Two steps foward – one step back

Sorry for the radio silence – it has been a bit of a rough patch. And for a refreshing change, it wasn’t Mickey…or even Minnie. Our house was broken into on St. Patrick’s day while we were out to dinner.  The good (?) news is that it was a child and not a thief – nothing was taken.  The bad news is that they were targeting Minnie and it was likely a neighborhood kid who knew when we left.  There was a note directed at her on her bed – along with the lamp that they broke and the kitty box they dumped onto it and a trashed room and let the beloved cat out (we found her three hours later).  The worse news is that this person killed Mickey’s fish – like dumped the bowl on the floor and then put the bowl on a table – leaving the fish on the ground.

This would be upsetting for anyone – to have your home violated and to have your beautiful sweet little girl – who would never hurt a fly – targeted.  I obviously called the police – the child got the back gate unlatched and came in through the back door.  I also spoke to her teacher and bus driver to see if there were any issues with anyone that I should know about and both gave me the same response: “Minnie? No way.  Everybody loves Minnie.  She is friends with everyone”.  So, I am perplexed. But, the one who is the most upset is Mickey, though Minnie isn’t taking it well either.

This kid has messed with their security, their safety in their own home and has gotten away with it, because the police haven’t been able to gather any helpful information. I have a suspicion on who it is and why, but I have no way to prove it, but if I am correct, it was an unrequited crush that spurred this on and he does indeed live down the street. Neither child has had a peaceful full nights sleep since it happened.  That means neither has mommy.  We have replaced Mickey’s fish (Mickey) with a new baby girl beta named? Minnie of course.

The best news is that while this could have completely derailed the precarious relief we were feeling after the suspension incident, Mickey hasn’t let it.  He has had two good weeks at school (one of which was post break in).  The weekend was tough as Mickey obsessed on finding “the robber” and wanting to interview every single neighbor and ask them if their child “was the kind of person who would murder a loved pet”.  But, we talked a lot and he is moving on – at least during waking hours.  So, rather than our usual one step forward, two steps back, we get to reverse that this week.  I expected this to throw him off completely and it hasn’t.  Minnie is most heartbroken that someone would say something mean to her and try to get her attention by killing a fish (not the way to win the heart of a die hard animal lover, btw).  I have padlocked the back gate, which should cut off access (and for the record, he had apparently attempted this 3 times before because I found the gate open randomly, but this was the first time he had gotten in the house).

Scary.  As an FYI, we live in the top two safest cities in our state – I don’t fear this kid and I feel perfectly safe if more that a bit angry that he would shatter the security of my children. I do fear that the kid was malicious enough to purposely kill a fish and destroy a room and if it is who I think, lives 3 doors down and regularly plays with both of my children.  It strikes me as unstable and perhaps he isn’t all that well supervised which makes me nervous when all the neighborhood kids are together, but I don’t think he will be back….or at least I hope not.

Happy Easter weekend.  I will post some pics when it is all said and done…we have egg hunts and birthday parties and activities planned all weekend long.  Maybe if I wear them out, they will get a good nights sleep….

And just when you think…

…things are normal – that we have escaped the bad behavior that plagued us a few weeks ago, SMACK – think again.

Thursday and Friday we had construction workers in the house tearing out the basement in preparation for the drainage system that is to be installed.  Mickey found this process endlessly fascinating.  He was emailing me from school on Thursday to get updates, but apparently woke up Friday morning with a plan to be here at home for the last day of demolition.  It began with “Mom, I am shaky”, progressed to “I don’t feel so good”, then as the bus was coming “I am not going to school”.  I informed him that it wasn’t optional, and he was determined to prove me wrong.

For the record, I hear all of these complaints on a regular basis (3xs a week or so) and he hates the bus, so while he was complaining and attempting to stay home, that isn’t even remotely uncommon.  So, I sent him on his way down the driveway, but when he stomped onto the bus, I knew this wasn’t his typical whining.  I tried to get him off the bus, as did his driver.  I am not permitted to physically remove him from the bus (driver’s rules, not the school’s) and the driver won’t lay hands on him, so when Mickey refused to get off, the driver took off with him.  I knew then that this wasn’t going to end well…

And it didn’t.  His bus picks up at 6:40 am and by 7:15 (before school even starts) the principal called to inform me that Mickey had been suspended.  He kicked the windows on the bus breaking the alarm system.  Upon arrival to school he was removed from the bus and taken inside, but he didn’t want to talk about anything but going home.  So, he turned over a table and tried to push a computer off of another.  His teacher, who is good with him, wasn’t there yet and they made the call to send him home.

To be 100% clear – he deserved to be suspended – no question about that. The issue is that sending him home was what he wanted.  The day was tough on Friday – trying to keep him from hanging out with the workers was beyond challenging.  It was a long weekend here too, as we worked to show him the consequences of the choices that he made. The fact that he was “rewarded” with being sent home will likely cause us issues in the future – no matter how much I try to make the day miserable, he would rather be here than school.  That is an ongoing challenge as his dislike for school continues to grow. His feelings on the bus border on hatred and that has been an increasing problem as well.

So, I don’t have any good news on behavior for the last couple of days.  The school hasn’t contacted me today, so that is likely an indicator that the day went ok.  The workers are gone from the basement, so we won’t see that issue until they come back to do the drainage system, but I am a little beyond my whits end.

Point system update

We have been doing our point system at home (modified token economy) for about 5.5 weeks now, so I thought it might be time to post an update.  We already know that both kids earned the points required to go to Disney last time, but how is it working on a day to day basis when they have to buy their privileges and save points for their next Disney trip in 29 days (500 points for that one)?  Well, it hasn’t been without bumps – Mickey spent two weeks trying to dig himself out of the major deficit he put himself in two weeks ago with his poor behavior choices.  Yes, even though it was a result of anxiety and an autism related perseveration about his birth family, we still do consequences.  Because even though, in that moment, he may not be able to think about the consequences, we have seen improvement enough that applying them works – sometimes it is even enough of a motivator to help him make good choices.

We have tweaked the points system repeatedly – adding negative point categories for screaming and tattling for Minnie and a positive category for Mickey for bus behavior, etc. So, where are they on their current point tallies? Mickey has banked 200 points for Disney with helping me clean out the basement for the demo that is happening tomorrow.  He has busted his tail in a very un-Mickey-like fashion and had me immediately bank those points (can only be banked in 50 point increments).  Minnie has banked 300 points and also purchased some tv time and a couple of girl scout cookie deserts.  Mickey has even squeaked out an ice cream treat last night.

So, he isn’t a fan of having to “purchase” everything with good behavior, but I would say it is working.  Both kids are earning a ton of points on the manners category – which is serving it’s purpose – even if I get “yes ma’am. POINT!” every time.  It reminds them much better than the constant verbal reminders.  Today, I even got this email from Mickey at school:

Mickey: Hi Mom!

Me: Hi Mickey.  Are you having a good day?

Mickey: Yes mam.  Point 🙂

I cracked up and gave him his point, because how could I not? We are going to keep at it.  My house is cleaner than ever because chores are an easy way to earn points – especially when behavior hasn’t been stellar.  I offer bonus points for store trips without asking for anything and it has made shopping with them much better.  They are working toward the things they want and I like what I am seeing. So, the update is that they system is working!

Tomorrow we meet with Mickey’s therapist and I promised him we would discuss the birth father.  Tomorrow our basement is being fully demolished – walls, carpet, ceiling. Everything.  The basement has leaked repeatedly since Christmas when we had 6 inches of water.  Every time it rains (at least once a week) it floods now.  Drying it out hasn’t been successful because once we dry it gets wet again.  Now we have mold.  It will be a month before they can fix the leaking, but in the meantime the demo crew will come in, tear out all the stuff and treat the mold.

I have been working on a major redo of the main level of the house – I have painted the foyer, stairway, upstairs hall and living room and refinished two pieces of furniture and painted my Grandmother’s dollhouse (once I redo the trim I will post some before and afters along with the story of the dollhouse).  The family room is next up on the agenda.  We have been in this house three years and while it feels like our home, it is time to step it up and make it a place we love.  I am absolutely loving the new wall colors and I even created our own little Disney corner (ignore the broom in the 3rd pic and disregard the horrible photo grouping – I just thought it was the best pic of the wall color).

Talking about Autism and other Special Needs

This weekend I cam across two different posts that really got me thinking.  One was a Facebook post on our community page.  We are lucky to have a beautiful fully accessible playground near our home and a woman visited with a friend whose son is quite physically disabled.  She overheard a man with two children respond when one of his kids asked him what was wrong with the boy say, “that is one of God’s mistakes”.  That made my blood boil and I wasn’t even there.  Obviously this isn’t reflective of our community as a whole, but it shines a light on some of the challenges faced by those who are different.

What came next though is what I found interesting…a woman asked (while acknowledging that obviously what this man had said was NOT the correct thing) how it should be addressed.  Now my son’s challenges are not obvious, as they aren’t physical, but on a bad day the behaviors can be hard to miss.  When he was younger the physical delays were fairly pronounced, but that is no longer the case for us, so I can’t speak to what should be said, but Mickey’s lack of appropriate filter and social graces has brought this question up on more than one occasion.  With my children, I tend to default to honesty on nearly every subject.  I always change the phrasing of “what is wrong with that boy/girl” to “There is nothing wrong with him/her, he/she has some physical challenges”, etc.  That isn’t sufficient for Mickey who wants to know, and needs to the what and why.  I will explain it if I have an answer – if not, we deal with what we do know – a wheelchair is wheels for when legs don’t work the same way yours do, service dogs are to help a person with a particular issues, etc. This woman responded to my comment with “what about Autism? How do I explain that to my four year old?”  I should mention that I don’t know how I became her expert, but I did respond to her query, so I guess that made me the expert **scary thought**.

So, what about Autism?  I waited until this morning to ask Mickey for his explanation, as I figured it would be more valuable than mine.  What would he want said if he were flapping or struggling to regulate?  His response was to tell her son this “my brain doesn’t always work the same as everyone else’s. I process things different. Sometimes I have a hard time controlling my emotions and I don’t always know what to say to other people.”  So, that is what I told her Mickey suggested.  So, what do you suggest when a child asks you those questions that aren’t so easy to answer?

The second post was a link to this article: http://themighty.com/2015/03/how-i-explained-my-sons-autism-diagnosis-to-him/?utm_campaign=site_fb&utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social

It was an interesting article and it made me question how we have dealt with talking to Mickey about his Autism.  Not necessarily because I think we didn’t handle it correctly or that she didn’t, I just wondered if I should have placed more importance on the conversation.  Perhaps it is that we didn’t officially get the diagnosis until he was 8 and that every single therapist and teacher had said it for years before that.  It wasn’t a big news flash to any of us when the diagnosis finally came.  Mickey has asked a few questions along the way and we have talked about it, but he is very self aware of what his challenges and talents are, so it kind of put a name to the challenges, but that was about it for him. Did you talk to your child about a diagnosis?  Did your parents talk to you? Should I be placing more importance on those conversations so that he has a deeper understanding of his diagnosis, or does it come organically as it has in the past?

As an fyi, Mickey completely turned around his behavior from last week – he is back on target and doing well – even with two days of no ADHD meds (scheduling conflict at the Dr’s office). He survived them and so did his teacher.  He worked hard to keep it together those days and while they may not have been his best academic days, he didn’t fall off the behavior wagon, so we will call that a win.  As we gear up for another week, I am hopeful that we will see his usual behavior and he remains of track.

 

Adoption induced rough patch

I have done a couple of posts about how the kids’ adoption impacts our lives on a day to day basis (not terrible much).  I have spoken openly about the tough side (Minnie’s resentment of her birth mother, Mickey’s unending questions, etc). But, my kids are fairly well adjusted when it comes to their adoption.  We are very open and honest on this subject (obviously at an age appropriate level).  They were 4 & 6 when I adopted them, so they know and have always known – it just is for them.  Mickey tells everyone he knows how cool it is to be adopted.  Minnie talks about it infrequently.

This past week we had an extreme rough patch for Mickey.  He hasn’t had an I.I. at school – this is the equivalent of being sent to the principal’s office) since the beginning of December and that was a minor bus incident (putting his feet on the seats).  He won an award for best behavior for his whole school in January. So, while we have struggles somewhat with behavior at home, it has been all sunshine and roses at school….until last Tuesday.  They have a newish student that is a “foster kid”, per Mickey.  I am quite sure Mickey has told him his story.  Something happened while new kid and Mickey were working on a project last Tuesday and it ended with Mickey overturning the desk they were working on and raging.  He ran into the hall and away from his teacher, etc.  When they finally calmed him down, he wouldn’t say what triggered it, but he was asking questions about his birth father.  Lots of questions.  He was insisting that he had to talk to him.  He wanted to look him up on the computer, etc.

Mickey asking questions isn’t uncommon, what is odd though is that he has historically shown almost no interest in the birth father.  He is all about the birth mother and even the maternal grandparents, but has shown almost no interest in his birth father.  Now, I don’t know what triggered this – the new kid could have asked an innocent question, something in the project they were working on could have triggered a memory, etc.  With children with trauma and/or Autism it isn’t always the logical trigger we might expect.

He calmed down, spent the rest of the day in the “happy room” (in school suspension) and he came home.  He proceeded to attack his sister and me, screaming and yelling. When calm he informed me that he “needs his birth father to know he exists”.  Now obviously he already knows that – he fathered both children and was in their life for at least 3 years, if not more.  But, that isn’t what Mickey was trying to say.  He doesn’t want to meet him – he wants me to talk to him and tell him that he exists.  Tell him who he is.  Find out what kind of things he is good at so that Mickey can see if he got any of his talents from him.  Maybe most importantly, he does want to meet their half sister.

This situation came up again on Wed. and on Thursday.  Wednesday, I had to go pick him up from school because he calmly walked to the bus, got to the door and took off running.  This is some of the worst school behavior we have seen.  His behavior at home was brutal as well.  We talked on Thursday, when he was relatively calm, and the conversation went like this:

Me: Mickey, I know you have some questions about your birth father and your half sister.  I have tried to answer those questions to the best of my ability.  We have talked about my being supportive of you meeting your birth family someday – when you are old enough and I feel you can handle it.  Do you think you are ready?

Mickey: No, but I need him to know I exist

Me: He does.  He has run into Miss Jessie several times and he asks about you.  She has told him how well you are doing.  We talked about it, remember?  I know you are very frustrated right now, but we can’t undo all the progress we are making over this and I don’t seem to be able to give you the answers you want.  So, I would like to take a little break from birth parent discussions until we see your therapist again in two weeks.  Can we do that?

Mickey: I guess.  Why?

Me: Because I don’t know how to help you with this and I think he might be able to.  But, that also means no talking about it at school.  Your teacher and I agree that while we don’t mind you asking questions, we don’t have the answers that will satisfy what you are asking and it is ramping up behavior because you are frustrated with us.  We need to get you back to where you were and get your behavior back under control.  You will have spent 5 days in the “happy room” by the time this consequence is over.  And you still aren’t satisfied, but you are also showing us that meeting/talking to your birth family isn’t something that you are ready for.

You have worked so hard over the last four years to get to a good place.  Your curiosity is natural, but I want for you to be able to handle all the emotions that will come with a birth family meeting without destroying everything you have worked so hard for.  We clearly aren’t there yet.  Don’t you agree?

Mickey: Yes.

So, that is where we left it Thursday evening.  He hasn’t brought it up since then.  He had a great day Friday, a pretty good weekend and as of today is back in his classroom and he did well.  He is working his way out of our home point system deficit that he worked himself into last week. It is so hard to predict what is going to stick in his head and become his latest perseveration, but the great news is that he told us – up front.  Normally we see weeks of behavior before he can articulate what the issue is.  This time he told us after one meltdown.  That is huge.  We were able to reset (at least temporarily) the thing in his brain that forbids him from moving on to something else, with a simple conversation (once he was in a place to have that conversation).  We will discuss it with his therapist because all of my suggestions (write him a letter, draw a picture for your half sister, etc) fell on deaf ears.  Maybe he will have some better suggestions to help him, because meeting him is not an option right now.

On an unrelated note – we added two new family members of the fishy variety.  Baby betas – Jack (Minnie’s) and Mickey (Mickey’s – please remember that Mickey’s real name isn’t Mickey – the fish is named after the mouse too and Mickey knows I blog about him under that name, so he thought it was funny).  So, welcome Mickey and Jack.