Thursday, July 30, 2009
We are also working on him being more appropriate with the toddler. He touches her ALL THE TIME with his hands and his mouth and he constantly puts her hands on his body. It is not always appropriate touching and it is challenging to keep her away from him because he has generally been her playmate. She is so sad that he cannot play with her and of course, doesn't understand. When I do let them play together it doesn't last because he does something really mean or I have to grab him as he is doing something physical with her.
The only break he has had from me was to go to "cooking camp." It is his birthday gift from us (his birthday is in August). He loves to cook and when I found a class that would take a four year old I was so excited. He seemed anxious to leave me but he did great. He had a blast and is already asking for another camp. I felt silly sending him to camp since he could help me in the kitchen and have as much fun (while saving me money.) However, helping me includes about 100 interruptions and then we rush through the process so I wanted him to have a different experience where he could thoroughly enjoy the activity. It obviously worked!
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
It didn't start off so well on Friday when in gymastics practice she had a difficult time during their "practice" for their "practice meet" on Saturday. They ran the girls through the routines for Saturday and each time Corazon made a mistake (big or small) she flipped out--faces, crying, drama, stomping, etc.--which of course is NOT acceptable in gymnastics. It also isn't typical of Corazon in gymnastics although it is typical everywhere else. The coaches informed her in front of us that if it happened on Saturday at the mock meet she would be asked to go sit with us and not finish out the meet. I spoke with her about all this and she told me she messed up so much because she was nervous. Nervous? This child has never been nervous a day in her life! This is the 4 year old who did the entire dance routine correctly in front of hundred of people at her dance recital even as other little ones just stood there petrified, others cried, others ran from the stage. My little one didn't bat an eye. This is the kid who I can always count on to hold it together in front of any audience, regardless of size or familiarity. So come to find out on Friday the coaches told the girls that it was normal to be nervous before the meet. So, being the hard-working RAD recovering child that she is, she decided she was supposed to be nervous and worked herself into it. I suppose I should be pleased with her desire to be normal! :-)
Of course, now she is actually making herself nervous and since she is trying it on for size anything can happen. I told her I would do tapping with her before the meet on Saturday. Saturday morning was hellish. She had to be at the gym by 7 a.m. so all of us had to be out the door early. I did tapping on her as we arrived in the gym and her coach reminded her she would sit out the meet if there was any attitude or drama. She was absolutely fabulous! No attitude, no drama, and even when she fell off the beam and froze on her last vault she was the model of professionalism. I spent some time at the meet (4 hours) texting and sending pictures to her birth mother, brother and sister to keep them posted on how she was doing because they kept calling and texting wanting to wish her a happy birthday. We agreed to talk later and when she finished the meet she was so proud of herself even though disappointed in some of her performance. I wish I had better pictures. All my pictures of her are a blur so I am going to have to hone up on taking better action shots.
We went out to lunch to celebrate her success and her birthday. Tortuga was a bear and had a full-blown tantrum at the table. She didn't let it damper our lunch and when we got home we sent him upstairs to rest ("we throw tantrums when we are tired so the only thing that can help is rest") where he pretty much spent the weekend. Everyone was tired so we set up a mid-afternoon slumber party/quiet time in the middle of the family room. Sleeping bags, weighted blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, books, etc. and everyone but Tortuga hung out there for the rest of the day while I made dinner. We had a nice dinner and let her open some presents. On Sunday we were surprising her with a small birthday party at one of those places I swore I would never have a party at. We decided to tell her Saturday afternoon knowing that normally she "blows it" whenever she anticipates something fun. She didn't. She handled all the anticipation AND the different phone conversations with birth mom, brother, and sister just fine. She sounded happy and excited to talk about her mock meet and the upcoming party without getting herself all worked up. She even helped me pull together some things for the party without going nuts. It was wonderful. Sunday was great. The kids had fun jumping around at the party place with all those incredible, giant, inflatable jumping things and the added bonus was that we finally got to meet our dear friends at My Sweet Chaos! We have been planning to get together for awhile and the kids enjoyed playing with each other especially our eldest boys. We didn't let Tortuga participate in the activities but I did let him sit and talk with M. and they walked around for a bit. Despite having to spend some time supervising our respective kids, we did manage to chat for a bit and I am excited that we might be doing it again soon (getting together, not the party!)
Corazon handled everything beautifully! I cannot believe she is 9. I was so impressed with how well she handled all of this. We hadn't had a birthday party for her since she turned 6 because we didn't think she could handle it. Next year we might actually try this again.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
I cannot believe you are nine years old already. Where did my preschooler go? It's funny how I can look at you and still see that impish, full of attitude, little 4 year old and find myself thinking "she hasn't changed a bit." In the next moment I look at this beautiful girl standing so tall before me and think "my how she has changed!" I have a feeling I am always going to have to juggle those thoughts simultaneously for many years to come. You have grown so much in the past year and your face is starting to change. All the hints of babyhood are gone. But you are still my baby.
Friday, July 24, 2009
I need to write more about what is happening with Tortuga and what we are trying to do with him but he consumes so much of my energy right now and haven't been able to write about that at this point but I will soon. Pollito is still my sticktight but I did let him get on the ice and skate for a bit. C. was exhausted between helping Pollito and Milagro but being the proud mamas that we are we were super impressed with her confidence and absolute trust that C. could keep her safe. Such a reminder of what strong attachment can do for a child. It was Milagro's first time on the ice and she just loved it! See for yourself.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Poor Tortuga, just three days after he started school (5 days after he moved in) we picked him up from school and did another 9 hour trek to PA. C.'s father was once again hospitalized and with the beginning of a school vacation, it was the best time to go see him. We also had another motive. C. had crossed the 3 month mark on her pregnancy so we were ready to tell people including her family. We arrived at the hospital to find her mom, aunt, and uncle already there. The boys got a quick dose of "family" since it was a first meeting for everyone. In retrospect I think it also served to put them in a very intense "family togetherness" mode and did much to bond us as a group. As we introduced the boys we handed her folks some recent pictures of all the kids and we slipped in an ultrasound picture of the baby. As her mom and dad looked through the pictures they both stopped at the one of the baby and looked completely puzzled. One suggested it was an ultrasound of a body part--a knee perhaps? When we told them it was a future grandchild they both assumed we were adopting an infant. It took a few seconds for it all to sink in and everyone in the room was laughing, crying, or bewildered for a few minutes. It had never seemed a possibility that C. would conceive and her family was aware of that partly because they knew of the health issues and of course, they didn't have much experience with the whole "lesbians having babies" thing.
The news of the pregnancy was viewed as nothing short of miraculous and the kids were soooo excited to know a baby was coming. Breaking the news to everyone at the same time was absolutely perfect because it allowed the kids to witness the excitement news of a new arrival brings. C.'s aunt quickly went to Tortuga and Corazon and told them, this is how we felt when we heard about your arrivals! That made the kids' day! Her dad's condition was grave and he was moved into intensive care the day after we arrived so we turned it into a 10 day stay instead of a long weekend. I don't know how Tortuga managed to process meeting all those new family members, news of a new baby, and 10 days of endless hospital waiting rooms but if nothing else the togetherness factor for us as a whole group was so high that he couldn't possibly doubt who he "belonged" with. To this day he has vivid memories of all the "fun" we had on that trip!
Tortuga's transition and issues were complicated. There were soooo many issues and the meds really seemed to mess with him although we had no basis for figuring out what he would be like without them. He was morose one moment and on top of the world the next. He would fall asleep or into a semi-catatonic state 15-20 minutes after his noontime meds. I reported this to his psychiatrist as soon as I could so we could work on eliminating it. I decided my first step was to get him off all the meds so we could find the kid and then if we needed to we would try the meds again. He had nightmares and would run across the length of the house to the outside of my bedroom door and begin to scream at the top of his lungs. He walked in his sleep and he couldn't sleep.
He had pretty much honeymooned during the whole time we were in PA but as soon as we returned we began to deal with those expected behaviors--suicide threats, peeing/pooping issues, spitting, drooling, tantrums, meltdowns, destructiveness, etc. One thing I do recall is that Corazon witnessing all these behaviors seemed to curb a whole lot of her acting out. She recognized herself in some of Tortuga's behaviors and was shocked by others. We also had to contend with Tortuga being physically inappropriate with Corazon so we began to monitor all of their play at all times and imposed a no-touching rule. Tortuga hated to be touched but he liked touching others, especially her. He had all kinds of "tics" that seemed to be controllable but again we were struggling to figure out the impact of all the meds on him.
We also had to fight all kinds of battles including school placement (he had been in a self-contained behavior management classroom for ALL of his schooling yet I discovered his IEP noted only the speech and language issues with no mention of behavior issues so I refused to send him to a school that didn't place him in a self-contained classroom for speech and language. That would turn out to be the best decision we made early on. The district tried to fight us but thanks to our connections in the district and the social worker, Selma's, contacts at the placement office we found him a spot in a premier school with probably the best teacher he could have gotten. I still wonder today where he might be if it hadn't been for that initial fight and victory. He had so much catching up to do that although a second grader at the time his school skills were at at 4 year old level at best but his teacher was a miracle worker who just loved him to death and worked him to tears but somehow managed to make it all fun and worthwhile and kept us posted daily on behaviors, goals, successes, challenges and worked with us on everything. We would even use the same words and phrases with him to build consistency in his learning experiences. It was exhausting for his teacher and for us but it made the transitions from school to home as seamless as possible.
It took us 2 1/2 months to get him completely off every single med and I vowed to wait at least a year before I would consider additional meds. His body and his brain needed time to adjust and I was willing to put up with whatever behaviors in order to find some of the kid underneath. We opened up a huge "can of worms" but it gave us a real sense of who this kid was and what he had and had not learned in all those years. There were so many things we didn't expect and it took a while to realize it wasn't defiance or disobedience but a real lack of knowlege and practice that made him do many of the things he did or didn't do. We found ourselves teaching our almost 8 year old practically all of the basic living skills one should know by then (toileting, wiping, hand-washing, toothbrushing, clothes hanging, blowing his nose, eating with a fork or spoon, etc. etc. etc.) It isn't an exagerrations when I say that he needed to learn those things from the beginning.
Because Pollito was a toddler his transition seemed to go pretty smoothly. Some things we didn't notice as quickly as we should have, in retrospect, seemed obviously connected to his adjustment. For example, he had attended the same daycare since he was a few months old. It wasn't a great facility but the staff were nice enough. We continued to take him to this daycare but I noticed that he had a difficult time at dropoff and pickup. At dropoff he seemed ready to cry as soon as we stepped into the building. At pickup time he acted like he didn't know me and always seemed surprised to see me. He was also having nightmares AND night terrors so I was up with him several times during the night and putting him to bed him me pretty regularly. It took us several months after we were able to stop the foster mom from visiting, to realize what was going on--he didn't know if we were going to come back to get him! The poor kid had no idea whether where he was going and who was picking him up each day even though I was the one who did it daily. I started keeping him home on days when I didn't have to teach and could take him with me to the office and that seemed to make such a huge difference. As May rolled around and my teaching ended I decided to pull him out of daycare knowing that when I was ready to put him back in September we would probably have an uphill battle but he seemed to need to be with us as much as possible. We had also seen an incredible amount of progress in his language development and truthfully Corazon should be credited with that. She talked with him non-stop and she encouraged him and taught him new words and games. He was thriving. We also discovered that despite his age (2 1/2 yrs old) he had been mostly bottle fed and had almost no experience with solid food! We weren't sure why he had not been fed "real food" in his home but he didn't know how to eat and later Tortuga confirmed that he had never seen the foster mom give Pollito any real food beyond bananas. That explained alot of things including his weight which was at 20 lbs and his clothing size (he was still wearing 12 month clothing.) All in all, he seemed to be adjusting pretty well.
This morning she "passed gas" as her siblings have taught her to say. In her excited to announce this she said "Mom! I farted in my butt!" Then she quickly corrected herself to say "I pass gas in my butt!" Isn't she just brilliant?
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
There it was Christmas Day and I was sitting in an RTC visiting room meeting Pollito for the first time along with his birth mother and the boys' foster mother. Tortuga was over the top with so many visitors and his birth mother had no idea who I was or why I was there but she assumed I was from social services. To say it was uncomfortable to not be able to introduce myself as the prospective adoptive mother to her children would be an understatement. It became apparent that the boys' mother was somewhat cognitively challenged and had been drinking. She showed almost no interest in Tortuga and focused on Pollito which was extremely painful for me to watch. Tortuga was so happy to see her and she seemed to have eyes only for Pollito. She went as far as to articulate her "joy" that Tortuga was where he "belonged" and she hoped this would make it easier for her to get the little one back. She said other very painful things to hear and I was relieved that most of it seemed lost on Tortuga. I couldn't believe the foster mom had brought her along and excused myself as quickly as I could. My only thought about Pollito was that he seemed alot younger than his 2 1/2 years but of course, I had already fallen in love! I was more convinced than ever that these boys were meant for us.
We drove the 9 hours to PA and arrived at C.'s dad's hospital bed around 10 p.m. He was thrilled to see us and we seemed to improve his condition. I was sick to my stomach the entire time we were there with incredible nausea and C. was anxious because she suspected that she might already be pregnant. We had agreed that the first day she could test was January 1st. After spending almost a week with her family we headed back to MA and on New Year's Day C. took a pregnancy test. It was positive! So much for the decision about waiting to settle the boys in before continuing C.'s attempt to conceive :-) We welcomed 2007 with the possibility of having a brand new baby and adding Pollito and Tortuga to our lives! We felt so blessed and just a tiny bit overwhelmed!
C. had been told the conception process would be a long one for her and her chances of conceiving without fertility drugs was less than 10%. To say we were surprised would be an understatement but we were also cautiously optimistic. Due to another existing condition she had also been told that the likelihood of complicated pregnancy and miscarriage was very, very high. All we could do was hope that this was all part of a greater plan and place our faith where it had always resided in a higher power than ours. We decided we would wait until she was at least 3 months along before sharing the news with anyone.
In the meantime we proceeded with the process of visits with Pollito and Tortuga and we were able to introduce Corazon and C. to the boys. Corazon was thrilled beyond words to be getting TWO brothers. She had spent the latter part of the previous year telling anyone who would listen that I was adoption anywhere from 2-4 more kids and she had also confided to her teacher that every night she prayed that God would put a baby in my belly too. People always asked us when the next child was due and she would act like she hadn't been the one to start that rumor. One wonderful quality of hers emerged in those visits with Tortuga--her lack of competitiveness and her extraordinary patience and generosity. No matter what Tortuga did and no matter how difficult he was to understand she patiently and kindly walked him through the conversation to try and figure out what he was saying. She played whatever he wanted on his terms and she continued to sing the praises of our home. With Pollito she was the caring big sister and she worked hard to share all her toys with him during our brief visits. We had settled on a moving-in day for Pollito but it kept getting pushed back because the foster mother was having a very difficult time letting go. She was in her late fifties and had grandchildren older than him but in a way he had become the last of her babies. On one of the days I was supposed to pick him up for the move she disappeared with him for the day. On another day she got in her car and followed me when I picked him up for a visit. Eventually she had to confront that the move would happen on January 14th I brought him home.
For the next few weeks his foster mother would call me several times a day offering to babysit, telling me how much she missed him, would show up daily at his daycare to "visit" with him and generally had a hard time "letting go." I tried to be understanding of the fact that she had him for a year but it was making life a bit difficult for us because she would get on a roll and not stop calling until I took her call and sometimes her messages suggested she didn't know why I was "mad" at her and "shutting her out" when it had been only 2 hours since the last time we had spoken! She even called me one day demanding I bring him back "home" because she had enjoyed her vacation but wanted her "baby" back! She called the social worker to tell her she had changed her mind and wanted to adopt Pollito but not Tortuga. It was a difficult and painful time for her and she was becoming a bit unstable and disruptive with her phone calls and visits. I was glad she didn't know where we lived and had to consider changing my phone number.
In the meantime, Tortuga was stabilizing at the RTC but continued to be on a whole lot of meds. We had begun talking with him about moving in with us and once he knew Pollito was with us he warmed up to the idea. I think the RTC had provided a routine for him that was predictable and consistent and his feelings of safety and security had increased. He was also learning how to manipulate the staff and his favorite diversionary tactic was to threaten to harm himself. I don't mean to imply that I don't take suicide threats seriously but in his case it seemed pretty predictable that any time he got a serious consequence for violation of a rule or expectation he would threaten to harm himself and basically get out of doing what he was supposed to do and end up with one-on-one attention from someone which included extra gym time. We were having a hard time believing that his threats were serious when to us the pattern seemed pretty clear but I was starting to get nervous about what that might mean for us once he came home so I started putting extra locks on certain items and locking up things that he might use to harm himself if he truly wanted to.
The month on January breezed by as my semester got started (day after Pollito moved in) and we prepared for Tortuga's transition and adjusted to a new schedule with Pollito home. I was entitled to take a parental leave but because everything had happened suddenly and without clear timelines I was already set to teach my courses and it would have put everyone in a bind if I had missed the beginning of the semester. Being in higher education does have its perks though because everyone agreed that I needed as much flexibility as possible so I was able to give up all of my other committee responsibilities, etc. in exchange for not taking the leave. I figured I would need to get used to juggling all of this anyone so might as well never have the time completely off! Besides, at the rate we were going I might need that leave again soon!
Corazon was thrilled to have a sibling and seemed to be giving up some of her RAD behaviors. Pollito had fewer than a dozen words and he seemed to have a hard time understanding anything we said. Nonetheless he had a great sense of humor and wonderful disposition so he entertained us with his dancing and laughing and generally happy demeanor. Tortuga had been very hesitant to spend time at our home overnight and we had postponed his overnight visit three times to help him warm up to the idea of moving. He was insistent that he wanted to stay at the RTC. I finally decided that we had to put a little pressure on him so I stopped my daily visits for about a week. We had planned on having him spend the night that weekend so I went to seem him on Sunday and informed him I wouldn't be there until Friday to pick him up for his overnight. I called him nightly to say I missed him and goodnight and had the staff give him a small gift from me each day but otherwise I stayed away. It was really hard because I passed his RTC about 4 times daily. That Friday he was so excited to see us and seemed ready for his overnight but then tried to back out. I said it was fine but we wouldn't be back until the following weekend. He mulled that over and "bit the bullet" and came home with us. We had a great time! Thank goodness for honeymoons. When it was time for him to go back on Sunday he didn't want to go! We did take him back to the RTC but partly because his insurance refused to continue to pay for the RTC he moved in two days later on February 12th!
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
We had been so excited to have her back in her school with the continuity of the same teachers who seemed to have "her number" and seemed to get it a little about the RAD. One of the teachers was forced to resign for unknown reasons and I just found out they hired a first year teacher in her place. No matter how good she will be it isn't good enough. As a teacher/teacher educator I know what it takes to make it through that first year and I know the patterns with first year teachers and it just isn't what will work for her. We were already leaning this way once the teacher resigned but this seems to cinch the deal. I don't really mind homeschooling and I do like the flexibility but it looks like I will also be homeschooling Tortuga so Pollito will enter Kindergarten at his old school and be the only one not homeschooling. I am having to shift around some work related projects that I was hoping to take on to plan curriculum for the kids but I don't mind that part. It's what they need at this point.
We have been homeschooling this summer and it is going pretty smoothly except for Corazon's inconsistent behavior. Even S. (our summer child) is enjoying it and I am torturing her by making her learn her multiplication tables! :-) Pollito is taking a cooking class and he is in love with the teacher, the class and cooking! Milagro continues to bring a smile to my face with her language development and her engagement with just about everything. A few weeks ago the neighbor's dog slobbered all over Milagro's face which she quickly reported to me upon her return as Ruby "kissing" her. I suggested she tell the dog it was not OK to kiss. Since then she has been obsessed with Ruby, the dog, so on her nightly walks with C. she anticipates seeing her and telling the dog to not kiss her. She is totally excited to see the dog and completely disappointed when it doesn't happen but when the dog is in front of her she screeches and starts crying "carry me! carry me!" However, she reports to me that she tells Ruby "STOP! (hand out in front of dog's face) Ruby, no kissing!!!!!" I guess it's all a matter of perspective.
Tortuga is upset with me because he is not signed up for any summer camps or activities. Corazon has gymnastics and a volleyball camp while Pollito has cooking camp and soccer. I have explained to him that he is still grounded (on the "basic package") which doesn't entitle him to summer camps until he is able to be a better "family kid" and consistently show respect to me and the rest of the family. He is working himself up to be really ticked off about this but so far he is hanging in there. I just realized that by writing this I have most likely jinxed myself.
Monday, July 20, 2009
It was December 2006 and Christmas was looming ahead. We had planned on spending the holidays at home in Boston. It would be our second Christmas with Corazon and we were looking forward to spending it quietly at home. My semester had ended just before the social services meeting about the boys and I had busied myself with holiday shopping and decorating. Suddenly we were thrust into the prospect of having two additions to our family. C. and I agreed that we wanted the boys and I set up the first series of observations of Tortuga in his residential setting. I had asked to observe him a couple of times before meeting him in order to see for myself how his issues manifested. I could not have been less prepared for what I encountered! He was practically catatonic and I was hard-pressed to see any semblance of a person behind the vacant stare he gave me that first day. He was a shell of a person who sat in front of the tv without showing any awareness of whatever was playing whether it was a movie or a video game being played by other kids. I could instantly tell he was over-medicated. When I left I sat in my car and cried. Then I called Selma, his social worker. She seemed genuinely shocked by what I described and hesitantly asked if I had changed my mind about him. Before I could think I responded "No! I want him" and I meant it. I wanted him. Whatever it was that brought me to this point I knew there was a reason for me to be there and I wasn't turning back. I went home to fill C. in on my observations and to tell her I had committed to taking the boys. She was wholeheartedly supportive.
True to her word Selma had gone to see him and demanded that his meds be adjusted. She didn't recognize him either and she wanted them to quickly remedy whatever the issue with his meds was. It turned out they had put him on a powerful anti-psychotic drug without permission and without a thorough psychiatric evaluation. I visited him daily and saw a wide range of behaviors ranging from extreme mania to some semblance of normalcy to painful shyness. His usual response to me was extreme silliness mixed with lots of laughing and running around. His speech was very difficult to understand and he couldn't write his name. I also noticed that he didn't know his birthdate. He seemed genuinely happy to see me most days although he wanted to play chasing games and didn't sit still for even a minute.
Christmas was a few days away and I was glad his RTC was 5 minutes from my house so I could visit him every day. In the meantime conversations with the foster family had progressed and we made plans for me to meet Pollito. We agreed that I would meet the foster mother and Pollito for the first time at the RTC on Christmas Day. I was so excited to meet Pollito and we were anticipating introducing Tortuga to C. and Corazon soon after Christmas. On Christmas Eve I carefully wrapped a gift for Tortuga and one for Pollito to be delivered the next day during our visit. C. and I lamented that she couldn't join us but we weren't ready to tell Corazon and we still hadn't informed social services of our plans to potentially adopt the boys together. If we said anything at this point my homestudy would need to be updated and would require C. to take the required parenting classes, along with providing lots of necessary documentation, before placement could take place. This would also force Tortuga to go to yet another foster home after the RTC and none of us wanted that. We did however have one significant hurdle that I felt strongly needed to be addressed. Everything in their files said the boys, especially Tortuga, wanted and needed to have a father and I knew I couldn't provide that.
I spoke with the social services supervisor, Lisette and candidly expressed my reservations about taking the boys given that information. I explained that I was sure there would never be a father in the picture but there might be a second parent in the near future. She urged me not to worry and encouraged me to keep things "status quo" until we could get the boys home. She reminded me that if I added a partner after placement things would proceed much more smoothy and we could avoid some of the additional parenting classes and paperwork if we waited before adding C. into the formal mix. I agreed to wait on that since C. and I maintained separate households so technically we weren't living together. Furthermore, the supervisor agreed to stress to the boys' lawyer that I would not be bringing a father into the picture at any point so if he wanted to stand in the way he should do so before placement.
We had other reasons for not formally including C. at this point in the process. We still weren't out as a couple due to the interconnectedness of our professional lives and the significant roles we held in a very small professional community. C. was also in the midst of a significant law suit that had the potential to become very public and we were concerned that would propel her (and us) into a limelight we really didn't want. A few years earlier she had been seriously injured in a huge accident and had sustained multiple serious injuries the most serious of which was a TBI (traumatic brain injury) that left her unable to speak, read, and walk unassisted. Her records showed continuing health complications that we knew wouldn't interfere with our parenting together but we weren't sure would be viewed that way by some of the more homophobic people involved in the boys' lives who were looking for reasons to prevent their placement in a home without a father. We were trying to keep things as "simple" as possible and didn't want any additional complications. We had learned how quickly the tides turned in the process of my adopting Corazon and we didn't want to take any chances on delaying this any further. We were conviced that the boys were meant to be ours and we didn't want to lose time with them.
Our desire for keeping things simple was quickly going to be dramatically challenged. Late on Christmas Eve we discovered that C.'s father who had been hospitalized following complications from a kidney transplant would not be released from the hospital for the holidays. They had planned on joining us to celebrate C.'s birthday two days after Christmas. His condition was grave and at the spur of the moment we decided to go visit him in PA on Christmas Day. So, in addition to meeting Pollito for the first time on Christmas Day, we needed to be packed and ready to drive 8-9 hours to spend time with her dad. Christmas morning we rushed Corazon through the opening of her gifts and quickly threw things together for the long drive. We packed the car and drove to the RTC where I would visit with Tortuga and Pollito before we made the trek to PA. While Corazon and C. waited in the car, I went inside the RTC to deliver gifts to Tortuga and Pollito. As I walked into the visiting room I encountered a surprise of my own. The foster mom had decided to bring an additional guest to the visit--the boys' mother.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
The boys' social worker, Selma, along with my social worker Gilda and the supervisor, Lisette coordinated to find the earliest possible date for a disclosure meeting. Coincidentally, all the social services players were the same as in Corazon's case. Even their birth mom's social worker, Daphne, was the same so it lent an air of familiarity and I believe greater trust during the disclosure meeting. There were lots of "flags" in the boys' files and at times one person was trying to convince me that they were too much for me to handle and another was sure I would be the best thing to come into their lives. The older boy, Tortuga, was 7 1/2 years old and had been in early intervention programs since he was three. His speech was difficult to understand, he was "aggressive" towards the younger brother, had threatened to kill himself several times, and was cognitively delayed but there were few specifics about that. He also had 14 diagnoses ranging from PTSD to RAD/ODD to Tourette's, Bi-polar, and Depression. ADHD was also thrown in for good measure. Lastly, he tended to "freak out" if anyone touched him. While there were many labels there was a shortness on supporting details. The younger brother was small for his age, had a vocabulary of less than 10 words/sounds and was suspected of having FASD. I sat through the meeting trying to figure out what I would be getting myself into and wondering if I was capable of serving these kids. Their next step was to separate them in order to give them a better chance of finding homes soon.
C. and I went home with all the paperwork they had available and I requested several materials that they didn't have including IEPs (Individualized Education Plan) for Tortuga, speech and OT reports for Pollito, more detailed medical records for Pollito, and any psychological information about their birth parents. (They had information about 6 other siblings ranging in age from 9-18 who had been in foster care and some had mental health issues so I wanted more details.) On the ride home C. and I discussed the boys and discovered that we were already talking about them as if they were joining our family. Neither of us expressed strong hesitations or concerns about our desire to meet them. We still needed to talk to my social worker about updating my homestudy to include C. but we had one other complication. We had been discussing the possibility of C. having a baby and C. had just completed the second round of inseminations with the hope of becoming pregnant. Should we stop? Should we continue? Should we postpone this process until we learned more about the boys?
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Corazon's adoption (which I tell about here) had really brought to light so many of the challenges the foster/adoption process can bring. I had always known I wanted to have more than one child. In fact, I had resisted Corazon's initial placement only because I was more interested in sibling groups. I have been a strong proponent of keeping siblings together whenever possible (and not detrimental) and to be honest I don't always believe social service folks and therapists are unbiased about this. In our home state it always seemed that every child would do "better as an only" or "youngest" child and there seemed to be a clear bias against placing another kid in a home when there were "big" issues with others already in the house.
Even before Corazon's adoption became final I had begun conversations with the social worker about getting another child but this time I was holding out for a sibling group. The general rule was that another child would not be place in the home until 6 months following finalization of an adoption. For us that meant that the earliest another child could move into our home would be April 2007. I wasn't interested in waiting that long but had accepted that as the case. Sometime in mid-Summer 2006 Corazon's social worker mentioned a sibling group of 2 Cape Verdean boys who they were completing TPR (termination of parental rights) for in the next month and she thought they would be a good match. The kids had no known issues, had been in a stable foster home, and would be a good fit for us. Every few weeks she would update me about the boys' lives but none of us were in a rush since we hadn't finalized on Corazon. A few months later she informed me that a paternal relative had come forward and was interested in the boys and it looked like a good match. While disappointed for us I was happy for the boys to be kept within their families. The next day the supervisor called me to ask if I was interested in a different pair of Puerto Rican brothers (ages 7 and 2) who were being placed on Corazon's social worker's caseload that day. The social worker hadn't met them yet but the supervisor wondered if I might consider boys with "issues." Knowing my background in psychology, counseling and education made her think I could serve these boys who had suffered from severe neglect and the older one had lacked stability throughout his entire life. These boys were Pollito and Tortuga.
A few weeks later we finalized on Corazon and the social worker had met the boys so I got a little more information. She informed me that she wasn't sure the boys would be a good match because the older boy's issues were extensive and he would need lots of attention. Plus the toddler would also require attention given that he had just turned 2 and was showing signs of extensive developmental and language delays/issues. She thought they boys would be too much for me to handle as a single parent.
Throughout this time C. and I were already together but we were not "out" as a couple for mostly professional reasons. Beyond that, Corazon's adoption had been delayed so much that adding her to the homestudy had seemed to be asking for trouble(Corazon's attorney was pretty homophobic) and delays(additional paperwork) so I had proceeded with Corazon's adoption on my own. We had been waiting for her finalization before we updated my homestudy to include C. At that time we also planned to have C. move in even though she was already a part of the household.
I finalized on Corazon in early October 2006 and we were in no rush to proceed with the boys given the six month waiting period and our desire to update our homestudy to include C. If we chose to proceed with the boys we anticipated transitioning them the following summer 2007 so we wouldn't disrupt their current school and foster care situation. About 6 weeks later "all hell broke loose" in their foster home and Tortuga was moved to an RTC (residential treatment center) with a recommendation that he not return to that foster home. Suddenly, everyone was in a hurry to find out if I was still interested in the boys and we hastily set up a disclosure meeting for the days following Thanksgiving. Ready or not, we had some big decisions to make.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Usually each child has their own room but as a "tryout" we moved Pollito in with Tortuga about two weeks before we went on vacation. We did this for several reasons. Both boys are afraid of the dark but wreak havoc if any nightlight is left on for them especially with peeing-in-all-the-wrong-places incidents. Pollito and Milagro technically share a room but he cannot be trusted with her right now so we have kept her in our room which adjoins theirs. In moving him out we were able to open the adjoining door and have her go back to sleeping in that room. That bedroom is also our main access to our wonderful deck so if we want to take advantage of early morning coffee on the deck we need access through that door. We knew there would be challenges including having to change bedtimes around because the boys make unwise choices when left alone together without much supervision (I do have a video monitor in their room.) Last night I unwisely sent Tortuga to bed without making sure Pollito was already asleep. Then I sent the girls to read in bed (Corazon's friend S. is spending the summer with us) and let them stay up later than usual before announcing lights out. I forgot to keep the monitor by my side and around 11 started hearing some noises from upstairs but didn't think much of it. About 45 minutes later as I made my way upstairs to check on the noise I picked up the monitor to hear bedlam. The girls were screaming (they called it singing) at the top of their lungs to "scare monsters away" and to "be louder" than the boys. The boys were hanging off their beds (literally and scarily) while Tortuga was teasing Pollito about holding his pee and trying to convince him to pee in his bed instead of getting up to use the potty (so much for all the potty-training!) and threatening to make up something to get him in trouble if he DID get up to use the bathroom. Tortuga was laughing maniacally and of course trying to be louder than the girls. I managed to miss most of the noise because it was muffled by the airconditioning fan/vent. After eavesdropping on both sets of conversations I tore into both rooms,
This morning I am dragging even after two cups of coffee and the girls are quietly sitting in separate rooms doing their morning journal prompts. None of us are not happy to be up at 6 a.m. but heck, misery loves company.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Of course, there was a downside to coming home--RAD behaviors
Pollito continues to exhibit some RADish behaviors but with him I am pretty sure it is anxiety and all of the different transitions we have made over the last 6 weeks. Inspired by watching Lisa and Special K I made him my sticktight from the moment we got home. He does everything at my feet or by my side. Everything. He complains a little bit about it but then turns around and asks "Tomorrow can I be you ticktight?" so I think it is working for him. The tantrums, crying, continuous nonsense chatter, grabbing, licking (don't ask), etc. have gone done quite a bit. As soon as we are apart it increases by 1000% (not kidding). I am not sure how long we will keep this up but for now it is working pretty well for him.
Milagro has hit the "terrible twos" with full force. She whines and screams at the drop of a hat which is highly unusual for her. If she doesn't get her way or if we don't understand what she is trying to say she cries. But it is cute that in the midst of her crying I can usually say "Okay BUT don't whine and use your words or signs" and she stops mid-tears, smiles, and slowly turns her eyes towards me like we were playing peekaboo. It's clearly an attention-getting strategy which in this household I cannot totally blame her for using. Other than that the language development is astounding. She hit the point of "no return" about 6 weeks ago when she started repeating every word she heard but now is using most of them correctly. She takes a nightly walk with C. and comes back to "report" on her walk. Last night this was part of her report: "I walking, I nunning, (running) nite-nite fowers, nite-nite dawg. I saw cackkkkktus (cactus) and woks (rocks) and dawg kiss me nite-nite. Mama pat dawg and (k)itty. Saw two fowfie (firefly). Big tuck (s)cared me mom! I say wahhhhhhhhh. [Big smile] See you!" She learned "firefly" and "dragonfly" while we were in Georgia so those are her new favorite words along with "motorcycle." It continues to amaze me to watch how language develops and it is giving me some ideas for dealing with Tortuga's language challenges.
Tortuga was fine while the others were melting down but once I made Corazon my sticktight he needed to have his time to "shine." He is concerning me because I have started seeing an increase in his glee whenever one of the other kids is hurt or having a hard time. We had a peeing incident with Corazon on the return home that caused her great distress and he couldn't stop himself from laughing while it was happening and then grinning ear-to-ear after the fact. A few minutes after than we stopped and Pollito tripped and fell face down and Tortuga was the only "witness." He came running to me laughing and saying that his brother was "so funny." When I found out what happened and asked Tortuga if Pollito was hurt he said "yeah, I guess so" and kept on laughing and grinning as I dealt with Pollito. Since then I have continued to catch him showing these responses but I am also sensing that he is destabilizing slowly so I have a sense that we don't have long before the fall.
Saturday, July 4, 2009
Our kids got along pretty well. They played outside, raced each other, (J. can really run! so she gave my kids a run for their money) and even tried to cover for each other when they thought someone might get in trouble. They all enjoyed time swimming in the lake with C. while Lisa and I got a chance to chat while being super-vigilant RAD moms enforcing "no touching" rules with 7 kids (4 1/2 RADishes in the water!) Friday morning, we stopped by Lisa's house to say our good-byes and the kids greeted each other like old friends. J. waved and smiled as we pulled into the driveway and excitedly showed the kids around. It was wonderful to see how anxious she was to share her photo albums with my kids and Special K. was also excited to share hers. They shared stories of life as RAD kids with awesome moms (alarms and homeschooling were at the top of the list) and my kids benefitted greatly from seeing another mom who does some of the same things I do.
Friday, July 3, 2009
The kids are playing out various scenarios for how to annoy each other. So far, Pollito is winning. He has reached that point where he can annoy people just by opening his mouth and mimicking them any chance he gets so he is taking full advantage of it. He is cute as can be but at the moment he is also annoying as can be. He sits in the back of the van and needles Tortuga who is developmentally about the same age so it is much like having two preschoolers in the back seat. I am getting a bit tired of "he's looking at me" and "he copied me" and it is always coming from the 10 year old complaining about the 4 year old. Other than that the ride continues to be pleasant and I am very fortunate to have really good travellers. With City Girl (Corazon's friend who is spending the summer with us again) along for the cross country ride there is more trouble between Tortuga and Corazon. City Girl prefers Corazon's company and attention but since Corazon continues to exhibit some inappropriate behaviors that cause her to have to ride with her hand over her mouth or her hands on her head, City Girl is trying to engage with Tortuga which of course he loves and rattles Corazon even more. Thus the competition begins and with City Girl being a pretty normal kid, she is just eating it up. This is going to be a fun summer, I can tell already.We travelled to D.C. after New Jersey and had a wonderful time doing a quick tour of the city-White House, Vietnam Memorial, Roosevelt, Jefferson and Lincoln memorials, Air & Space Museum and American Indian Museum were all on the agenda. They had their own cameras and took a bunch of pictures of things that they wanted to remember. The older kids loved the American Indian Museum and were frustrated when we couldn't stop to read every little piece of information. I must admit it makes me proud to see how interested they are in learning all of this. This was true at the memorials where they asked good questions and worked hard to understand things that were a little over their heads. Being the good homeschool mom and educator I made them work to understand some of what they were reading especially at the FDR memorial. The highlight for Tortuga and Corazon was seeing Amelia Earhart's plane and jacket at the Air & Space Museum. Corazon has read EVERY kids' book about Earhart and several adult ones. We also got a chance to visit with an old friend of mine who the kids just met in December. He joined us for dinner both nights we were in town. Turns out he had an alterior motive for seeing so much of us during the past couple of days--he wanted us to consider him as a donor if we decide to have another bio-kid. Hmmm...