Where’s that other shoe?

After an angsty, stressful, sleepless, busy, stressful, angry, stressful week, today was… Not. Not any of those.

I’ve been worried about my husband, whose last day with his current employer is tomorrow. He has no job lined up. Downsized. He has had interviews, even with one company who is certain they want to hire him, but will always call back “tomorrow.” Nothing has panned out. I’m trying not to worry. We have been through worse and survived. We’re all fairly healthy, my job isn’t going anywhere, he gets a severance package. We’re okay. We’ll be fine.

I’m stressed about our precious Big Boy. We got the summary from his big appointment, and wow at the things they want us to implement! They recommend a behavioral medicine department of the children’s hospital for social skills group. It’s a little over an hour away, but there’s probably not anywhere close that would provide such a service. We need to set up a picture board that shows him what to do to get ready for the day and for bed. We need to change the way we discipline. We need to get with the school concerning plans there. And about 9 or 10 more things. I was really expecting to hear, “He is improving, you guys are doing great, keep up the good work!” But all of this heavy trauma work is about to ah, hit the fan, so to speak.

My job causes tons of anxiety. Too much for one person to complete, and it all needs to be done yesterday. In fact, nobody else who has attempted my position has been able to go it alone, yet it is expected of me. I hate my job most days, but I am stuck there due to pay. I can’t go anywhere else and make the same money, so at least there’s that.

But today. TODAY! Was the perfect day. It started with the first night of uninterrupted sleep for the first night in a loooooong time.

I got almost everything caught up at work. It was much quieter. My boss was almost kind. I even got to leave a whole hour early!

I stopped for paintbrushes, grabbed the boys from their grandparents’ and got them home. Get this – I let them paint their own pumpkins for school tomorrow! Y’all. I usually do it for them, because HUGE MESS WITH PAINT. They were fed (I COOKED, too), showered, homeworked, and asleep before 9pm. Hubby was not home.

They got along. They played with Legos without arguing. They didn’t fuss about going to bed. I let them talk and play in bed until they fell asleep.

I got an actual lunch break. I went to the thrift store, and a discount store. Alone. For an hour. It was heaven! I ate my lunch on the clock, but I enjoyed an hour of relaxing during the middle of the day.

But oh, the trepidation! Ugh, I hate it, this feeling of when will the other shoe drop!

 

************

The answer is 11:30pm. I thought I heard that dreaded sound in the boys’ room, as I was changing into pajamas. Before I was finished, that little voice cried out for Mama.  We have a puker.

Did I mention, tomorrow is Fall Fest? Did I mention I am the room mom? Did I mention I am supposed to set up our booth, man our duck pond, and all that jazz?

It’s been more than an hout, and no more puke. Assuming he is okay the rest of the night, is school safe in the morning? I certainly do not want to spread germs if that’s what we are dealing with… But just one vomit? I have sent a message to the pto president to find out if we need to stay home.

There’s the other shoe!

Diagnosis: I was right, but being wrong might have been okay

Today was the appointment we have been waiting on for our Big Boy since last school year. We have a diagnosis, and it is similar to what I expected… While I do feel justified and my initial reaction was one of, “BAM! I knew I was right!” My next immediate thought was oh, crap… I was right…

Kind of.

My child does *not* have adhd. Which is what I tried to tell last year’s teacher, and Sunday School teacher, and a lot of other people not familiar with adoption and trauma. It was all I could do to not jump over the table and hug them and give a big “THANK YOU! I KNEW IT!” But I’m actually pretty shy and wouldn’t even ask for a restroom break, sooooo…

I haven’t had time to process all the information we were given, so I’m sure there will be more to come, and equally sure I am not exactly coherent right now.

So what is the diagnosis?

Unspecified Trauma and Stressor Related Disorder, which is a fancy way to say his behaviors that sent us searching for answers are related to the trauma and stress  he experienced prior to life with us. Which is exactly what I have tried to tell countless people, but what does a kid’s mama with “just” a bachelor’s degree in psychology know?

So why doesn’t it feel better to be right? Well, maybe it would actually be nice to have a diagnosis that could be mostly controlled with swallowing a pill. There’s no magic pill for trauma and stress. Sure we could pump him full of anti-anxiety meds, but if he is able to function and we can continue working towards building a trauma-free, minimum-stress, stable, loving environment, why would we?  So, relief that we don’t need to give him stimulants and possibly exacerbate the nervousness we already see, but boo for no magic pill, no magic wand to wave and erase past trauma and stress.

But very good that he is progressing and settling and no medications were suggested.

So that was our psych diagnosis. But wait! There’s more! For the medical side, it is suggested we go for some genetic testing. The child can bend his index finger (and pinky, we learned today) all the way back to touch his wrist. He was diagnosed with hypermobility today, and it was recommended to have some testing done to rule out a genetic diagnosis for which that could be a symptom. I haven’t had a chance to consult with Dr. Google just yet. 😃 And also, he might need to have his iron stores checked, to see how his body stores iron. Re: restless sleep and sometimes difficult to wake.

It’s a relief to just have it done, to get some answers. I’m sad that we can’t just FIX it, already, but I’m glad we don’t have to weigh the benefits\risks of stimulants. Give me a day or two, and I will be ready to tackle everything and march forward.

Disappeared

Not sure what happened with my last post, all the way back in June.

The summer was good, we had no choice but to put both boys into the summer day camp program at their school, with 15-20 other kids. I had all kinds of concerns about that, but it turned out to be the best summer plan we have had since they started to school.

My Big Boy matured a ton over the summer. Several people at school have commented on how much he has grown up. He can SIT at his desk now. He has even commented that the kids like him more this year. The first 9 weeks ends tomorrow, and he has an A in conduct! Not an F, not a D, but an A!

His teacher is a God-send. She is familiar with adoption, and an adoptive parent herself. She doesn’t expect him to fit into her opinion of the perfect student. She doesn’t mind redirecting and has commented often on his sweet nature. What a breath of fresh air. I am scheduled to meet with her tomorrow, to make sure there is nothing I need to know before Tuesday’s appointment.

Tuesday’s appointment…. Seems kind of pointless now. We finally got in with the clinic we reapplied for last school year, now that he is settled and doing quite well. We are still attending, because I can’t say he has zero issues, but I look for them to tell us the same thing they said after his first evaluation: he is doing fine, nothing diagnosable, keep doing what you are doing and call us if something starts again.

Why the sudden change? How does a kid go from wildest in the class to calm and well-behaved in 2-3 months? Now, he still has his moments, still gets stuck on one subject for days, still has anxiety, still asks to meet his birth mom, still has (much more mild) behavior problems after seeing his foster mom, but nothing like before. His more severe and concerning behaviors just… Stopped. I have a theory.

I always thought that once we made it to the point that he had been *with* us for as long as he had been *without* us, that we would see a drastic change. So far, it appears I was right. Again, not perfect, but manageable. On the morning of his 9th birthday, this was our conversation:

Me: “Happy birthday, my big boy! I love you!”

BB: “MAMA! You mean, I am 9, TODAY?”

“Yes, baby boy, today is your birthday! How can you already be 9?”

“Wow… So that means I have been in my family for 5 years?!?! That is AWESOME!!”

4 and a half, but who is counting? Nobody mentioned it. We had not been discussing adoption or gotcha day or how long we have had them, but he just knew. I had no idea how conscious he was of the fact that he had been with us for whatever length of time.

And right around that time was when the switch flipped.

Now I’m not naive enough to believe we are done (or maybe I’m jaded enough to not believe it), and I kind of feel like we are just waiting for the other shoe to drop… We are, after all, entering the time of year that his behavior has historically plunged. Overall, birth mother issues aside, life is much more do-able with this kid.

Oh, and The Little Guy has settled into first grade, second round just fine. He loves his teacher, he loves his classmates, and he is just our happy little guy. Getting taller, gaining maturity, and doing just fine academically.

Oh, and my husband has a job for 3-4 more weeks. Yikes! His branch is closing, there are no other positions similar to his locally, and he is not interested in spending 3 hours a day in the car to keep his benefits. He has an interview lined up, but right now we’re just not sure what will happen.

Perhaps I shouldn’t disappear for so long again?

Explaining Suicide to an 8-year-old; Progress; The Little Guy is Slipping

So much going on, so little time to blog! I read in snippets: a post in the bathroom, a post at baseball practice, a paragraph at the red light… But I don’t get around to posting so much during baseball season. Thankfully, both boys are on the same team this year.  So, while I just realized it is past midnight, blog I must.

My Big Boy recently lost his temper at school in an argument with another boy in his class, broke a ruler, and “said some things he didn’t mean,” according to the note on his conduct sheet. Upon questioning him last night (Friday conduct is not viewed or signed until Sunday night or Monday morning – our family as a whole checks out on Friday afternoon, leaving school and work in the dust), BB said he told (the boy? the teacher? Not sure) that he wished he just fell off a cliff. It’s so hard to know how concerned we should be – does my 8-year-old really want to throw himself off a cliff, or was it just a dramatic, little-kid, I-might-just-die, heat-of-the-moment remark? Certainly, he has no concept of suicide. I told him I would be sad forever if he threw himself off a cliff, and he asked why. So, I told him he would be hurt really bad and might even die, and I would be super duper sad if he was dead forever. Not really wanting to explain suicide at such a young age, I chose my words carefully, making sure to let him know he could talk whenever he needed to, and that we love him very much, and that it is a serious deal to feel like you should throw yourself off a cliff. I told him if he really does feel that way, he needs to talk to one of his counselors or Daddy or I, and if he really does NOT feel that way, then he doesn’t need to say things like that, because that would mean he was really sick.  Hope I handled it well.

There has also been a mild obsession with Kilo Ren killing his father. Daddy and I decided not to let him see the movie until that obsession settles down, and talk of throwing oneself off a cliff goes away.

Should we be concerned? 8 seems like such a young age for suicide watch. Some of it, he does not seem to realize the gravity of what he is talking about… But with his history, we can’t be too careful.

Death and suicide aside, progress is good! We are really close to the middle of the grading period, and he still has an “A” in conduct. Normally, we would be sitting at a C by this point. Multiple people in various places have commented on how BB seems to be maturing, and calmer, and more happy and settled. This time of year has historically been his best, most stable time. It seems like it is all the more stable this year than in years past.

BB continues to ask about his biological  father, usually as, “I never had a ‘real’ dad! Did I? Did I have a ‘real’ dad?” My answer has not changed. “Your ‘real’ dad is sitting in the living room \ at work \ at church \ at the fire dept, but I think you mean your biological father. We don’t know, your social worker didn’t tell us, your birth mom is the only one who knows, etc.” I have explained that all of us, be it birth-, foster-, or adoptive parents, are all his ‘real’ parents, just for different periods of time. He did ask Hubby today why we didn’t just get rid of him and adopt a boy who behaved better, and hubby told him that’s not how it works, we love him, God gave him to us forever, and we would never give him away, etc.

So, definitely a lot to consider… But overall, lots of progress.

 

LITTLE BROTHER, ON THE OTHER HAND…….

 

Oh, Little Guy! He has decided *he* will be the one with the terrible conduct grade! Mostly for talking. Some for not following directions. Not being kind to friends. Several F’s on Reading tests. His reading is still slow and labored. He refuses or forgets to go back in the story to underline his answers on comprehension portions of the test. I think he could benefit from repeating the grade for maturity’s sake and to gain ground in reading. Reading is such a huge part of learning, I hate to push him on through because he is doing okay in everything else.

But mainly, the conduct and lack of attention. Refusal to listen and mind. I see a diagnosis coming his way in the next year or two. ADHD, or is it related to prenatal drug exposure? We have to find out and figure out how to treat.

And that’s about it. Lots of baseball nights, with practices or games 3-4 nights per week. I think BB is just tired enough that he stays out of trouble, but LG is sooooo tired that he can’t focus or be a kind friend. 6 more weeks of school, and we can catch a break!

Trauma is Contagious

Or, your trauma is giving me trauma.

99% of the time, I drop our kids at school on my way to work. The bus comes by insanely early, the school is directly on my way to work, I go by at the perfect time, it’s just best for everyone.

This morning, there was a commotion going on at the front of the line. I thought maybe a child had fallen, or was having an asthma attack, or maybe just tying his shoes? As we got closer, though, I could see it was so much more. Major meltdown, elementary school style.

“Don’t stare,” I told the boys as I tried to heed my own advice. “Do NOT go over there, don’t go into the school and tell everyone what is going on. Just say a prayer for that  boy, hey lookatme! Don’t let seeing that ruin your day. I love you!”

So, on my way to work, I called the school counselor and asked her to check on my oldest. I don’t text (or email) and drive, but as soon as I parked at work, I emailed his teacher and texted my sister (thank GOD for family who works at the school!) and asked them to make sure my trauma boy was okay. Sister immediately replied that both boys, mine and the melterdown, were fine. Apparently better than I was handling it. I, the one who never cries, just boo-hoo-ed all the way to work.

But oh my, the flood of memories and emotions! The concern I had for that kid!

When we first got our boys, that was a regular scene at our house. Meltdown mode was no fun. As I watched the principal bear hug the kid so he equally would not hit his head nor run out into the parking lot, another faculty member block him in the front, the male bus driver stand by as back-up, my sister make sure no parents tried to drive too close or make sure they could stop if the kid made a break, and the instructional coach keep the car line moving, I couldn’t help but think back to those early days….

When all you could do was hold the scratching, head-butting, screaming, flailing, yelling, biting child to keep him safe from himself, to keep his brother and even us safe, until the anger was all spent, and the poor little guy was a whimpering lump laying in my lap.

So sad for this kid who has totally lost it on the front sidewalk for all to see.

So thankful “we” had “our” meltdowns at home, away from prying eyes and nosey mamas.

A million times more thankful that those days didn’t last too terribly long, in the grand scheme of things.

We can handle the stuff going on now. Sure, it makes my heart hurt to watch my guy struggle to pay attention and follow directions. But I’m no longer physically sore from trying to contain an out-of-control child. I would rather he didn’t remember domestic violence and alcoholism and drug abuse from before he lived with us, but he is making great progress in dealing with it all.

I’m glad the little boy was okay, I’m glad my big boy had the best day! He got TWO “great job” stamps, AND a positive note on his planner! I’m thankful BB doesn’t seem to remember those early days.

It seems that only mama is still traumatized over meltdown mode, but if someone has to be, I would rather it be me than him.

Age-Appropriate Answers to Grown-Up Questions

The big question: how do you give age-appropriate answers to questions an adult has trouble understanding? Please feel free to weigh in!

There for a while, we were sailing along relatively smoothly: better behavior at home, A-B student, 1-2 conduct marks per week at school, even one “perfect” week. But now. BUT. NOW.

A tall, thin man. Most everyone in a crowded restaurant (damn you, karaoke night!) partaking of some kind of adult beverage, mostly beer. Beer bottles everywhere you look, and the smell of cigarettes. That tall, thin man frequently stopping by our table to talk to a friend of ours, with at least 1-if-not-two bottles of beer in hand every.single.time.

That’s all it took to set him off. He did tell me with his words that he needed to ask me something in private. “Oh honey, don’t worry – it’s so loud in here, nobody besides me will be able to hear you.”

“I just realized I never got to meet my actual father. My dad who, you know, well, my actual father. I never got to meet him. Why did I not get to meet him? Why didn’t I even know who he was?”

We are working on proper terminology for all the people who have been a part (or not, apparently) of the boys’ lives. The questions at hand were of more importance at the time.

I’m pretty good at coming up with age-appropriate truths off the cuff. I can explain most things with relative ease, answer their questions with a simple statement or two, and they are satisfied.

This time, all I could do was apologize and say I didn’t know. Because how do you tell an 8-year-old that nobody really knows who his birth father might be? How do you explain multiple partners to a kid who doesn’t know just yet how babies are formed? How do you tell an 8-year-old that only his birth mom knows (so she says) WHO his father is? How do you explain there is a chance it could be the PawPaw he so loved?

He went to school and told some of his friends at lunch that he drinks beer. Not only does *he*, my 8-year-old, not drink beer, but NOBODY IN THIS HOUSE drinks ANY kind of alcohol.

Once upon a time, beer = domestic violence. Beer = PawPaw hid the knives, and he and BB would hide in a closet or outbuilding or wherever away. Cigarettes + beer = BAD STUFF happening to you. He can describe in vivid detail the bottles from which she drank. A less-than-3-year-old child knew when, where, and how to hide from his drunken biological family. And he remembers it even as an 8-year-old.

How do I give answers to paternity questions? How do I explain that birthmom didn’t try to protect him, wouldn’t make the necessary changes, refused to tell who his birth father was?