Monday, July 11, 2016

When a punishment goes too far

There was a lot of very bad behavior this weekend by foster son at a family event.  In the course of one of the "episodes" there was a warning that he would lose a day of summer camp if it continued, it did.  I progressed to a week, then the whole summer.  At that point of the episode, he was too far gone to even be aware of consequences and I totally should have recognized that, but I didn't.  So I made the error of taking away all of summer camp.  Not an appropriate consequence, despite his episode.

So, now what do I do?  I don't want to give it back when it is a consequence, so I have to find a way of him getting it back but still following through on the punishment.  This is what we came up with....

He will lose 7 days of tablet time (his idea)
We chose 3 of his favorite toys and he had to pick one to "pack away" for now.
He has to write apology notes to each person that was involved in the episode.
Also has to accomplish the following chores:
Sweep (hardwood with a broom)
Vacuum carpets
Clean bathroom sink
Clean doorknobs and cabinet knobs
Pull weeds
Clean up dog poop

I told him when everything is completed properly, he may go back to camp.  He'll probably only miss one or two days at most, but that's ok.  I think this worked out ok.  I'd love to hear any comments or suggestions about it.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Kids and funerals

So, we've had a rough week. We lost my uncle and my grandfather within days of each other, so we had a funeral yesterday and today. We spoke to FS's therapist and caseworker in detail about their opinions on taking him to the funeral. After much discussion (with and without him) we decided to try it. Two funerals in two days does not a good time make, however it did turn out to be quite a learning experience and, oddly enough, entertaining. FS5 met my uncle one time and my grandfather numerous times. I wasn't sure how he'd react to the whole thing. His grandfather died last year so he understood (somewhat) about someone dying and not seeing them anymore (he didn't go to that funeral.)
He's very logically minded and likes to know how things work and asks "why" about EVERYTHING, so we expected lots of questions about this situation. We had multiple conversations over the past couple of weeks and I wanted to pass along what we came up with that seemed to work very well.
One night he was afraid of "ghosts". Now, not to get too involved in religious or belief discussion, basically, I don't want to dismiss his fears of the possibility of ghosts being around, but I think it was a stall tactic before going to bed. I told him ghosts aren't to be feared, they are just spirits of people who used to live and they come down to visit. He asked "Like Grandpa?" I said "Grandpa comes to visit" every once in a while according to him, but there hasn't been a fear of ghosts since then. So, he knows spirits are like ghosts and spirits go to heaven when people die.
Which leads me to his question of what happens to the body? We were pretty scientific and logical in this explanation. Simply, the spirit doesn't need the body anymore because it's in heaven now, so the body gets put in a safe place (mausoleum, cemetery, etc) while the spirit is always still "alive" in heaven. That being said, we explained that he may still see the body at the funeral and that's because some people still want to see them one last time. Also had to explain things that are appropriate or not appropriate to say about the body (scary, gross, cold, We told him he can ask us but whisper in our ears so not to upset anyone.
Next question, why or how do people die? Well, we were careful not to say they got sick or died in their sleep because we didn't want him to think if he gets a cold he'll die or afraid to go to sleep. We said they lived a long life (which obviously isn't always the case, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it) and did a lot of good things during their life and God told them they were done learning and working here and He said it was time for them to come to heaven and help there.
So, uncle's funeral was yesterday, we prepped him VERY well on appropriate behavior, being quiet, sitting still, no talking. We had a backpack full of quiet activities (stuffed animals, mazes, coloring, books, etc) and while I don't encourage and rarely let him play with phones/tablets, I was willing to pull it out if need be. I was amazed at his behavior! He was slightly restless, but listened and sat still. We didn't even pull out any toys (except in the car, long ride.) He jumped from one person's lap to another every 10-15 minutes, but did it with very little disturbance. He didn't seem the least bit bothered by the open casket and even said "Goodbye Uncle G" as we walked past. He did ask (quietly) to me why they cut off my uncle's legs. No, his legs were not cut off, apparently there wasn't the bulge in the blanket that he expected, so he thought they were cut off! LOL Oh my gosh..... He again behaved well at the cemetery and at the luncheon. I couldn't be prouder and made sure to tell him that and that he should be proud of himself.
That leads me to my grandfather's funeral today, we prepped him again about appropriate behavior, had backpack ready just in case he needed it today. We had a slight fight over what he was wearing, but that's nothing new. We had done most of the preparations for this funeral and were some of his closest family, so we were there from the beginning.
Almost right from the beginning he made pals with the funeral director and employees. I swear, you can't make this stuff up... He started with a tour of the place including the funeral director's office, closets, etc. In one "closet" area was a gurney. He asked what it was for and the funeral director looked at my husband with wide eyes, like "how do I answer this?", then almost right away FS said "Oh, that's probably for the bodies so you can move them easier." LOL Then her eyes got bigger. Well, he is a logical kid! Then he was helping pass out cards and hold open the doors as people were coming in. (We kept trying to pull him away, but he wanted no parts of that and the employees kept pulling him for new "jobs". lol) Suddenly I find him with a "name badge" and flag pin that "all employees wear"! What is happening here? He's such a little
Finally we had the service and he did wonderfully. Again, the funeral director actually came to him and said he's "still on the clock" and asked if he wanted to help dismiss people by aisles. Well, of course he did! lol At the end, he said bye to Poppy and even patted his shoulder on his own. Then, he obviously remembered about Uncle G's "missing feet" so he full out asked to see Poppy's feet! And the funeral director was just more than happy to show him! (After people had mostly left. Boy, this child had people very entertained, I must say.)
I was ready to book it out of there, I didn't want to see them close the casket, I just wanted to get to the car to get ready to follow to the cemetery, but of course the little guy had to see what was happening, so we stayed. (I could have left him with my husband, but I just turned away while it was being closed and carried out, I was ok and glad he wanted to odd of a thing as it was to learn, still it's good to learn new things.)
So, I'm thinking his "job" is done nope. They asked him to help hand out roses for people to place on the casket. Then, he wanted to stay to watch the casket get lowered. I could not stay for that, I did take off and left him with hubby then. Ok, even odder still (yes, my family is full of oddness), my 11 year old niece and 5 year old FS stood side by side with my niece's arm around FS watching the casket get lowered and my mom asked my husband to take a picture. Honestly, it was a sweet picture, but geez....who takes pictures of this kind of stuff? LOL
Luncheon was fine, nothing overly entertaining, except how many compliments FS got about all his help. Oh my....this child will never stop surprising me. Unfortunately, he apparently had so much "fun" that he's kind of looking forward to the next, we have a problem here. I made it very clear, though, that this is NOT how a "normal" funeral will go and he will just be a guest in the future. I don't know how this got out of hand so quickly. lol School will be interesting when we get to career day. "I want to be a funeral director when I grow up." Do you think they'll call a parent conference for that?!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Sneaky Chef moments

There are some different views on mealtimes, especially with foster kids.  Foster kids have a lot of food issues and some things may work for some kids and not others.  We've only had one foster kid so far, so my opinion isn't the end all, be all, but generally the rule in our house is that we make one meal, eat it or don't, but we don't make a second option.  I've also heard suggestions that if they don't like the meal, then they can eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but I don't agree with that either.  Perhaps with a future foster child, we may choose that, but I'm not a fan.  If the child gets hungry enough, they'll eat what is put in front of them.

I'm not saying I will force liver and onions or brussel sprouts at every meal.  I will (and do) get the child involved in deciding what's for dinner (giving them healthy options to choose from) and will adjust meals somewhat when I know for sure what foods they really, seriously do or do not like.  For example, I know this one does not like mushrooms or carrots, so that's ok, I limit using those or when I do I will try to make it separate so they don't have to add them, and I won't make them as the only vegetable.  I won't force them to finish dinner, but they won't get dessert (if there is one) and the remainder of their dinner will be their nighttime snack.  Again, they don't have to eat it, but they won't get anything else.  They won't starve by breakfast if they miss one meal.

During a safety interview the caseworker had alone with the child at one point, she asked if we fed him, he said no, in child friendly language she asked him to elaborate and basically came up with he didn't like the food.  Basically, she asked if we provided food, he said yes, she said he doesn't have to like it, we just have to provide it.

So, having said all of that, our foster child is a pretty good eater, meaning he will eat what we provide (and has come a long way from saying we don't feed him and he hates our  He also eats his vegetables very nicely, however we all know that none of us eat enough veggies throughout the day, which brings me to my point of this blog.  A few years ago, I read the book "The Sneaky Chef" and thought it had brilliant ideas!  I haven't actually followed specific recipes in it, but I took the idea and basically simplified it.  I just cook veggies, puree them, then freeze them in ice cube trays (excellent, healthier and cheaper way to make baby food btw also.)  I will, at any point, grab a cube or two of veggies and add them to just about anything.

Some things I put them in:
pasta sauce
mashed potatoes
anything that calls for a cream sauce
grilled cheese sandwiches
mac and cheese
and my favorite so far.....pancakes!

How my sneaky cheffing started was with pancakes.  This kid loves any breakfast food that comes with syrup!  Pancakes are common in this house so I make a bunch at one time and freeze them, which makes for much faster mornings!  I had some extra broccoli from leftovers so I pureed it up and just tested one pancake with some mixed in.  They turned green and they were a little denser but taste-wise, they were great.  Unless I added a LOT of broccoli puree, I really couldn't taste it.  Well the little stinker is way too smart and saw the green pancakes and asked why they were green.  I had a "story" prepared already, I was just going to say I made them special because it's his favorite  He accepted that but then asked if I put broccoli in them.  Really?!  I said yes, of course, everybody puts all kinds of things in pancakes.  LOL  At first he was all "Ew!" but after tasting them he accepted that they didn't taste any different, so he was fine with it.  Ever since then, he actually enjoys helping me be a sneaky chef!  He helped me put carrot puree (yes the dreaded carrots that he hates!) in meatloaf and ate it without any problems.  I tell ya, once becoming a mom, my creative-thinking-on-my-feet part of my brain is really getting a workout!

So, don't fear the veggies.  Get them involved and be "sneaky chefs" together.  Try to pull one over on other members of the household.  Make it a game, see if people can guess the hidden veggies.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Dog themed party!

In the fall, when most of our birthday parties were, our little one asked when the dog (Holly's) birthday was.  We explained that she was a rescue so we don't know when she was born.  He told us to guess, so we guessed March (thinking he probably won't remember about it and if he does, not much happens in March, little did I realize then that Easter would be in March this year, not to mention court baloney, sport things, etc.)  Oh well. lol

So at the end of February, he asked what month was next, we said "March" and he got excited and said, "That's when Holly's birthday is!  We need to have a party!"  Oops.  So much for forgetting about

Somehow it became quite an event.  We can't show many of the photos because of privacy, but here are some of the ideas I came up with.  Ok, ok, I didn't come up with most of them, I found them on
I had help making paw prints on the sidewalk to guide our guests to the party.  (Pay no attention to the dead grass!  lol)

Our "Welcome Sign"!  

 I'm not sure how much I liked how this idea panned out, but others seemed to like it.  I wanted to make felt dog ears for everyone to wear but I couldn't find brown/black/white felt!  Every place I went either didn't have felt at all or were out of those colors.  I also didn't really look for them more than one day, so I didn't try really hard on that one.  So I just ended up using colored paper and taping them to stretchy headbands.  Looked kind of cheap, but who cares?

I also had the little one come up with "Best" awards for each guest.  He came up with them on his own (we came up with his....Best Kite Flier)  Some of them were--Best Science Teacher (my husband who is a science experiment geek), Best Play Friend (my niece, they're buddies), Best Spoiler (my mother, that's what grandmothers are for), Best at Minion Hockey (my father in law, apparently he uses his cane and a stuffed minion to play minion ok?), Best Pancake Maker (my sister, she adds chocolate chips), and mine was Best Party Planner!  LOL   He really put thought into those awards and he helped me cut them out.  Nothing like working on fine motor skills without it seeming like work!  Ha ha ha!  Sneaky!  ;)

And the slips of paper in the little green bowl are for a game, I'll talk about down further.

Our "spread"!

 Drink station, I got a big "EWWWW!" about the Toilet Water.  Children love "potty jokes"!

 The people cake in the back (chocolate cake and chocolate icing, what else???) and the dog friendly cake in the front.  She was afraid of the lit candle, but we had a volunteer to blow out the candle for her.
Our precious birthday girl enjoying her doggy ice cream!

To put the "adoption" idea in his head a little just in case the process takes him there, we had an "Adoption Center" for furry friends in need of loving homes.  We tried to find stuffed dogs but the dollar store didn't have ANY!  So we used the excuse that not all people are dog people, so we have a  Whatever works.  The bears were the last to go, everyone liked the unusual animals.  :)

We had several dog themed games planned, unfortunately I can't show you those pictures, though they are hysterical!

We played Hot Potato with one of Holly's dog toys, but instead of being "out" if you're stuck with the toy when the music stops, you had to pull a slip of paper from the green bowl (from the photo above) and do a dog trick!  We had "Roll Over", "Shake (your whole body like a wet dog)", "Fetch", "Wag Tail", etc.  Shake and Wag Tail were definitely the funniest!  ;)  If the music stopped on you a second time, you chose someone else to do a trick so everyone got a chance.

Another game was balancing a Scooby Snack (small round sugar cookies with paw prints on them) on your nose, then throwing them up in the air and catching them in your mouth.  I don't think anyone actually caught it in their mouth except my mom who just kind of slid it off her nose and into her mouth.  She didn't throw it up from her nose, so I don't know if that counts......hmmmm

In the last game we put Puppy Chow (Cocoa Puffs) in a bowl and everyone had to eat out of the bowl without using their hands, like a dog.  Whoever ate it all first, won!

It was a super fun party, I'm kind of hoping the munchkin chooses a themed party we can make ourselves for his next birthday instead of wanting Chuck E Cheese, bowling, arcade, or those kinds.  I'll probably save money and I think these parties are much more fun!  I'm not sure if that makes me sane or not.....

Tricks of Time Out

With our first placement (who we still have), there were a lot of issues with behaviors (and still are on occasion) and we apparently became experts on the art of Time Out.

So here are a few tips that we've learned....

1.  Stay calm.  Easier said than done when you have an insane, emotional, aggressive, psychotic little hurricane of a child going crazy.  Stay neutral, no matter how difficult.  Show no emotion.

2.  BEFORE a possibility of time out (when reviewing rules is a good time) explain what happens when rules are broken.
     For example-When you break this rule, you go into time out.  Because you are 5 years old, time out will be for 5 minutes.  Time out will start when you are sitting in time out and behaving properly.  Explain that it's ok to be angry/sad/etc, but you still need to behave appropriately.  Crying is ok, but name calling, screaming, kicking, etc is not ok and time out will not start until that behavior stops.  We will come to you when time out is over and talk about why you were in time out, then we want apologies.  (Hugs are good afterwards as well but tread lightly depending on the child's history and trauma.)

3.  Be clear and concise about expectations and what will happen when it looks like a time out is coming.
     For example-Hitting is not allowed.  If you hit again you will go into time out.

4.  If they continue with whatever the warning was about, don't get into a battle, simply state that they need to go to time out, then continue with what you were doing.

5.  You've told them what to do and why, now you wait for them to do it.  IGNORE any attempts to get your attention including aggression, screaming, crying, grabbing at you, etc.  If you need to intervene for their (or other's) safety, do so without making eye contact or giving any attention.  This could last for a long time, be prepared.
     For example-they start screaming any number of nasty things, including profanity, they get aggressive, kicking, biting, hair pulling, they try to destroy property, ripping paper, knocking over glass, banging on walls.  What do you do?  Keep them and others safe (blocking them from hitting, removing items that are dangerous, pulling your hair from their little vice like grip---and then putting it in a ponytail) and IGNORE THEM.  Do not get upset, do not show any emotion in your face.  Seriously, go play some poker and learn that poker face well.  You'll need it!  They will try everything to get your attention!  I have heard some whoppers.  Hysterical sobbing while saying "You're hurting my heart!" comes to mind.  Eventually (and sometimes it's 20+ minutes, or for those really stubborn ones even an hour or more) you will WIN!  They will realize this isn't getting them anywhere, they will go in time out.  Just in case sometime you think they might actually have forgotten what they're supposed to do, you can "remind them" without talking to them.  Talk to a spouse, other kid, even a pet "We'll pull out our snacks after Jimmy is done in time out in the chair."  Then it gives them the reminder without giving them the attention.  This probably would only be needed for the first time or two of time out when they're getting used to what it's all about.

Side note-For some kids or in some circumstances depending on the age/size of the child, you can try placing them in time out over and over and over again until they stay.....more likely needed for toddlers or young children, but be careful, especially with foster kids.  Putting your hands on them, even in this type of situation and not in an aggressive way can be a sticky situation to be in, so avoid if possible.  However, if you choose to try this, again, do NOT make eye contact, do not talk, do not respond in any way.  And be consistent.  You will get tired, you will get frustrated, but if you stop or give up it will be that much harder next time!  I promise!

6.  Time out is over now (which started AFTER they were sitting in time out in a calm manner, or whatever you feel is acceptable.)  Come down to their level.  Stay neutral still.  Try to stay matter of fact without being confrontational.  Tell them what they did to go into time out, explain why it's not ok to do whatever it was.  Tell them you want an apology (or need to apologize to anyone else who was affected.)
     For example-Time out is over.  You were in time out because you pushed Billy.  It's not ok to push or be aggressive in any way because someone might get hurt.  I would like you to apologize to Billy and offer him a hug.

7.  Move on!  Don't hold a grudge (although that is hard sometimes!)  Did apologies and hugs, now let's go play.

Them's the basics, but here are some other suggestions...........

8.  The person who initiates it should complete it when possible, but spouse/other adults must support the decision!  If dad tells the kid time out and mom's the softy, the kid knows it, goes to mom crying, mom says, "ok no time out but don't do it again", this is not ok!  Support each others decisions, even if you don't agree.  After it's over and the child isn't in earshot, THEN discuss what you don't agree on so you are on the same page.  Don't make it look like one doesn't agree with the other, that will put the kid in the position of realizing he can play one parent against the other, never a good thing!   If he calls my husband a bad name, husband says time out, my husband is the one who goes to him after time out for apologies and to discuss.  If husband has to leave or needs his own emotional time out, I can/will step in to complete if necessary.  Things happen that aren't in your control, but try to be consistent with it as much as possible.

9.  We also will discuss good decisions and bad decisions that he made throughout the time out process.
Don't harp on the bad decisions a lot, just review what he did, what he should do better next time.  Let him know it's ok to make mistakes, but that's why there are punishments/consequences/time outs.  They're to help us learn so we try not to make mistakes again.  However, make a HUGE deal about the good decisions he made.
  For example-What good and bad decisions did you make?  "I made a bad decision because I called names and didn't go into time out right away.  I made good decisions by not being aggressive."  So my response would be "Right, name calling isn't nice so I know you'll try to remember not to do that.  And next time you'll try to go to time out right away so it can be over faster, right?  But I'm SO GLAD you made such a great decision by not being aggressive!  That makes me so proud of you!  You controlled yourself and didn't hit or kick even though you were very angry!  You did a great job and it makes me so happy!  I knew you could do it!"   I mean, I lay it on thick!  lol  But push push push the positive reinforcement!

If they need help finding good and bad decisions, help them, but ALWAYS find a good decision that they made!  Even if after 20 minutes they FINALLY went into time out and completed it, that's a good decision!  lol

10.  Be prepared to follow through no matter where you are.  Be prepared to be late to things.  Especially early on when they're learning about this time out thing.  We also make it clear that time out will still happen if a case worker is here, if we're at a party, if we're at the store.  Consistency!  If you say you'll do it, do it!

Yes we have walked out of the grocery store and left a cart full in the aisle with him kicking and screaming the whole way out.  Hey, it happens and guess what.  I look at those parents as GOOD parents.  I give kudos to the ones who walk out with a screaming child.  It drives me crazy when I see a kid whining for a cookie so the parent opens a package of cookies to shut them up.  Um, no.  I'm not saying I haven't opened up a box of granola bars during a long grocery trip because we're running behind and everyone's hungry (which of course I pay for!  I don't leave an opened box/bag on the shelf when we're done.  I can't even say how super wrong that is.)  But the whining and tantruming is NOT how the child gets what he wants.

11.  Most important, keep your sense of humor in your own head.  Keep your blood pressure down by remembering YOU are in charge.  They want to be in charge, but they are not.  YOU ARE.  If they want to have a tantrum, let them.  They can get angry and kick and scream and get all worked up all they want, but YOU have the ability to keep yourself calm.  You don't have to get all worked up with them.  To keep myself occupied doing something and not paying attention to them, sometimes I'll pull out a piece of paper and just start writing.  He doesn't know what I'm doing, he just knows I'm not paying attention to him.  I've written "oh, here we go.  Another time out.  I wonder how long this will last"  (then as I was getting scratched by teeny tiny fingernails) "Reminder to self, trim his nails."  This little funny moment in my head helped me to keep my cool and remember this will end.   And get stubborn.  Think to yourself, no I will not let this little devil child beat me!  I am older and smarter and he will not win!  I will remain calm because I'm not the one screaming.  I'm not the one who has to sit in time out and be bored. to be him.  It's silly and of course I would not say these things out it helps me keep my cool.

12.  Natural consequences are marvelous things!  If he throws his toy and it breaks, that's a natural consequence to his behavior.  "I'm not fixing it, I didn't break it.  That's a good lesson to learn, not to throw your toys."  One time, he was ripping down magnets and the papers on the refrigerator.  I knew nothing there was irreplaceable, but there was a wedding invitation to an uncle's wedding.  I didn't want it to get ripped but I knew I could get another if I wanted.  However, he ripped it down and shredded it into lots of little pieces.  I didn't react at all. (He didn't know what it was at the time.)  During the event, I even texted "uncle" and told him, he'd be getting a phone call apologizing soon and explained.  After time out, I told him to clean up what he threw down, ripped, etc.  I explained what the invitation was and then told him he had to call "uncle" and apologize for ripping it.  He got very upset.  He was embarrassed and ashamed, but it was important that he apologize for what he did.  He did, all was well, but I think that was a very important lesson to learn.  Another incident, he knocked down a bunch of picture frames.  One of them broke, so I told him he had to use his allowance to buy me a new frame because he broke the other one.  (Dollar store, no biggie.)  **I believe in some counties/agencies, this is not allowed, which I think is ridiculous, so make sure before you do this.  It was allowed for us.

So, this is pretty long, but I hope some find it useful.  And when suddenly time out isn't working right, go back and review.  What are you doing or not doing that you should be?

Good luck and stay calm.  Remember, YOU are not the one who is worked up and going into time out, so try not to let your blood pressure go up!  <3