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.