Wednesday, January 25, 2012

In line supervision . . .

I write here often that Dustin is on constant supervision or I sometimes call it In-line supervision. I am not sure that everyone quite understands what that means. Let me tell you what that is like for us and why that has to be the case.

Dustin has not impulse control issues. He also lacks object permanence. He cannot connect cause and effect and struggles with empathy. His issues with attachment also causes him to act out in ways that can be a danger to himself, others and animals. His flight or fight response is always on high alert and he tends to take off or lash out. All those things combined make for a child who cannot make good choices and his need for an "external brain" to help guide him in those decisions is very important.

Dustin ahs to always be within 3 feet of us or less. If he goes to the bathroom, we go with him. I stand in the kitchen waiting for him to be done, or at the end of the stairs. If he needs a drink, I go with him to the kitchen or I make sure that one of us can see him. If I am cooking dinner, he is sitting on his stool or helping. If the littles are not home, he is sitting at the table next to Robert playing his Nintendo or he is 3 foot from us in the kid's TV area watching television. When he is in his room, there door is always shut and his door alarm is on so we know if he leaves the room. He has to be able to be seen at all times. If he is particularly ramped up he has to be within arm's reach in case he decides to bolt toward the door.

Even with this type of supervision proximity is not enough. I cannot tell you how many times a night he is sitting with us watching television in the living room, and he makes a poor choice and tries to hit the dog RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME. Or I catch him out of the corner of my eye watching me while he tries to scoot across the floor to take my scissors off the coffee table to cut up his pajamas or try to cut the cat's tail. Those are the time when he has to move to come sit on the couch right next to me. While sitting there, within inches of my leg, he will STILL try to smack the dog, or kick the kids as they walk by. When I tell him to stop, he says, "I didn't do anything." It is absolutely frustrating! Supervision is not enough, constant vigilance is necessary to keep everyone safe.

So what other reasons make it necessary to keep this tight a rein on him? He has gone to the bathroom upstairs unsupervised and intentionally shoved a rag down the drain of the sink and turned on teh water to make it rain in my dining room. He likes to pee in places that should not hold pee like the shower, the corners of the kid's bedrooms, the sinks, drawers, toy cubbies, etc. He LOVES to pick the plaster off the walls of my very old house and make holes big enough that you can drive a truck though. He hides things that he can use as weapons like : thumbtacks, paperclips, screws, nails, etc. He takes other people's belongings like watches, game cartridges, stuffed animals, pencils, etc. I am afraid he will hurt himself or others or leave the home without anyone knowing. He has some issues with showing parts of his body that should not be shown to others.

Thankfully most of these issues have not happened in a long time. Why? Because he is constantly watched! I have him make sweeps of his room and throw away trash from his food hoarding and clepto ways that he somehow still gets past us (usually tucked in his underwear - ick!). He is simply asked to return it to it's place or to the trash as necessary. I know this is a product of his trauma and we deal with it on an unemotional level.

We do our best to make him feel safe and happy while we are keeping everyone else safe and happy as well. I am not certain he would be able to be in a home without the level of supervision we use. Yes! It is tiring, and it wears on us all, but it is necessary to allow him to live in a family. As my children get older they have begun to help with the supervision. I have struggled with that as I don't want them to feel as though they need to be a "warden" and I don't want him to think they are in charge of him. We have worked hard to strike a balance. I told my daughter the other day that I could do it when she offered to take him toward he bathroom. She said, "It's ok mommy. I am helping you." I told her she was not in charge and she said, "Dustin is it ok if I help you? Mommy could use a break and I know you need some help to be safe." He agreed and I was ok with her understanding of the situation. And he was okay with it too.

The life I lead is not NORMAL, but I don't regret what we are doing.

Daily . . .

My blogging has slacked lately and I need to get back on the train in order to keep myself sane.

Life at our home is chaotic right now. Dustin is absolutely bonkers. As his birthday looms and the nasty weather keeps changing, it gets worse and worse. He does not do well with change. He likes his routine. Winter is supposed to be snow and we have had one crazy winter this year. It messes with his head. He is confused and confusion makes him angry. Not a good combo! On a good note, it has either been snowing or really wet from all the rain and melting snow so he has not rain out of the house is a few weeks (you know I just jinxed myself right?) so that is a plus. He did go out into the backyard and sit in the mud in his underwear a couple weeks ago. Good times.

My foot is still massively jacked up. I am 27 weeks post accident and am dealing with a torn tendon on the inside of my ankle. I am back in a boot. Boo. I do not want to have tendon repair surgery so I am trying to baby it and I have had a custom orthotic made. Hopefully when that is done, it will help with the support that will allow the ankle to heal properly. One stupid move, and 7 months later I am still in pain. Ugh.

The littles are doing well. School will always be super easy for one and somewhat of a challenge for the other. I fear for my baby girl as she will always live in the shadow of her brother. It does not help that she has also had his former teachers so she is really held to his standards. She is doing well, just not on his level and her behavior is MUCH different. It breaks my heart that she realizes this and it makes her sad. I have been trying really hard to make sure she realizes she is a wonderful, kind and special child in her own way. Dustin's behavior also tends to stress her out more and she is very troubled that he is not typical. I ache for her. She has begun saying things like, "I don't like myself." I am hoping she learns quickly to love herself and that being different is not only okay, but better than being like everyone else!

I have only a short time until I leave for Orlando to meet up with other Trauma Mamas and revel in 4 days without our children to meet with women who GET IT in ways that others cannot. I also have a short 3 weeks until I get to love on a Soul Sister who is traveling to Indianapolis and we are making a weekend of it with our kiddos! Life is good, even when it stinks!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Parenting . . .

Parenting styles differ with every personality and people's own experience. I understand we all differ in what we find acceptable and comfortable in regards to parenting our kids. In the community I am in with kids who were traumatized in their early life either through abuse, neglect, organic brain damage or many caregivers through the foster care system, it varies even more. Each child brings their own issues and baggage that has us parents searching high an low for a parenting strategy that fits and works for our child and their many issues. Therapeutic Parenting is a process that helps kids grown and reach their potential while still allowing for attachment and safety to grow.

I am well aware that my opinions are just that. I understand that what I have to say may not work for you. The reason I decided to stick with blogging is that I felt a wonderful connection to people who had differing opinions than I do and offered those opinions and skill sets to me in comments and personal emails. While I may not have always agreed, I took those comments and sometimes changed my view of certain things. There have been times when I have recalled a comment many months later and given it a second thought and changed how I did something. Other times, I can file them away under the "not going to happen" file. I have always been one of the opinion that people who share their life on the Internet cannot get twisted out of shape when others offer an example of how they view things of the same nature in their own world.

I try my best to parent my kids with compassion, love, gentleness and kindness. But my husband and I am also the boss. I believe that offering my children, both bio kids and my child from trauma, the safety of knowing that I am the one in charge and will make decisions according to that premise, I am offering them peace. My son who was adopted never really had anyone who was in charge and cared about his well being. He often did not have food and his basic needs were not met. He was also abused. There are those that think that in order for him to attach to me that I should allow him to make many of his own choices and not push him too greatly when it comes to certain things. I could allow him to act like a 4 year old since he really wasn't afforded that as a 4 year old. And to some extent we do. He enjoys shows on TV that geared to a much younger audience. He enjoys playing with children much younger than himself. He makes lots of decisions when it comes to food, clothing etc. But I am the one ultimately in control. If I feel he is acting too young and has the potential to change that I tell him so. If I think his behavior is something that will get made fun of in the grocery store, I tell him to knock it off. If he does not want to do something and I feel he should, I push the issue. If he says, "I don't want to go upstairs because I need to be near you, I love you." I tell him "I love you too, but it is time to put your laundry away. You don't need to always be near me in order to feel my love." It would be easy to play into him and allow him to stay with me, or go with him upstairs, but I believe that is teaching him to continue to think my love is only there when he is near me. It feeds that need to be physically close to feel attachment. It would also become something he uses to get away with not doing his chore. It becomes manipulation.

It is similar to the process we go through when he has to change his sheets. He struggles with the fitted sheet. I know he can do it. I know it is a struggle. It always go the same way. He tries and quits after 10 seconds. He says, "I can't do it." I say, "Yes you can, you have to take your time and give it a try." He tries again and stops in 10 seconds. "Mom, I can't. Will you help me." I say, "Dustin, I could do it for you, but I have faith that you can do this if you give it time. What will you do when you live in your own apartment?" He tries again and this time takes his time and does not give up. In about half a minute the sheet is on and he is proud of himself! Could I have helped? Sure! It may have been easy to do it and convince myself that I am doing it to show I love him and Mom's help their kids. I could convince myself that it would help him attach to me because he would know that I will help him with anything. In my opinion I AM doing that by showing him he is capable, I have faith in him AND I am preparing him for his future. And for me, the most important thing is that I am not being manipulated! Are there days when I will do it for him. Sure. There have been times where he says, "Mom, I have tried 4 times and I am frustrated, can you please help." You bet I will. That's what moms do.

There are things in our life that are not negotiable. He takes his pills. He does not get to choose what medications he takes and whether he takes them or not. That is not his to decide. He will do whatever a doctor feels necessary. He may not like getting blood work or peeing in a cup, but it is part of life. At one point, it was absolutely imperative that he get a rectal exam after an illness several years ago. I knew it would play on his early trauma of abuse. I knew it would be a difficult issue. But it was necessary. We talked about it. I prepared him. The doctor prepared him. We told him we understood it was uncomfortable, but it was necessary. I would've been much easier for him and me if I had refused. But the information we received we pertinent to his care. Did he like it? No. But, he learned some things are just necessary. (and, say it with me, he could not manipulate his way out of it)

Why is the manipulation thing so important for me? Kids that come from backgrounds like my son did whether it be in an abusive home, multiple foster care placements, or group homes and residential treatment facilities, learn that manipulation is one of the only things they can control. It becomes not only a way of life for them, but their go-to reaction for every situation. By me curbing that it allows him to relax and stop trying to change everyone. He can rest in the knowledge that I have his best interest at heart and I will be the one making certain decisions for him like no one else has. In my opinion this allows for more growth and less drama.

Once again, just my opinion . . . and Lord knows, I could be wrong. :)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Medication and Healing . . .

This is an oldie but a goodie . . . I thought it was a good day to repeat it.

While I would agree that far too many Americans are on medications for mental health issues I think that, as one of those "using" I am thankful for them.

There are a couple different issues here. Let's talk about kids like Dustin. Dustin's issues go beyond "traumatized kid". They are stemming from organic brain damage caused in-utero by alcohol consumed by his mother. We are also dealing with mental illness that has been passed through his birth family. Schizophrenia is nothing to scoff at. Both his Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and his Schizophrenia make him a danger to himself or those around him when un-medicated. It is fairly safe to say that people would not argue with giving psychotropic meds to a child like this. That's not to say that we do not have to be careful and walk a fine line between safe amounts of medication and drooling, overmedicated zombie. Dustin in particular is VERY VERY sensitive to med changes and dosages. He suffers from a particularly dangerous reaction to higher doses of theses meds calle EPS. It can be life threatening and is NOT fun to witness and sometimes hard for professionals to diagnose.

Whenever Dustin is placed on a new medication I ask these questions:

1. What is it used for?
2. What positive results should I be looking for?
3. What negative results should I be looking for?
4. How long before I should see a change? When should I call you if I don't see a change?
5. How long does it take for the medication to get out of his system?

The last 2 I find particularly important since I need to know if a medication should begin working right away, or if it will take 3 weeks before I see the wanted results. That way, I can see if this medication will be effective or a dud. For instance, medications like Adderall are "in and out" in one day, where Zoloft may take 3-4 weeks before you see if it is effective. I also like the last question, so that I know if the medication has a half-life in his body. That one is particularly important for me since he typically has EPS reactions to medications. I need to know how long after he stops taking it will it still be affecting him.

The other issue is kids like my youngest son Harrison. Harrison is 8 years old and brilliant. This child was talking in full sentences at one year old, and reading words at three. He was reading for comprehension and enjoyment by four. When he was a kindergartner, he really started struggling with keeping his body still at school. He didn't look at you when you were talking, yet he could tell you everything you said. He was full of energy and was ALWAYS moving. I chalked most of it up to immaturity, because he was young for his grade and he had always been a little extra emotional. He started getting frustrated about not being successful in the social and behavioral aspect of school. He began getting very emotional about it. We started him on meds for ADHD. It made him a wonderful student in ALL ways. It has given him his self esteem back. It has been a blessing. Could he have lived without this medication? Sure. But he would not be the happy kid that he is now. He would not have the friends or the self confidence he does now. He would be "that" kid in the classroom. We have him on a fairly low dose and I do not think it is effecting him negatively. I think of it as giving him tools to be productive and the ability to restrain himself. Perhaps he can learn this on his own later after he masters how to calm his own body down, perhaps not.

Then we have the issue of my medication. My OCD went undiagnosed until I was 28 and married. I am so very thankful for the meds that helped me get that part of my personality under control and allow me to live my life to the fullest. I could survive with and OCD diagnosis and not have medication, but I would not be "free" to have the life I have now. I would be a slave to the compulsions and the obsessions.

I know that not all meds prescribed by doctor's are necessary, but wow, who am I to judge whether or not a drug could be helpful to someone. Would anyone ever begrudge a diabetic their insulin? Or a heart patient their blood thinner? It would be a no brainer. That medication is needed for them to live! Why are psychotropic drugs looked at as options by so many people instead of necessities?

And don't even get me started on people who say things like, "If your depressed, don't count on medication to help you, you just need to rest in God." Please! I have no issue with the power of prayer, but when we are dealing with a chemical imbalance, medication can help. Most of those people would never say to a cancer patient, "If you have cancer, don't do chemo, you just need to pray more."

Life is hard. Our world moves faster and faster each year. We strive to be better people, to make more money, to provide for our children. We struggle to keep up the pace and to not get weary. Marriage is difficult. So many of us are raising kids with issues. Our lives are spinning out of control in our fast paced world. In my opinion, it is okay to acknowledge our faults and our issues and treat them just as we would an illness. I don't see the harm in that.

Perhaps it is because I have lived it. I can see the danger or not medicating children with difficult issues. I have lived as that child trapped inside my own struggles with OCD and am now living virtually free of those chains as an adult. I have seen both sides. I can see the benefit and, gosh darn it, if I can help my child live a better life I will!

Let me fill you in quickly on my beliefs. I believe that Jesus is the son of God. I believe that he was crucified and rose again to save me. I believe that it is my responsibility as a Christian to follow his teachings. I believe that I am not infallible. I sin daily. I ask for forgiveness when mistakes are made and try the next day to do better. I believe God is a God of healing. I believe I will go to heaven when I die. That's it in a nutshell.

In addition to that I believe God is a God of peace. I believe he tells us to love others. I believe we are supposed to show people love and understanding and have tolerance. I believe that people have free will and while I may not agree with their decisions, I cannot judge them for making them. I believe that they will not consider my view on things if I choose intolerance. It is my job to be the hands and feet of Jesus on Earth with kindness, charity, benevolence and love being of supreme importance. I also believe that God knows what is best for me. I believe that things are done in His timing and because He knows the big picture, it's always best. I believe it's not my job to question that.

All that being said, I would love for Dustin to be healed. I have no idea if that is in the cards or not, but I don't pray for that. He was born with organic brain damage. I don't look at him like he is ill. I see him for who he is and who God allowed him to be. I accept him and his disability. Do I pray that he will get better, yes! But I never have prayed that the FAS goes away in the same way I have never prayed that Harrison's ADD goes away. Could God do that? I believe he could. Does that mean I don't have faith that he will do it for Dustin? I don't think so. God doesn't need me to heal him if he wishes.

I have faith that our life will get easier. I have faith that things will work out. I have faith that while I continue to trust daily in God that life will go easier than if I didn't. I rely on therapy, medication, kind thoughtful doctors, and lots and lots of patience. I pray for guidance and direction. I pray for peaceful spirits and a hedge of protection around my family.

Does that make me less of a Christian. I don't think so. I think God gives us things like therapy and medication to facilitate what he has for us. I think refusing psychiatric medication, chucking away therapy and simply relying on God to fix things is just as dangerous as those religious zealots who refuse medical treatment for illnesses.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

On a cleaner note . . .

About a year or so ago, I decided to try a dry version of homemade laundry soap. I was intimidated by the liquid versions that made 10 gallons at a time. That is quite a commitment, and I have a very small laundry room, so finding space for 10 gallons of soap gave me the hives!

I liked the dry version. It was a bar of Fels Naptha soap, a half box of Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda and a half box of Borax. Sometimes I added a dry bleach alternative because I found that my whites got pretty dingy.

A bit ago, Jayme over at Tale from the Coop Keeper, shared her liquid laundry soap recipe that did not make enough to drown a cow. I tried it and we LOVE it. I think her observation is correct, while the dry version work ok, I don't think that the washer water will ever get hot enough to melt the Fels Naptha well enough to clean the clothes. This is her tutorial on how to make her recipe, seriously, you will not be sorry.

When I made my liquid batch I still have a bit of the dry version left. I have been using it for cleaning sinks, toilets, tubs and showers. It works great as a replacement for a scouring powder. It is abrasive but gentle. Today, for instance, I scrubbed my stand-up shower that was seriously covered in soap scum and hard water stains. I sprayed the stall down with a strong vinegar and water solution and then took a wet rag, dipped it in the dry mixture and scrubbed. I oculd not believe how fast the scummy, filmy stuff came off. The entire stall (that had not been cleaned in am embarrassing amount time) only took me less than 5 minutes to clean and that is with a bum leg! A quick spray with the shower head and it is sparkly and ready for stinky, dirty kids to mess it up again!

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Controversial . . .

I have not been very controversial here for some time. I have given up on the political talk here because it is just not worth the hassle. This is probably not the one thing to jump back on the controversial bandwagon, and honestly it may not be very well written, but I feel like I need to get some of this stuff out of my head, so here goes . . .

I live in the town that dear little Aliahna Lemmon was murdered in. I heard about her being missing just before leaving for church on Christmas Eve. I was disheartened and worried like any normal person would be. It tugged at my heart that this child was missing during the holidays and it wore on me the entire Holiday weekend. When it was finally found that she was murdered by a family friend I was sickened. Even before we heard all the gruesome details, I was sickened that this child's life was taken from her. I of course hugged my kids a bit tighter and gave them many more kisses that weekend.

Within a very short time people were not just horrified that this man monster had done this, but they began saying that the family was to blame. Almost immediately people began to point fingers at the mother for allowing her children to be watched by this man, for living in this trailer park that housed 15 sex offenders, for not taking care of her kids during her flu, on and on and on. When did we as a society become so very judgmental? When did we stop feeling empathy for the victims families and start immediately digging for dirt on them?

I will not argue here about the family and the choices they made. I will not argue if they are guilty of putting her in harms way. I will not purpose to know anything about that situation as I do not live in that woman's shoes. She does, and I would hate to be in those shoes tonight as she sits through her daughter's memorial service. Is she blameless, probably not. But I am not the justice system. I could have very well been the one to make those terrible mistakes. I would hate for someone to be searching the internet for all my known associates, their associates and all my family members looking for the very bad seeds. I am certain there may be a few spoiled ones in my bunch as well.

I am also not going to judge the ones looking for these things. This is the day and age of media. You can do whatever you want. If indeed there was some issue and someone needs to be brought into the situation, more power to you. You have that right. I have a child who's life was saved because someone chose to butt into the issues happening in his birth family's home. I am pleased that someone brought that situation to light. I am by no means saying mind your own business.

I guess the issue I am having is that people were so very quick to villainize the mother. There was a very obvious villain in this scenario, it was Michael Plumadore. He confessed. He led police and FBI investigators to the several places where he had disposed of her remains. A local journalist who had spoken to MP several times during the search was astounded that he had been fooled by his sincerity. The family continues to say they are distressed that he could've done this, that they had been duped by his kindness and his gentleness. Is it really so hard to believe that this monster had fooled them? Do you really want to believe that this mother knowingly and willingly put her kids in his care knowing he was looney? Does that makes more sense to you? It doesn't me.

Then we have the whole sexual predator angle. It is spoken about in every conversation there is about the murder. There has yet to be anything that has told us that Aliahna was sexually molested. We may never know. Dear Lord, how I hope that was not the case. But the sexual predator part of the equation came into the picture because there were so many living in this small trailer park. Does that need some attention? Sure. Did the mom know? Yes she did. From reports, she had no other choices. She seemed to be in a cycle of poverty. I will not argue if that ws something she could've fixed or something she chose. What I am saying is that some people have no choices. When you are caught in that world, there seems to be no escape. Some people know much else and everything they deal with seems to be the norm and there is nothing else. Once again I am not defending, I am just thinking out loud.

I guess what I struggle most with is the fact that we have no idea what living that life is like unless we have been there. Pointing fingers and shaming will not fix the situation. I think the people that are hollering the loudest about the situation saying that the mother should've made better choices are likely the same ones who would use words like welfare whore, white trash and lazy but will talk about how Aliahna should've had a better life? How do you think that would happen without public assistance? The ones having such a problem with her life and choices are the same ones who would likely be against public assistance programs. This child was born in a bad situation.

If you want to point fingers . . . where were you? What do you do when you see a mom struggling in the grocery? What do you do when a child at your kid's school needs a warm winter coat? Do you donate to the Food Bank? Do you give to that Salvation Army bucket? The people who villainize the parents who cannot take care of their children tend to forget that by you not supporting public programs you are not only punishing the adults but the kids by default.

Lets be pissed. Lets be angry. Lets make sure that laws are changed. But lets get angry at the one who committed this horrible crime, not the ones who have to live with it forever. I am sure they hate themselves enough for all of us.