One

Only one incident that led to leaving a Thanksgiving meal early. When my Big Boy started (somewhat gently) banging his head against a tree, I pulled him away with, “I love you too much to let you hurt your head on that tree. Come with me.” Was it for attention?

It’s a new behavior, happening a few times over the last couple of months. Always when he is upset, always when I am there to see it. Made better by acknowledging whatever the cause, and giving attention. Is it being done *for* attention, or is this his new way of saying he needs something?

“I want to hurt myself.”

“I hear two voices. One is really loud, and the other is really quiet.”

“The quiet one says to not bang my head against the tree.”

“I don’t wanna tell you what the loud one says.”

Part of me feels this IS to get my attention, that he doesn’t truly want to hurt himself, but what if I’m wrong? So I err on the side of caution. We go to put gas in my empty tank, I make him get out of the car and stand beside me as I pump gas. He questions this, as I always leave them in the car, because I pay at the pump. I tell him he can’t be alone, he has to stay close to me until he no longer wants to hurt himself.

We go home, and he helps me cook for the next meal, to be split at two different homes, two different sides of the family. He crushes crackers, stirs the casserole mixture, asks to go play. Nope, not until I am sure you will not hurt yourself.

Does he truly hear voices, or is this the whole devil-sitting-on-my-shoulder thing? Because when I hear him talking about voices, the alarms sound off in my head and heart. See? I just did it, too. I’m obviously not hearing any bells or whistles, it’s an expression of concern. But if he is truly hearing voices, then we need to speed along with this evaluation. If he is banging his head and “hearing” voices for attention, I would like to know if this is progress, or just more complications. Is it better than acting out and getting conduct marks, or is it worse because it is directed inwards?

At my aunt’s house and J’s aunt’s, things were fine. Around 25 people at one, 18 at the other, lots of kids running and playing through the house. Well, I take that back… At my aunt’s, the children were eating in the garage. He did come to me, crying, and asked to go outside to talk. He said a cousin threw ice and hit him and it hurt. I told him to get his plate and come sit with me. He did, and within a few minutes, he was back to playing.

I did tell him that we need to tell his counselor about the head-banging and the voices. He agreed, which is NOT normal. He never wants to tell his counselor much of anything besides games he is playing and what kind of stress balls to order and he will sometimes answer simple questions.

To complicate matters, I am currently recovering from the worst migraine ever. I have had them since I was rear-ended by an 18-wheeler over 15 years ago, but I usually just pop some otc meds and keep going. I woke up yesterday morning with severe eye and head pain, nausea, vomiting, the whole shebang. J was at work, the boys were Lord of the Flies-ing-it. They watched a banned movie, and went through my midnight Christmas purchases. My mom came and picked them up, and J has entertained and cared for them since he got off work. My head is much better, I have kept down my first food since Thursday night, and now I just need to gain back some strength from 33 hours of laying in bed with no food.

As soon as my strength is back, it’s time to get these questions finished so we can secure an appointment to get a full psych eval.

Better… Or not…. But maybe?

So when report cards came out, the Big Boy had mostly A’s and B’s. He had a 79 in conduct, and a 79 in Reading. Two stinkin’ points away. His math level came up to above grade level, and his reading level also improved, to grade level. I was okay with the conduct grade. I thought we had turned a corner.

The first week of the new grading period was good.

The next week? The next week. THE NEXT WEEK!!!! In one day, he lost 6 points off his conduct. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems to me that before it gets that far, maybe we should be sent from the classroom to see the school counselor? He had two other days where he received marks that week. This week started off rocky, but he has been better Tuesday-Thursday. We talked and prayed about conduct and behavior today, but I’m secretly not expecting a lot. Fall fest, costume contest, pumpkin voting, giving kids candy at school – they will all be cray-cray today. Throw in a non-typical school day that is way off the usual routine, and all bets are off with my little stress ball. Maybe I will be pleasantly surprised, but probably not.

Teacher emailed me last Friday to tell me the Big Boy had a bad week. He marked on a test after she told him not to mark on it. He wouldn’t quit drawing on his white board, instead of using it for word work. She really just needs him to be a good listener and focus during her instruction time.

Know what I hear in that? He is not getting out of his seat, 3 feet away from his desk, so there is progress. And she expects him to be a zombie-child and sit, unmoving, staring at her as she teaches. Lots of people doodle. I’m not saying it’s okay to disobey the teacher, but I AM saying that sometimes, it’s hard for ME to sit and listen to someone talk and not doodle. In church, in meetings, wherever, a lot of people doodle and draw, and have no trouble paying attention. Heck, I color with the kids during church! I asked if I could supply him with paper on which to doodle, so he wouldn’t get in trouble for writing on tests or the board. Nope, they have plenty of paper for doodling during free time. He just needs to be a good listener and pay attention. I feel like I’m beating a dead horse here, but if he is being asked to sit still and “pay attention” as this teacher demands, that is ALL he will get out of 2nd he grade. He will be so focused on “sit still and pay attention,” that he will not hear a word of instruction. ¬†He just doesn’t learn that way. He learns better when he is moving, or bouncing, or cleaning, or shredding a tissue to bits, or doing anything besides sitting still and appearing to pay attention. Why is that so difficult to understand?

Am I being the difficult one? Is it asking too much to ask the teacher to teach the way he learns? I understand she has other students. I understand they might need to sit still. I’m not saying let him run wild. But I AM saying lighten up. Someone please tell me if I am in the wrong here.

The “A” Word

Big Boy has not wanted us to even speak the word “adoption” for some time now. “Because it brings up bad stuff from my past.” What kind of bad stuff? He would never say. Until last night.

His brother said the “A-word” at bedtime, referring to a group meeting we will be attending. I had them in bed by 8 for the first time in a couple of weeks, and I was honestly looking forward to throwing some clothes in the washer and going to bed myself. I’m still waiting for all of the energy I was supposed to have after surgery, it was my first night back teaching my church kids, and I was exhausted. Isn’t this usually when the adoption issues hit? ūüėČ But that’s my job, so I sat on his bed to listen.

And he opened up more than ever. He is quite sure nobody loved him like his biological grandfather did, or like his foster parents did. I acknowledged his feelings, but told him that we love him very much, too. He listed the things various people had, such as a trampoline, swing set, etc – and I countered with so do we. But they let me buy stuff, not too expensive stuff, but little stuff – so do we. But they spent time with me – so do we. But they took me on trips – we just got back from one. Then he changed it to “I loved them more before they went to jail.”

He cried because he is not sure if his biological grandfather went to Heaven or Hell, and he doesn’t know if he will ever get to see him again. He is quite sure his borth mom will be in Hell before he is a grown-up and can see her again. I rubbed his back and hugged him and told him I was sorry, because how do you respond to that? How do you explain to an 8-year-old something you don’t really understand as an adult?

He said he trusts all the people he used to live with more than he trusts us. I don’t really think so, based on his actions and behaviors.

He thinks he is a bad kid. Because kids at school told him he was bad. “You wouldn’t make a 72 if you weren’t a bad kid,” he was told. One boy is always mean to him and calls him a brat. I reminded him of all the ways in which he is a good kid – he is kind, helpful, compassionate, intelligent… He’s not a “bad kid,” sometimes he makes bad choices – as we all do.

For an hour, I sat or laid with him, rubbing his back when he would let me, letting him talk it out. ¬†I know he needs to grieve the loss of all those other people, but that doesn’t make it easy. I’m glad he finally feels comfortable enough to talk about it. I hope we can work through it and he will be okay.

Is it a coincidence that yesterday was also the day I spoke with the clinic that will be doing a full psych evaluated when we get paperwork completed? I know it could be so much worse, but right now, I’m so sad for my baby.

He’s not a brat

It came from an unexpected person – someone who should know better, someone who should be more loving and kind. One of those memes on facebook. “In my day, we didn’t call it behavior disorder – we called it being a spoiled brat!”

Ah, ouch. And incorrect. Nope, behavior disorders DO, in fact, exist. And it’s not because the child is a brat, or a bad kid, or his parents have no control or are lazy. Trauma, abuse, and neglect over multiple years does a number on a kid.

I wasn’t sure if I should even broach the subject. It wasn’t just about my hurt feelings, this person could potentially be turning others away from the very place they need to be. And it was rude, and wrong. I asked a couple of people, and they agreed I should mention it.

So last night, I finally gathered the courage to address this leader of many. Privately, via fb message, and I know he saw it last night. I kind of dreaded seeing him tonight. Confrontation is NOT my strong point. I normally would much rather just sweep it under the rug and not worry about it. But I felt this was a time to educate. My family is not the only one in this community to have special needs – there are several families who have far more severe needs than mine. Did they feel the same? What about outsiders who might want to come in? Are they likely to join if the leader thinks their having-a-meltdown-child-with-autism is a brat?

I thought he might address it when I saw him, but instead I was ignored. Okay, then. Perhaps he didn’t read it; maybe he didn’t have time to reply; it could be that he is trying to choose his words, just as I typed and erased several times. I’m trying to come up with a reason for no reply, ignore the mom with the bratty kid.

It’s not okay to dismiss an entire group of people with a derogatory remark. It’s not okay to hold a high position, and alienate people who don’t fit your mold.

?????

Typical

But then, he’s just so… So…¬†Normal.¬†On days like today, it seems there are no issues. Assuming constant bickering and arguing with your brother is normal, and I know it is, Big Boy was just your typical 8-year-old today.

He got out of bed, ate breakfast, played, dressed himself, and played until time to leave. He was happy he has already aced his spelling test on the first practice test, so we don’t have to study those again. No conduct marks for the day, even after having Dippin Dots at lunch. He has never been able to consume sugary snacks at school, then have a good day with no marks!

Ornery when I got to Nana’s house to pick them up, because he didn’t get his way. Normal. He got over it, read a book to his Nana, didn’t cause a fuss when she told him it was time to stop. Was mostly happy at home while I was cooking supper, and the arguing stopped when I asked him to dry some dishes. He told me about some bullying that happened at school, and told me how he handled the situation. He didn’t tackle the kid or yell at him or hit him, he tried to walk away, and he went and told the teacher when the kid wouldn’t leave him alone. He didn’t just hide and cry, either. Improvement! I told him it sounded like the kid was having a bad day, and sometimes it’s hard to be nice when something is wrong. I pointed out times it has been hard for him to behave when he has had Big Feelings about bad stuff, in a loving way, to help him understand this kid might have Big Feelings too. Empathy is important for kids to learn. Normal.

It’s terrible, but I feel like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. Just holding my breath for the conduct marks to begin again. He is growing up, he is learning to cope, he is still catching up and doing quite well for now.

I’m also trying not to dwell on it, and instead just enjoy the moment. BB is happy that he is improving. We are relieved to see progress. I know the saying is, “If Mama ain’t happy,” but truth be told, the behavior and mood of the children impacts the family, too.

And so it begins

We have begun the process to work towards either an IEP or 504 for Big Boy. The school will be doing their thing, and we will be doing our own thing.

The school counselor will pull him from computer lab time and work with him on staying on task, impulse control, not pestering friends, etc. This is called RTI, and will last for 12 weeks. Then, the team will meet and decide if he needs to be presented to the 504 or IEP committee. He will need to be tested through the school. They will, of course, focus on the educational side of things – vision, hearing, IQ, adhd.

I strongly suspect we are dealing with more Рwith one or more difficulties that look like, present as adhd. We will be trying to get BB set up to be tested again through the same clinic that tested him a couple of months after we got the boys. Just a few of the things it could be include sensory issues, asperger, anxiety, hypervigilance, ptsd, being born dependent on Methadone, fasd, witnessing domestic violence, changing caregivers frequently, other foster\adoption trauma, even bipolar disorder. Family counselor said he is too young for bipolar diagnosis, since that is a personality disorder and the personality is not completely developed until much later in life. It will probably take a few months to get him appointments there. Which is good, as neither J nor I have enough paid days off to take care of those appointments this year. I am supposed to call Family Counselor to discuss what all we can do as we wait.

I could say so much more, but I will save opinions for when I’m not under the influence of Percocet. Apparently, my body is aware we have paid the deductible for surgeries and hospital stays. At the end of my second day back at work after my hysterectomy, I marched myself to the doctor for some pretty intense jaw pain. I’m being referred to an oral surgeon, because it appears I have a wisdom tooth, partly in, possibly broken, perhaps impacted, definitely causing an abscess to my cheek. Because I certainly can afford another week off work!

We don’t really do “normal” in this family.

No conduct marks all week!

Big Boy had a perfect week! It was so… Refreshing? Exciting? To see him run to me off the bus each day, so happy that he didn’t get in trouble at school.

“Mama! I been good! Me and my brother have, like, switched! Now I’m good, and he is bad!”

Proper English is a work in progress, but we do live in the deep South. I did make sure to tell him that no, his brother is not “bad,” and HE has not been a “bad boy,” he just had some anxiety and stress and needed extra help.

At a monthly family adoption support group, we were talking about the different things going on with everyone. Do any of our children struggle during weather changes? What about clothing issues?  I was telling the other parents about our school goings-on. They said it sounds like we are dealing with a lot of sensory issues.

And so, I think. Analyze, perhaps overly so. Both boys fuss when they have to wear jeans or dress pants – anything with buttons and rough fabric. If they could live in “soft pants” (athletic shorts, sweats, etc) they would be thrilled. BB’s issue with the school breakfast time being “too talky.” Neither child can keep their hands or toys out of their mouths. Teacher talking about BB spinning and spinning and spinning. Constant need for motion, seeming inability to SIT ON YOUR BUTT, FOR THE LOVE! Gotta touch EVERYTHING and be all up in everybody’s grill, friend, foe, or stranger.

I’ve resisted testing. The poor kid was tested multiple times prior to Kindergarten for lots of things. Anxiety and sensory processing disorder were not among those possible diagnoses. It’s possible he was too young for accurate testing for adhd. I resist a diagnosis of adhd, because I know he CAN focus. He CAN sit still if he is engaged enough, because I watched him do it at the Lego table for the duration of an entire movie. In a booth or chair at a restaurant? Forget it. But think about the noise level at a restaurant.

Should we request testing? So many of the possibilities resemble adhd – trauma, anxiety, sensory processing disorder… I was reviewing a chart I found online that listed several diagnoses and symptoms, showing overlap among them all, and I could check “yes” for a lot of FASD or bipolar symptoms. Either of those break my heart! I don’t want to find out something is seriously “wrong” with my baby, but I also don’t want to short-change him by putting off the inevitable.

Follow-up

J, BB, and I met with BB’s therapist Monday afternoon. The main focus was trying to hash out exactly what is going on at school that results in an 85 in conduct with 4 weeks left in the grading period. Therapist thinks it is an anxiety\stress issue. My guess is trauma effects. Teacher hints at just putting him on a stimulant to take care of his obvious adhd. Therapist and I want to know WHY. WHY is he so nervous at school? WHY does he struggle most in the mornings?

I have been curious about this free breakfast situation – a lunchroom full of chaos. No assigned tables or seats, too much free time, not enough supervision. BB says it is “too talky” in there and makes his insides shake.¬†Monday morning, nobody in this house woke up on time. We actually woke up 15 minutes after we usually leave, so the boys had breakfast in the car, and got to school just barely on time. Both went straight to their classrooms, skipping the lunchroom. BB had the best day of the year! So Therapist said maybe we have figured it out. Coincidentally, Teacher also moved him from sitting on the carpet during morning instruction, into a chair behind the class. She didn’t really want to, because that would make him look “different” from the other kids. Well, he *is* different from the other kids, and he is beginning to realize as much. Hopefully these two changes will help keep him calm in the classroom. When I head back to work, we will have to come up with a solution for the breakfast dilemma, because I have to be at work earlier than the time I can drop him off to go straight to class.

I did meet with Teacher before open house last night, to give her more details about BB’s traumatizing beginning, and show her some of Gear to Love by Bryan Post. She was much more receptive to the idea that BB is still catching up, and she kept the book to read it.

The Little Guy is doing fine. His teacher and I are working on eye contact, he has lost his shyness with her, talks all the time, and is a little immature. He is being evaluated for speech therapy, since he still mispronounced the R sound, and a lot of people have a hard time understanding what he is saying.

Now if I could only figure out how to keep them from arguing over e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g, we would be on a wonderful path. See? We *are* normal in some ways!

I don’t think you understand what you say you understand

“I know you don’t want to¬†put him on anything, because he was a drug baby.”

Oh honey, but there is so much more! This can’t be simply reduced to a drug problem.

Witnessing domestic violence.

Moving between 6-10 times in 4 and a half years, depending on who you ask.

Chaotic foster home, with too many high risk kids for one person to handle.

Signs of possible sexu@l abuse. By an unapproved caregiver.

Tested multiple times for a plethora of diagnoses including autism, ADHD, RAD….

Discussions about therapeutic foster care.

History of alcohol and/or drug abuse throughout the entire birth family – including aunts, uncles, cousins.

Taught to hide from Birth mom and her brothers when they were fighting or she started drinking.

Ability to appropriately use the word “Bitch” under age 5.

This child has come a LONG way in under 4 years. He no longer has total meltdowns – ever – instead of multiple times per day. He can help me grocery shop, instead of needing another adult on hand to keep both hands on him, so he won’t climb out of the buggy. He can handle being told no, without melting down or destroying property. Just tonight, I told him no, we had enough cereal at home, and he immediately skipped back over to me and we continued shopping.

Yes, he CAN read much better than 1.7 (1st grade, seventh month), and do math better than 1.8. Stupid testing is not his strong point. Yes, I WANT him to do his best. Yes, I WANT him to be able to stay on task better. No, it is NOT *his* fault, but I would appreciate you not insinuate it IS *mine*. I did not take drugs when I was pregnant. I did not send him back to live with people who harmed him. I did not let him stay with unapproved people who did God knows what. I keep the chaos in the house as minimal as it gets with 2 little boys around. I’m not a perfect Mama, but it seems like I am the best Mama he has ever had, if I may say so. I did not *cause* all of the trauma and inattention and hyperactivity and abandonment issues, but Daddy and I are the ones God has chosen to help heal all of the above.

“Did his doctor tell you stimulants might make him violent?” Well no, because I haven’t spoken with his doctor about this issue. “You know you can’t believe everything you read on the internet.” Noooooo, really?!?! ¬†And so now, I must search. Because I may not have a degree in education, but I DO know my child, and I know a hell of a lot more about adoption than you, obviously. ¬†So now it’s time to dig up some of those articles about trauma vs adhd and how stimulants CAN cause violence in children such as mine.

Not as tough as I thought…

My surgery went well, and I was able to come home the next day. The nurses and techs all said I did great. They had never seen someone transition back to a regular diet so quickly. I woke up asking for a Dr Pepper, but standard procedure was clear liquids. I was asleep when the doctor came in, but my husband was quick to ask the doctor if I could have one, and he put in an order for me to eat or drink whatever I wanted. One nurse told me most women who have the same surgery do not even attempt to get out of bed until the catheter was removed, but I was SO uncomfortable laying in that bed! I spent as much time as I could while I was awake (not often, thanks Dilaudid!) walking up and down the halls.

Being home has been a different story! I only had a minor elbow surgery to compare to, so I was thinking I would bounce right back in a few days. I have 4 incisions and 14 staples in my belly; this was considered major abdominal surgery, and I’m slower to recover than I’d hoped! I’ve been out of the house twice – Saturday to sit at a birthday party for a couple hours, and today for a teacher conference and trip to Wal Mart. Sunday was spent sleeping and recovering from the party. Seriously? It was like 2 hours of mostly sitting in a recliner! Today, I drove an electric wheel chair, but I was definitely ready to come home before we were finished. I don’t plan on going out again until my staple removal on Thursday. Hopefully, after that, I will begin to feel¬†much better!

******I reserve the right to delete or edit this post later, when I’m *not* under the influence of narcotics! I’m trying to get by with just Motrin, but I’m not quite there yet. I thought I was tougher than this!