Thursday, August 31, 2006

Katrina's Victims

The one year anniversary of Katrina has reminded me where I was last year. I was in such pain with Shingles I had wished for death. We even had our last home visit while I was high on pain medication. My worker is so great and my husband handled it very well. I threw up and slept on the couch throughout their conversation. Not a pretty picture, I know. How did we ever get approved?

I was so moved by the scenes I saw on TV as I laid there for days that I knew I had to do something. I decided to contact local hotels one night around 3 AM (I couldn't sleep and knew the night auditors would be bored and love to talk to someone). I found out that alot of hotels were filled up with folks unable to pay their rent and were being kicked out of some of them in the morning. I got busy and it took my mind off off the pain. I made flyers up with my name and the number of my second line to put at the front desks and waited. The phone started ringing and did not stop for weeks. I did not sleep for more than a few minutes at a time at my desk. Someone started making copies of my flyers and handed them out at the shelters here.

I gathered information online and the news and served as a go between for folks and their hotels. After they had their rooms paid for I began looking at local apartments for longer term housing. I got therapists and nurses to see them in the hotels for free. I found people really wanted to help so I found out what they had to donate (time, clothes, room, car, toiletries, or food) and matched them up with a family in need. I contacted local churches to match up families with a support system in the coming months and spiritual needs.

I started getting calls from huge organizations (NAACP was one that I worked very closely with) and churches wanting information. I kept trying to explain what I knew and no one believed I was a one woman volunteer. I had previously worked in the apartment and hotel industry so I had known where to look and what to ask to help get things moving for people and that is how I was able to know more than most people in the day to day operations of these businesses.

Overall I was able to place over 300 families in those weeks after the hurricane. I was so tired but I felt so proud that I actually did something. I worried about the next few months and year after and decided to put together a support group for them with a friend that is a psychologist. We noticed immediately these folks were struggling with parenting in a new culture and under so much stress so we started parenting and life skills training as well. We started meeting every week and still meet monthly now. It is great to watch them grow and change. Some have moved back, others are barely making it, but some are doing better than they were before the hurricane. I love these people and they have become a huge part of my life, I know they are traumatized by the hurricane but I am glad I have had the pleasure of getting to know them.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Camping and the Lazy Toddler

If you have any concerns your child might snore and or might have allergies but need to be sure. Forget the doctors, just put up a tent in your very own backyard. That's what I did Saturday night and I regret it still today. Every one of those rugrats took turns snoring and talking in their sleep. I was miserable! My Dh forgot to put my foam mat out there and I did not notice until it was too late and had to sleep on the ground with a tiny little blanket. Between the noise inside the tent and the forest of night screaming animals in the yard, I barely slept. Then the kids woke up BEFORE dawn b/c some geese flew over honking up a storm. I had to take a nap Sunday afternoon b/c I just couldn't cope and then could not sleep last night so not so good today. Several of my kids have been sniffing and snotting everywhere for 2 days and no one seems to know what a tissue is. I drugged 'em all this morning and sent them to school.

My niece is 2 years old and I keep her during the day. She is a doll and we have a pretty good time although she is not like other children and prefers adults to play with. So this morning she realized the twins will be home and she has told me about 10 times to take them to school. She refuses to play with them and has even decided she wants to lay around in my bed all day and watch cartoons without them. This is not weird for her b/c she is the laziest child ever and would never leave my bed if she had a choice. I am not kidding. I just find it weird she does not like other children, I know they are trying to play with her and they like her but she just shoos them away. She is nuts, I thought she would like the company, guess I was wrong. Too bad, Brooklyn!!!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Telling Them the Truth

One of the first things we were told about our kids was they did not know TPR had been granted and we were not to tell them. We were upset and confused but agreed. We have struggled with this b/c out oldest has been asking and all of them had been told by their family or foster parents that we were going to adopt them. Why couldn't we tell them when everyone else had? We were worried if it came out, we would look like liars.

After much debate, our agency decided to let us tell them the truth without telling DFCS first. DFCS refuses to return calls or emails to our agency with any regularity and if they ask any important questions, DFCS just answers everything else but that question. (If you can't tell, I am still a little irritated with the situation.) Our oldest asked us about going home for the millionth time and we explained the facts gently. The other children were listening and our oldest began to cry. It was so weird b/c P is old enough to understand and not a moment of distress. Actually the rest of them were calm until D started to make herself cry, I am talking squeezing out a tiny one with lots of blinking. My son did cry but no tears came out. The twins and P just wanted to go upstairs and dance. It was just strange, given their dx I guess I should not be surprised.

I assume we will pay for this for some time. We noticed a bit of clingyness from the youngest, A, at school and after. Both my son and A had a meltdown at Speech and had to be held very closely to my chest in a cradle position for about 15 minutes each until they could catch their breath. I usually don't talk to them very much if I have to hold them but today I just felt like they needed to hear me tell them they were safe and they were loved by both their parents and us. It really helped and I kissed them every chance I got today.

P is having a good time not riding the damn bus. She freaked out today after school when she was required to do her chores to pay me for driving her. I am tired of it and she likes this way to much. Tomorrow I have a little bit of time before school and I am going to make her walk to school in front of my van b/c the school is at the top of my neighborhood and safe from traffic and she is one of the laziest people EVER. Should take away the FUN part of this. She is back on the bus Monday. YEAH!!!

B and I sat down and discussed things she CAN be in control of and things I am in control of. So far so good. She really takes charge of those and I have seen her back of a little on the other things. It could just be the need to be good right now. She has been driving me nuts lately and it is nice to have a break but I know it will hit the fan soon enough.

I have made a huge decision regarding the twins and Pre K. First of all, I hate this school, it is a daycare and the Lottery funds the Pre K here so it is free to all residents that can find a slot open. This school has a tiny parking lot and they use this as a reason to not allow you in the classrooms. They actually make you pick up your child at the door. I have not been allowed to meet the teachers and ask them how my kids are doing. I thought for sure they would send something home on Friday, NO. Nothing. I have debated over whether to take them out and keep them home with me or enjoy my days. I feel it would be in their best interest to keep them home for the following reasons. They have been stuck in some daycare forever, this is their last year to stay home and bond with me, I need to give them the best I can, I can get their many therapies out of the way during the day and use our precious afternoons for the school age kids, and they really need one on one attention to catch up. My worker is concerned this will be considered homeschooling and they frown upon that. Pre K is not mandatory here and I am going to push this issue.

Other than that, kids are still screamming but we are dealing just fine. I am feeling closer to all of them. I am feeling like 7 is not the end and not nearly as many as it was in the begining of the summer. We are becoming a family, even some of them are saying so. They claim we are the nicest parents (besides their "real" ones) they have had. They scream we are the meanest. They are begining to let me kiss their boo boos and expect me to fix things for them. In my daughter's words, "Our life was boring before they moved in and I am so glad they came to play with us!"

Saturday, August 19, 2006

I knew the first week was going too good. P, my 8 yr old, did well except in PE which she struggled in last year and they thought it was the male teacher thing but maybe it is the phyical part of it not the teacher. Then she had to ride the bus home like she has done all week and shoved her brother on it. He cried when he hit his head and it set off B, 10, to protect him. E, 5, started crying when P started screamming like a crazy person and shoving anyone near her. The sweet unsuspecting first time bus driver tried to get P to come up front and P started hitting her. She threatened her and threw her bookbag at the woman's child. Everyone was moved up as few seats to protect them when she realized she couldn't handle this child. She quickly drove to our home (not a stop on the route) and started waiving at me. I thought she was lost (b/c she is new) and she was being polite. My kids started to get off hollaring something at me and all I got was P's name so I knew something happened. I had to climb on the bus and remove her myself. She was angry and ran off to our bushes to calm down and the driver told me she has been kicked off the bus. I almost got a kick out of it b/c while the school is trying to cooperate I keep hearing they are so great at school. Now there is no question about what she is capable of.

As far as a consequence goes here is what I have come up with. Considering she has assaulted the driver and her child she must write an letter with my assistance to each of them to apologize. She needs to spend her allowance on the driver instead of herself by purchasing a gift or card. She will be suspended from the bus so she must do chores to make up for the time I will spend driving her to school, talking with school, and my gas. She had not completed her chores as of this morning so she was unable to go tto her last foster home to pick up her trampoline with her sister and brother. Of course she can't do anything until the chores are completed.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Well, we are back to "normal". My son, A, had several mini meltdowns before school yesterday and my 8 yr old refused to do her homework Wed night and again yesterday morning. I handled both beautifully and put it back on them. I explained to my son I did not care what he was wearing for school, he would be attending anyway. He is so sute and warned me he would be in his pull up. I smiled and explained I did not mind if he needed to wear it to school, he would go as is whatever that was. He quickly changed his clothes but then started throwing his toothbrush and toothpaste. "I wouldn't want to use a toothbrush that had been on the floor next to the toilet in case someone had missed it using it but if you think that is ok then have at it." I walked away but listened. It took him a few minutes but he started trying to clean his toothbrush and eventually brushed his teeth. He struggled with shoes and on and on but he got to the bus stop in time and got on. Yeah!!

My 8 yr old, P, can not read or recognise most letters so while we wait for the school to catch up to her IEP and put her in the correct classes she is given regular homework. She gets really frustrated and refuses to try with my assistance. Now I believe whole hearted that she is as smart as any child in her class she just down plays it and has not learned any of the things she should have b/c she is too busy acting out. She refused to do her homework and I gave her a couple of tries and then told her she must be too tired to learn and good night. She was angry but complied for fear she would have chores for acting up about bed time. Mom is not flexible on that and she has learned the hard way. I got her up really early and we tried again. Took her a couple of tries and I explained I was too busy in the AM and had no problem sending a note to her teacher and letting her take a big fat zero so she had one more minute of my precious time. I left and came back and she was ready.

D has been doing so much better about not rubbing her privates on me and I can feel myself feeling better about her. SHe told me the truth 2 times yesterday and I was so proud of her. Both time it was something she would have gotten in trouble for. I hugged her many times yesterday and she is loving the attention.

My eldest, B, is driving me nuts. She is so nice to my face but I feel the negative vibes she shoots at me. She thinks I am stupid and corrects me constantly. She had a dx of RAD that we all thought was not true b/c we can't find it anywhere on paper. Oh she has it all right!!! It's just not in your face defiant like the others. I looked at some paperwork that Attachment Therapist gave me awhile back and what does it describe? My child!!! It said everything I was feeling, I was so happy to see it in writing. It really upsets me that she probably has it but at least I know what need to be done and it isn't just a personality conflict. I will be so much more tolerant of her now while I nail her behaviors to the wall. I began last night and am making all of her decisions for her. That did not go over well at all. She was nice to me but let the kids have it for nothing MANY times. She is not going to like it here but I will do whatever it takes to help her heal.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The first 2 days of school my 8 yr old, P, decided she would not enter her classroom like the other children. She says she was nervous but ended up getting so much attention for it b/c the counselor took her to her office and gave her a toy to keep on her desk. They did not call me until the second day so I did not get to intervene until last night and I took the advice of many experienced parents of children with RAD and explained if she refused to get an education it was my responsibility to teach her an alternate education in a janitorial career. She went into class this morning without a second look back. She hates to clean and knows I will enforce anything I say. I am proud she made a good choice and I will be sure to tell her this afternoon.

I find myself waiting for the other shoe to drop b/c for some reason my kids are cooperating with me. We were having such a hard time and then BAM they do what I ask with very little problems. I did change my reactions to them and perhaps they are scrambling to figure out what to do next but I wish I could enjoy the quiet time while I have it. It does make me wonder if I am crazy, did I cause them to tantrum? Are they all so scared about school they do not have the energy to throw a good fit? Were they misdiagnosed? Have they settled in? What is going on?

Yesterday my son did scream in my DD's face 3 times and pushed her down. He struggled with his time out and chore to make up for it but once he calms down he is great. He did deny doing it even after I heard him myself 3 feet away from me. It still makes me laugh when he denys things I personally witness. It helps me from gettign too mad but I must confess after 3 times yesterday I did raise my voice and told him I had had enough of his abuse for the day and if he did not comply he could go to bed for the night. It was 7 PM so only an hour early, but I was done. He got it together and screammed an apology to her at my request since he screammed everything else I demanded he scream that, too. Took him a few tries b/c he claimed it hurt his ears. LOL

Monday, August 14, 2006

They are gone. All of them in school. What do I do now? I thought I would be thrilled and for some reason I can't get motivated to do all the things I need to do.

Their bus was very late so I guess I will be driving them to school every day to get the twins to Pre K on time. Most of them did not eat breakfast b/c they were nervous. They were so cute and I took a picture of them on the way out. I wish I could post it b/c they are the cutest kids ever! They had a really hard time going to bed last night and one of the twins had an accident last night for the first time since she has been here. The older girls were still up at 11PM and were even out of bed when I checked in on them.

I am afraid to jinx myself but they have been doing so much better. We are really becoming a family. I find myself laughing so much more. I am learnign that each child needs different responses from me and they respond better. My son has stayed in bed 2 nights in a row and is so proud of himself for it. He had a dry pull up an few days ago, too. He has not hit me in almost 2 weeks and it is so funny how my parental expectations have changed, getting through the day w/o being hit is a huge accompishment. He is still hitting others but does say sorry on his own and has even admitted to the abuse more than a few times.

I had mentioned I was having a hard time bonding with my 7 yr old and so I started making sure to hug her more and force myself to be more attentive. It seems to be working for me and she is doing much better with allowing others their personal space. She is so damn cute.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

My laptop crashed last week and I have resorted to stealing my children's desktop to access the internet. I had my husband move it into my room because I could not stand it any longer and had begun having the shakes.

Lots has happened, the lice is still here, I have discovered a great way to get my son to cooperate with me, we are almost ready for school on Monday, and we have had just a few big tantrums in the last week. The lice showed back up today on my youngest and she refuses to sit still to have them removed. She is currently out on the back porch having the remaining nits picked out and then another round of shampoo and gel for all of us.

I stopped giving my son an audience and so now I give him a good choice and a bad choice and walk away. Sometimes he struggles and goes to his room to get a grip and he is still hitting the kids several times a day. When I am not looking he chooses the good one, if I stay and wait it becomes a tantrum. He has admitted to hurting someone a few times but nothing regular. Voila, a much happier Mom!

I have gone through most of the clothes and set out outfits for the first week for everyone so we won't have to argue every day about what they have to wear. I had to have them try many things on and pass them down to the next kid and that did not go over well. They seem so attached to their things and really struggle with giving them away even if they do not fit. I allowed them to keep a few things if there was a real reason, like a gift from their parents or something. I have a ton of stuff to be donated this week and make more room for us.

My 8 yr old destroyed her room earlier in the week and emptied a black pen all over the walls. She has not had a huge fit in about a week and needed a release I guess. My son broke his door again in another fit and both have been busy doing chores to pay for them.

Things are really falling into place and we have been able to venture out a few times lately. Walmart is getting easier and movies are great. The school is ready for them and I think I have speech worked out.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

I have decided to try to consolidate my notes for my worker about the kids behavior and this blog. I am having a hard time finding time to maintain both and feel this might work for now. My plan is to do this every day but I do not see that happening. As I have said before I can not spell check this thing so am sorry for the many errors.

My son is by far my most challenging child and takes up so much of my time. Yesterday I had to hold him in my lap or on the floor 2 times but both lasted less than 45 minutes. He is so sweet afterward and always claims he is sorry. He spent some time in his room and locked the door many times so I just took off the handle. He then had the option of leaving the door open or in his anger he could choose to shut the door and wait until his time was up to have me open it. With the handle off he is unable to open his door from the inside and I always left it open for him to choose. He closes it every time and has to wait until he calms to have it opened. He went on a errand alone with me and was an angel.

The older girls stayed home with my husband last night and I took the 3 little girls with me to my monthly meeting with Katrina Survivors I have been working with since last year. I love these folks and enjoy seeing them. They are working so hard to improve their lives and settle in. I found them all in different hotels in the area after the hurricane and and ended up helping over 300 people find hotels and then apartments. I called a local Unitarian church (that I now attend) and got their support and we started a support group for these folks. My girls were great and ate well. The older kids trashed the house with Dad and did not clean up before bed. I really needed the time out but was irritated that I came home to so much more work than I expected. I can assure you it will not happen again. He needs to parent not play.

I talked to the therapist and he agreed to step up sessions with my son to determine if Attachment Therapy would be beneficial. My agency is worried that DFCS will refuse to let me now that they are so critical of bottle feeding and holding therapy. I am angry b/c I discussed this from the first meeting and they agreed. Now they are being butts.

This morning my 8 yr old threw a fit b/c she is mad about the way her brother treats her. I can't blame her but she can not take it out on the rest of us either. She calmed after about 20 minutes and told me she doesn't love me anymore. I always respond with "That's ok, sweetie, I love you." It makes her mad and I only say it once but later she tells me she doesn't mean it. She was supposed to be the most difficult but turns out she reminds me alot of me at that age. Angry. I was so mad at everyone and threw fits just like her. Not really hitting my sisters but the walls and making myself more miserable as some sort of punishment to my mother. I get her. She just ran in here to tell me she was going to be a hooker when she grows up! I asked her if she knew what it was andshe said, "Yeah, I will get to wear your high heal boots, right?" She is a trip, I told her not to run around saying that and what it meant. She no longer wishes to be a hooker. LOL

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

We have the word from our agency that the children are Level 1 and the per diem is the basic rate. My agency is so upset that they are paying us a little more out of their pocket. I am angry and confused. As disturbed as my children are there is no way they are Level 1. On top of that they consider our placement the middle of the month and anything before is a visit. So they are getting away without paying anyone for a period. How wrong is that?
I had a horrible experience with a police officer yesterday. I called to have one come out b/c my 6 yr old son had lost control again. It was really a normal day but my children and I am tired of being abused by him b/c he does not get his way. An officer called me back and I explained our situation and his issues and that I really thought it might help to have an officer write up a report and explain that he was assaulting us and it was not acceptable. Turns out there is nothing they can do unless he involves a weapon and it is all my fault he is not under control. He explained if he came out he would be removing all of my children and charging me with neglect for failure to protect my other children from him. He was so nasty to me even after I tried to explain he came to me like this and it is from neglect blah, blah, blah. He told me to just give him back then if he was so bad. What? I was more upset by that than his other threats. Give him back, like he was a broken toy. Just return him. I ended up losing control of my tears and raised my voice that that was the very htinking that put my son inthe situation he is in. I can't believe their are officers this ignorant on the force in his position. I got so frustrated I just hung up on him. What else can I do? I can't educate every officer inthe county or can I?

My kid's SW still insists I have to have fingerprints and drug screens done on anyone who babysits my children. That is such a crock of crap. No where does it say that is a requirement. I am begining to think they want us to disrupt. Maybe to find cheaper families, I don't know what else it could be. My thought is to find another fosterparent in metro Atlanta to trade babysitting with me b/c they will meet that criteria. I can't even find a support group for fosterparents in one of the largest counties here. I am very frustrated with this system and am searching for any advice on how to deal with this issue. I am at a loss. My agency thinks this is crazy b/c they can't find it written anywhere that sitters must meet this level of background checks. What can I do? Has anyone ever heard of this? They claim it must be at my expense. Drug screens are expensive and fingerprints can take a very long time to be returned b/c ours was like 12 weeks.