a dentist appointment. Maybe you were watching TV or something when I came. I don't really know. But I didn't appreciate the 20 minute scream-fest on the way to the dentist office at all.

After school you paid a visit to Cherub 3. He's been watching you intently for 7 years now and he's learned a thing or two from you. Those copy-cat behaviors sure are fun to deal with. At least you didn't feel the need to call me "Bitch Ass" again. (future blog post...I promise) (OK...maybe promise is a little strong. But I do promise to really try and get the Bitch Ass post written. It's priceless I tell you. Those copy-cat behaviors have kept me hopping lately!)

Then you tried on Cherub 2 for size again. That's your perfect fit. No matter what I said or did, you thought it would be a good idea to hang around and mess with him. Things got a little better when I called you by name. At least TT used some of his coping skills to make it through the evening without completely going bonkers. But homework didn't get done and the backpack isn't ready for school. I'm sure you'll make a visit first thing in the morning before we walk out the door.

Mr. Amazing is several hours away at a training session for work. I just love it when you show up when I'm doing the parenting thing all solo-like. Thanks gobs for the fun you gave me today.

I'm going to now drag my tired self into bed. Feel free to skip my house tomorrow if at all possible!

Love,
Cherub Mamma

Monday, January 23, 2012

Bart and Dolly

We're a foster family.

In order to become a foster family all members of our family needed to be educated about The System. I had to teach my kids the hows and whys of situations that result in kids coming in to care.

Now this doesn't mean they have to know all the intimate details of each kid that comes in to our home. It just means they need to know how kids in general come in to care.

Of course, when learning about how kids come IN to care, I had to teach about what happens to get kids OUT of care.

At dinner tonight I heard Cherub 3 talking with Dolly. They were discussing Grandma in D***. Bart was telling Dolly that after her mommy did what she was supposed to do, Dolly would leave her grandma's house and go be with her mommy again.

Oh my.

What to do?!

I grabbed Bart and rushed him in to the other room. I had no choice but to tell Bart that Dolly's mommy ISN'T doing what she's supposed to do. As things look now, Dolly will never go home to her mommy. CPS wants to eventually terminate rights.

Yes, kids are supposed to go back to their mommies after the mommies do the right thing. That's the way The System is supposed to work.

But sometimes mommies don't do the right things. And kids don't go back to their mommies.

I told Bart he needed to just stop this conversation with Dolly. All she needs to know right now is that her grandma in D*** loves her and a judge is going to decide in a few weeks whether or not she's going to live with her grandma or stay with us. Thankfully Dolly really didn't understand anything Bart had been saying. She went back to eating her dinner and the conversation switched without issue.

But Bart understood. His heart was broken. I could read it all over him. He just couldn't imagine a mommy not doing what she's supposed to do.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Mr. Wonky

This is probably going to be a rather long post. A lot has been happening 'round these parts lately. Part of me wants to totally forget about most of it. Part of me wants to really celebrate the healing that is going on. Most of this post is for me so I don't forget I guess. It's fun to read about progress and I don't want to forget how we got there.

I had a great chat with Christine on the phone last week. Unfortunately – a lot of what she suggested to me were things we're already doing around the house. Or...maybe I should say fortunately? Does it mean I'm doing things right already??! At any rate, it felt really good to talk with someone that's been there, done that.

Cherub 2 is struggling right now. Really struggling.

And this is where things seem different. So many of the kids I read about on other blogs that struggle lived through visible trauma. They survived disrupted adoptions. Or they bounced around the foster care system for awhile.

Cherub 2 joined our family at birth. So, it's not the same. The trauma he survived is invisible.

Cherub 2 grew in the womb of someone that knew all along that she was not going to parent him. In fact, we think that maybe Cherub 2's first mom kept her pregnancy a secret from everyone but Cherub 2's first dad. Can you imagine the stress she must have felt? There is no way Cherub 2 could exist in that stress-filled environment without it affecting him.

So despite the fact that he's lived in a loving, safe, family environment his entire life. He was formed and connected to someone that didn't want him for nine months.

While talking with Christine she explained that she rarely uses labels anymore (ie. RAD or attachment disorder). Instead, she calls what we're dealing with "trauma behaviors".

It hurts to use the word "trauma" when I talk about the beautiful baby boy I've held in my arms since he was 20 hours old. I don't like to think about him suffering. After all, we've cared for him completely. All he's ever known is safety and love. It almost doesn't seem right to even compare what he's gone through to a kid that was abused and/or neglected.

But the trauma behaviors are there. I can't sugarcoat it any longer. My little boy struggles. My little boy suffers. My little boy suffered trauma that is going to affect him for the rest of his life.

Fast forward to yesterday.

Cherub 2 got off the school bus one blink away from completely losing it. I could see it in his body language. His gait becomes very stiff. He walks completely different. He trips "on purpose". He falls when nothing should cause him to stumble. I could hear it in his voice. He has a different cadence when he talks. It often sounds similar to baby talk.

Thankfully, my mom, dad and sister are visiting. Usually I have to navigate the pre-meltdown stage alone while trying to field the needs of five other children. Not an easy thing to do. But my with the extra help in the house I was able to grab Cherub 2 by the hand and take him for a walk.

We went outside and started walking down the block. I held his hand and I asked him if he knew what the trigger was. (He's far enough along on the path of healing that even when he's starting to lose it he usually will attempt to name the trigger. And for Cherub 2, naming the trigger often enables him to climb down off the mountain ledge without flipping out.)

Cherub 2 had no idea what the trigger was. I tossed out a few ideas but nothing stuck. So I looked at him and said, "Ya know what Christine told me the other day?" His ears perked up and he wanted to know the answer. I said, "Christine said we should stop worrying about the stupid trigger so much. The trigger, in and of itself, doesn't have to matter so much. We need to start just dealing with the behavior."

Cherub 2 was still very visibly dysregulated. However, he was listening so we kept walking and talking.

Many of the blogs I read refer to the child that was traumatized as "baby" when they process through difficult big feelings. (I really wanted to find a sample of this and link to it. But I'm not currently having success with that.) It's almost like giving the child a "before" identity - when they were suffering their trauma - and and "after" identity - when they were with their forever family. It's a way to remind them that they are safe NOW. Baby wasn't kept safe. But Child is safe now. Baby will try to "tell" Child that they aren't safe now. Child can "tell" baby the truth and dysregulation can be avoided.

I wanted to make this concept work with Cherub 2 before. But since we've been with Cherub 2 his entire life, it was difficult. There is no easy before and after in our situation. So, we introduced the concept of "dysregulated" to him. Over time it became a way for us to describe him when he was in the middle of a full-out freak-out. It was a way for us to pin-point behaviors that aren't acceptable. What I've been searching for now though is a way to talk to him BEFORE the freak-out. A way to talk about the very visible signs that he is dysregulated on the inside so that we can keep from having a rage.

As we walked I told Cherub 2 about the behaviors I wanted to deal with right then and there. I told him that it was obvious to me that he was starting to get dysregulated. I said I could tell by the way he was walking and by the way he was talking. I said he looked all wonky.

At that very moment it struck me. We'll give this behavior a name. And thus, Mr. Wonky was born.

I've been able to work in all kinds of therapeutic parenting language now. Cherub 2 was very receptive to it all. As we walked and talked he actually started to relax.

We said that Mr. Wonky makes him walk funny. Mr. Wonky makes his legs stiff. Mr. Wonky wants him to trip. Mr. Wonky makes him want to fall over. (For ease of reading, I'll refer to Mr. Wonky as MW for the rest of the post. We're using the name a lot now as we talk about things.)

MW wants Cherub 2 to talk funny too. And MW doesn't like me so much. MW doesn't want Cherub 2 to be anywhere near me. In fact, if Cherub 2 wants MW to go away, one of the first things he should do is get close to Mamma. MW doesn't want Cherub 2 to have good things. MW doesn't want Cherub 2 to be happy.

We walked. We talked. He relaxed. He took deep breaths. He started telling MW to go away. He said out loud that MW wasn't welcome anymore. That his Mamma does love him. That he can walk the right way. That he is strong enough to talk the right way.

In the time it took us to walk up the block and back down, Cherub 2 went from nearly freaking out to completely passing the dysregulation test. **Angels were singing!!**

Cherub 2 would prefer that MW stay a secret. (Of course, we told Mr. Amazing.) But, it hasn't been possible for me to not say anything about MW. It's been a nifty thing to throw out when I see the behaviors start. Or even if I have to tell him something that might make him unhappy later. For example, while getting ready for bed tonight he and his brother decided to watch two episodes of SpongeBob instead of listening to stories. I looked at both of them and said, "Do you understand you're choosing SpongeBob over stories?" They both said, "yes". I looked right at Cherub 2 and asked him if MW understood too.

This just about drove Cherub 3 nuts because he doesn't know who MW is. But Cherub 2 smiled at me and said he understood.

I know that naming the behavior isn't going to solve the problem. But Cherub 2 has been incredibly receptive to it. He seems almost comforted by having the ability to tell Mr. Wonky to go away. He doesn't like being dysregulated. So often you can see it all over him. He wants nothing more than to calm down and be OK. He just doesn't know how. Having this power to tell "someone" to go away has been wonderful. It's not going to make him stop freaking out. I know that. But at least for the last two days, it has kept the crazies (somewhat) at bay.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

More anxiety

Cherub 2 is having the most difficult time ever right now! I swear, he's in a constant state of dysregulation. It's becoming quite exhausting for the family.

I can't figure out what the trigger is. At first I thought it might have been going back to school last week. But he said no. I thought it might have been court with Pumpkin. But he said no. I've asked him if it's because we've got family coming for a visit. He still says no.

But it's ugly in our house right now. Very, very ugly.

The other day I grounded him to the house because he was so dysregulated. He wanted to fight about everything. He chose to stay close to me and things calmed down. I don't really like grounding him if it's no longer necessary so I did my test**. He passed by telling me a joke and dancing all silly like.

However, not more than 5 minutes later he got into a physical altercation with his brother outside. So...Cherub 2 came back in again. It was almost like he wanted to be grounded. Not because he really wanted to be close to me. But so he could keep on arguing with me.

I can't figure out the trigger. He says he doesn't know what the trigger is. But my little guy is suffering so bad. He's upset all the time. His anxiety is off the charts. And if something starts to freak him out, he completely overreacts.

Yesterday we talked about him buying something online. I went ahead and made the purchase without him by my side. Honestly, I figured if he changed his mind about buying it, I still wanted the toy anyway. So this morning, Cherub 2 said something about buying the toy again. I smiled and told him I already got it and he could pay me back.

He flipped out!

There was NO WAY I could explain how I did things so that he would understand. I tried explaining that when you buy something online you have to use a credit or debit card. He doesn't have one of those so I used mine and he could pay me back. I tried explaining that if he had changed his mind he didn't have to give me any money. We would just share the toy as a family.

Somehow he mixed things up in his mind and kept insisting that I wouldn't let him buy it.

It's really hard to explain in a blog. Personally, I think only a "trauma mamma" could understand this level of anxiety. I've seen it described in other attachment blogs. Christine Moers had a video she posted where her little girl "forgot" how to turn on and off a vacuum.

My Cherub 2 gets like this. He "forgets" how to walk. He "forgets" how to sit. He'll trip. He'll fall. It looks so much like it's on purpose. Oh...it makes me so mad.

But I HAVE to respond with calm and patience.

And oh...that's so hard.

I've actually scheduled some time this week with Christine Moers. She's got a Parent Coaching service that she's offering. And while I don't believe my little guy is suffering from the same level of anxiety that stems from RAD, ODD, PTSD, etc. – he is suffering. And I'm losing my patience. And we are stuck. I don't trust a single psychiatrist in the area of the country we live in. And I'm not comfortable trying to find a decent therapist either. I don't want just any therapist and quite honestly, I'm not sure how I'd find one that understands adoption and attachment in a healthy way.

If anyone has advice, I'm all ears.

**Our dysregulation test...

When you're working with a kid that is all dysregulated, they are functioning in the fight, flight or freeze part of their brain. (There are wonderful books out there that can explain this in a much more scientific way. Let me know if you'd like to know the resources I've used.) Anyway...when they are stuck, they can't think logically. They also struggle with being creative.

When I'm dealing with Cherub 2 and he's all very visibly dysregulated, he will often try and convince me that he is "just fine". We could go back and forth forever. I'll tell him he needs to stay by me because he's dysregulated. He'll scream at me that he's totally fine and that he should be allowed to go play with his friends.

So I look at Cherub 2 and tell him that he's free to go when he's regulated. I tell him I'll know he's regulated when he can do one or more of the following:
* dance for me
* tell me a joke
* sing me a song
* do math problems

This way of "testing" his has proved to be pretty accurate. He truly isn't capable of doing those things when he's all freaked out. Also, when he really does want to calm himself down, he can focus on one of those tasks and do it. Math works well when he's actually trying to regulate himself.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Gotta talk about something positive

I feel like all I've been doing lately is complaining about The System. So I thought I'd post something more positive today.

When Dude came to my home back in June he was 2 1/2 years old (almost to the day). He was in diapers. Included in the tiny amount of clothes that were in his suitcase, there were two pair of underwear. These underwear were not brand new. I thought that maybe, just maybe, Dude had been potty trained at some point in time.

Removal from all that you know is traumatic though. Especially when you're placed into a home that doesn't speak your native language. This kind of trauma often causes regression – especially with things like potty training. I didn't even bother trying to get Dude to wear underwear. I left him in diapers. I was too busy that first month trying to hang on through all the extreme fatigue because of the sleeping issues at night to even think about working on potty training.

I did give Dude the opportunity to use the potty pretty regularly (maybe once a day or so I guess). He seemed familiar with it. He went every time I put him up on it. But he rarely asked to sit on the potty all on his own.

When we came back from our vacation in August, I was ready to tackle the potty "officially". I had borrowed a bunch of training pants from my sister when I was home. (I'm not a fan of pull-ups.) I waited until we were back in routine. Since Dude & Dolly hadn't been allowed to go on vacation with us it took awhile to get back into the swing of things. But I picked a day and we went for it.

Dude peed all over the place all day long.

That afternoon CPS called and scheduled a family visit for the very next day.

When I potty train I like to keep my kids home and close to a potty all day long. I like to do little more than work on potty training for at least a week (preferably two). A family visit on day two of training was going to really mess things up. As quickly as I started potty training – I gave up! Dude wasn't even 3 years old yet. He was probably going to be moved out of my house. It wasn't worth the hassle for me. I was just going to keep him in diapers. To heck with it.

I kept on putting Dude on the potty. Maybe every day. But not on any kind of a schedule or anything.

The only thing I began to expect out of Dude was for him to tell me when he went ca-ca. Honestly, with all the issues I have changing Pumpkin's diapers, I could not handle two kids pooping and sitting in it without telling me. Besides, Dude was FULLY aware of when he had gone ca-ca. So asking him to tell me so I could get him changed right away was not an unrealistic expectation.

Well, Dude didn't want to cooperate. In fact, it was almost like he was pooping and not telling me on purpose just to see what I'd do.

I'm not sure what my issues with other kid's poop is – but it REALLY bothered me. I made it through one weekend and decided that come Monday morning, things were going to change.

I decided I was going to potty train the way I had trained all three of my boys. Naked. Naked from the waist down. Rules be damned. (I'm sure CPS would not approve of me letting my little guy run around naked all day long.) But it's how I trained before. It worked before. And it was what I was going to do again.

So Dude went naked. I pretty much told Dude that he had to learn how to use the potty because he had stopped telling me when we was poopy. He didn't seem to mind. I'm pretty sure he understood. And day one, I think he only had one accident.

Day two we got up and I put clothes on Dude. I had to get him dressed to take the other kids to school. When we got back from drop-off I started to strip him down. He freaked out! He did NOT want to go naked again!!!

I told Dude he could wear clothes until he peed in them. If he peed in his clothes he had to go naked. He understood. And later that morning, when he peed all over his pants, he didn't fight me when I stripped him down.

That afternoon I let Dude put on a pair of underwear. I believe he only had one tiny accident but this time he stopped himself before peeing all over the place and took himself into the bathroom.

By the end of the week, Dude was fully dressed and not having any accidents.

Approximately two weeks later we went to Sea World and he stayed dry the entire time. In fact, I think after those first couple days, the only accident Dude has had was on a day when he was particularly tired because he hadn't napped the day before.


Boy did I get lucky!!!


I'm back to changing diapers on only one kid. Yippeeee!!!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

More visits

I've been asked this question a few times since everything happened yesterday in court...

Why does Pumpkin's mom get MORE visits even though Pumpkin is never going to go home?

My answers are purely speculation. I honestly don't know. I'll never really know. But this is what I observed yesterday. And this is how I compartmentalized it in my head.

___

I don't think Pumpkin's mom was consulted by her lawyer prior to sitting in the waiting room before we got called into court. Maybe she had been. But it sure didn't sound like it. Pumpkin's mom's lawyer was sitting across the room consulting with Mom and this is what I heard:

Lawyer: "We're going to go for conservatorship today. You need to talk to your sister (who the State is trying to get to take custody of Pumpkin). If Pumpkin ends up at your sister's you'll get more visits. One or two or even three a week. Whatever you work out with her. But for now the State will have conservatorship. We're going to try and get you more visits. Are you OK with that? This is what we're going to do. OK?

I think Mom mumbled OK. Honestly though, I don't think she understood a thing the lawyer was saying. I don't know if they ever sat down with Mom after court back in November to discuss what PMC (permanent managing conservatorship) really is. I don't know if she even knew the hearing yesterday was considered a trial where they could have terminated rights. I'm not sure if she caught that they may consider terminating rights in April. I just don't know what they've told Mom and what Mom actually understands. But I did hear them press the subject of getting more visits.

___

This is how I worked it all out in my brain. It still doesn't make a whole lot of sense...but what happened can be thought of kind of like a messy divorce. Only, instead of a parent gaining permanent custody of the child, the State got custody. Even in a messy divorce, the parent who didn't get custody still gets court ordered visits. Because they haven't terminated rights (yet), Pumpkin still gets to see her mom. If Pumpkin ends up at her aunt's house, she will still get to see her mom. Now...if rights get terminated, that could become a little more sticky. But, if Pumpkin is placed with a relative in the neighborhood, nothing will really stop Mom from seeing her. Everyone knows this and I think playing up the whole aspect of visits is how they got Mom to easily agree to the PMC arrangement. (Not that she really had a choice.)

___

I was thoroughly disgusted with how they treated Mom yesterday. Granted, things went smoothly in court. But the way they described PMC to her before court...and the way they seemed to push the idea of more visits without saying anything about, "Ya know Mom, you NEVER get your kid back. You understand that don't you?!" It all seemed very, very wrong to me.

Now maybe they went over this privately at some time. Maybe Mom does know. But I doubt it.

I know Mom really screwed up. I know she's going to lose her kid. But I believe she still deserves respect. ESPECIALLY from The System. ESPECIALLY from HER lawyer. It's the least they can do in my opinion. It makes me sad how these cases realistically play out.

When all is said and done, Pumpkin is still only going to see her mom twice a month. And the visits are only two hours long each. I'm not exactly sure how I feel about all of it. Honestly, I think the visits are really hard on Pumpkin. They seem to send her into a state of depression and I think it's sad. I've talked about this with all the caseworkers and lawyers. Pumpkin regresses after a visit. She doesn't interact with our family as much. Her language skills diminish. It's subtle. But it's what happens. And because Pumpkin is so incredibly low functioning, I can't explain any of it to her. She doesn't have a clue of what's going on. I think it's unfortunate that everything will continue to drag on and on. But...as we all know...that's how The System works.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Court today

All of the important parties showed up in court today.

All the attorneys asked decent enough questions of me AND ACTUALLY LISTENED TO MY ANSWERS!

We got in almost on time. And the session didn't last too long.

The State now has Permanent Managing Conservatorship of Pumpkin. She will not be going home with her mom. Ever.

Pumpkin remains in foster care for the time being. We have a placement hearing in April. At that time CPS is supposed to have been in better contact with the two relatives that have (somewhat) stepped forward to care for Pumpkin. If either of those options is deemed safe, they will present it to the court in April for the judge to decide what happens next.

In the meantime, Pumpkin's mom has been granted a little bit more visitation. She will now get two visits a month - each for two hours (instead of one visit for one hour). Pumpkin's mom also has to pay child support to the State for Pumpkin! (I didn't even know something like this was a possibility!)

Today has been particularly hard on Dolly. She's reaching a higher level of understanding of what foster care really is. The other day she gave me the biggest hug you can possibly imagine. Then, several minutes later when she stepped back she looked at me and said, "Grandma? My grandma loves me?"

She went on to process as only a four year old can what is happening to her. She's realizing that when she goes to live with her grandma she's going to be leaving our house. She's so conflicted. She was so sad about it all.

Those same emotions poured out at breakfast this morning. (Thankfully Mr. Amazing took the morning off so he could help me with the cherubs and then stay home with Dude & Dolly while we were in court.) Court for Pumpkin must have been quite the trigger. Dolly couldn't communicate her distress. She just cried and cried. I picked her up from the table where she was sitting for breakfast and sat down on the floor with her. She buried her head in my neck as deeply as possibly could. When I asked her if she wanted to eat breakfast or have me hold her she said, "hold you". So, I held her. After a bit I asked her if she wanted me to throw out her breakfast (the cereal was getting soggy) or if she wanted to go eat. She said, "throw it out". I ended up holding Dolly for over 20 minutes. I didn't put her down until I had to walk out the door to take Cherubs 2 & 3 to school. Even then, Dolly simply climbed off my lap and on to Mr. Amazing's.

Foster care is difficult stuff. It's so hard for a four year old to understand what's going on. Words like court and people like judges are so abstract. Pumpkin has NO idea what happened today. Dolly does. Not the intimate details - but she knows Pumpkin went to court and someone called a judge had to make decisions about Pumpkin's life. It scared her to death this morning.

Our afternoon and evening aren't going to be stress-free either. We've got a home visit with our agency worker. Then Pumpkin has a visit with her mom. I'm going to be completely wiped out by bedtime. I'm out of tequila. However, I do see some cranberry juice with a splash of vodka in my future. LOL

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

It just keeps getting better

I've got a knot in the pit of my stomach that I can't seem to shake today. I always get a bit worked up before court. It was so much easier when we were fostering in the Midwest. I got every single piece of court paperwork. I knew everything there was to know about the case. At least I guess I felt like I knew enough that it never bothered me. We didn't have to attend. I felt informed. All was good. Here...I have to actually attend court. And I have to bring the children. But I know nothing! I hate all the unknown. It's always so uncomfortable for me. It's unlike anything I've ever had to experience before.

With all that in mind...I'm trying to get through my day. I'm having a hard time staying focused though. I'm trying to pray but can't even seem to focus on that. I've sent out all my prayer requests in person, through this blog and on FB. It helps me a little when I know others are praying for me when I'm so scatterbrained that I can't do it well enough myself. But I'm still a mess.

And then I went to wake Dude and Dolly up from their naps. Dolly rolled out of bed and seemed tired but OK. I asked her if she wanted a hug. Somewhat halfheartedly she said yes and reached out for me. I wrapped my arms around her and sighed.

Just what we need in this family.

A sick kid.

Fever of 102°.

Normally this wouldn't freak me out at all. I'm a big believer in treat the level of discomfort not the number. However, I can't send a sick kid to daycare tomorrow. And I can't really bring a sick kid to a court hearing – especially a court hearing that isn't hers. And I can't be in two places at once.

I put a call in to our agency. I need to know if they have any options for me. The State makes it very difficult for me to get a babysitter. It either has to be a licensed facility or a human being that has had a full background check, training from our agency and a home inspection. My super-duper-awesome neighbor did that for me. But she starts her new job tomorrow. Besides, most people wouldn't want to babysit a sick kid anyway...even if I did have other options.

I highly doubt our agency will have a solution for me. I called Mr. Amazing at work to see if maybe, just maybe he could take some time off tomorrow if Dolly isn't feeling better. He just took vacation last week though. It's not in his best interests to miss more work. However, he said he could pull some strings if necessary and stay home with the cherubs.

Keep those prayers coming. I need 'em bad!!

tomorrow

It seems like I'm always so negative. Sorry about that. But there is no way I can candy-coat how awful tomorrow is going to be.

1. My cherubs go back to school tomorrow. I could expand on this about why the school schedule stinks and all, but I won't bore you with all those details. Just know that our routine is changing and any time that happens...Cherub 2 has anxiety issues like crazy!!

2. Dude and Dolly have to go to day care because the world's awesomest neighbor starts her new job. Dude and Dolly do NOT like day care. But I have no choice.

3. I have to bring Pumpkin to court. At 9:30AM they will begin proceedings to terminate her mother's parental rights. I've been told by CPS that it is likely I will have to testify. I'm going to be a nervous wreck! I think it's almost abusive that Pumpkin has to attend the trial where they will be attempting to terminate her mother's rights. If Pumpkin was aware of anything in her surroundings it could be the type of experience that could damage her for many, many years. No kid should be there for that. And the idea that I might have to testify?! Accckkkk!!! Needless to say I will be bringing my three-ring binder full of all the documentation I've collected on Pumpkin in the last year.

Which, oh yeah, yesterday marked the one year anniversary of Pumpkin coming in to care. << sigh >>

I'm asking for prayers:
  • for overall calmness in our home as we deal with the stresses of this week.
  • for Dude & Dolly. They will undoubtedly feel the stress of tomorrow. I'm sure it will compound their anxiety when I drop them off at day care.
  • for all the people involved in Pumpkin's case tomorrow. May wisdom prevail.
  • for me. I really don't want to freak out. But I'm super nervous already. I've never been involved in anything like this before and I have no idea what to expect.
I'm glad I've got this kind of an outlet. Thanks bloggy-world for your support!!