telling abuse related behaviors from age-related behaviors

11 12 2009

One of the hardest things for me to do is to tell the difference between behaviors that the children have because of the abuse they went through and just their natural personality and age based behaviors.  There are some things that are pretty obvious.

Climbing the counters to steal candy off the top of the fridge – age related behavior.

Grabbing a kid’s crotch at school – abuse related behavior.

Breaking toys when mad – age related.

Smearing poo on the walls – abuse related.

But what about the other stuff?  Things like acting out for attention, being a know-it-all, and competing with siblings and other family members for attention.  It could be related to an attachment or anxiety disorder or it could just be that’s how they are naturally.  (I know plenty of grown-ups who are know-it-all attention whores and I’m sure they were born that way.)

It’s hardest with Alyssa because she is so much like me but also so much unlike me.  She considers herself a small grown-up who has what it takes to take care of other people and who believes that grown-ups need to earn her respect.  That’s all just like I was as a child.

Then she also refuses to do her work at school or learn things just for the fun of it.  She’d rather make friends and play at school than do her part.  That is so unlike me – I always wanted to please adults and impress them with my mad knowledge skills.  I took control by exceeding all expectations.  She takes control by manipulation then acts out when people don’t comply.  I’m a perfectionist and hardest on myself.  She seems to believe that people should just give her stuff because she’s adorable and smart.  If I wanted something, I would figure out how to get it.  If she wants something, she just takes it.

So how do you tell?

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boundaries, part 2

28 07 2009

The kids had therapy last night and Shaun brought up the stuff I talked about here.  Apparently, we’re not the first people to complain about that nurse or to feel like she stepped way out of line.  The therapists had another point I hadn’t considered: her job is to take vital signs to make sure the doctor can figure the right dosage of medication.  Period.

Shaun sat down with the therapists for a while to fill them in on what’s been going on with the kids.  It’s a lot and we asked them to make some changes in their strategies with the kids.

A seems to think that therapy is for her entertainment and after she gets home from it, her behavior for about 2 days after is unbelievably bad.  I feel sorry for her therapist because she’s being manipulated big time by a 5 year old.  A has been doing the “I’ll go along with what you say to do so we can get down to the playing part” to perfection.  She doesn’t need to hear about good touch, bad touch again.  She knows it word for word.  She’s just letting the therapist go through it again because it’s easier.  Absolutely ZERO goes into application when she gets home.  She acts like she’s the shit and a bag of chips.  She’s got an ego bigger than Kanye’s.  Listen to Mom?  Why?  She’s way too smart for that listening to mom crap.

LJ is the grand-master of passive aggressive.  Open defiance would be easier for me to deal with but this whiny crap gets on my last nerve.  He’s been throwing tantrums too, and for a kid my size, that’s just ridiculous.  It’s back to where it was last year before he moved in – the chauvinistic little boy who should be spoiled by mom, not disciplined by mom.  At least he’s not regressed with the encopresis any further.

I’ve got to go sign A up for school today and I almost want them to assign her to the most strict, hard-ass teacher they can find.  Someone who is like 100 years old and seen every kind of little bad ass possible – twice.   I have a feeling I’d be shooting myself in the foot on that one though.  We’ll just leave teacher assignments up to fate.

The rest of it though, is a struggle to the last!  Have no doubt, I’ll come out on top.  It’s my job as Mommy!





New boundaries, therapy edition

24 07 2009

The kids appt went well enough – everything is about the same.  The psychiatrist let us know that today was her last day and they should have a replacement by the time the next appt comes around.  It’s too bad, too.  I like this doctor (all three times we’ve seen her) but I understand the position she’s taking is much better for her.  Hopefully our next psych will work out as well.

The center we go to does monthly health screenings at the same time as the psychiatry screening and it’s done by a nurse.  She’s always a little aloof and distant but today it was just weird.  It’s hard when they fit both kids in at once because I can’t be with them when they do the health screening – I’m with the other one with the doctor.  They have this form they fill out every month and it’s a little intense for elementary school kids.  Stuff like “do you have discharge from your nipples?”

So the first thing that happens when I go in to check on Alyssa – the nurse comes out in the hallway and says “Alyssa says that a male cousin tackles her a lot and he does it because he loves her.”  Ok, they have to ask about this – I’ve actually counseled a number of children who were abused by a relative.

I asked her “did she say anything else about it?”

“No, she thought it was fun.”

I’m trying not to laugh at this point.  The nurse HAS to ask me about it.  Apparently, she didn’t ask Alyssa anything else after she said this, otherwise she would have known.  Alyssa has only one male cousin… and he’s two years old.  He LOVES Alyssa.  Alyssa was one of the first names he learned – right after Mama, Da, and Bob.  He calls me “Lyssa’s Mommy.”  Every time he sees her he squeals A-LYYYYSSSSA! and runs at her full speed.  If he sees me first, he goes “where’s Lyssa? An Cinny – where’s LYSSA?”

I filled the nurse in and she didn’t even smile or act like that fact relaxed her.  The rest of the visit was TENSE to say the least.  Like “did you know that LJ has been having pain when he pees?”  LJ was at the time giving her the silent treatment and staring at his shoes, only answering with a twitch of his chin.  “Alyssa says you gave her a laxative.”

Now – first of all, Alyssa does not know what a laxative is.  Second, she can’t tell last year from yesterday.  This is developmentally normal – and yes, if she’s constipated, I sometimes give her a dose of children’s medicine.  I’m allowed – they sell it, doctors recommend it, and I’m her mother.  She has a pediatrician she sees if it’s too often or if it’s abnormally colored.  Guess what, I don’t have to document it anymore and I really don’t remember if it was two months ago that she was last constipated or a week ago.

During this time, E is in with the psychiatrist, waiting on LJ to get done with the nurse.  He’s not allowed to talk today because he’s been willingly defiant.  So I hear the doctor in there asking him questions.  What part did you not get about me telling YOU that he’s in trouble and his punishment is to not be able to talk – which is his absolute favorite thing to do.  He’s sitting still and being quiet – just ignore him!  The kids are pushing boundaries BECAUSE of the adoption – they are testing me out as a forever mom.  I do NOT need people who should know better to undermine me.

Ethan does not (and did not) want to talk about Mom beating him up – which is what it felt like she was trying to get him to say while I was out of the room.  In my experience, that’s why caseworkers and therapists want to talk to children alone.  He wanted to talk about spider guts and how he stepped in an anthill outside when he was playing.  Those were the first words out of his mouth all at once. He didn’t even want to talk about his most recent reason to be pissed off – Alyssa gets to go to school and he doesn’t – or how he set a fire in the sunroom or how he’s been throwing violent tantrums.  I mean – he’s FOUR.  He’s supposed to be thinking and talking about spider guts.  You aren’t going to get him to talk about anything else by the time I get back.

I thought we’d stop playing these “are you abused at home” games once the kids were adopted – but apparently no.  At least now we don’t have three people a month coming into our house to ask them, but still their mental health workers get to quiz them every time they see them.  How long do I have to be their mom before people stop second guessing my judgment?

I know it’s just my perception because I still get asked when I go to the ER if my husband beats me.  I’m like “it’s a migraine… he didn’t cause THAT.”  It’s just something they have to legally ask so that they don’t come down on the wrong side of the media.  We all have seen the headlines and even judged people without the facts.  We have to believe that there are signs that point towards tragedy, and people are so scared of missing the signs that they lead this very scripted life.

What happens is that the kids end up thinking that they’re asking because I’m doing something wrong or that they need to be worried about.  My job is to give them safety and boundaries – that’s what they need right now.  They need to know that not only am I their protector, but I’m also the law-maker.  When I’m questioned in front of the children about such and such an event, they start thinking that maybe I’m not right.  Their experience has told them that adults aren’t right all the time and sometimes adults hurt little people.

Foster families are built on structure.  Everything is planned, everything goes on the schedule, there are rules for everything.  Everything is documented, everything is scrutinized.  Now that the kids are adopted, I’ve been loosening up the rules little by little.  Things like LJ can ride down the street on his bicycle instead of staying in the driveway.  The kids can spend the night at Grandmommy’s.  We can watch PG-13 movies when Shaun and I agree they’re safe (we don’t worry about curse words – we just don’t allow sex or violence on TV.)  I can walk out in the living room with only my nightgown and a pair of undies on – I don’t have to be robed from head to toe.  We can make stupid jokes when before we’d get disapproving stares from the caseworkers if the kids told one. We’re attempting this idea that we’re a “normal family” now.

The kids know this and they also know the “back-up plan” is gone now that they have forever family.  They’re testing the waters, seeing when how far they can go before they hit a wall.

Ethan hit that wall around noon yesterday.  He’s been skirting it for a week or two.  This morning, he had hit it by 7 am so I told him that I didn’t want to hear another word out of him for the rest of the day.  Then, I have to justify it to the center because if I don’t, I’m afraid they’ll make “that call.”

When we left, Alyssa immediately started in on me with the superiority BS and the defiance.  Before we even got out of the parking lot, I had to have a come to Jesus meeting with her.  Developmentally, this is on target, but damn.  If there was anywhere I should have been backed up on my choice of discipline, it should have been at the center.   Aren’t they there to make life easier on everyone?

So I’m not touchy feely baby-talk kind of mom.  Whatever.  That’s ok.  I tell em how it is and how it’s going to be.  There’s no hinting or “mommy would really like it if…”  These kids are too street savvy to fall for that pleasing adults bull.  It’s easier on everyone if we’re straight up about what’s the rule and what we can negotiate on.

One of the rules is that they don’t get to ask why I said something.  I don’t have to justify myself to a child.  I’m mom – that’s why. I know more than they do and I’m smarter than they are and think about more than they think about.  My decisions are based on reason and logic, but I’m not writing a thesis paper.  I don’t have to defend my choices and my choices are not theories and cannot be treated as such.  “Mine is not to reason why…”  They’re total noobs at this whole life thing.  They don’t get promoted until later on in life.

They better listen too because I control the video game system.  So, they’re adopted.  It’s not an excuse to get what they want.  Whatever –  “adopted” doesn’t mean I have to make up for something that happened to them.  I’m not going to let them use that term for pity or to be spoiled, just like I won’t let it be used against them by the school system.

I guess now I just have to set up the boundaries with the service personnel in our lives.  They didn’t get to go to court with us and they’re still in the habit of treating me like I have to answer to them.  I need to get it straight in my own brain that I don’t have to answer to them either.





Caution: busy day ahead

21 07 2009

I can’t believe we’re less than 3 weeks away from school starting.  May and June were crazy months and thank goodness we’ve been able to have a quiet July.  My goal in July was to bore the crap out of the kids so that they’d be excited to go back to school.  I don’t think it’s worked yet… they seem happy to sleep in until 9 am, hang out in pj’s, and watch PBS.

I found out yesterday that the charter school Alyssa will be going to did get their pre-K charter.  I called up and they had lost Ethan’s paperwork (not surprising since his name dramatically changed with the adoption) but they did go ahead and put him on the waiting list.  It would be the best possible thing for him to be able to go to pre-K there.  Otherwise, I’m going to homeschool him during pre-K.  He’s one of those kids that does not do well in a normal school environment.  He’s not quite ADHD like LJ is but if there are other kids around who are not focused, then he won’t settle.  His brain works a lot like mine – he absorbs info, files it away as irrelevant at the moment, gets bored, then creates trouble.  So, I’ll file his paperwork with them today so that hopefully he’ll get in soon.

For Alyssa to get admission, I had to register her under her old name during the last school year.  There are only a certain number of spots available and it’s further broken down by the child’s primary language.  It’s a dual-immersion English/Spanish school and they also teach Mandarin Chinese.  Hopefully it will challenge her enough to keep her out of trouble.  Pre-K for her was like a lesson in futility.  She already knew EVERYTHING they were teaching the other kids (she’s on a 1st grade level) and decided that meant everyone else was stupid and she was therefore in charge.  With some kids, they do that and get this air of bravado and adults think “he’s going through that arrogant stage.”  With her, she really does believe that we’re all here to serve her and suggesting otherwise  does not compute.  Of course, she is smart and beautiful which means people DO line up to give her things.  She had talked her teachers into giving her 3 lunches a day, THREE!, letting her roll around in the dirt during recess, taunting other children, and basically acting like we will not let her act at home.  It’s all ok with them because she’s cute and smart and gives you those big green puppy dog eyes.  All this does is reinforce the thought that she’s a superior being stuck in a smaller body.  Or something.

There’s a reason my kids act like civilized human beings.  I don’t fall for the BS and I have no fear of saying no.  I don’t use fear or intimidation to keep them in line, they just know the expectations and they know I’m not going to back off of them.  This does mean we talk a lot about the meaning of words like upset, disappointed, unhappy, discussion, responsibility, and who is in charge.  We can actually eat a meal in a sit-down restaurant with the kids.

LJ will be going to the school across the street from us.  He didn’t get accepted into the charter school, and that’s probably for the best.  He didn’t walk or talk until he was 5 and he’s still behind in language and social skills.  Because he was non-verbal, his test scores showed that he was mentally retarded and he was held back a grade and stuck in special ed.  There’s nothing wrong with that because he did need to learn the basics but he has made so many strides since then that you’d never guess he wasn’t always “normal.”  He was in a regular class last year and recieved speech therapy and social skills therapy several times a week.  This year, he’ll still receive services, but they’ll be integrated into the class so he doesn’t get singled out or pulled away from class.

I really hope he gets a young, active teacher this year.  Last year we had all sorts of trouble with his teacher.  He needs someone interactive – not someone who hovers and scowls.  Doing that puts him on defense and he retreats into his fantasy world.  Then everyone who wants to play ball during recess is stealing his stuff and every time someone bumps into him in line means they’re deliberately trying to knock him down and get him into trouble.  This causes meltdowns and tantrums.  Then he’s scared to go back to class because he knows that’s not a “good reaction” so he does stuff to get sent out of class.  Things like picking his nose until it bled so he could go to the nurse’s.  Making himself throw up.  Stomping on another kid’s foot.

When we figured out what was happening, we started playing games at home during homework.  When learning was a happy thing and he felt safe doing it he immediately started getting better.  He was making 30’s and 40’s before we started and after he was getting 90’s and 100’s.  Still, we couldn’t convince the teacher that he’s not a bad kid – he’s a scared kid.  She didn’t see anything wrong with her methods and would tell me “I have 20 kids in that classroom!”  20?  Really?  That’s all… huh.  That’s a TINY class.

Anyways, I have to register all three for school today since their names, birth certificates, and social security numbers have all changed. So I need to get them all ready to go while I fill out the paperwork here.  Thank God that it’s all online and all I have to do is print it out.

I also need to run to the post office.  We made a sale on Etsy!  Yay!  I also had a book mooched on BookMooch, so I need to send it out.  After all that, we’ll be back home and do lunch, then they get naptime and I get to list some more lace on Etsy.  If I get a chance, I need to go out in the garage and get a coat of primer on the keys.  Shaun’s going to do the metallic paint for me since he’s got a steadier hand and has more experience with oil-based enamels than I do. I also need to clean the bird cage, our bathroom, and my workstation.

The kids are up and the boys are already in trouble, so it sounds like time for breakfast!  Have a happy Tuesday, everyone!





Lots of work to do, no money to be found

19 07 2009

I know that on Sundays you aren’t supposed to worry about work.  Let it all wait until Monday and just take some time to relax.  Right…

I’d been joking for a few months about going to work at Hooters to get a little extra cash flow.  When the adoption went through, we lost about $1k a month in income because we didn’t want to wait for the special needs waiver to go through on A.  It would have put the adoption off for another 8 months or so and from experience we’ve learned that a lot can go wrong in 8 months.  LJ’s had gotten approved two days before we signed intent to adopt but being A is younger, we didn’t have enough documentation to get the rubber stamp.  It was better to just get the adoption finalized even without getting the special needs care she qualifies for.  We did, however, get federal Medicaid on all the kids until they’re 19 or out of high school.  It covers mental health treatments and that’s what we needed to ensure.

Note to potential adoptive parents:  make sure you get the adoption assistance.  It’s wounding to the pride, but you’re gonna need it and use it.

Back to Hooters.  I found out today that I can’t work there because I don’t meet protocol – tattoos are out of dress code.  Damn, that means I may have to find work where I use my IQ instead of my T&A.

Unless I find somewhere I can flex-work or work part time, work just isn’t a viable option yet.  I say yet, but the truth of it is that I’ll probably never be “cured.”  Shaun has intermittent FMLA leave enacted in his job because the next migraine could literally kill me.  Reading that on paper scared the crap out of me, even though I knew it.  The MVP puts me at a higher risk of stroke, syncope, and fatal arrythmias.  Being the migraines are severe enough to take out my vision and I often can’t keep anything down, dehydration is a major risk.  Not enough blood running through the heart equals regurgitation and syncope.

I want to just scream that it’s not fair.  I’m 28!  I’m one of the smartest, most talented people in the workforce (mathmatically speaking,) I have the will and want to work – but I can’t.  I can’t even lift my head some days.  When I feel like that though, I verbally tell myself to shut up.  One of the kids I went to school with just died from cancer this past week.  He wasn’t one of my friends, but we ran with the same crowd.  Well, as much as a socially-impared art geek can run with a crowd. I’m blessed beyond belief.

I think I’m just feeling older than my age.  Wednesday, I have an appt with the OBGYN to start talking about a hysterectomy.  Friday is Shaun’s and my 10 year anniversary.  September is the 10 year high-school reunion.  I have three kids, ages 9, 5, and 4.  Two of them have PTSD and the laundry list of abuse related and drug-exposure related mental illnesses.  The last one is trying his hand at tantrums, but doesn’t have the stamina to keep up the 4 hour fits his sister is capable of.

The kids keep bringing up in therapy that they’re scared because I’m sick and they don’t want to lose another mom.  I can tell them again and again that it’s just a headache, but they know.  Kids are really good at not accepting bullshit and I’m really terrible at lying.  I don’t believe I’m going to die but I do believe that I’ll probably battle this well into my 90s. I grew up taking care of my mom through the same thing and I’m a productive member of society.

Some days are great and I feel like I did before I got sick… or until the sickness that I was born with caught up with me enough to take me down.  I have energy.  I laugh and smile.  My grammar doesn’t suck.  I have patience and want to conquer the world. I think about another child.

Yesterday was one of those days.  We went out with the kids to thrift stores and antique stores.  We picked up some pipes for Shaun to restore.  I got some $3 keyboards at Goodwill to modify and some clock parts.  We spent the kids’ Toys’r’Us gift card and their McDonalds gift card.  It was beautiful and sunny and great.

This morning was the same way, but a bad night’s sleep and too much caffeine caught up with me around 4 pm.  I got out and cleaned the wheels and chrome on my Durango now that the local road work is done.  I started teaching A how to work the shower since she’s going to start school in 3 weeks.  I took apart one of the keyboards and started cleaning it and sanitizing it.  We had pizza with the big family at Mom’s and the cousins all got to play and we made hand puppets out of paper bags.  I finally gave the digital picture frames back to my dad (one we couldn’t set up without an SD card port… blah) and set up the one for my mom.  I sorted through jewelry with my sister and stole some of her stuff.  The stupid gate at the family’s place was deactivated so we didn’t have to wait to be buzzed in.

Around the time Mom went to church with Grandma, I was a snippy bitch.  I even snapped at my mom.  I snapped at the kids for singing Spongebob’s “idiot friends” song.  I came home and took a bath, finished a stupid book, and tried to steady myself with working on fixing a flatbed scanner.  What I should have done is taken a shot of Zomig.

Now I’m going to attempt to sleep it off after I get Cali cleaned up.  Nola got pissy and and started a fight.  It looks like Cali lost a toenail.  Shaun’s putting the kids in bed and I’ve got the cameras charging so I can download the photos in the morning.

I don’t know who is harder to raise: children or German Shepherds.  They’re all too damn smart for their own good.