Friday, February 24, 2012

Would you do it again?

13 years ago today we met our son for the first time.  It has been one wild ride ever since.  I love my son, but truthfully, and this will not sit well with some people, I don't like him most of the time.

When he sat in my living room yesterday and told me that he was accused of stealing from his drug dealer, there wasn't an ounce of shock on my face.  Honestly, I can't think of anything he could say or do that would shock me at this point.  We have been through so much.  We have appeared before every judge in our county at some point.  Our county is small and does not have a juvenile justice judge.  Instead it rotates every 6 weeks, so we have had cases in front of every judge.

But let me back up a little.  When we first met our son, my husband and I had big rose colored glasses on.  We thought with love and a stable home life, things would turn around for him.  At the time we adopted him pre-adoption classes were not required and Reactive Attachment Disorder was not a word we ever heard.  Don't get me wrong.  I don't harbor any ill will against our adoption worker.  We still communicate to this day.  She did the best she could with the information she had.  None of us could have predicted what would come along.

My husband and I were so excited to become parents.  Our son's profile was the first one we read.  I remember those days very clearly.  We got the documents on Friday, and I left Saturday for a state bowling tournament out of town.  I took the file with me and read it thoroughly.  In my naive and excited state I thought, and these were my exact words..."He's just a regular kid cranked up a few notches."  I couldn't have been more wrong.  At the time we didn't fully understand the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome or pre-natal drug exposure.  The internet was just really starting to become what it is today and it never crossed our minds to do further research.  Like I said, we were very naive.

The five year old boy that we met had an engaging smile and could be a very sweet and loving boy.  We laughed a lot in those days.  As he grew and his mental health issues became more serious the anger and violence grew, along with the lack of impulse control.  Stealing was a very regular issue.

The first time I heard about attachment disorder was in 2002 when we were looking at the placement of another little boy.  The placing worker told us that his older brothers had RAD and they suspected he did.  At that time we were far more internet savvy and we jumped online to investigate.  I looked at my husband and said, "I don't know if this little boy has it or not, but the one living in our house sure does."  He exhibited every symptom except harming animals.  We didn't pursue it then, and we should have, but... This new little boy joined our home and three months later his baby sister came at five days old.  I had my hands full.

When those two placements were terminated and our son's anger and violence escalated to a point where none of us were safe, I reached out to the social worker that had placed the two children in our home.  She gave me the name of a therapist who specialized in attachment and trauma.  The worker asked me to keep an open mind.  From the day we walked into her office in April 2004, I knew we had found the right person.  She got everything that we had been living with.  She didn't fall for any manipulation at all.  After 18 months of therapy she told us that she had yet to see a true emotion out of him.  Everything he was did was manipulative or answers he thought he was supposed to give.  It was peeling layers from an onion.

We tried psychiatric placement.  He was in for nine days.  Medications were adjusted and he was "stable" which is what the job of a hospital is.  Stabilize the child and send him/her home.  When he was discharged the psychiatrist told me not to bring him back. I was beyond floored.  How could a psychiatrist not agree to treat my child?  Once again, we had found someone who got it.  He told me that my son knew how to play the system and say what he thought he was supposed to say.  They saw a different side of him when he thought no one was looking, but they knew they were not equipped to treat him.  I asked the doctor what we were supposed to do.  He said, "Call the police.  Whenever he gets violent, and he will, call the police and get the paper trail started. It's the only way you're going to get treatment for him."

That doctor was absolutely right.  It only took three months before we had the first episode with property damage with him throwing things at us.  We called, the police documented and the paper trail began.  After a few calls, we were sent back to social services, who tried different interventions.  The court ordered him into "shelter care" which is non-secure detention.  It's like a house setting, but the kids are not locked in.  We did that several times with no change before the next judge ruled that he would spend time in juvenile detention.  Over the next two months, he had two different ten days stays in juvenile detention and a couple more shelter care stays.  Nothing changed.  This lead to the judge ordering him into residential treatment.  He entered the first center in December 2005. It was the last time our son would live at home.  Truthfully, he hadn't lived at home for about two months before that because he was bouncing in and out of shelter care and juvenile detention.  Four residential treatment centers, seven shelter care stays, nine juvenile detention stays, and three treatment foster homes later.. he turned 18.  All services were now gone.

It has been a long and very bumpy road.  So, would I adopt this child again if I knew then what I know now?  My honest answer is, I don't know.  When he sat in my living room recounting the events of the past few months with the same tone as if he was telling me he had eaten a ham a cheese sandwich, the level of his mental illness was so apparent.  However, the up side, if you can call it that, is that he knows we are his safe place to fall.  We are the only people who have stuck with him for the last 13 years.  No matter what he has done, we have been here.  We have advocated for him and his care.  We haven't liked his choices and we have allowed the court to hold him accountable, but we have always been there. I sat in ever single court hearing.  Some part of him knows that because he bounces back to us when he has nowhere else to turn, or things didn't turn out the way he thought they would.  And that may be our relationship for the rest of his life.  I truly don't know.

I do know it will never be a "normal" parent/child relationship. I do know it will never match the dream we had when we started the adoption process.  Currently he is pursuing relationships with his birth family.  I know enough about the history to know it is not going to be the fantasy he is hoping for, and we will be here when he gets hurt, again.  It's the best I can do right now.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Frugal Living - Cosmetics

The above photo is my "haul" for the day.  It cost me a whopping $18.90 (tax included).  Yes, that's right.  Under $20 for everything!

How?  As you can tell by the brands, I went to Ulta.

I received a flyer advertising a sale that I had hit before.  Spend $17.50 or more on Ulta brand products and receive this little kit for free.  I paid for the 2 products on the left.  The Ulta Gel Eyeliner that I love, and the eye shadow crayon.  Everything else was free.  All the products, except for the shampoo were my free gift.  There is eye shadow, nail polish, lipstick, dual lip gloss, mascara, blush, 2 eye liner pencils which actually have 4 colors, and 3 makeup brushes.  Plus the carrying case. There were also 3 color palates to choose from so you have a choice.  This make up will pretty much last me until the next time they offer up this special.

The shampoo was also free because I use my Ulta loyalty card.  In my flyer was a coupon with a list of free products I could  choose from based on what I had spent in the previous few months.  The shampoo was the highest value, so that's what I got.

I was very happy with what I ended up with, and my daughter's eyes lit up when she saw the total.  Having a tween daughter in the house, I know that make up is going to be an issue in the next few years, so teaching saving techniques now is crucial.

If you don't have an Ulta near you, a great brand to save money is NYC Cosmetics.  It's available at most stores like Target, Wal-Mart or K-Mart.    Their prices are fabulous!

When I see cosmetics advertised and see prices like $30 for a mascara or $20 for one eye shadow, I just shake my head.  I feel sorry for the people that pay those crazy prices.  What a waste.  The set of eye shadow above runs about $5, or less, for the entire set. It includes 4 full sized colors, a primer to make your eye shadow last longer, and a highlighter for the corners of your eyes to make them whiter and brighter.  A tube of mascara starts at $2.  Those prices are far more reasonable.  After all, at the end of the day what do you do?  You wash your make up off!  No one looking at you can tell whether you spent $2 or $20 on your mascara, so why bother?

Save the money for a great vacation, a donation to a charity, or a date with your partner.  It's far more worth it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Who/What is ATN?

Touching Trauma at Its Heart

ATN is the group my husband and I volunteer for, and has been an emotional lifesaver for us.

ATN stands for Attachment & Trauma Network.  We work with families who have children who have been abused, neglected or suffered emotional or medical trauma in their early lives.  This shows up in behavioral and medical issues.

So, what does all that mean?  There are various reports that you can find on our web page to really get into an explanation, but.... the short and sweet of it is that something has happened to these children that has broken the crucial bonding cycle in early life.

These children have had the very basic trust that should be established in the first two years of life violated in some way.

There is some great buzz around ATN right now because yesterday we rolled out our new logo (pictured above), our new tag line - Touching Trauma at Its Heart, and a brand new format of our newsletter.

ATN's focus is to help, support, educate and advocate for the parents who are raising these children.  In MOST cases, these are foster or adopted children.  Trauma can affect biological children.  It is usually in the form of a medial issue, but there can be other things that affect biological children. Mostly we work with foster and adoptive parents.

Pediatric Trauma is a mental health issue, however adequate resources for pediatric mental health is vastly lacking!  Providers who truly understand and can work with the issues are few and far between.  When we find good providers, they tend be over booked because they DO get it.

ATN has been lifesavers for our family because it was the first place we found that understood our daily lives.  The fantastic all volunteer staff got us through some very difficult times.

We are so proud of what we are doing that we are offering up our newsletter, usually a members only benefit, for free this month.  If you are interested in a copy, e-mail or

Also check out our FacebookGoogle Plus and Twitter pages.   We will also very happily accept your donation.  ATN is completely volunteer run.  Every person on staff is parenting or working with traumatized children.  We understand the parents we work with because we live it every single day.  You can also join ATN as a parent for only $35 a year, or as a professional member for $75 a year.

Even if you're not parenting a traumatized child, you can make a difference in the life of these children.

If you are parenting one of these children, ATN wants you to know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Couscous Salad

My friend, Julie, made this for an ATN staff retreat a couple of years ago and I loved it right away.

It's healthy, covers all food groups, can be changed up depending on what you have in the pantry, and it comes together in a few minutes.  What else do you need?

Here's the "official" recipe:

1 cup couscous
12 cup cherries (dried)
1 cup boiling water
5 tbsps olive oil (divided)
bell pepper (orange bell pepper cut in bite sized sticks)
onion (cut around its equator and cut into thin slices)
112 tsps ground cumin
12 tsp ground ginger
14 tsp ground cinnamon
black pepper (ground)
16 ozs chickpeas (drained)
14 cup fresh cilantro (chopped)
3 tbsps rice vinegar
3 tbsps orange juice concentrate (frozen orange juice concentrate thawed)
1place couscous and dried cherries in a med. bowl. add boiling water; immediately cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit until water is completely absorbed, about 5 minutes.
2meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. add peppers and onions, sauteing until tender, about 5 minutes, and seasoning with cumin, ginger, cinnamon, salt and pepper as they cook. add to couscous, along with chickpeas and cilantro.
3whisk remaining 3 tablespoons of oil with vinegar and orange juice concentrate. pour over salad. toss to coat. cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

From Yummly.

I'm not big on chickpeas, so I ditch those and add diced, cooked chicken breast.  If you have leftovers from dinner, this is a quick and easy way to use them up. Otherwise, I cook some in the slow cooker (bone in are juicier when cooked in the slow cooker).  When they are cooled, I chop them and throw them in the salad.

I've switched up the dried cherries for cranberries or apricots, again, depending on what I have in the pantry.  To make prep even easier, if you buy a package of pepper stir-fry vegetables and heat them up, you can save the time on the chopping and cooking.

It makes a nice size salad and is even better after a day or two of the juice soaking in. Make it at night and you have a couple of days of lunches.  It even makes a great side dish if you don't want to put the chicken into the salad.  Made as is, it's a great vegetarian meal.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Frugal Living - Weight Loss

OK, my New Year, New Me hasn't exactly come to fruition.  I've been very sidelined by a sinus infection and double ear infection that just wiped me out.

Yes, I could do Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig or Nutri System or something like that, but well, I'm too cheap.  They are a lot of money.

Four years ago I decided to get healthy as I approached my 40th birthday.  I lost about 85 pounds.  I've put a little bit of it back on, so my goal is to get the pounds back off, and get into my size 8 jeans again.

I know I need accountability.  I know what works for me, I just have to get back to it.  I use a fabulous FREE website.  It's called Spark People.  It's pretty much everything you need for weight loss in one easy and free website.

I use the food log to keep track of my calories throughout the day.  The part I like most about the food tracker is that it doesn't just record calories. It breaks it down into fat, protein, carbs, sodium, calcium and much more.  You can customize it to show many nutrients.  It helps you to see where your calories come from and where you are lacking nutritionwise.  I learned that I don't eat near enough protein during the day, so it's something I have to watch closely.

Additionally, you can input your exercise information and it will tell you how many calories you burned.  You can track how much water you have had each day.  There are support groups for every one.  You can join depending on where you live, your age, how much weight you want to lose, what exercise you like, dieting and health issues and much more.  They are called teams, and there are, literally, thousands of teams.  You can even start your own if you want to join with friends or a group from work.

You can also start your own page, sort of like Facebook, where you can post photos, blogs, share messages with friends, and earn points for "goodies" to send to people to motivate them or congratulate them on reaching or goal, or just be fun.  You earn points by logging in, logging food, water and exercise, writing blogs, posting in your teams and much more.  These points are what you use to send goodies to friends.

Your progress and blogs can be viewed by your friends on Spark, and you can choose to post them to Facebook if you like.  For me it's a great way to keep myself accountable.  I know my friends are viewing my progress and cheering for me.

If you decide to join Spark, come on over and find me.  I am Zebramom1.  We can cheer each other on.

And no, that's not my belly in the photo.  Trust me.... You don't want to see mine!!!

Edit:  I almost forgot... There's an app for that.  You don't need to be at your computer to use Spark.  You can download an app to your smart phone to let you record your food.  I haven't used the app yet, but I believe it will even allow you to scan the bar code of pre-packaged food (such as Weight Watchers or Lean Cuisine) and it will input the nutrition information for you.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Frugal Living - Store Loyalty Cards

First you're looking at the gas price and wondering where the heck I got that picture.  I took it today. Then you're wondering what the gas price has to do with store loyalty cards.

I live in a rural area and our choice of grocery stores is fairly limited.  We don't have any grocery stores that offer unlimited double coupons, so we have to plan grocery trips.  The store I frequent has one day a week that they offer double coupons and they are limited to five.  Every so often there are extra days where coupons are doubled and the amount is increased to ten.  Well, I thought today was one of those days so I carefully planned my list combining coupons with the sale flyer.  I was wrong.  It was a double day, but it was still limited to five. :(

However, I did have some great savings; even a couple of free items.  Using the loyalty card at the store may seem like a hassle, or if you're like most people, you already have a ton of those cards to keep track of.  It is worth having though.

I used my store card to get sales that were only available with the card, combined store coupons with manufacturer coupons (five were doubled) and saved $57 on a $162 bill.  It's not as good as the people that save 90% on their bill, but I was pretty happy saving 33%.

Additionally, this store had a promotion going where if you bought certain products you got a scratch off card.  Some of the cards were worth cash.  I didn't purchase items specially to get the cards, only if they were the best deal.  Today I redeemed my cards for $6 cash.

Now the gas comes in.  This grocery store offers an additional reward in gas points.  For every $50 you spend, you get 5 cents a gallon off on gas at participating station.  I've been saving up my rewards and today I hit 35 cents per gallon.  I purposely put off getting gas until after I had gone grocery shopping since I knew I would have more rewards.

So when I got to the gas station, my gas was $2.99 a gallon.  My loyalty card saved me $5.63 on my tank of gas.

The total savings for my day...  Almost $69.  Now you can see how a loyalty card can pay off.  The best part of all this was my 10 year old daughter observing this.  She loves to look at our receipt and see the savings.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Blogs I like

I was very honored to have this blog nominated by a friend of mine.  We became friends in 1993 when I moved to Houston for a job.  We became friends instantly  and have been ever since, even though we haven't seen each other since 1996.

The rules are simple:

1) Thank the person who gave you the award
2) Link back to their blog
3) Add an image of the award on your blog in the sidebar if you can
3) Choose blogs/bloggers you enjoy and nominate them by listing their blog
and letting them know in one of their comments
4) List 7 random things about yourself

Sounds like fun, so here we go!

I love my friend's blog so he gets the first shout out and a big thanks!!.  

Two Men and a Little Farm - This is a fun blog about 2 men who live in the city, but have bought country property and are fixing up an old farmhouse.  The blog talks about everything from cooking, decorating, and landscaping to highlighting vintage posters and other items from the era of the house.  I love being able to watch the progress of my friend's dream home from more than 1000 miles away!

Since I love baking some of these are not going to come as a surprise.

Cake Wrecks - This blog makes me laugh out loud most days.  It is professional cakes that have gone horribly wrong.  On Sundays they feature the most beautiful cakes you have ever seen.  Jen and John who write the blog have a very twisted sense of humor.  The commentary on the cakes is often more funny than the cakes themselves!

The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle - Her cookies are amazing, but she offers amazing tutorials as well to teach aspiring cookie makers how to create the beautiful confections.  The cookies she creates are pure works of art!

Cupcakes Take the Cake - Adorable cupcakes and tutorials!!

Rollin in Dough - Another awesome cookie artist.  

I could go on and on and on about baking websites and I could spend all day just going through them for inspiration.

On to the other part of my life.... kids and trauma.  

Attachment & Trauma Network - This is the group I volunteer for.  We parents supporting and educating other parents who parent children with attachment issues and a trauma history.  Most often severe abuse and neglect.  The majority of the families that we work with have foster or adopted children.  The blogs are sporadic right now, but are a focus of areas we can improve on and reach out to the public.  

And for the last part... 7 random things about myself.

I hate snakes.

I have always loved to bake and learned from my great-grandmother.

There are 2 children that no longer live in my home, but will live in my heart forever.

I'm an old fashioned romantic at heart.  

My favorite color is pink.

I love high heeled shoes!!!

I have 3 friends that have been my friends since high school.  One of those goes back to elementary school.  Mel, Shel and Deb, you rock!

Check out the blogs I listed. If you have others that you like, let us know about them!