Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Raise your hand if you know me. Hug me if I am your friend. Hold me, hug me, kiss me, and wipe my tears if you are my best friend!

We had a conversation similar to this with Trenton tonight. We tried to explain to him what a "true" friend is. Not just an acquaintance. We also definitely warned him about trying to fit in. So far, it has only gotten him into trouble. A lot of trouble.

So, 6th grade has been rough thus far. Really rough. I struggle daily with how to wake up and move on into a new day. I am exhausted and tired of dealing with a school system that doesn't make it any better. The worst part is how bad our son is suffering. It's not just school, it's life. He doesn't know how to move on but instead still struggles with coping with his past. He's so broken and we just don't know how to help him.

We continue with therapy and that does help to some extent but we really need to work with someone who understands and has background in attachment issues. I began researching on my own and trying to figure out how to get more help for my family. After contacting numerous agencies to see what we could qualify or what help we could receive, we found an attachment clinic in Charlottesville, VA. We have been in contact with them and it sound promising.....5,000 dollars promising..and not covered by insurance. So, we are waiting to hear back from Trenton's school counselor on programs we might qualify for to assist with the payments (although I won't hold my breath because they don't ever get back to me).

So, while we still are at a really rough spot in our life we continue to plow through and do what we can. I told Trenton tonight (he is not happy with the thought of more specialized therapy) that one day, maybe it will be 10 or 20 years from now, he will look me in the eyes and say "thank you, for loving me and taking care of me". I know one day he will look back and appreciate me for all I have done and/or tried to do. I told him that I loved him the day I met him and that I will love him for the rest of my life. He just has to learn to let me love him as a mother should.

So, my life is a circus act and I am on the tight rope feeling like I am about to fall off! When will this feeling stop?????

P.S. I never stopped blogging, I have about 5 drafts that I wrote and never posted. Sorry!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Or at least he thinks so.....

Trenton was making such good strides! I guess that is why I haven't blogged in forever. But we hit a rough patch, a bad one. I feel like our family is so fractured right now and while we may look happy on the outside we are definitely hurting on the inside. And...just for the record, I feel we get many looks and stares because I know people think we are too hard on him. The fact is, we aren't even as strict as many of the books say we should be. Maybe that is the problem, I am just not sure. For right now though if you had to pick the one issue that is the biggest and main area of concern-it's SCHOOL!

School is a train wreck and that is putting it nicely. The school system is failing him....literally. He's failing-three classes to be exact. He has been "refusing" to do his work and when they put it on his desk or he is given an assignment to complete he just simply doesn't do it. When asked why, he says because he "doesn't want to" and "doesn't like his teacher". Even though we explained to him that in life there are many things we have to do, that we don't want to, but we do anyway...he doesn't get it. Not sure I expected my almost 11 year old to understand but I gave it the old college try. Anyway, due to this he gets zeros and zeros cause his grades to drop. I have tried to motivate him and encourage him to do well-even provide him with rewards. He just doesn't want too....and nobody can make him.

Did I mention the school doesn't help. They allow him to sit and do nothing and it's not like I expect them to "make" him do it. However, I do expect that they will motivate, use motivational methods, modify, adapt, etc. I am not sure what a behavior plan is because he has one and well... I don't think it is working (or being implemented)! He has a first year teacher and a special education teacher who doesn't support her. It's quite sad to be honest with you...really. He comes home with his homework written in his planner but he doesn't have the supplies in his book bag. What happened to checking his book bag?? Why won't they send home his assignments to us (aka: the parents) weekly so we can ensure that the work is here-even if they are too lazy to do their jobs and check his book bag daily. Did I mention that he has a teacher assistant for 30 min daily to help provide behavioral support? I wonder what she is doing to help?? I won't tell you what my son (who is old enough to tell me what she is doing) says she is doing during her time in the classroom.

I am not giving up, I won't. Mom's don't give up on their children. I may be tired, emotionally drained and well spent...but I won't give up. I will fight, I will encourage, I will put a smile on my face and I will continue to seek help. But I won't give up.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


So, first of all, I would like to again thank all the friends and family that have reached out to be supportive during this time. Whether it be a comment on the blog, my facebook page, or a phone call-it is much appreciated. Establishing a support system is one of the priorities in the book which says that it is important to surround yourself with people, who understand, that you can call and process your thoughts, vent your rage or have respite care. So, thanks!! We feel loved!

Now onto the topic of food issues with Trenton. Some would look at him and think "wow, he is so skinny, does he eat?" Of course he eats!!!....he eats, and eats, and eats, and eats........ Which, in all actuality, that is the problem. I know most would think he is just a growing boy and that he needs to eat all the time-who knows, maybe it is a growth spurt...right? WRONG.... It couldn't be more wrong. See, children should have three well balanced meals a day with two snacks (a morning and evening snack). With Trenton, the first issue we have is gorging (another symptom of RAD). He will eat a meal and want more or he would go to a buffet and eat till he got sick to his stomach. We have had family members state that "all he did was eat while he was with us"! He was so hungry! Again, this IS a problem. What the book recommends is that we give him those balanced meals and snacks during somewhat of a scheduled time-you know...the normal time of day for those meals! Then, if they want more during each meal, allow them to have more. Offer them nutritional additions like apples, carrots, a piece of cheese, etc. to each meal if they ask for more. Eventually, the more you offer them they will eventually say-no, I am full (and feel full of love too...:).

So, why does he gorge his food??? It's simple really. Most likely, at one point during his first three years he was not given food when he requested it. Whether he cried for a bottle and didn't get it or asked for a meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and wasn't provided with one. Now, it may not be that he wasn't provided with one at all but even if his request was ignored and he wasn't fed till a much later time, it can cause issues with food! Food is a basic need right? It's like Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. You can't move up the pyramid until you have the needs in each level met. In this case the bottom of the pyramid which is his physiological needs weren't met. It makes it difficult to go to the next level which is safety/security. Once each need is met he can then move forward with love/belonging, esteem and then self-actualization. I have learned that I will never deny him food-HOWEVER, it is very important that he have food during those structured meal times. Never send him to bed without dinner either, that is another important lesson learned!!!

Okay, the other food issue we are dealing with has gotten increasingly worse over the years and we noticed it more (or found it) over the past six months. He hoards food. Yes, he takes food when we aren't looking or around, and shoves as much of it as he can in his mouth. We don't see this but what we are finding the empty wrappers, drink boxes, etc. We figured at some point he takes the food and hides it till he can quickly empty it into his mouth. We have caught him a few times but more often we find the empty wrappers. One morning, Jonnie caught him naked eating M & M's. He was getting dressed downstairs for school and after undressing out of his pajamas, he located the M & M's and then started shoving them in his mouth! He didn't even get dressed first! We started hiding treats and quickly found that he will search for them anyway. We found empty bags of gummy worms and bears that we brought back from Disney. We found six empty packs of fruit snacks that he probably shoved in his mouth in one sitting-we found those in the pantry. Jonnie found 6 empty capri suns in the garage (he must have taken them from the garage fridge) which he also most likely drank in one sitting. I know no longer try to limit his sweets....I give him dessert every night! When he hoards like this it is his need to gain control and feel comforted. I am trying to parent him in a way that now lets him now I won't deny him food, take food away from him, or ignore his basic "need" of hunger.

So, another step in the right direction. School issues are currently being worked on so I am feeling like once his new IEP is in place we will have better results! And....one last note-he hasn't taken a shower in two days. The book says it's common for poor hygiene. So, rather than forcing him to do it or yell and make a big deal out of it. I let him go to bed 2 nights in a row without a shower! BUT...when he does take a shower I will throw myself at him, jump up and down, and make sure he knows how good he smells!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Let the count down begin:)

Love to all!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

No Regrets....and a weekend of respite!

Any regrets in raising Trenton? No, not one. You can ask me again in 10 years and I will say it again...no regrets. We kept him from being able to go to parades, trick or treating and birthday parties but I firmly believe we made the right choice! According to the wonderful book I am reading, When Love is Not Enough by Nancy Thomas, we are and HAVE been doing the right thing! Those are privileges and for a child with RAD-privileges have to be earned! Big time...... They earn them by being respectful, honest, responsible and fun to be around. You shouldn't push them and you shouldn't have to remind them of their basic daily chores. Wow! So all the years that Jonnie and I have been giving him chores and making him be responsible, we were doing the RIGHT thing! Yea for that! My only regret??? Not pushing all the Dr.'s much sooner to look at a different diagnosis other than ADHD. I knew there was some true mental health issues with him and I just didn't know how to help him.

Tonight he was definitely difficult but I feel we made a very small step. He was having a hard time following through and completing the task asked of him (to remove the sheets from his bed to be washed since they were urinated in). We sweetly offered for him to rest since he was too tired and exhuasted to do what was asked (a tip in our book). He didn't like that at all..he promptly went into a full on tantrum in which he took every picture in his room of myself and/or Jonnie and threw them face down. It was a bit heartbreaking but I knew that he was angry with us and that is to be expected. After given time to calm down, I approached him and tried to get him to tell me why he was so angry. He immediately went into wanting to see his sisters (he has half sisters who live with his biological mother) and other family members where he knows he can be in control. He hated that we were in control today!

He eventually broke down into tears and was able to talk about his anger. He said it was his fault that he doesn't see or live with his mother anymore. He blames himself for her giving up custody of him-his words exactly "it's all my fault because my mom couldn't handle me anymore". I told him it wasn't his fault, it was a choice she made. Unfortunately, he is suffering the consequences which is the hardest aspect of all of this. He is so broken and his heart is so broken. I wish I could fix it for him and I wish he would let us love him.

On another note, Lucas and I had a little respite getaway to my Dad's on Saturday. It was peaceful, restful and quite nice! Luke played, I cleaned off my old computer, and we rested......quietly. I feel a bit refreshed! Hopeful of a calmer week ahead!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Abused Parents and RAD

That is how I feel, "abused". Harsh, but true-so true that those words are simply stated in the book that I am reading. To be exact, "Parents of Attachment disorder children often appear unreasonably angry. Probably because the more they love their child, the more pain the child dishes out to get them to stop. The child believes love hurts, as it did when his heart were broken as an infant. They don't use the parents' love to grow emotionally strong. Parents are basically abused in their own home." Wow, another strong statement and so true as to the anger and hurt we feel in our own home. I also read that there is a very high incidence of divorce in families who have children diagnosed with RAD. I believe it!!! We have had so many fights which have nothing to do with each other but rather how to handle and take care of Trenton. It has us feeling so damaged, broken, and torn. We now know it's important for us to take time for each other, as well as time for ourselves. The first chapter of the book speaks about how you need to take "me" time to keep your sanity and remain calm. You should also have "trained" respite providers but we have been cautioned that "untrained" providers can undo the hard work you have completed thus far.

So, what is RAD and what causes it? RAD is basically the inability for individuals to form long lasting relationships. This may be a reason why Trenton has no friends as schools and struggles to interact appropriately and at his current age level. In addition, RAD occurs in children who typically fail to develop a conscience and do not learn to trust. They do not allow people to be in control of them due to this trust issue. This is why it is so easy for Trenton to act out or do something he know he shouldn't and just look at you and say "oh well, I don't care".

I will tread lightly when I speak of what I believe to be the cause of his RAD. This is only MY assessment of what I feel has traumatized Trenton in his past and is based off of information I have read. I was not in his life for his first year and half and cannot speak for others as to what could have possibly happened to him before he lived with Jonnie at the age of four. Again, this is my speculation. What I do know is bonding begins in utero and can have a direct effect on the bonding ability and personality of the child. "Drug or alcohol exposure, maternal stress, or an unwanted pregnancy can damage the developing child". His mother was pregnant with him when she was 18 and because she and Jonnie were not together during the time of her pregnancy I can't say one way or another if any of those issues were to blame. What I can say is that I know it wasn't a planned pregnancy. In addition, some of the following issues that occur to a child under the age of 36 months can cause further damage and puts them at high risk for RAD; physical or emotional abuse, neglect, several moves/placements/daycare providers, or an unprepared mother with poor parenting skills. Your guess is as good as mine.

So, where does that leave the child? It leaves then unable to open up to love, trust and care with their maternal figure. In this case, the "real mom", which is me. Even though the difficulties are with his biological mother, their past history, and current relationship-he will take his anger out on the "real mom" as I try to love him. These children allow no one to control them, they manipulate, control and have little or no conscience development. All signs that Trenton has. He most definitely has control issues which have been highly documented in the home and school setting with us, teachers and classroom peers.

So, that leaves me tonight with sign number two that we have highlighted as something that he exhibits. "Indiscriminately affectionate with strangers. They do not go through the healthy stranger anxiety period an infant goes through. As older children they hug strangers (he does this all the time) and school principals and anyone else they feel they can get on their side, against their mom." He hugged the therapist the first night she was here with him!!!!!!!!!!!!! She looked at me when he walked away and simply made a comment about how most 10 year old children would just roll their eyes at a therapist there to "help them" and gladly see them out the door. Not Trenton, she was his best friend and he clung to her side the entire time she was here. I began to contemplate if I had ever noticed that before. I did, but I always assumed he was a friendly kid-not scared of strangers. I soon realized that with Luke he does have stranger anxiety but with Trenton, he would go with or to anyone you introduced him to. Especially now that I see him hugging "strangers" I realized...that is kinda weird for a kid that is heading into the sixth grade...right???

Well, enough for tonight. Thanks for listening to my story. This is therapeutic for me-that's for sure. Keep the encouraging words coming!

Lastly, on a side note...Luke is doing really well and continues to grow like a weed. Today was crazy hair day and tomorrow is hat day at his school. He is learning his letters, colors and numbers and always adds new words to his vocabulary every day. He tests us at times but seems to respond well to "time outs". He is a loving child and we are now bound and determined, more than ever, to raise him in a loving, nurturing, and well adjusted home!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

RAD-no longer a word used to exclaim "cool, awesome, super!"

RAD-Reactive Attachment Disorder. Where do I start? I am not sure, so please hang in there while I explain.......

Obviously, I am speaking about my oldest son (well, he's actually my stepson but I have been a part of his life since he was almost two and I have raised him as my own since he was four-so, he is my son) who was recently diagnosed with RAD. I am having a hard time coming to terms with it but mainly that is because I am furious that it has taken six and half years to be diagnosed and four therapists later! That alone makes me want to vomit......literally sick to my stomach. The money, time, and effort and all we were ever told was our son was ADHD and medication would probably help. Well guess what, we have tried almost every single medication for ADHD and to be honest, there was never a change. It is one of the most discouraging situations I have ever been in. Within the last three months I finally went in to the psychiatrist office and said "it's NOT working, this isn't working-we need help". Who knew that those words would change our lives so much.

We were blessed to find a new therapist that was able to come to the home and quickly looked at his past history and said, "that sounds like reactive attachment disorder". Funny, because years ago when he was four and first came to live with Jonnie we noticed he was having trouble adjusting. Normal, yes but also worrisome... In fact, Jonnie's sister and I often discussed that he displayed these odd behaviors and upon further research it seemed as if he may have RAD. But, we are not doctors and we could not provide him with therapy to heal. So, the years went on and here we are. He's 10-going to be 11 in May. He suffers from many of the symptoms of RAD, it's so hard for me to believe that he wasn't diagnosed earlier. I will begin to go into the symptoms...but only night at a time. I know it would be too much to go on even though I feel like I could write all night. In advance I would like to thank each and every person who reads this, comments on this, shares this with friends, and offers us support.

According to the book I am reading, When Love is Not Enough: A Guide to Parenting Children with RAD-Reactive Attachment Disorder by Nancy Thomas, there are about 23 sign/symptoms of RAD. The diagnosis calls for at least half the symptoms and one of the causes (we will get into what I feel the "cause" may be a little later). Just so you know, together Jonnie and I calculated that we feel he has about 18-20 of these signs/symptoms....again, unbelievable that no other therapists saw this earlier. For tonight, we will focus on the first symptom which is "acts superficial and phony, especially around strangers or people they feel they can manipulate in order to be in control."

He does this, often. He clings to strangers and prefers to be with individuals he know he can manipulate (grandparents, teachers, etc.). He puts on a front at times, so much so that even family members look at us and tell us that we are too hard on him. They see the beautiful side of Trenton (which we all know and love) but they never see the other side. The side were he treats us as if we have abused him, abandoned him, or hurt him physically or mentally-which we have not. But, as I read he has to take the anger out on his "real mom". In case you didn't read my earlier note on facebook, I leave you with this quote from one of the first pages that by far was one of the most profound moments.
"Who is the real mom? Is it the one who gave them birth? Not necessarily! The real mom is the one that guides their way, picks them up when they fall down, holds them when they cry, and loves them no matter how bad their behavior becomes. It must be clear to the child who the real mother is! She then will become the target of their anger and the haven for their hearts to heal".

So, join us on our journey as I use our blog (I promise not to just blog on RAD) about how our family is learning to heal and searching for the right way to show him how much he is loved.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Thanksgiving in Disney!

Well as we all know, I am not the best at keeping up my blog. Too busy raising my two....I mean three (husband included) boys! So, here is some info and pictures from our great trip to Disney World this Thanksgiving.

We were fortunate that Mom and Chuck offered us the opportunity to go to Disney for the Thanksgiving holiday. In addition, I had been furloughed the beginning of that week so it offered Lucas and I some additional time to go spend with Nana and Papa in sunny warm southern Florida! Luke and I flew out on the Saturday before Thanksgiving and had a blast doing our favorite Florida activities; shopping, boating, breakfast on the water (Lobster Benedict), and dinner on Las Olas. Magnificent!!! We packed on Wednesday and drove north to Orlando where we met up with Daddy, Trenton, and Aunt La La.

Disney was action packed! We had a great time at the resort Thanksgiving day playing in the pools and lazy rivers. We were able to enjoy a traditional feast with turkey, candied yams, cauliflower salad, and cranberries. Yummy...... The following four days were filled with trips to Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Magic Kingdom. We also enjoyed the Very Merry Mickey Mouse Christmas Party where the kids were able to take in the snow (fake of course) and parade festivities with all the great Disney characters! What a special and very memorable experience. If you ask Lucas I imagine he would tell you that his favorites were meeting his hero, Mickey Mouse, in person and then there was Buzz Lightyear...... Trenton would tell you that one of his favorites was the Tower of Terror and Expedition Everest. He would also probably tell you that I screamed like a little girl on those rides....and maybe, just maybe I did.

Enjoy the pictures! I hope to continue to play catch up and post some Christmas pictures too!