I had a post ready to go. I'll share it another time. I wasn't sure how to start this post, but I decided I had to share the ending before any more of the leading-up-to-the-ending parts. Then Delilah called last night, a conversation that made my day and gave me a bit of clarity along with a few tears and some laughs, and I knew how to dive in here:
Life has been incredibly heavy lately.
And, to top it off, I'm getting heavier.
|A step past the perfect dessert trifecta. |
Mint Moose Tracks? Where've you been all my life?
* This is very unlike Mini, but she's giving us the silent treatment since we removed the door of her bedroom from the frame on Sunday, as in CLEAN YOUR SHIT UP. More on this later. Oh, barking is the equivalent of silence for teens who find they must utter words, in case you aren't familiar.
Then Coach and I were about to go to the grocery store last night, something that really needed to be done, but BLAH. The fact that Coach offered to help me, well - be still my heart. Proof that it is, in fact, the little things. I grabbed a chocolate covered Greek yogurt bar to cope with the groceries even with a partner.
After the store, I opened the ice cream that I'd just bought. There's something about ice cream that has become the PERFECT softness on the drive home from the grocery store. I must have a bowl, even if it's morning . . . also, even if I've already eaten three dessert type foods. I usually buy cookies and cream or flavors I can't eat because they aren't GF. The gloves were off, though. The feed bag was on.
Delilah called while I was scooping my somewhat-melty ice cream and I learned that she has the SAME ice-cream-must-be-eaten-when-just-home-from-the-store thing too.
The technically heavy part: I like order. I intended to tell this tale in order, or die trying. Well, yesterday I decided that it really isn't worth dying over so I'm done trying.
Friends, and I do consider all of you friends as I so appreciate your interest, joy, support, hope, empathy, excitement, and concern through this entire process, we made the very difficult decision to return the boys to Indiana, Sunday October 10th. I drove them back on Monday the 11th while Curly was home to handle my babysitting.
I thought I needed to describe what went on and what contributed to that decision, but I don't even know what tense to write in: past, present? I'm also not loving how our struggle is coming across. I told Coach yesterday that I feel like we sound controlling and inflexible, and like we were too unwilling to accommodate their issues.
He reminded me that while we did have things we expected of them, we were also bending all over the place. Plus Indiana kept telling us that the boys needed our structure and rules. We tried EVERYTHING. So, if that wasn't coming across here - you'll have to trust me (plus, the worst parts haven't even been shared yet).
Little reminders of some of the
happier moments are EVERYWHERE.
I have a sweet freehand Easter bunny
drawing by Larry that says:
LOVE YOU, MOMMY
that I wanted to post here,
but I can't put my finer on it.
Easter bunny in September, why not?
Things had become so difficult that we were really struggling to function. Coach would feel sick at work as the day went on and he knew the boys were home from school, wondering if I'd have to call him home AGAIN. Something I hadn't ever done in our previous 23 years as parents. The missing pieces to this puzzle, that I might expand on later because I still feel like they need to be explained, include:
* the psychiatrist changed Larry's meds.
I don't blame her. He was diagnosed with ADHD and she felt his meds weren't addressing that. I put her off for a week but when Larry had a few bad days, she urged me again to try Adderall. It was doing wonders for Harry. We now believe that Larry doesn't have ADHD. Symptoms can present the same as those associated with trauma. To say that Lar had a bad time with the new meds is an understatement. It took us 5 hours to get him to bed one night. Coach drenched in sweat and me calling every person on the team. At our doctor and Jo's urging, we called 911 another night. They wanted him assessed while in a fit. Once the 10 public servants talked him down, no assessment could be done, because he was just mad - no longer raging. He was suspended from school. He broke things. I needed to restrain him, something he NEVER got over, no matter how many times I explained that it was the dumb meds that were making him lose control and I had to hold him down to keep him safe. WE STOPPED THE MEDS AFTER LIKE 2 OR 3 DAYS AS SOON AS WE REALIZED . . . SO IT WAS A QUICK SHITSHOW, BUT THE IMPACT LINGERED.
* feeling unsupported:
- Indiana never pointed out the 1.-800 number we could use if we needed something during non-work hours. The weekend of the med change I called Jo's cell number REPEATEDLY. I didn't realize that this was a work only cell and that she and her boss, who I also called, wouldn't answer till Monday. I'm sure the 1-800 number exists somewhere in a pile of paperwork or in some obscure email, but FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS give people the number and make them understand the importance of it before you hand kids over.
- We asked for respite care (foster homes that give families a break so they can regroup or go on vacation- oh, vacation sounds dreamy), but Jo told us our private agency didn't offer respite.
- The therapist emailed all of her patients to say that she'd taken on a strenuous workload, more patients than ever before (she only does adoption related therapy, this trauma informed parenting stuff). She cancelled therapy one day because she needed to take a mental health day. She also pointed out that she wouldn't be responding to emails and text messages outside of work hours or even during work hours maybe - if she was too busy. Fair enough, but can I just point out that I DIDN'T ASK HER TO TAKE ON MORE THAN SHE COULD HANDLE AND WE WERE BANKING ON HER HELP AND I FELT SCOLDED FOR NEEDING MORE HELP THAN SHE COULD OFFER. She even said in her email that some of her patients weren't doing that well . . . me, raising my hand - OH HI, THAT'D BE US.
- The TBRI class that was supposed to help us learn how to deal with them, was bumped back a month from mid September to mid October. It ended up starting the Saturday after we returned the boys. The therapist had a few families who wanted to take it, but they couldn't start as early as September. Ouch. She gave us handouts and tried to give us a tutorial, but this was something we should've been trained in MONTHS before the boys ever showed up here.
* different schools of thought:
The psychiatrist is all about the meds. The therapist is all about parenting kids who have been impacted by trauma differently. My social worker is all about reading into things too much (not wanting to wear a collared shirt because deep down he isn't wanting to be part of a new family because that means he won't be part of his original family) and assuring us that things were going well. Indiana didn't even know what trauma informed parenting was.
* not enough/ inaccurate info:
- Indiana didn't really recognize what behaviors and challenges might result from the trauma the boys faced. They weren't as forthcoming with the info that they had. Debbie had told them stuff, but they sort of brushed it under the rug. They only heard what they wanted to hear.
- Larry's misdiagnosis of ADHD alone really hosed us
- in the 11th hour, I reached out to the boys original therapist. Debbie said this woman, Carly, known the boys longer than anyone in the system. She no longer works for DCS (dept. children services). I called her Sunday night the 10th while Coach was dealing with Harry's meltdown. He was in my study ripping up every piece of paper he could get his hands on. Carly told me about the conditions the boys were living in. Staggering. Indiana never shared the extent of this. She also said that the boys had one of the worst cases of RAD that she'd ever seen. Reactive Attachment Disorder. Another friend, who has adopted kids from Haiti, told me that RAD is, in her opinion, one of the toughest, most challenging diagnoses. We question how the boys could've bonded with Debbie if this diagnosis is accurate, but after awhile we just shrug and go WHO THE HELL KNOWS.
* We relied HEAVILY on what Debbie told us/too trusting:
This could be combined with the heading above, but it is so shocking I felt it needed it's own space. A few weeks before we opted to return them, I reached out to Debbie. Alice had encouraged me to ask her how long I could expect the homework nonsense with Harry to continue. He could cry about homework for 45 minutes when the actual homework only took 10 minutes.
DEBBIE: THESE ARE THE WORST KIDS I EVER FOSTERED IN 10 YEARS OF FOSTERING.
ME (after gasping for air): WHY THEN DID YOU TELL US DURING OUT INITIAL ZOOM IN JANUARY WHEN WE ADMITTED TO BEING CONCERNED ABOUT THE BOYS' ISSUES OH, THESE BOYS WON'T GIVE YOU ANY TROUBLE?
DEBBIE: (with a little nervous? laugh) WELL, YOU DON'T WANT DCS TO SLAP YOUR HAND FOR TELLING THE TRUTH.
ME: (in my head) WHEN IS THE TRUTH WRONG?
We would NOT have moved forward with the boys, if she'd been honest. This tidbit I struggle with more than anything else. Such a disservice to the boys and such a disservice to our family.
* We heard what we wanted to hear:
- When we had our initial meeting, I motioned to Coach across the room NO WAY. After the call, Alice told us I THINK THESE TWO HAVE POTENTIAL. She told us that often, some of the diagnoses could fade away as the boys found stability. We believed her. After trying to find kids that would be a good fit for YEARS, maybe we just heard what we wanted to hear.
- Meanwhile, I spoke to my friend, Bethany. She and her husband have 5 biological kids. They adopted a sibling pair from foster care like a year ago. They worked with Alice, recommended her to us shortly after they'd taken the kids into their home. They started the process years after us, but Alice had this file come across her desk and it was a perfect match for them. Bethany told me that her kids supposedly had all kinds of behaviors, but once they had the influence of older siblings and they felt stability and love, they never saw those behaviors. I called her towards the end and I described what we were dealing with. She said she was speechless. They'd encountered nothing like what we were going through. Her kids didn't take a single medication. Ours had 3 or 4 each.
- When Indiana (and Debbie) assured us that these boys would do great in a big family, we believed them. The boys had lived in a pack and they considered the other kids in the drug den their siblings. They wanted that again. Well, no matter how amazing our kids are they needed MUCH more than a good example.
The above video: The hell with hiding identity. This is Curly. Classic. She swooped in from another room when Larry was starting to slam my desktop speaker in an attempt to break it, saying he wouldn't shower. This is the day after it took us 5 hours to get him to sleep. I didn't give him Adderall that morning but it would take a few days for it to completely work out of his system. It was a crazy low dose and we still were unaware that the meds could make him behave like this. He'd had several bedtime issues, just not violent - so we assumed he was just taking it to the next level. Larry was told that we might need to use respite care the same way that Debbie had. Coach was grilling dinner. He came running and stood between me and Larry at my desktop to prevent Larry from breaking it. Larry took this as a challenge and got more violent- that was all before I started videoing Curly. We didn't ask for her help. Watching her in action makes me cry. She was tight with Larry.
A SIL just told me the other day that I couldn't play the WHAT IF game, what if we tried this, what if those damn meds had never been messed with, what if Debbie was honest, what if Coach's hours had been adjusted earlier (his new 'no-evenings-for-one-school-year' hours started on Oct 11th when I drove the kids back), what if we'd taken or even known about the TBRI class in advance, etc.
Me: OH, BUT I CAN PLAY THAT GAME. TURNS OUT, I'M REALLY GOOD AT IT.
Initially we felt numb. And relief. I felt like I could breathe again. Accomplish something in a day and not just put out fires and attend therapy, zooms with Jo, and check-in appointments with Alice. I have PTSD from the phone ringing and seeing the boys' school on the caller ID. Lad stayed home from work one morning to help me. Larry was having a rough morning and I wasn't sure if he'd throw things while I was watching babies. A mom with her 3 month old was already on her way to the house.
That Sunday night, Oct 10th, I picked Curly up from basketball and I told her that if they could find someone to take the boys the next day that we were going to drive them back. She sobbed the whole way home. Not because she wanted them to stay, but in her words: WHY? WHY, IF THIS WAS GOD'S PLAN WAS THIS SO HARD? WE'VE WORKED SO HARD NOT JUST FOR THESE TWO, BUT THE WHOLE TIME.
At home, Mini burst into tears: THEY JUST DON'T GET IT, THEY DON'T KNOW WHAT THEY ARE GIVING UP. THEY WILL HAVE NO FUTURE NOW. WE WERE READY TO GIVE THEM A GOOD LIFE. THEY JUST DON'T GET IT.
She's right. They don't get it, of course. They can't. They can't control their behavior and as much as I wished someone from Indiana would try to talk some sense into them during their zooms instead of just asking them what they like to play and what their favorite meal is, I doubt that wouldn't have done any good. Desperate times, though.
It was a lonely process and I feel like it shouldn't have been so damn lonely and confusing and hard. We never knew if we were doing the right things or the wrong things. Life was beyond unpredictable. We had to think of our future and that of our family. After the medication issue, I began to wonder: where will we be in our lives when one of them goes off their meds or has some other medication issue?
Mini broke down one night at the end of September while she was eating and Larry was out of control. Coach was at work - this marks the first time that I called him home, after tossing Mini the keys and telling her she had to drive Curly.
Mini: (sobbing) I CAN'T DO THIS ANYMORE, MOMMY. I JUST CAN'T.
Harry came around the corner fresh from the shower, as I was holding Larry so he could stop breaking stuff. (I've since spent $130 to buy Reg new wireless headphones that Larry intentionally broke). I told Mini, I'M CALLING JO TOMORROW. (not because we were done, but because I wanted to ask her for assistance). Harry started screaming DON'T GET RID OF US, DON'T GET RID OF US.
Mini jumped up from the table and ran to Harry while wiping away her tears. NO ONE IS GETTING RID OF YOU, MOMMY JUST NEEDS TO TALK TO JO ABOUT WHAT IS GOING ON WITH LARRY.EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE OK.
That's what my kids were like here. Putting their emotions aside and trying to help.
THE LAST NIGHT
In the end, the boys went willingly. They'd spent a weekend at respite care after I called and in my best Sigourney Weaver voice from Ghostbusters when she is possessed, INSISTED that they make arrangements for the boys to go to respite for the weekend. I NEED HELP. THEY NEED TO GO SOMEWHERE ELSE FOR THE WEEKEND. MAKE IT HAPPEN. This phone call seemed to really jar Alice.
compliments: monster nation.gif
Respite had helped Larry with some not-going-to-bed behavior at Debbie's, so we pinned our last hope to it. I drove them to Gary, Indiana the next day. A delightful foster mom took them to her farm for the weekend. I asked them to try to reset. Larry admitted he was able to do that when Debbie arranged for respite care. Knowing they still didn't get it and probably couldn't help it, I told them that to be part of a family they had to follow rules.
Harry: so is this a good visit or a bad visit?
Larry: did you not just hear what she said? We have to figure it out. Duh.
We called Debbie during our drive and she told them BOYS, THIS IS YOUR FUTURE.
They returned on Sunday venomous. Upset that we wouldn't let them play video games. I reminded them that we don't even own any. LAD DOES! I was like, WELL, IF HE DOES THEN THOSE ARE HIS IN A BOX IN HIS ROOM AND AREN'T EVEN HOOKED UP TO A TV. They claimed that I'd told the respite worker that they had to play outside and that they couldn't play video games. She later assured me that she'd told them it was beautiful outside and they could play outside while she mowed her acreage for a few hours. She and her husband had taken them to a pumpkin patch the day before. She told me that she had no problems with them, but she could tell that they were a lot to deal with and they required constant entertaining.
Harry wanted a movie night and promised to have a fit until we gave him one. This was because he'd learned from Larry that we put a movie on during Larry's 5 hour battle with sleep that one night.
boys: WE'VE TALKED ABOUT IT AND WE DON'T WANT TO LIVE HERE. MOMMY HELD ME DOWN, NO VIDEO GAMES, etc. (it's so mind-blowing - they didn't mention any of the things they were crazy about at our house - having friends in the neighborhood, watching our kids play basketball, going to the beach, playing charades, looking forward to Yellowstone, etc.)
After driving back from respite where Coach tried to talk them off the ledge and Larry finally told Harry: LET'S GIVE IT ONE MORE TRY, Coach took the boys and Curly and Reg mini golfing, then played catch in the yard. I made their favorite dinner. Now shower/bed refusal left us all sitting in the front hall. I looked at Coach and he looked at me. We'd spent the weekend discussing how we could adjust and try to implement more of the lessons from the therapist. We'd taken the girls to breakfast while Reg was a b-ball and reviewed the handouts with them, asking them to try a new approach whenever possible. We'd FINALLY gone out to dinner for our 25th anniversary. We breathed.
Me: (boys heckling us in the background) I'M DONE.
Coach: ME TOO.
I went into the kitchen and called the 1-800 number. Now on speed dial. Coach and Curly and Reg played memory with Larry - something that had worked for me a few nights prior. Harry moved to the study where he tore up all my papers. Larry switched back to regular mode and appeared in the kitchen after the game: I'M GONNA GO TAKE MY SHOWER, MOMMY. GOOD NIGHT. LOVE YOU.
The days are long, not out of a shortage of diapers to change. I have today off. I'm still in my jammies. I might skip my workout. Who am I kidding? I'm not completely falling apart.
Grief. Coping. Playing head games. It's hard. I never dreamt it would be THIS hard. Regular life stuff is still happening. Homecoming dresses, daycare kids turnover and interviews, college applications, dinner, silent treatment, etc. Gotta keep up. I broke down crying during one of Curly's school b-ball games the other day. Only Curly and her BFF know how to dribble or pass or shoot, so the games are something to behold, quite the two-woman show. We've still only lost one game, and Curly was totally off her A game the day they lost. Nerves?
Anyway, she rolled her ankle and she kept playing while she was crying. I couldn't control my emotions. Reg was sitting next to me. He'd skipped his workout to attend this, the one game we assumed we 'd lose because we were playing a school twice our size. He whispered I'M NOT SITTING NEXT TO YOU AGAIN when he saw my tears. We won the game. I gathered myself. Temporarily. I choked up again though when cool-Mr.-High-School Reg charged onto the court to congratulate a limping 8th grade Curly after the game. I also cried at he first school game, because the boys were looking forward to attending it.
compliments of giphy.gif
Our loss is public. So many people knew. There is shame involved, even if there shouldn't be. Coach and I had so much encouragement from so many people, we can't help but feel that we've let people down. We feel we let the boys down. We never dreamt that we'd return them. We were in it no matter what. We just couldn't have imagined the 'what.' This was a dream we'd worked towards for over 5 years. Together. And it ends here. We feel bamboozled and we moving on. Trying to. How often does a couple BOTH decide to get on this crazy train? Shit. I could go on and on about how I feel, right or wrong, senseless or not, better days, worse days. How it comes in waves.
This has gotten OUT-OF-HAND long and I haven't even told you why I'm mad at a few of my favorite SILs. I have some anger at the moment and God help the people who cross me.
I'll be fine. Eventually. In the meantime, thanks for reading along and sending such warm thoughts, encouraging words, and comforting prayers. I appreciate this group more than I can express.