Thursday, July 3, 2014

Getting Real: Questioning a Diagnosis



It has been just over a year since we received the official diagnosis that Little Man had Autism.  It came with relief, answers, and help.  However, in the last year I have found myself living in a lot of doubt.

Autism.  It's a pretty hot topic.  As of now there is only speculation to the cause and "cure" of Autism.  A debate that I am not willing to engage in.  The process to diagnose it can be tedious or simple.  We went the tedious route.  We had phone interviews, a questionnaire (300 pages long), documents from the school, developmental reports, a developmental screening done by a team of experts, and an appointment with the specialist who made the official diagnosis.  It was not done lightly.

At first all of this offered reassurance that yes the diagnosis was right.  However, as time has gone one I have spent hours wondering if something went wrong.  I feel like I'm staninding with a wall of evidence behind me but doubt makes me unable to stand on it's assuances.

Tony and I have sat in a room where we have had multiple professionals say things like, "well, I'm not sure what you told them but..." or "we don't see that here, he's NOT doing that" or "we know a lot of kids have been misdiagnosed."  The "I'm not sure how he got this disagnosis" tends to sting.

As Tony and I dealt with a new situation in which Little Man was not coping well, Tony looked at me and said, "This is how I know it wasn't wrong."  The evidence is there, the behaviors are there.  However, as a mom living in a world that wants to debate my child's disability more then it wants to help my child with his disability it can seem very lonely.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Living Life with Littles: Daily Helper

My kids ALL want to be the one to choose the show.  They ALL want to help in the kitchen.  They ALL want to pick the drink for supper.  NONE of them want to help with dishes.  NONE of the them want to set the table.  Based on this post by I Can Teach My Child we dealt with it all in one fell swoop. 


Every day, based on age order, we get a new helper.  Each child spends 3 days doing something and one day "off".  Sometimes that means they do or get a lot and other times it doesn't really affect them.  It all depends on how our day goes.

Choice Day:

If it's their choice day then that child gets to make all the choices for the day.  They also get to be first at everything.  So they get to choose the show, what we have to drink for supper, what they want for lunch, and on and on.  They love it when it's their choice day.  I love that I'm not constantly trying to remember whose turn it is for each indivual thing.

Kitchen Helper:

The Kitchen Helper gets to help with meals.  They also set the table at supper time.  Over all they really like this job and I like that it gets them in the kitchen more.

Dishes Helper:

The dishes helper helps clean out the strainer (to the best of their ablitity) and they help rinse and put dishes in the strainer when mom is doing a new load.

These three things have taken so much "thinking" and "remembering" away from me and taken a lot of fight out of our day.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Getting Real: The Hero Mentality of Foster Care Pt. 2

If you haven't gotten a chance to read part of of the Hero Mentality, please do so!  It talks about why viewing foster parents is dangerous for the children those parents are caring for.
Hero's.

In part of the newest Batman, in order for the common good and protection of all the image of Batman must be destroyed.  His reputation is ripped to shreds.  Hero's tend to fall and when they do, they fall far.

I rarely go a week with out one of the following statements (or something similar) said to me: "I couldn't do what you are doing."  "Thank you for doing what you do for these kids." "These kids couldn't ask for  better home."  People are trying to be encouraging and supportive.  I completely understand that, and I am thankful for the desire to support and encourage.

However, the problem is--I am human.  I make so many mistakes as a foster parent.  I'm not saying that to be modest.  I used to think I was a good momma.  I used to think I was a good wife.  I used to think I was good at doing ministry outside my home.  NOW...I have questioned everything I know about myself.  (And in many ways that's been good because I've been able to see God step into places where I once thought myself to be good enough.)

Holding parents to a Hero Mentality does two things:

It places the foster parent on a pedestal. The higher it goes, the bigger the fall when that parent messes up.  And mess up they will.  Recently a foster mom was convicted of shaking her foster baby.  It was unjustified, it wasn't right, it's not excusable.  But, what blew me away was how judgmental people are.  I heard statement after statement of "they placed children into her home to be protected and she just went and hurt them"  Again, I'm not saying that she is justified.  However, I have such sorrow for her.  What drove her to that point? Could more training have helped? How low had the saddness and loniless and pain of being a foster parent taken her?

Second, it makes foster parenting seem impossible to accomplish. If someone views a foster parent as extraordinary then they aren't even going to consider that role for themselves.  There is a huge need for more foster parents.  It doesn't take a nursing degree, a master's in special education, an extraordiary gift, or a magical power.  It simple takes someone who is willing to say no to some of their own desires and yes to a child in need of love and saftey.  That doesn't make it easy or fun, but it also isn't impossible.

I don't want to be viewed as a hero.  It hurts my kids, it hurts me, it hurts foster care.  I think if we took the time to think of foster parents as people just like us we would see more people desire to become one and we would see more support given to those who are already doing it.   

Have you ever felt like you were placed on a pedestal you didn't want to be on?  Have you ever fallen from someones graces for being less then perfect?

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Getting Real: The Hero Mentality of Foster Care Pt 1


We were at a dinner and someone was asking me about foster care, why and how we got into it.  "That's very.................................nice of you."

I'm not sure he meant nice but he was speaking along the lines of the "charity" or "goodness of our hearts" to take these kids that are not our own in.  There is a hero mentality in foster care.  Not by the foster parents, but by society in general.  It's a belief that what we do is extra ordinary.  We are hero's, rescuing these kids from a horrible past.

Here's part of the problem with that.  Our kids do not view us as rescuers, but rather as preventing them from being with their family.  Let me repeat that: our children do not view us as rescuing them from their past, rather they see us as preventing them from being with their families.

Early on in Baby Girl's counseling her Counselor taught us to pass the buck and "always push the blame up the ladder".  Blame the agency, blame the judge, always pass it on.  She said that because often our children turn around and blame us for being in foster care.

I hear this out of my children's mouths at least once a week: "I'm mad at you because I want to live with my birth family."  Or "I'm mad at you because I don't want you to be my mom, I want my birth mom."  Or "I won't show you respect because you make me live here, I don't want to live here."

We've been working on this for two years and I still here that at least once a week.  

The hero mentality damages our children.  It gives them a sense that they should be grateful to us.  It makes them believe that they owe us something for all we've "given up" for them.  It COMPLETELY goes against true love!  It COMPLETELY goes against healing these kids.

We are not the hero's for rescuing these kids, because we didn't rescue them.  They are the hero's because of all they are choosing to overcome on a daily basis.  We do not need gratitude for raising them, rather we are privileged to have them in our family.  At the core it's not about us, it's about these kids.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Living With Littles: Chores

There are lots and lots of blogs and Pinterest boards toting the best way to do chores with your child.  I find other family chore systems so interesting.  We approach ours in three different ways.

Family Chores:

We are a family and there are jobs we will do because we are a family.  Helping get ready for dinner and clean up dinner would be a way that we work together as a family.  Their is no reward for this.  We simply expect our children to chip in.
Baby Girl holding a root beer float at the park, one of our chore rewards
Daily, Personal Chores:

Every day we have a list of chores for our kids to do.  Usually they are doing around two to four chores each day which includes helping to pick up the house, bringing down the dirty clothes basket, cleaning the landing, watering plants, vacuuming, etc.  For every chore that our child completes they get a rock.  They can also earn up to three rocks per day based on their attitude while cleaning: happy heart, fast feet, diligent hands.  We are working together to fill a jar, when the jar is full we get a fun family activity.  For these jobs their is a reward but it's aimed at building family togetherness.
Sweet Pea with the elephant she worked several weeks to save up for.  We were so proud of her!

Paid Jobs:

We adapted this system from some friends.  We loved what they were doing but needed to modify it for our family.  Tony and I don't believe a child should necessarily get paid to do regular household jobs, we also don't believe in allowances.  However, we do want our children to learn about budgeting, tithing, and wise spending.

Each Saturday we make a list of "above and beyond jobs" for the kids.  This includes everything from washing down walls to picking up sticks in the yard to cleaning out the van.  These are jobs that we do not require our children to do on a regular basis but may need done on that Saturday.  Each job is given an amount of money its worth.

Starting with the earliest riser (past 6 am) and going to the latest riser we give the kids a chance to choose jobs.  We do not require that they sign up for a job, but if they do its theirs.  "Pay day" is at 5 pm.  We do not hound, pester, or remind the kids of their jobs.  If they are not done by 5 pm then they get to do the job for free.

Side Note: Due to Little Man's disabilities we tend to steer him to certain jobs.  We also require him to do his job immediately after breakfast.  He does not have to sign up for a job.  However, he does not understand the consequences of not working, so we do not allow him a choice in the matter.

It works like a charm.  We get a ton of work done very quickly on Saturday mornings, our kids are learning some great life skills, and they are learning money management.  It's also fun to see their desire to buy something drop when the realize that it's their money they must spend.  The first three weekends we did this we had a couple of kiddos work for free.  On occasion a child will decide playing outside or watching a movie is more fun the working and time slips away.  However, MOST of the fight of work is gone.

How does your family handle chores?  Do you pay your child to work?  How do you handle money management?