Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Gang's All Here

So the anticipated time has arrived, and the whole gang that will be coming for the Christmas holiday is here.

Hmmm.....not so much fun.  The bickering is never ending.  The adult children are worse than the young ones.  No one seems to be able to find their place here.

But I will enjoy them for who they are, ignore them, and shut them off when needed.  Such is the reality of a large family coming back together when normally many are gone.  Zoe was counting the cars out front today and saying there were a few more than normal.  We are thankful they have cars to travel to us.  We may fill a tank or two with gas, but that is our joy to help them visit.  Some are missing.  Hopefully, some day they will want to visit again.  We are patient with their past and present demons.

Again, happy holidays to all.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Eve Eve 2011

Snowflakes fall from the sky as the children eagerly await the coming of Christmas.

The adult children are traveling or will soon be on their way with the grands.  Those who are out of school or off from work are home playing, eating and relaxing.  Right now, there is peace in our household.

Ruben is experiencing his first Christmas with us.  The joy and love emanates from that boy like no other we've had.  His quirky personality makes for some odd conversations.  The banter never stops.  We are all enjoying Ruben so much.  Its rare to have a thankful, grateful foster child.  Ruben is currently playing with a giant n3rf gun, his present to himself. No medications for Ruben after years and years of therapy and many out of home placements.

There has been sadness this holiday season.  More sadness than anger and fear.

Many years ago, Little Pro's birth family threatened our family in a very scary way.  Christmas was spent in fear.  Never do we want to have that occur again.  Nothing significant happened.  Safety was maintained, but we know first hand the fear that can grip us during the holidays.

May peace come to your home and hearts this Christmas season.  May you have the boundaries that you need to allow that peace within yourself.  

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Celebrating Differences

Over the years, we have had children with so many cultural backgrounds.  It has helped us to grow as people.  We enjoy learning the celebrations of many different ethnicities.

Tonight begins Chanukah.  My children love the lighting of the candles and the treats that come with the celebration of the lights.  We have decided that this Thursday will be the night we make doughnuts or sufganiyot.   This is their most favorite part of our traditional celebration.  They are delicious, and we only make them once a year.  We do not always make Challah bread during Chanukah, but this year the holiday season will allow us to do that as well.  Lexy is especially thankful when we make Challah and was excited when I texted that this will be happening this holidays season.

Tomorrow is the beginning of winter solstice. Many cultures celebrate the coming of the the light. Our family will participate in a dusk to dawn bonfire with food and friends.  The storytelling season is in full swing, so there will be many stories to absorb by the fire.  This is a part of our American Indian culture.

Lexy especially enjoys Kwanza and the seven principles.  Each day is dedicated to a specific principal.  They are Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith).   Much can be learned from the celebration of Kwanza, which like most holidays, ends in a feast.

Sometimes, I think my kids want to celebrate all of the holidays for the feasting.  I guess why not?  They have had so little food to enjoy in their lifetimes.  Learning to celebrate with food is a lasting love for them.  Sure, they still hoard some of the treats. Its okay.  We learned long ago that it was not the end of the world to lock up the treats, so they were there for everyone to enjoy.

Christmas is a huge blow out with lots of goodies and presents.  We rarely buy much except at Christmas.  No big back to school shopping.  No huge birthdays.  But at Christmas, there are many presents under the tree.  Candlelight church services are attended.

Blending our family traditions with others and celebrating culture is one of the blessings of foster care and adoption.  May your family enjoy their celebration this holiday season.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Holiday Terrors

When children come to live with us, they are often frightened by the holidays.  Most foster kids have horrible Christmas memories.  Their lives were train wrecks during the holidays.

Early on in our journey of fostering, we had an infant placed with us that would lead to an adoption.  This child was our first to be diagnosed with an FASD.  Her biological family had/has many mental health issues.

We used to frequent a favorite Christmas event.  During our first Christmas with Little Pro, our world was rocked by the relatives.  At this event, a dear friend was holding Little Pro.  One of Little Pro's relatives came up to our friend and snatched the baby.  The friend was so overcome with terror she could not speak.  The fright disabled her brain.  After some tense moments, friend regained control and took the child back into her custody.

This memory never leaves me at Christmas.  I can only imagine the fright our children have when reliving Christmas terrors.  My world feels with empathy because of this horrible Christmas memory.  PTSD can grip me, so I have an empathy for our many children during the holidays.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

ADHD Medications & Zoe

Zoe is one of my children who has major attention and focus issues.  Anyone would know if she has not taken her medication.  She cannot listen or respond in a coherent manner to any sort of request.  She cannot converse reasonably.  Her speech is often garbled at best.  She moves in a fog.  Alternately, she can be incredibly loud and talk so fast that she is incoherent.  Every test failed.  Every job assignment bungled.

On her ADHD medications, she is a different person.  She enjoys life.  She participates fully.  Her contributions to conversations make sense.  Her organization skills are phenomenal.  Her employers love her as she can stay focused on task and complete every job in a timely manner.  Teachers find her work ethic enviable.

Zoe is an incredible daughter making it as a young adult, even though life threw too many curve balls her way.  She suffers from PTSD & major depression, has FAS, and her ADHD is out of control unmedicated.  Her psychiatrist has worked with her for many, many years.  They have a very good relationship and her medications work for her.  Zoe is learning to manage them herself.  Sometimes being an accurate reporter of her symptoms is hard, but she is trying really hard to become independent.

The life trauma has dealt her a rough start.  She has decided to work through some of the issues that she can now tackle as a young adult.  Sometimes there are success stories in older child adoption.  Zoe is a success in so many ways.

Her medication is crucial to her success.  Without her SSRI and her ADHD medication, she would not be a functioning, responsible adult.  I am very proud of Zoe and all of her efforts.  She works twice as hard as many others for less success.  She's a great daughter.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas Trees

Recently, there were a few flurries and my adult foster son was out helping to put up Christmas decorations.  He confided that he had never decorated a tree before to us.  Wow.  Its conversations like that one that make foster care our ministry.  To provide for a child, even an adult, the opportunity to do something so basic as decorating a tree makes all of the rages worth while.  This is a very thankful child - a rarity in our world.

Christmas is a horrible holiday for most of my kids.  Holiday Hell is aptly named for us.  No amount of moderation can bring calm.  The only thing that helps is time.  Time with us.  Stability.  All of the things that time brings: the knowledge that we will continue to be there for them regardless of their horrible memories.  Sometimes that means not living under our roof.  We are there for them though.  We will celebrate in whatever way they can handle.

Lexy covets the time with family.  There was a time when she could not bring herself to have a good time.  Now, she finds the memories and traditions what she loves.  She never forgets the food.  Our celebrations are usually the same around food.  There can be an adjustment for a new person, but most of them love the food we serve from the homemade doughnuts during Chanukah to the Christmas ham and the potato casserole on Christmas morning.  Lexy never forgets and needs that yearly stability that I need too.

It will be Holiday Hell.  We will survive.  We will even enjoy ourselves, because we have learned much through the years to keep expectations to a minimum and celebrations appropriate for our group of the year.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Recent Psychotropic Medication Stories

Lots in the news of late about over medicating foster children with psychotropic medications.  Here is one story.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/01/us-report-foster-kids-get_n_1123888.html

Given the title of the blog, I should weight in here.  I have never had a child take 5 or more psychotropic medications.  Never.  I have never had a pediatrician medicate a child with psychotropics.  I have had some very bad doctors/nurse practitioners trained in the field of psychiatry.  My kids have been on everything from Depok0te to Ab!lify to L!th!um.  For some, the medications worked due to a diagnosis.  My youth diagnosed with bipolar cannot function in a home setting without mood stabilizers.  Often, the youth I've had with mood disorders do end up in group homes or other more restricted living situations due to their lack of appropriate behaviors.  It is not possible to safely live with someone that smashes windows, threatens with knives and prowls all night.  These things have happened numerous times in our home.

I absolutely believe that psychotropics do help children with diagnosed disorders to function responsibly in our society.  I would never give medications to a child, youth or young adult without a psychiatrist medicating according to diagnosis and symptoms.

Lexy has gotten into all sorts of hot water over the years.  As a young adult, Lexy has been admitted to the psychiatric hospital many times.  She has been made to live in-patient at lock down facilities.  Never while our responsibility as our child.  Lots of horrible situations.  While at home for most of her childhood, Lexy was never medicated with anything more than Omega-3 and 5HtP.  The goal of her providers, once a young adult and seeking help, was to medicate her at all costs.  Lexy is very head strong and intelligent.  She absolutely refused medications at all turns except for a brief stint on an SSRI.  That caused more hyperactivity was soon discontinued at her request.

I know from this multiple year long escapade that horrible people can and do medicate for all of the wrong reasons.  Lexy escaped without a lengthy medication history.  Her ADHD causes enormous disorganization for her.  A medication for ADHD may have helped to focus her brain.  I don't know.  We never tried that route with her.  Her other issues were so overpowering when she came to live with us. She was a young adult by the time much of the trauma healed, so we could see the real organic brain issues.

It is hard to sort through psychotropic medications. They are an absolute NEED for many children.  Their diagnoses demand medications.  Most NEED long-term commitments from caring adults to help with their traumatized brains.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


So many boundaries are hard for our kids.  They can be the simple ones like not getting into another person's personal space.  My oldest adoptee, Lexy, was always in everybody's else's personal space.  This kid would bump into siblings many, many times a day.  She simply did not know how to walk without bumping into another person.  Today, after many years, she is able to walk with appropriate personal boundaries. Was there a need for sensory imput?  Not really.  Lexy didn't know how to get appropriate touch, so she bumped into people all of the time.

This problem with her also manifested itself with strangers.  She would sit in anyone's lap.  We soon had to make it an absolute rule that Lexy sat in no one's lap, except parent's.  It took years before she could comply.  People that should have known better didn't know what to do when this big kid climbed into their lap.  Once again, it stopped.  It took years.

I'm not sure what the reason for such issues are.  Many would say RAD, which so many kids have in varying forms.  Many say FASDs.  They certainly contribute.  Early sexual abuse is a huge problem with maintaining appropriate boundaries.  Trauma in general contributes.  All of our foster/adoptive children have almost all of these simultaneously.  It takes years and years of modeling appropriate behaviors for them to unlearn.  Lexy was hugely traumatized as a young child for many years.  Pre-natal exposure disrupted the pathways in the brain.  She will never have typical boundaries, but she is improving yearly and that's all we can ask for with anyone.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The problem with school

I know that school is the toughest challenge of raising traumatized kids.  Schools are not equipped to teach our children with their alphabet diagnoses and multiplicity of issues.

The story is the same.  Our children do not do well, because they won't.  Of course, if the child arrives at the new school in a wheelchair and the school has no rails or ramps, the school does not tell them to get up and start participating after a five minute break.  Yet, that's how our traumatized children are treated all too frequently.

Trauma injures their brains.  They are cognitively delayed.  They are emotionally delayed.  They are behaviorally delayed.  They cannot just take five minutes and regroup to learn.

I say this over and over at IEP meetings.  I say this over and over to other parents.  I say this over and over at support groups.  Our children's brains have been permanently altered and the solution is not easily determined.  It takes a lot of work by the family, the child and the system to help our students become responsible adults.

Blaming the parents will not work.  Blaming the child/student will not work.

Oh, please schools, learn about trauma and it's lifelong affects on our children's brains.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Riddy Lin

Riddy is our most damaged child.  Riddy is also still a child.  She has been with us almost since birth.  Riddy needs medications.

About fifteen years ago, our first child needed medication.  Needed is the operative word here.  There was no way to manage behaviors without the medication.  That child has come and gone from our home.  The needs were huge.

Riddy has lots of mental health issues.  She was born addicted to drugs and mom had used alcohol during pregnancy.  Not sure how much, but her favorites were hard lemonades and mixed drinks.

Riddy is the poster child for ADHD.  She cannot concentrate for more than a couple of seconds without medication.  BUT on medication, she is a different person.  She is capable of focusing and learning in school.  She can make friends.  She can interact appropriately in the family.  In fact, shortly before her 5th birthday, we found an ADHD medication that worked.  She then taught herself to read in kindergarten after becoming quite disgusted that they didn't learn to read in the first few weeks.

The meds have been a God send.  This child could not sit still and play for a few minutes.  Could not sit and look at a book.  Could not sit and eat.  Nothing.  But on medication she can begin to stabilize.  She's been seeing a psychiatrist for all but the first two years of her life.

She's still in elementary school.  We have to tweak her medications off and on.  The one consistent thing is that she must have them.  We try to give them to her shortly before she gets up in the mornings to help her morning routine include fewer melt downs.

There will be many more stories about Riddy.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Grandpa was a Vet

My grandfather was a WWII vet who was there at D Day.  He just passed away this summer, so it's kind of a sad day today.

The thing about Grandpa was that he loved and cared about every single child that walked through our doors.  I have the most wonderful pictures of him spending time with them.

Grandpa was fortunate.  He never saw combat duty.  He enlisted in the Air Force and became a mechanic.  On D Day, he fueled many, many planes as they left the base and returned many times.  He loved serving his country and had many stories to tell.  He escaped the PTSD that many soldiers, adoptees and their families experience.  For that, I am very thankful.

My most vivid memory of his and Grandma's help came on a day about 12 years ago.  We had recently adopted from foster care.  Our Abbey was and still is a very difficult young adult/child, ravaged by RAD, PTSD - all the standard trauma acronyms.  Most of the time I could leave the children with a trusted young adult.  We had left to purchase some supplies for repairing our home.  Abbey was always breaking doors.  That was her specialty.

We were gone about an hour, and as we rounded the corner to return home, we saw Grandpa's car in the driveway.  Fear gripped us.  We did not carry a cell phone in those long ago days.  Pulled in to discover that Abbey had gone on a rampage, damaging the house and threatening the siblings.  The mere presence of Grandpa and Grandma calmed her.  Fear was very, very intense in this child.

The issue: she became afraid of a door that had not been installed.  I'm sure that horrible things happened behind closed doors to Abbey.  She has not ever talked in any detail about the horrible things.  Abbey also hid in closets as a young child to escape the abusers.  She has vivid and clear memories as far back as two years old.  Her life was filled with trauma.

Grandpa was spared PTSD.  Even staying with our children, he never developed PTSD as some in our household have.

One of the last times we spent with Grandpa was in the nursing home with Abbey's newborn son.  Grandpa's mind had mostly left him, but his tender smile remained as he gazed at the beautiful baby.  Grandpa loved his new little grandson we know and despite all of the negatives, he always loved Abbey too.

Thank you Grandpa for your life of service.

Monday, November 7, 2011


As a parent, I think chemical addiction is one of the more painful issues we have to deal with frequently.  Many of our kids have mental health issues which lead to self-medicating with drugs and alcohol.  Even if they have been using medications from a psychiatrist, they often turn to self-medicating.  This is a cycle we had hoped to break as foster/adoptive parents.  Sometimes we have been successful.  We have also experienced the ugly side of chemical dependency.

Most of the time our "high" kids hide from us.  They do not come home until mostly sober.  Then they try to hide their high by immediately going to bed.  If they are high at home, their behaviors are often violent.  Unfortunately, we tease that 911 is on speed dial at our house.  Thankfully, we have had very rare occasions to call in a kid that is violently high.  Actually, we've only had one arrest in all of our years of parenting.

We really try to ignore them when high.  We allow them to crash.  We do not confront.  We do not argue.  It will not help anything, so why stress ourselves.

More often they simply do not come home.  They steal from us to buy their drug of choice.

When the kid is sober and capable of listening, we talk.  We don't talk a lot though.  We truly have never had a kid use just to experiment or have fun with others.  Yes, they join in when the drugs are available.  No, they are not just having fun.  They truly all have a mental health issue which drives the use.  It could just simply be living in foster care.  More often than that, their families use, and it is the norm.  Or they are close to adulthood and have no clue what to do with themselves.  Many have very severe mental health issues that they try to "get rid of" by using.

We are always on the look out for new drugs.  It is very difficult to stay ahead of the synthetics.  They are so easy to get and do not show up in UAs.  Seems our kids use alcohol way less than marijuana.  Almost all prefer marijuana.  It calms the ADHD in some.  It helps them focus.  At least that's what we are told.

Another day I will write about treatment and AA and NA.

Today, I mourn for my addicts.  It is difficult to see them struggle in so many ways with no homes, jobs or ability to function responsibly in society.  Some are in recovery.  Most are on the brink of relapse at all times.

Monday, October 31, 2011


                                                             HAPPY   HALLOWEEN

My kids have varied responses for this holiday.  It has many triggers for them.  Food is such a big issue with traumatized kids.  They look just like this kitten.  They are so excited, but they present so ferocious.  Really, they are small and cuddly.  No way will they let anyone see them that way.

I used to obsess that my children have appropriate behavior to be allowed to go to Halloween parties or trick or treating.  I gave up long ago.  There is just too much excitement centered around this holiday for them to miss out on the fun and the unending amount of candy.  They need to go regardless of their unacceptable behaviors.  More than once I was too hard on someone leading up to the holiday.

We allow our children to eat all of their candy.  Surprised?  I have one qualifier with that.  They have to eat it within three days.  I want it out of the house.  All of the wrappers drive me insane found stuffed inside couches, stuck inside their pillowcases, and strewn around the yard.

Here's to Halloween.  The great dress-up day for young and old.  May yours be filled with pleasure.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

New Placement

"Hello.  This is social services.  We have two boys to place.  We'd like to place them with you."
The calls are frequently like this.  Spur of the moment need to immediately place children.
Later in the afternoon, 7 month old Weldon and 2 year old Burton were dropped off.

The first week to ten days is always the hardest with new placements.  Children have few skills to live in families.  They are with strangers.  They do not know the rules.

These little guys were no exception.  They were ravenously hungry.  It is the rule that they will be ravenous.  Weldon's little belly was so empty, he vomited after eating his first meal.  This led to a visit to the after hours clinic to make sure he was healthy.  But an empty belly filled too quickly was the cause.

Burton was a wild one.  He could not stop moving to sleep.  He would get up and run around at all hours of the night.  It was an exhausting first week.  His language skill were quite developed in the colorful language arena, yet he could not tell us his name.  And really Burton is not hard to pronounce at two.

Weldon slept all of the time and his hunger began to abate over the weeks.  He was a strong little guy.  His smile was beautiful as was his face.  At nine months he was standing up independently.  We would remind him to just "sit down", and he would.  A walking nine month old is not what we wanted right then.

Burton began to develop appropriate words quickly, and conversation was one of his favorite past times.  He loved balls of all sorts.  He could kick, run and play with the older children much to his delight.  After many struggles with his sleep issues, he was put to bed in his shoes with a gate in the doorway that he could not climb at day or night, thus settling him into the much needed sleep his little body needed to relax and grow.

These little guys filled our home with laughter, love and smiles for several months.  They grew in social skills.  Their parent also grew and accepted the services given.  It was not too many months before I loaded the car for the drive to their "home" for the last time.  Their parent had proven very capable.

Their's is a story that began mostly due to poverty.  Social services really stepped up and provided services as these children were transitioned home in a very appropriate manner.  My guess is that there will always be more chaos in their lives than I would choose.  But it is their life filled with what makes them unique and special.  Weldon and Burton will always hold a special place in our hearts.

Monday, October 24, 2011


My world rocks to a different beat.

Been awhile deciding to do this, but I think I need to keep track of our experiences.

Our children have many diagnoses that require the use of medications.

They ARE NOT their diagnosis.  They are individuals.

I look forward to sharing our journey of the last nearly 30 years.

Prof. Zak