Monthly Archives: April 2008

The Track Pack

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           Ethan has joined the track team, thank goodness.  He is a very quiet, absentminded, introverted child.  He is also smart and makes good grades.  However, if we would allow him to, he would play the game system nonstop.  I know that this is his means of escape, a time when he does not have to think about anything.  It is his way of putting his mind on cruise control.  All he has to do is sit back and enjoy the ride without feeling a thing.  He is hollow inside and this worries me.  He also lacks imagination.  He is such a literal child.  While he seems mellow on the outside, I think a quiet storm is brewing inside.  Ethan holds a lot of things close, like me.  He pretends to be okay with Eliza being in prison.  But I know he really isn’t.  I also worry because we have spent a lot of time and energy dealing with Evan and his problems.  Our whole world revolved around Evan’s neediness.

            But now that Evan is in residential treatment we have been allowed the opportunity to focus more on Ethan.  We are attempting to draw him out of his shell.  Things with us have been pretty awkward, partly due to Eliza’s once obvious hatred of my husband and me.  I think he realized that his father will always be his father, but since I have no blood ties, I am simply his father’s wife.  In other words, he doesn’t have to get along with me.   Ethan being her oldest child was well schooled on my perceived evilness.  I’m sure he never thought that he would ever have to live with his wicked stepmother.

In the beginning he was very antisocial borderlining rude.  He would not say good morning, good night, hello, good-bye or thank you.  Even if he bumped into me he would not say excuse me.  On my birthday he declined comment.  He would often tell Evan and his other brother how mean I was.  He did not like having rules and thought at age twelve he was old enough to make his own.

            For months I was miserable in my own home.  It was too uncomfortable to be in his sullen presence.  My husband talked to him often about his attitude with little change.

            Since then our relationship has improved slightly.  He does manage to greet me and say thank you without being prompted.  But I know in his own way he is making an effort.  When my mother died he offered his condolences.  And one day he made a picture just for me.  His way of conversing with others is through sports trivia.  When I get home in the evening, sometimes I am met with a did you know that the Lakers…type greeting.  I guess I have to take what I can get.

            I have been making a greater effort to bond with him, too.  This is how I came up with the idea of the track pack.  I bought a small container in which I decorated with track themed stickers.  Then I filled it with lotion, powder, deodorant, gum, lip balm, a water bottle, breath mints, and a towel.  The final addition to the pack included a pair of green, white, and black Reebok running shoes.  Thus, track pack was born! I haven’t given it to him yet because I still feel a little nervous.  Will he like it?  Or will he have the same nonchalant reaction that he has to most things that I do for him?  I guess I will just have to give it to him and see.

 

 

I Think I’ll Have a Wife!

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Has anyone ever read Judith Syfer’s classic piece “Why I Want a Wife?”  It’s good stuff, it’s sarcastically truthful, and it will provide you with a good laugh.  In fact, I think I need a wife, too!   Read this essay  at:  http://www.feministezine.com/feminist/modern/Why-I-Want-A-Wife.html

Triskaidekaphobia

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            My stepson Ethan will be 13 in roughly three months.  I am dreading his birthday like Friday the 13th.  I feel scared…13 is a teenager—I will be living under the same roof as a teenager!  This fact blows my mind.  I don’t know what to do! It feels so awkward and alien. He is not a child anymore and I am not familiar with anything but.

            I remember my own angst filled teenage years.  I know it is a prickly time. Unfortunately his mother will miss this period of his life.  I am thankful that my husband is here to guide him through.  I am content to remain on the sidelines.

            However I have been reading up on male adolescence and puberty to prepare myself.  I am trying to allay my fears and think positively.  Our bio son is 9 and his time is not too far off.  I am going to use this as a learning experience. 

 

Evan Almighty

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He was a cute little toddler with big brown eyes and deep dimples in each cheek.  He looked like a cherub but behaved like the devil.  Around my husband he was all roses toward me, but when he was not in the presence of his Dad, Evan’s weeds sprouted.  My first time being alone with  Ethan and Evan was seven years ago.  My husband had to attend a funeral and I was the designated babysitter.  I was looking forward to spending time with the kids.  I felt confident that I could win them over by baking cookies and playing board games with them.  However, Evan had a different agenda.  He was determined to prove me wrong or scare me away.  At the end of the night I had been spat at and hit with a shoe—compliments of yours truly. 

            When we married, Eliza decided to halt all visitations.  She was clearly in contempt of court but it did not deter her in any way.  Shortly after the wedding she quickly moved out of town for a year with the kids.  We found this out one day when we went to visit the kids and saw that her apartment was vacant.  The maintenance man told us that she had moved out of town.  During the year they lived out of town, she only called once around Christmas.   She informed my husband that he could drop their gifts off at her Mom’s house and she would pick them up.   It was almost if he had no children at all.  The only connection that he had with Ethan and Evan was via the weekly child support payments that he made faithfully. 

            He tried taking her to court several times for contempt but Eliza always managed to escape with an admonishment and nothing more.  Knowing that the ball was in her court, she would allow us to interact with the boys’ at her whim.  Any attempt from my husband to contact them was interpreted as harassment.  Subsequently a police report would follow.  He even tried having lunch with Ethan at school (Evan was not school age yet) which only raised Eliza’s ire.  After every lunch date, Ethan would be transferred to a new school if she was not successful in turning the school against him.  Therefore we would only get to see them once or twice a year.  When Ethan turned nine, we were invited to the birthday party only so she could flaunt her latest fiancé. 

            We had known all along that Evan had behavior problems.  When he was in nursery school he was often sent home because of this.  So we were not surprised to learn that he had been in serious trouble since entering elementary school.  When he was in kindergarten we went to visit his classroom, crossing our fingers that she would not make them change schools because of it.  His teacher, Mrs. Freeman, was extremely understanding and kindhearted.  Once made aware of our situation she kept us informed about his progress until the kids were transferred.  This was when we learned about his lengthy suspension record and serious, violent, even deviant behavior problems.

            When my stepsons were molested by their stepbrother, we were the last to know.  Eliza never called to tell my husband.  We found out by happenstance when we ran into a former acquaintance of hers.  After verifying the information with CPS, and going through an extensive screening process, we were granted temporary placement until Eliza completed all court ordered requirements.  August 2, 2006 she was deemed fit enough to have her children back.  We did not see them again until after her incarceration for the murder that both Evan and Ethan witnessed. At the time Evan was seven and Ethan, eleven.  Since that night Evan has suffered from nightmares and flashbacks.  He is obsessed with replaying the whole ordeal.  There are three things that the body can do in a moment of crisis—fight, flight, or freeze.  Evan is still frozen.  It is painful seeing him obvious turmoil.

            Evan is currently receiving residential treatment.  It was a tough decision for my husband and I to make but we knew he needed help.  We had exhausted all parental interventions including an alternative school that catered to children with severe behavior problems, home and school based therapy, redirection,  numerous prescription changes,  and hospitalization to name a few. After the recommendation of several mental health professionals (two being psychologists) for residential treatment, we really had no choice.  Eliza was not very happy that we placed him there.  I even dreaded telling her because I knew she would falsely assume that we were not taking proper care of him.  In fact she wrote Is Evan seeing a regular psychologist and psychiatrist?  Is he being evaluated regularly by a psychologist to determine whether or not he is still on the right medication that will work best for him?  There are many options before resorting to residential treatment…Evan would still have behaviors while medicated.  But not as often when he is administered his prescribed prescriptions adequately…Caring for Evan does take dedication and team work…There are other medications that Evan can try to help manage his disability other than Abilify, check with his psychologist.

He had also witnessed other violent acts while in Eliza’s care.  Ethan also suffers from bipolar disorder, ADHD, ODD, and PTSD.  In denial about hi mental illness, she never thought to seek help for him. She refers to it as a “behavior disability.”  Evan has struggled in class academically and emotionally since kindergarten.  Not so much academically, but more so due to his behavior disability. 

He has been in treatment for four months now.  While he has showed slight improvement, he is still struggling with some difficult issues. I am sure that he will overcome in due time, hence the title of this post.  Evan is mighty in both spirit and heart.  He is such a wonderful, creative, affectionate child.  He really does make me smile.  And he loves me to the last galaxy and back again.  Ditto.

           

Eliza 101

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The visit went well.  In fact, the two hours sped by.  Although we covered a myriad of topics, there was so much that we did not address.  I was not ready to leave when our time was up.  She seemed lonely and depressed, understandably.  We were both nervous.  When she came out we hugged and I asked how she had been doing.  Then I told her I was there to discuss anything that she wanted.  I had already written and gained her permission to do so; but I could still see a tiny bit of disbelief in her eyes as she replied “Just how the boys’ are doing.”  So I began talking about Ethan and Evan which caused her to recount the night of the murder again. I listened. 

The conversation soon shifted to me.  Eliza loved the Closer to my Children journal I sent her the week prior.  She also shared how in the beginning as I was reaching out to her she wondered what my motive was.  I told her that was a normal feeling because I still felt the same about her sometimes.  She also confided that she doesn’t understand how it could be that someone who used to be her “rival,” a person she hated so much, could end up being the one offering her so much support and encouragement.  Eliza shared that I had written her more than anyone including her own family.  She said she couldn’t explain why she had this “undefined love” for me.  At this point tears came to my eyes and she was openly crying.  She said she felt so bad for the way she had treated me in the past.  I told her the story of my stepfather and how I DID NOT like him in the beginning.  I had just graduated high school when my mother met him.  However, when they announced five years later that they were getting married, I felt like my life was ruined. Flash forward twelve years later and I love him to pieces.  That story made her smile.

On the way home I questioned her sincerity.  I wondered if she was simply saying the “right” things to make me feel good.  She had  shared stories that could be “used” against her later down the line.  My sharing was more guarded.  Although I think this vulnerability is essential to develop trust, I still do not want to be betrayed or mocked if it turns out she has a different motive.  I know she has trust issues as well.  She even said so a few times.  But I think for the most part she was being sincere.  By the virtue of her telling me how unsupportive her family has been and how she hates her sister for her involvement in the crime, was a lot for her to admit.  Eliza usually likes to present the perfect picture to me.  It has taken her a while to reach this point.  She was in denial for a very long time regarding her situation.  I think she is finally beginning to accept the reality. Just her being able to express her gratitude, wariness, and problems to me in person, signifies something.  We ate, talked, laughed, and cried.  Had the setting been different, it could have been any conversation with one of my girlfriends.  I know we still have a lot of work to do because whatever this “thing” is, it is still very fragile.  And it might very well fall apart one day.  But in the meanwhile it just felt sooo good to have made some progress.  It also felt great to be of encouragement to someone.  I do look forward to our next visit.