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Upside-Down Adoption

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Short addition

Fri, 31 Dec 2010 21:56:00 +0000

I just caught up with what's going on with Tudu over here. I'm feeling heartbroken. Please, anyone who's familiar with the case, let me know if there's anything I can do, or any letter I can write.  I'm checking my atlasien email address in the profile.

Happy New Year!

Fri, 31 Dec 2010 20:12:00 +0000

Hello everyone! I'm sorry I never followed through on my last post many months ago. I'm going to try again next year to get back into the swing of blogging and catch up on how everyone else is doing.Here's a little bit of what happened in 2010.- BB came to us. I flew to the city and waited at the airport curbside. His foster father drove up and handed him over. I turned around and flew back to Atlanta carrying him.  BB was already very familiar with me due to our visits, but it just felt... strange, as you can probably imagine.- I took a two-month maternity leave. I also became very depressed during this time. I was functional, and dealt with it in several different ways.  Guy also had some problems with depression, and Sunny did not handle the addition well.  He loves his brother, absolutely loves him, and I'm convinced we have done the best thing for both of them. Nevertheless, in the short term it was very difficult for him to come to grips with the fact that he was suddenly receiving a lot less attention.- BB is a highly active, dynamic, joyful and sensitive child, much like his brother. He smiles and laughs and dances all the time. He also cries and screams often. He needs a lot of attention. He was behind in several developmental areas such as fine motor skills and behind in speech development: at 20 months, he still hadn't spoken any words at all.  But during his eight months with us, he's caught up a lot. At almost 2.5 years, he's now opening doorknobs, eating with a spoon, climbing everything in sight, saying "Mommy" and "Daddy" and "I want my booties" and "please" and "thank you", answering the telephone, and a bunch of other things I'm very proud of.- Sunny's behavior at home is more or less the same as it was in the beginning of the year, but his behavior at school took a nosedive. He was kicked out of his summer day camp for defiant behavior.  After one month in third grade at the same charter school he's been going to for two years, he started getting in a lot of trouble. Things like throwing pencils, disobeying the teacher, even telling the principal to f*** off.  We're working with them to do an IEP. Guy has been going to the school almost daily to do things like have lunch with Sunny to make him feel better and more regulated.  - I don't think the Abilify is really working anymore. We're looking at switching to another medication; I'm going to ask the psychiatrist about Depakote. We're up against the wall when it comes to his schooling. He's already had one "disciplinary hearing." The school is not our enemy in any sense, I really feel like we're all working together, but they don't have the resources right now to do the only thing that works when he gets deep into one of his fits: restraint.  All they can do right now is call one of us to come get him so that he doesn't hurt someone else or himself during one of them.- Sunny's behavior is also isolating him socially at school. The other students in third grade are starting to avoid him because of his outbursts. He still has great relationships with his friends in the neighborhood, but I'm really worried that he's on the path to hating every part of the school that he was so happy with in first and second grade.- Our new Georgia governor (makes gagging noise). I don't even want to think about him.I've been dealing with depression from a lot of stress that comes partly from parenting, partly from finances. I'd really like to make a change in my job, but helping Sunny might cost a lot of money, so now is not the best time to make such a change.  I feel isolated, but not energized enough to take the steps that I know I should take to un-isolate myself.But overall, I and my family are still holding together well.  I'm on Lexapro now, and although the side effects when I started were really, really rough, I think it's having some positive effect.  My mother has been helping me out a lot, too.Oh, and for those who remember all the stuff I've written about my dad? The last time h[...]

I'm OK, and I apologize for the long absence!

Tue, 04 May 2010 21:37:00 +0000

I sincerely apologize to those who've been worried and left nice comments.  Actually, to anyone who's been worried.  I really should have put up a post saying I wouldn't blog for a while.

I've been gone from this blog, from Racialicious commenting and from Twitter for more than a month now. I did a volunteer trip to DC, spent a weekend in New York City, and visited BB and Sunny's home state several times.  This weekend, I picked up BB at the airport curbside and flew him back to what should now be his permanent home. 

I've been under a lot of stress, and I had a very, very strong attack of the typical internet paranoia that strikes a lot of foster care bloggers.  There was some drama we almost got sucked into.  I had dipped my toes in Facebook, but now I think Facebook is a bad fit for me and I won't be updating or adding any more friends or relatives to the list. 

I just started a two-month maternity leave. I appreciate the fact that I get leave when so many other mothers don't, but I think this is also going to be a difficult time.  Although I'm happy to finally have BB with us -- and Sunny and BB are fantastic together -- it's very intensive to care for BB.  Luckily his foster mom has been giving me great advice, including tips on how to get him to eat his veggies.  He's taking a nap in the other room right now.

Please let me know if you have any questions and I'll try to get started blogging again by answering them! I'm going to make it my goal to update at least once a week from now on, and slowly get caught up on the blogs in my Reader as well.

Rough Weekend - Short Update

Tue, 02 Mar 2010 18:53:00 +0000

Sunny broke a long streak of great behavior by sort of falling apart this weekend.  Guy was out of town on a trip, and Sunny didn't handle it as well as he did on the last trip.

He had a fit on Saturday, and then a huge one on Sunday, where he pushed me in the supermarket because I wouldn't buy him the snack bar he wanted.  We went out to the car, and it took almost 15 minutes in the back seat before he calmed down.

It was quite depressing and tiring for me... but I'm looking on the bright side, as well.  Two steps forward, one step back.

Torchwood Season One Ratings Guide!

Fri, 26 Feb 2010 14:58:00 +0000

Here's a fun post I've been working on here and there, over the past week.I finished all of Torchwood, plus Captain Jack Harkness appearances in Doctor Who Seasons One, Three and Four. I'm now going back and watching Torchwood Season One over again. So here are my ratings for the various episodes of Season One. They have been rated according to the following categories:Sexual TensionThis category is self-explanatory. ActionExplosions, Chases, Fights, Stabbings, Chompings, Shootings, Decapitations, etc.DramaCharacter development and effective emotional-type stuff.WTFeryAnything off the wall in an especially good or bad way. Includes plot holes and strange hommages/rip-offs.Image-heavy, so click here for the full post if you're not already on the post page...Episode 1: Everything ChangesWe're introduced to Torchwood through Gwen Cooper, a policewoman in Cardiff, Wales, leading an ordinary Welsh policewoman life until she spies on the Torchwood team. She ends up joining when another team member dies.Sexual innuendo, sex-drug-induced bisexual triangle kissing, Captain Jack Harkness standing on the top of a building in a highly suggestive way.Post-death stabbing, alien throat-chomping, shooting.Effective introduction of characters and great performance by Indira Varma with a rather unexpected and shocking ending.It's obvious to any viewer that this is a unique show and quite difficult to categorize. But why would you tell someone all about your secret organization before giving them an amnesia pill? And why do the Torchwood computers have swirling animated desktops? Animated desktops are very distracting! They give me a headache just thinking about them. How are you supposed to get any sort of serious work done on a computer if you have an animated desktop?Episode 2: Day OneAn incorporeal alien lands in Cardiff, invades the body of a young woman and starts having sex with people in order to kill them and steal their orgasmic energy. Commonly referred to as the "sex gas" episode.Lesbian kissing, explicit hetero sex, lots of implied sex, although it isn't actually very sexy in context. Owen getting naked and handcuffed.A little bit of fighting and a lot of chasing.This episode established the Gwen Cooper is very empathetic, and a good policewoman, but otherwise falls flat.This is basically Welsh Species. Or if you're feeling extraordinarily generous, Welsh Liquid Sky. This episode takes a ridiculous, derivative premise and runs it into the ground and over the top. It's fun, though. Episode 3: Ghost MachineTorchwood discovers a piece of alien technology that calls up glimpses of the past and future.Not much sexual tension other than the suggestive shooting range scene, but that's enough for two peppers!Chasing, lots of stabbing Great minor characters and a "slice of life"feel. One of the characters is first introduced as a sadistic young murderer/rapist, and we meet them again many years later as a pathetic, old, dying, mentally ill man. A complicated portrayal. The first instance of a major Torchwood theme: being haunted by the past.Rather understated except for the shooting range scene. Apparently, teaching superb marksmanship to someone who's never held a gun is easy and takes only a single session; all you have to do is stand up tightly against them, gently stroke their arm and whisper in their ear. Yes, it's just that easy, if you're Captain Jack.Episode 4: CyberwomanIanto has been hiding his Cybergirlfriend in the basement, wearing Cyberfetishwear, strapped to a Cybertable. He tries to fix her up, but it doesn't work and she starts trying to kill everyone.Kissing under dangerous circumstances, sexually suggestive aggressiveness, CyberfetishwearChasing, electrocution, bashing, vivisection, shooting, chomping, debrainification.Ianto suddenly becomes an interesting character. Poor Ianto! He really loves his hot deadly Cybergirlfriend. There's a lot of intensity under that carefully controlled exterior. We[...]

More on Anger, and why Catharsis Doesn't Work

Thu, 25 Feb 2010 17:20:00 +0000

I've been thinking about this topic on and off all week, and how to respond to this argument of support for the hydraulic theory of anger (though the comment supports the theory as description, not prescription, and that's an important difference)Ultimately, there can be many different reasons to explain the mechanism of the same pattern - in this case, the anger-release-calm, anger-release-calm pattern.The cycle starts off when something in the world doesn't go our way. The world intrudes into the boundary of the self. Maybe we feel physically threatened. Or we feel a loss of control. Or we just feel really small all of a sudden. We then respond to the world by attempting to shore up and strengthen the boundaries of the self. These responses can have positive, neutral or negative outcomes for ourselves and for other people.Driving in Atlanta traffic presents numerous opportunities to understand anger. Let's say I'm on my way to work, and I've managed to achieve an emotional equilibrium within my immediate environment. I'm listening to some rocking music. I haven't hit too many red lights. I'm on time. I'm in a rhythm. Things are going right with the world. Then someone cuts me off and comes dangerously close to hitting my car. My first, split-second reaction is visceral. I doubt a cat or a dog or a monkey would react differently. There must be a short release of adrenaline, my heart rate goes up, my brain goes into overdrive, and the fight-or-flight response kicks in.However, since I've been socialized extensively on how to react in these situations, as are most drivers, this reaction doesn't last long. I don't drive off the road or try to kill the person who cut me off. I assess the situation realistically. My heart rate goes back to normal only a couple seconds later. I realize my muscles are tense, so I relax them; I'm holding my breath, so I let it out, perhaps saying a few four-letter words at the same time.Within a few seconds, I start having a second reaction. This is a much more emotional reaction than visceral. My boundaries of self come into play. I'm not just a bundle of nerves anymore, I'm a human being, and I've been insulted by whatever other human being was driving that other car. They've invaded my space. The world is suddenly out of equilibrium. I imagine their thoughtlessness, their lack of care; I imagine them imagining me, or not imagining me. I imagine that the world has a sense of justice, and now I've experienced the world's injustice. They don't care about me, and I care about the fact that they don't care about me. It's not right for a person to act that way. I wish I could reach out and make them know that. Make them. My control was taken away. I want to reassert control. At this stage, a whole chain of thoughts and imaginings are running around in my head. I'm angry.Then a few more seconds and I'm over the second stage. I'm on my way to recovering equilibrium. That chain of thoughts runs out, it's not attached to anything... it slips out of my head. I'm not angry anymore.I don't have a road rage problem, so if you were driving with me in the passenger side, you wouldn't know any of this was going on. The only outward signs would be a short cursing spell and a slight tightening of hands on the wheel. At absolute worst, I'd bang my fist lightly on the steering wheel. I don't know exactly why I curse and steering-wheel bang, but if I had to guess, it's because I've been socialized into that reaction by hearing and seeing so many other people do the same thing.I called visceral reactions the first stage, and emotional reactions the second stage, but in most other situations, it's not that clear-cut. The second can come first. Or they can feed into each other and go back and forth. That's how we start to see these anger cycles.Here's an example of the second stage going first. The next morning after the 2004 election was a rough one for me. I'd worked on the Kerr[...]

A couple responses to the TDD post

Wed, 17 Feb 2010 17:21:00 +0000

I started replying to comments but decided to post the replies here to the main page, since it's such an interesting and new subject.  Several people have left comments on the TDD post; here are my responses to the last two.

I wonder what the social attitude/stigma towards "Temper Dysregulation Disorder" is going to be in five years time.  I do hope it doesn't become the "spoiled brat" diagnosis.  Then again, it would probably have to compete with ADHD for that label.

I was recently discussing with my friend and neighbor how according to the DSM-V, her son doesn't have Asperger's anymore. He now has plain "autism spectrum disorder".  She said she was actually relieved, because Asperger's has been getting a reputation as "not a real problem".  Her son does so well academically that he's in a gifted program, but he's also got some major special needs and just can't function in regular junior high school without extra supports in place.  They've had to struggle hugely, even to the point of getting a lawyer, over the services he needs to stay in school.  They've noticed that over the last decade as the awareness of Asperger's has grown, and the negative stigma has decreased, there's a sort of reverse positive stigma -- "it's just that they're extra quirky" -- that isn't helpful at all in terms of getting him supports.

It's such a fine line. Labels can help us get help for our kids, but they come with such huge baggage... social stigma, inaccuracies, false predictions.

I've watched some documentaries on childhood bipolar and read some articles, and from what I can tell, true, unmistakeable mania is way beyond what I've seen from my son. There was a little girl talking -- very calmly and with a smile on her face -- about how she wanted to cut off her mom's head with a knife. Children who thought they were invulnerable and could jump off roofs or out of moving cars. Children who kept seeing weird sexual hallucinations during the daytime. These weren't children who had attachment issues; I think all of them were bio kids from regular families.

I have a feeling that future studies are going to show that some anti-psychotics are going to work equally well on TDD and childhood bipolar.  I really hope someone will do some therapy studies as well. When we started out, we had so many ideas for how to manage fits, but I've had to disregard most of them as worthless.  They may work for regular, developmentally appropriate temper tantrums, but they don't work for my son.

And as a side note, I realize a lot of them are based on "the hydraulic theory of anger", a disparaging term I've heard a few times.  It's the idea that anger builds up inside you like steam, and to get rid of the anger you have to express it somehow in order to release it.  That makes intuitive sense -- we want to believe it's true -- but nobody has really been able to back that up. Extend it to other emotions and it doesn't make sense. If you're happy, and you express your happiness by jumping into the air while pumping your fists and shouting "I FEEL GOOD" does that release your happiness like steam so that you suddenly stop being happy?

I do think anger/rage/temper causes extreme physical and mental tension, and part of defusing it is releasing that tension, but we have to figure out how to release the tension in ways that don't involve expressing the anger, even against inanimate objects.  That just creates a habit of expressing anger.

Toddlers and Torchwood

Tue, 16 Feb 2010 18:04:00 +0000

I had a fairly productive weekend.  Right now, I'm a bit stressed because I'm neck-deep in a semi-crisis at my agency.  It's a combination of typically high turnover and terrible communication practices by social workers.  Perhaps they practice keeping secrets so much that they forget how to actually tell important things to large groups of people.  I don't talk about my job here, but I will say that I have a bit of experience when it comes to the psychology of communication about change.  You really should not have the junior-most person in the organization sending stakeholders a mass email saying "I'm leaving and everything is changing, but I won't say exactly how, I'll just let you the reader fill in the blanks with the worst-case scenario, but don't worry, nothing will really change."On the bright side, we finally have a subsidy and reimbursement amount for BB, which means a presentation date can be scheduled soon. I'm happy with the amount. I'm going to regard this as a solid enough milestone to go ahead and buy some general parenting books on toddlers.  I'm especially worried about attachment issues.  I remember reading "Toddler Adoption" a while back, but I need to go dig it up again.  I've also been watching a lot of Torchwood lately.  It was added to the Netflix Watch Instantly list, and I thought I'd give it a try.  The only thing I knew was that it was a Doctor Who spin-off with more adult subject matter. IT. IS. SO. FREAKING. GOOD.  I'm not typically the kind of person who falls in love with TV shows.  I mean, I like exciting, character-driven, well-written shows like Buffy and Angel and The Wire and Six Feet Under and Big Love and Battlestar Galactica (yes, I cried at the end even though the end was kind of stupid) and so on. But I can't recall a TV show that hooked me in as quickly as Torchwood!  It's like television crack, and I'm totally addicted. Now I'm listening to Torchwood radio plays and buying Torchwood books along with the toddler books.Here's why.  I'll get the bad stuff on the table right away.  The series starts off a little unevenly.  I thought that some of the first season episodes were too sentimental.  And if you're into serious/hard science fiction (and I am) you need to suspend your disbelief.  Like Doctor Who, it's really more "science fantasy".  Especially factoring in all the time travel, there are often plot holes big enough to drive a truck through.  Much of the basic plot structure clearly comes from a kind of Buffy/Angel/X-Files secret team format.  Plus, you don't really get the full picture unless you're watching Doctor Who, and I was never a huge fan and have only sporadically watched the new Doctor Who series.  The good stuff: the acting is fantastic. The show takes a lot more risks than any American equivalent I can think of.  The subject matter is dark and the body count is high, so even the plots may start off as derivative, they soon get complicated.  You know where the shows start but not necessarily where they're going to end.  The characters are actually changed by what they go through and events are taken very seriously... but there's still plenty of cheeky humor.  And then there's the fact that the team is led by a heroic bisexual cosmic space slut. Captain Jack Harkness is an absolutely fantastic character.  To really get the full story on Captain Jack, you have to jump back and forth a bit between Torchwood and Doctor Who, and luckily Netflix Watch Instantly has them all available.  If you want to start from the very beginning, watch Doctor Who Series One Episodes 9-12 then start on Torchwood Series One.I only have one episode left to watch: Children of Earth Day Five. Day Four was grueling... and heartbreaking. I knew what was going to happ[...]

Snowed In! And other stuff.

Sat, 13 Feb 2010 16:43:00 +0000

We got several inches of snow yesterday, which for Atlanta is quite extreme. My father flew in from Hawaii just in time, or else his flight probably would have been cancelled.We're planning on spending a quiet weekend at home. I don't want to drive anywhere until this nasty snow melts. I've been following the New Life missionary scandal mostly via Bastardette. It's getting more and more tangled. They're turning against each other. Their lawyer, Jorge Puello, isn't a real lawyer, and he's suspected of trafficking kids from El Salvador for prostitution. There's this matter of a supposed $60,000 bribe. The ringleader, Laura Silsby, was probably motivated by greed. I do feel sorry for the two teenagers in the group; their parents were criminally irresponsible to have involved them in this mess.I'm sure there'll be more twists and turns, plus a few tell-all exclusives and books. Sadly, at least some of the New Lifers will make on the profit on this story when they're released from prison.I'm waiting for the inevitable movie, which will probably be some kind of made-for-TV crap. I'd see it, if was of real cinematic quality. Perhaps the Coen brothers? Or González Iñárritu. Trailer voice: "A nation in peril. Fear of God. Love of money. Desire for children. Combined in one woman. Snaring others into her web and dragging them into the moral abyss." Laura Silsby played by Meryl Streep. Judge Bernard Saint-Vil played by Jimmy Jean-Louis. Jorge Puello played by Benicio del Toro.On another topic, I remembered recently that I wanted to link to this post from last month at Restructure: "White people’s family roots are deeper than those of ethnic minorities." I love this post. It absolutely eviscerates a common and irritating stereotype: that minorities have "deeper roots". I run into this all the time. Often, it's very well-meaning and put across in a self-deprecatory fashion. "Oh, I'm not very interesting, I'm just a plain vanilla kind of family, I'm a mutt, I don't have any special ties to another culture..." Even though it's often intended in a positive way, it has the potential to be really insulting and damaging. I'm certainly insulted by it. I mean, I can trace my white ancestors back 500 years, to York and Hanover, with a few mouse clicks. I'm very connected to American culture, and I feel a strong connection to England as well. The fact that I'm not white shouldn't mean I'm an automatic foreigner to Anglo-American culture. On the other hand, I can't even read or write my father's name in Japanese, much less my Japanese grandparents' names. I don't speak Japanese. And this lack of knowledge isn't wholly by choice, it's because I grew up partly in a racist environment where being marked as non-white meant you were supposed to conform culturally or else face verbal and physical attacks.Like Restructure says, the stereotype of "deeper roots" masks the responsibility for cutting off those very same roots.I can think of another, more subtle effect.  White people often talk about being cut off from their roots in the context of feeling a kind of existential angst that propels them into a desperate search for meaning.  That's quite understandable.  Modern American life increasingly isolates people.  Extended families are scattered all over. Family and community ties break apart.  The problem is that people often don't realize that these isolating social forces affect minorities just as much and even more.  I think in a lot of movies and books and art, the angst of middle- and upper-class white people is cast in a really portentous, heroic, important light.  Take that George Clooney movie Up in the Air, which I didn't see, but I heard it was about an angsty white business traveler.  Nobody makes big budget movies about angsty Mexican landscapers or angsty black postal workers or[...]

Helloooo Temper Dysregulation Disorder with Dysphoria

Thu, 11 Feb 2010 16:39:00 +0000

Last night, after hearing and reading this story on NPR, I've been carefully reading through every document concerning TDD at the DSM-V site.  Is that enough acronyms for one sentence?The new rules are eventually going to have huge implications for children in foster care or adopted from foster care.  These kids are the always the ones that get the most diagnoses and the most medications.  They're really the front line... or more cynically stated, they're the guinea pigs.  The NPR article doesn't address the issue of children in foster care, but they do provide a good summary of the importance of the DSM-V.Doctors faced with kids struggling with explosive moods felt the diagnosis was appropriate and said that the bipolar medications they gave to children worked. Research psychiatrists worried that the children were being given a label that wasn't right for them, and saddled with the sentence of a serious mental illness for the rest of their lives. In a move that could potentially change mental health practice all over America, the American Psychiatric Association has announced that it intends to include a new diagnosis in its upcoming fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual — and hopes that new label will be used by clinicians instead of the bipolar label. The condition will be called temper dysregulation disorder, and it will be seen as a brain or biological dysfunction, but not as a necessarily lifelong condition like bipolar.The DSM is the official dictionary of mental disorders recognized by the American Psychiatric Association. Doctors use the DSM to diagnose patients, and insurance companies use it to decide on reimbursement, so it's incredibly important in the profession of psychiatry.By adding this new entry, the American Psychiatric Association is trying to use the considerable institutional power of the DSM to curb use of the pediatric bipolar label.I'm cautiously optimistic about these changes.  I realize that the process of making these diagnoses is sort of like asking a blindfolded person to draw a line using fingerpaint to encircle a seemingly random scattered pattern of symptoms... projected onto a moving target.  But in this case, that line might be drawn slightly more accurately than the previous one.Here are the new criteria for TDD - Temper Dysregulation Disorder with Dysphoria.  Sunny, when off medication, fits every single criteria.Temper Dysregulation Disorder with DysphoriaA. The disorder is characterized by severe recurrent temper outbursts in response to common stressors.1.  The temper outbursts are manifest verbally and/or behaviorally, such as in the form of verbal rages, or physical aggression towards people or property.  2.  The reaction is grossly out of proportion in intensity or duration to the situation or provocation. 3.  The responses are inconsistent with developmental level.B. Frequency: The temper outbursts occur, on average, three or more times per week.C. Mood between temper outbursts: 1.  Nearly every day, the mood between temper outbursts is persistently negative (irritable, angry, and/or sad).2.  The negative mood is observable by others (e.g., parents, teachers, peers). D. Duration: Criteria A-C have been present for at least 12 months.  Throughout that time, the person has never been without the symptoms of Criteria A-C for more than 3 months at a time. E. The temper outbursts and/or negative mood are present in at least two settings (at home, at school, or with peers) and must be severe in at least in one setting.  F.  Chronological age is at least 6 years (or equivalent developmental level).G. The onset is before age 10 years.H. In the past year, there has never been a distinct period lasting more than one day during which abnormally elev[...]

How are you doing in your life?

Mon, 08 Feb 2010 20:55:00 +0000

BB's foster mom has been very irritated with the assessment delay.  At the end of last week, she called up BB's worker, and told her to "sh*t or get off the pot" (in exactly so many words) then threatened to call her supervisor.

As a result of all this pressure across multiple fronts, we're finally starting to see movement.  BB's foster mom confirmed that the assessment agency called her back and said they'd received the referral.  On our end, we submitted a subsidy letter so that we can get a presentation date, but we've supposedly reserved the right to change the amount in case the developmental assessment turns up anything particularly shocking. 

Today, BB's worker asked us what his adoptive name would be.  Like Sunny's name change, it's going to be the same as his old name, but with our last names added at the end.

It's finally starting to seem real.

We shopped a little this weekend.  We need to get a play area ready and set up gates and cabinet locks.  We also need a bigger bed, and one that's lower to the ground.

Sunny got to talk with FFB this weekend.  His first question was "So FFB, how are you doing in your life?"   Since FFB is only four years old, he didn't really know how to answer.  That question struck my mother as drop-dead hilarious.  She's been laughing about it for days.  She says she now lives in fear that someone will ask her, "how are you doing in your life?" and she'll have to struggle to come up with her own epitaph.  Sunny did eventually rephrase the question as "How are doing this week?", and FFB was able to answer that one.

Sunny's behavior has been pretty decent.  He hasn't had a violent fit in more than a week now.

Sunny and I have been watching The Mysterious Cities of Gold together, about an episode every other night.  I watched a few of those when I was a little kid, a long time ago, and I always wished I could have seen the whole story.  Thanks to Youtube, Amazon and the long tail effect, I recently bought the complete deluxe DVD edition of Mysterious Cities of Gold!

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This was such a cool show.  It was a combined French and Japanese production; there's a rumor that Miyazaki was involved.  I do notice the characters sometimes doing subtle things that are intensely Japanese (cheerful head-bobbing).  As far as I can remember, it has a not-necessarily-imperialist perspective in that both the indigenous characters and Spaniards are presented as having complicated motives.  The Spaniards are not the automatic good guys... in fact, I think Gonzalo Pizarro is the major villain.

Sunny really loves the story, and it's something that we can both enjoy watching together.  The other show he's watching right now is "The Replacements".  It's one of those horrible screechy cartoons that doesn't seem to have much of a point.

The music to Mysterious Cities of Gold is especially awesome.  I love the theme, and the rest of the music sounds like it was composed by an avant-garde electronic group from 1970s Berlin.

Subsidy Negotiation Desperation

Thu, 04 Feb 2010 18:38:00 +0000

I'm probably breaking the advice I gave myself on some earlier posts.  I'm facing a very tough decision I didn't even know I had to make until just this week, and I'm starting to get really desperate and emotional and angry about it.I've been informed that the next step on BB is to request a subsidy amount.  When we did this for Sunny, it wasn't that hard.  The worker told me exactly what to do.  I sat down in a meeting with our worker, and she gave me a list of things and amounts to request.  I added the amounts together and put that in an email I sent Sunny's ex-worker (who is now BB's worker).  They gave us an amount that was somewhat less than the amount requested.  The end.  That is, except for that weird extortion attempt at the end of last year, which we ignored.BB has more early documented records: for example, his tox screen after birth.  Currently, he's delayed on several indicators.  He has a lot of stomach problems, and has been on antibiotics more than half the time he's been alive.  He may need physical therapy.  But his issues aren't really severe, either.  His foster mom has been trying to get him a developmental assessment for almost a year now.  Anything she tells me that isn't backed up by a medical evaluation is worthless, apparently, for the purposes of subsidy negotiation.  I thought we were supposed to get the developmental assessment, then we use that to negotiate the subsidy.  Then we move on to visitation and a placement date.  But BB's worker has been dragging her feet on the assessment. She needs to do some special kind of referral.  I think she's been slacking off on that.  BB's foster mom said that she said that the assessment people were supposed to call her two weeks ago but they never did, for example.A whole tangled ticket of she-said-she-said-she-said has been growing around the process and choking forward movement.  Instead of a clear 1->2->3 process, now I feel like both workers are trying to dump decisions on my shoulders, but refusing to give me any of the information I need to make these decisions. Today, I've been calling up both workers and getting desperate on the phone with them.  Talking with my worker is often frustrating, because when I press her on anything, she starts talking really, really fast, repeating herself and making annoying tautological statements like "Remember, the subsidy is what it is."At several points I had to stop with "I'm sorry, that's only making me more confused."  Also, at several points, I said, in a very frustrated voice, "BUT ALL I CARE ABOUT IS THE MONEY!"  That sounds awful, but what I mean is that the assessment has no bearing on whether or not we want to adopt BB.  We are committed to adopting him no matter what it brings up.  All I'm concerned about is getting the maximum subsidy amount in the shortest amount of time!  The subsidy is crucial for anything that Medicaid doesn't cover.  We would never have been able to do neurofeedback therapy for Sunny if it wasn't for his subsidy.However, maybe it's the case that the state is so strapped that they're going to give him the same subsidy even if the assessment turns up a host of ticking time bombs.  In that case, the assessment would be pointless, and we might as well skip it.Calling up both workers and getting desperate seems to have kick-started something.  I had the lightbulb idea of suggesting/promising/threatening to pay for my own assessment.  I know how expensive these can be, but it's only a one-time expense.  What I proposed would be to ask BB's foster mom to take him to some independent private clinic, then pay for it myself or immedi[...]

The Benefits of "Open" Adoption

Wed, 03 Feb 2010 16:02:00 +0000

A few days ago, when Sunny was mad at me for giving him a consequence for backtalking, he said,"I can't wait to go to [Foster Mom]'s this summer!"After he'd calmed down and apologized, I asked him,"You said what you said about going away this summer because you were mad and you wanted to hurt me, right?""Yes. I'm sorry.""I understand that you were mad, but that wasn't a good choice. Anyway, I'm happy you're getting to visit [Foster Mom]. I'm going to miss you when you're gone for the week, but you're not going to hurt me by talking about going to visit [Foster Mom]. Also, does [Foster Mom] tolerate backtalk either?""Oh no she doesn't!""OK then."My only concern about sending him off by himself is the short time he'll be alone on the airplane. I've flown unaccompanied myself as a child for very long flights, and I did well. But then, I've seen other children flying unaccompanied who just sob uncontrollably the whole time. And then there's this story and this story. Yikes! I think he'll be OK as long as he has something to keep him occupied. And we've also had some talks with him about what he should do in case of inappropriate touching.The trip is going to be great from a financial perspective. I looked into short special needs summer camps at one point, and found a few that sounded awesome and therapeutic, but they all cost about a gazillion dollars. Staying with his foster family, he gets experienced special needs care, at absolutely no cost! If I offered, I know she would refuse. I'm going to send some spending money with him anyway, but she'll probably just send it right back.NN (Sunny's bio maternal grandmother) has become pretty close to Sunny's foster family. She doesn't have a real visitation schedule anymore, she just comes over when she can to see BB, and sometimes helps Sunny's foster mom by babysitting while she takes other kids to therapy or court dates. So it will be a visit with her as well.I suppose we have an open adoption, in the sense that we have a totally open relationship with Sunny's foster family. It's been easy to navigate. I check out the questions at Open Adoption Support sometimes, but I really have very few questions I need answered myself. Our relationship with NN is a bit more complicated but still very open. That's really been more like a "classic" open adoption scenario. We have no contact with his bio father and likely will not have any contact for many years. The relationship with his mother, on the other hand, is uniquely challenging because of her death. She's present, but present as an absence. In terms of the logistics of contact and the setting of boundaries, things could not be simpler; in terms of emotions, they could not be more complicated. If she were still alive, Sunny might have more issues about divided loyalties between his "three moms", but he also wouldn't be suffering terribly from the knowledge of questions that will never be asked or answered, words that will never be said or heard...Sunny is especially fond of his former foster brother, who is now 4 years old. I guess I'll call him FFB. FFB came into foster care as a baby, a little after Sunny started living with his foster family, and they were very close to each other. I think he loves BB in an abstract way, but he loves FFB in a much more immediate way. When I was talking to him recently about BB, he asked if FFB could come live with us too! I reminded him that FFB had another family that he stayed with, so absolutely not.There's some major drama going on there. Basically, FFB was reunited after a few years with Sunny's foster mom. FFB was no longer a foster child. But the two families kept up a connection. FFB's mother or father would drop him off at his ex-foster mom's home for 3-7 days [...]

Talking About Feelings

Mon, 01 Feb 2010 16:23:00 +0000

Last week's therapy was the first time Sunny had a meltdown with the therapist.They were playing his new SMath game that he'd brought to therapy. I'd warned the therapist in advance that Sunny tends to get a little obsessed and overemotional when it comes to new games. Sure enough, he had an argument with her about the right way to play the game. She said that she wasn't able to play the game with him until he calmed down. He yelled and argued and cried and blamed her. On the positive side, he was able to pull himself out of the state, apologize, and finish up the session well.He's on a trend recently where he reacts by instantly blaming others. We've been hearing a lot of things like "you just want me to starve to death", "you just want to ruin my life" and our favorite, "you just want me to be bored." Because it's just so much fun for us when Sunny is bored! Ha ha ha. He had another meltdown before we even got to the parking lot of the therapist's office. She thought that might happen, and came outside for a little bit. We had a good talk about how Sunny needs to label his feelings more, because he's afraid of his feelings and defaults every negative feeling to anger, which then turns into "I'm angry because YOU made me angry."After Sunny calmed down again -- and he stayed OK for the rest of the night -- we talked about how he was feeling embarrassed. He didn't want his therapist to see him lose control, and when she did, that made him very sad, and embarrassed, and then angry. I reminded him that maybe if he talked about being embarrassed, he could keep from moving into anger.This morning we had another episode that could have turned into a hitting fit, but didn't. I asked him not to touch a sausage. He touched it. That's how it started. I just kept a calm tone and told him I was waiting for a real apology. There was a lot of yelling and accusations: I wanted him to be late for school. I wanted him to starve to death because I said he couldn't finish his cereal until he apologized. I wanted to ruin his day. I was a liar.I stuck to my points:- He needs to do what I ask him the first time I ask. I didn't want him to get hot sausage grease all over his hands. Contrary to his argument, I don't need to fully explain my reason before I ask him to do something.- When he apologizes, it's not a real apology if he yells "Sorry" in a nasty tone while not looking me in the eyes.- It's also not a real apology unless, at the very least, he takes responsibility.He came close to really losing it at a few moments, but he finally pulled himself out of it. We were able to talk about the fact that we knew he was embarrassed. He knew he was wrong, but he kept inventing excuses, and that caused him to feel embarrassed and hang his head and hide his eyes and refuse to look at us. He agreed that he'd been feeling embarrassed.I also asked him Sunny if he wanted to push me in the kitchen when he was angry. He paused a little bit before he said "yes, I did." I congratulated him for not pushing me. Instead, he'd come to me for a hug when he was ready to calm down.It's so hard to know when an issue like this is a pointless power struggle, and when it's important to hold the line to establish consistency. One thing I've decided to give up on is making him wear sweaters or roll up his pant cuffs. It's not worth it. But I still think we have to come down like a brick wall when he starts with the blame routine. I believe Sunny's number one challenge in life is going to be anger management. We can't just let it slide. We have to do everything we can right now to keep it from being a bigger problem later.Exploring "embarrassment" and maybe talking about shame and guilt as well[...]

Haiti News Over the Weekend

Mon, 01 Feb 2010 14:14:00 +0000

I said I wouldn't follow up, but I somehow feel obligated.

Medical evacuations resumed late yesterday, thank goodness. There's no telling how many people died because airlifts were suspended for five days.

Then there was the child trafficking arrest story: the ten Americans who were arrested trying to sneak a bunch of Haitian kids across the Dominican border. I read about that here and followed up here at the Baltimore Sun, where there's also video.

Among the many disturbing aspects to the story is the fact that one of the Americans is an 18-year-old girl. Her father back in the States has been talking to the press, but as far as I can tell, he hasn't taken any responsibility for encouraging her to do something so ridiculously outrageous and dangerous. The pastor, also, hasn't taken responsibility as the leader of this effort. All they say is "but we meant well!" repeated ad nauseam.

I'm a little sore about this subject because we just had a long talk with Sunny this morning about the importance of taking responsibility and not blaming other people. He's not that good at it yet, but at least he has an excuse: he's only seven years old.

Charlie Crist's Priorities

Sat, 30 Jan 2010 20:06:00 +0000

This is heartbreaking.

U.S. Suspends Haitian Airlift in Cost Dispute
Published: January 29, 2010
MIAMI — The United States has suspended its medical evacuations of critically injured Haitian earthquake victims until a dispute over who will pay for their care is settled, military officials said Friday.

The military flights, usually C-130s carrying Haitians with spinal cord injuries, burns and other serious wounds, ended on Wednesday after Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida formally asked the federal government to shoulder some of the cost of the care.


The suspension could be catastrophic for patients, said Dr. Barth A. Green, the co-founder of Project Medishare for Haiti, a nonprofit group affiliated with the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine that had been evacuating about two dozen patients a day.

“People are dying in Haiti because they can’t get out,” Dr. Green said.


Some of the patients being airlifted from Haiti are American citizens and some are insured or eligible for insurance. But Haitians who are not legal residents of the United States can qualify for Medicaid only if they are given so-called humanitarian parole — in which someone is allowed into the United States temporarily because of an emergency — by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Only 34 people have been given humanitarian parole for medical reasons, said Matthew Chandler, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security. The National Disaster Medical System, if activated, would cover the costs of caring for patients regardless of their legal status.

Crist later defended himself.

Miami Herald: But Crist too has denied he's responsible.

In a statement Saturday, he noted that ``between 60 and 80 Haitian orphans arrived at Miami International Airport'' Friday night, and that ``at no time has Florida closed our doors to those impacted by the earthquake in Haiti.

``To the contrary, Florida has been at the forefront of the crisis in Haiti -- caring for the injured, reuniting families, comforting those who have been devastated by loss.''

What a scumbag. Of course Florida is at the forefront, because it's right next door to Haiti. (Just a note... I used to live there, and I even used to have a job in the Little Haiti neighborhood).

From what I can gather, Crist is arguing that as long as they accept airlifts of "orphans", it's OK for them to stop every other medical evacuation. So let's say a Haitian family has one child they were living with, and that child was severely injured in the quake. Their other child was in an orphanage when the quake happened, and is healthy. Guess which child gets a flight to Miami?

The Superbowl is apparently a part of this disgusting mess, as well. Officials need to save hospital beds for Superbowl visitors.

I don't know what to do about this... maybe I'll send an email to the Secretary of State or my representative. I'll try typing something up later.

Foster Care Adoptions: How Not to Give Up (Part II)

Fri, 29 Jan 2010 16:19:00 +0000

Thanks for all the comments on the last post! It's time for some corrections and additions before I move on.When it comes to religion, at least one parent and one social worker have left informative comments and mentioned that in their experience, they don't see being a non-Christian as a major handicap in their area. That's great. I don't think I need to take back or delete anything I said earlier, but I do need to add quite a bit more qualification. I live in Georgia, which is one of the Bibliest parts of the Bible Belt. I also live in Atlanta, which is fairly diverse and open-minded, though the city is so informally segregated that it's hard to see that. We elected the first Buddhist representative to Congress, after all. Much of the rest of Georgia complains about Atlanta being full of "gays, blacks, and liberals". So this is an environment where non-Christians are not exactly ostracized, and Christianity is incredibly diverse, but it's still intensely Christian. On Sunday morning, you'll often find the gay black liberals dressed up and on their way to the gay black liberal church. If you're a non-Christian prospective parent who lives in, say, San Francisco or Manhattan, and you're signed with a county agency and are not doing any interstate, then you should probably just ignore all my dire warnings in that section. But if you are doing interstate, you might want to plan for the worst-case scenario... a child's social worker in rural Oklahoma might have a totally different perspective on what makes the right kind of family than your local worker does.SocialWrkr24/7 also left some great information on family ranking. Ranking is definitely subjective and will vary enormously according to your region and the kind of child you are submitting your homestudy for. Single dads and single moms may be preferred for children with specific kinds of histories and issues.MatchingOnce you're licensed and homestudied, the agonizing wait begins. More than anything else, you'll want to know, HOW LONG? But no one can tell you. According to Page 32 of the report, this is the stage at which the majority of families who drop out will drop out.Each agency does things different ways. When you're working with state and national photolistings, you'll follow this general procedure:1) register (usually a quick process)2) search the photolistings3) submit inquiries on children. You might do this through the site, or perhaps the site will give the child's worker's phone number and.or email address.4) submit your homestudy. Usually, you cannot do this yourself. Your worker needs to do it for you.This is an emotionally draining process. It can start to feel like bargaining at a swap meet. You quickly realize that the younger, healthier children will have had a ton of studies submitted on them, and you have a minuscule chance of being accepted. Then you feel guilty not submitting it for an older child with more special needs who might not have any inquiries at all. You begin to feel an uncommon mixture of emotion: humiliation mixed with guilt and inadequacy.The process isn't helped by the fact that many of the photolistings are poorly run. At one point, it took me about three months of calling before I got in touch with someone about a particular listing. Then they told me the boy had been adopted six months ago. Apparently, this is very common. At this point, your time networking and being in touch with other adoptive parents is hopefully starting to pay off. You'll probably need to just give up searching on certain states and certain locations. You'll begin to realize that some o[...]

Foster Care Adoptions: How Not to Give Up (Part One First Draft)

Thu, 28 Jan 2010 21:15:00 +0000

I've seen a lot of comments in various debates recounting how some parents were forced to adopt internationally because they were not allowed to adopt from foster care.I'm skeptical of most of these claims. Not all. Just most. You can see a comment I left here for more details. I've also addressed it several times in older blog posts here. I won't recap those arguments. Instead, I'm going to try and do something constructive: giving a guide to overcoming barriers to adopting from foster care.I'm really not the best person to do this. I'm sure I'm going to get some things wrong. If anyone wants to comment or email correcting me on details, please go ahead, and I'll update this blog post later and credit you. This guide is mainly for people who feel overwhelmed by the process, who don't understand it and are terrified of it, and who are worried they'll be discriminated against.  You might be even more scared after you finish reading, but you also might feel better about being forewarned. If you've already adopted from foster care, or have a lot of experience, it won't apply as much.  It also applies much more to adoption than to fostering.Get educated Read this report: Barriers & Success Factors in Adoption From Foster Care: Perspectives of Families & Staff. Concentrate very hard on the staff section. Also read this report: "Listening to Parents: Overcoming the Barriers to the Adoption of Children from Foster Care". These two reports will go a long way in giving you a realistic perspective on the process.Look for Yahoo! Groups and forums and communities for foster care parents, foster care adoptive parents and older child adoptive parents. Get involved and ask questions. Try hard to get as much specific information as possible about your geographical area. Foster care adoption is incredibly local. You might be in a good location, or a hopeless one. Read lots of blogs. Accounts by adults with experiences of being in foster care are especially important to find and read.Homestudy YourselfRead this page about homestudies from and try to do the process to yourself, in a general way. Are there any general weaknesses or general strengths? Now is the time to address those weaknesses.If you don't have much documented experience with children, volunteer as a mentor or tutor. Do this with two different age groups, if possible, and also try to find some volunteer work with special needs children. This will help your homestudy and it will help you immeasurably in order to determine what your specific weaknesses and strengths are. You might find that you loathe carrying babies and changing diapers, and adopting an older kid would be just great. You might find that you have a tendency to get overly irritated with certain behaviors or certain needs. Can you change your own mentality? Are you sure this is right for you? Your motivation is important, but it's less important than your strengths and weaknesses.You really need to think long term here. In fact, a year of preparation before you walk through the agency doors might not be out of order for some families. If you have children, you need to have talks with them about it. This is a very complicated subject and I don't have any experience with it. While I don't think it's necessary to have your other children's full permission when starting, you'll need to realize this is going to be a huge event for them as well as you. This is a good link specifically for fostering.If you're living somewhere with no room for another child, you're going to need to move. Finances are also an issue. Y[...]

This is Reassuring, and Interesting

Thu, 28 Jan 2010 14:45:00 +0000

Many children 'hear voices'; most aren't bothered

By Anne Harding Anne Harding Tue Jan 26, 5:22 pm ET

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Nearly 1 in 10 seven- to eight-year-olds hears voices that aren't really there, according to a new study. But most children who hear voices don't find them troubling or disruptive to their thinking, the study team found. "These voices in general have a limited impact in daily life," Agna A. Bartels-Velthuis of University Medical Center Groningen in The Netherlands wrote in an email to Reuters Health. And parents whose children hear voices should not be overly concerned, she added. "In most cases the voices will just disappear. I would advise them to reassure their child and to watch him or her closely." Up to 16 percent of mentally healthy children and teens may hear voices, the researchers note in the British Journal of Psychiatry. While hearing voices can signal a heightened risk of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders in later life, they add, the "great majority" of young people who have these experiences never become mentally ill.


Children's brains are amazing places.


Tue, 26 Jan 2010 22:38:00 +0000

I really appreciate all the comments in the last post. 27 now. I think it's my record here! This post went up on Racialicious today as well, and it's reaching a wide audience, which is what I'd hoped for.

I also want to let any new readers know that if you're frustrated by the comment registration policy, I'm sorry. If you really need to get in touch with me, try email. But I like having the registration policy in place because it means I never have to deal with comment spam or drive-by flaming, and I have limited time to manage my blog. Google registration also keeps comments centered on a regular group of people -- other adoption bloggers -- that have been reading me for years, as I've been reading them for years.

As for a comment policy, I don't have one. If you take the time to type up a negative comment, I'll probably leave it. I will note that I don't hate transracial adoption. I'm a transracial adoptive parent; I have a hopefully-healthy-rather-than-narcissistic love for myself. Also, I reserve the right to judge pretty much everything and everyone. I usually define the word "judge" to mean "think critically". I'm aware that many other people have different definitions of the word "judging", such as "saying anything I don't like" or "being a jerk".

I'm probably not going to revisit the topic for a bit, unless I become aware of an important immigration action item (I'm hoping that a proposal will come up soon to at the very least double the number of Haitian visas).

Again, I really appreciate the comments.  And if you want to stick around, great! Just warning you that most of what I post about regularly is more day-to-day mommyblogging type of stuff.

The Dangerous Desire to Adopt Haitian Babies

Sun, 24 Jan 2010 00:46:00 +0000

I'm a foster care adoptive parent. I can't speak for all of us, since we're a diverse bunch. Some of us have also adopted internationally and support international adoption strongly. Others despise the institution, and are angry about what the perceived hypocrisy of parents who walk past the foster kids in their own cities and states so that they can adopt from a far-away country. I'm somewhere in the middle, but definitely leaning more towards the anti side, especially after this week.This week, I've been deeply disturbed at the swelling public desire to adopt Haitians. Haitian orphan babies. The very name is problematic. In our imagination, an orphan has no family, but the vast majority of "orphans" all over the world have living parents, and almost every single one has living extended relatives. And the children that need family care are, overwhelmingly, older children. Quite a few other parents I know are really pissed off about it. If you want to adopt, why not consider adopting from foster care? Why Haitian babies? I can guess at some of the answers. Most of them will not be very flattering.There's a certain group of white adoptive international parents that dominate much of the discourse around adoption in this country. The most organized of these are evangelical Christians, but many of them are secular in their beliefs on adoption. They're across the political spectrum, ultraconservative to ultraliberal, though if I had to hazard a guess, most of them are center-right in politics. I believe these people are, basically, a force for evil. If I put it in any nicer words, that would be a lie. Examining their belief system, and their potential political influence on the recovery efforts in Haiti, is a pretty terrifying process.I was first made aware of the Rumor Queen website several years ago. I was doing some research on Chinese adoption for a blog post. They're a large community of parents adopting from China, and the site is known for posting a lot of useful data about wait times. A few years ago controversy happened in the forum when some Chinese-American parents were accused by white parents of "jumping the line". There is, in fact, an expedited program for some Chinese-Americans; it's quite restrictive and any Chinese-American greater than second-generation does not qualify. The fact that some of these Chinese-Americans were possibly be more worthy of Chinese babies because of factors like "language" and "culture" and "race" apparently enraged some of the white parents. I read about it second hand from a couple of really angry, hurt Chinese-American families. This episode should give you a taste of the quality of discourse at this and similar websites. There are dissident voices, but the environments are most often dominated by white parents who refuse to consider any of the complex ethical issues surrounding transracial, transcultural, international adoption. They're saving children. How can you argue with that, right?These online communities are often very hostile places for adoptive parents of color. They're even more hostile, of course, to adoptees and birth/first parents who want to discuss more complicated perspectives of adoption. I stumbled on Rumor Queen again recently and was shocked to see what was going on. The whole site has gone gaga over adopting Haitian babies. It began with concerns about Haitian children, and is evolving into a coordinated plan of action to put pressure on political representatives for a Haitian babylift.Also, I’m[...]

Follow-Up and Miscellaneous

Fri, 22 Jan 2010 20:44:00 +0000

From the therapist (I love quoting emails, it's so easy).

Thanks again for the update.  I wanted to address the issue with visiting your cousin in greater detail than I was able to last night.  First of all, I think it was extremely savvy of you to figure out the emotional connection for [Sunny] between visits with your cousin and his biological mother.  It sounds like you hit the nail on the head and were able to deescalate the situation quickly as a result.  As I mentioned, [Sunny] and I discussed grief and bereavement and read a story about losing a loved one through death.  He seemed interested in the story as he sat quietly throughout, which is unusual for him.  He struggled to talk about the story afterward, likely due to the discomfort he experiences in facing his emotions head on.  We have been and will continue to work on this as I think it is the heart of the issue for him.  To answer your question regarding whether or not he should be allowed to continue with visitation, my answer is most certainly.  It is important to show him he can visit your cousin and say goodbye to her and that the goodbye will not be forever.  I would also encourage you to verbalize this to him (i.e., let him know when you will be coming back) and acknowledge and label his feelings for him (i.e., sad, scared, etc.).  This last part will be extremely important in whatever you are doing as it seems [Sunny] may not always know what he is feeling so the more help he can get with the identification of feelings the better.  Please let me know if you have questions.

I've tried reading books about loss with him before, but it's very difficult.  When we read Everett Anderson's Goodbye, he was crying bitterly by the end of it, and told me he never wanted to read it again because it was too sad.  It's nice to finally have some professional backup and guidance.

However, it's not entirely true I was able to "deescalate the situation quickly".  It took about 30 grinding minutes and felt like an eternity.

To a commenter who asked what medication Sunny is taking: it's a popular atypical antipsychotic that also begins with the letter A. If you look up any reference on that drug class it'll be right there.  That's the only med he's on.  I don't have him on any of the strictly ADHD drugs.  His foster mother tried Adderall at one point, but said it made him "act mean", even though it did improve his ability to concentrate.  Given his generally good academics, and the fact that I don't think he has standard ADHD, I don't want to give him any med that will change his personality, as long as he can get along OK in school with the support of his 504 plan.

Thanks to everyone else who's commented!

Later today, I'm going to start working on a blog post on the media around Haitian "orphan" adoption.  I need to get back to some controversial posts after a long string of just-about-family ones.

A Lightbulb Moment

Mon, 18 Jan 2010 02:42:00 +0000

We visited my cousin a week and a half ago at her psychiatric clinic.  I think I did mention the visit in a previous blog post.  I never had any qualms about the clinic environment, because it's a pretty nice, high-end type of place.  It's bright, airy, the staff are casual and friendly, and I've never heard anyone screaming.  When we go over there Sunny usually plays games with my cousin and anyone else who happens to be hanging out in the lounge area.Last time, Sunny had some very bad behavior after we left.  We had to spend about ten minutes in the parking lot and back porch.  I always refuse to get into the car with Sunny once he passes a certain point of emotional turmoil.  It's because I don't want him throwing stuff at me while I'm driving (if he gets worked up while I'm driving, I immediately pull over).Tonight, when we went to visit, I prepped him extensively.  I reminded him that my cousin might not feel well.  "If she has a headache, we have to turn around and go home." I reminded him that the clinic might have an outing, and we might have to leave early.  I told him to try and keep calm when it was time for us to leave.  I gave him all sorts of reminders covering various contingencies.  I was a little nervous of taking him anyway, given the rough week we just had, but he seemed to have recovered, and he'd been begging all weekend to visit my cousin.So we showed up at 5pm, in the middle of visiting hours.  Luckily, my cousin was feeling well enough for a visit.  She always lights up when she sees Sunny.  He really is a little ray of sunshine (except when he's a thunderclap of doom, of course, but mostly, he's a little ray of sunshine).We had dinner together, although she didn't feel quite well enough to eat.  She's on a lot of medications that do unpredictable things to her appetite.  He was so happy to see her.  He even repeated, unprompted, what I'd told him earlier: "if we come visit and you have a headache, it's OK.  We'll just come back when you feel better."Sunny had a fantastic time playing Pictionary with my cousin and three other patients.  I told him we were going to leave at 6:30 and gave him plenty of reminders.  The game wrapped up naturally around 6:30, then we said our goodbyes, signed out, and walked out the back.  Again, out in the parking lot, Sunny started breaking down and picked an excuse to fight with me.  He wouldn't do his deep breathing exercise when I asked him to calm down.  He just got more and more worked up."All you ever do is mean things to me.""I say I'm sorry a million times, but you don't listen to me.""You just want me to freeze to death" (but this time I had moved back into the heated back porch and I was preparing myself for the breakdown)"You never listen to me.""You don't care about me.""You're mean.""You're a total idiot.""You don't listen to me, you don't care about me, I hate you, you hurt me and you never say I'm sorry, you don't listen to me when I say I'm sorry, you're never nice to me, you're mean to me..."At one point one of the staff came to the back porch and asked if we were having trouble with the door.  I just gave her a forced smile and told her we were going to be on the porch for a little bit because my son was having a tantrum, but he'd get over it.  I'm past the point of being embarrassed when things like this happen.  The only thin[...]

No Hell Week Part II Post! Purgatory, at the Most.

Mon, 18 Jan 2010 01:19:00 +0000

We made it.  Whew.

Tuesday was the worst. I outlined the basics in the email to the therapist that I posted on Wednesday.  Sunny was in a terrible state.  He seemed full of hate.  It was like the hate came from outside and took him over.  He took the hate out on us, but I could tell, more than anything else, he hated himself for being that way.  When he told me in the car about the voices in his head that said "I hate you", it made me feel so sad for him.

We started him back on his old med that night.  Wednesday was a little better, but he still got called him from school for acting out.  We had a school meeting about him on Thursday -- we kept him out of school that day -- then let him go back for a half day on Friday.  He made it.

Thank goodness I can trust the people at his school. They're treating this like a "lost week".  They're full of sympathy for him.  There won't be any lasting consequences.  At another kind of school, they might have been talking expulsion or a move to a special education classroom.

By Friday, he was begging to go back to school! He was missing his "Math Message".  I don't know exactly what that is, but he sure does love it.

He had a sleepover with Nana on Saturday night.  Guy and I took a much-needed date night and saw The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, then went to Loca Luna for tapas.  We didn't go to bed until midnight and slept in until 10AM.  Then we met Sunny and Nana and another friend of ours for dim sum.  Overall, this has been a pretty good weekend.  The smile is back on Sunny's face.

The situation in Haiti, of course, has been weighing on my mind.  I emailed a Haitian friend I met through the Obama campaign and asked him how his relatives were doing and if we could do anything else besides donating (which we've already done). 

This man worked harder than anyone else on the campaign, and he couldn't even vote.  He must have registered hundreds of new voters.  When our small group went on a weekend vanpool together, he drove the whole time.  And he knocked on twice as many doors as any of us, with a bigger smile on his face, in the blazing summer heat... all while wearing a three-piece suit.  I really admire him and I feel terrible for what he and his family (a wife and six very sweet kids) must be going through now.

Sunny's therapist talked to him a little bit about the voices.  She told him that when he heard voices inside his head saying mean things about him, like "I hate you", he could tell himself positive things, like "I'm nice".

So we're back to square one with his medication.  I guess we'll try taking him off again next year.  I don't want him to go through the rest of his childhood on meds, but I can't risk 1) his  school and 2) our sanity.  Thinking about my younger cousin and his life, the thing he really regrets most bitterly is how he was warehoused in special ed because of his behavior, and never even learned to write until middle school.  He made me promise that I would never do that to Sunny.

Quick Links to Help Haiti

Wed, 13 Jan 2010 20:44:00 +0000

These are some of the organizations that can move the quickest.

  • Red Cross: American Red Cross Pledges Initial $1 Million to Haiti Relief - Send a $10 Donation by Texting ‘Haiti’ to 90999
  • MADRE: Emergency in Haiti! Please send humanitarian aid
  • CARE: CARE Deploys Additional Emergency Team Members to Haiti
  • MSF/Doctors without Borders: Haiti: MSF Teams Set up Clinics to Treat Injured After Facilities Are Damaged