me and my household

"Choose this day whom you will serve... ; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.’ Joshua 24:15

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Trust

We've been doing a bit of thinking about trust since having the boys with us. We noticed that there was a lot of frustration between the boys, and with one of the boys he would say "I don't want to" instead of telling us he didn't know how to do something. What we started thinking was that perhaps this had more to do with trust than anything. So rather than going to an adult to resolve something between them they would get frustrated with one another and take things out on one another. I guess if the adults in your life aren't always the same people, or haven't been trustworthy, this is what you're likely to do. So we started talking about trust with the boys. Asking them outright if they would trust us to resolve issues with them if one has done the wrong thing. The result was a whole lot of dobbing about absolutely everything, but this is completely ok. For them to learn they can bring their concerns to us and we'll help to sort them out, or give them advice on how to deal with them, it'll take time. To learn that if they can't do something, they can trust us to ask and we'll help them, that'll take time.

They were only with us for such a short time, but it did give us a bit of a picture of some of the smaller issues we're likely to face, like this one. We wouldn't expect to see the bigger issues in such a short time. It certainly got us looking for what other behaviours might be related to trust rather than something else.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Funny Boy

Mr 5 is hilarious. He comes out with the funniest things.

Mr 5: Where's Kevin?
Me: Who?
Mr 5: Kevin?
Me: Who's Kevin?
Mr 5: You know, your Dad? (aka husband)
Me: Ahh, you mean *insert husband's name here*.
Mr 5: Yeah him.
After explaining where my husband was I enquired of him.
Me: So who is Kevin?
Mr 5: He's one of the minions.

My husband had a very similar conversation when asking him why he kept calling him Kevin.

M5 5 at the pool: I can't breathe underwater.

Honestly, this kid cracks me up. He comes out with incredibly random stuff.

He is also a really sweet and generous boy. We took him to spend some birthday money. He was determined to buy a kite. But he also wanted to buy one for his brother. We were very thankful to find one cheap enough that he could buy them both one. He put so much thought into what kind to buy for him. He was also super excited to hand over his money at the check out. He's a complete charmer. Wherever you take him he charms the socks off the people behind the counter. He's got a gorgeous cheeky little grin and is completely unphased about talking to strangers. That's actually kind of a worrying trait, but even still, it's fun to watch.

He started school on Wednesday. Now I'm not entirely sure how that will go for him, but so far he seems to be enjoying it. He wasn't entirely sure about going back on day 2, but settled in once he got there.

The boys have gone home this afternoon. We'll miss them. Home will be calmer, but we'll miss them all the same. I'll try to do some more updates in the coming days of our time together.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Holidaying with extra children

I normally wait til the boys have gone home before I post about a visit. This one is a bit different though. The boy's carer had asked us if we could look after them when she had some surgery. That sounded fine. What we didn't realise was that the surgery would suddenly happen while we were on holidays - it was meant to be in March. So last week, while away from home, we got a call asking if we would take them at the end of the week. While we were still on holidays. Actually, while we were with our college year on a "weekend" (Thu-Sat cause all the guys work on Sunday) away. It took a bit of working out, but we went ahead with it. So the boys were brought to us where we were going for the camp and stayed with us there, returning home with us at the end. Mr 6 has, along with our boys, returned to school. Mr 5 starts school for the first time tomorrow.

Observations so far:

In an unfamiliar environment with lots of people the boys very quickly went between having a ball and being completely overwhelmed. This generally came out in meltdowns and bursts of anger. Poor little guys. They did have a fabulous weekend though.

My boys are amazing. Just so amazing. Without whinging they took on extra responsibility and unbegrudgingly gave up our attention. Mr 12 started high school yesterday. Normally this would have meant a lot more attention on him than he received. He was very gracious about it. They've waited patiently when the little boys have interrupted or started yelling when we were talking with them. And the big one - they put up with listening to a younger audiobook in the car even though we only had 2 hours left on a Harry Potter book!!!!

We can see some routine/understanding of expectations coming in. In the past we've had a hard time with some behaviours that we would not normally be ok with. When they're only with us for a day or two there's not really a lot you can do. But with them being with us a bit longer, and school happening we've had to reign some of that in. We can see already some acceptance of what we expect in certain situations. Just little things, like when we say no more of something (eg a tv show) they've come to realise that nagging or yelling at us won't actually change our minds. We generally operate on a policy of sticking to our word. I think it's better if kids know what to expect, and not to change the goal posts around all the time. If you say one thing and then relent later, you're just asking for nagging. If kids know that when you say something you mean it, then they learn to trust what you have to say to them. Even if it's stuff they don't like - like not getting more tv when they want it. It gives me hope seeing these very slight changes in the boys behaviour. I think respite is quite different to permanent care in that you can't generally establish norms and routines very easily. We have tended to go along with what they are used to, even if it's different to what we normally do. Having them here longer means that we need them to come into our routines instead, particularly with school and our boys busy schedules.

Did I mention how amazing our boys are. I've seen patience from Mr 12 that I've not observed before. An other-person-centredness that he doesn't get the opportunity to display enough being the youngest. I watched him patiently create and explain a game using his favourite new speedcube with Mr 6. And Mr 14 is a legend. He quickly assumes responsibility for the boys when needed. Just sees a problem and works to help resolve it. Just wow.

My boys have been sharing a room for a few days now. It looks like a bomb has hit it, but they did just come back from two weeks away. The good side has been seeing them get along well and work together on things. While we were away we went to a thanksgiving service for the son of friends of ours. At 16 he was called home after fighting cancer for the last 12 months. His elder brother spoke at the service - beautifully. It really impacted my boys and I wonder if this is a bit of a result as well. I've seen more loving kindness toward one another in the last few days than I have in a very long time. They are generally pretty good with one another, but lack an appreciation for one another at times. I wonder if the combination of the reality of death, and having two extra little people around has lead them to learn a little more appreciation of one another.

Hearing the words "I've wet the bed" very quickly brings back memories you thought you'd completely suppressed. When you hear it again the next night you go and buy pull ups.

There are times this time around when I've felt a little bit of "buyers remorse". Just a niggling doubt about whether this is such a fab idea. And not so much for the current arrangements, but for the possibility of future permanent care. I'm not completely surprised by this. There are definitely costs to foster care, and if you only focus on those then very quickly you'd feel great remorse. I think it's ok to mourn for things that are not going to be the same. That can happen in any new situation, no matter how joyful. New babies, marriage - both good things. But both come with some loss as well. You generally don't resent the loss because what you have gained is so wonderful. It's a little more difficult to find the wonderful with foster care. But it's there. Or it will be - it might just take time for it to unfold. And some of the stuff that we might mourn might actually be good to let go of. Because it's born out of selfishness. And some stuff is just about finding new norms and new routines. Adding two extra people into a household of 4 has a physical impact. More washing, more dishes, more lunches, more washing, more washing. There's just a lot of washing. Particularly with the bedwetting. This physical impact will have less of an impact in time as we learn to adapt our routines to it. Also, we aren't actually set up for permanent care at the moment. So we've got kids living out of suitcases. And another sleeping in one room with most of his belongings in another, and nowhere to put his "stuff". And boy does he have a lot of stuff. So I don't think remorse equates to regret or doubt for the future. It may tailor what we end up doing because it's given us a more realistic picture of expectations.

Anyway - a little Mr 5 is wanting to read books. So off I go for now.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Bubble machines and parent visits

The boys are with us for a few days. Yesterday we went and helped them buy a present for their carer. When we were thinking of things that she might want Mr 4 suggested she would like a bubble machine because hers is broken! Funny boy.

Yesterday afternoon the boys had a visit with one of their parents. They came back with a lot of toys. It's been interesting to see their relationship with the toys already is quite intense. It's not surprising really. So we're treading carefully while trying to manage them. One of the toys has a screen and there has been a desire to play with it quite intently. "It's mine" is the main refrain. Again, this is completely understandable. When so much has been taken from them, and they get something from their parent, there's bound to be a strong attachment. To say nothing of it being awfully fun. Fun enough to be up before 6am to play with it!

Long day ahead methinks.

Last night I sent a message to a dear friend who is much more experienced in this than me. She replied to me talking about it being like bringing another culture into your home. I think this is a really good point. We wouldn't generally let particular games be played and certainly not for large blocks of time. So today I'm thinking through what it means to accept a different culture that we wouldn't choose for our own kids, while at the same time helping them to making good choices and keeping them safe. My friend said that over time she has seen kids choose to want to live the way their family do. But it takes time. For us, for now, doing respite, this is just a learning process really. And I'm trying to learn as much as I can while we care for these boys here and there so that when it's more permanent we can start out with good practices that are helpful for our little charges.

Off to do some Christmas cooking now. Readying myself for conversations about hand washing.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

"Naughty" is a lens that doesn't work.

'"Naughty" is a lens that doesn't work.... for children of complex trauma' was the title of the training we went to on Monday at the agency we are doing foster care with. When we arrived we discovered that the only other carer who was there was the permanent carer for the boys we have done respite care for. To top it off, the psychologist running the training was about to start seeing the boys. So it turned out really well. We took Mr 14 with us for the day as we felt it would be helpful for him, and that he was old enough to take on board what he was hearing.

It was fascinating training, focusing on the impact of trauma on the developing brain, the behaviours that result and some suggestions in how to approach such behaviours. We're thinking of suggesting they offer the training as an inservice to schools with children from their agency. It was so helpful, and schools are the other significant place these children spend time. I would be very surprised if many teachers have had the opportunity to benefit from such training.

A lot of the training looked at the 3-4 processes of the brain. Thinking (neocortex), Emotional (mammalian), Physical (not part of the original diagram, but worth adding) and Reptilian (ie survival). Trauma leaves many children in a heightened state, and so unable to operate in thinking mode, particularly in times of conflict or emotional arousal. They instead move into emotional or even survival mode. So you see the flight or fight behaviours come in a lot earlier than you would with the average child. We were given strategies to work with children who have complex trauma in each of the three stages. Naughty just doesn't cover what is going on for these children. Their response to the world and people around them is far more complex than that.

Honestly it was brilliant, and particularly helpful given we could all talk about the same children, giving the psychologist a picture of what to expect once she meets them.

I've still got lots to process, and will definitely be reading over the notes we were given. I love that our agency provides this training, and I'm really thankful we've had the opportunity to do this so early on in our journey.

Second visit

Over the weekend the boys came to stay again. It was a hectic weekend, but I think they had fun. Our Mr 12 was fantastic at playing with Mr 6. I think they really enjoyed one anothers company. Mr 5 (he's had a birthday since last time) was pretty full on this weekend. I think because he had a terrible nights sleep on Saturday night. For whatever reason he became pretty uncooperative around bedtime and just didn't choose to stay in bed. It was well after 9pm before he finally settled. He was up around 3am for a bit suggesting it was time to get up. Clearly it was not! Then he rose early. Apparently he slept in on Saturday morning, so this may have had something to do with it. Sunday we went to church after which time I think he was just smashed. This made for some interesting decisions on his behalf and some pretty full on tantrums/meltdowns. It's probably fairer to say meltdowns if I think about it. I think he was just overwhelmingly tired so it took very little to hit meltdown stage. Although 5, his meltdown resembles more of a 2-3 year old tantrum. On the floor, kicking and screaming. Our approach was to remove him to his bed to give him a chance just to cool down without extra stimuli. He did eventually come and eat his lunch and then seemed to improve a bit.

The rest of the time went reasonably well. A bit of negotiation here and there, but they generally seemed to have a good time. Mr 6 did fantastically well. He showed signs of missing his permanent carer on Sunday, but besides that small moment did really well. He is also super smart. We were impressed with is reading ability as well as his ability to hear a song and then have a go at playing it. Just a simple song, but impressive nonetheless. Sunday afternoon the boys minus Mr 14 went and launched rockets. They made them on Saturday and so had a great time launching them. The weather was perfect for rockets - so still that they came down almost directly on top of them. Mr 5 seemed to have a few issues with the noise of them after a while, which I think was probably the result of his tiredness.

The plan at this stage is that we'll have the boys once more before Christmas. Mr 5 will have preschool, and the boys will also likely have a visit with one of their parents. This is new for us, but we are looking forward to seeing what that looks like. Apparently the boys do quite well with their visits and very rarely have any additional issues as a result. This was encouraging to hear, although given they will be with us and not their usual carer, I do expect they could find that a bit unsettling. Last week when we got home from being out at one point our Mr 12 mentioned he had seen the boys while we were out. Not sure why he didn't tell us at the time, but it turns out it was during a visit with one of their parents. Apparently they didn't see us. We're kind of glad because we're not really sure how we would have dealt with that one. Given the size of the town we live in, I suspect there will come a time where this could happen, so probably something we ought to think through some more.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Where to from here?

Yesterday was a good day to reflect and review the weekend. We chatted with the boys permanent carer, and our case worker. The carer said the boys raved about their time with us, and with our boys in particular. They, and she, are very keen to continue the relationship. Our caseworker is too, and is keen to start a care plan to outline when they will come to us, etc. We were a bit concerned that when we get children with us permanently that changing this plan this would be very damaging for our new little friends. She was able to calm our fears by letting us know that they encourage ongoing contact, and that it would be good support for the boys and their carer for us to remain in their lives in whatever capacity we can. We were trilled to hear this. We told our boys this morning and they literally cheered. They were excited by the idea of having "extended family" in Tamworth. We had said we would be a bit like their Uncle, Aunty and cousins.

Can I just say, I am amazed by my boys. We have been praying about this a lot, as have so many others. To see their hearts open up to these little guys is so precious. They took their time, and had definite boundary issues with their precious belongings, but they took it all in their stride and loved them. I love my boys hearts. Mr 14 was quite concerned about what these boys had been through to get to where they are now, in foster care. Such a beautiful boy we have. So much compassion.

So the current aim for us is to get a plan in place so that we have the boys one weekend a month. Choosing weekends in term 4 is going to be interesting. We have a lot of things on, but I am looking forward to sharing our lives with these boys, no matter how complicated that might make things at times. What a privilege and a joy.