Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The power of support

On Sunday we went to our favorite RV park (see button on left) to hang out with a couple of my favorite RAD moms ldw and Christine. We met for the first time (IRL) about a month ago and were able to just bask in the company of one another while our kids had a really good time playing together. It is hard to describe how important it is to have people in your life who really "get it." We can share stories as we get to know one another and we don't have to watch our words or constantly watch each others' faces to make sure they aren't freaking out by what we are saying about our kids. I am eternally grateful that the Creator has seen fit to bring us in such close proximity to one another.

After our time together Tortuga decided he really needed to get something off his chest in that roundabout way that can drive a parent (me) up a wall. C. and I knew he had been acting out while we were there. I had overheard him comment to a couple of the boys that I wasn't his mother. Corazon had come up to tell me that one of Christine's kids had told her Tortuga was saying mean things about me (dumb, idiot, mean, hates me, etc.) and about her. C. had overheard him saying some other inappropriate thing and checked him while we were still there. I had decided I wasn't going to make a big deal about it. Wrong choice!

In the car on the way home he bragged to Corazon that ALL the boys at our gathering hated their sisters and had talked about this. He bragged that all the boys hated me because now they knew how mean I was, etc. etc. All this happened mostly out of our earshot but we knew something was up. When we got home he was rude, mean and just plain unpleasant to everyone and when I tried to help him regulate he got ugly. I reminded him that he usually does this whenever he has a good time and he yelled at me that he didn't have a good time today because he didn't want to be part of our family. I said fine and suggested he get ready for bed. Wrong choice again!

He was itching for a confrontation of some sort. I was tired, had to get everyone showered and to bed, and just wanted to settle down for the night so that C. & I could have a chance to unwind before the weekly chaos got underway. He made 4 attempts to "get in trouble" by leaving his room after he was settled in for the night. This NEVER happens anymore. Finally he decided he just needed to annoy me so he opened and closed his door, setting off the alarm each time, until I went to him to ask what was going on. "Nothing" he says. I tried to be rational and call attention to all the disruptions he had engaged in trying to get in trouble. Denial. Finally I told him I knew what was up. Corazon had filled me in on what she was told just before she went to bed so I had put it all together but there was no point in trying to deal with it, or so I thought. I told him what I knew he had said. He played dumb. I repeated what I had heard. He denied it. Eventually he shouted that it was all true. Progress. I thought he was accepting responsibility for saying those things. Not quite. He meant it (meaning what he said) was all true. He believed I was mean, I never talked to him, I was dumb, I called him names, I hit him all the time! I had him rewind and repeat. He did. So I started with a question "when do I hit you?" He said "all the time." (Mind you, we have NEVER, NEVER, hit him. We are especially sensitive about this because he was physically punished, spanked, and hit by a number of people who were responsible for taking care of him.) I asked him to name a time. He couldn't. So, I backtracked and reminded him that any time he is in trouble or causing trouble he fears being hit and physically punished so he sometimes acts like that is going to happen. For almost as long as we have been together he has had a habit in public of cowering whenever I approach him especially if it is a sudden move or if he is being redirected. For a time he has also done this whenever other adults are around and we think it is an attention-getting (sympathy-getting) behavior. This behavior had stopped suddenly about a month ago. But here we were and somehow he had managed to convince himself that this was true. We talked about me not talking to him and of course he had to acknowledge that right now I am the one who talks with him and listens to him the most. We continued in this manner for only a few more minutes.

It was late and I really didn't want to pursue the conversation until after I had time to think about an approach. I reiterated that what he had said wasn't true and he knew it, this was part of a narrative he sometimes told himself to keep us at a distance because of his fear of loving us as his parents, and I wished him goodnight with the reminder that there would be consequences if he set off the alarm again. Then I went into my bedroom and cried. Not sure why exactly. Partly my feelings were hurt and partly I was just spent. I have been doing pretty intensive work with him and suddenly it all just felt so overwhelming. C. didn't know what was going on so I tried to fill her in and she just got really mad at Tortuga and went off to talk to him. When she returned she raised the question of our family's safety (especially mine) once again. It is a fear I think all of us who parent challenging kids have. I assured her I still believed we were safe and I do. But what if I am wrong?

On Monday I had a game plan which I will try to write about as soon as I get my thoughts together. I was reminded of how important support and understanding are. I had emailed some pictures of the weekend to the other moms and I got a wonderfully timed email response from Christine. In it she called attention to her conversation with her son about the things Tortuga had said. She also contributed a missing piece of the puzzle: the boys hadn't bought his attempts at triangulation and it had frustrated the heck out of him. That explained a good deal of his need to have a confrontation when we got home. He has such social issues and had lulled himself into believing that he could control and manipulate this group of boys (who he has seen exactly once or twice before) because they were his "friends" and that is what he does with friends (hence, he doesn't have any.) Of course, I was also grateful that we were with people who understand and see through this because the degree of vulnerability when we aren't can be frightening and overwhelming as so many moms of kids with RAD, ODD, PTSD, etc. can attest.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

It's been a long week

So far I have heard from 4 of Tortuga's former foster moms and they are a wealth of information. I have only had one letter returned but one of the foster moms I heard from knows that person so she offered to help me track her down! In a highly unusual twist I also found out that one of his foster moms was the supervisor of the FIRST caseworker assigned to Corazon when she was born. (Remember she isn't biologically related to the boys and came 2 years before they did.) She remembers much about that touch and go time when Corazon was born (3 lb preemie with drug addiction) and visited her during her hospitalization. She remembers keeping tabs on her and was the one who delivered her to her first foster home. How small can this world be? Someone asked me how I got the information on his former placements. I just asked the supervisor of his case and told her what I was trying to do. I asked if they were willing to mail the letters for me if they couldn't release the information to me but she just sent me the information directly. I don't know if I just got lucky or what.

Last weekend was busy and the week hasn't given me a break. Corazon had a gymnastics meet on Saturday and we had to leave at 5:3o a.m. for the 90 minute drive to the meet. She was nervous but did wonderfully especially compared to her first meet. She scored a 9.35 on vault, 9.25 on bars and 8.90 on floor which was great because she was scratched from that event at her first meet. She scored her lowest on the beam which is her favorite and should be her best event. She fell 3 times. Her coaches commented that they are frustrated with her "giving up" when she messes up rather than trying to "save it" and then she pouts. I almost laughed since that is the story of our lives with her. It's an all-or-nothing proposition with that kid. Once she messes up she has to hit rock bottom before she can recover. She was happy with her performance but the rest of the weekend and into the week with her has been "fun" in RADland. We left the meet and drove to South Texas to drop my mom off after her being here for two weeks. We spent the night and came home early on Sunday but not early enough to avoid Corazon royally insulting my mom! I think she was mad at me but I don't know why and still haven't figured it out.

On top of everything else everyone except Tortuga has been sick since last weekend. I have spent my days nursing 3 kids and C. as they suffer through fevers, chills, coughs, runny noses, etc. Poor C. has had to go to work that way so she isn't mending easily. Did I mention that I was sick too? It has not been fun. Amidst all this Corazon has been a wreck--defiance, moving in slow-motion, incompletes on every single task, rudeness, disrespect, etc.-- and she hasn't done a lick of schoolwork until today. She has spent most of her days standing around "pretending" to work on her schoolwork but actually sneaking reading. I have tried to help her change things up but nothing has worked and I don't think it's just because she isn't feeling well. It started before then and she was the least affected by all the illness around us. I sent her to bed early 4 nights this week including yesterday by 5 p.m.! I have not been able to figure out what is happening for her and she isn't sharing. I can tell she is distressed about something but I don't know what it is and she is taking much of this out on me and C.

Tortuga has been making steady progress over the past several weeks. He is excited to do his schoolwork and has not earned ANY sentences in almost 2 weeks which is a first since we started using sentences to help him. I am almost afraid to say this but in 2 weeks he has NOT threatened to run away, hasn't had any meltdowns, hasn't screamed at me nor blamed me for his mistakes, hasn't thrown anything, hasn't destroyed anything, hasn't rolled his eyes while I speak to him, and generally speaking is showing a much calmer side of himself. One thing that we are figuring out is that physical active is acting as a "trigger" for some of his more serious acting out behaviors. It's almost as if a "switch" is turned on and when he stops running around or playing the switch stays on and makes him hyper-aggressive. I know it sounds weird but even he has noticed it. He is an active kid and loves physical activity but we can't get him "back" after any of these activities--he gets angry and aggressive quickly. Lisa suggested that we try slowing things down for him, so we have switched to physical activities that are more calming and quiet (i.e. walking instead of running) and that require lots of concentration and focus (i.e. ice skating). I even tried having him walk while holding a raw egg and passing it from one hand to the other (thanks Lisa!) and he loves it. It all seems to be helping but I am trying to find out more about what might be going on for him. He describes it as his "brain" being "all jumbled and crazy." Not sure what to make of all this but we are going to continue to limit some of the more "active" physical activity and see if progress continues. He is also tapping and rubbing which I know always helps him.

I need to wrap this up since the most adorable two year old in my world has just crawled onto my lap, put her head on my shoulder and announced that "I wanna sleep with you mom...peeeeez." Who can resist?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Tortuga's former foster moms

Last week I sent letters out to all of the foster families that Tortuga had lived with over the 7 years he spent in and out of foster care. He only spent a weekend or a month with some of these families but there were a couple he lived with for more than a year. I included a picture of him and requested any information, pictures, and/or anecdotes they might have about him and his time with them. Given that he has isolated memories but no context for most of his experiences prior to joining our family I was hoping I'd get a little information to help me round out his lifebook. (I have been trying to work on that for awhile and I wrote about that here.)

I was absolutely thrilled when my phone started ringing earlier this week. I have now heard from 3 of those moms including the woman who was his emergency placement the very first time he entered foster care (he and his older brother were there for one night) and then two years later she had him for a long weekend. This woman rattled off several memories she had and included two anecdotes from her son about his time with Tortuga. She also emailed a whole bunch of pictures of him as a 4 year old! Even her parents got in on the activity and it turned out they had some pictures of him from a birthday party he attended so I am now in possession of about 25 more pictures than I used to have. This woman has had over 250 emergency placement in her home over the years. She has kept a log where she notes everything she is told about the child and their circumstances for being there in the middle of the night usually and then she adds her own impressions "just in case someone asks." I am so grateful that she kept those brief notes because it is a piece of my son's life! Her notes also answered a couple of questions we had about 2 significant memories he had attributed to his birth mother. She also noted that I was the first person to ask for this information and that made me sad.

Another mom didn't have any pictures but supplied a few wonderful stories and her observations of Tortuga and told me some details about his background that I had never heard before and will have to follow up on. The last foster mom I have heard from wanted me to know she had "lots" of pictures of him and she had instructed her children to bring them out of storage so she could go over them while she is laid up next week recuperating from major surgery. She was so excited to be able to share those pictures with someone "who cared" and said she took them in the hopes that someone would want them someday.

I am overwhelmed by how positive the response has been so far. I had hoped to hear from maybe ONE of these homes but THREE! None of them had heard about his fate in the time since he was placed with them and they were all so happy that he had found a forever home. I am ever so grateful that these women had the heart and forethought to keep these bits of his life for all those years.

Where do they get this stuff?

Last night Milagro was saying goodnight to everyone as she headed up to bed with C. She hugged and kissed Tortuga, then Pollito, then Corazon. After that she ran to the guestroom to look for grandma and say goodnight. She dove into grandma's arms in one of those heartfelt embraces, said "goodnight, I love you, gamma" then kissed her on each cheek! Then she walked past me in the kitchen and started up the stairs. Feeling neglected I called to her "Hey! Did you forget to say goodnight to me?" She smiled but made no move to come near me. So I tried a different tactic and said "Who am I?" She smiled and said "Topp Tivah!" (chopped liver) and bounded up the stairs!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Response to question from A

A. asked the following in a comment on my previous post: "On the birth cert for a same sex couple what does it say? Is it mother/father spaces that have to be filled out? I hope questions like that aren't rude. I'm really curious :).

I think it's a great question and not rude at all. I certainly didn't know what it would say until we had Milagro. Because C. gave birth to Milagro and we were both recognized as her parents from the start the birth certificate paperwork filled out at the hospital and filed as her official birth certificate has C.'s information in the "mother" section and mine in the "father" section BUT the "father" section is blacked out and an asterisk (*) is placed before my name. At the bottom of the certificate in the "DPH authorized" section is the following "*second parent."

It's a much longer story having to do with our move OUTSIDE a state that recognizes same-sex marriage but the short is that we both had to "adopt" Milagro in order to have a birth certificate that would be accepted in all the rest of the states. That "amended" birth certificate does NOT have "mother/father" labels on it but instead uses "parent/parent." Our other adopted kids' amended birth certificates have "co-parent/co-parent" on it. I think the language is quite new and changes as this becomes more "established" in MA. Probably other states have different language. Now I have to find our marriage certificate and see what that says...:-)

Morning exchange

Every morning I have to get all the kids besides Tortuga up, dressed, fed and ready for the day before letting him get out of bed. Otherwise, chaos ensues and it isn't pretty. So this morning, I woke Tortuga with my usual refrain: "Good morning it's time to get up. Take a shower, do your morning routine, and don't forget to make your bed." His response, "Thank you mom for making me take a shower." This is the ODD kid who makes up new ways to argue and disagree every chance he gets. So I said, "what?" He repeated. "Thank you for making me take a shower in the morning cuz I am grumpy and the shower calms my body down and wakes up my eyes so I feel good. ... [pause]....You were right mom."

Which one of you took my son and replaced him with this kid?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I couldn't make this stuff up.... or Sometimes you gotta laugh

It has been almost 3 years since we adopted Corazon. It has been 1.8 years since we finalized on Tortuga and Pollito. In that time we have made 4 attempts to get s*cial sec*rity cards for them and failed each time due to some "small" logistical problem like a missing form in triplicate or a notarized original copy of an original copy of an original copy. It has been a frustrating process and one that is easy to move to the back burner when waiting in line for hours only to be turned away empty-handed with four kids in tow is just not my idea of fun. Our attempts to secure the cards when we moved to Texas were unsuccessful because all of our documentation is Massachusetts based AND they get stumped on the two moms thing. I have their "old" social security numbers but not the cards and when we adopted them we were told we needed to get new ones for them especially since two of those numbers were being used by others out there to secure employment and for tax purposes.

So C. is back in MA today so I sent her "armed" with all the originals of everything she needed to get the new cards. She has birth certificates (originals and adoptive ones), original adoption decrees with seals (two for Corazon since she went through the adoption process TWICE with us), proof of her identity (drivers' license, birth certificate and passport) and all the required forms. She had a two hour window this morning before her meetings to stand in line and try to do this deed once and for all. After 1 1/2 hours of trying she calls me to say they won't let her get the cards without the kids' state health insurance cards or a letter from their physician to verify their identities. They suggest she go home and get the cards and return tomorrow. What???? Their state health cards have their names and membership numbers. There are no birth dates, parents' names, etc. which according to the instructions for securing a new card are required to show child's identity. The only mention of health records/letter from physician is in cases where there is no other proof of identity. We have adoption decrees.

After re-reading the online instructions and my notes from the latest conversation with their offices a week ago I send her back in to try again as I hold on the phone. Here are some snippets of the conversation between C. and those lovely gatekeepers. She reads their own instructions to them which I had so anally put a copy of in the packet of info she was carrying. It requires 3 supervisors to indeed check that those are the directions they have. They acquiesce and agree to allow her to apply for cards with the existing documentation.

They begin quizzing C.--kids' names? ages? Where were kids born? No, they were not international adoptions. No, they don't have passports. Birth dates for each of the kids in chronological order? Adoption dates in chronological order but start with oldest child? C. says we didn't adopt them in birth order. They are stumped. Aren't they siblings? YES, through adoption. But their original last names are the same. Yes. a coincidence that they all share one of the MOST common Spanish surnames. Is she sure they aren't related???? (I was practically howling on the other end of the phone at this point.) Yes, she is as sure as the social services people were. They have different birth moms and birth dad so we are pretty certain. It continues. We adopted the 9 year old first in 2006. The woman says "9 year old? I thought she was 7!" C. replies "She was 7 when we started this process!!!" Ok. Back to the oldest. When was he adopted? Courtney pauses a long pause. The woman chimes in "you DON'T remember when he was adopted?" C. says she is trying to get all the dates straight. I know she is weighing telling them "you see, I had the traumatic brain injury a few years ago and I struggle with remembering dates..." but realizes that wouldn't go over too well. They continue. The woman asks "Does he know he is adopted?" She replies that he does and the supervisor chimes in that he CANNOT get a new social security card if he knows he is adopted! What??????? Then she suggests that since he was almost 8 when he was adopted perhaps he knows where his card is? C. says "Uhm. No. He has special needs and can't remember his address and phone number so I am pretty sure he doesn't know where it is." She asks: "Did you check all his stuff when he came to you?" C. calmly replies "um, yes we checked both garbage bags pretty thoroughly." The woman doesn't give up. Maybe his birth mother has it or knows where it is? If she has other kids maybe she has it with theirs. (I am not kidding! She really said this! I had been quiet on the other end of the line this whole time but at this point I am about to start screaming.) C. replies "Sure, why don't you give her a call? We spend lots of time trying to track her down and find out where she is because she moves alot. But by all means why don't you try." They move on and the woman asks about his original middle name. He didn't have one. "Oh. So you gave him a new middle name?" Yes. She tells C. she needs to verify this new identity because of the name change with his doctor and get that physician's letter from the health clinic we used in MA. C. loses it and they go back to square one and the adoption decree which has both his old and new name and is supposed to prove identity. She then lit into the woman about how a doctor who sees the kids once or twice a year and doesn't even remember their names at a health center who cannot find their records every time we go is somehow more credible than adoption decrees and government issued birth certificates to verify his identity. Then she bursts into tears (which C. doesn't do easily.) The supervisor steps in and agrees the adoption decree is acceptable BECAUSE we aren't getting a new number since we can't get a new number because he knows he is adopted!

It continues this way as they move to the other two kids. Then the woman notices C. hasn't filled in the sections for mother's name/social s*curity # and father's name/social s*curity # on the forms she has. C. explains that we are two moms and she wasn't sure where her name should go. Woman says "two moms aren't a problem here." C. says "ok but the form still asks for mother and father so where do I put my information?" Woman checks forms and agrees my info goes on mother's line because that's where it is on all the other documentation. Where does C.'s go? Calls another supervisor since these are federal databases and unlike MA forms which usually say something like "parent 1/parent 2" the federal forms use "mother/father." Is C. ok with being listed in the father's slot in the database? YES! The woman enters C.'s first, middle, and one of her last names (we share a surname). C. corrects her. Woman argues that she has to use the name she has on her social s*curity card (which is the only document she didn't bring with her.) C. says her new name is on her card. Woman tells her she should have brought it with her to which C. replies that given the incredible value of this card it is secured in our family safe at home and she was afraid to travel on public transportation in the big city with it. (I almost spit out my coffee on my end of the line.) C. points out that since they are in the social s*curity office and those are the social s*curity office databases in front of her can't she just look her up???? They proceed and the woman gives C. a printout to check the information for accuracy. C. reads it to me on the phone. Under "father's name" it says "C. middle name, last name-last name, JR." C. says "YEP, looks good!" She wasn't taking any more chances on trying to correct anything. We hung up and she called me back a couple of minutes later to say the deed was done. She was now their father according to the SS office and a JR. to boot! We just had to laugh!

So now we wait for them to verify all the info and mail us a receipt within two weeks to our MA address (good thing we still have that house!) It took her over three hours to get this far and it's the farthest we have ever gotten in this process. My confidence in our government processes has increased dramatically. Did I mention that I can't get a replacement card since my identity was stolen 15 years because two other individuals have managed to "prove" they are me and get new cards in two different states but I cannot "prove" to them that I am who I say I am so I don't have a card. I am not kidding folks I couldn't make this up if I tried.

On another note. Yesterday I took the kids to the library which is a big treat for them all. I decided to pick out a book for me which is always a challenge with all the kids in tow. I got them all situated in separate areas and took Milagro with me. We were in one of the aisles and suddenly Milagro SCREAMS at the top of her lungs "Mom! Pee coming! Mom! I peeing in my diaper! I peeing in my diaper!" and opens her legs wide and points. I told her that was great as I buried my head in the stacks. Several people peered around the corner of the aisles to check it out. A minute or so later she SCREAMS "I finished peeing in my diaper! Mom! Mom! I finished peeing in my diaper!" To which several people in the aisle applauded.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Lots to say about nothing in particular

We spent part of our weekend driving to South Texas to pick up my mom. The kids were excited because they hadn't seen her since Easter. We drove 6 hours there on Saturday and came back Sunday. It was the longest stretch Tortuga has spent with the whole family and he did pretty well. We have him on a very "basic" privileges scheduld and routine and it doesn't include much time with the rest of the family. I know I need to write about this but I just haven't figured out how. With the exception of him working overtime to "catch" Pollito and Corazon doing things wrong he really managed quite well until the last hour of the drive. By the time whe met up with my sister and niece for dinner he was on his way to losing it. I couldn't blame him too much since it's a taxing drive for anyone.

My mom is spending the next couple of weeks with us which is a great blessing because C. is away for work until next Saturday. It means I don't have to load the car full of kids 10 times a day for things like school drop offs, pickups, getting milk at the grocery store, gymnastics practices, etc. I cannot begin to say how much I dislike having to do that. One of the interesting things for me since becoming a SAHM is how much my day is defined and organized by these drop-offs and pick-ups. When I was working and managing all those things as well they were challenges and aggravations to my schedule but they someone seemed smaller (which makes absolutely no sense to anyone but me!)

I don't want to sound like I only enjoy my mother when she is helping me out because that wouldn't be true. Generally speaking we get along beautifully. She has always been supportive (even when she disagrees) about most of the "big" things in my life especially when I chose to do things that weren't typical of folks growing up in the circumstances/culture we did. I generally feel like I had a happy childhood, great parents, and a good upbringing so I don't bring too much "baggage" to our relationship. As an adult, I have maintained my role as the eldest and am the primary support system for my mom even though she still lives independently. I try to take care her needs (big and small) and provide whatever help and support is necessary. I enjoy it most of the time and that which I don't enjoy, I just deal with. Parenting adopted, special needs kids does bring up issues with my mom and family because, of course, like most folks on the planet, she doesn't really get it. She judges my parenting (and I am sorely lacking) and feels sorry for my kids. She sneaks food to them that I don't think helps them, lets them watch tv when I am not around, and she thinks I "punish" them too much when I should just let them be "kids." Of course, she also then tells me how she doesn't trust my kids because of their "backgrounds" and she isn't as comfortable with them as with my nieces, because they aren't my biological kids (although she swears I secretly birthed Milagro because she claims that kid and her behaviors at every turn remind her of me as a baby/toddler!) She also thinks I have too many kids so I suppose I shouldn't share that we are probably not done with the whole adding more kids thing.... :-)

That said, I am grateful she is still a part of my life and look forward to late evening/night chats after the kids have gone to bed. Our lives are so very different, yet from the same roots, and I always learn from her experiences. I was saddened on the way down to get her because I got a phone call while in the car letting me know that my mom's oldest sister had just passed away that morning. It was up to me to pass the news to my mom and several of our relatives. In fact, it was through a series of calls and text messages among first cousins that we were able to notify all of the siblings about her passing. What a difference between our two generations! My mom is 76 years old and all of her remaining siblings are between 70 and 88 years of age. She has lost 2 brothers and now 2 sisters. This sister was the most distant from her because she was 11 years older and married when my mom was a toddler. She is also the only sibling who remained in Mexico so they didn't see each other often over the past few years. I hadn't seen that aunt in 15 years and wasn't especially close to her. Nonetheless, I was sad to think of my mother's sister passing and then realizing that none of her siblings will attend whatever services are planned for her. It's just not "necessary" nor expected and is prohibitive for most of them either for health or financial reasons. They have lived their whole lives connected to one another by blood and content to know the others are "out there" living their lives. They celebrate wildly when circumstances bring them together but the don't expect to see each other. It wasn't part of the realities of their existence as migrant workers who moved between the U.S. and Mexico for much of their lives until they settled wherever it made sense for them and their respective families. It made me think of how hard I work to make my children feel a sense of connectedness to each other that isn't there by blood. I never had to work for that connection with my siblings (although we are a large mix of halves and steps) and I too live my life happy to know my siblings are "out there" living their lives whether or not we see or talk with each other often. My connection to them is palpable and tangible. I want that to be there for my children not only with each other but with their birth siblings as well.

I'm not going anywhere in particular with this except to put it here as part of what has been going on with me over this past weekend. All of this family stuff was swirling in my head today when C. left and when I tried to explain to Tortuga why I was upset that he didn't bother to say goodbye to her this morning. I told him (through my tears ) that I wasn't upset with him, just sad for him and his inability to recognize that it is important to hug goodnight, share "I love you's" and yes, darn it, say goodbye to one of your mom's when she leaves for a week!

Friday, September 4, 2009

A conversation with Corazon

There is no question that Corazon is well on her way to healing. I was recently following a blog that has recently gone private which reminded me of our struggles with Corazon. My heart went out to that mom and her 7 year old every time I read a post because I often felt I could relate to her daily struggles, fears, frustrations, hopes, prayers, but she showed a whole lot more grace than I ever did when we were in the thick of it with Corazon. I appreciated the honesty and candor with which she shared her thinking and her experiences with her daughter especially as she balanced the need to keep her toddler safe. Her blog also helped to remind me of where we had been, how far Corazon has come and also how HARD that struggle must have be (and is) for Corazon. I am not sure where things are with them right now but I thought of them today when I was dealing with Corazon.

I was on a mission to address some recurring issues with Corazon. They are all small things but I am noticing their persistence. I have learned my lesson about letting them go for too long. They just get bigger. So this morning I reminded Corazon that she had been having difficulty following directions and completing all her tasks (school and chores) correctly and efficiently. I didn't mention that she was also doing everything in slow motion again and having general control issues. I asked her to do her morning routine (face, teeth, make bed, get dressed.) After 1 hour and 15 minutes I called her. She wasn't dressed, hadn't washed her face, and hadn't made the bed. She couldn't tell me what she had been doing. No problem. I told her to come downstairs, do some jumping jacks and tapping to wake her brain up so she could do the rest of her morning routine without a problem. She wailed, pouted, slammed the door as she went outside, and then just stood there. I waited patiently as I prepared breakfast for the rest of the family who was home. She was fuming and showed it. She did half-hearted jumping jacks while glaring at me and couldn't get through her tapping. No problem. I brought her inside and did it for her. She was still fuming. I chose to ignore it because she wasn't interested in changing her attitude so I sent her to do cat chores (food check, water replenish, litter box check.) 1 hour later she was (still) scooping the litter box and the cats' water hadn't been dealt with. I sat everyone else down for breakfast and ignored her. She walked past the breakfast area and glared at me when she realized everyone else was eating. I ignored her glares.

10 minutes later she was "finished" but hadn't dealt with the cats' water. I reminded her and she stomped off in a huff. I cleaned up breakfast dishes while she continued to fume and slam the cat dish around. Milagro wanted to go play outside so I let her out to the backyard play area (I can see her from inside the house easily) and that's when I saw IT. You know IT. The thing that reminds you your child is playing control games or is intentionally disobeying your request. As I debating how to address it I went over to the counter in the playroom and there IT was again. I almost lost my cool right then and there but managed to get my composure before I called her over.

Me: Why is that cat food lid sitting right outside the back door?
Corazon: What cat food lid?
Me: Open the door and see.
Corazon: (puzzled look on her face as she searches high and low outside the door without once looking at the cat food lid) Where? I don't see anything.
Me: You don't? Ok, let's try another spot. What is that cat food lid that I told you to pick up last night and put in the recycle bin doing still sitting on the counter?
Corazon: (walks over to counter) I don't see it mom! I'm looking but I don't know what you are talking about.
Me: Hmmm. I am worried about your eyesight. Go lie down and I will bring you a cool cloth to put on your eyes to see if that makes it better. If it doesn't get better I will call the doctor.

I then call upstairs to her brother and announce that we are going to have to CANCEL the library trip(her favorite activity) for today because Corazon seems to be having trouble with her eyesight and I may need to take her to the doctor. I apologize profusely to him. He is clueless about any library trip so I just keep talking loudly over his attempts to raise questions and tell me he didn't know we were going to the library. As soon as she hears this, Corazon springs off the couch and runs to the counter to grab the lid and put it in the recycle bin. She even stops to pick up the one right outside the door that she hadn't seen before. Amazing recovery! She comes in and declares "we can go to the library now!"

I tell her we both know there is nothing wrong with her eyes and she needs to take responsibility for her actions. She tries to protest. I stop her and send her to C. who is going to dole out consequences for her continuing problem with the cat food lids. I had already filled C. in on the saga. In a nutshell she has left those lids right outside the door, near the little kids' play area that is off limits to her, and on the edge of the counter where they can reach them no less that 15 times in the last month. She has had all kinds of consequences for this including losing that responsibility which was then given to her younger brother. Of course she begged to have the privilege of feeding the cat and promised to not leave the lids in the wrong places. During that time her baby sister cut her finger on one. Two days later her brother cut his foot on another one. This past week Corazon sliced a long gash in her hand with one. Still the problem persists.

C. spoke with her and asked her to write a lengthy paragraph detailing the issue, why we were upset about it, possible solutions and consequences to her problem, her feelings about her sister and brother getting cut, etc. Corazon was furious but talked herself into believing that when she finished it we would go to the library. She started working on it while she fumed and I suggested she try tapping. Instead of fighting me she stepped outside and did it! She came back to write and after a few minutes I noticed she was crying. I was sitting in the room doing some paper sorting so I stayed nearby to keep an eye on her and offer support with my presence. I was still really angry and frustrated with her but doing my best to hide it since it usually doesn't help matters.

She finally came over and asked if she could ask me a question. Her question was about feeling like she had too much responsibility compared to other kids her age. I heard her out and basically told her I didn't know if she had more responsibility than her peers at the gym but if that was the case then I felt sorry for her peers for not having parents who loved them as much as we did. (YES, I did say that!) It is a line we use with our kids whenever they try to compare our rules to other family's rules (e.g. they can watch TV whenever they want, they don't have to ask permission to....., etc.) The conversation quickly became about how hard her life was and how scared she was that she could not handle it getting harder as she got older and the responsibility increased. I told her that given her history she had already handled harder stuff than most people ever would be expected to.

She suddenly looked like a light bulb had gone off in her brain and she started talking. Talking about thinking people didn't want her, us changing our minds about being her parents, her aunt not wanting to be her mom, her fights to control everything she could especially the people around her. She just kept on talking and talking and making connections between her feelings, her actions, and her experiences. It was heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. I was so impressed with her ability to express her feelings and thoughts and her ability to make some critical connections between experiences, feelings and her behaviors. She has certainly gotten better in this area but we still struggle with cause and effect. This time she seemed to be "getting it" so much better than ever. I had to admit that even though I have worked for and hoped for this for as long as she has battled RAD I was now in new territory--talking with her and helping her work through the realizations she is able to make about how all this influences her life and even her future. It was such a big step and I flashed back to all the lying, tantrums, drama, peeing, sneaking, triangulation, aggression, lack of emotion, recklessness, and so much more and I had to smile at how far Corazon has come. Then I began to wonder what would have helped me believe this day would come in the midst of all that. I know I had hope but beyond that there were so many failures, battles, doubts, fears, shortcomings, and "experts" telling me she didn't have RAD and all she needed was a little more love as they took her off to play therapy (no offense to anyone who believes play therapy has helped their child). I didn't care what she had and have never been hung up on the labels but if those therapists had been more willing to work on her attachment to me and less on their relationship with her maybe we wouldn't have wasted so much time and energy and waited this long for her to be where she is today.

I didn't let myself dwell on that. For today I enjoyed her openness and honesty and her ability to articulate it all. It also gives me hope for Tortuga (who is a whole other story that I haven't figured out how to blog about which is why I haven't written about him in a long time.) It also reminds me to keep trusting my instincts which in those initial years I was less willing to do and kept hoping some experts would provide the magic formula.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Happy Birthday Pollito and School Transition

We celebrated Pollito's birthday a week early on the same day as Milagro's because Corazon had a gymnastics meet scheduled on his birthday. So he got multiple celebrations. I forget that he has a hard time processing some things so he is totally confused by the dual celebration. He also can't keep track of how old he is. I had originally thought to bring cupcakes to his school this past Friday so he could get some special attention. I didn't get my act together. It was probably for the best given how easily he is getting confused and he needs to settle into the school routines without getting any more attention for all that cuteness! He is still the smallest kid in the whole grade and that's saying alot given that there are over 100 kinder kids in the school this year! His teacher is great but I think she already has me pegged as a hyper-vigilant mom.
Transition back to school has been a challenge for him this year. He is usually pretty good about routines and systems but so far we have had missing lunches, missing snacks, lost water bottles, lost folders, and my all-time favorite--peeing accidents. He had made such progress. 2 accidents in 3 months over the course of the summer and now he has had 2 nights of wetting the bed and 2 accidents at school. I was starting to celebrate the end of the pee era for him but of course I was being premature. He is also testing all kinds of limits at home, school and gymnastics. Most of it can be written off as general silliness but I am not so sure. I still see some RAD-like behaviors that suggest there is something else going on. He doesn't have RAD as far as I can tell but he seems to have learned a good deal from watching his siblings behaviors. The defiance is particularly challenging these days and I think the peeing is part of it. I am starting to think I should have homeschooled him as well but I really want to give regular school a try for him. I will probably regret it.

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