Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Hair Thoughts on Lissa at 6

I've not written much in the recent months about my sweet Lissa's hair care.  In the early days of mothering a young African American girl I was obsessed with hair. I read about hair care. I blogged about hair care. I read other people's blogs about hair care and watched You Tube for hours.  Of course the hours could have been because my computer is so slow, but you catch my drift.

My angst was filled with a deep commitment to make sure that my baby girl was never in a position to feel out of place about her hair.  I wanted her to be connected to the black community and to wear her hair as other little black girls wore their hair. Under no circumstances did I want black friends or neighbors to look at her hair and think "oooooh a clueless white mommy messed with that head!"  I have a black friend whose step mom was white and who did not know how to handle her hair. She told me once about wearing puffs all the time because that was all her mom knew how to do.  Her older sister who is also black eventually took over the hair care.

I envisioned hair time to be this really happy bonding time for Lissa and I.  We would talk and goof around and I would happily do her hair. This was about the reality as much as The Donna Reed show accurately portrayed the American Family way back when.  It wasn't horrible, but there was a certain level of stress involved.  Especially lately as Lissa does not like to sit for hair care.  At all.  Anything longer than 10 to 15 minutes is really pushing the envelope of her patience. Games, songs, toys, TV.  Nothing made it easier for her to sit.  I know that I need to moisturize, to detangle slowly and carefully, to use protective styles, so it all made for a bit of a challenge.  I became adept at doing simple styles fast.  My days of box braids and mini twists were gone, giving way to french braids, flat twists, big twisted pony tails and buns.

Life went along pretty well.  Lissa tolerated the system. She knew the styles and how long they took. We had a schedule for hair time, and like all my kids, she is always better with a schedule. But it was still nothing she enjoyed.  I also have to confess here that it has never occurred to me to invite Lissa into helping with her hair care.  In part, because she is young and black hair is fragile.  Hers is in great condition but it needs TLC and a gentle hand.  Also, at least in our area, black kids don't "do" their own hair.  That is done by the women in their life--mom or auntie or a big sister.  It just isn't culturally the norm to do their own hair.  I realize that I am white,but I sort of absorbed that whole mindset from friends.

Tonight, as I detangled her hair and parted it for some medium twists, she asked if she could help. I thought back to a cool video that Cherish My Daughter put up.  It showed her having "hair school" with her kids.  I suspect that although she is gearing hair independence toward her older daughter, that the younger ones are eagerly absorbing the information as well.

And so I let go my preconceptions of the right thing to do.  I squirted conditioner in Lissa's hands and showed her how to smooth it through her shiny tresses.  I showed her how I wiggle my fingers through gently to loosen any tangles painlessly.  She copied me so carefully and then managed to twist two sections on her own.  I think we spent close to 35 minutes on her hair tonight (you know how things always take longer when you are sharing a skill that is new to someone)  But she was engaged, and happy. She admired how long her hair is, showed her brother the twist she had done.  It was the best hair night ever!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Gathering In.

The best thing I ever bought was this table.  It is big enough for all of us with one extra leaf put in and big enough to gather in extended family and friends with two extra leaves.  At that point the room becomes very small because while the table is big the room, not so much. But it is still worth it because we are all together, sharing food, sharing stories, and building a sense of place together. I am big on sitting down at the table together.  Eating in front of the TV is so rare at our home that it is called "dinner and a movie" and is a carefully planned and very exciting event.  LOL And if we do that, we all are still sitting down together, picnic style to enjoy the flick.

I can see that sense of place increasing in Fiona.  She was out to visit  yesterday and it was a great day.  She helped me put the dinner on the table. The littles had set the place settings, Rob had gotten the beverages poured, but Fiona helped bring the plated food to the table. She knows now where she sits, where each of her brothers and her sister sit, and where I plunk down.  This is so important.  It is a quiet way of saying. You belong.  You are here.  When you come back, this place is waiting for you.  I think it says belonging almost more clearly to her than anything I could say with words.  I am just glad she hears it.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Baby it's cold. . .

The song continues on with the word "outside."  Except that when we have periods of extreme cold like now, it also applies to the inside of our home.  The down side of living in a large drafty old Victorian is that in times like this, it is COLD.  So cold we have one area of our kitchen where we store pans and such blocked off to keep the wind from whistling across your feet.  So cold that I have been going to bed at 9:30 because I am warm in bed.  I am wearing so many clothes that I look like a bag lady.

The kids are not nearly as bothered as I am. They are only annoyed that they can't really play outside with the below zero wind chills in effect.  However, having Reynaud's makes my extremities cold all the time and when the house is not warmer than about 58, that pretty much translates to me being a popsicle.

 So I am taking artistic liberty and whining about my misery on my blog.  Right about now I wish I was a bear so I could curl up and hibernate and wait till spring.  Since I can not do that, I have tried to put my mental energy toward warmer thoughts.  I registered Rob for his week of summer camp in Maine.  He will be there from the end of June into the first week of July.  He is really looking forward to it.  I sent an email to the place where we want to camp with friends in the White Mountains and am waiting to hear back from them.  I have studiously been avoiding weather reports that giddily detail every time the temps dip still further, I don't need to know it is going to get colder, I have to focus on the positive!  It will get warmer, it will get warmer. . .

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A bit of This and That

Math was messy fun tonight as KC and I worked on equivalent fractions with measuring cups, tablespoons and water.  We also drew charts of  them the traditional way but I try to offer a variety of ways to absorb a concept as I am still not 100 per cent sure exactly which learning style he favors the most. I do know that I love watching kids learn and find that "aha" moment.

It is freezing outside. Very seriously cold.  I hate cold. I think the hardest thing I will do the rest of this week is leave my warm bed for my cold rest of the house and commute to work.  As an added aside, this is the one time when driving stick is so not fun!  I typically need 2 hands to move the gear stick  when it gets this cold!

Fiona called and she is coming for a visit on Saturday. We are going to a place where you can do pottery painting. I think it will be fun and one of those expressive activities that allows for us to work companionably on something for a longish period of time.  I am also trying to score tickets to Disney on Ice for a weekday show  in February because she really wants to see this.

Thinking towards summer, a friend of ours (not our usual camping pals) Facebooked me and said that she and her husband and 4 kiddos were going to camp in the White Mountains this summer and invited us  to join them.  I am now approved for 2 days off in July so we will have a 4 day camping jaunt with them.  Their vacation is a full week. I can't really take a week at a time at that time of year as my tasks are very busy then.  This is one of those camping areas that caters to families visiting the theme parks in the area. We can in fact, walk to Six Gun City which is one of our destinations. (and probably one of the only venues in the area that I have not visited.)  I am looking forward to when the littles are old enough for more serious hiking in that area.  I love that, but I want them to be ready physically and emotionally.  I can't make them love it just because I do .And above all, I love spending time with them as a family creating memories and having silly fun.  That thought will help keep me warm during the deep freeze we are experiencing with our weather.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Another "quiet" Weekend!

This weekend all ready looked a bit hectic but I think it will be a trifle more full than I had originally expected.  Tomorrow:  shopping, banking dance class and picking up our books on reserve at the library will take up our morning.  A quick lunch and then we skip next door to spend about 45 minutes at the little neighbor friends birthday party.  From there, we then go to our church to a memorial service for a member who has passed.  Sandy's daughter Susan is a good friend of Rob's and active in the youth group.  I served on the religious education committee with Sandy's wife Mary Monica.  I can't believe Sandy is gone.  I think it is important to have us all there as a family both to support our friends but also to help the kids understand the ways in which we honor lives and say goodbye for now.

After the service there is a reception.  I made cookies to bring tonight.  The dog ate a bunch of them.  I swear the dog has an accordian neck. I had them SO far back on the counter.  Argh!  But those which were untouched will be delicious.  After the reception, Rob's friend Drew wants to come to our house to spend the rest of the weekend.  This is fine with me. I suspect that I won't know till about 5 minutes before he gets in the car that he is coming for sure. Drew tends to ask me if something is okay and forgets to ask his own family.  LOL  For me, it is just one more kid in a house that brims with kid laughter, noise and chaos as a general rule.  I have noticed too that Rob's friends without exception seem to want to hang out here.  They like the fact that we are all a happy noisy jumble of humanity.  We are not upscale enough to have "the kids wing" or the "finished basement" where kids are supposed to hang out.  We are all in the same general area of one another because of the way our house is.  I am not invading what they are doing, but I am around doing my things.  With kids the thing I am doing is usually cooking things!  :-) I watch a lot of HGTV and marvel at the things that people want for their homes.  They want their master bedrooms to be far away from their kids.  They want bonus rooms where their kids can be far away from them.  They want finished basements for the same reason.

I have a friend who grew up as a family of 6 in a 2 bedroom home. She and her husband bought their first home a few months back. It has some of those bells and whistles I just mentioned.  She finds herself not using them because she likes the kids near her. She likes them all to be involved as a family. I think not having those amenities teaches about compromise.  We have to take turns for things in our house.  Everyone does not have their own computer for instance, though most of Rob's friends find this amazing!  Ditto on the TV.  There are not TV's in bedrooms.  I want a reason for teens to walk out that bedroom door. You can have music in  your room but for anything else, come join the family.

So for all that on paper it looks like my kids have less than their peers, I think in the long run, we have more. We have each other, and we have a happy place where people like to come and join in the fun.  For me, that's better than a bonus room!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Rob may be my "quiet" guy but he is increasingly dependable guy who is fun to be around.  He is also smart with electronics, something that I will never be.  I have faced the fact that when the last child leaves home I might as well sell my TV because without them I can't turn it on.  I am jesting but only in part.

This past week the sound went on my aged home computer.  I wouldn't know that. I use a computer to blog, do email and check in on Facebook.  Kids use the sound and when the littles tried to play a game on Sunday  they could not figure out what to do because they could not hear the instructions.  I turned the speaker knob up and down.  Nothing.  Rob was not home.  I texted him.  He said to check and see if his headphones were still plugged in.  They were not.  There ended my skill set for this so I found a game to play with the kids and diverted their attention from my inadequacies.  LOL

My wife came home and said it pointed to the fact that I need a new computer.  I do, but we need a host of other things more.  I put a high premium on giving my kids experiences that widen their horizons.  Dance classes, music lessons, opportunities to see and do things so their world is wide with opportunity.  It is all more important to me than a fast computer.  Besides, it gives me time to get tea when it is downloading.  Again, I jest only in part!

Rob came home and tried to fix the sound.  He could not.  But here is what impressed me.  He stuck with it. Literally spent 2 days, checking things out, looking for ideas on the internet, checking in with people he knew who might have an idea.  I don't know what he did but after supper on day 2, the computer again had sound.

More than the fact that he fixed it, I am happy that he worked at it.  Diligently, independently and without complaint.  He could have started whining for a new computer.  But I never heard word one about that.  He just kept at it till it was done.

Speaking of done, he has again applied with the Student Conservation Society of America to work at a national park during the summer.  It is unpaid, but again, it is the type of experience that is worth more than money.  Last year they had 50 per cent more applicants than ever before and he was not chosen. This year they sent him an email asking him to consider reapplying. I am hopeful that means that he has a better chance at  it this year.  Cross your fingers, and maybe even your toes!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

I'm A Winner! :-)

I won a trip to San Diego. Well, sort of.  It is a business trip.  And although I had to write an essay to "win" all six people who entered were allowed to go.  I think my company thought many more people would want to go, but only 6 of us tried to win. So my witty essay on why sending me to San Diego's housing conference would have positive benefits on my work was somewhat moot.  However, I am still excited.  I have never been on the West Coast.  Ever.  Kind of pitiful isn't it?  I probably could win an award as the least travelled American.  

It is not a long trip. I will fly out on a Wednesday in June and red eye back on Friday which will get me back home here early Saturday.  I should still have time to do a bit of sight seeing though, so I am noodling around on the internet looking for interesting places I can walk or trolley to from our location.  I hope to visit Balboa Park which looks amazing and the Maritime Museum.  I'll be close to the Gaslight District, so I want to take a gander there as well.  

The kids are not particularly thrilled about this. I have never been away overnight since--oh gosh well not since Rob came home to us.  He was 5 then and he will be 17 by the time I have this trip.  Yup, I live on the wild side!  They are all ready making plans on when they will text me which cracks me up.  I have all ready contacted my mom and she will come in on Friday night and spend Saturday here with the kids as K works on Saturdays at a job that is an hour away.  If all goes well I will be home by 10:30 or 11:00  Saturday morning but it is air travel and who knows!  At any rate, California here I come. . . in June that is!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Much ado about . . .

It is interesting to me the reactions that people have to KC's  desire to find his first mom and my commitment to helping him.  My mother is horrified. She loves her grandson deeply.  I can tell she feels betrayed.  My wife is petrified.It was actually suggested to me that I lie to him and say that Yvonne died.  Seriously?  So how do I explain THAT to him when he gets to be older and finds her on the Internet or something?  One friend said something like "well I hope she isn't an addict." Others have said that they understand why I am "letting him" do this.

No, probably they don't, but they are trying to understand. (smile)

So I thought I would write a bit about that reason.  One of the things about adoption is that many prospective  parents do lots of reading, learning and soul searching on that journey.  We have to prove we are eligible to be a parent and most of the ones I know realize that it entails an added layer to the more typical parenting gig.  I went into this knowing that any one of my children could want to search and that all would have questions at some point in their life.

Did I expect this to arise at age 8?  Well, not really.  However, KC is both my deepest thinker and my most "magical" thinker so in some ways, I probably should have seen that he would.  Also, his big brother Rob has bio connections and he sees how Rob and Fiona have family resemblances. He deeply craves looking like someone.

I think being an adoptive parent means honoring the fact that none of my kids lives started the day they met me.  Our story, as a family started then, their life story did not.  It is my responsibility and my privilege to embrace all of who they are, which means helping with a search for biological relatives when and if they want to.  So I am not lying when I say that I really hope Yvonne gets in touch when she gets my letter.  She deserves to know our amazing little boy.  And he deserves to know as much of her as she is willing to share.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

We have an address!

True to their word, OmniSearch had an address in my in box on Friday night.  I didn't see it till Saturday morning though.  If it is KC's mom, she still lives in Chicago, not far from the street address that I had for her.  That makes sense. Though we are a mobile society, a large segment of the population don't stray from their general locale.  My SSN for her was not good apparently so I am not 100 per cent sure this is the right person, but reasonably sure.  Which means it is time to write a letter.

I had not thought ahead to the letter writing part. I am sort of a one step at a time kind of gal. Actually, I am getting ahead of myself.  First I explained to KC what I was doing and that we did not know for absolute sure that this was the right person.  We also don't know what she will want if it is his mom.  Whether she will feel okay about being in contact or not.  He was really amazingly mature about that, but he is so thrilled that we at least had an address to mail a letter to and that it definately seems that his first mother is still alive.

So I wrote the letter yesterday afternoon.  I introduced myself and explained why I was writing.  I told a little about KC and what his wishes were with contact.  I said she could call me or text me, or write if she wanted to.  I said I would be more than happy to send her pictures of KC if she would like them, and that we could go as slowly with this as she wishes.  So we will see if we hear back.  Fingers crossed.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Reindeer's 17th birthday!

I was informed this morning that reindeer is turning 17 today and that we had to have a birthday party!  Because we are the gang that celebrates everything, that of course makes perfect sense.  So after our usual Saturday morning of shopping, dance and a visit to the library, we set about getting ready.  These clearly did not get posted in order, because here is lucky reindeer with her momma opening her present.  Lissa made her a necklace.  Reindeer also wanted Lissa to have her nails done for the party so Miss Lissa is sporting sparkly blue nails with pink polka dots.
 When reindeer got to Daddy KC's gift she was all in--literally!  However she eventually emerged with another new necklace.
 Those without hooves and paws enjoyed cupcakes made by me and decorated by KC and Lissa.
KC ready to partake of iced tea and party food.  I tried to post a pic of the other honored guests, an assortment of stuffed animals of course, but for some reason they failed to load.  Good mid winter fun!

Friday, January 11, 2013

A Step Closer for KC

A few days ago I contacted OmniSearch whose on line advertising says that they are both licensed private investigators and that they specialize in adoption/adoptee searches.  The senior person in the firm called me yesterday afternoon at work.  We talked and I shared with her all the information I had accumulated about KC's first mother and the story of why we were searching for her.  She said I had so much data that this would likely be the easiest search that she has ever done.  She could have information for us as soon as next week!  So this post is merely a reminder to save every scrap of information if you are an adoptive parent.  Notes you jot down when you are talking on the phone, papers you are given upon discharge from the hospital, I saved literally everything in a huge binder.  By going through those I was able to glean her name, her address as of 8 years ago, her social, her DOB, her daughter's name and age, the name and address of an emergency contact when she was admitted to the hospital for delivery and her place of birth. Pragmatically also, the more info you have, the less such a search will cost. I was told a search usually was at least $1300.00.  Mine will be no where close to that.

The search is extremely iimportant to KC.  The fact that he can see me working on it,  and the fact that I can tell him the information I have is slightly helpful, but mostly the fact that he can see me trying.  Kids are visual. He watched me put the facts into as much order as I could.  He watched as I combed through Facebook trying to find her.  He is affirmed over and over that I am with him on this journey and to the best of my ability I will help him.

I hope that this agency is able to find her and that she is open to hearing from a little boy who wants so much to hear her voice.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Planning for Fiona's future

Had a good call last night with Fiona and Jane.  Fiona is back at school and doing relatively well. She is set to come for a visit on the 26th.  Fi and Jane met with a Transition team comprised of many professionals from a wide variety of service organizations to start planning for Fiona's life post-Great School.

I was glad that Fiona was part of the meeting and she seemed to be happy about that as well. She told the people present that she wanted to be placed in our area but also wanted to keep in contact with her family in the Big City and with the friends she has made at the Great School.  The Dept of Developmental Disabilities people seemed supportive of her wishes and Jane is great at getting Fiona to put her wants out there to be considered and heard.  For instance Fiona would like to be able to have a pet.  I think that is HUGE. She loves animals and has a great relationship with ours and with Jane's.  I think there is much that animals offer in the way of calming and unconditional love that is of huge benefit.  Fiona also wanted to know  the procedure for the transition.  Jane said the plan would be to have her visit and make sure she liked the place.  Then there would be a day visit and probably an overnight and then she would move there.  Fiona wanted to know if she could refuse the placement if she didn't like it from the visit and Jane said she really did not know. A lot would depend on if there were other places available but that she should let people know if there were things she did not like because all we could do was try.

Jane has a really fantastic ability to break things down into understandable chunks of info and to make something that is really big seem a lot less scary.   Fiona still sounded edgy and a bit worried but definately calmer after the call.  I am charged with writing a letter to someone (address and name have not yet been given to me) on why placing Fiona nearer to us is of benefit to her.  I am more than ready to do that, and am trying to put out of my mind Jane's words to me  that the freedoms that Fiona has had during her years in the Great School are likely to be the most freedom she will have in her life. . . there are miracles.  The Great School was one such.  Maybe there will be another.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

KC's Quest

I think I wrote earlier about KC's desire to find his first mom.  I have tried to find her myself  with pathetically poor results.  Clearly I was not cut out to be a P.I.  :-)  It does not help that I am looking for someone with a name as common as Jane Smith.  I thought I was really smart looking for the name of her duaghter who would be 10 but came up dry on that as well.  Then I worried too that somehow someone would misinterpret me looking up a minor and I scared myself off that track.

His desire to find Yvonne and know how she is is very deep and palpable.  He worries that she might die before we find her.  While she is  younger than I, knowing that she struggled with substance issues means that is not totally as unlikely as it might otherwise be.

Since I have proven to myself that I can't figure this out by noodling around on the computer I googled a website of a company that says it specializes in adoptee searching.  I have sent an inquiry to them and am awaiting information on how they do this and what the cost factor is.

My wife and I are a bit divided on this subject.  I feel that I have a responsibility to do everything I can to answer his questions and facilitate this if it seems to be a safe and appropriate possibility.  I don't really have a reason to believe that it would not be.  Although Yvonne had substance issues, she was by and large a very careful expectant mother and she had dreams for herself and her life post pregnancy. It is my deepest hope that she has been able to do something about those dreams.  My wife is desperately afraid that something far less positive has happened and advocates not proceeding forward at all.  I feel this breaks faith with our son and will not walk that road.  If the news that is found--if news is found at all--is not good, then I will reach out to professionals on how to best handle it and how much to share with KC.  But to be less than proactive and honest, I can not justify.  I only hope I am right.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Leisurely Saturday

It's been a mellow day for the J-E Team!  We lounged till 7:30 or so before heading out to the grocery store.  There was no pressing need to hurry as dance classes don't resume till next week. However, the flu is highly prevalent in our area and I figure that the grocery store when nearly empty is less likely to be full of germs.  I can't stop all our exposures, but it makes sense to limit where I can.  In the same vein, I did not sign KC up for lego club which was this Saturday as the idea of 30 or 40 kids wiping their noses with their hands and sharing legos seemed a bit less than wise right now. When KC gets the flu he is sick for literally weeks, so I am sounding a bit like a germophobe but with good reason.

We were home by 9 a.m. and as I came around the van to open the back I managed to slip on a piece of ice and fall.  However it was more funny than serious. I was not hurt in the least AND I managed to avoid spilling a drop of my coffee.  (the latter being the most important part of the saga to me!)  We unloaded and then went to our neighboring city's library instead of ours.

Years ago, when Chet was young we always went to the library in the neighboring city.  This library has a different vibe than ours.  Our city does not like differently abled people to "bother" the "regular" population.  They have a spectacular library and they want people to use it with the reverance it deserves.  Neighboring city welcomes in the street people and homeless so they can sit and read in the winter.  See the difference?  It was always the library where Chet was fully welcomed.  He grew up becoming best of friends with the director of the childrens room there.  From probably age 8 or so till about 5 years ago, he went there every Saturday with me.  Rob too, grew up going there.  The library at one time also offered spectacular free music programs and we took advantage of them as it was a great way to expose the kids to world music. KC and Lissa came along and they too as wee ones went with us to that library.  Through it all, Miss J was a special friend to all.

Budget cuts came to the neighboring city and the library suffered. It had to reduce its hours so dramatically that it lost its certification.  It was closed on Saturdays and no longer fit our schedule.  I had to start going to the library in my own city.  A gorgeous facility but not one where Chet is comfortable or they with him. There are individual staffers who like him, but he feels the tension there, and it results in his behavior worsening.  I pick out his books for him from a list he gives me each week now.  The budget is better this year for the neighboring city and the library is again open on Saturdays.  Unfortunately, we are busy with dance lessons till nearly lunch and I confess to being too lazy to trek over to that library when I can get our books down the street.  But I miss the friendly vibe and the kids ask often about Miss J.

Today we all made the drive over.  It was  a bit like visiting dignataries coming.  Even the person working the main desk remembered us and welcomed us.  Miss J, who has not changed a bit in all these years was still at her post in the childrens room. In that amazing way of librarians she remembered each kid and had a personal conversation with each one.  It was delightful.  I wish our city could worship its facility a bit less and make sure that the differently abled among us are fully welcomed.

The rest of the day I spent cleaning dresser drawers for the littles who have had the temerity to outgrow a plethora of clothes.  I made a batch of cookies and sent a plate over to the neighbors after I filled our cookie jar.  I cleaned the kitchen and bathroom and roasted veggies for me to take to work next week.  Chatted with my SIL on the phone as we are trying to plan when they can come out to do Christmas.  My BIL is a drummer in a band and it was supposed to happen 1/20 but his group is playing the night before so we are looking at February now!

The kids played outside for hours as it has warmed up a few degrees.  Mellow, very mellow.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Fiona calls

Last night very late I checked my email before bed and Jane had written that Fiona was  unexpectedly discharged and released back to the Great School.  I suspect that this is one of the crushing examples of how poorly as a society we handle mental health crisis.  The typical criteria for admission in such instances is is the patient likely to harm themselves or others.  Fiona had physically assaulted a peer and needed stitches because of putting her arm through the window. Yet she was not admitted.  I am sure it was a shortage of beds, but it is no less scary.  We are creating the situations that lead to the tragedies we all fear by not having a more comprehensive and accessible mental health support system.

The bright light in all this is the Great School. They have put 1:1 staffing with Fiona without using force or unusually punitive measures.  There are obviously restrictions because at this point she has yet to show that she can remain calm and safe.  Fiona herself does not know if she can do those things and that too grieves me.  How frightening it has to be to know you are out of control and powerless to do anything about it. I have had other children lose control--I think we all have--but when brains and neurological systems are healthy, there are any number of tools that can help a child re-set.  Even Chet, with his autism, while he will fixate and be upset, will crave the solitude of his room and just retreat until the world makes more sense to him.

Fiona called this afternoon and she and Jane talked briefly with my wife.  K did a great job and told her she needed not to worry about any other day than right now. Just be safe for today and that was all she had to do.  I know that this all had to be really hard for my wife; there is an underlying level of fear and other complex emotions that she feels surrounding Fiona.  Yet in the clutch, she really put our daughter's feelings and emotional health in the forefront.

I tried to call when I got home from work but was unable to make contact.  Until she is more stable, it requires a staff person being available and near to a phone to get Fiona.  Fiona called me back about an hour later.  She sounds a bit disconnected still.  There is a flatness to her voice when she is in crisis that I could hear. I told her I loved her, that I was always here for her.  I told her that on New Years Eve we all wrote a wish for the new year.  KC's was to have more visits with her.  She sounded more like herself after that and did speak with each of the kids.

I have emailed Jane a few dates that I can work a day visit for her this month.  It would just be a few hours but we are all in agreement that she needs to see that no matter what happens, love does not go away. Family will not falter because of mistakes or illness.  I will ask that staff stay physically closer this time than before and I think the visit should not be as long.  But I think she needs us.  If there can be an improvement in her voice and tone in a phone call, I hope that time being with us can further help her through this incident.

I have to say too that being able to write, and being able to read the comments of kind people has been a huge gift during a troubled time.  There are times I curse technology (like when I spent 27 minutes today trying to get help to re-set our postage meter at work).  There are also times when the gift of technology brings warm feelings and support and prayers, as it has recently.  Thank you!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Significant Set Back

Jane called tonight. She had been on vacation when Fiona came for Christmas Eve and though I had emailed how well things went, ostensibly that was the reason she called.  However there was a deeper reason.  Yesterday Fiona had a serious incident at school. It involved Fi and another student using a video game.  I don't quite know if it was the new Playstation she got for Christmas, or if it was the system the school has.  The other student was not using the system the way Fiona wanted and tensions escalated. Fiona bit the other student and then   bolted out of the room and ran to another general meeting room.  At that point when staff came in she was confrontational.

Because when she rages she is amazingly strong, the protocol is to avoid restraints when possible.  Frankly I think that is a good thing. I think restraints rarely accomplish anything good.  However, in this case, maybe it would have been better. Staff had left the room and they heard the crashing of things breaking.  They ignored that.  Then there was the sound of breaking glass. They rushed in and found that Fiona had put her fist and arm through a window. It is unclear if she was trying to climb out the window or this was a random punching out at anything sort of situation.  The end result was an ER visit for 4 stitches and a hospitalization for at least a week and possibly two while they try to stabilize her behavior.

I think Jane knew how scared and devastated that description was to me.  It is the type of problem that we have dealt with since Fiona became ours at 9.  I keep hoping that we have gotten to that point in healing where she can be angry and yell but that we won't have to worry about self harm and/or accidental harm to others.  KC's wish last night for the new year was for more visits with Fiona.  He does not know about this incident and I have always told the littles only that her meds are being adjusted when she is hospitalized. They know she has trouble with feelings and with understanding some things but I have never been really specific.  It seems unfair to Fiona to be otherwise.  Rob knows details, but he is the only one of my kids I share any details at all with.

I told Jane that this type of incident was my biggest fear for Fi.  I worry that when she moves to a group home when she ages out of the Great School that it will literally be only a matter of time before there is an incident the home will not tolerate. Group homes are less forgiving than the Great School.  Frankly most schools are not a elastic as the Great School.  We face that cliff that all parents of children with mental illness face.  She is legally an adult. She is not competent all the time.  She is marginally competent though a good portion of the time.  Yet the times that she is not are so intense.  I told Jane I worry that she will wind up homeless and a threat to herself or to others.  The woman recently arrested in a subway death springs to mind.  My daughter is most times the kindest, most compassionate person I know.  But her demons can and do still overwhelm her.

Jane said that it is not likely that Fiona would wind up homeless. She agrees she will crash and burn in a group home. She sees a life where Fiona will unfortunately have had the most amount of freedom and choice in her life during her years at the Great School.  The most likely outcome is group home to long term hospitalization to a "severely restricted environment."  (Jane's words not mine and right then, I could not bring myself to inquire further.) It is all far from the dreams that any parent has for their child.  The legacy of trauma, and substance abuse is a cruel one.

Beginning Anew

Today is the first day of the new year and the last day of my vacation.  I will miss this family time.  There have been lots of little treasures during this hiatus from work.  Like the littles crawling into bed with me in the mornings to chatter and giggle.  Like leisurely breakfasts and suppers when all of us are together. (My wife has been on vacation too.  Usually it is just the kids and I at home in the evenings.)  I have enjoyed cleaning our home in a leisurely manner.  Well, leisurely is sort of relative as I am a high speed person. But I have not had to look at the clock  and say "oh, 15 minutes, I can sweep the floor, load the dishwasher and fold the dryer load because then it will be time for Lissa's shower!"  It has just been more laid back feeling than that.

I have also practiced my weird goal of mastering snowboarding the hill in our backyard.  Today I made it almost to the bottom of our hill after KC and Lissa gave me lots of tips.  They are good teachers.  Lissa who is newly 6 can all ready do the ramp they have created at the bottom of the hill.  The ramp is not on my goal list!!!  She is utterly fearless that wee miss and she has tremendous balance.  I am in awe of that.  I also am impressed at how well both kids could help me out, pointing the changes i needed to make in my stance in order to have a better run.  I'll miss snowboard class too, as the only times I can do it now are on Saturdays or Sundays.  Time to be a grown up again!