OB: Fear = Freeze

The following post was from a little over two years ago.  A post on a group reminded me of it.  That and I’ve been going NUTS with this child’s “staring” rather than answering when I speak to him. I really wish I was as empathetic as I used to be.  I’m working on it.  I saw a few other posts when looking for this one.  Maybe I can get back to being more gracious.

A week ago, we had a situation come up that really helped me see how solidly T-lo is operating in a state of fear rather than actually being *here* sometimes.  All the other kids had gotten down from the table. T-lo was playing with his second piece of broccoli.  He had eaten the top off the first piece.  It had been 20-30 minutes.  This is something we struggle with not stressing about due to his growth issues.

I turned his chair to help him down (we have one of those bar height tables AND he has a booster seat).  I picked him up and told him “I love you. No matter what happens I love you. I. Love. You.”   He looked terrified.  I asked him what I had said sure he couldn’t have heard me or he would seem so scared.  He said, “get down from the table.” I tried again and he replied, “eat.” I tried one more time and he went back to his first answer. The child was so terrified when I picked him up, that he could only guess what I had said.

I hugged him tightly and a few moments later repeated what I had really said. This time he heard me. “I love you too, Mama.”

So that was quite an education.  A lot of times he seems to blank out, zone out, just not be there when we say something to him.  Or he’ll start crying though what is being said or done is not cry worthy (sometimes, quite the opposite).  It’s like he’s responding to something else.

CPS Hurts Children (Do They Care?)

Less than two hours ago, I got an email from the children’s caseworker.  It basically said that it was determined to be in the childen’s best interest to move to fictive kin.  Uh, duh.  You already made that decision despite the ongoing concerns.  Anyway, it goes on to say that the children will leave for their visit tomorrow and just never come back.  Uh, wait.  Say what?

I actually suggested such a thing and the therapist agreed.  However, to give me less than 24 hours notice?  I’ve loved these children as my own for the past five months!  You don’t have therapies set up.  You don’t have daycare solidified.  The kids didn’t get the chance to have time to process that that is what was going to happen and understand it. NOTHING.

I called the emergency number for the agency.  Otherwise, our worker and the intake worker, neither, would have known until tomorrow morning at earliest.  I vented.  Part of the email from the caseworker was talking about how wonderful I am and how much I had done to help the children (who have gained at least double the months developmentally than they’ve even been here).  Yeah, blow smoke up someone else’s booty!  If you respected my family or me or my children (bio, adopted or foster) at all, you would have given us a proper notice!

So what I would have done had I been given the chance:

  • Let Ace pick out supper
  • Buy cake and ice cream for a going away party
  • Talked to the boys about going over there and that this time they wouldn’t come back
  • Had the boys help me pack their things
  • Done something fun with them before they left
  • Done their paperwork correctly
  • I would have let my children say goodbyes in their own ways (drawing pictures, talking to the therapist, buying gifts, whatever they wanted or needed to do).

I absolutely hate CPS.  Not one single thing they do after removing the children from their birth families has ANYTHING to do with their best interests.  It has been THREE MONTHS that fictive kin has been in the picture and you couldn’t give us even 24 hours notice?  Seriously?  RIDICULOUS!

And this on top of another email from the fictive kin who took Monkey.  Another email about how well she’s doing while outlining how hurt she is attachment wise and emotionally.  Never taking responsibility for that.  Now, I know that Monkey’s biological parents are what CAUSED the wheels of motion in her situation.  I know that meth didn’t help.  But that little girl had what amounted to a sprain when she was here.  Now she’s an amputee, why?  Because CPS is ridiculous and will not even consider the best interests of the child.  And because a selfish, prideful, and naive couple who wanted another child didn’t care how much they hurt the child to get her.  And who pays the consequence?  Monkey.  Great job CPS.

And thanks CPS for treating us like dog poop too.  We are just people taking “placements” huh?  We are just “beds,” huh?  Tough on us if we or our children get attached to the people we care for day in and day out, huh?  Tough on us if your plans don’t fit in with our needs or schedule.  Too bad you chose to be the dirt of this operation, foster home.  As long as you keep the soap and medication locked up and the potatoes off the pantry floor, we don’t give a hoot about you.  You’re nothing and you’ll deal with that fact or else.

I really don’t care as much about that though, at least in how it pertains to me.  I have a lot harder time when I hear the pain in my daughter’s voice or all my boys go nuts within seconds of hearing the news.  But what really gets me is how much the children are hurt by some short-sighted people in a system that doesn’t care at all about what would be helpful, much less best, for the children.  Young children at the mercy of a system that causes just as much, often worse, harm as the families they came from.

And then, what about me?  Am I just part of the problem by being part of the system?

Is what I give them on a day to day basis REALLY so much better for them than the abandonment they feel when CPS rips them away?  Do the children feel we’ve lied to them as we tell them we love them, that they are safe, that we’ll help them?  Does what we give them help them trust and grow or does being ripped away from what we give them cause them to never trust even the nicest, most helpful people?

What good am I as a mom when I cannot protect my children?

I talked to Ace tonight.  I told him about going to his “other mom and dad” (as he’s been calling them).  We talked about their children M and J.  We talked about their dogs, D and D.  We talked about his room and scooter.  We talked about his Aunt who lives closeby.  We talked about how we love him and will miss him and will pray for him each and every night.

I’ll try to talk to the kids a little more tomorrow.  And hope it is enough to counter CPS’s stupid plan.

ETA:  I do not disagree that these children may do well to go with this other family.  There are some real concerns; but I think it could be a good placement.  I have spent the last few weeks fully supporting this new family that is forming.  I have a problem with them changing the plan on a dime in a way that isn’t best for the children.

Mental Torment

This post is going to tell you what I do to myself as a foster-adoptive mother.  And then you’ll know why I’m crazy.  Please know that I tell myself to “chill” constantly, to stop worrying what other people think, to accept my best, that perfection is not attainable at this time, etc.  But in the end, I am constantly WORRIED despite Jesus’ admonition to stop it already!

Okay, so I was going to start this another way, but I saw this post and thought, “Oh, YES!!!!”

But, quite honestly, the worst part has been the mental torment of second-guessing every move I make, every standard, every moment of discipline, because for some reason I feel like I have forgotten how to be a parent. The plethora of attachment training sessions, adoption books and doctors who seem to know more about my child than I do all feel like dozens of fingers pointing at me in condemnation.

That was written by Sara over here —> http://saraescamilla.wordpress.com/2013/08/24/quick-esca-update/

Sometimes I have this “yes!” or “yee-haw!” moment that I’m doing just fine, thank you very much.  One of my children will  show they’ve internalized the discipline (teaching/guiding, includes correction, of course), for example.  Or there is some other progress made.  The other day, Ace knocked his sister, the 9 month old(!), down.  He ran and my son grabbed up the baby.  I went and fussed at Ace in a “what on earth, have you lost your mind?” then “you better not ever do that again” manner.  And then I threw a party. Why?  Because Ace made eye contact with me the entire time I fussed at him!  My other kids do that pretty naturally, only looking away if it is another behavior in their case.  They could look at you no matter what you were saying, doing, or how.  But Ace?  Ace TRUSTED me enough to look at me.  We’re bonded enough that he could do so.  So obviously my fussing at him pretty strongly a few times (well, and I left him in his room too!) hasn’t caused any issue with our attachment.  Or maybe it has even helped.  He knows I’m not going to kill him no matter how upset I am with him.  It is safe to make eye contact with me.  It hasn’t always been safe to look ANYONE in the eyes EVER, but…

Anyway, but seriously, I’m sitting here wondering if I should really post that story.  I mean, we all know that you’re not supposed to use a raised voice or even use “that” tone with foster children, especially those traumatized by abuse, lacking attachment, etc.  And then there is the leaving him in his room for a few minutes.  How dare I?  Even though I know that Ace and I are just fine (thank you very much), I know there could be a lot of judgment.

But on a day to day basis, probably the worst judge of myself, is myself.  I wish I could do everything perfectly.  Of course, what *is* perfectly?

And really, my kids are BEAUTIFULLY behaved.  Sometimes I think we’re just way too hyper about things.  And then I think, well, they are so beautifully behaved *because* we’re very firm with high standards.  If we relaxed (like I so often think we need to), would they be so far along?  That is another thing I worry about being judged about also.

(Note:  I’m aware that no one else is nearly as interested as they seem in my head.  They have their own lives, too busy to worry about jugdging me!  They probably aren’t *really* thinking any of the things I attribute to them.)

But any time I get onto my kids, whether a look or a quick phrase or sending them to the corner or whatever, I worry what someone else thinks.  They don’t “see” the Mommy-shopping, just a charming, cute kid.  They think “oh their just kids.”  They may think I seem too easily irritated or wanting perfection.

And then….it goes ALL the way the other way:

PLEASE please please quit praising me regarding how well my children behave and how well I do with them!  I’m a fraud!

Yes, the children are usually *very* well-behaved.  This past weekend, we had the District Convention.  Three full days sitting in very uncomfy seats at the convention center.  I had five kids with me (the baby was at respite) plus bigs.  We sat in two rows so I could be within arms length of all of them, helping them with songbooks, Bibles, “looks,” giving them crayons, whatever.  The kids were AWESOMELY FANTASTIC!  I took ONE kid out ONE time to fuss at him (and it was a pretty major situation that no one would have NOT addressed).  In Three days, one kid, one time!  *I* was amazed and so incredibly thankful.

But though some of it is that I work hard with them, some of it is just that they are pretty good kids and for my three, they’ve had almost 2½ years to learn.  And then they are so much better behaved in public.  It is part of being charming and cute for other people.

But mostly, I just mess up SO much of the time!  Sure, I do some things very well with them.  I could list some great things about my relationship with them and my parenting.  But I make SO many mistakes every day.  I really don’t see how these kids are doing so well with ME as a mother!  So when people praise me, not just them, I feel like a fraud.

See, I really am nuts.  I worry about this stuff ALL THE TIME.  I want to do well by my kids and make so many mistakes.  I worry about what my mistakes say about me.  I worry about being judged.  I judge myself something awful.  And I feel like a fraud.  And every day, I hope I do a little better than the day before.  I keep hoping I can be half the mom my kids really deserve!

OB: Do We Love Them?

Okay, the last (actually, originally it was the first) of the series.  My mom has gone home and a ton has happened.  I can’t wait to post pictures of the last couple days.  We also have some interesting stuff going on foster wise.  And I have another review to post this weekend.  Busy busy bees at the H-household 🙂  Again, this was from late March 2012, soon after Sweet Little M arrived here and while we were in the process of adopting our three.

 

The other blogger asked a series of questions in her blog post at http://looneytunes09.wordpress.com/2012/03/09/are-fosteradoptive-kids-loved-differently-than-biokids/.  I’d like to respond.

Do I love my foster daughter and soon to be adopted children like I love my biological children?  ABSOLUTELY.  Love is different between each person, of course.  How could it not be?  But it isn’t less or inferior with any child versus any other child.  I go through spurts of different feelings with each of them. That has been how it has been since I gave birth to the first one through now having accepted the foster placement of the most recent.

Do I have the same love for my foster children the minute I bring them in my family? Do I love them the same as the biological children I’ve had for 17 and 19 years?  Well, that is a bit unreasonable.  It would be unreasonable to say that I felt the same about my son the moment I realized I was carrying him as I did about my daughter whom I knew for almost two years by that time.  11 months later?  Yes, I love my soon-to-be-adopted children as much as I love my biological children.  That changed pretty quickly, but did I feel the same about them as I was filling out placement papers while they were playing in my living room?  Probably not.

But I definitely care about the children immediately.  For example, I got a call towards the end of February for a sibling group of three children.  I felt strongly about them.  I said yes immediately; and I called my agency back to ask what all they tell a caseworker.  I wanted to know if they tried to “sell” us a bit to the caseworker as I really wanted these children.  There was just something…. Anyway, we got the call saying that we were the chosen home.  Well, for two weeks, things kept being pushed back.  I asked about them, got more information, and worried about them.  Some stuff happened and I was truly concerned.  I asked on a message board for positive thoughts for them as I just wanted them to feel safe and secure in this time of things being so up in the air.  I cared before they walked in the door. They never did walk through that door.  I still care.  When would I feel the same love I feel for “the three” and “my bigs”?  I don’t know.  Probably in pretty short order though! My newest hasn’t been here two weeks and I’m smitten!

I know the blogger never thought she was loved.  That worries me especially as she has spoken fondly of a couple foster parents.  What *if* the caring I feel and show from moment one and the love I feel after the first few days doesn’t sound down into their hearts?  What if what I give them is *not* healing in the slightest, but actually another hurt?  Is it really possible that any, possibly all, of these children think we don’t love them in a parent-child way?  What can we do?  What should we do?  Is it possible for us to change it?

The blogger asked if claiming the child as yours makes a difference. I don’t know.  I generally claim children as mine pretty readily.  In fact, it is a big reason I quit doing childcare because it hurt to see parents do less than ideally (imo) with “my” children.  A foster child who walks in my door is *mine.*  But when you have to share them, it does cause you to have the slightest wall built up.  Honestly, my wall is awfully short and way too soft.  Every child has breached it in no time.  I am smitten with our newest though she’s been here such a short time AND is supposed to go with family eventually (months down the line as it is an out of state placement if those people pass the homestudy).

But I had noticed that there was a little remnant of the wall still there with the three.  It felt funny, for awhile, to say, “go give that to your brother” when I was saying it to the six year old telling her to give whatever it was to the almost 17 yr old.  Now it is natural.  “This is my son, {Swimmer},” is different now.  Thinking further than 6 weeks or 6 months into the future really does make a difference.  Did I love them before?  ABSOLUTELY.  But now the roots are digging deep and the branches can move up and out also.

Lastly, the blogger asks about how a child feels when she is unloved by her adoptive parents even a few years after the adoption.  I honestly can’t imagine.  I would gather that the adoptive parent must honestly care deeply for the child and show that in every way possible.   Because of my nature of attaching quickly and strongly, I can’t imagine being the parent in this situation. I have to wonder what they consider love because if they are behaving in a loving manner (love is an action, positive behavior comes from a place of love), it is very likely they DO love the child somewhere in them.  I wonder if maybe they don’t have up a wall that is blinding them somewhat in order not to get hurt?

But then we’re back to the blogger not FEELING loved. Can a parent show in everything they say and do how much they love them and a child not “get” it?  And is there anything I can do as a foster, adoptive, bio mother to let my children feel the love I feel for them and show to them in every way I can?

OB: Why These Kids, Part 2

The below was posted originally in March 2012, prior to the adoption of our children.  It is, of course, still true about them as well as our foster kids (whose future is not yet determined by CPS. The current goal is reunification with parents.  They are also checking into family and some fictive kin).

More possible reasons why we would adopt these kids…a discussion jumping off of LT’s post at http://looneytunes09.wordpress.com/2012/03/23/why-do-people-adopt-hurt-kids .

1) We just didn’t know they would have issues?  Well, I seriously doubt that.  We do have to go through training.  And we watch movies too.  And we usually know a few foster kids.  In our classes, they were called “Baby B.”  Baby A got all the normal love and adoration all babies should get.  They were fed, kept warm, given medical care, kept in a clean environment, were safe, etc.  Baby B, on the other hand, often were given the short end of the stick one time after another.  Maybe they were born on drugs (cigarettes, alcohol, meth, cocaine, etc).  Maybe they were used as sex toys.  Maybe they were stuck in a playpen in their own excrement hours on end.  Maybe they weren’t fed.  Maybe they were hit.  Maybe they learned that crying didnt bring anything.  Maybe the TV was the only thing that talked to them.  Anyway, so it makes sense they have issues and may have issues for a long time to come.

2) Do we have a savior complex?  Honestly, I do think I thought I could help these kids faster and to a greater degree than really reasonable.  A good dose of love, a lot of discipline, some structure and predictability, safety and security.  Surely they’d come along in a few weeks.  At seven months, I was thinking, “what on earth?  It’s been seven months!!! What’s the deal?!?!”  After the TPR hearing, I came to realize seven months was NOTHING compared to what they’ve been through.  But sometimes, I still think, “it’s been almost a year.”  I have to remember that love and discipline and security from me isn’t a miracle cure.

However, throwing kids away simply is not an option.  And I don’t think these kids are ruining my life.  Will I think that occasionally?  Possibly.  But I will remember how great it has been also.  I hope they don’t have it too tough, of course, but I know that their life is theirs to make what they wish.  I’m hoping to give them every opportunity to choose healthy, even happy; but in the end, they will have to work through what they have been through.  I know it won’t always be easy.  But they won’t be thrown away.  We will be here forever for them whether they want it or not.

3) Because we “get” the hurt? Absolutely.  No one comes from perfection.  Some have closer than others.  I had some rough times.  I struggled with abandonment, mistreatment, poor choices, anxiety issues, etc.  It won’t come close to what my kids dealt with; but I have gained some understanding to a degree and feel able to pass on some good skills and tools they may be able to use.  Additionally, I get that people are all different, know the resources in our area, and know how to find more opportunities in time.  I’m dedicated to do so.  I’m not perfect, but I sure will be willing to try anything and everything to help them.  Will it work?  Well, I can’t promise that.

Why am I adopting my children?  I believe they deserve a good family.  I believe they deserve to be “kept.”  I chose to love them.  I feel love for them.  Honestly, I wanted to be a mom.  But I just didn’t need perfect kids.  Seriously, had I adopted newborns or birthed them myself, there was no guarantee of perfection.  Instead, I hope to be as good as possible a parent for the kids I actually have.   I’ll keep trying to do better and better with them and for them.  That is all I can do.  I have hope.  I hope to give them hope too.

Update

So, I am sorry I have delayed so many posts.  You should see all the posts swimming in my head.  It is just very difficult for me to get time to write some days.  I started off this placement with extreme grief about Monkey.  In no way were we really ready for more kids.  I thought we were, but….Or maybe we are ready as it has worked out fine, just had to get over a major road block to do it.

Anyway, it is working out.  The children are awesome and most days with them have been fine.

Ace is 4½ years old.  He has been quite a mystery to me.  He came with extreme delays and some interesting “symptoms” of *something.* He tested MR with hints of this mental issue or that.  I poo-poo’d that idea right away.  Someone mentioned, “maybe autism spectrum” with the reminder that milder forms may look different.  Hmmmm.  That suggestion made me wonder if it is all trauma as we’ve now seen several examples of PTSD that seem like autism in times of stress.  I would guess that coming into care would be a time of stress.  I still haven’t figured it out.  I know that some of his behaviors were learned (and unlearned).  I know that some behaviors (and lack of skills) were due to circumstances.  I know that he is an extremely quick learner if you can find what he needs for you to reach him.  Anyway, so he has been a mystery in terms of what is going on with him.  The psych report done at the children’s shelter is useless.  My agency agrees with my want of a full psychological/developmental assessment by a certain psychologist.  They aren’t so keen on me waiting til August to give the little guy a little more time to settle in, relax, etc.  It’ll also be easier to show the insurance why they should pay again if we wait.

So Ace started preschool last week.  He went only two days and he’ll have two days this week.  Next week, he’ll start Monday, Wednesday, Friday.  He has done well there, is playing with the other children.  We’ll see how it goes.  He likes the duplo blocks the best.  Of course, balls are great.  He was very capable on the playground so I was a bit surprised when he seemed so awkward on the balance bike.  I told him once he can do it “like Swimmer” (with example), I’ll buy him a bike.  He likes the idea of a bike of his own. He is testing a little, just little things, just a “what will happen if” thing.  What will happen if I look at you and push the button on this thing you told me not to touch? But considering how he was when he got here, that is nothing; so we’ll take it 🙂

Champ is a Mini-Ace.  It is really a weird relationship.  It is obvious they’ve relied on each other for protection, comfort, companionship. Of course, that would be normal for brothers close in age anyway; but this is to an extreme.  What we’ve found interesting is that it goes both ways.  In some ways, possibly because Champ is developmentally closer to typical, Champ seems like the big brother.  But then there is the toddler/preschool learning aspect where Champ is following his big brother’s lead.  In many ways, it is very similar to the unhealthy relationship my three had with one another, especially the part where they keep other people out.  One big positive is that they do recognize they are separate people.

Anyway, Champ has really taken to me and I to him.  Honestly, I think he is probably the reason I pushed through at very first.  He’s a beautiful child with the most endearing smile.  We had to work a little to get it at first, but now he regularly uses his cuteness to engage people.  He loves to mini-trampoline (it is a kids’ one with handles).  He mostly stays back and watches people.  He’ll take toys they hand him though.  He likes cars though and will regularly carry one around.  He doesn’t talk much but when he does, it is full understandable sentences.  I think he was honeymooning though as the last couple days, he’s had a lot more tears and behavior.

Then there is The Baby.  She is the sweetest baby ever.  Had I ever had a baby like this, I probably never would have said, “no more babies!”  Seriously.  She’s a good good baby.  She is always checking things out.  She seems wise beyond her years or something.  She draws you in, engages you in conversation and play.  It is really neat.  She does have some stress reactions.  For example, no one else sees how wonderful she is but us.  She goes “flat” for an audience.  For my son?  He’ll lean his head into her and she’ll tap his head with hers.  I was really surprised she learned to do that so young!  She is most attached to me, making it clear she’s not happy if I leave the room (“I’ll be right back.  I’m gonna go get…”).   Oh, and she is addicted to tv.  I have never seen a baby who watches tv! Monkey wouldn’t watch anything on tv except Sparkabilities at 20 months.

She really is delayed.  We have feeding therapy and the developmental specialist currently.  The Dev Spec comes for communication and mobility.  THis week the physical therapist is coming out for an evaluation.  The OT said she didn’t qualify when she was in the children’s shelter, but will come back out in June for another eval.  We also have a private speech and physical therapist coming for evaluations.  We’ll have to choose who does the services depending on availability.  Typically, I choose private because they give significantly more time to us.  However, I’ve been around the block a time or two so can work with her as we’re in this inbetween time.  This past week, I got her to do a “barely-assisted” roll one direction (she can’t do it the other for whatever reason).    Mostly, she is just a happy baby 🙂

So recently, we decided to take the kids fishing when a town not too far away had a fishing event for children.

This is the only thing caught.  It was caught by Ace.

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This is my crew.

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A local “family” I thought were cute:

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We weren’t the biggest family there!

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Actually, we weren’t the biggest family anyway though.  First off, my two big kids didn’t go.  Second, when I was registering my crew, the guy told me one lady registered nine children.  I only registered five (the baby didn’t count).

So hopefully I’ll get some of these posts from my head to the blog. I have exciting news about Heidi.  Homeschooling has taken a back burner on my blog but should get more press.  I have three reviews (two for Mosaic Reviews, one just being a product I’m glad I bought) to post soon.  Crossfit and diet have slipped, but…

Of course, blogs have periods of more and less activities as life goes on.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to document a little of it though!  I have rarely wished I didn’t post something.  I’ve often wished I would have recorded X when it happened, especially when it is about kids who then progress to Y.

OB: “Babying” Older Children

This is something I’m needing to focus on right now due to one of my children having significant trouble and having some newbie foster kiddos.  So it seemed like a good time to repost it 🙂

How we “baby” big kids (ages 3-8):

*I’m CONSTANTLY on the floor, making it easy for kids to come to me whether for a quick tickle or head rub or game of footsies or whatever.

*I rock them…a lot! When rocking, I pet them, run my fingers through their hair, tickle lightly, tell them what I would have done had I known them (or was their mommy) when they were a baby.

*We use dum-dum lollypops for a bottle for a few reasons.  The biggest was that I worried what the agency and caseworkers would think about using a real bottle.  But this has the benefit of being sweet also which is an attachment key.

*Softness, sweetness, warmth, closeness, etc are all good.

*BTW, my kids LOVE green smoothies. Goodness, a “milk shake” for breakfast? Mommy is the best! My three hadn’t even ever had watermelon. Again, healthy and anytime? AWESOME!

*My kids, especially one of them, have taken it further, such as: First words, first steps, first hop, baby sentences, etc. He does it even with mistakes. Like his first steps are wobbly and he falls down. I praise, encourage, help, fix (pretend) boo-boos, etc.

*We play lots of baby games (peekaboo, this little piggy, etc). A lot of finger 
plays and such are fun too. And reading is a very typical thing for parents to do with children. Our play therapist gave us other ideas like “close
your eyes” and then I lightly touch them with a cotton ball or we blow a cotton
ball back and forth (and you can even do that with more than one child). Just
sit close.

*Lotion and a “family scent” are good ideas also. I have multiple chemical sensitivities so I have to be careful, but….My kids started really responding to cinnamon. Well THAT is easy. I can put a small pot of boiling water with cinnamon in it on the stove. I can put cinnamon in muffins, waffles, pancakes, etc.

For me, having babies in the house has been SOOOOOOOO helpful! I’ve had my three since April 2011. I have had a baby/toddler in the house all but 4 months since I’ve gotten them. It helps me see all the fun, silly, touching, bonding, etc things I can do. We NATURALLY do those things with babies. It is a lot harder to remember with kindergarteners. Having those  reminders, I can turn around and do similarly with the big kids. Sometimes, it feels like I have septuplets rather than one baby and some bigger kids.

BTW, one other thing we do is MUCH greater than typical supervision. This was necessary due to behavior at one point; but even when it could be loosened, we didn’t go all the way to average. Having them close gives opportunity to for coaching, helping, guiding, etc. It also gives a lot of opportunity to touch,rub heads, tickle behind ears, quick kisses to the tops of heads, silly words, etc. 🙂

Discipline

Okay, so this was a response I wrote to someone with a four year old.  I felt it described part of our discipline to a great degree.  It leaves out the “babying older children” and other relationship things I’ll talk about in other posts.  But it does give some strong teaching based discipline, in my opinion.  So I thought I’d share it here.

As for what YOU do?

Consistency is KEY.  A lot of people tend to teach kids not to listen until they yell, get frustrated, punish. There is an easy fix for this (but it will take a couple weeks of exhaustion to handle it).  Simply, say what you mean and mean what you say.  When you give a directive, HAVE him comply.  Don’t say things three times, don’t yell, don’t offer punishment instead, don’t spank or give a time out.  Simply HAVE him comply.

“T-lo, please put your glasses on,” may need to include you handing him his glasses as you say it.  Later, you may give him an opportunity to choose to comply, but you’ll have gotten his attention, given the directive, and be ready to usher him towards his glasses if need be. If you do those things with EVERY directive, in time, he’ll get that you have “mommy magic” and everything you says, comes true!  Shortly after that, you’ll know he’ll just put it on because he simply complies with what you say.  Of course, then a few weeks later, he’ll test to see if you still will follow through.  You’ll simply usher him towards his glasses and he’ll see you most certainly do.

BTW, if you find that you are having to actually help him comply a lot or you try to move on and he doesn’t show he’s ready, take that as your mistake for misreading him and step back.  He’s FOUR.  Seriously, NOTHING he is doing or not doing now has ANY bearing on how he’ll be at 12 or 25.  Promise.  Just scaffold him the way HE needs.  When he’s ready for the next step, he’ll just do it (kinda like potty training).

Another key tool is stopping the world.  I had a five yr old foster son who didn’t want to do his peak flow meter for whatever reason.  I have made it fun by letting everyone do it.  I have given him silly goals like making it go through the window and being like superman.  Seriously, come on kid.  So it had to be set up in a way that he wanted to do it.  “In order to do ANYTHING else (other than potty and breathe), you need to do this measure.”  Now, you state it in the positive like that.  Don’t say, “you can’t X until you Y.”  You say “after you X, we’ll Y if we have time.”  Or whatever.

Okay, but there were two tools I *really* liked in Love and Logic Magic (that is the one for 0-6yr olds).

One is to give the child an INSANE amount of choices.  Give him as much control as you can give him in a way reasonable for him.  And make a game out of it.  How many times can you give him a choice?  Do you want the red shirt or the yellow?  Do you want the black pants or the blue? Do you want white socks or yellow?  Do you want the light on or off while you change?  Do you want the door open or shut?  Do you want me to stay in here or go fix breakfast?  Do you want oatmeal or omelets?  Do you want berries with that?  Blueberries or strawberries?  Do you want a spoon or a fork?  Do you want the spoon in the bowl or on the table or on your head?  The point of this is to give him control over things that really should be in his control.  We mamas have a BAD habit of saying no, making all the decisions, etc. Let him control his world.  The other point is that the relationship is like a bank.  You keep making these deposits and it’ll hurt less and less when you need to make some withdrawls (some of the choices yourself).  Seriously, if you have $50 in the bank, then the $47 water bill HURTS.  But if you have $5,000 in the bank, you don’t mind the $47 water bill so much.  And once you have $500,000 extra dollars in the bank, who cares about $47 you forgot about til the last moment?

The second tool I liked was “uh-oh.”  Now the book says you can say “bummer” or a number of other things.  But I have found that I cannot say “uh-oh” in anything other than a toddler teacher voice.  Seriously.  You simply cannot sound abusive with it!  Well, my kids LOVED it also.  It gave them the feedback they needed without causing them to tense up (my kids have trauma histories so freeze and don’t hear another word when I try to correct them because they get scared).  They could stay in the moment rather than falling back to their old lives all because I said, “uh-oh” instead of a sharp “Tony.”  Pretty cool, huh?  Now, the book pairs uh-ohs with punishment WAY WAY WAY too often in my opinion.  It is short, gentle punishment, but punishment nonetheless.  And unnecessary for the most part.  Instead of punishing for making a mistake, fix it, figure out what to do better next time and move on.  A great book to help littles learn how to do better next time is Raising a Thinking Child by Myrna Shure.It is basically a problem solving curriculum you can do as a “circle time’ of sorts (or at supper or whatever) with kiddos.  It is FUN and easy (appropriate for ages 2-8).

So those are a few of our non-punitive, non-relationship, non-environmental based discipline strategies.  Obviously I have some of those also.  In fact, I’d guess that the environment and relationship aspects are much more important generally.  But I was looking at his discussion for another reason so decided to write about this this morning 🙂

OB (Aug 2012): It’s so easy

This seemed like a good blog entry to repost today.  Two of my kids have jumped off the deep end.  At the same time, I’m so amazed by them all the time!  It is the weirdest thing to reconcile in my head sometimes.

It’s so easy….

to be negative sometimes.  I worry about my children, their trauma, their attachment SO MUCH.  But I want to be sure not to miss all the positive!  They have grown so incredibly much!  So often, it is things we just forget or were slow in progressing that we remember.

I remember, for example, having a talk with one’s teacher at one point last year.  It hit us both that the child hadn’t been thumb sucking in a while.

And I remember the first week the one let me sleep through the night (not that *I* slept through the night.  I kept hearing “nee-nee” (the sound of the alarm) in my head.  The kids teased me endlessly about that.

And when the one stopped puking?!?!  THAT was big!

What about how one had only vowels when he got here, almost NO consonants AT ALL! For that matter, we didn’t understand ANY of them at all at first.

Oh, and I have to post the audio one day of one little.  We were at a restaurant and a creature was made out of a napkin. Kiddo was so upset about leaving the monster that we enlisted the waitress’ help to give the monster a new home.  The napkin monster was put in a cave with others like himself :)  The child’s sweet little voice!  I never want to lose that audio!

I really wish I had taped more of all of them.  Some of the grammar and accent and articulation mistakes were so cute.  I wish some of them hadn’t irritated me so much.  They were gone so quickly.

And the fits the one child used to throw were ADORABLE and heart-breaking.  Kiddo just was a scared, sad and angry. Why wasn’t I more understanding?  Or maybe the fits were needed. And they gave me insight into what my dear child was thinking.  I wasn’t the “real” mom.   They’d never say that now.  Then the fits went to pure anger, screaming, freaking out.  But it was what was needed then too.  I can’t picture this child doing it now.  But did I notice when they ended?

The one that got me was the fit recently (note:  in Aug 2012) thrown by another one though.  20 minutes of all out SCREAMING.  I (well, and two other kids) just were THERE.  No one tried to stop it.  That child had NEVER done anything of the sort.  Maybe it was finally *safe* to?  Maybe it was a test?  I don’t know.  I do know that it was handled well.

There are neat things from all sorts of areas where they have learned so much.  Learning academics and eating like humans at the table. Two have been without training wheels for months and the third is ready (third has learned). They need reminders but keep up their rooms and ask for chores.  Two can shower almost independently.

The sweet kids shine through.

You know…we may still have PLENTY to work on.  But in 15 months (now 24), they really grew by leaps and bounds.  They probably were capable of more if I hadn’t messed up so much.  But it is a learning process for ALL of us.  We can all grow together :)

Yes, though they drive me batty sometimes and we go through these spurts of craziness, my children are absolutely awesome, progressing so incredibly much.  They amaze me daily.  I am so blessed even on a tough day.

OB: What’s a boy to do?

Given: Child better not leave bedroom after being put in there or he’ll be beaten severely.

Given: Child will be beaten severely if he wets on himself, in his bed, etc.

Given: Child has to potty more regularly than most children (ie, he is not going to make it through the night).

So what on earth was he SUPPOSED to do?   Did his first parents ever think of THAT?

I actually remember a situation like this from when I was a child.  My dad was very strict.  Usually, I was able to stay within the standards expected.  But one night when I was four, we went to my grandmother’s home.  My dad had told us not to eat anything over there.  My grandmother, of course, offered us food immediately.  I told her Daddy said no.  She said she’d worry about Daddy, eat.  So now do I disobey Dad or Grandma?  I was stuck.  My brother and I got spankings that night.  30some years later, I still can’t imagine what I was supposed to do.

My son was in a predicament one day. I had started a diet and made a chart of how many servings of X and Y.  I made each kid one also.  Why not?  I remember a checklist as a school assignment in elementary school so it seemed to make sense to teach nutrition (there is controversy about whether this was “good nutrition”).  Well, one of my categories, I had put something like grains: bread, cereal, etc.  There were three boxes next to it.  My son ate cereal for breakfast (this was before we stopped doing that).  Later, I had told the kids to get something for lunch and I had gone upstairs for something.  I came down and J was eating cereal!  What on earth?  Since when do we eat cereal twice in one day?  I fussed at him briefly, sighed, and fixed myself something for lunch.  Later, J comes to me telling me that he doesn’t understand why he “got in trouble” when the chart says cereal and has three boxes.  Poor kid.  He was just confused!  Thankfully, in our home, “we don’t eat cereal twice in a single day” and a frustrated sigh is considered discipline enough (though maybe not my best parenting, go figure).  Thankfully (even more, imo!) my son could come to me later so we could work it out! BTW, yes, I beat myself up over the confusion and fussing at him.

See, my son knew I was reasonable.  He could come to me and we could fix the problem.  And the discipline wasn’t harsh anyway though I apologized of course!  And the issue with my father was not an ongoing thing.  I remember it well since I felt I was wronged, but I didn’t live my life in such turmoil.  But *this child*?  There are several things the children expressed being similar.  They just couldn’t make “good choices” because no choice *was* good enough.  Now, we’re still working with them (8½ months after they last saw their parents…update: 25½ months…) to see that things are different here.  They will not be disciplined harshly; and regardless, we can always work to clarify things because I want it easy for them to not have to be anxious about the boundaries.

Bloody Tears

So Tuesday morning, we were getting the house picked up and brushing teeth, that sort of thing, after breakfast.  I asked Swimmer to put the soaps up from the side of the tub (we aren’t allowed to have shampoo and such out in foster homes; ridiculous really).  Well, I walk away as T-lo is brushing his teeth.  The boys start arguing.  It comes down to T-lo saying he is going to put toothbrush on Swimmer’s toothbrush which Swimmer didn’t appreciate.

So I walk into the bathroom and reach around T-lo, playing with his nose, as if I was gluing it back on.  He looked at me like I was crazy (I’m used to that).  So I told him, “I’m putting your nose back on your own face so you’ll keep it out of your brother’s business.”  He starts crying, wipes his eyes, fixes his glasses.  I say, “you will not touch your brother’s toothbrush.”

Then I see it:

So I freak.

I turn him around, pull him off the stool he’s standing on, and say over and over, “why are your eyes bleeding?”

He wipes them again.

More tears, darker bloody tears.

What on earth?!?!?!  I look at his hands.  There is more on his hands than he could have wiped in two wipes (yet not an extreme amount); but it looks partially dried.  I ask, “What is all this from?”

“My eyes bleeding.”

“They were bleeding before?  Why didn’t you tell me?”  I’m desperately checking his eyes, saying over and over, “why are your eyes bleeding?”

I wipe his tears.  Nothing.

I look more, pulling down the bottom lid carefully.  Nothing.  There is no evidence it ever was bleeding.  HUH?

And then it hits me.

We had had deviled eggs (made with guacamole instead of mayo, sprinkled with smoked paprika) for breakfast.  He had asked me for a napkin for his hands.  I had given him a wipe.  Guess he didn’t use it very well.  So when he rubbed his eyes, emotional because I had “fussed” at him, the paprika stained his tears, I guess. I told him to wash his hands well and try to calm down.

WAY too interesting!  SO much for getting my boring life back!  LOL

Semi-Open Adoption and Wow

I’m on the verge of tears right now.  It has been such an emotional few weeks!  However, this morning’s tears are positive.

As I mentioned below, we have an open adoption.  How open depends on the family member.  Additionally, I expect that it is an evolving relationship that will change over time as the people involve mature, have different needs, etc.  And some of it is just getting comfy in our new roles.

Well, yesterday, I facebook messaged my children’s first parents.  It was maybe 3 or 4 sentences, nothing huge.  I didn’t expect an answer at all and was half expecting that if I did get one, the answer may even be hostile though I was careful in the wording and being humble, lowly.  So imagine my surprise when I received a heartfelt thank you message back within seconds!  I was even more surprised as the conversation continued over two hours!

I really didn’t think this day would come ever, much less so soon.  All I have to go based on regarding this woman was a couple court appearances where she was “on something,”  paperwork (investigative reports done half-way by an overworked CPS worker, a couple psych reports, etc), and testimony (from various CPS workers, reports from people the state hired to help her, her now ex-husband).

I also have the COMPLETE lack of discussion about her by my children.  Yes, really.  The *only* thing I’ve *ever* heard is “I miss my mommy” or “I miss my first mom.”  There is not ONE story of her.  There is no discussion of the mundane things in life or some special activity (whether once or regularly).  There is not one time of “my first mom XYZ.”  There is some about their first dad.  There are even some “my first parents….”  The closest was something like the story of my daughter being spanked for helping her mother up when her father pushed her down.”  But nothing specifically about their first mom….at all.

I really came to believe that this woman was just a shadow of herself.  She was probably in there somewhere; but the pain, the grief, the alcohol, the abuse, whatever has just overtaken her.  And in my head, she was the hurt inflicted upon my children.

This was not the woman I spoke to last night.  Her life is still a mess; but she was coherent and able to think about anyone but herself.  And yet, she was open to something more.  Like I said, we spoke for over two hours.  We discussed spiritual matters, the children, pictures and letters (not just from me!), etc.   I let her know that we’re hoping the best for her (something I’ve done many times, but I could be more detailed in our discussion).  I let her know that God cares and that she can gain peace (something she desperately wants and is so incredibly true).

Last night, my children’s first mom became a real person to me.