Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lessons from my Children: Anthony; Have a Good Time

Anthony's story of how he became a part of our family is remarkable.  He was born six weeks early, and shortly after his being born, Social Services informed us that he would be coming to our home.  We had recently been licensed as foster parents, and he was our second foster child.  We were a little bit wary, having had no experience with parenting a preemie.  Sheri visited him in the hospital a couple times, and visited with the nurses before bringing him home. He was born four pounds seven ounces, and when he came to our home at two weeks weighed about five pounds. He was the love of our life from his first coming home.  Man those preemie diapers are small.
His only medical problem after that has been his kidneys retaining too much water.  But that has pretty much resolved itself as he has gotten older.  They were also worried about the strength of his legs.  But with climbing up stairs, and jumping on trampoline, his legs are as strong as anyone's his age.  He now enjoys climbing trees, the wall the shelf etc.  He's Spider Man you know.
My proudest moment with Tony, when he was small, was taking him to my older son's Marine graduation. I had him in a carrier, and people so much wanted to see the beautiful baby.  He was still small, but such a beautiful boy.  I didn't tell anyone he was our foster baby; just our baby.
But, unfortunately, our happiness with Tony was short lived.  Social Services found a relative placement for him, with cousins, and after he was with us only two months he moved on.  I went to the exchange, which took place at the shelter.  He weighed eight pound when he left us.  We really didn't think we would ever see Tony again. 
But who knows how things work.  About ten months later, after his first birthday, Social Services called us to inform us he was available for placement. We jumped at the opportunity.  Our little boy was coming back home.
We were close to Tony from the first moment he came to our home, both times.  We have loved him.  He was very easy to love. After a child has been in your home six months you can petition for de facto parent status.  This we did as soon as we could.  And so we were then more involved in the court process.  Social Services has a general philosophy of placing with relatives, no mater the circumstance. so much so that even after his mother's parental rights were terminated, they found a relative placement for him.
When Tony became available for adoption we wanted him to stay with us, forever.  We did not feel it would be good for him to move to another home.  Social Services found a family, and after his being with us for almost a year altogether, developed a plan to move him, to family members he didn't really even know.  We felt Tony was already home, and that a further loss (he had bonded to us) would not be good for him.  He had already gone through three removals--loses in essence, and didn't need another one.  They went so far as to take our little baby by car, over an hour away for a visit.  We understood he cried all the way there.  Poor little Tony.
Tony developed a funny habit during this time.  He started seeking out Sheri's blouses when for what ever reason he couldn't have Sheri.  I was cute, but an indication to us that  he was overwhelmed with things in his life he couldn't control, and found some comfort with Sheri's smell.  He preferred dirty ones from the hamper, but would take a clean one from the closet if he couldn't get to the hamper.
And so a court contest ensued.  We petitioned the court to not move him, and discontinue visits, which they had started with the new family.  Visits were continued, but on a pared down basis.  The court decided to have hearings with regards to determining the placement.
This process seemed to drag on forever.
Generally the court sides with social services.  However there was a precedent of another case being decided in favor of a foster family.  County Counsel was representing social services, recommending movement to the relative home.   The County Attorney's office which represented Tony were fighting for him to stay with us.  We finally got our own attorney as well.
After numerous postponings, we finally made it to court.  The deciding testimony was that of Tony's pediatric MD, who was an expert on loss and separation, and told the judge that moving Tony would be detrimental, making him more susceptible to separation issues and ADHD.  What a great day when the attorney ruled in our favor and decided Tony would stay with us.

Tony's adoption was finalized April 15 2009.  He was two years, two months at that time.   H e through his adoption, and I held him the whole time.  We celebrated at BJs.
Another big day for Tony was his sealing day at the temple.  We went to celebrate before, because of people's schedules after.  Sheri went to the car to change his butt, and left her purse as we were all filing out.  Someone broke the window and took off with the purse, in that little time.  What a stunner, as the pursue contained the documents we needed for the temple, as well as the recommends for most of our party.  Tony's older siblings were going to the temple as well.
With calls to our neighbor who was able to fax the documents, and the Bishop being there to verify temple worthiness for everyone, we got the sealing done.  Tony wasn't happy until after.  He had to ride in a care with a broken window, and couldn't sleep like he normally did in the car.
It is a joy to have Tony as our son.

Tony reminds us everyday that it is important to have a good time.  I took him to the library and he gets to play on the computer, and climb on the seats, and look at books and after he will say, "We had a good time."  I take him to the park and he "swings like a monkey" on the bar, and he pretends to be Spider Man in the swing and shoots his pretend webs, and kicks me in the belly as I pretend to be the monster.  He will go by the creek and he throws stones into the water and I pick black berries.  We have a good time.  H loves to bounce in bouncy hoses, he loves to play with his toys, he loves McDonald's for the new toys.
Tony has the winningest smile.  His face is so expressive.  He has a good time, and in doing so has reminded us all that it is OK to have fun.  I can't remember exactly what the psychiatrist on MASH said, something like "Pull down you pants and slide on the ice."  That is our Tony.
The ;\last few weeks we have seen another side of Tony, which also has to do with having a good time.  He has become a server.  He will bring candy and cookies to you.  He loved handing out candy for Halloween.  He will also do little things for you, without being asked, when he sees there is a need.
Tony, like all our babies, is a miracle.  He is a miracle and we love him.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

USU Placement: State Hospital South, Blackfoot, Idaho

The Summer before my last year at Utah State University, 1982, I completed my field placement at Idaho State Hospital South in Blackfoot, Idaho.  They had a place for us to sleep, fed us lunch, and let us develop our social work skills.  I actually had had a few cases and got to do the normal paperwork someone would do.  It was actually my first experience actually doing this.  I wrote social work assessments, interacted with residents in the therapeutic community, accompanied staff for field trips, including the movie and picnics.  Steve Weatherspoon was my immediate supervisor, and Lynn Crockett was the lead clinician on our unit.  Carol Mohar was a psychiatric nurse that worked with us.  I drove up from Cache Valley each week with Mary Ellen Spackman (from Sky View) and Blair Garner who were also doing their social work placements.

I had many experiences.  On one occasion a resident was threatening everyone with a brook.  Another resident snuck up behind him, and grabbed the broom holding it against him.  That was the end of his threat as he dropped the broom.  A girl on the unit on one occasion grabbed a fork, and was holding it to her wrist threatening to do damage to herself.  I was able to grab her wrist and get the fork away from her. 

Community meetings were interesting, as this was where people would earn their levels.  Actually there had been prediscussion by the staff, so this was more an announcement of levels.  I played softball and other recreational activities with the residents.  I listened to their stories.  We had a group which Steve lead.  On a regular basis this included having lunch family style instead of in the cafeteria.

I attended a community organizing meeting of staff, as they were talking about putting a track and exercise equipment on campus for the community.  I drove by a few years later and noticed this had become a reality.

I went with the group, those who had earned the trip by their levels, to a state owned campsite close to Yellowstone.  It was very nice.  There was a small pond with fishing.  I actually caught a few fish (I am terrible at fishing.  One time I got a hook caught in the reeds, and as there were extra poles I just grabbed another one.  In the meantime a fish grabbed the first hook.  The fish wiggling freed the tangle and I brought the fish in.)  I went canoeing around the pond.  On one side was logging equipment.  We took a day trip to Yellowstone, and we saw a moose in a river.  It was cool.

I left with many good experiences, and I had my first experience working with people with mental illness.   I was able to observe the quick changes that could take place with medication when someone was in a manic state.  My supervisors praised the job I had did, and my ability to complete the paperwork and assessments.

I was the brunt of a couple of jokes.  I was sent to supply to get fallopian tubes and a left-handed monkey wrench.  I had enough trust in others to not realize it was a joke until I had sat around a couple hours waiting for supply.  Then the supply clerk looked at the order and said he couldn't help me.   I went with Carol to watch her son play little-league baseball one evening.  They lived just outside of Blackfoot in a little town called Moreland.

I enjoyed Blackfoot as a visitor.  I watched ball games, as during the years we (Hyrum) had played against Blackfoot in tournaments.  I took the bus (Greyhound) home one weekend, as no one else was driving.  It had a layover in Pocatello.  I also spent weekends by myself in Blackfoot.  It was a fun summer.  Did you know there are tunnels under the hospital that go from building to building.  They are not always used, but they are there. 

My 9/11

Taking the kids to seminary, the radio announcer KNBR was interviewing their stock market broker in New York trying to figure what was happening.  This was after the first plane had hit the World Trade Center, but before the 2nd.  The question was, whether or not this was a terrorist attack, or an accidental plane running into the World Trade Center.  They weren't even sure what size of plane it was, and there was speculation it may have been a small plane.  But in the back of my mind was this feeling it was a deliberate attack.  Just before getting to seminary about 6 a.m. on the Pacific Coast or 9 a.m. in the East, the second tower was hit.  At that point everyone new it was a terrorist attack.

I hurried home, and turned on the T.V. so we could watch the morning's events.  That is when I was presented with the gravity of the situation, and the horror.  When this event first happened, people could not get enough of watching the planes crash into the towers with the plume of fire.  It is hard to find this on the internet anymore.  The people so desperate that they were jumping from the buildings, that was a nightmare.

I had to tear myself away to go and pick people up from seminary, and then again to go to work.  The first tower had collapsed before I went to work.  That was so unbelievable.  Who could think that the towers would actually collapse.  I thought that there would be a fire, but they would remain standing, like when they were bombed previously.  I was  so convinced of the invulnerability of our country.  I had another thought coming.

Shortly after getting to work, we were evacuated to the mental health administration where we continued to watch the events.  It seems someone had made a bomb threat to the hospital, and non-essential services were moved.

We continued to watch the T.V. at the administration building, and before noon they finally told us we could go home.  What a day, and I was still glued to the T.V. watching any new tidbit I could get.  I watched the video of President Bush, being informed, but acting in such a way as not to alarm the children he was with, of the planes being scrambled, of the Washington D.C. being threatened, the president hidden away, both towers collapsing, the Pentagon and the field in Pennsylvania, the loss of the first responders, the clean-up and so much more.

And then after all that, ten years of war, but through that ten years, no further attacks on our soil.  My son has been to Iraq, and who knows where he might serve in the future.  So 9/11 is not a single event, but a series of events.