Friday, October 31, 2008

Time for an update

So, I am proud to say there really isn't much to report. We are living a relatively peaceful life these days. I credit the new doc and the new drugs; Oxcarbazepine and Vyvanse. He seems to have the right dosages going, too.

Overall, her grades are OK but she is failing Science for some reason. Unfortunately, she still can't seem to get along at school, so maybe she's just learned to pick her battles at home. (Although one day we had a HUGE altercation at home between her and DH over mayonnaise. It was delightful!) She got detention a couple of weeks ago. She is still bugging the nurse almost daily, but the nurse doesn't bug us anymore. She did jam a finger in PE the other day and apparently the drama got so big at school that the nurse broke down to tell us about it. Later that day, the nurse was gone and a volunteer parent was covering the nurse's office. DD returned to the office and worked her pity scene on the unsuspecting mom who called us and told us that DD broke her finger. *sigh*

DH took her to the doc after school. No break. Of course. Just a jammed finger. They did wrap her finger with a brace and she wears it like a prize. Oh the attention she probably got for that at school.

We had a family gathering in Houston last weekend--usually a family gathering brings out the worst in her--but we had minimal drama and inappropriate behavior. She stomped off a couple of times, but now the extended family even knows to just ignore her baby tantrums. Gives me hope that our camping trip next weekend with these same family members won't be about constantly trying to wrangle her behaviors.

She decided Wednesday night that she WOULD like to go trick-or-treating this year. The costumes were pretty picked over, but she will be a sort of Corpse Bride tonight. DS declared that he would not go this year, but he may get a last minute bug to hit a few houses.

Gearing up for the holidays and our big trip, but this weekend is a "do-nuthin' weekend. We will be busy getting ready for all the upcoming busy weekend, but at least we are home with no scheduled place to be. Something to shoot for next year----scheduled "chill" weekends where we have no other obligations. This year blew past us so quickly, we've vowed to slow down in 2009. The first few months will be difficult with the wrestling season in full force (actually starts in late Nov.) but from March going forward, we strive to....c h i l l

Thursday, September 25, 2008

New Meds

So, for the first two weeks of school, DD went to the nurse's office 2 to 3 times a day. New teachers. Fresh meat. Even though it states in her IEP that teachers should not let her go to the nurse unless they actually see signs of illness, it was just too soon in the new school year for them to know her tactics. So I get the phone call. The nurse knows her. This is her third year with DD, so she knows the pattern. I told her that I could talk to DD but what she really needed to do was talk to the teachers and let THEM know the history. They are the only ones who can stop her from leaving class everyday.

Then DH took her to her new psychiatrist. He is from Columbia and DH is from Italy, so comprehension on both parts was challenging at times, but overall, DH could tell that the new doc completely understood what he was dealing with. He upped her current medication and added a new one --- new to the market as well--- that he said would yield results within an hour. *sigh*

We are not having any real issues--nothing new at home--- but at school she has at least one altercation a day. Nothing physical yet. Just Jerry Springer mouthing off stuff.

There is good news though. Last weekend I had a wedding to shoot in a neighboring town. We needed my mom to come sit with the kids for the evening--which is usually torture for my mom. This time though, things went smoothly. DD didn't play her too much and she minded mom very well, so that was a relief.

The other tidbit of good news is that DD managed a project by herself pretty well---really well so far. In 6th grade she did a fund raiser for the band and it was a disaster for our home. She didn't get money upfront. She didn't get complete info from folks, then she lost some money, and turned the whole order in late. When the crap came in, it was a real challenge to find out who got what. So, in 7th grade I did not allow her to participate in any fundraisers. Of course, now in 8th grade, she brought another fundraiser home again. I told her the deal was that if she wanted to do this that I wanted nothing to do with it from start to end and if she messed up that she would have to resolve it with her choir director and the neighbors.

She immediately hit the loop and sold several hundred dollars worth of stuff. And she convinced those who didn't want to buy to simply donate cash. She didn't do great with organizing the cash purchases, but the checks helped her late fill in all the missing info. She does have phone numbers and order numbers for all, so should be able to deliver when in comes in. She earned her trip to Six Flags with the choir.

On her blazing sales stump, she met a new girl on the loop. The new girl also needed to sell stuff for her elective, so DD shamelessly went out with her to the same houses, on the same day, and pushed the same people to buy from or donate to her new friend. She may have found the perfect career for herself. Hard core sales.

So, life goes on. Every six weeks we get her braces tightened. Every month we see the new psychiatrist. Next week we get her passport photos. Right now we are all taking a break from therapists.

We don't get excited or react to her dramas and plots. We simply and calmly stop her and redirect her without any emotion -- at least from us -- and go on with our lives, and we are all sleeping a little better. Except my son. He now needs help learning to deal with her. We have deliberately kept him out of the loop in an effort to protect him from much of the ugliness, but now it is time to pull him in, help him adjust, and guide him through how to live with someone you don't trust. And trust is a MASSIVE issue for this guy.

I've given up hope of ever being close to DD, which may be a terrible thing to think or say, but the best I can offer right now is hope that we can all survive each other without too many scars, and hope that even this occasionally awkward relationship we have with DD is better that the life she had before, or the life she would have if she were never adopted. Right or wrong, that is what helps me breathe. That is what helps me sleep. That is what helps me heal some of the damage I've experienced from this whole situation.

Last week I attended the gala premiere of this years Central Texas Heart Gallery. I was a photographer for this event and two of my kiddos were in the gallery. One of the keynote speakers at this event was a beautiful, articulate, intelligent, successful young woman. This incredible young woman aged out of the foster system, having never been adopted. When she was 17, about to turn 18, she asked her foster parents to adopt her, but they said no. Looking at her now you think, how could anyone say no to such a desperately heartfelt request.

The theme of the premiere this year was "What difference does it make?" The answer was, "All the difference in the world." And this young woman brought that home to me.

People always ask why would anyone adopt a 16, 17, or 18 year old. They are about to move out anyway. The Director then asks adults of all ages, when was the last time you called your mom? Did you stop needing parents at 18? Having no parents, no family, no connection. Little things start to matter a lot. Silly things like not having names to fill in the blanks on forms that ask for your mom and dad's names. Not having a place to go home to for the holidays. Not having grandparents for your own children when you get older. They all add up.

Even if all DD gets out of us are names on a form or someone to complain about when her friends complain about their parents, or just having someone to point that teenage angst towards, screaming "My stupid parents!" It is something. Hopefully we will one day mean more to her, but I am ready to accept the fact that we may never be more than that.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Latest Tactics

The first week of intensive was interesting. After our initial session, DD then had two consecutive nights of teen only sessions, then we returned on Thursday. How delightful it was to see how much she bonded with the two juvies, and to see the joy she took in running and laughing down the halls when they were all sent to pee in a cup for a random drug test. Oh, and the new lingo she learned, it was such a proud moment where we felt like we accomplished so much.


We sat through another three hours of BS with this crew, only the Juvies and us. The other families were not there that night. After the break, DD again sat across from us, next to her new "friends" and DH said, "No, you come sit over here by us." All three girls attacked him. The other parents were still in the hall, but the therapist got to witness this fine exchange. DH got pissed and said, "No, we are the parents here. We make the decisions here--not you. We are here so she can learn how to live with us, not you, so she needs to come sit over here." To which one of the juvies snarled back at him, while pointing to the other juvie "Well, you're not HER dad, you can't tell HER where to sit!" To which he replied in an eerily calm voice "I don't give a shit where you two sit, I wasn't talking to you." DD moved back over by me.

The two juvies then took over the rest of the session, whining that they wanted to go home, finding excuses to leave the session, over and over again until the therapist said no more--but they still pushed. Once DD figured out what they were doing, she went from extremely engaged in the discussion to a full physical and social transformation. She slid down in her chair, her head fell to one side, and she stopped talking --- realizing her new buds wanted to leave, so she better act that way too. They won. The session ended at 8:15 instead of 9:00. They were in control.

The following Saturday morning, we took DD with us to the other side of town to attend a parent training in a theory that I have long avoided. It is called Beyond Consequences. DD and others were with a kid-sitter and we, the parents, were in a conference room upstairs. The basic theory is that there are only two real emotions, love and fear, and based on that we know that all bad behaviors come from fear and nothing else--no manipulation, controlling, plotting, etc. So consequences should only be the natural consequences, not contrived, unassociated punishments. Our trauma-surviving kids are behaving strictly out of fear, so we should just hug them and love them unconditionally no matter what -- unless their behavior is dangerous. On the other side, when we get angry and lose it, we are also acting out of fear, so we can not help regulate our kids if we, ourselves, are not regulated.

That said, the training was helpful. No miracles or anything, but a few tidbits that did indeed help. The training was done by a couple of women, one a friend of mine, an adoptive mom and teacher who is newly certified to teach this theory. They did a great job, but we all agreed it was a lot to cram into a three hour session and we are all waiting for the next scheduled session. To me, this training is more realistic and should be one of maybe many theories taught to potential adoptive parents, to give them an arsenal of possible tools to use to save all parties involved.

One of the big tidbits I gained was the "aha moment" of I know this kid better than ANY of the specialists we have seen and that I need to stop letting them have control. I think we have suffered more damage at the hands of some of these specialists than we would have if we had sought no help at all. With this new confidence in what I know, we quit the intensive program. I had a couple of hours of conversations with the group therapist, and while she politely disagreed and argued with me, she eventually understood what I was saying. She gave me a couple of references and we actually have an appointment with a very well-renown Psychiatrist on the 16th. He requires all kinds of info from us before seeing her, which while it is a pain in the tush to gather, makes me feel much better about how he will decide about meds and treatments. I am impressed already. I hope I remain impressed.

The other tidbit--probably unintentional--is that there is NO WAY OUT. We have to make this work. We are not alone, and we by FAR do not have it as bad as some. My analogy there is--if you saw my pants leg burst into flame, you would probably scream "you are on fire" and not just say, "oh - yeah, I see the flame, but it isn't that bad yet. It is only your leg." The end result is still the same. I would have lot of pain and a lot of rehab in my future. So, bring in a special needs kid. We have varying degrees of issues, but the end result is the same--we all have a lot of pain and a lot of therapy ahead. The state is not going to take back this kid. Why would they? They are the ones who set us up to fail in the first place. They know exactly what is going on, but challenging and even destroying families is a hell of a lot easier and cheaper that trying to actually help these damaged kids.

So, we are trying not to react to DD. We will respond to her, but not react. And where we are capable of doing so, we try to let only natural consequences occur. Not one thing has changed with DD. Not one. She is exactly the same, but we are not letting it rule our home. We still have to make constant alterations to our usual plans to anticipate triggers and her behaviors, and we are still pretty hyper vigilant ourselves to preempt any problems, and that will likely never change. We just have to figure out how we can all survive this with the least amount of damage to anyone--her included.

I am finally reading the Beyond Consequences book. The letter from the female co-author was painfully familiar to our experience, but my eyes still gaze over some of the extended descriptions in the chapters about love. Maybe I will get better at absorbing some of the details of the theories as we move forward, but some of it just gets nauseating at times and sounds too woo woo and stops making sense to me. I guess that is my fear still at work.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Intensive Outpatient

What an interesting night. We watched her watching the other kids (all girls this week) and modeling their behaviors. Doing things they were doing --- things we've never seen her do. Her usual behaviors were there too -- laughing forcefully at their slightest attempt at humor, trying so hard to win their affection. They were mostly high school girls, a couple fresh from Juvie (Juvenile Corrections) a couple fresh from intensive inpatient for drugs and a suicide attempt, and one who just seemed to be in so much pain and felt unheard--the intensity so difficult for her she left the session.

DD sat like they sat, watching their every moves, and when we had an impromptu break upon the pained girls departure, she moved to a chair closer to them and started chatting it up like they were in a new club together. She agreed with all they said, she immediately made an impression on them, and the two buddies from Juvie chatted and laughed with her--on the other side of the circle, away from us.

When the session began again, DD opted to stay near her new friends. It was her turn now to talk about her feelings. She spun some good tales, and they all encouraged her. She claimed to have no knowledge of why we were there other than she lies sometimes. She didn't really know what the problem was and said they would have to ask us; so they did. And we shared how we had this little survivalist stranger in our house who would not allow us to love her or protect her and who worked very hard to prove how unworthy she is of love and trust, just to prove herself right--that everyone would hurt her and leave her so she is fully justified in only caring about herself and doing whatever she wants and whatever she thinks she needs to help herself. It was interesting to see the groups response, initially defending her a bit, then they themselves started to hear the contradictions in her words and the bizarre circles in her stories. "She was yelling at me and I did not yell back." Then later saying "I only raised my voice, but I was not yelling at her." Then making statements to us like, "I've changed. You may not be able to see it, but I've changed." So the therapist asked her to give a specific example of what changed and she said that she now admits what she has done -- she owns her behavior. I was about to pop. She is so good at picking up on buzzwords and delivering what people want to hear. I asked her to help me understand when she owned her behavior and she snapped "Today, on the way over here."

Then she talked about living with her mom for five years --which she did not, and how she used to think about her future with her mom. I know she had trauma in her youth, but do five-year olds really think about their futures, or just the moment. Hell --- she doesn't even really think about the future now, but no point trying to dispute her version of her past. I need her to understand the reality of her present.

The crowd turned on us a couple of times, too, hearing her words and not understanding the history. They always prefaced their comments with "I know I don't know your story, but..." DH really wanted to correct DD and correct the group, but I told him to hold off, that with four nights a week of this stuff, they will learn it on their own. He doesn't have to be the bad guy trying to paint a realistic picture that is not too flattering for this bubbly little girl they saw tonight.

Tomorrow and Wednesday nights are teens only. I'm sure she will tell a pretty story about us. Then the families meet again on Thursday.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Belated update

So, the meeting with the lawyer never happened. Two hours before our appointment, the law office called to say that the 16-year veteran we were to meet with would not be able to make it, but the 5-year newbie could talk with us. Same price, of course. We cancelled.

We then tried to find another lawyer, followed a couple of references, only to find that no one we found really wants a case like this and one even went so far as to end with a parting shot of, "I don't know what to tell you, but you know, she is your child." Thanks! Thanks for your unsolicited, uneducated opinion about a case in which you know nothing. We are going back to the first one and waiting until she is available again.

In the meantime, we signed up to take some parenting training, and today we went to an assessment at a local psychiatric hospital for intensive outpatient therapy. The drag is that it is three hours a night, four nights a week for 5 weeks and we must attend two nights a week. Nobody ever cares about the rest of the family, the impact of such a schedule, just the "best interest of the child." There is more cost associated with this, of course, and the first part of the intake is all about the money. The intensive therapy will consist of group family therapy with yet another therapist--not a psychologist, or psychoanalyst, another therapist. I am a bit burned out. No - that is an understatement. I am beyond cynical at this point. They have an uphill battle to overcome and I know that this will suck beyond all other options we have tried. Maybe a year ago I would be more open to this, but the system and her behaviors have worn me out.

The intake person kept us waiting in a dark, silent waiting room for 45 minutes, without any communication before our intake began. We got off to a rough start, to say the least.

I am also meeting with a couple tomorrow night who know all about reversals in this county and who want to consult us and provide us with names and possible resources. It may seem schitzophrenic to be pursuing therapy and a lawyer or reversal at the same time, but I need some kind of progress to start happening, one way or another. I don't want to waste another year of my family life with no progress. Either we will get help or we will get out.

I guess what is really destroying me is that we had nothing but the child's best interest for so many years, only to be denied help, to be dismissed as having no real problems since she isn't suicidal or homicidal, to be accused of being the root of the problem, to having a therapist suggest that I be medicated. The root of the problem is her disorders which NO ONE has really addressed. They've either drugged, dismissed, or blamed.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Made an appointment

So - the state kept her at "moderate."

Baptist's Children Home will not admit her.

Our options are running out.

LSSS is trying some other Children's Homes, but I will not hold my breath.

In the meantime, we have an appointment with a Family Law attorney on Wednesday afternoon. We want to hear what our options are from a third-party. Worst case-scenario that we know of at this point is if we choose to dissolve, we get charged with both civil and criminal charges of child abandonment and may possibly get penalized and told to pay child support (up to 25% of our combined income) to support her until she is 18. While all of that SUCKS, it is in our control. We decide if these are consequences we can live with.

If we chose to just wait it out until she is 18, and try to survive her personality disorders, we have no idea what hell she can bring into our lives. Will she falsely accuse one of us of something? Will she commit some crime that we will have to answer to? Will she get pregnant--something else we will have to deal with? Or will we be threatened in some way?

I've been looking at camps, residential treatment centers, military schools, boarding schools and I just can't do it. Tuition ranges from $4500 - $7000 a month!! For that money I would rather go broke buying a mansion with a wing in that she could have all to herself. More likely, I could just buy a crack house and let her live there. 25% of our income is much cheaper than these options--believe me.

Perhaps paying out until she is 18 is a better deal...we don't know. Still looking for answers.

Tonight we made her give back the $40 she stole. You could barely hear her, the little girl was not home, and the dad was a sweetie, letting her off the hook completely. Ugh! He doesn't know any better. He was soooo nice.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Service gap...

So, our luck ran out---well, the insurance ran out. I picked her up today. Tomorrow we should hear about our appeal to get her classified as specialized. If the answer is yes, then LSSS can do the paperwork to get her admitted to the local, all-girl RTC, or another RTC if the all-girl place is full. If they decline our appeal, and keep her at moderate, we are told to just continue documenting daily what she does, so we can try this whole loop again.

Husband says he is ready to pay $300 an hour to learn more about our options and possible consequences for dissolving. My neighbor said the going rate for child support in our county is 25% of income. Grrrrrr....

She thinks she is home because she is better. We stripped her room last night so there are no containers and no hiding places. I found more crap that she took from me--stuff I've gone crazy looking for, thinking I must have just misplaced it all. I found other items that I have never seen before. Goodness knows how she got them. We created a rigid schedule for her, although enforcing it will be more work for us, and we detailed some of the rules and consequences.

Just having her in my car was agitating me. Having her back in the house is not a good feeling either. We installed a lock on DS' bedroom last night. He asked that we also hide all the kitchen knives and lock our door at night. He really fears her. While cleaning out her room, I came upon a dream journal TT asked her to keep. One dream was titled "Dead Parents" where we are killed in a car accident and she is pissed that she is an orphan again until she learns that in our will we gave someone else custody. So she goes to live with Kenny Chesney, he buys her lots of beautiful dresses and dances with her and she gets to sing with him on stage.

In another dream, SOMEONE is in the house, using the kitchen knives to stab all of us.

None of what we found in her room last night alleviated any anxiety.