Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Birth Family Contact Never Gets Any Easier

Contact with birth family members just seems to be fraught with problems.

Recently, we received word that some of Danielle's family members were in town.  Since she hadn't seen any of these people since before she was taken into foster care, we decided to allow a visit.

Everybody seemed very nice.  We felt like there was an enormous contrast between what social workers had told us about these people, what Danielle herself had said, and the way they behaved.  I spent several days afterward struggling to reconcile those differences in my mind.

In the end, I couldn't reconcile them.  How does one reconcile nice, polite, and smiling faces with the deeds these people were alleged to have perpetrated?

One can't.

And then, to make things even more complicated, we noticed that one of Danielle's family members was offering prescription drugs up for sale on a social media site.

Birth family contact just never gets any easier.

Friday, May 18, 2012

I Hope I Haven't Spoken too Soon

Yesterday afternoon we went to our weekly counseling session.   While we were in the waiting room, Danielle expressed that she was very, very, very angry.

We never did find out why she was so furious.  When we asked her, she wasn't even sure herself.  It was as if a large storm blew in, rumbled for a while, and then blew out.

To her credit, she didn't explode.  That's a plus.

Still, her anger leaves me worried.  This time it seemed as if she was furiously angry for absolutely no reason.  I just hope I haven't spoken too soon about the medication being helpful.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mother's Day Weekend

I'm happy to report that we had a mostly successful Mother's Day weekend.  It's clear that the combination of the anti-depressant and atypical anti-psychotic seem to be giving Danielle the ability to control herself.

Of course Mother's Day weekend has oddly never been a source of major blow-ups.

On Friday, we went and saw the much-anticipated movie (at least at our house) Dark Shadows.  I was a big fan of the original series when I was in high school, and managed to catch it on syndication.  FosterEema had never seen it, but she got turned on to it when we discovered Netflix offered the entire series.  For a while, we had a regular weekly Dark Shadows get-together with a friend.

When I heard the movie was coming out May 11, I could hardly wait.

I have to say that I absolutely loved the film, though it wasn't nearly as funny as the above movie trailer would suggest.  The critics have largely panned the movie, claiming that it doesn't do a good job of being a comedy or a horror film.  Although I agree with that assessment, in that it is both Gothic and funny, I don't think that makes it a bad film.  Now I will admit that there are a couple of changes in the story line that diverge from the original TV series' story line, but I don't think that takes away from the film.  Die-hard Dark Shadows fans need to come into the film with an open mind, remembering that this is a movie based on those original characters, not a loyal recreation.

I've actually paid to see it twice in the theaters, which is a huge endorsement.  We don't go to the movies all that often because of the expense.  I have a hard time buying three tickets to the cinema, when I can buy a DVD of the same film for the same price or less, and then I'm able to watch the film as many times as I like.

Danielle didn't like the film nearly as much as we did, I think largely because some of the humor went completely over her head.

On Saturday, we went out to dinner with friends, and this was probably the only unpleasantness of the entire weekend.  Danielle has a habit of suddenly "feeling sick" whenever we go out with our friends, and this was no exception.  She kept leaving the table, claiming she was throwing up in the bathroom.

We largely ignored the behavior, as this has been a long-time pattern of Danielle's. We don't see the behavior at home, only when we are out doing something she doesn't want to be doing. I find it frustrating, because in addition to the attention-seeking behaviors she creates as she makes a big show of running off to the bathroom, she generally will order a large meal that she will ultimately not eat.

On the drive home, I raised the issue of her behavior during dinner.  I didn't make a big deal of it, but I did say that we were tired of the drama, and didn't appreciate buying her food that she didn't eat.  She tried to argue a little, but I didn't bother to say anything more.  I'd said my piece, she knew how I felt, and that was all that needed to be said.

Sunday morning, she gave FosterEema a hand-made mother's day card.  Inside, she apologized for her behavior at dinner, though she did insist she really was sick.  "It would be nice if you would believe me!" she wrote, adding a couple of very unhappy-looking frowning faces.

There's no doubt in my mind that she probably works herself up to feeling sick during these episodes.  Still, I think she does it to attract attention, as it only happens when we are going somewhere with our friends, especially if she wasn't the one to pick the restaurant.

Sunday afternoon, we paid a brief visit to my mother, and then we headed home.  Danielle went to bed early, and FosterEema and I spent some time writing.  She's working her her second novel, and I'm working on the second draft of my first.

Although we didn't do anything terribly exciting (other than see Dark Shadows) it was a decent weekend.  It was nice to manage to escape some of the drama that many foster and adoptive parents experience on Mother's Day weekend.

For that, I am truly grateful.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Stepping Out of my Life

I feel like I have, for the past few weeks, pretty much stepped out of my regular life.  We've had a lot going on around here, most of which doesn't involve Danielle.

I spent almost a week caring for an extended family member after a surgery, actually spending less time there than I'd planned.  While there, when I wasn't working or performing care-giving duties, I spent my time plugging away on the novel I am writing.  In years past, I've thought about joining NaNoWriMo, but the thought of completing a first draft novel in 30 days seemed an impossible goal.

It turns out that writing a first draft in 30 days is not impossible.  I'm to the point in my story where the tale of the bad guy has reached its conclusion, and all that's left is the wrap-up for the two protagonists and the epilogue.  I should be able to easily finish this before Friday, which means I will have completed my first draft in less than 28 days.

Now I will say that getting this done in such a short amount of time has been pretty much all-consuming.  If I haven't been working or sleeping, I've been writing.  In a way, I almost feel like I've been having an affair on my life.  My story has become a mistress who jealously consumes all my free time.

It's been fun, though.

As for Danielle, it appears that the medications are making a positive difference.  She has been on the new anti-depressant for a couple of months now, and the new atypical anti-psychotic for a month.  Although it hasn't fixed all of her problems, it seems the combination of medications have really taken the wind out of her sails when it comes to her simmering, boiling, never-ceasing rage.

Although Danielle's rage has pretty much dissipated, what is left is a child who still has many concerning problems.  Her lack of motivation in life regarding her education and future employment will not serve her well. She also seems to be developing some very unhealthy eating habits (refusing nearly all food prepared at home) and her personal hygiene is sorely lacking.  Although she does shower regularly, she rarely launders her clothes or sheets and fails to brush her teeth and wash her hair.

On Friday, I discovered that she still doesn't use toilet paper, despite the abundance of it in the house.

Now that her anger is gone, she seems to be developing two new problems.  The first merely annoying problem is that she constantly complains about minor physical ailments, especially when she's away spending the night with friends or grandparents.  Almost every time she leaves the house, we will get a phone call from her begging us to take her to the ER or urgent care center.   Her response very much feels like she is demanding an amputation for treatment of a splinter, and we are constantly telling her she needs to do x for the treatment of minor ailment y, but she doesn't want to listen.

The second issue is puzzling.  She will often come home from school and exuberantly throw her arms around one of us and say, "I love you so much!" She'll squeal the way teens are prone to do over a cute stuffed animal or a baby; sometimes she will even try to kiss us.  Although Danielle might be expressing her genuine feelings of the moment, it doesn't feel authentic.  I constantly find myself waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Being on the receiving end of this feels very confusing.  From our perspective, we haven't changed anything in terms of our relationship with her or how we parent.  This behavior has only come up over the last couple of weeks, and I'm having a hard time adjusting to being treated like the greatest thing since sliced bread, when for years I've been told I was the worst thing that had ever happened to Danielle.  Granted, this all may very well be attributed to her new medication regimen, but it's still hard to accept.

I guess neither of these issues are as bad as the rages we saw before, but they still make our house feel very abnormal.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Report Card

We received Danielle's most recent progress report in the mail yesterday.  Her grades are mostly better, but she has earned a D- and is in danger of failing one of her electives.  The class was supposed to be a course that might prepare her for a job in the future, but she's made it absolutely clear that she's not interested.

Her overall GPA for this report was 2.57.  Although it's certainly not stellar, other than the D-, it's good enough.

The best mark she earned was the A- she got in her Conflict Resolution class.  Given the amount of trouble we've had at home in the past, it strikes us as an enormous irony.