Tuesday is Over

Hope never made it to summer school. She raged all day. I have my first black eye and lots of new bruises, but we survived until 6 pm, when I put her to bed. We had snippets of real communication occasionally throughout the day- enough to let me know we are dealing with the stuff the AT stirred up in her head. 

GB was so together yesterday morning, getting herself out to the bus in the middle of Hope’s first rage. When she came home in the afternoon, she proudly told me how she had coped. She took a pair of The Dad’s dirty shorts to school with her and felt like he was there all day. I am continually amazed at the coping strategies she comes up with!

I am looking for a better day today.

Attachment Intensive Day Eight

Today was the last day of our Attachment Intensive. It was also the first day that Hope did not melt down before we even got to the office. She thought about it, but chose not to. 

First The Dad and I went in to speak with the AT. Everyday started that way. We talked about the bottom line. Good news: A few of the children she sees are solid stone and if that were the case, we would be talking about long term institutional placement. We are not. The AT said there was the smallest spark still left in Hope and our job was to gently fan this spark everyday, while maintaining the compliance boundaries the AT set up. GB is strongly attached, and even with her special needs, she is going to survive being Hope’s sister. Bad news:This is going to take years and years of hard, constant work and Hope still may not make it. The AT is going to speak to the waiver worker and the school day treatment worker and make sure they know exactly what needs to be done. Hope is going to need regular, ongoing attachment work. The AT agreed to continue working with her. I will post more on that on the other blog later.

Today’s exercise was interesting. The AT took out large piece of white paper and drew a vertical line down the middle. She told Hope to pick two animals; one that represented the Hope that made good choices and one that represented the Hope who made poor choices. Hope decided that the Hope that made good choices was an elephant and the Hope that made poor choices was a ram. The picture on your right is the elephant I drew (no laughing, please) and on your left is the ram Hope drew. We spent a lot of time writing the things Hope the elephant would do and every once in a while, the AT would ask Hope for an example of what Hope the ram might do. In the beginning, Hope would only admit that the ram might do things like whining. We kept filling the elephant side up and gradually the AT addressed the ram behaviors. Hope fought talking about them, but the AT was persistent and they eventually addressed some of it.

The At waited for Hope to make a mistake on the elephant side of the picture. When she did, the AT pointed out the mistake and Hope fell to pieces. The AT quickly took the opportunity to point out that the elephant makes mistakes too. The difference between the elephant and the ram was that the elephant fixed the mistakes. That branched off into a discussion the sad, mad, glad, and scared feelings both the elephant and the ram had and how the difference was in the way they expressed those feelings. She had Hope practice saying “I am mad because _______” It was very difficult. The AT gently persisted until Hope had made two successful I am mad statement about things that had happened today. Another time we will tackle “I am sad because________” statements as sad is harder for Hope than mad.

We ended by reading  a book with Hope, “Even If I Did Something Awful?”Hazen, Barbara Shook. At the AT’s suggestion, I ordered that book from Amazon (used) and “Emma’s Yucky Brother (I Can Read Book 3)”
Little, Jean;
for GB. The book for GB is about a girl who is excited when her family adopts a brother and dismayed at the brother’s nastiness and behavior when he actually arrives.

I have not come close to processing everything that happened during the intensive, but I can say I am happy we invested the time and money in it.

Intensive Day Seven: GB

Intensive Day Seven was reserved for sibling work. GB, the Dad, and I spent the morning with the AT. The session focused a lot on the Dad and GB because that is the relationship that has taken the most damage from having Hope in our family. GB practiced sharing her feeling’s with me, which she did pretty readily. Then she practiced sharing her feeling with The Dad, which was harder for her, but she hung in there. The four feeling words the AT used were mad, glad, sad, and scared. The AT had GB and The Dad talk about what they used to do before Hope and how they miss those things, The Dad made a commitment to GB that they would do more of those things and share feeling. GB made a commitment to try and share feelings with The Dad, which can be hard for her.

The AT brought out a large piece of paper and some markers, The Dad and I traced her body and head onto the paper. Around the outside of the paper, we dictated GB all the things we like  and admire about her, such as the way she always does her best and how honest she is with her feeling. (She added all the stars on her own). When she had filled up the page with all the things we liked about her, The AT had her draw 2 boxes inside the girl drawing. One was GB’s Mommy tank and the other was GB’s Daddy tank. In each one, GB put things that filled up each of them. 

The outcome was that the AT found GB delightful and securely attached to both of us. One worry somewhat eased.

Intensive Day Six- Hard Stuff

The payback for yesterday continued to be intense. The first hour of the session consisted of me restraining Hope. An hour. I was a stinky, sweaty mess in the waiting room, while the therapist watched. It seemed to last forever or maybe longer. When it was resolved (sloppy sitting, strong sitting, jumping jacks) it was a relief to sit in the AT’s office and just breathe. The AT told me I did everything right- I wasn’t escalating, just containing, and  I kept calm, soft, and encouraging. 

Hope and the AT worked on Hope identifying the need for her to have a mother in general and that mother being me. This was by far the hardest session Hope has had and the first time The Dad and I have seen genuine tears of sadness from Hope.

At the end of the session, The Dad and I heard some hard truths. The AT said that Hope had no internalized image of anything good coming from a mother- the damage done in Texas was deep and profound. There is nothing to build on. We will be doing as much nurture as Hope will allow, but mostly will be repeating what we were taught during the sessions hundreds, thousands of times, indefinitely. Hope is a very traumatized child.

Tomorrow the AT is meeting with GB, The Dad, and I without Hope. She is going to help us make sure GB’s needs get met while we continue to help Hope heal. This stuff is just so hard.

Intensive Day Five- The Loss

Although Day Five started off exactly as Day Four, it quickly became obvious that it was going to be much more difficult for Hope. The two ATs had gone over the session and decided that we had not finished dealing with the Texas Mom. During Friday’s session, they had done a good job of having Hope access the anger. Today they wanted Hope to feel the sadness of being unwanted and abandoned. This was much harder for Hope. Anger she is familiar with, sadness she has been avoiding at least as long as we have had her.  Today, Hope fought letting that sadness out with every fiber of her being. She tried very hard to get the AT’s to settle for the anger and didn’t know what to do when they wouldn’t. She broke eye contact, got silly, gave inane answers for a long time. Once she was told we were in no hurry and she could take as long as she needed and saw everybody waiting silently, she decided to try. It was very difficult for her and you could see the battle being fought in her face. When it looked like there was nothing left in her, I jumped in to support her. I reminded her about the beautiful, gentle baby we have pictures of was still inside. The Texas Mom had made it very hard to even see that baby anymore, but she is real and still in there.

I eventually took the swaddled baby, Hope, into my arms and sang her lullabies. I rocked her and stroked her face, did Eskimo kisses, and played with her fingers. The whole time I told her how this was how I cared for all of my babies and she was my baby now, not the Texas Mom’s.

Today’s grief was obviously much harder for Hope to deal with then Friday’s anger work. Pay back started in the car and lasted for hours. Tomorrow is an other day of behavioral work. I am sure it can’t be as difficult as watching her try to rewrite her history.

Intensive Day Four- Trauma Work

Last night, the payback was worse than I had expected. Thanks to my great friend and Trauma Mama from http://mommyneedstherapy.blogspot.com, although Hope bit me, I had a glass or two of wine and some vegetable pizza, and released all the tension of week. It was good planning. Today was tough.

Hope continued her payback this morning into the AT’s office, where we started with the Dad doing a takedown. We spoke for a short time with the AT after Hope put us through our routine… defiance, takedown, sloppy sitting, strong sitting, jumping jacks, reconnect. We filled her in on the evening and morning. She was not surprised. The second therapist came in and introduced herself. She had questions for both the AT and us which took a couple of minutes and then we were asked to wait outside with Hope. We spent about five minutes making sure Hope used the bathroom, helping her pick up, and getting water.

When the three of us were asked to come back, we immediately noticed a twin sized mattress, covered with a blue sheet, in the middle of the floor. There was a light blue cotton blanket spread evenly over the mattress. I started out sitting on the same long couch as The Dad. The AT asked Hope to lay down in the middle of the blanket, moved her head up a little bit, and then swaddled her in the blanket. She spoke softly to Hope, telling that some kids liked being swaddled, some kids didn’t mind it, and some kids hated it, but she always did it to keep everybody safe while the kids had big feelings. Hope gave her the evil eye, and the AT followed up with, “I know you are angry Hope and it is ok for you to be angry.”  The AT repeated some of the prep work she had done yesterday. She spoke of the feelings Baby Hope might have had and Hope was willing to go there. She gave voice to the hungry, scared baby who lost her birth Mom and was able to easily repeat what little babies need and how her birth mother was unable to take care of Baby Hope. 

Then the second therapist laid on the other side of Hope and was instantly identified as the Texas Mom. Hope had no trouble pretending the woman was the Texas Mom. The AT led Hope  back through the things all babies need and then revisited them one by one. Each time she asked Hope if the Texas Mom had done this for her. At first Hope was reluctant to go there, and the AT gave her words to pick from. The AT then used the words to tell the Texas Mom how Hope was feeling and checked back with Hope to make sure she had said it correctly. In a surprisingly short time, Hope was repeating the AT’s words to the Texas Mom with real feeling behind them. The AT then stopped giving Hope words for feeling and gently asked Hope to remember back to when the Texas Mom was her mother and what she did that good mother’s didn’t do. Hope started with being hit with a belt, but immediately added that it was because she was biting, kicking, throwing and was bad. The AT encouraged her to tell the Texas Mom how she felt. She couldn’t in the beginning, so it started with the AT defending her, directly telling the Texas Mom that it was never ok to hit a child with a belt. Hope started with her memories of being beaten will a belt on a lot of different occaisions. She also remembered being put bed without eating for not washing her hands and spending one whole birthday in her room. She remembered being left out while the other kids went out. She remembered that she had been bad over and over again and gotten hit with the belt over and over again. At one point, she suddenly didn’t need the AT to help her defend herself. She started using her own words and her own anger when the Texas Mom told her it was all her fault because she was bad. 

The AT then had The Dad take her place and defend Hope against the things the Texas Mom was saying. When The Dad told Texas Mom Hope was beautiful, the smile on Hope’s face lit up the whole room. The Dad did a great job sticking up for Hope. Then it was my turn. I laid down next to Hope and the Texas Mom started talking about her brown skin and how bad she was and how nobody could love someone like her. After two years of seeing the results of the Texas Mom’s words and actions, something in me broke open and I had no trouble telling the Texas Mom exactly what I thought of what she had done to Hope. The Texas Mom fought back and defended her self and I didn’t back down. Her defense started getting ludicrous and I told her she was full of shit. I do not curse in front of the kids, so the look of shock on Hope’s face was priceless. I told her that Mommy didn’t use those kinds of words unless I was feeling something really strongly. 

At that point we took a break. Hope stayed swaddled in the blanket and let me wipe her head with a cold, wet cloth. She let me stroke her face and tell her how proud I was of her. The AT told Hope we were almost done and asked her if there was anything she wanted to do today. Hope surprised everybody by saying she want mommy to talk to the Texas Mom again. I happily repeated my performance. When I was done I was the one who unwrapped her from the blanket.

I am glad there is a two day break before we tackle the trauma again.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             ;                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Intensive Day Three

Hope gave all her pre-therapy garbage to me this morning. I expected it and did not get physically hurt.

Today’s goal was to make a time line of Hopes life. The therapist started with her birth and her birth mother. Then each month of her life in Texas was represented by a large white dot. The AT and Hope counted out 30 days for each month in the beginning, they did this for every month. After a while, they just named the month as put the sticker down. There were so many of them! They used tan stars to represent the months Hope has lived with us. The 22 stars looked so overwhelmed.

Hope was willing to talk about her birth mother and how her birth mother and Baby Hope might have felt. She was willing to imagine why her birth mom might have had to give her. She created a whole story, complete with a detailed picture and spent a lot of time on it. When the AT started talking about the white dots that represented life in Texas, Hope shut down. Completely. The AT got her to come back a little to talk about life with us, but it was a struggle.

We spent the rest of the session doing attachment exercises. Hope enjoyed most of them. The only one she balked at was when see was asked to tell me one time she was mad. She couldn’t meet my eyes. She kept saying she couldn’t remember. She stopped talking. We waited quite awhile. Eventually, the AT just moved on to the rest of the exercises.

When the AT was done, Hope went to the other room. The AT said that we might not get to the actual trauma tomorrow, we might  spend the whole session fighting Hope to access it.

This afternoon we are practicing compliance and lots of jumping jacks. I guess that will also mean takedowns. My goal is not to get hurt.

Intensive Day Two

Today The Dad and I  spent from 9 am to  4:40 with the attachment therapist. She is really very good and even though her questions were very intrusive, I was not uncomfortable answering them. Every once in a while, she would go back to how difficult this was going to continue to be with Hope. She said Hope was very conflicted and the trauma work was going to be very painful. She said this multiple times. I personally think the AT is the one who is going to be surprised at how difficult it is, but it is necessary so I didn’t need to talk about it much. I believe you do what you have to do.

We did an exercise based on “The Five Languages of Love” and I was proud of myself. I predicted the exact order The Dad would put them in and then had to laugh at myself- I had managed to turn it into a competition in my head. Since I kept it in my head, no harm was done. Finding out our core beliefs were compatible wasn’t surprising, but was nice. We spent some time talking about making sure GB’s needs don’t get lost in the chaos. I think we decided we have to go back to the earlier evening schedule GB (and Hope) do best on, but we did not figure out exactly how we were going to make it happen.

We were back in the motel room before 5 and Hope immediately started pushing the limits. She spent over an hour raging, including trying to bite each of us, but since the AT told us to restrain her before someone gets hurt and because we were both there, the only injury I had was a little nick on my left hand. Hope fell asleep by 6:20 pm. GB is also stressed by watching Hope struggle and hearing Hope screech. She asked to turn the TV off before 7:30 and was asleep within minutes.

Tomorrow The Dad and I are going to watch (and give minimal assistance) to the AT and Hope as they make a time line of Hope’s life and write Hope’s story. I know this is preparation for the trauma work Friday and Monday. It will be interesting to see how it goes.

I heard back from the AT’s in Chicago and it looks like it would cost around $10,000 to have two therapists fly to NY and do the intensive in our home. The information came a little late, but I have filed it away to consider at a future time.

Intensive Day One

We got into Philly late last night- much later than we planned. I immediately gave Hope her meds. I told both girls to get PJs on. Hope told me she was watching TV. I said it was to late- Pjs. Hope was off and attacking. I was caught by surprise and she did quite a bit of damage to the left side of my body before I had her safely restrained. I couldn’t stop her from screeching  at the top of her lungs. Not good at 11 o’clock at night in a motel in an unfamiliar city. I was expecting police to knock on my door because it sounded like someone was killing her. When the Dad finally came in the room (5 minutes? 10 minutes? 30 minutes later?) I was in real pain and angry that again I had Hope by myself  when she went off and I hurt. I vented to my Trauma Mamas and had a hard time sleeping. I think both the pain and stress both contributed to my bad night. I ended up getting a little less than three hours of sleep.

We were right on time for our appointment this morning, despite Hope resisting. The first hour plus, Hope drew in the other room while the AT worked with us. I had a lot to say. I told her I was tired of being hurt and it could not happen anymore. She agreed with me. I told her if the Dad worked after the mornings session Hope would not comply and again she agreed with me. The Dad agreed to work after Hope was in bed for the night. Hope is now asleep and The Dad is working.

The AT explained what was going to happen the rest of the session. It was purely behavioral. The AT said she would teach Hope to do jumping jacks and toe touches “her” way. After she was sure Hope had mastered them, she would explain the new rules to Hope. The new rules were really only one rule- Hope has to ask The Dad or I for everything. Ask to sit down, ask to get up, ask for a drink, ask to put on shoes. If she forgets to ask, we tell her how many jumping jacks or toes touches we want. The rules are

  1. Stand at attention
  2. Ask for permission to start in a respectful voice
  3. Use proper form
  4. Count each one
  5. Maintain eye contact

Afterwards, we are to ask her why she had to do them. If she doesn’t know, we just tell her.
If she tries to do what we ask, but misses a step, we are to tell her that was a good try but she missed something and ask her if she knows what she missed. She then has to start over again.

If at any point she refuses, or has attitude, she has to sloppy sit until she is ready to do it correctly. If she refuses to sit by herself, we have to help her. That is called a takedown (looks just like a restraint to me). She shows us by using her body when she is ready to comply by changing from a sloppy sit to strong sitting. When she does, we say “It looks like you are ready to do your jumping jacks” and give her another chance to do them. When they are (finally) done correctly, we smile and say good job and life moves on. Wash, rinse, repeat.

The AT said it was going to be a long hard battle with Hope and that she was a really difficult kid already. She said she knew this even before she had to do a takedown because from the very beginning, Hope had an internal battle that could be seen on her face as the AT was teaching her what was expected. Even when Hope complied, it was obviously costing her a great deal of energy to comply.

We went back to the hotel to practice. Hope hated every second of having to ask for everything and do jumping jacks when she “forgot”, She had three major meltdowns this afternoon, each one worse than the previous one. She was asleep by 7:30.

Tomorrow is a full day session with just The Dad and I. We are already exhausted.


This is it. I have some new bruises from Hope last night, but today both girls are attending the first day of summer school. I have lists of people to call, things to pack, what we need to buy, and packing to do. 

I have some idea of what the next ten days will bring, but really I am clueless. We have never done an attachment intensive, so I am not sure how I am going to react, much less how The Dad and Hope will react.  My granddaughter is not happy The Dad is really going to make her go to Philly and babysit. She and MK put a lot of energy into convincing the Dad to just let GB stay here, with them, but alas it was for naught. GB is coming and so is she.

I plan to post the outline of what happens in the Intensive here and probably more about my reactions to it on the other blog. I know what we were doing wasn’t working, so there is a lot riding on this.