Friday, August 30, 2013

Good Bye Nanny

Today is the last day with our nanny. Christopher starts Kindergarten next week and thus a new adventure, with new caregivers, begins.

Last night there were some tears. "I'm really going to miss Nora" Christopher told me between sniffles. My heart was so sad for him. They shared so many fun adventures and special moments this summer and I know that meant a lot to my little guy. It meant a lot to me too.

I loved hearing about Christopher playing with kids at the local sprinkler park or touching rays in the tank at the Aquarium or going hermit crab hunting at the beach. I also loved how Nora kept Christopher safe this summer and ensured that he was engaged and learning all through the summer. They read together and practiced counting all the way to 100, sometimes by 10s and Nora answered all his questions (because my kid is very inquisitive!)

Christopher has had a lot of loss in his life and he often handles stuff like this by acting out. He become very defiant and argumentative when his therapists each left their practices. That was so hard on him. But he's older now, more settled and definitely more verbal so he's doing much better this time around. There was no acting out...just a few tears and hugs. That's a huge improvement, I have to say.

Christopher seems very excited to start Kindergarten even though he's sad that he won't have his nanny anymore. And I'm excited to see the little man he's becoming as he grows up. And so as one adventure comes to an end, another begins.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Gluten-Free/Dye-Free Diet Update: So Far So Good

I've noticed a dramatic difference in Christopher's behaviors since he started his gluten-free, dye-free, low-sugar diet. This diet is hard to keep up--boy does my kid miss sugary, junky treats but it is so worth it.

I took Christopher to a play date at a local park on Saturday and my friend commented to me that this was the farthest away from him we've ever had the opportunity to sit. Usually I would have to hover right next to him, calling out, "don't hit. Don't push. Move back". Boy is that exhausting.

But on Saturday, Christopher made friends with another little boy and played very nicely with him. So my friend and I could talk to each other and catch up, which is rare. Well that is until some other kids came along and they wanted to play with Christopher's Disney Cars and so we had some sharing issues happening. But that's age-appropriate and Christopher's an only child so that's understandable. I can deal with that. Christopher really does need to learn to share. But I digress....

Anyway, I've done a little research and there are tons of stories that link ADHD to gluten sensitivity, artificial dyes and even casein (from dairy). The scary thing I'm reading is that some kids metabolize gluten like an opiate (i.e. morphine and heroin) and that's why you get the crazy, out of control behavior.

I also read an article on that said artificial dyes that have been proven to cause Cancer in the '70s have been banned. However yellow dye #5 which is still considered "safe" and found in all our foods has been linked to hyperactivity, anxiety, migraines and even Cancer. Yes, this is in the food you are eating!

How is it possible that we have kids acting like they're on heroin and there isn't more of an uproar? Why didn't Christopher's pediatrician suggest I remove gluten and dyes from his diet when I told him my kid was ADHD symptomatic? It's not like there's a huge gluten lobby, funneling money to Congress to ensure that gluten manufacturers continue to rake in the dough (pun intended). You'd think that the doc would suggest that right off the bat. But he didn't. As a matter of fact, when I said this is what we'd be doing he was very "meh" about it. He said it works for some kids and doesn't for others and not to expect too dramatic a turnaround in behaviors. Crazy that he doesn't know what I now know: diet can really affect a child's behaviors.

We live in the Boston area, which is known to be one of the most medically advanced cities in the country so you would think that we would be on the forefront of this type of research. However if that's the case, I'm not hearing of it. Why isn't' this happening? Everything I'm reading suggests that this is a huge problem that is only getting worse. Shouldn't we be addressing diet more aggressively?

By the way, Christopher is the only kid I know who doesn't like cheese so we don't have to worry about casein thankfully. Whew on that one.

If you're interested in seeing any research on the topic, feel free to click a few links I found in my search:

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Patience With Behaviors is Hard!

They say that "sorry" is the hardest word but for me, the hardest word sometimes is "patience".

In some way Christopher is a normal, high-energy, inquisitive little boy. Sometimes I forget he has a long trauma history and when I'm tired or frustrated ... or both, I lose my patience.

I know all parents yell and I don't get upset with myself for raising my voice when Christopher ignores my requests to pick up his toys. I hear parents at the YMCA yelling at their kids to listen all the time.

But there are times when Christopher's fears drive his behaviors but I don't realize it and then feel terrible when I yell at him.

For example, we've had a terrible time with going to bed. Christopher simply won't sleep in his own bed all night by himself. My social worker had told me that I needed to be firm about this so I would battle with him every night, bringing him back to his bedroom after he hops out, time after time after time.

One Monday night a few months ago, Christopher quietly got out of bed, went into the pantry, opened a container of sugar and proceeded to throw the sticky crystals all over his bedroom. I was in my own bed down the hall but heard the noise, went into his room, saw the mess and went ballistic.

I had no choice but to put Christopher into my bed while I cleaned the mess up, which of course is what he was trying to achieve (my kid is scary smart). When I was done cleaning (45 minutes later) though I was exhausted and furious. And he got an earful from me.

When I'd calmed down, I finally asked him why he did this. At first he just shrugged. But after I pressed him, he said that he was afraid he was going to be taken away again. I asked him why. After all, Christopher had been living with me for a year and a half and had been officially adopted. He knew this. So why was he still acting out?

Apparently Christopher had been thinking about his last foster home and how he thought they were going to be his forever family too. He loved his foster mom so much and was heartbroken when she gave him away. He was only there for six months but that was enough to create the bond and he's been hurting about that event ever since he came to live with me. Even two years later, the pain is still there.

Yes I felt terrible now. This poor kid is hurting and here I am getting upset with him. I was so glad he told me what was going on with him so that I could hug him and nurture him and make him feel safe and loved though.

For the record, I don't even bother with trying to put him to bed in his own room anymore. I just can't handle the battles anymore. I figure at some point he's going to feel secure enough to sleep on his own but until then I just let him stay with me. We'll make the transition to his own room when he feels ready I guess.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Run For Fun

As much as I love being a mom, I really really miss my former life as a runner. It was a hobby that I really, really loved. Two years ago I even got the opportunity to run the Boston Marathon and I can honestly say it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I'm so thrilled with my accomplishment! It makes me sad though to think that this experience is a part of my past. I'm not ready for this to be considered a bucket list item. I want to run Boston again!

I really miss running. The problem is, I \just don't have the time (or energy) to run much anymore. Plus I can't really leave Christopher alone while I go out for a run. Social workers kind of frown on that.

My social life used to revolve around running. I went to running club once a week and ran races several times per month with friends. Those races all have post-race parties which are SO much fun and I have so many great memories and made so many great friends through that life. It didn't matter the season...I ran through wind, rain, sun and snow. Some of the best events actually happened in the wintertime. Check out the photo of me below from the 2012 Jingle Bell Run after-party. Everyone would dress up, run, get their medal and spend the rest of the afternoon socializing with cocktails in hand. Man, that's a fun race. I haven't run it since 2011 though. No time.

I do try to keep up with running as much as I can. I have a babysitter every Tuesday night so I can go to the Melrose Running Club. But come fall, this babysitter has class on Tuesday nights so we'll have to switch the nights she comes. That means no more MRC for me this fall unfortunately. Christopher adores his babysitter so I want to keep her for him.

I also get to run on the treadmill while Christopher's in swim class at the YMCA. He gets upset that I'm not just sitting there watching him swim but hey, he's fine. Mama needs a little time to herself. However this is the last week of swim class and Christopher starts soccer in the fall. I can't run while he's playing soccer unfortunately.

I miss my running community too. When I see my married friends posting on Facebook that they're going down to the Cape to run the Falmouth Road Race or joining the Lake Winnepesaukee team relay, I feel a little sad and definitely a bit jealous. I so want to do that too! I just don't have anyone I can leave Christopher with for a weekend though. Not right now at least. 

I try to tell myself that when Christopher's a bit older and when he's a little less crazy, I can get back into stuff like this. But for now I just need to focus on him I guess. It helps to think that my running life isn't over but just on hold for the time being. This too shall pass....

A Revolving Door of Therapists

Christopher has been living with my for less than two years but he is now officially onto his fifth therapist.

The upside to having a kid on MassHealth is that you get free health insurance. The downside is that you often get what you pay for.

For the record, Christopher still gets MassHealth because he was a very hard to place child (six foster homes two of which were intensive foster care placements and one disrupted pre-adoptive placement). He has behavioral issues that are difficult to manage and that require extensive and ongoing care. The state sweetened the pot, so to speak, by allowing me to keep him on MassHealth until his 18th birthday. As a single mom seeing my own healthcare costs going through the roof, this has been very helpful to me. And it also allows me to get services for Christopher that I might not have been able to afford otherwise.

However as I mentioned above, sometimes you get what you pay for and these therapists do not make a lot, so they move on to make more money elsewhere within (on average) two years. I can't say I blame them. Everyone deserves to make a decent salary. And this is not an easy job.

First Therapist
Christopher's first therapist was the most difficult for him to lose. We'll call her Kate (Not her real name as I don't like to use any identifiers without their permission.). Kate helped Christopher through his transition to me and through his adoption. He became very close to her and I leaned pretty heavily on her for support as well. When she left after just under a year, Christopher was devastated and I was depressed. She was great for him and a big help to me. Lots of acting out and way too many tears came out of that loss.

Second Therapist
Next up, Kate's supervisor Jane became Christopher's therapist. I didn't love hear nearly as much as Kate but Christopher became quite attached to her so I kept my mouth shut and stuck this one out. After eight months, she also left her job. She did eventually email me to say she'd landed in her new role and that she'd take Christopher back as a patient but he'd already suffered the trauma of another loss and was with another therapist so I stayed where we were.

Third and Fourth Therapists
All through this, Christopher has also received in-home therapy. He started off with a pair of therapists named Marla and Diane. Marla has been consistently there for over a year now but Diane left after only a month in. Next it was Marla and Elena but Elena has now also left. Marla's been partnered with a man named Matt and Christopher met him for the first time on Thursday. Christopher doesn't seem too affected by this change thankfully but I think that's because Marla is still consistently there. We'll see what happens when she moves on though. Apparently they all do eventually.

Was this list of therapists confusing? Yeah, for us too.

MassHealth or Private Health Insurance?
People tell me that I should consider putting Christopher on my health plan and getting him therapy using my insurance. Life is just so expensive right now though with the summer nanny and increased grocery costs (due to Christopher's new diet) that I can't afford to do that right now. I think having therapists work as a team is working for now though and I might just try sticking with that for a bit. If one therapist leaves, he still has the consistency of the other on the team. He seems okay with Marla and Matt and in my opinion, let's stick with what works for now. I don't know if others have the luxury of having a therapy team working with their kids but if you can do it, I recommend it.

Friday, August 23, 2013

A Good Education

Last night, the Malden public school system hosted a free reading event for incoming kindergarteners. I brought Christopher and was excited to see how he acted around so many other kids in a controlled, school environment. Now that I have him on the amended diet, I was hoping he'd make it through without any problems.

I'm happy to report that although after an hour of some really intensive sitting and learning, he was definitely fidgety and touchy and distracted and pretty bored...but not overly disruptive. It's a start.

The event hosted about 50 Malden Kindergarteners and their families. I'd say there are about 300 Kinderarteners going to Malden Public Schools next month so I don't know if that's a great turnout or what but I was impressed that the school system is so motivated to teach our kids.

Malden is a Title I school system, meaning they take Federal money because there is a high percentage of low-income children in our town. The money is supposed to go towards funding programs to assist kids with keeping up with the strict academic standards the state requires. There have been several events over the course of the summer but this is the first one I've brought Christopher to, mainly because he's usually so tired in the evening that I didn't think he'd be able to handle all the sitting. It was a bit bumpy at times but he did well last night though.

The event started off with the Literacy Coordinator from the Ferryway School reading a book to the kids. Then after it was over she asked them questions about the book to spur on their critical thinking. With the first book, she asked questions like, "what would you have done differently" And "how do you think he was feeling when that happened"?

After a second book, the coordinator used four index cards which showed different events that occurred in the book and the kids had to put into order each event on the cards. Kids had to raise their hands and wait their turn to speak, which they clearly weren't used to yet. There was a lot of re-directing but they were all total super cute champs and I was impressed with the program.

During the second half, I will say Christopher did start to act out a bit. This was a full hour into a lot of sitting and boring thinking stuff and he just wanted to know when we were going to get pizza. But as bored as he was, he still wasn't terribly disruptive, although I did have to tell him to be quiet a few times and threaten to take away the Kindle that evening.

When it was all over, the kids got to play on the playground and Christopher had a great time running around with two kids named Rihannon and TJ. I was thrilled because although I needed to watch him, I didn't need to keep on him like a hawk. He played so nicely with the other kids. There was no hitting or biting! He did push a little bit but with some redirection, he stopped. This was huge. After a long day (this was now 7:00 at night) he'd usually melt down and have lots of trouble controlling himself but he was overall pretty great.

Something Christopher has got going for him is that he's a really smart kid and a good education will serve him well. Christopher may have had a lot of early childhood horrible stuff to overcome but now that he's in a loving stable home with lots of firm guidance, he will (hopefully) thrive in school.

I always tell Christopher that he could be president of the United States someday if he wants to be because he's definitely smart enough. He of course tells me that he'd rather be a race car driver or an astronaut and hey, that's fine too. It's good to have options.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Full Moon Fever

My kid melted down today. According to the nanny he had a screaming, crying ft at the beach today. Nothing horrible but just a little out of the ordinary for him as he doesn't normally melt down out of the blue anymore. I was really wondering what was going on.

Then Christopher's beloved babysitter Sophia watched him while I went for a run tonight. Apparently he was out of control with her too. Hitting and running and very loud. What's up with that? He had been doing so well the last few weeks too.

Then as I was out on my jog, I looked up in the sky and said ahhhh. I know why Christopher is so out of sorts. It's a full moon. A blue moon at that.

I have no idea what it is about full moons that makes kids so crazy but I remember Christopher's pre-school teacher telling me once that they could always tell when it was a full moon because the whole classroom acted out. God help those teachers. That's all I can say.

I'm just glad the full moon only comes once a month. I have grown accustomed to a calm kiddo and I have zero interest in all that hyperactivity. No thank you!

Does anyone else have any stories to share about their kids (or themselves for that matter) during a full moon phase?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

You Are What You Eat

When my son was on the foster adoption track, he was deemed "hard to place" because of behavioral issues. He was in a total of seven foster homes before me, two of which were Intensive Foster Care homes. He was scaring his care givers with self-harming behaviors and so intensive measures were taken.

Because of this, Christopher came to me with a host of issues that we've had to work through over the course of the last two years. Some stuff has gotten better. For example, he truly believes now that I am his mommy and that this is his Forever Home. Lots of one-on-one attention, stability, love, consistency and nurturing has gotten him to that point. He also has therapists he sees once a week and has a weekly visit with a therapeutic mentor, all which helps immensely. I also think it really helps that I got him pretty young. He was three years old when he came to live with me and the resiliency of the little kid spirit is pretty darn awesome.

We were doing well in some ways but I just couldn't stop the aggressive behaviors no matter how hard I tried. No matter what I did, he would still hit, push, bite or kick kids. When we were on vacation earlier this summer, multiple family members came to me with their concerns. They caught Christopher attacking a baby on the beach with a piece of wood. And they all told me that not only was the action disturbing but also the weird smile on his face while he was hitting this baby. They all told me it was kind of scary. And as the parent, that was scary for me to hear.

We are waiting for our evaluation with Children's Hospital but the wait times are looong. I needed to do something while we wait, so I decided to amend Christopher's diet and you know what? It was the best decision I could possibly make.

The Diet

I have Christopher on a gluten-free, dye-free, processed-food diet now and I have seen a DRAMATIC change in this kid's behaviors. He is calm. He listens. And he is happy. I LOVE THIS HEALTHY NEW DIET!!

Christopher's nanny told me that she noticed a difference. My friend who we had a play date with yesterday told me that Christopher was the best she's ever seen him. I literally could cry I'm so relieved.

I can't control everything unfortunately and there was one day where Christopher got back into his old diet habits last week. On Thursday, the nanny gave in and got him pizza (full of gluten) and his therapeutic mentor, Daniel, got him a slushy (full of sugar and dyes). After eating the slushy, Christopher had an epic meltdown, threatening to beat me (WTF??) and screaming holy murder on the bike trails in Cambridge. I think his body was reacting to all the crap that he hasn't had in a week and simply revolted. Needless to say, Daniel will not be giving Christopher slushies anymore and the nanny needs to follow my diet requirements for Christopher. I pay her a LOT of money. Not to mention, it makes her job easier if my kid is calmer right? 

It kind of stinks that I have to constantly say "no" to my kid when he wants a sugary, neon-green treat but I'm looking at the Big Picture here, as this is really in his best interest. He's happy when he's able to control himself and his self-esteem is stronger too. Kids want to play with him and he feels better about himself. If it takes eating fresh veggies and organic meats to get him to that place, then that's just what I've got to do as a parent. It's expensive sure but in the end, my kid is really worth it. And it's a lot cheaper than ADHD medication, that much I know.

A Fun Day With Others Like Us

Yesterday I took my son to an outdoor event sponsored by the Department of Children and Families (DCF). The party was held in a nearby park and was a celebration for kids in foster care and for their families (both actively foster and adoptive). It was totally fun for my kiddo because it had everything this 5 year old little boy loves: a bouncy house, lots of kids his age to play with and fun arts and crafts. It was also fun for me because the people there were all like us: foster/adoptive kids with  trauma histories and the families that support them. I felt like I had found my tribe!

Another reason I could relax was in case Christopher acted out I wouldn't be dealing with it all on my own for once. I knew if anything happened, that there were licensed social workers on hand who were trained to deal with kids with trauma histories. And lastly, for one day I also felt like no one was judging my parenting without really knowing what was going on. If Christopher acted out yesterday, it would have been better understood and dealt with as opposed to someone just coming at me to tell me what I'm doing wrong as a parent.

It's surprising how often people just judge my parenting without understanding what we're dealing with on a daily basis. From the family members who've raised kids and are therefore parenting experts to complete strangers at the playground, everyone has an opinion and feels way too comfortable sharing it with me. It can be so exhausting for me to deal with Christopher's behaviors and then have to battle with people who feel compelled to inject themselves into the situation.

I remember when I took Christopher to the 4th of July Parade. I thought that he would really enjoy the festivities but wow, was I wrong! I put him in a stroller and stood at the end of the parade route, ready to cheer on the floats, clowns and military personnel as they walked by. Unfortunately he hated it and started to act out instead. The parade was too loud and too overwhelming for my sensitive little guy and instead of loving the event, he started screaming and crying. Not knowing what to do (I'd only been parenting a few months at this point) I took him a few feet away and tried to calm him down. That didn't work and he continued to cry and scream.

In the midst of all this, a know-it-all woman comes over and starts yelling at ME. What are you doing??? You're traumatizing that kid! Why don't you LEAVE?? Apparently because she's a grandmother (or so she yells) of course she knows all and felt like she had the right to force her extremely strong parenting opinions upon me all while I'm actively trying to calm down my kid.

I'm so frazzled with the screaming kid and with the screaming woman that I don't know what to do. What I should have done is tell the woman to shut up and mind her own business and to leave us alone but instead I just skulked away, embarrassed and upset. An entire year later, this experience still haunts me.

I can name episode after episode where someone has made me feel bad because my kid wasn't acting "right" in their opinion. And I can name countless times I've been forced to listen to advice that I know is not right for my situation. But being a single mom with no one to back me up, I've often felt overwhelmed by my child's actions and just couldn't deal with fighting another person as well. So I end up sitting there and getting reprimanded, like I'm a petulant child myself. I'm angry and upset and feeling so very much alone as this all goes on. These scenarios really suck.

When I was at the event yesterday, someone gave me some great advice on how to deal with situations like this. Literally, just shut the person down and don't allow them to engage. "Thank you but this is none of your business," would have been the appropriate response to the rude woman yelling at me at the parade. Other situations call for, a simple thank you for your advice. As a first time foster mother, I'm learning as I go along. If you have any experience with children with trauma history, I'd love to hear that.". And then stop them there. Do not let them go on and on with their supposed expert advice that only makes things worse. Because in the end, they really don't understand kids with trauma histories and their opinions don't help.

But that's why yesterday was so nice. Everyone there could relate to what I was going through and so for once I didn't feel all alone. No one was judging me and telling me what I'm doing wrong. Instead they were thanking me for all my hard work and actually appreciating all my efforts. And for once I could let my guard down and just have a good time. And so I did and you know what? It was a pretty awesome day.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Advocacy and Social Media

I have quite a few friends on Facebook who actively promote the rescue of dogs and cats from shelters. God bless these people for what they do. I adopted a dog just a few months ago from a rescue organization so I do what I can to help as well.

But it kind of surprises me that there isn’t a single person on Facebook advocating for children. Dogs, yes. Cats, check. But kids…nope.

Why is that? Is it just easier to save dogs from a shelter? Do people figure that Social Services is going to take care of kids so they don’t have to? Is it because the dogs and cats are at risk of being put to sleep and kids are not? I have no idea.

There are of course organizations with pages on Facebook that you can "like" that advocate for foster kids. For example there's the Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange (MARE) and the Foster Adoptive Mission. I "like" them both and they share some great information, both at times inspiring at at other times heartbreaking. But these are sponsored organizations and I am talking about friends who have passions for non-profit work. 

As many posts as I see a day on dog and cat rescue, I wish I saw just one on kid rescue. I post photos all the time and my friends do love them so maybe it’s just left to me to be that person now. Hence the blog I guess. Here I am getting our message out on love and the forever family.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

To Pee or Not To Pee

I woke up this morning at 3am to the sound of someone peeing on the floor next to my bed. At first I thought it was the dog and was ready to yell “bad doggie!” Imagine my surprise though when I turn on the light and I realize it’s … Christopher. Say what?

I’m half asleep and not at my most patient. So I yell, “WHY ARE YOU PEEING ON MY FLOOR? STOP PEEING!” So he stops. Thankfully.

Now I need an answer to my question. Why were you peeing on my floor??

Christopher was afraid of the dark and he didn’t want to go to the bathroom all by himself. So he chose to pee on my floor instead. The logic of this escapes me but I’m not a five year old kid afraid of the dark so who am I to judge?

I’ve now upset him with my yelling though and so I need to stop and calm down. Christopher asks me, “do you still love me”? It breaks my heart a little to know that he’s afraid he wouldn’t be loved anymore for one pee incident. So I hug him and tell him, “of course I still love you. I just don’t *like* that you peed on my floor”.

This makes him stop crying, thankfully. And at this point I give him a roll of paper towels and tell him he’s got to clean up the mess. He’s five years old and needs to understand the repercussions of his impulsive actions. He did a half-okay job and I did the rest. I mean hey this is my bedroom and I do not want any pee left on the floor. Ewww.

Potty training has definitely been a challenge for this kid and at the age of 5-1/2 I thought we were done but as last night shows, we’re not quite done yet. We were only able to stop wearing pull-ups to bed last February and we only stopped them then because there had been a huge snow storm and I couldn’t get out of the house to buy another pack after running out. Since then, Christopher has often been up two, three, four times a night to pee. This is because he had the sensation of needing to go, even if he didn’t really have to. I actually took him to the doctor for this and he ran tests and found nothing wrong. I had a test scheduled with a radiologist at Children’s Hospital but as it took several months to schedule the appointment, Christopher’s need to constantly pee had subsided in that time. I really do think it was just a potty training issue.

The way I look at it is, with Christopher some stuff will just take longer since he had such a traumatic history. Potty training is one of those things. And so I need to remember that next time Christopher pees on my floor at 3am. This of course isn’t easy to do when I’m exhausted and trying to sleep but I do the best that I can.

Monday, August 12, 2013

What's in a Name?

I just read an article about a judge in Eastern Tennessee, presiding over a paternity case, who was supposed to determine the kid's last name but instead decided to change the baby's first name from Messiah to Martin. According to the judge, there's only one messiah and apparently this kid ain't Him.

I guess this shocked the mom and she has already announced that she's going to appeal the case. I was actually shocked to read that the name "Messiah" was the number four fastest rising baby name of 2012. Right behind Major and right in front of King. Who knew??

Can't say I agree with a judge's decision to over-ride what the parents want to name their child. I mean, what is this...Iceland??? But it did remind me of when I was in the process of adopting Christopher, how his social worker called me to fill out the adoption paperwork. She asked me, "What do you want to name him."

I asked, "what do you mean?"

And she said, I could change his name if I wanted to. That surprised me because I thought for a four-year-old kid at least, his name was etched in stone. Guess I was wrong.

I thought for a minute and said, no keep it Christopher. This poor kid has had enough change in his life. He doesn't need a new first name on top of it.

Plus, he was having trouble adjusting to the fact that I was going to change his last name so I didn't want to completely rob him of the last bit of his identity that he was able to keep.

Funny, when I told Christopher that he was going to get my last name after the adoption, I thought he'd be excited to have the same last name as his new mommy. The problem was, this meant we were slamming the door shut on his old mommy and that was hard for him. As nasty and abusive as she was, she was still his first mom and letting go was hard. I felt for the kid actually as soon as I realized how much he was hurting.

It took several weeks after the adoption for Christopher to adjust to his new name but adjust he did. Christopher loves his name now and to be honest, I'm not even sure he'd remember what his last name was just a year ago now. I might ask him and see if he remembers.

If you're interested to learn more about baby Messiah...I mean Martin, please click here.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Dangers of Parental Visitation

There's a story in the news today that a father killed his son and then himself while on a supervised visit in Manchester, NH. These stories make me sad because I can relate all too well. The courts mandate these visits with crazy, violent parents and then everyone wonders how something could have possibly gone wrong. It's just mind boggling sometimes.

Before Christopher's birth mother lost all parental rights, I used to have to take Christopher to supervised visits at the DCF office near her house. This was three hours away from our house and obviously a strain for both Christopher and myself. There was six hours in a car plus the stress and confusion of dealing with a parental visit. Never fun on a good day.

I had asked if we could move these visits to an office closer to us but his social worker said no. She was concerned about her safety.  Apparently mom was violent and she didn't know what the mom would do so all visits required an armed guard in the room. The mother's social worker actually had a protective order in place because she had been attacked by the mother. And this is someone I had to bring my child to on a monthly basis? Sigh.

The social workers never worried about Christopher's safety, only their own. However Christopher's social worker did tell me to be careful as well and warned me to stay clear of any place where we might run into his family members. So after the visits, instead of stopping for dinner, we would high tail it back onto the highway and out of town back home.

Thankfully nothing physical ever happened during Christopher's visits but the threat of violence was always there. I think it's crazy that I even had to bring him to visits with such an unstable person. But lucky for us, she lost parental rights soon thereafter and we've never seen her since.

As for the little boy in Manchester, NH, may you rest in peace Joshua Savyon. I hope you are in a better place.

To read more about this story, please click here.

A Very Good Day

Yesterday was a beautiful Saturday and I planned a busy, busy day for us. Christopher was excited and so was I because I love our little "adventures".

First up was swim class at the YMCA. Christopher came out of that in great spirits because he had done well. This $50 class is wonderful because it gives my little guy not only the skills he needs to swim safely but also boosts his self-esteem and helps get some of that little boy energy out. I highly recommend this for any kid battling ADHD.

After swimming, we took the train into town (Christopher loves the train!) and met up with my friend Sue. Then we took the ferry out to Georges Island for a day of wandering around out there.

Christopher had never been on a ferry before and he loved it. He also really enjoyed exploring the old fort and then searching for crabs on the beach. At the end of the day, it was hard to say good bye to our new crabby friends but I explained that we could come back and visit them again.

What I loved about the day was that Christopher had fun, it was sunny and warm, I was with a good friend and best of all, Christopher was behaving well so the outing was easy to manage. It's amazing how much a day could be made or broken by the behaviors Christopher exhibits that day.

We didn't get home until 7pm last night and after leaving the house at 9am, I'm realizing that might have been a bit of a long day for the kiddo. Today we were supposed to go kayaking with some friends on Spot Pond but Christopher was awake at 3am today not feeling well and since then has barely gotten off the sofa. So today is a quiet day for us. I'm a bit bummed because beautiful, sunny days in New England don't happen often and I like to enjoy them when we have them. And that would definitely be today. But if your kid's sick, what can you do? So a day of relaxation it is. There are definitely worse ways to spend a Sunday.

To learn more about Georges Island excursions, click here:

The Journey Begins: Awaiting a Diagnosis

Loving the Kid with Behavior Issues

I realized recently that I often walk on egg shells, wondering how Christopher is going to act up that day. When he was in pre-school, I used to dread picking him up because I never knew if I'd walk to to hear about what he did to some other kid on the playground. One time he pushed a kid off the top of the slide and the kid fell on his back, lost his breath and scared the living daylights out of everyone. (Luckily the little boy recovered quickly). Another time, he smashed his friend’s sunglasses and denied it. There are just so many stories of hitting pushing and the list goes on and on. 

It got so bad that the pre-school wouldn’t let him play outside anymore. This upset him terribly but it was also a strain on me. After work every night, I had to take him to the park near our house so he could get his energy out. I’m exhausted after a long day but he’s bouncing off the walls. We wouldn't get home until 7pm and only then could I start dinner, cleaning, baths and books. It made for a pretty exhausting day for me. 

So what’s a mom to do?

Christopher’s out of pre-school for the summer and spending Monday through Friday with a nanny. The one-on-one attention is great for him and for the most part all is going well. However there are still issues. For example, Christopher threatened to hit her on the second day of her job and she called me at work in tears. She almost quit and I had to rush home and beg her to stay. Turns out Christopher was upset about leaving his pre-school friends and lashed out at the nanny because he didn't know how else to express himself. Once I had a conversation with him, he understood that he could still see his friends but that he couldn't threaten to hurt the nanny anymore. He actually got better after I scheduled a play date with his friend Eva and the crisis was averted. The nanny, to her credit, stayed on.

All had been going well until this week. Just the other day she took Christopher to the Children's Museum. At first all seemed to be going well. She texted me pictures of Christopher sitting with baby ducks and having so much fun. I loved it. A few hours later the text came that I dread though: “Is it okay if I call you?” That’s never a good message.

I was on a conference call but asked her if Christopher was okay. She said yes but that they had been escorted out of the museum by security because Christopher was hitting other kids with a stick. She was pretty freaked out. Oh dear.

I talked to her and found out that they were on the playground and Christopher started fighting with some kids. Next thing you know he’s hitting them with a stick. And out they go.  The end.

This upset me (obviously) so I called the pediatrician to see if he could help me get my evaluation with Children’s Hospital prioritized. (I've been waiting for six months now!) I feel like Christopher’s behavior is getting worse in some ways, just because he's bigger and can cause more harm. This is scary for me. The receptionist said the doctor wasn’t available today but that there is a program that they could refer me to if the behaviors are becoming dangerous. I think about it for a bit and said I would talk to the doctor when he’s available tomorrow. I’m not sure about this. I know he’s got issues but should he be going to a program for kids who are suicidal? Who cut themselves? Christopher just has impulse control issues. Isn’t Children’s Hospital good enough?

The thing is…I don’t know. I genuinely don’t know what to do. Can Children’s Hospital help? Should I just try out this other option? Is that too much program or just the right program for him? I am so out of my element here and it is all too overwhelming for me.

I spoke with Christopher's therapeutic mentor and decided that we could just wait for the Children's Hospital appointment. I don't think his condition is extreme enough for this other program. I really do think when I meet with Children's, that we'll get a diagnosis of ADHD with Oppositional Defiant Disorder. But we need treatment and we need it now. When the pediatrician called me, I asked him if it would be possible to expedite our appointment and he said he'd try. I would really like for Christopher to have his assessment before he starts kindergarten in just a few weeks. I need to know what to tell his teachers before we start the first day so they have some idea how to handle him. I want to start school on the right foot. I want him to do well in school and I want him to make friends. I know untreated ADHD leads to social isolation, lower grade point averages and depression. I want to ensure none of that happens to my child. I want him to be happy and well adjusted.

Today I really thought, I did not sign up for this when I decided to become a mom. Is it so wrong to just want a “normal” kid?

On the other hand, I love Christopher with all my heart and feel like if it wasn't for me, then he wouldn't have a decent life. So I am glad I was able to save this kid so that he has a future. It sucks that it has to come at the expense of our present though. 

Welcome to our Life!


I’m the single working mom to a son adopted from foster care and this is our story. Welcome! I chose to write this blog to share my story in the hopes that it could help other moms (and dads) facing some of the challenges I’m experiencing. I could really benefit from a community of like parents and since I haven’t found one in existence already, I thought I’d take steps to create one myself. So here goes.

Plus it’s just therapeutic to get everything out. Who needs expensive therapy when you could just write a blog for free?

So about our story…. A little history: As a single woman in my 40s, I’d never had the opportunity to have children, so I decided to see if I could adopt as a single parent via the foster care system. I really wanted to be a mom but without the right guy in my life and with my own fertility waning, I thought this might be the best way to go. I knew there were so many children looking for a good home so why not choose foster adoption over other private adoption, which was highly competitive and very expensive.

With foster adoption, everything was free to me and that was definitely a selling point. My reasoning was that the more money I saved on the adoption process, the more I could spend on my child. 

Christopher, a three-year-old foster child who had been taken from his mother when he was two, had bounced around seven foster homes before coming to live with me. Yep that’s right; seven foster homes. This poor kid never spent more than six months in one place and was devastated when each and every placement disrupted. My heart broke for this adorable little man who desperately needed a mother’s unconditional love, stability and consistency in his life. I knew that no matter what happened, I would NEVER give up on this child. He would be my forever son…for better or for worse.

Christopher and I have definitely had our ups and downs over the last two years. He has great days where he’s sweet, loving and listens well. But then there are the rough days. He has a long history of trauma (mostly due to the instability of his early childhood) and has been diagnosed with PTSD, for which he receives different treatments on a weekly basis. I’ve also gotten a referral from Christopher’s pediatrician to Children’s Hospital because I’m pretty sure he will be diagnosed with ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder. He hits, bites and scratches kids on the playground and sometimes just seems to have no impulse control. He used to run out the front door of my house, scaring me that he’d get hit by a car. Also, sometimes he seems to be going 120 miles an hour and it’s impossible to stop or even slow him down. Channeling all that hyperactive energy can really be a challenge sometimes, especially when I’m tired. 

Because of everything going on with my little guy, parenting Christopher can be a challenge. Sometimes I think I handle it well but other times, I feel like I just can’t take anymore. I’m doing this all on my own too and so getting support or even just a break from the stress is not easy. But I think probably just being Christopher is even more a challenge. I marvel at his ability to succeed amid all his struggles and I vow to do everything I possibly can to ensure that he grows up to be a happy, healthy, grounded man who knows how well loved he is.

In this blog, I’ll be sharing our journey all from the perspective of a working, single mom raising a wonderful son adopted from foster care. I hope you find our story helpful and interesting and please feel free to share your thoughts and questions anytime.