"Mom, how does the Tooth Fairy fly through the air?"
"How do YOU think?"
"I think moms do it."
"But how can a Mom be a Tooth Fairy?"
"Good moms are lots of things, Princess."

Friday, December 31, 2010

Bingo the RAD Way

As I sat in Princess's class waiting for the second grade Christmas Around the World celebration to start, I listened to Mrs. C. explain the holiday break Reading Bingo for Ice Cream and thought, frick. Because I forgot.

Buddy had this last year. There are 24 different ways or things to read and one free space. One bingo gets ice cream. Two gets hot fudge. Three, whipped cream. Four, sprinkles, and five, a cherry. Buddy was way pumped about it, and because he is a very fast reader, was done in about two days.

And I thought, frick. Because the only thing Princess loves more than a prize is going out of her way to not get one. So, with strict instructions from my husband, my dad, and Princess's teacher, I entered the holiday break with a shut mouth.*

The first week, Princess burned rubber. She read 12 books, at least. She had strict instructions from Mrs. C. that an adult had to hear her, and she only tried to get around it once. I thought, huh. What a pleasant surprise.

Then I snuck her paper out after bedtime and looked at it. And I thought, frick.

Because, well wait. If you are a RAD mom, you'll be shaking your head (either in agreement or in sympathetic disbelief) along with me, but if you're a neuro-typical mom (nice term for "normal"), you may have to suspend your reality for a moment. Because, there was no pattern whatsoever to the squares Princess had selected to complete EXCEPT that they all brought her within one or two squares of getting a Bingo. So, to clarify, even though with twelve books read she could already have earned hot fudge and be well on her way to whipped cream, she, in fact, has nothing. I want to believe it has something to do with her disorganized way of thinking. And it could. But. Honestly. How could it not be on purpose?


So it's Friday now, and last night I consulted Josh on how to handle this and we agreed that she definitely had not forgotten (she forgets NOTHING!!!) and I'd continue to keep my mouth shut, but have her pack up her back pack (and have her put! it! in! the! car!) Sunday afternoon. That way, it will cue her if she actually wants to eat ice cream Monday to (for the love!) read a recipe or read to Jorge or read to "someone you love," while avoiding the Monday morning scramble and scream fest because it's not done. Hopefully.

Today, actually, Buddy said something about it to her and she pulled it out.
Mom? Didn't we "read in bed"?
I read to you in bed.
But wasn't that "read with someone you love?"
I read to you, honey.
Oh. Are there any more I've done?
You've done the ones you marked and I signed.
(Deep Sigh) Sweetie, I told you. There is no "easy" way to do this. They won't get done by magic. You can't make one book count for two. If you want the prize, you have to do the work.

And she put the sheet in the folder and put the folder away.
So we'll see. I hope she does it. At least one. I really do. Because not wanting ice cream? That's just wrong.

*does anyone else get the sense that other people believe I'm a control freak?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas Unwrapped

This year, it was different; and I am puzzled. Usually for Princess, and consequently me, the holiday season spins down and down and further down until it is over and then there is a brief reprieve until March when other tramaversaries take over. This year, it seems the actual Christmas festivities were an oasis. Which I don't get.

The trip to Grandma and Grampa's was uneventful as usual. But we risked a stop at Rain Forest Cafe, knowing it would be really overwhelming for Princess. She sat down by the elephants, I offered to switch seats with her, she refused. So far, pretty normal. But then after the elephants freaked out about the impending thunder storm, I offered again and she accepted. Which is not normal.

She did overeat (despite all parental attempts to the contrary) to the point of carrying around a puke bucket because she felt so bad, and she did immediately stalk out the biggest gift and walk around periodically announcing that it was for Daddy (because, you know, a grinder would have made all her Christmas hopes and dreams come true, if only it was for her). And she was seriously jealous when the Cuddle Bear got to open her grandma gift on Christmas Eve, because it was the doll necessary to fill the doll dress that came with her Christmas Eve church dress. But she did not do this weird staring thing she does with other peoples gifts. It's hard to describe; it's one of those little cues you only notice if you're looking for it. I think it's an in-depth evaluation of whether the gift is bigger, better, and more sparkly than hers and who the giver "loves" more. And she didn't do it. She expressed excitement about her own gifts, and didn't seem overly interested in anyone else's.

But the real tell was the trip home. The trip home has been so horrific that I actually have an actual traumatized reaction to it. At best, it's been exhausting. This time, though...nothing. It took a lot of intervention, but...nothing.

Which I know is some serious progress. And maybe when school starts back up again I'll be able to reflect on it. But right now I'm knee-deep in gunk from the other side of Christmas.

What's different is that it's not rages. It's just about everything else. Especially food and hypervigilance. Take the Cookie Episode:

Yesterday we had Princess's vision therapy appointment. It's an hour away, it took an hour, and I had all four kids. Mostly, considering, their behavior was acceptable, but Peanut was jealous that attention wasn't on her and ranged anywhere from extremely annoying to way more than extremely annoying. As soon as we got in the car, Princess was fussing and moaning and Peanut and the Cuddle Bear were copying her which incited more fussing and moaning, because I haven't yet been able to get Princess to see that she makes herself a really easy target. On the way home, three of the four kids were SPITTING at each other, Peanut was seriously nasty, and by the time we pulled into the garage, I was furious. Buddy immediately wanted me to work with him on his K'Nex set, but I was really ticked at him too, so I told him I needed a moment to myself. I set the Cuddle Bear up on Webkinz, and Princess was absorbed in watching her. I thought. I made some tea and sat on the counter with my back to everyone else.

I was sitting next to the cookies.

Hmm. Cookies. I really like cookies. Cookies would be good right now. A hit of sugar and chocolate would really hit the spot. I deserve a treat for being the only one who can behave myself in the car. So I ate all the a cookies.

What are you doing?
GAH!!! Having tea.
Because I want to. Listening to everyone whine and fight and spit in the car has worn me out.

And she went back to watching Webkinz.
I thought
And I went back to my tea and cookies.

The order of what happened next is fuzzy. I just know that Princess blew her stack because I didn't give her a cookie, too. That I didn't give anyone a cookie is not a detail that seems to matter. What really freaked me out, though, is that she yelled, "you ate five cookies," and I realized I HAD eaten five cookies. And it made me mad. Partly because she had a better grasp on how many cookies I had eaten than I did, but primarily because now I feel stalked. I knew she was hypervigilant and most of her questions she already has the answer to and she's constantly terrified something is going to happen that she doesn't know about, but now I feel like she probably knows how many pairs of socks are in my drawer and possibly my credit card number.

And all this is outside that, seriously, she followed me around for three hours, FOLLOWED ME, whining about the cookie. I honestly wouldn't have guessed it was possible to whine about a cookie for that long.

Apparently, it is.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

All I Want for Christmas is for Hygene to be a Given

I arrived downstairs yesterday morning to a fully-dressed Princess with hair not pulled back- you know, so the uncombedness was obvious. I said, "Good morning! I still want you to take a shower this morning."
Oh! (bounds upstairs)
A couple of minutes later (seriously, no more than two), I turned around from the coffee-maker, and there was Princess.

Ummmmm. Princess? You could not possibly have washed yourself that fast. You could not have even gotten your clothing off that fast.
Ummm, no.
Ok, well, I'd really love to see which shampoo and soap you used. Come show me?

We truck up to the shower. Wet shower. No shampoo. No soap. No washcloth. No towel.

Princess, take a shower.
I DID!!!!!!

Again Princess appeared. Again in the vicinity of my coffee maker. But this time after roughly 45 seconds. With the top of her head wet.

Deep, morning, pre-coffee sigh.
Ok Princess. I'd really love for you to show me how you took a shower. Because I think you have a magical way of doing it super-fast without any cleaning products that I don't know about. Maybe it would save me some time in the morning if I showered your way, so I'd like to learn how.

I don't think I could possibly detail how the next ten minutes went. But a lot of things got thrown. A shower door got torn off. There was wrestling. And a song about how sad it was that Princess "can't do" so much stuff. And, somehow, Princess got soaped up with all her clothes on. And the bathroom floor became a pond. I think that one had something to do with the shower head being removable.

The rest of the day was just as RADly. Princess spent most of the day sitting right. smack. next to me, complaining about how boring everything was. I think I definitely got the short end of the stick on boring, personally, but I didn't think it would be a good idea to mention it.

Then I started to frost trays of cookies to decorate. And the dawn of Realization That One Cannot Decorate Cookies While Sitting on the Floor dawned over Princess.

Mom? Can I fix things now?
Why, sure honey. Just a minute.

And for a test of intentions, I set out the cookies for the other kids. I left another tray visable, so Princess would be able to see she wasn't going to get left out, but even still I was shocked when I led her away and she did not display any anxiety about the cookies.

So, ok. This wasn't a "trick" to get to participate in something. It was going to be real. On some level, anyway.

We sat down. Princess said, "I told you to shut-up. I'm sorry."
"I forgive you, sweetie. I love you."

And then we sat. And sat. And sat. And sat.

I have an idea, Princess. Let's start at the beginning. I told you to take a shower and you didn't feel like doing it. So you didn't obey me, instead you......
Turned on the shower and sat on the counter.

AAAAGH!!! She actually told me what she DID!!!! Did you SEE that? She NEVER admits what she actually did. EVER. On the pain of death. I about passed out, I tell you.

So I wish I could say the rest of the day was well-regulated and peaceful. But you know it wasn't, because Christmas is this week. At the same time, we had another break-though moment, and I am stunned, because how can this happen during a holiday week?

I was doing the dinner dishes, and Peanut asked if she had any homework. Why yes. Here you go. Then my RADette sensors popped out, because Princess giddily announced she had homework, too, and got out a math paper.

Princess doesn't have any homework over break. And she knows it.

Pretty soon, Princess was snarking about how easy Peanut's homework was. I dutifully did the "normal mom" thing and said, "Peanut's homework should be easy for you. It is first-grade homework. We are not going to tease Peanut about doing first-grade homework. Peanut is in first grade."

Yeah. Didn't work. Princess got more and more disruptive, and Buddy, who can't not bite on bait, was soon involved as well. I sent both of them out of the room, because the poor child wanted to do homework. Buddy and Princess continued fighting in the living room. I finally gave up, and Josh and I made them sit by us and have an intervention. Buddy was spoken to about his behavior and grounded from his Nerf dart gun. And his pop-ball gun. And Peanut's pop-ball gun (yeah. They were involved). And dismissed. Then it was Princess's turn.

But Buddy...
Yeah, I know. Except this didn't start with Buddy. You know when I saw a Big Feeling start?
When Peanut got out her homework. You wanted to do homework too (no). You wanted to do it better (no). You wanted to make sure everyone knew homework is easy for you (homework is easy for me. I'm really good at math). You wanted to hide that homework is hard for you (silence).

We know school stuff is hard for you, Princess. You don't have to try to hide it. It's ok.
Princess's head got lower and lower.
Do you hear me, honey? It's ok. We will never be mad or embarrassed that school is hard for you. It's ok with us. We know. It's ok.

Josh is dislexic, and he told her about how had school was for him. And that he works longer and harder than other people. And that he found other things he's extra good at.

And she listened.

I can tell, becuase usually she'd sit and endure and tune out and leave the room and immediately go back to irratating somebody until they wronged her and she could have a rage, but instead, when I said, "what would make you feel good right now", she thought, and said,

"reading in bed."
And she did.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Evil From the Bowels of Girl Gormet

The weekend dawned bright and early, and before the coffee had begun to course through my veins Princess bounded toward me and said, "I can bake cupcakes today! With you!!! If I have a Good Day!"

Fully not expecting this elusive Good Day, I replied, "Princess, all you need to bake cupcakes is twenty minutes without screaming." And I poured my coffee.

Several minutes later, the Cuddle Bear approached me and asked me something something something basement something something.

Just a minute Mommy. Princess! Princess!
Ummm. Excuse me for a minute. Princess! Princess!

Would you please ask me for what you want instead of sending your baby sister to do it for you?
Sure! Can I bake cupcakes! With the Cuddle Bear!


And, like in all my interactions with Princess, I am left conflicted. Princess has been talking about baking cupcakes with me for weeks. I have been quasi-dreading baking these cupcakes for weeks. And now, with no explanation whatsoever, I have been dumped for the Cuddle Bear.

Someone bossable (at least for the next six months, anyway. I don't believe she will be bossable by Princess much past the age of five. So I hope Princess enjoys it while it lasts).

So how am I supposed to feel? I let sad, relieved, and angry bounce around in my head; I finally selected "relieved."

The confirmation was the strong odor of burnt sugar.

I sat down to my breakfast. Peanut sat down next to me.
Crunch crunch crunch crunch crunch
Wow. Those sure sound crunchy.
Yeah (crunch crunch crunch). Princess lied to me (crunch crunch crunch). She said this was the best one (crunch crunch). And it's not (crunch). It's hard (crunch crunch crunch crunch).
Um, I don't know that Princess lied, honey. That very well may be the best one.
Maybe (crunch crunch crunch).

Then Princess came in, and presented me with a half-chewed cupcake.
Here Mom! Do you want this? It's not very good. I don't like it very much.
I put my head down on the table, and covered it with my book, and pretended very very hard I was alone. Princess walked back out.

Josh moaned a bit about her inability to ultimately pick me to do things with, but I said, you know what? If it were any of the other kids I'd be thrilled she could do this independently.

I spoke too soon.

I walked into the kitchen, and called in Princess. I reminded her that clean-up was part of baking. So she wiped down the counter (good), threw her cupcake maker in the sink (bad), and left.

I tailed her.
Princess, tossing your cupcake maker into the sink for me to clean is not the same as cleaning it.
She ran some water over it and set it to the side of the sink.
Princess, when I do dishes I fill the sink with soap and hot water and rub them with a dish cloth. You've seen me. You've even done it yourself. Your cupcake maker will not get clean if you don't do it that way.
It's good enough.
Ah. And I went into the basement to stare at the storage shelves until I could keep my mouth shut.

Before I was done, Princess came down. With the filthy gooey cupcake maker. And she put it away.
Um, Princess, you're going to have to keep that on a shelf in the garage.
Because cockroaches and rats like to nibble on things covered in old goey food, and I don't want cockroaches and rats inside the house.

And that's kind of where the day died. She deliberately didn't follow any instructions, first trying to store the cupcake maker on the doorstep, and then underneath the suburban.

Josh sent her outside. Where she went. And immediately ripped off her coat, hat, and mittens, went to the back of the house, and paced back and forth screaming in snowpants and boots with her skirt hanging out the back. I gave her three minutes, hoping the outdoors would regulate her like it usually does and she'd put her warm things back on. But it didn't, so I brought her in. Where she raged for an hour in her room. Because she didn't want to wipe goo off her toy.

When she was done, a note was waiting for her:

Cupcake Maker
circle one:
  • Put Cupcake Maker in a sink full of hot water and soap, rub the goo off, and dry it
  • Put it in a box on a shelf in the garage
  • Throw it away

She circled the first and rubbed the rest, including the paper, out with a brown marker. Then she informed me that she needed help because she couldn't remember how to get the toy out of the box.

It's on a shelf in the garage. I don't want to think about it anymore. I'll figure out what to do this summer when it starts to smell.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sabotaged Sabotage

Last night I told Peanut to get showered and into her "pretty dress" for her concert. Josh came home. The Cuddle Bear gave us an ornament she made at school and we made a big deal about it. Peanut gave us an ornament she made as school and we made a big deal about it.

And darkness descended.

It was Josh who caught it in time. Because he is fantabulous. Just thinking about his therapeutic parenting skills makes me want to go kiss him. So guys: you know what to do. Anyway. Ahem.

He said, "she's jealous."
I said, "yeah, no kidding. She's always jealous."
He said, "no. Peanut's wearing a pretty dress. Peanut has a concert. Peanut had a gift to give us. So did the Cuddle Bear."
I said, "ahhhhhhh."

And so it went. There was the normal fussing and moaning and stomping around, and Josh and I were fielding everything nicely and Princess said,

You guys are just trying to be AWESOME.

Wait. What? Really? Did she really say that? BWAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHA! Really?

I did a little double take. And then I said, "Princess, of course we're trying to be awesome! Thank you so much for noticing how awesome Daddy and I are! That makes me feel awesome!"

What? Noooooo! GAH!!!!!

Daddy and I are AWESOME! AWESOME!
Daddy and I are AWESOME! AWESOME!

Noooooo!!! GAAAAAAAH!!!!!

Of course pom poms got involved. And a little dance. Josh joined in (because, after all, he is awesome). So did the rest of the kids.

It did not go over well.

I wrestled Princess into a coat and into the car. I sat in the back seat with her in a hug/restraint, and the entire Suburban sang Christmas carols over the top of her.

She cut it off as soon as we hit the parking lot, so all I actually had to do at the concert was keep my arm around her so she had to sit very, very close to me. Whenever she fussed I gave her hugs and big smacking kisses. She loved it. Not really.

She started up again as soon as we were out of the parking lot, so again with the caroling. When we got inside I set her up on the washing machine, took off her coat and slung her over my shoulder. This is called Using Sensory Processing Disorder to My Advantage. Because, if she's off balance (but safe, of course), she clings on me instead of hitting me in the face.

And put her to bed.

The rest of us had a great time, actually. I just wish it didn't always have to be such a fight.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I Hate My Big Girl Pan.ties

Oh someone please, please help me. Preferably, someone would find a way to get me out of the state by Saturday.

Princess has enough money for a cupcake mix.

This commercial is a LIE!!! Those smiles? Maybe. But obviously the "mom" in that commercial is not an actual mom, because if she were, there would be no smiling. She would be hiding in the corner on the floor on the other side of the counter between the stools twitching while the dad tries to talk her out by holding a martini just out of her reach.

And, all the girls eyes widen when they take a bite and they say, "mmmmmmm!!!" as if eating that cupcake is the most amazing and delightful experience they've every had. If it was realistic, the commercial would show the girl's brother walking in and saying, "what smells like pe.e?"

Because that's the way it happens here.

Princess has enough money for a cupcake mix.

And the WORST part is, she shouldn't.


Princess, are you sure? I think they cost more than that.
No. They're five dollars.

So, of course they were six dollars.

At our house, you get allowance because you're part of the family and you do what you're asked without arguing because you're part of the family. However, one particular family member has a hard time with the "doing what you're asked without arguing" part, and that family member did not get her allowance last week because she was unable to put away Peanut's laundry as retribution for pounding her in the car. Unfortunately, said family member cannot be convinced that she is NOT PAID to put her laundry away, and did not understand why she did not get her allowance, as she left her laundry on her bed and used it until there were two shirts left, and then put away the two shirts, which resulted in more money-docking arguing and consequence-ensuing insults.

And then she &*%&$ found a %(*&&#& dollar at swim lessons.

And now she has enough.

So Saturday, after six (so far) days of not being able to say ANYTHING to Princess without having something rude and hurtful spat back at me, I have to suck it up and use a toy I hate more than anything every created. Besides speculums. And eat something that smells like pee.

Get me out of here NOW!!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Annual Post-Fight Photo

Here is our Christmas picture:

You might have noticed some important things. Like the distinct lack of attention to detail. Princess's pa.nties, for instance. Or that everyone's knees are in their chins. Or that everyone but Princess looks distressed. Or like that there are apparently no adults in this family. These details should only lead you to one conclusion:

at the taking of this photograph, I was furious.

In fact, if memory serves me, I had locked myself in the basement and was crying while trying to scream, "what's the use of pretending we're a normal family? How about we send out a picture of three kids fighting and one kid screaming and punching everyone?"

By this point, Princess had capped off the past four hideous days with such gems as, "I did talk nice to you. One time last night at the party," "I did say sorry. To that little girl," and my favorite, "yeah, well, you slammed me into the wall." For that particular beauty, I think she's referencing a time earlier that day when she flung herself into a wall. But she hadn't meant to, so by default it turns into me doing it.

For the entire weekend, I was not able to say even one thing to her that didn't provoke an onslaught of Mean. Before Princess, I was pretty sure I'd just laugh when my kids did the "I hate you" thing. But I was thinking of regular kids. This child has so much anger and hurt trapped inside her that she refuses to acknowledge or let out, that it's really hard to not take the seepage personally. Most of the time, I think I do ok. But when someone works THAT HARD to the sole goal of Making You Not Like Her, well, it's really tempting to give in. And my armor cracked.

Josh gave me a big "you're the reasonably mentally-healthy grown-up, so act like it," pep talk, but it HURTS! I'm stumbling on better today (thankfully, since it's a snow day, oh horror of horrors), but I did lose it a bit when Princess told the Cuddle Bear she should say she was sorry for something she did to Buddy. Oh really? She should say what? That she's sorry? For making someone feel bad? Princess, I don't think you're ready to teach that one yet. I think you'd better learn it yourself, first.

Of course, I should talk. I am not exactly practicing forgiveness, here. I'm trying to remind my self how horribly frightening it must be to not trust anyone enough to say even, "Someone said there's no Santa. I'm upset. Please help."

Horribly frightening.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Santa Saga

I knew it would happen this year. Second grade. First year at the upper elementary. Bus ride.

Last night we went to a party with a guest appearance by Santa. The Cuddle Bear and Princess were very excited. Buddy and Peanut just wanted the special candy cane that went along with the sit on Santa's lap. The Cuddle Bear turned to me and said, in a threatening-sounding voice, "is that the real Santa, Mom?"

"I guess you should ask him."

Parenting rule Number Three: take the pressure off yourself whenever possible.

The Cuddle Bear marched right up to Santa, shoved another kid off him, poked her finger into his nose, and said sternly, "are you the real Santa, or WHAT?"

He said he was. I don't blame him. I would've said whatever I thought she wanted to hear, myself.

So anyway. This morning Princess was pretty jacked up about Santa.

Dad! Someone on the bus said Santa wasn't real!
I've heard people say that before (isn't he a champ?).
But I know he is! I checked his beard last night! Sometimes you can tell by their ears if the beard's real! And this one was!

Incidentally, it was one of the saddest Santa beards I've ever seen. It didn't even fully cover his mouth. And I'm not sure how she justified Rudolf. The elf, now he was pretty realistic. But the reindeer was a woman dressed in an elf costume with fabric antlers and a blinking nose identical to one the Cuddle Bear owns. I suspect Princess is going with the If it Doesn't Fit in My Paradigm, It Will Now Officially Not Exist theory.

And I know he's real! Because last year he gave me a boot ornament!


Mom! I checked! And Santa didn't bring me a gift today!
Well, no, I imagine not. From what I hear, he only does that on Christmas Eve.
But not sometimes! Sometimes he comes early! Or late!
Hmmm. I don't know about that. (Mom makes quick exit. Mostly because Mom is not in a good mood from behavior yesterday. All yesterday. All of it)

Also, she has colored Santa a copious amount of pictures, but to my knowledge there is still no actual letter asking for anything in particular, so I don't even know how to paint myself further into my corner.

On the bright side, I think I have a good idea what this week's behavior has been about. Because heaven forbid Princess to say, "hey Mom! Someone said there's no Santa! And I hadn't thought about that before! And I think she maybe might be right! And I'm kind of upset about it!"

Only in a world that doesn't exist yet.

Defective Oatmeal

Into the days a every healing RADling, a little regression must fall. And fall, it is. The days following Princess's rash of Christmas fun acceptance have not been pretty. All was well, and I was taking some deeper breaths. The Wednesday morning arrived.

Good morning Princess! What kind of oatmeal do you want?
What's "oatmeal?"


Then Peanut explained to Princess what oatmeal is. Which Princess hates, since being "taught" by a younger sister is not her goal in this game. Then the Cuddle Bear said, "why do you have your angry face on?"

It went downhill from there.

A sampling of joy:
My oatmeal's cold
My oatmeal's too hot.
There's too much water in it.
There's not enough water in it.

Then she threw it away.

I haven't quite figured out this reaction- throwing away food and treats when she's mad. She doesn't hoard, but she does have food issues. Any time she knows a snack or meal is due, she hovers, as if she thinks there's a good chance we'll all sneak off and eat without her. She will carb load at any opportunity until you'd swear she'll explode. Which she will. In the middle of the night. So the best I can figure is she does it to punish herself. Or me.

Anyway, that was the high point of the day. She crabbed and fussed all the way to school about how I don't take care of her because I don't feed her, and I don't love her because I don't treat her the way I treat everyone else. I hummed my "Different Choices Make Different Things Happen" song softly to myself. She stopped two blocks before school and had an uneventful school day. Of course. Then she had a hard time at swim, so she beat her sister up in the car all the way home. For shouting in her ears. Which in Princessese is apparently translated as, "singing Christmas songs."

It carried over into the next day. And the next day. And the next. And now there is a very tired Mommy around these parts. I don't even know what the trigger was, so I can't get at it.

My therapeutic parenting needs a brush up. Or I need to go shopping. Not sure which.

Monday, December 6, 2010

More Christmas Merriness. Or Something.

After a special family Christmas service (and hearing a history of the Christmas tree that I hope is true, anyway), each child received a tree-shaped lollipop. Three of my four children asked for help opening the stubborn, difficult, *!@# wrapper. One announced repeatedly she could do it herself, she could do it herself, look! she was doing it herself because she could do it herself and


The lollipop was in a thousand shards on the floor. We steeled ourselves for the torrent of anger and blame that was sure to follow.

I dropped my sucker!

After a stunned moment, I got her another lollipop. I held it out to her. She stared.

What will you do differently this time?
Will you please help me?

And right there was the first time she's broken something and not acted as if she didn't care or blamed someone else. She acted like a regular kid.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Oh, Christmas Tree

Saturday was Tree-Getting Day. Everyone knew it. I had an early morning meeting; everyone waited for me to get home. Josh made a phone call. Then another. Then another. Everyone waited for him to be done. All that waiting can make a person anxious. In the midst of all this waiting, no one thought to comb her hair or brush her teeth. Until, that is, Buddy used the bathroom in a manner not conducive to retrieving hair and teeth supplies. Ahem. I was the one who discovered this intrusion, so Buddy knew I was waiting to care for the Cuddle Bear's hair. So, when Buddy was, ahem, finished, he came downstairs to let me know the bathroom was open for the Cuddle Bear's and Peanut's use. And Princess instantly vanished. We all knew quickly to where, however, as the strains of Princess shouting at the Cuddle Bear and Peanut for "being in her way" were to be heard from the vicinity of the second story bathroom.

I called Princess downstairs, and stomping she came.

You went upstairs because you heard Buddy tell me Peanut and the Cuddle Bear could use the bathroom
and now you're yelling at Peanut and the Cuddle Bear for being in your way
so why don't you come sit here on the steps with me while we wait for them to be done.


Hmmm this is interesting. I wonder what your big feeling's name is.
Oh, I bet I know! I bet you think you don't deserve to go get a Christmas tree. So you're going to make sure you don't.
(silence. stillness)
I don't want to get a Christmas tree. Christmas trees are boring.
That's it, isn't it. Ok, you just told yourself a lie. So I'm going to say the truth. You deserve to go get a Christmas tree. You deserve to do fun things. You are good.
No. I don't want to. 
Oh. There was another lie to yourself. Ok. My turn. You deserve to go get a Christmas tree. You deserve to do fun things. You are good.
No. I'm not. 
Let's change this game. How about we both say the truth together. You deserve to go get a Christmas tree. You deserve to do fun things. You are good.
Ummmm I couldn't hear you. Try whispering. I deserve a Christmas tree.
I deserve a Christmas tree.  
Now try a regular voice. I deserve to do fun things.
I deserve fun things.  
Can you shout with me? I AM GOOD!

Her  whole face changed. It had light inside it. We shouted together a few more times, and a huge smile spread over her face. We put on our coats. And we got that Christmas tree.

We deserved it. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sweat and Tears

I've semi-given up on the whole pe.e thing. As in, I'm here if Princess wants help, but I'm not trying to "potty-train" her anymore. If I notice she's wet herself, I tell her to change and she does. If she asks why, I remind her she deserves to feel clean and dry and she changes clothes. If we're going somewhere that doesn't jive with urine, I help her pack a bag to carry and she carries it. Annoying, very very annoying, but not a big deal. I figure either she'll use the toilet before she's married, or she'll marry a very understanding man.

But two days after Thanksgiving, she had wet through several layers of clothing three times that day. The fourth time she announced she was going to use the bathroom, and came out soaked through. Again. I told her to change. She did. Then she bounced off the walls.

-Hmm, Princess. I think I spy a big feeling.
-I wonder if you know what it is?

Continued wall bouncing.

-Princess, I noticed you started having that big feeling after the last time you wet your pants. Maybe you could even write why!

Paper and pencil.

Here Mom.:
When I'm exsided I get kind of shy when we have (company) like when tells someone that I pe.e myself.

-Oh. So you don't like that you wet your pants, and that people can tell you wet your pants.
-It makes you embarrassed.

-Hmm. You know you don't like to wet your pants. And you know the only way to not wet your pants is to pe.e in the toliet. But you're not pe.eing in the toilet. Something is keeping you from using the toilet. I wonder what it is?

Paper and Princess exit room.
Paper and Princess return:
"I'm  (thinking) a bout when I pe.e my self it  (makes) me qiet all  and wheerr (weird?) that I have to (clean) my selv."

-Oooh. I bet it does make you feel that way. I bet it does feel pretty bad. Something seems to be keeping you from using the toilet...I wonder what?"

Here Mom:
It makes me exided when we go places then I pe.e my self.

-Hmm. That sounds true, too. But you won't solve this problem until you figure out what is Keeping You From Using the Toilet.

Notice the deflection? She used a lot of "feelings words;" likely she was trying to find just the right one, the "magic feeling" that I would believe, even if it wasn't real. She had one last-ditch effort:

I'm sad that Uncle Pood and Aunt B and Dee left. I don't like it when they leave. And a tear dropped into my lap.

I am sure this was a true feeling. And tears are almost unheard of. So we sat and talked for awhile about missing them and how fun it was to have them here. But I am really pretty mystified, because, that was likely the reason she was wetting through her clothes instead of the usual m.o., really, what about the other 364 days??? So I rounded the conversation back to, "but you don't use the toilet ANY days, so, even though you're really sad they went home, that can't be What's Keeping You From Using the Toilet."

She went back to the table and wrote something about having wet pants making her shy (again), and I said hmm I wonder what's keeping you from using the toilet (again). I could tell whatever reason was sitting right up there in the front of her mind. She might not be able to verbalize it, but it was definitely RIGHT THERE. She actually broke into a sweat, and she looked panicked. She said, "can we stop doing this now?"

Absolutely, Baby. I do not want you to get stress out about this. It's ok.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Santa: Myth or Legend?

I am not super-big on Santa. Friendly stranger breaks into your house via the chimney while his reindeer poop on your roof, leaves his stuff in your living room and eats your cookies. Creeps me out. So when Buddy was little, we just didn't really talk about Santa. When he was two-ish, he started to get a confused look when people would ask if Santa had come to his house and to be uncomfortable with their confused looks when he said no. So he asked what this whole Santa deal was about, and I told him.

But then the girls came, pre-packaged with Santa lore. Especially fun was comforting a teary 3-year-old who spent two weeks excited beyond her brain capacity to "give Santa a hug when he comes to J's house," only to find that Santa had come and gone and left presents and she had missed it.

And things have gotten a little blurry.

Last year Princess wrote Santa a long and involved letter asking for a boot ornament. That was all. A boot ornament. And I, in my deluded short-sightedness thought, oh, how cute. A boot ornament. And I spent two weeks scouring the internet and the stores for a boot ornament. They are not as easily found as one might think. But find one I did.

Only she hadn't wanted a boot. She had wanted a boat. Which should have been obvious to me, since Buddy's favorite ornament is a boat, and Princess is never confident that what she has and likes is good enough.

Santa, as it turns out, cannot read first-grade spelling.

So it is now post-Thanksgiving, and Princess has in the last two days killed a small forest of trees to write letters for Santa. And Buddy is dropping several hints that maybe it's about time for her to drop this Santa thing already. And I am dropping Buddy not-so-subtle hints that this is not his area to meddle in and I will drop-kick him off Santa's sleigh if he continues.

And I don't really know what to do.

I do know Santa is not going to attempt to decipher second-grade writing this year. But I don't feel it's my place to burst the bubble, either. I'm adopting a, "well, I guess we'll see what happens I don't know," attitude.

But I can't shake the feeling that I've painted myself into a corner.

Cover Your Mouth

The Cuddle Bear handed me a Thanksgiving Present. She had worked hard on it, just for me. I looked down at my hand. In it was a small, cut-out circle of posterboard with a little smiley face drawn on it in crayon. I smiled and opened my mouth to thank her. Before I had the chance, she said:

This is for you, Mom. It's a mouth cover. You can put it over Princess's mouth so she can't bite your hand. Maybe you should keep it in the car, for when she screams.

This is my fear: that the environment I raise my children in will grow bitter, resentful, angry, twisted adults.
This is my hope: that the environment I raise my children in will grow compassionate, proactive, loving people.

Which one will it be?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Peanut of the Pierc-ed Ears

Don't you just want to box up all that adorableness and put it on a shelf so you can take it down and unpack it on a bad day?

I think I will.

I love taking daughters to get their ears pierced. It makes me feel like a mom.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Loving the Scarred Ears and the Too-Small Backpack

As I was combing Peanut's hair, she asked, "can I get my ears pierced Mom? I know it'll hurt- I'll be brave. Can I?"

I'm kind of ambivilant about ear-piercing, so I had decided that when they were old enough to ask, they were old enough to have them pierced. So I said, "sure; let me find out when the store has one person for each ear. Maybe this weekend."

(Scene fades; colors blur; camera pans to the right)

Once upon a time there was a princess in foster care. She desperately wanted her ears pierced "like Mom's" and asked permission at regular intervals starting at age four. Foster Mom's reply was always, "It would be great to match, wouldn't it? I really wish I could say yes. But I'm not allowed to say yes or no unless your last name matches mine." Two years past, and suddenly on a Friday the magical and elusive Legal Guardianship Fairy descended and matched the princess's last name to the Mom's, removing (but not really) the "Foster" part while she was at it. The princess said, "Mom! I can get my ears pierced now!" and the mom said, "and so you shall!" The glittering horse-drawn Suburban deposited the family at the Ear Piercing Store, where the princess's ears were pierced with great ceremony.

However, what the mom had conveniently forgotten was that the combing of the princess's hair and the brushing of the princess's teeth were daily battles that, if the mom was not careful, culminated with the princess wailing, screaming, and thrashing on the floor while the mom sat on her trying in vain to perform various important rituals of hygiene. The mom failed to connect the dots and realize that ear-piercing required the dreaded enemy Hygiene as well.

Needless to say, the novelty of caring for the piercing soon grew dim, and the mom grew weary of sidestepping tantrums and loud noises. The mom taught the princess to care for her own ears, but again, the novelty waned, leaving the princess with constantly swollen, infected, oozing, and painful earlobes.

The king of the land soon issued an edict that no longer would the king and queen be forced to Look Bad by the swollen and pussy earlobes, and the saga of the Ear Piercing of the Princess came to an end.

(Scene fades; camera returns to present day)

The Princess of the land, who had been lurking in the hallway, lept out and shouted, "can I get my ears pierced too?"


"Yeah. Princess, that didn't go so well last time. Do you remember? You didn't want me to take care of them, so you laid down on the floor and screamed and kicked me whenever I tried."


"And so I taught you how to do it, and you tried to trick me into thinking you took care of them by throwing a dry cotton ball into the waste basket every morning."


"And so they were red and sore all the time, and Dad and I told you that if they got infected one more time we would take out the earrings and let the holes heal closed."


"And you said ok, but you still wouldn't take care of them and they got infected again so we took out the earrings and now the holes are closed up."

"My backpack's too small. Can you buy me another one?"


"I'm not sure that the problem is that your backpack's too small. I think it might have something to do with that you've got a change of clothes, a sweatshirt, a jacket, and your winter coat in there in addition to your homework and your lunch box."

"It's tooooooooo smaaaaaaaaaaaaaall!!!!

"Well, honey, I guess you can figure it out however you like, but I won't be buying another backpack until next fall."


So, at this point I slap myself upside the head remembering that the backpack is not the issue. The issue is all the lies Princess is throwing around in her head at the moment:

  • I am bad. I can't let anyone find out.
  • Crap. Everyone knows the earring debacle was my fault. I need to find a way to make them forget.
  • I am bad. I can't let anyone find out.
  • Everyone gets everything they want except me. It's not fair.
  • I am bad. I can't let anyone find out.
  • Mom loves Peanut more than she loves me.
  • I am bad. I can't let anyone find out.
I said, "Oh Princess. I love you so much. I love you with pierced ears and I love you without pierced ears. I love you when you take care of your body and when you don't. Nothing can make my love for you go away."


And this was where I broke into song. Whenever she opened her mouth. I said to Josh, "thank goodness all that musical theater experience in high school didn't go to waste."

He said, "or something."

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Homework; Sans the Fight - or - Can You BELIEVE It???

This time, on Dr. S's suggestion, I got proactive. I pulled out Princess's new homework while she was out of the room and chopped it up into tiny pieces. When she came in, I said, "your homework hasn't been getting done in time, so sit down and we'll start it now." And I handed her a paper with three math problems. Easy ones. And another. And another. And another. Then the hard one.

The first and last problems were correct. The rest were, er, ridiculous.
Well, hello RAD! I was wondering when you'd show up.

After several more equally ridiculous corrections, I heard her work 53-3 the following way:

"53...52...51..........(catches self almost solving problem correctly).........40."

Which was the answer she had already had. For several "tries."

"Oh! We're playing that game! Oh, thank you for letting me know! I was wondering if you were trying, or if you were playing the Pretending Not to Know game, and now I know! Ok, so we need to handle this differently, then. So here's what you do: while you're Pretending Not to Know how to do that math problem, please pretend to ask me to check it. Of course, if you decide to go back to trying, you can ask and I'll check it for you for real. But for the game, please pretend."

"50. It's 50."

"Oh yay! You're trying! Ok, now fix number 16."

"But I don't remember how!"

"Ohhhhhhh, that must be so frustrating! To have your brain suddenly lose something it knew a few minutes ago? I don't know how you can stand that! That must be horrible!"

"But yoooooooou're noooooooooot heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelping meeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!"

"Why, how can you say that? I'm right here! And I'm reminding you to do it Mrs. C's way! That's help like crazy!"

"But.... (yeah. That again. I'm not going to type it. It's almost as annoying to type as it is to hear)!"

"Ok. I'll help you a different way. I'll put away your homework. There!"


"Seriously Princess, you have got an Amazing Helping Mom. In fact, I'm such an Amazing Helping Mom that YOU should give me a high-five."

(OMG! She gave me the high-five! A totally scowling and grumbling high-five! I could barely keep from howling!)

"Oh, and Princess. Here's some more help: put away your pencil so you can find it later. AAAAAH! Can you believe how awesome I am??? YAY MEEEEE!"

She put away her pencil. And asked for an orange. And did not have a snit.
And yay Princess.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Stuck in I Don't Want To

Princess has been raw since her last therapy session. Because the good news is that Princess is having some predictable rages. But the bad news is that Princess is having some predictable rages. At therapy, we discussed one of them. And by "discussed," I mean that Dr. S. and I talked as if Princess was joining in while Princess played with a car looking decidedly uncomfortable.

The predictable situation is this: Sunday morning. We picked it apart down to the catalyst: the God Time Card. Every week, I'm given a paper for each kid that breaks a theme into four days of study, mainly one Bible verse to look up, a four-sentence devotional, and a little word game. They are meant for about a third-grade reading level, so Princess and Peanut can't do it independently. Princess, however, won't even try. Every time I encourage her to work on it there is a bloody battle, culminating in a war Sunday morning.

As Dr. S and I worked through the scenario, we figured out what is happening. Princess has a visual processing disorder. What she sees doesn't necessarily make sense to her. So she looks at the God Time card (or a page of math problems), and immediately tells herself, "I can't do this." Which is followed by, "I am stupid." The daily tantrum works nicely to deflect from the frustration: she's letting us know (CLEARLY!!!) that it's not, of course, that she can't do it,

it's that she won't. She doesn't care to.

She doesn't want to.

But this philosophy has a problem. And the problem is called: My Teacher Will Give Me a Prize If My Paper is Signed. And this problem has a co-problem called: My Mom Won't Sign My Card if I Didn't Do It. And not getting a prize causes Princess copious amounts of anxiety. And copious amounts of anxiety cause our family to have to listen to screaming trapped in a Suburban for 30 minutes every Sunday morning.

So good. Now I'm clear what's going on. Dr. S then talked with Princess, and I was slightly astounded at the conversation. In response to a question, Princess said that she was not good at tap. Strangely, out of all that is difficult for Princess, tap is not one of them. She is excellent at tap, and she's gotten a lot of praise and attention for being excellent at tap. So Dr. S asked her why she thought she wasn't good at tap, and listed some tap components. After a lot of shoulder shrugging, Princess said, "I'm good at all that stuff. I am good at tap." So Dr. S asked her what she was good at in school. Princess said, "I'm good at everything. Reading, math, writing." She listed all the parts of school that are a deep struggle for her. She did the denial thing for a while longer, and then looked down in her lap and mumbled that she gets confused and then frustrated and then angry.

Wait. You might not have noticed that. Let me say it again.

Princes SAID, "I get confused, and frustrated, and angry."

And Mom expels the breath she was holding.

Then, Dr. S talked with her (at her? for her?) about how she looks at a paper, gets confused, and doesn't want to try, but still wants the prize. Princess is seeing the "I don't want to" and the "prize," but is skipping over the "but I have to the get the" part. Dr. S said to her, "you are stuck in 'I don't want to.'"

She is stuck in "I don't want to."
And that is the raw nerve that is still sticking out.

Since, we've had a cycle of bad evenings that lead to bad mornings. We have those a lot, but something's different. I don't want to say it out loud, but it's almost like she's about to let something out.

For one, she's acting more hurt than angry. And she's letting me soothe her.

This morning she wouldn't go out to get the back pack she had left in the car. The back pack that held her lunch box. The lunch box she needed to carry her lunch. She kept putting her shoes on to walk though the house (which the kids are not allowed to do- with all their mud and filth and all) to get the coat that was not there (because it was in her back pack). And she insisted there was no other alternative. And that I was keeping her from getting it. So, by the time we needed to leave, she was irate and high anxiety. Her lunch was still sitting on the counter. Usually this means a bad, bad, bad car ride.

But when I went and got her, I said in mock excitement (but without sarcasm, which is a trick, especially for someone who loves sarcasm as much as I), "Guess what! I know a way to get your coat without wearing your shoes in the house! You won't even BELIEVE how magical it is! I bet you didn't even know you could do it that way!" The whole time, I kept making a big deal about how amazing it was. I sat her down and played baby games with her feet and shoes, having her name the parts, getting real excited whenever we got a shoe on.

Another child would be offended and furious. Princess would usually be irate and furious. But she quieted and softened. She played along. And a few minutes later, she made a plan. She said, "I will not talk in the car, so I don't end up with trouble.

And she did it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

When Animals Eat Their Young

Six months ago I would have pegged Princess's emotional age at 3-4. Now it is decidedly a very young three. Oddly, I think it's a good thing, because this time around I can tell exactly what age she is, instead of guessing at this muddled 4/7 mix and trying to figure out which one to parent. While the new medication she's on hasn't magically eliminated all that is frustrating (my preference), it has made whatever's going on clearer. Or at least less blurry.

Her behavior of choice this past week has been to screw up her face and shout "NO!" or, "I DON'T WANT TO!" and stand and stare at me with her hands on her hips.

The problem is: toddlers are cute. They are cute for one very, very important reason:

so their mothers don't eat them.

When Buddy was seven, I enjoyed his emerging humor, his creative ideas, and his new ability to have a fairly mature conversation. But he was not cute. Cuteness is not necessary to engage parents at age seven.

And so.

Buddy was the easiest toddler and preschooler in existence (he was a horrible baby, but that's another story). If we had stopped with him, I would have thought I was the best parent in the universe, and would have enjoyed many years of mentally criticizing other people's parenting. I will always mourn that loss. I would turn a corner and find him in his time-out spot and have to ask him what he did. He has always been intrinsically motivated and self-disciplined. If he was acting out, all we would have to do was hold up our pointer finger (like, "hey. Wait a minute), and he would stop. We have a movie from our South Dakota trip when he was three. He was having a major car melt-down because we wouldn't give him something he wanted. He was red-faced, crying, and screaming, "MY! FINGER! IS! UUUUUUUUUUUUUP!!!!" With his finger up. In the background you can hear Josh and I rolling and choking with laughter in the front seat. The camera is shaking because I was laughing so hard.

Why? Because he was so! CUTE!!!

Princess is not seven. She is beautiful, but she is not cute. Because at age seven, she shouldn't need to be. But she's not really seven. So finding ways to remain un-annoyed by her behavior, take her into my lap, and rub her back and coo until she gets melty- well, let's just say it's a challenge.

Peanut helped me out yesterday, though. Peanut was looking at a book about dance around the world while Princess was in her tap class. We were discussing where the people in the pictures were from and their skin color. Peanut was comparing skin colors to her own and I was half-listening when she pointed to one and said, "he looks just like Princess."

I looked, and my first thought was, why did she say that- it's the face of a man with darker skin than Princess's? I looked again. It was a page about how to express emotions with your face. The one Peanut pointed to? Disgust.

And it looked exactly like Princess.
Hey. If you can't laugh....

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Toilet is Your Friend. Really. It is

That's right- we are back where we started. All the effort from spring break: pffffbth. Gone. Down the crapper. So to speak.

It's been a slow decline, of course, gaining force as the moving boxes piled up. Why it's suddenly reached it's full point of non-toileting now, two months after moving, I do not know. I don't need to know. I am done. Cooked. Stick a fork in me. Al dente. The toast has popped up. I figure either Princess will use the toilet regularly by the time she's married, or she will find a very understanding husband, but either way I have fully accepted that I. Cannot. Change this. I can't.

And I'm ok with that. The part I'm not ok with, however, is that along with the pe.e come Ye Olde Epic Laundry Battle. Because Princess waits until she is entirely out of pants and/or un.derwear to start a load of laundry. And even that generally involves an argument about whether or not clean pan.ties should be expected to magically appear in her drawer.  Not being able to shut her box doesn't cue her. Taking out the last pair of un.derwear doesn't cue her. Even not having any un.derwear or pants when she needs to change cues her. It's maddening. And I can't even just ignore it, because it's all an excuse to have a major blow-up in which everything it My Fault.

So today, Princess will come home from school exhausted from eight hours of holding pe.e, wet herself, and find no un.derwear in her drawer. And while I'm trying to cook a well-balanced dinner before leaving for gynastics, Princess will spend 45 minutes coming up with thousands of vastly creative ways to produce clean un.derwear, none of which involve starting a load of laundry. Then she will accept a load of laundry must be started. The next 45 minutes will be dedicating to much vocalization and thumping regarding the degree to which the situation is My Fault.

And tomorrow, when the clothing is dry, I will fold it all up and put it away. In the linen closet. To be doled out piece by piece, by me, as needed. Because as much as I hate taking choices away from my children, I hate being coerced into arguing more.

If it's too hard to manage your laundry, that's ok, that's why I'm here.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Trick or Boo

Yes. Jorge is wearing a costume. One boy and three girls and it is the boy who is picky about what he wears. Every year he wants to go trick-or-treating, but every year it's an ordeal to select a costume he doesn't feel "silly" wearing. Last year we settled on Charlie and Lola (semi-obscure children's book) for he and the Cuddle Bear, and of course no one knew what they were. But I struck gold this year- I discovered that Buddy will dress up as anything if Jorge is part of the costume. Our first plan was Jorge as a lobster and Buddy as a chef (carrying Jorge around in a large blanketed pot), but T@rget was out of lobsters. Hence the sheriff and outlaw duo. Jorge's costume is far more hilarious in real life than in the picture. You'll have to trust me. And really, isn't he about the handsomest boy you've ever seen? I'm not supposed to say that, though. I get punched in the leg.

Anyway. The point. The point is Princess, there. Historically costume discussions have been pretty predictable. Every year she's been a princess, a fairy, a dance, a princess-fairy, a fairy-dancer or a princess-dancer. This year started out as no exception, and suddenly she cried out, "NO! I want to be PINKALICOUS!!!"

For those of you that have only boys and/or expose  your children only to high-quality literature, this is Pinkalicious:

Obviously. What's not to like? Anyway. The point is that this is the first truly creative idea Princess has come up with. So Pinkalicious it was.

But there was an even bigger deal. Trick-or-treating seems to be challenging for a lot of families in our situation, although I don't know that anyone's pinned down exactly why. I've been finding myself lately more in tune to Princess's behavior linking to fear. At one point in our trek Princess, seemingly randomly, yelled at Peanut for "making her shoes come off," and stomped her feet around. However, me and my stealth eye had just noticed a particularly scary-masked, black-hooded figure pass, so I said, "some of those costumes look pretty scary, don't they? It makes a feeling inside you, kind of like "mad." That feeling is called "scared," and if you feel "scared," you can come hold my hand.

And she did.

I'm sure people wondered why my seven-year-old needed her mom to walk her up and could barely mutter "thank-you," before turning and bolting, but I don't care.

She needed her mom to walk her up.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Yesterday's weather forecast was full of superlatives: "epic," "historical," "hurricane-strength winds," "20-foot waves," and tornado watches. To all of which I said, "meh."

We live near Lake Michigan, so the forecast is all about "lake-effect" this and "lake-effect" that, and none of it ever happens; it bounces right over us and hits with full fury 20 minutes east. However, a tornado spotted 30 minutes south of us is enough for a Tornado Warning in our county.

So when I heard that the children had to sit in Tornado Drill Mode for two hours yesterday, I knew two of my three school-aged children would come home wigged out. I just wasn't sure which two.

I picked up the kids at the end of the day and said, "well! I heard you had a not-so-much-fun morning." In reply, I got grunts and a couple detailed accounts of said two hours, which may or may not have been accurate (I'm particularly suspicious of the tale of sitting with books on their heads for the full two hours). And then, as if on cue, Buddy began snapping at his sisters. Enter wigged-out child number one. After a bit I said, "hey Buddy. I think maybe the tornado warning was a little scary. So watch your words, because it's not your sisters' faults." And Buddy growled that that wasn't it. In fact, he made it very. clear. that he was not afraid of the tornado. Alrighty, then. The snapping continued, so I reminded him that no matter what was on his mind, he had better guard his words so he could avoid consequences for them.

We got home, we spread out, things were quiet. Then we left for Princess's tap class, during which Peanut does her weekly homework. Except, enter wigged-out child number two. For the entire half-hour, Peanut fussed and flailed around on the floor proclaiming ignorance regarding odd and even numbers while I knitted and dropped occasional nuggets like: "please fuss in your level one voice," and, "would you rather lay down on that bench? It seems like this is just too hard right now," and, "since you say you didn't learn this at school, maybe you could write Mrs. O. instead, and suggest she teach you this again." We went home and had dinner, which Peanut decided would be appropriate to eat by sticking her finger in the middle and slurping the soup off it. I did a lovely impromptu puppet show about manners with her spoon, which she apparently did not appreciate, since she gave me full eye-contact while she stuck her finger back into her soup.

Let's just say she was asleep by 6:45.

The rest of the evening went without incident. It is telling of some of the changes beginning around here that Princess was not one of the two-thirds wigged-out children. But when I tucked Buddy into bed, he tried to make me promise that I would make sure Jorge was safe if there ever was a tornado or fire while Buddy was at school. I told Buddy I couldn't promise that, but he could be sure that I would as far as it was possible, because I love Jorge, too. We were silent for a moment, and I said, "were you worried about Jorge during the tornado warning?"

And he curled up again me and shook a little and said, "no, but I couldn't stop thinking about my sisters. I kept thinking I was hearing their voices, but I couldn't go help them."

We talked for a while about all the provisions in place to make sure our family is safe in an emergency, even when we aren't with them.

But I don't take mental health lightly anymore. Later I got down on my knees and praised God for a child who can feel his feelings and trust me with them. For a child who can give and receive love and feel responsibility for others.

My heart is full.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Two Legs in One Leg Hole

Peanut and the Cuddle Bear started gymnastics two weeks ago. Peanut played soccer last fall (and was excellent, I might add), but when I took her to a gymnastics expo this summer, her face turned pink and her eyes lit up, and she was transfixed as I have never seen. So gymnastics it is.

Normally my policy is "no organized activities before age five." But the Cuddle Bear has become clearly fed up over the years with being dragged constantly to everyone else's activities. Princess's therapist actually suggested I put her in something. I'm not sure why- maybe because the Cuddle Bear was finding more and more clever ways to sneak into the play therapy room? I don't know. So the problem was what to put her in. She can't try soccer until she's 5 1/2, the only ballet class for children that young was at Princess's studio (and if I saw the Big Green Monster at the gymnastics studio, just watch me put someone else in hers), and the other option is "Creative Movement." I have an issue with "Creative Movement," because it cost just as much as everything else, and the Cuddle Bear does enough "Creative Movement" on her own for free.

Fortunately, the gymnastics studio accepts 4-year-olds. There's one on the performance team, even; she looks like a wet noodle. I don't believe that child has any cartilage in her.

After the first session, it became apparent that gymnastics is Peanut's calling. She was focused, she listened to her coach, she memorized every minute muscle detail her coach described. She even stood more maturely. By the next week, she could do a back bend from standing:

Then, on the other end of the spectrum is the Cuddle Bear. The Cuddle Bear spent close to an hour half-heatedly jumping back and forth over a hoop. Why? Because the coach is already onto her and figured out that the Cuddle Bear could do it right if she wanted to.

The Cuddle Bear: "I don't want to do this anymore."
Coach: "Then do it right."
TCB: "I want to do something else."
Coach: "Then do one right."

I think I'm going to like this woman.

The Cuddle Bear- performing a half-hearted hoop-jump:

I don't know what's up with the shorts. I am 87% sure I didn't put them on that way. Apparently pre-cartwheels have the power to shove both your legs through one shorts leg hole.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Homework: The Darkness Dispels


Anyone seeing a theme here? Something entitled "Homework Sucks at My House?" I'll tell you right now, my list of complaints about Laundy is waaaaay longer. We'll discuss laundry another time.

September began a new year with a new teacher. I reviewed my options, and selected "proactive" over "let's see what happens." I spoke with Princess's teacher, reviewed Homework Sucks at My House in gory detail, and we developed a plan called Anyone Who Doesn't Turn in Their Homework Thursday Has to Finish it During Recess on Friday. I love this plan, because the main part is Mommy Doesn't Have to Fight About It.

So far, so good. Of course, so far, review work. This week was Rules and Arrows. Now, let me say, I have the utmost sympathy for Princess, because when Buddy came home with this last year, I did not get it. Yep. I am freely admitting that I did not get second grade homework. That was when I started keeping the notes they send home to the parents explaining how to do the math problems. Yep. For instance, this week's note would inform a parent that for this series of numbers: 2 4 6 8, +2 is the rule. So Princess had some trouble, but kept it up until the "challenge" question that involved filling in blanks and figuring out the rule. Blank, 20, 30, blank, 50, blank. Princess decided the rule was +20 and went from there. She worked on it remarkably long without attitude. I sat by her the whole time reading pretending to read a book, and saying only, "check that one," and "show me how you figured out 30+20=20." She started to disintegrate, spouting, "but I did that"s and "I need help." Both secret code for, "where is someone I can trick into doing this for me while making them thinking they're teaching me?" I said satisfying things like, "of course you do! That's why I'm right here," "huh, that didn't work, did it?" and, "I wonder what the problem is."  I found it interesting that she figured out if she counted by tens it came out right, but didn't apply that knowledge far enough to figure out she needed to change her rule. I geared up for the explosion, rehearsing in my head how I'd handle it.

It never came.

Taking a risk, I said, "Hmm. It seems to be working when you count by tens. I wonder what you could change to make that work."

She changed the +20 to +10.

I stared at her. "Princess! Do you know what you just did?"
"You finished it! Correctly! Without a fit!"
She stared at me.

Princess about jumped out of her skin.
Then a h-uge smile spread across her face in slow motion.

Go play.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rock-a-Bye, Baby

Much of that material out there on parenting traumatized children talks about re-doing the baby years they missed. And I tried. Oh, I tried. Warm sweetened milk. Hand-fed caramels. Bottles. Baby toys on a blanket. Play-pen-like enclosed spaces. Holding and cuddling. Finger plays. Everything.


Princess hated it. Hated. It. The only time she didn't fight these activities tooth and nail was when I was doing them with Peanut. Then she wanted to do them, all right. Until I'd stop doing them with Peanut and try to do them with her. Then, no way. My underlying parental philosophy since Buddy was small was called If Everyone is Miserable Then Do Something Else. We were both miserable, so I gave it up.

But the ADD layer of Princess is peeling away, and there's something interesting underneath. It's almost as if the newly-exposed part was holding all the time, energy, and therapy we put in but never saw the result of. There's some empathy in there. There's imprinting. My hair is overgrown and crying out for the salon, so I parted it on the other side and pinned my bangs back (which makes so much more sense than making an appointment. I know, I know). On Sunday, Princess came down with her hair switched over and in an outfit as close to mine as she could manage. I thought, hmmmm.

Yesterday was difficult. Princess is now only raging about once a week, and she had one on Sunday. The kids (ok, and Josh and I) are still pretty raw from the intensity of the summer, and have been not exactly quick to include her this week. Plus, Peanut and the Cuddle Bear started taking gymnastics together Mondays, and something about it is very difficult for Princess to swallow. No matter that she would hate gymnastics. Someone else is getting something different from what she gets. So Tuesday was harsh.

Princess and Peanut started a jumping-over-a-beanbag game. You know the kind. The sort of thing where you know someone is going to get mildly injured, but not injured enough for you to get off F*ceb**k and say, "stop it before someone loses an eye!" So sure enough. Princess shoved Peanut down for reasons that are still invisible to me, and Peanut cried. Princess obviously felt bad, but wouldn't express it, preferring the methods of "Mumble 'I'm Sorry!' From Another Room and Loudly Complain That She Didn't Hear It," and "Stomp Into the Kitchen and Scream 'I'm Sorry' in Her Face," to the more social accepted methods of apology.

We made it to Princess's tap class, but it was obvious to me we were not done. On the way home Peanut make her world-class spit noises to bother Princess, and Princess was duly bothered. Which she expressed by beating the crap out of Peanut.

Stop the car. Get out. Drag out clawing Princess. Go to other side of car hoping to not attract highway attention. Restrain clawing hands. Spread feet wide to avoid kicking. The regular drill.

"We feel really bad inside when we hurt someone. The only way to stop feeling bad is to tell the person we hurt that we feel bad about it. This would be a good time to do bubble breaths."

And then, it happened. A small, shaky, panicked voice said,

"but will you do them with me, Mom?"

Well, heck yeah.

We breathed. We got back in the car. We drove home.

Did you notice what we didn't do? Yep. We didn't apologize to Peanut. Which means those stinkin' Big Feelings were STILL THERE.

So tantrum number three happened at 7:15. I was ready for it, because Princess has been asking to go to bed at 7:00. She clearly felt she needed to stoke things up one more time. I don't even remember what she used, because it so didn't matter. I said, "things are just too hard right now, aren't they?" and scooped her up like a toddler. She protested. I sang Rock-a-Bye Baby up the stairs (which was not easy, because that child can make herself really heavy), which she likes, but pretends not to. Only this time, she didn't pretend she didn't like it. By the time I was rocking her on her bed, she was molded into me with her arms around my neck. Relaxed. When I stopped, she hugged me and rolled off into her covers and said,

"I love you, Mom."

I could get used to this.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Insidious Voices

"Guess what? Weeeee ate all the cookies in our roooooom. Now you can't have them."

"So? Mom said you've eaten all your treats until next Thursday. So you can't have any of the do-nuts. Princess and I get the rest."

"Oh. Um. Buddy? I ate the donuts."

"All of them?"

"Um. Yeah."

"AGAIN? MoOOOOooooom!!! Why this time?"

"Haven't I told you how bad PMS feels?"


"You asked."

"You have to stop that."

"Yeah, I know, but they have voices, Buddy. You don't understand. They won't leave me alone. They call out (donut voice), 'Keeeeeeerrieeeeeeee. Come eat us. We know we are 360 calories but we are sooooo good! Think about our coconutty crunchy goodness and come eat us. And when we're gone, we won't be able to bother you any more.' They're loud."

"You could just cover your ears, Mom."

"Buddy! It's not like they're people. They have donut voices. They can even seep into your pores. And you can't cover all those up. The only solution is to never go into the store so you don't see them."

"Fine. I'm going to buy Twinkies."

"Oh honey, you can't. The Twinkies have voices, too."

"Yeah, I know. But I'm going to pass them out to the kids and we'll eat them right away."

"Oh. Well then. Go for it."

Thursday, October 14, 2010


We live in a community that grows a lot of produce. We also have a community of migrant workers. So, every year at right about now, many of my children's friends and classmates move to Florida and return in the spring. Today Princess mentioned that her teacher told them that a classmate had moved to Florida. Buddy said, "Mom, why do some people have to move a lot?" I reminded him that people who pick fruit and vegetables for a job move to wherever the fruit and vegetables are growing; otherwise they wouldn't have any work and wouldn't be able to buy what they need. And Buddy said, "but why don't they just work in a bank, like Daddy?"

When you get a question like that, you have a lot of choices for an answer. It's so tempting to blow it off and give a semi-fake answer, because it's such a difficult subject. Because, why doesn't everyone just work at a nice, steady, year-round, clean, over-the-poverty-line-incomed bank? Because they can't, that's why. Because my children come from a family where both parents have four-year degrees. And that family comes from family that could provide and/or assist that secondary education. Those families have at least two generations behind them that had enough to eat. That weren't worried or afraid on a regular basis. That had warm homes and safety. My children have privelege.

The problem with privilege is that it usually goes unrecognized. I know it's "normal" for children to only see what they don't have comparatively, but I don't want that for them. Especially for Buddy, who has know nothing but minor and temporary inconvenience. Never need. Never fear. I want them to know we have the things we do because we're lucky. Not because we did something right or better than someone else. Lucky. Lucky we come from generations of work ethic. Lucky we haven't felt we'd give our children a better chance by moving to a different country that doesn't speak the language we speak. Lucky we had parents able to care for us and teach us how to function in a society. Lucky we were born where we were born when we were born. That's it. Lucky.

Buddy's questions stopped after I told him what college costs. That gave him something to chew on for a while. But the conversation isn't done. It never is.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Thou Shalt Not Trigger

It seems every time we solve something with Princess, we get a "hey, wait a minute, what is THAT" moment. Take away one thing, another is revealed.

People who think parents seek help for their children through medication are looking for a bandaid or a quick fix are insane. We have been trying to balance medication for Princess for over a year. It's extremely frustrating. Recently, subscribing to the theory that Princess's rages are caused by an overflow of anxiety caused by frustration caused by (da da da DAAAA) ADD, we began a newish medication that seems to have some success with children who have ADD and issues with anger or rage. And it seems to be working.

So that layer is peeling back, and the one underneath is beginning to show. It is not a pretty layer. It's full of cheating, lies, sneakiness, and general deceit. I first noticed it the Sunday after an increased dosage seemed to be leveling out.

We picked Princess up from her class at church, and she was wearing band bracelets that were not there earlier. I said, "oh, those are really pretty? Can I see one? Where did it come from?" I was suspecting another one of these suspicious "trades" that seem to be happening every day at school. She handed me one, and it was one of the Cuddle Bear's. I was then informed that it came "from the white box in the basement," a box containing the clothing she and Peanut were wearing when they were placed with us that I, unfortunately, had never crossed her name off of. This wouldn't be an issue, because it's her stuff, except:

a) All children have  instructions regarding the boxes in the basement; specifically, do not touch them, and
b) The bracelets absolutely did not come from that box.

I said, "nope. Try again." Then I was informed that she found them on the counter. Which she did not. At this point I realized that I never should have handled it this way, stuck out my hand, and said, "fork 'em over." Then I began to realize that I wanted to make this into a big, huge, hairy deal. I wanted it baaaaaaaad. My hair was prickling on my scalp, and that, my friends, is my signal that I am triggered. So I told Josh to cover my mouth if I opened it. And we went on.

I told Dr. S about this episode at therapy while we discussed the new medication, and I added, "I don't understand why these things trigger me so badly." We talked awhile about how important recognizing your own triggers is, and I said, "is it enough to know what they are? Or do I have to figure out why? Because I do not know," and she said,

"I know why. Should I tell you?"

Well, yeah.

Turns out it's the Ten Commandments, folks. It's that list of rules God handed to Moses to hand to Israel so that their society would work. And, whether or not you believe it happened (and I do), they are the rules our culture and society are based on. They are the rules that keep us from having chaos centered around a gold cow.

And when my child breaks them, a spot in the back of my mind screams deviant! Deviant! Put those bracelets back now and confess, or you are certain to have no friends, fail school, have too many babies too young, be fired from your job, go to jail, live your life on the street and everyone will think  it'sallmyfaultbecauseI'mabadparentGAAAAAAH!!!! So tell me the TRUTH! And put the bracelets BACK! Put them BACK!

Just a little irrational.

Trigger: I will be nice to you and do what you ask and give you hugs and tell you I love you, just as long as you are not my mom. Commandment #1.

Trigger: You are a stupid, poopy, ugly mommy, and I hate you. Commandment # 5.

Trigger: I am going to hit the people who love me with my shoes. The ones I got for my birthday with the really hard heel. Mom, you get that too, but I will also bite you and kick your shins until the bruises become difficult to explain. Commandment # 6.

Trigger: Refer to the bracelets. Commandment # 8.

Trigger: I've been doing homework for four whole weeks now. I really think that's enough, but I know you don't. So some days I'm going to pretend I forgot how. Some days I'll just do part of it. Some days I'll put it in my desk and pretend to forget to bring it home. And some days, just for a little spice, I'll turn in the paper saying I did it when I really didn't and hope my teacher doesn't notice. Commandment #9.

Trigger: For some reason, I am really really reallyreallyreally jealous that Peanut and the Cuddle Bear take gymnastics on Mondays and I don't get to take it with them. Even though I take dance on Tuesdays and they don't get to take it with me. Even though I would hate gymnastics because I'm not flexible, I'm cautious, and I hate it when Peanut is better than me at something. Plus, people touch your legs and but.t in gymnastics. Shudder. And, for the record, I am really ticked that it didn't work when I pretended I wanted to use the bathroom for the first time in a week right after you said it was time to get in the car, and also that when I started to have a snit at the studio you let me so it looked like I had issues but not you. So pthsbbbbth. Commandment #10.

You'll notice we did not cover worshiping false gods, name misusage, the Sabbath or adultery. I guess we're just not there yet. Some of them are easier to train than others. Also, I was unable to relate a Commandment to pe.e. Which was surprising for me.

Five triggers; a random six of which will occur on any given day. That's a lot of scalp-prickling.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Good Timing

The BEST thing ever happened in the waiting room before Princess's psychiatric appointment. The door opened, and into the waiting room came a police officer with

Dum dum dum DUM

a very young woman in county jumpsuit and tethered handcuffs.

The Cuddle Bear and I went about what we were doing, and so did Princess- to the naked eye. But I could feel her. Every time the woman moved, Princess stopped what she was doing and froze. I fully expected her to ask a question while the woman was in the room. I'm glad she waited, because I would have said what I did regardless of the audience. The woman was finally called in, and Princess turned to me and asked it:

"Mom, why was she wearing handcuffs?"

So I said it.

"Princess, I think she lives in jail. I wonder if she didn't practice obeying rules when she was a kid, so it was too hard to do it as a grown-up, too."

I love being inadvertently backed up by life.

(Disclaimer: please do not think I was not sensitive to this woman and her situation and all the variables in her life. I am. Although her snottiness to the officer gave one pause for thought.)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

What Thirty Dollars Can Buy

I neeeeeever pay full price for anything. It pains me, even, to pay less than 40% off. I don't particularly like Halloween, and I've led a staunch war against licensed characters through four childhoods.

So what happened?

I walked past the rack the first time, saying no before the Cuddle Bear could formulate the question, like any good mom. Then I stopped. And went back. I picked it up. I thought, nooooo, that is really irresponsible.

And then I put it in the cart.

Because here's the thing. I knew she would love it, would wear it until it fell off her body in shreds. And, though I'm careful not to do much spoiling because she's my last baby, well, she's my last baby. Next year, she'll be a serious and professional kindergartner, and a lot that I find charming about her now will be charming in a different way, never to return.

So, for you viewing pleasure:

It was worth every penny.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Letting Go

The Cuddle Bear, my last child if it's me you're talking to,* started pre-school this week. Here was the First Day's conversation:

TCB: "Mom? Are you going to take me to pre-school? And leave me there? And go away?"
Me: "Oh.....well.....yes. But you already know that Mommy always comes back."
TCB: "No! Are you going to LEAVE me there. And go AWAY."

Ah. I had misunderstood. The Cuddle Bear wasn't worried. She wasn't going to miss me. She had no concern regarding how to navigate a Mommy-less afternoon. She wanted to make sure I was going to LEAVE her there. And go AWAY.


There it is. The face of separation anxiety.

*If you talk to Josh, however, the answer you get might be different. Not that HE feels the need for a larger family. No. He is of the deranged opinion that once all the babies are at school all day I will want to accrue more. He is sadly mistaken.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Three Rings and a Chihuahua

Whoo. Three weeks and nary a deep breath. And this time I mean that literally, as allergens have reared their ugly heads. Since I still don't technically have time for this, here are some highlights:

  • Moving with a RADling. Princess has made five other moves that I know about. The likelihood that they were good experiences is slim. You can imagine what this translated into. Needless to say, the last month has been loud and injury-producing.
  • On that note, Princess has begun to take her rages public. First she had several in front of an extended family member. The next was a 40-minute kickingscreamingbitingscratchingfrothingatthemouth ordeal in the middle of Buddy's soccer field. Yep. Pleasant. And not at all embarrassing.
  • I do believe Buddy is starting puberty. He's only nine, but Josh had a full beard and had stopped growing by the time he was 13, so it's not totally unpredictable. However, my sweet, loving, thoughtful, mature baby has become a morose, argumentative, paranoid "tween."
  • Plus, while Princess has not actually begun puberty, I am absolutely certain she is cycling with me. I came by this information very scientifically. Here is the process I used: (month one) "wow. Princess is sure having a sucky week. I have PMS." (month two) "Wow. Princess is sure having a sucky week. I have PMS." (month three) "Wow..." Well. You get the idea.
  • I have never bought a full-priced licensed-character Halloween costume. It goes against my moral code. Every year the children get hand-made costumes that are stunning and stress me out for a month. Or I get them at the consignment shop. But as I looked at the Spider Man costumes, I began to rationalize (wellllll, I think she's my last baby. She'd use it every day. That mask looks hilarious. Next year she'll be a serious, professional kindergartner). Then I forked out the cash. Worth every penny. I am not kidding, just watching her put the mask on had me rolling on the floor. She wore it to pick the kids up at school, and they all actually jumped back and screamed.
  • The Cuddle Bear will no longer answer to her given name. 
  • The Cuddle Bear's goodnight song now goes: "Go to sleep, Spiderman, Go to sleeeeeeep, Spiderman.."
  • Peanut is livid that she has been in school for two and a half weeks and still does not read as well as Buddy or Princess. She firmly believes this is due to something lacking in her teacher.
 Josh and I are completely stressed out, two words can turn into a full-blown fight in nothing flat, two of my children are completely whacked out, one is bitter, and one is a superhero who causes evil instead of fights it.

But the house is amazing. I never dreamed I'd own something like this. A little bright spot for me in America's recession. Our original rental has a great family in it, and our former house has a family chomping at the bit to move in. I barely even hoped we'd have both places filled by October, and here we are.

My cup overfloweth.