Thursday, January 29, 2009


Okay, so I have to confront the fact that I do not know enough about how to deal with ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder) and PTSD. I have read a bit here and there as it related to Corazon but really most of her bigger issues/ symptoms/etc. were coming from an RAD place so I have been dealing with the RAD more than anything else. Now with Tortuga it is clear that ODD is the primary issue we are dealing with. He has all the classic tell-tale signs along with other that might be ADD, PTSD or even Tourette's since that was also a label given to him early on. The truth is that we have been through hell with him over the past several months but especially weeks and I have had to take a step back and consider going back into "research mode." That is my pattern when we go through a tough time. I jump into the literature to glean pearls of wisdom and insight and figure out what to try next. I have even considered finding another therapist for him but we haven't recovered from the last two! These days it is impossible to even be in the same room with him without it turning into a battlefield and it doesn't matter what the contested arena is! For example, 4 year old Pollito asks at the dinner table, "Tortuga, do you want your bread?" Tortuga responds, "IT IS MY BREAD! I CAN EAT ALL THE BREAD IN THE HOUSE!" Pollito says, "Tortuga, you can have my bread. I haven't touched it." Tortuga responds "WHY WOULD I WANT YOUR UGLY BREAD, I HAVE MINE!" And that was the nicest exchange at the dinner table. I should have excused him from the table but given that he had already spent the entire weekend isolated away from the rest of the family for other transgressions and his siblings were missing him, I made yet another mistake and allowed him to join us at the table. How do I balance the family's need for peace and his need to be nasty as often as possible? And yet, I keep reminding myself, this is progress....

Off to read I go.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

4 years since I first laid eyes on her

This is the time of year I begin to reflect on where Corazon and I have been and how far we have come (even as I contemplate how far we have left to go.) Four years ago I met Corazon for the first time. The social worker brought her up the stairs and the very first thing that came out of her four year old mouth was "I don't see no cats!!!" with as much attitude as any 4 year old going on 13 can muster. Her face was extraordinarily expressive although looking back I can see that they were all exaggerations of the faces she had seen others make. She was a whirlwind. The brief visit was a blur of Corazon chasing cats, climbing on laps, asking everyone questions and basically "holding court." By coincidence my mom was visiting us for the first time ever in New England so she even got to meet my mom, whom she greeted with "Are you the grandma?" I, of course, was charmed as well by her energy and spunk. At the time I had no idea that she had RAD.
In retrospect it seems that there was a greater plan for me/us because the ONLY three things I had said I was not comfortable accepting in a child were autism, spina bifida, and RAD. In all those cases it was because MA was notorious for not placing additional children in homes that already had one child with these challenges and I was clear that I wanted to adopt more than one child. But of course, sometimes our prayers are answered in a way that is different from what we ask for.
Those first few months were such a mix. She would be a perfect angel one moment and have a total raging, meltdown the next full of "I hate you," "your are not my mother," "don't hug me, " "you are hurting me" and "I am going to kill you." I attributed much of this to normal fears attributable to transition issues. Others, I attributed to feeling unsafe or to returning memories of previous abuse(there was a documented history of neglect but not abuse.) I initially dismissed some of the stolen items I found in her belongings as desire to take souvenirs from her previous foster home and later as things she had been deprived of that she was now stealing from her foster home. I mentioned the behaviors to her social worker who agreed that this was all normal and would dissipate as she felt safer.
A couple of weeks after her arrival I found a butter knife at the bottom of the stairs to my bedroom. (We lived on the second and third floors of my two-family home and her bedroom was on the second floor at the foot of the stairs to my bedroom.) A few days after that I awoke around 3 a.m. to her standing just inside my bedroom (I hadn't heard a thing) and when I asked what she needed she said that she thought the cat was hurt so she had followed it upstairs to my room to see. I took her back down to bed, tucked her in, stayed until she seemed to be resting (she never seemed to be sound asleep due to her hypervigilance) and went back up to bed. The next morning I found a steak knife at the foot of my bed. When I asked her about it she denied knowing anything about it (I hadn't asked about the previous incident.) I reminded her that the kitchen was off limits after bedtime and I made sure that ALL the lights were out in all the rooms/hallways including her nightlight hoping that the dark might deter any future late night wanderings. The next night, my partner, who at the time lived in the apartment downstairs (on the first floor) brought her up at around 1 a.m. to say that she had awoken to find Corazon's standing (on a stool) next to her bed less than a foot away. When questioned by both of us she had no explanation but the next morning we found yet another knife (this one from her kitchen) just under my partner's bed. When I asked her about going downstairs (I didn't mention the knife this time) she conspiratorily informed me that she couldn't tell me in front of C. but that C. had come upstairs while she was sleeping and brought her downstairs and told her to stand on the stool and watch C. sleep. Of course, by then, I knew something else was going on given that we had had our share of lies and storytelling. The other notable thing was that my daughter had left her room on the second floor at the front of the house walked the entire length of our apartment to the back door kitchen (which was closed) walked down the dark backstairs, into C.'s kitchen and all the way to the front of the first floor apartment to find C.'s bedroom. All of this was done in the dark and with no prior knowledge or access to C's apartment. She was 4 and 1/2.
These incidents coupled with her trying to strangle one of the cats ("I was giving it a hug, ") the increased lying, stealing and wandering the house at night until I installed a door alarm led me to raise multiple concerns with her social work who asked that I not raise it publicly because it might complicate the termination hearings that were still taking place in court. She stressed that therapy might help and that began our disastrous journey into play therapy and my ultimate recognition that what my daughter had was RAD.
That all started 4 years ago and while I also have many more recent memories of the progress she has made and the wonderful child she is becoming there are still moments when I flash back to that time as if it happened yesterday.
I have more I want to say about this time but it is hard to be coherent so for now I am going to stop. I have delayed posting this for so long that I need to let it go.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

History is Made!

Along with so much of the country I cannot help but be moved by the historic events unfolding before us. Barack Hussein Obama, a bi-racial Black/White man, has become president of our country. The hope that lies ahead both for our nation and for our children is palpable. I know that I did not believe this would happen in my lifetime. I watch the television coverage today with tears in my eyes, tremendous awe, some disbelief, incredible pride, and conflicting emotions about how the world will see this nation to which I belong. Conflicting emotions about how we might see ourselves as a nation. Will issues of racism slip even further from the limelight because we can point to a Black president? Will white guilt over segregation and discrimination dissipate? What will replace it? Will we hear rejoicing about how racism is now a thing of the past since MLK's dream is perceived to be attained? I worry and fear what the answers to these and so many other questions might mean for my children.

On an international level I am hopeful that perhaps now we will occupy our appropriate place as a member and potential leader in this global community rather than as the only important member of this global world in which we leave. I cannot imagine the weight that the Obamas have willingly taken upon themselves and I pray that they continue to have the strength and support to carry it.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Corazon goes to school

Today Corazon starts her first day at her new school!

I have been homeschooling Corazon for one year and 3 months and we have decided to try sending her to school again. It is with a great deal of trepidation that I do so because I am not sure she is ready. However, I think we have reached a point in our homeschooling where she needs to "try out" her "stuff" in a setting outside of home. She has made incredible progress on the RAD in the time we have homeschooled and she continues to make progress so I feel ready to give her this bit of room. I am sure there will be setbacks but we need this. All of us do especially Milagro and Pollito. They need more of my attention right now and the only way I can give it to them is to have Corazon somewhere else for some part of the day. This school is ideal as a "test run" in a number of ways. It is small (only 11 girls in her class), girls-only, gymnasts only, experienced teacher, multi-grade so she is exposed to 3rd-5th grade curriculum, and seems pretty structured and disciplined. All of the girls are serious about gymnastics so we think she will have a harder time getting them to distract her (and vice-versa) because they seem really serious about their work as students and gymnasts. The teacher seems pretty clear about her expectations and is not working on having her students "like" her the way so many teachers I work with do.

I have my fingers crossed that this works for her!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Two years ago...

We celebrate Pollito's anniversary today. He is 4 1/2 years old and a pretty typical preschooler I think. He is silly, moody, loud, playful, fickle, independent, goofy, and just so much fun to watch! Two years ago today Pollito joined our family. I still remember the first day I set eyes on him. Christmas Day 2007. His foster mom and I were visiting his older brother in a residential home for troubled children. He was this little pipsqueak of a toddler, with a runny nose and boundless energy. Over the next 2 1/2 weeks I got to spend a few hours with him here and there so he could get used to me and be ready to move into our home. He took to us instantly. On that first day he came home he spent the time "fighting" with C. about who's "mat" they were sitting on (picture above). He seemed happy to be with us and we never saw any hint of his missing his previous foster family especially once his brother moved in.

He is still a ham who loves dinosaurs, trains, purses and accessories but I should also add that he loves books, cars, his tricycle, drawing, "writing" his name, and cooking (real and pretend.) He is potty-trained except for the occasional overnight accident. He current greatest love is his Pre-K teacher Ms. W. Each day I am subjected to endless chatter that usually begins with "Ms. W. says...." or "Ms. W. showed...." He lives for school!

We are lucky that he is in a new school where the teacher is experienced and genuinely seems to adore the children. Whenever she is absent he is sad and anxious and we see glimpses of the insecurities he showed when we first got him. Each day when we would take him to daycare he would cling to us and each afternoon he would seem surprised that we were actually there to pick him up. It took us a while to realize that all of his transitions from one home to another had taken place from that daycare so it was natural that he would not know what to anticipate from there. We finally took him out of that daycare so that we could build his connection to our home and our family. I think that was a good idea. Something that even with my previous experience with foster children I hadn't thought about. We often think children need continuity in times of transition and I do believe it is true but in this case that continuity also brought him daily anxiety. He needed a "fresh start" that said this was going to be different but in a good way. It definitely changed for the better when we pulled him out of the center.

He is growing up so nicely in many ways if one can ignore the preschool "attitude" he has recently adopted. He hits the baby, copies all the not so great habits of his older siblings, and is currently in a phase where he must have a meltdown anytime he doesn't get what he wants. He is also a clever little boy. He has figured out how to push all of his brother's ""buttons" and does it quite well. Unfortunately his brother is 9 going on 3 so that makes for a lot of nonsense escalating into major issues between them. But I digress...

Today we will have a small acknowledgement of his arrival, a special treat and a special gift. I cannot imagine my life with Pollito. This begins the celebrations of anniversaries for the other children who both came in February. I am aware of how fast the time is passing. I haven't even completed the lifebooks for the boys and their scrapbooks are barely begun. I need to commit to this project before it becomes too difficult to reconstruct. Where I will find the time I don't know yet but I will....

Saturday, January 3, 2009


About a year ago my family was contemplating a cross-country move from the East Coast to the Southwest and I was faced with the prospect of starting over in a somewhat new location after 20 years in New England. Not having much information about life in our new city I started looking online in an effort to find information for families similar to mine--lesbian moms with adopted and biological children, experiences with foster children and their accompanying issues, liberal politics, living in more conservative southwest--and it opened up a blogging world that both intrigued and challenged me. Intrigued partly because I discovered so many people open and willing to share their personal experiences and ideas. Challenged because I became aware of how unusual we might in our new setting where I could find only a smattering of individuals sharing aspects of their lives that were similar to my own. At that time I started a personal blog (just for me) to "practice" writing about my family and our experiences in a format other than my hastily scribbled in journals. At that time I did not even consider having anyone else participate in that process so I kept it private. As an avid journal keeper (in my former life) it was not hard to write but it was challenging to write often. I finished out 2008 with a little more than a dozen entries and a renewed desire to continue this process. I am not sure where it will take me or if there is any interest out there in the pieces of my life but I might open it up a little and see what happens.

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