"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, April 30, 2010

Parenting the Masses

I had an epiphany this morning. About a lunch box.

I would describe my "real me" parenting style as Permissive Disciplinarian. I'm good at disciplining my children, because I'm good at problem-solving. But once when Buddy was nine months old I expressed my turmoil about whether to pick him up or let him fuss in his exersaucer knowing he wanted to be picked up, and my mom said,

if he starts to act spoiled you can go back and fix it. But you can't go back and hold him more.

So I picked him up. And since, I've really tried to say yes to every reasonable request, even if it wasn't particularly on my agenda.

And then The Girls Came. And my parenting style backfired. I quickly found out this is normal (or what passes for it). I've spent years parenting Buddy and the Cuddle Bear with the Real Me Mom, while the Therapeutic Mom has been parenting Princess and Peanut. Therapeutic Mom looks much more restrictive than Real Me Mom, because Princess and Peanut needed obvious and semi-permanent boundaries, immediate consequences, and lots and lots and LOTS of structure, or they would fall. apart. And it would be BLOODY.

I had to change EVERYTHING to parent them. And they are healing. And changing. Which means what? Change for me. Only I'm too slow on the uptake.

For instance, the lunch box. If the kids take cold lunch to school, they are supposed to empty out their boxes after school and put them away in the designated area. Buddy and Peanut both wanted cold lunch today, so I went to get their boxes and Peanut's wasn't there. Right away I knew where it was, of course: in her backpack. Where it evidently has been for the last three days. And I will admit that part of my decision-making involved my absolute hatred for dumping sour curdled milk out of thermoses. I left it there.

This morning as we were leaving I told Peanut that I couldn't make her lunch because she hadn't cleaned out her backpack, so she'd need to choose a hot lunch. She laughed and showed me her lunch box in her backpack. I said, "I'm sorry, but I can't make you one because you didn't clean it out." Her entire body slacked.

After the kids got on the bus, I came in and looked at the lunch box, and I thought, "did I really need to do that?"

No. I didn't. Yes, she was supposed to take care of it and she didn't, even though she had to look at it every time she opened her bag for three days. Yes, this is something she can do for herself at her age. Yes, natural consequences are a good good thing.

But I know full well I would have found Buddy's lunch box and cleaned it out for him, if it had been him. I cut Buddy a lot of slack because he's well-behaved, loving, and understanding. He usually does what he is supposed to do. The problem is that Peanut has changed, and I haven't changed with her. These days, she does what she's asked to do more often than not. She doesn't tantrum unless there's what I consider "a good reason." She's actually pretty responsible and respectful most of the time. That I now have a habit of being restrictive with her is not her problem.

It's mine.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Do Not Look in the General Direction of the Great Lakes

...because, as has been scientifically proven by no studies whatsoever, radlets can sense from great distances the distinct clicking of the keyboard that signifies they are being celebrated.

And they HATE it.

But. Now that you're not looking,

Everyone in this house has been using the toilet consistently for four weeks.

Well. Not Jorge. And some of the Cuddle Bear's toilet usage has involved the inappropriate, like flushing entire bars of Ivory soap and giving toys baths. But otherwise.

During the accursed 11 1/2-day spring break I began sending Princess to sit on the toilet once an hour for five minutes. I didn't sit down and talk with her about it. I didn't explain any change. Just, "Princess, it's time to sit on the toilet. You can get up when the timer beeps." That's it. And she complied, which I would have been thankful for even if it hadn't gotten even better.

After about ten days, she started taking herself there at 4:00,. 5:00, and 6:00 about five minutes before I would have told her to. That child has the most impeccable sense of timing. It is actually quite bizarre. Then last week, I started to see signs of dissent. I'd send her at 4:00, and she'd tell me she had just went before leaving school. Which she very well might have, but I was NOT going to go down the road of the unprovable, so I responded each time with, "good for you! And now it's time to sit on the toilet." She continued to comply. I continued to pick my jaw up off the floor.

Then earlier this week she pulled out the "I went upstairs while we were playing ponies." Uh-uh. Uh uh uh uh uh. NOT going to go down that road. I have been there before. It is very loud and filled with strife and kicking. I said, "I'm sorry Princess, but if I don't see you or didn't know about it, I won't count it. And now it's time to sit on the toilet." That one generated some minor (minor) fussing and a hovering over the toilet seat instead of actually sitting on it, so I've been holding my breath. But instead of quitting, she's been coming to me and announcing she is about to use the bathroom. The first couple of days, it was total overkill. She must have been thinking about it all the time, because she went every 15 minutes or so. But now, she honestly is going about once an hour.

I think it worked for two reasons. One is that sense of timing. It takes her a while to ingrain it, but once she does it is STAYING. I wouldn't be surprised if she uses the toilet once an hour for the rest of her life. Yet another thing for her to blame me for to her therapist as an adult. Oh well. The other is the timer. All the other times I have attempted a version of this, I would inevitable run into the problem of her faking it. She would literally pull down her pants, sit on the toilet. NOT p.ee, wipe, flush, and wet herself five minutes later. I am not exaggerating. This time. Initially, I wondered if five minutes was inappropriate, because that's a loooong time to sit hanging over a bowl. But now I think it needed to be that long. I think she decided it was better to go on her own terms than to sit, uncomfortable and bored out of her mind for that long.

But this all could have still bit me in the behind with her wetting herself anyway. I think she's staying dry because it was just *time*. I started this whole thing when I did solely because I had a hunch that she wasn't happy wetting herself anymore. The flip side of her ingrained timing issue is that once she got used to wetting herself, I honestly don't think she had any idea how to stop. And learned helplessness says, "well, I guess it'll just always be this way. I can't change it." She won't ask for help with anything she actually needs help with, so I have to be alert. I have to see it.

Remember: viewing the Lake Michigan area, even on a map is off-limits. I'd really like this change to stay put.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Behind This Face...

...lies the mind of a threat to aquatic society.

"How?" you say. "How could that adorable child be a threat to anyone? Look at that smile! Look at those curls that are obviously styled by a woman who knows what she's doing? And that DIMPLE? How could anyone with such a cute dimple...how can you SAY such a thing?"

Mmm hmm.

Let me introduce you to Buddy's beloved pet fish.

What? What? You don't see a fish in that obviously clean and well-maintained fish bowl? What do you mean?

Mmm hmm.

When you come downstairs after putting away clean (and folded, mind you) socks and find this:

you know it warrants further investigation. So I investigated. And found Goldie swimming on his side at the surface of the water.

"CUDDLE BEAR!!!! What did you DO!!!"

"I wanted to pet him, Mommy. So I took him out."

"Oh, Cuddle Bear, you hurt him! I think he'll die. You'll have to tell Buddy what you did."

"...and then I stepped on him softly with my foots because I wanted to see if he had bloods."

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Calm Down Card

Here is another of Mrs. M's little useful bits: The Calm Down Card.

Princess has a hard time processing what's said to her, and it's even more difficult when she's upset. You've got about three words before you're tuned out, and maybe not even that; she often uses screaming as a way to not have to listen. The first few times I used the card, I actually chased her around the house tapping on a picture repeating, "what comes next, Princess? What comes next?" But now it almost works like magic to help her regulate herself in a way that trying to reach her with words never would.

Yesterday afternoon Princess got out the Memory game, so I casually hovered nearby. Memory has gotten much easier for Princess, but competition brings on anxiety. I believe Princess has a deep level of shame going on. Not guilt. I have rarely seen her express guilt. Shame is different; shame says "I am fundamentally bad and nothing can make me good." So making a mistake, or not winning, or anything other than utter victory reinforces this feeling, which she expressing by attempting to make someone near her feel as bad as she does. Or so I hypothesize. I can't know for sure. She is not what one would call "a good sport." If she's winning she gloats and taunts; if she's losing, everyone will eventually pay. She's not being mean or thoughtless--I think it's a kind of defense mechinism or way of coping of maybe just lack of empathy. Anyway, I stick close when the games come out.

Princess got the Cuddle Bear to play with her. The Cuddle Bear might only be three, but she happens to be a total whiz at Memory, which probably didn't make things easier. Princess got louder and more chipper and bouncier and more rhythmic as the game progressed (and the Cuddle Bear acquired more matches): warning signs that it's going down. Then an argument developed about whether a certain card had a match. I knew the Cuddle Bear was right. If she says a card has a match (or doesn't), you'd better believe she knows what she's talking about. When the Cuddle Bear proved up, Princess's whole demeanor changed. She growled, "so?" and suddenly cards were being thrown from all sides. I rushed to step in, but without any warning Princess shoved the Cuddle Bear HARD into the computer desk. I said, "time-out; seven minutes," and marched her unwilling self up the steps. I checked out the Cuddle Bear, and then started to think about what should happen next.

When the timer went off I grabbed the Calm Down Card and headed upstairs. Normally a time-out does nothing whatsoever to regulate Princess. I use it mainly as a way to get her out of the situation while I figure out how to handle it. This was no different. Princess scowled at me over the books (not hers, of course) on her bed. I held up the card, pointed at "5 deep breaths," and said, "what comes next." She did all the steps without complaint, and I could see she was regulated. Her expression was neutral, her body was relaxed, and she wasn't saying anything about how unfair everything is. I told her to pick up the game, which she did before going on to something else entirely.

Yay for the Calm Down Card.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Who's Got Your Back?

Back when Princess was having a lot of trouble with sequencing in general and predicting her schedule in particular, one of my favorite people, Mrs. M- Princess's language processing teacher- made this:

Isn't that clever?

When Mrs. M. heard about my recent brain seepage, she got even more clever.

Isn't that great? In fact, I put it up right underneath Princess's. Mrs. M thought of EVERYTHING: the dentist, soccer, school... I won't ever be able to forget anything again. She even thought to include this:

...and, better yet, this:

So who do YOU have out there working to make you laugh? Think about it. Because you need them.

Thanks, Mrs. M.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Chocolate or Butterscotch?

My brain seems to have turned to pudding. Pudding, thick and opaque, and when you stick something down inside it, you don't see it anymore. Specifically, my brain has turned to pudding in the area of scheduling. It's been happening too often lately to blame on someone else, although I've tried. Oh. How I have tried.

Unfortunately, Peanut has been the biggest casualty of the pudding thus far. Her kindergarten concert was Thursday. And I SWEAR on my dead dog's grave that the note said "wear blue" and "starts at 7:00." I swear this because there are usually two concert times, and there wasn't another time listed (on MY note, anyway), and I remember thinking, hmm, I wonder why they are only doing one this year. So you see, it had to be 7:00.

When we got to school, I saw Peanut's recovering-from-knee-surgery teacher, who had promised the class she'd be there, getting INTO her van. And I thought, oh no. Oh NO! But it was true. Mrs. B suggested we find out if she could sing with the other classes, she would stay to watch. At first Peanut said she didn't want to, but then she changed her mind. When we got to the strange class, however, she balked. I told her I was not going to make her sing, but that I was worried she'd feel sad if she didn't get to sing for Mrs. B. So she went.

We sat and watched Peanut stand stock still on a front bleacher, first with her hand in her mouth, then with her entire shirt in her mouth, until she pointed off stage and began shuffling off sideways. I ran to one side, Mrs. B's friend ran to the other, and we got her off. I, of course, felt lower than gum on a shoe, and Buddy was in tears her felt so bad for Peanut. 0-1 for the Mommy.

That was bad enough in and of itself. Then Saturday we all went our separate ways: Princess and I to the Daisy Girl Scouts Build-a-Bear Cookie Sales Celebration, and everyone else to Buddy's soccer game. We get to Build-a-Bear in South Bend (45 minutes south) at exactly 10:00. It was absolutely and entirely empty. The manager knew nothing about a Girl Scout troop. I say, do you happen to have a store in Kalamazoo (45 minutes north. Of my house). Why yes. Yes they do. Naturally.

Princess doesn't really differentiate between "specialness" of events; she wouldn't get any more excited about a trip to Disney World than she would about baking cookies together, so she was just as happy to go out to lunch at a restaurant with me (in fact, she got much, MUCH more upset at not getting to sit in the middle seat of the car later that day). This did nothing, of course to calm the deep guilt and sorrow and sense of stupidity clawing at my stomach. I mean seriously; who DOES that? Once would be forgivable; 0-2 in one week is pretty inexcusable. 0-2 mean I officially have a problem. 0-2 means I need to develop some serious coping skills.

How does one, exactly, cope with pudding?

Friday, April 23, 2010

"Fair" is a Place With a Goat Barn

Princess has had an excellent week; probably one of the best. Which is likely why she needed to let loose last night.

She hasn't had even one tantrum in five days. Not one. And she can't have even fussed more than once. More than that, she's handled some things very maturely, and made some observations that I considered more than usually astute. She had a Girl Scout trip to the fire station this week. I arranged to be there (along with my three honorary Girl Scouts) because she gets triggered by anyone wearing an official uniform. The UPS guy is safe. But other than that. Not only did she not seem at all anxious, but she asked good questions. Thoughtful questions. Interesting questions. Questions that had, you know...answers.

Then yesterday I took a deep breath and told her that laundry needed to be put away before dinner if she planned to have a treat. She looked at me, nodded, put away her crayons--and went to do something else entirely. I steeled myself for the blow. After dinner she asked for a treat and I reminded her the laundry wasn't done. I widened my stance and closed my eyes and waited for it. She said, "oh! That's right! I forgot. I'll do it now." And as I picked myself up off the floor she skipped off to do her laundry. I stopped her on the way and told her she had handled herself like a big girl. I started to think about giving her allowance for this week.

But. Last night Peanut had her kindergarten concert. For reasons that I will go into in another post (because it needs a whole other post, believe you me), Peanut was upset and very very nervous, but had pulled herself together and handled it the best she could. So Josh congratulated her with a bowl of ice cream. He tried to do it discreetly, but there is no discreet where Princess is concerned. Princess initiated a conversation regarding "fairness" with Josh. And to her credit, she started out calm-ish. Slightly rude, maybe, but calm-ish. Of course, it was past her bedtime, so when, "but it's not FAIR" didn't pan out the way she hoped, fussing, screaming, and kicking ensued. Since it was not the appropriate time to point out that it also wasn't "fair" that she gets to go to Build-a-Bear with the Girl Scouts Saturday and no one else does, and that historically Daddy and I couldn't care less about "fair," I walked her up to bed, pajamaed her, read to her (which was probably hard for her to hear, with the screaching and all), sang prayed snuggled. I did notice she seemed to have to work really hard to have the fit. She got a little out of practice. And she kept forgetting she didn't want to relax.

The strange part is that she kept screaming, "but I WANT my allowance." As far as I know, no allowance was ever mentioned. It was quite possible telepathy. Stranger things have occurred in that child's brain.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bed-Time, Continued

Last night, Memory was played without incident (although right before the five-minute warning Princess began repeating three-word phrases over and over in a hip-hop rhythm- a sure sign that the end is near). Pajamas were put on and teeth were brushed without a word of complaint. And if that weren't weird enough, when she hugged Josh good-night, she did it with a gigantic smile. The kind that went all the way up to her eyes. The kind I've seen exactly 11 of in the past four years. Did you get that? I have COUNTED them.

We read her I Spy book, prayed sang cuddled. I went down and said to Josh, "so, what did you say to her?"
"To who?"
"To Princess. What did you say to get that smile?"
"I didn't say anything. I just gave her a hug."


So the smile, THAT SMILE, the 12th smile, was because I was tucking in just her. Just she and I. All my attention. No one else there.

That small thing.

I felt so sad. So small. Here I am, all she has for a mother, having lost everything else, and that's all I've given her, and it made her happy.

So my next step for myself is more hugs. Five for now, no matter how artificial they feel. She is not touched enough. She doesn't get those warm fuzzy chemicals that wash over you when you're touched. She's made sure of it. It's up to me now to make sure otherwise.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Circling Back Around

Three years ago a woman came into my life. She may have saved it. We'll never know. A friend did a presentation at our church's women's study on foster care. Afterward, this woman approached my friend and asked if there was any way she could help a foster family. Why yes. Yes she could. My friend told her about me, how I was trying to keep my head above the water, and that what I really needed most was someone to come to the house and care for my children while I dealt with all the stuff that I couldn't take children to (can we say, "annual physical?"). And this wonderful, unbelievable, spectacular-can't-say-enough-good-about-her woman did. Once a week for two years. She still comes twice a month, even though I have my stuff together now, because she loves the children. And she loves me.

So when Josh met a new foster family (the one that PTSD'd me) with two premature infants, one medically fragile, of course I volunteered. Well. Josh volunteered me. But anyway. How could I not? I, who know first hand what a disgusting mess foster care is in? I, who know there is no support unless you're willing to spend hours on the phone yelling at people? And even then you're probably on your own. So starting today, I go there every Wednesday morning so another woman can get her stuff together.

Let me tell you, it freaks. me. out.

For starters, I am not a baby person. Yes, I love babies. I think they're great. I think they're very important, and I will do anything for one. But I am not the type of person who runs up to strangers at Target and tries to grab their baby so I can smell their powdered butt and peel their socks off to kiss their toes. I'm just not. Then add in twins. And one's hooked up to a million wires. Nuh-uh. While she was showing me the monitor, the first thing she said was, "this is the light that goes on if his heart stops." I am sure I turned visibly ashen. I felt the color of oatmeal, and I got that woozy feeling I get when I'm about to hit the floor. She quickly jumped in with, "that won't happen!!! That never happens!!!" But the damage was done. (The worst part was it DID go off; but it was because his teeny little monitor sticker was on it's last legs and it slipped off. So we're all good. Except for my temporary aneurism).

I spent the first hour trying not to panic. I kept telling myself that it wasn't so different from what I had already survived. And I caught on. By 1:00 I was hooking and unhooking that sucker like a pro, fed the baby while holding him on his side, and had both of them asleep. At the same time. So I count it a success. Despite that the Cuddle Bear and the 3-year-old grandson got in the gift closet and ripped apart all the boxes of toys. Small details.

And I did get some fresh asparagus out of it. Plus, you know, that whole "giving back" thing.

Monday, April 19, 2010


Bedtime has always been important. Not just because I can finally have an uninterrupted conversation, either. When it was just Buddy, bedtime was a way to reconnect, slow down. It took some time: story, Bible, prayer, song, snuggle. Then the girls came, and it took awhile to get a routine that fit everyone and didn't take three hours. So, I'd story Bible prayer song all three girls, put the Cuddle Bear in a separate room with books, and do it all over with Buddy. The challenge is Buddy and the Cuddle Bear need much, MUCH less sleep than Princess and Peanut, but the Cuddle Bear "staying up late" does not sit well with the older girls. As you can imagine.

Add to this Princess's newish-found desire to bond. She wants my one-on-one attention, but I've made it too hard to get. I've set up an unfortunate cycle where the surest way to get it is to have a rage. Not good. She doesn't really ask me to do things with her, and when I initiate a project, it tends to end with one or more of us becoming extremely frustrated. So. Two birds with one stone. A start, anyway.

Princess really needs to be in bed by 7:30. Peanut sometimes does, but not always. and Buddy and the Cuddle Bear have trouble falling asleep if they're in bed before 8:30. So I had a Brainstorm, and decided to try tucking Princess in solo.

Friday night Princess, Buddy, and the Cuddle Bear were playing Memory (the Cuddle Bear ROCKS Memory, by the way. Buddy kept trying to find a way to handicap her, claiming she had "see-through eyes"). Princess started getting tired, which meant she started cheating. I saw the warning signs and gave her the five-minute heads-up. The cheating and arguing escalated, until Buddy and Princess started throwing cards and lunging at each other. It was almost too late. I announced it was time to pick up, plunked myself squarely between Princess and Buddy, and started picking up cards. Princess was still grousing, but she did put away some cards. But then Buddy made a comment, and Princess picked up his five-box home-made WebShmooz house like she was going to throw it. Which I'm quite sure was the plan. I tucked a picture book under my arm, grabbed her firmly by her shoulders, marched her upstairs, and started changing her into pajamas. Miraculously, she did not fight me. I think it was the presence of the book. I stuffed her in her bed, laid down next to her, and read. Then I just held her while we listened to music. When I left, she was asleep. Not one word about going to bed first.

Now onto the next baby step. Sure wish I knew what it was.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

When Your Child Goes Thump

Not long ago the girls were playing upstairs in their room while I sat on my Saturday butt downstairs. Don't judge. Anyway, I heard the gigantic thump that can only mean one thing: Peanut falling off her upper bunk. But then I heard something I had never heard before: Peanut wailing her way down the stairs. To me.

She curled up in my lap. I stroked her head and scratched her back and cooed over her and empathized about how much that must have hurt. And the whole time I have the "oh" feeling you get when you're holding something impossible delicate. Because it was.

Because this child has fallen off the same bed, hitting her head on the corner of a dresser on the way down, hitting the floor face down, and has gotten right up to run off to do something else. This child can be sitting on the chair one second, on the floor the next, and then back on the chair like nothing happened. This child has wailed like she was being drawn and quartered over a scraped knee, but seethed with nothing but blind rage at a real injury. This child is healing.

Two years ago we began to suspect something was really, really wrong. We were getting ready for dinner. I had the silverware drawer open, and I called the kids to the table. Peanut was sitting on the floor three feet away, and she stood up and headed in full run for the table. Unfortunately, the open drawer was in her way. She hit it with her face with such force that it knocked her backward onto the tile floor, where she lay in silence. Josh and I stared at her in horror for a moment before Josh scooped her up and took her to the sofa. That's when it all broke loose. Peanut screamed and screamed AT us with the coldest look I have ever seen in a child, screaming about how I should have closed the drawer. Not a tear. Just stone cold fury.

Right around this time I commented to the therapist that if she ever heard of a mysterious house fire with only a four-year-old survivor, she would know where to point a finger. She replied, "well, at least you recognized it now. Some parents wait until the hamsters are getting shut in the windows."

But Peanut now has about a year of really, really productive therapy under her belt, and her progress has been inspiring to watch. Peanut participates in pet therapy; Dr. S has a therapy dog, and Peanut has been learning to "train" him. There are indications that cruelty to animals is one of the earliest signs of psychopathic behavior. By learning empathy and affection for animals, unattached children can learn to transfer those feelings to the people in their lives. Peanut is a different child than she was six months ago.

With my attached children, I took those moments for granted, those times they came to me for comfort. With Peanut, each time is a gift that takes my breath away.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Hmmm...What's Going on HERE?"

I think (*think*) Princess is actively wanting to attach. I say this with baited breath, because you know what happens where you voice it (ka-BOOM!). I've been noticing bits and pieces here and there: yelling rude things, but following me around to do it. Using behavior to get my one-on-one attention. Most of it isn't pretty, but my mama nose sensed a change.

Just LOOK at what she let me do:

No, no, no. You don't really get it. Here's the thing: this child HATES to have her hair handled by anyone other than herself. Some of our bloodiest battles have been over hair-combing. I breathed a sigh of relief when she was old enough to be taught how to care for it, even though I knew full well it would be emotionally healthier for her if I did it.

At the very beginning, it totally depressed me. I'd pick her up from a visit with these tight, shiny pigtails and think, oh great, she only wants her bio-mom to do her hair. She hates me. The reality, I found out later, was that Princess didn't want her bio-mom to do her hair any more than she wanted me to. In fact, it became one of the lynchpins of bonding problems between Princess and her bio-mom. According to the reports I received, visits were pretty much a screaming blood-bath of conditioner and hair ties.

So I gave it up.

Today she seemed pretty compliant. She took a shower; I had to wash her hair myself- doctor's orders. She had a deer tick in there that had swelled up to the size of a cob of corn before it was discovered. Shudder. Anyway. She appeared pretty relaxed after, and I asked if I could play with her hair, did she want some beads? Not only did she say yes, she was excited about it. Hmm.

So I braided a few sections of hair with the speed, agility, and tenderness of a trained rabid ferret-handler. I didn't put in any bands; I was careful not to pull. Even so, I could tell she was barely starting to get agitated by the end, especially when I touched hair by her temples.

But we survived. I'm going to be all over this bonding opening she's throwing out there. She'll never know what hit her.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Taking Turns

My girls take turns. Isn't that just super nice of them.


Yesterday was Therapy Day, and Princess was being pretty pleasant, playing a game with me while Peanut had her session. Princess went in for hers, and Peanut selected a book for me to read. After a few, the Cuddle Bear brought her favorite look and find book over, and I read that, too. This is pretty much our Princess-session routine. However, this time Peanut wanted to change it up a little. Peanut wanted to be the boss of the Cuddle Bear's choices, as well as her own. It did not go over well.

Now, of course, I know it was not about the book. Or even about being in charge. It was about Mrs. B being gone and Peanut having a full-time sub.

Peanut sat in grouchy silence for the 45-minute drive home. As they were coming in the house, some combination of Princess tripping and Peanut trampling Princess got Princess upset and I said these war-starting words:

"Please check on Princess."

Pretty controversial, I know. So Peanut went nuts-o. I told her that I could see she was not ready to check on Princess, no problem, I had plenty of time to cuddle her while she got strong enough, and I carried her to the sofa.

Every time Peanut screamed at me to shut up or tried to tell me what I was going to do, I kissed her, telling her I was giving her mouth some extra sweetness. This did not make her happy, apparently. I saw what was coming and had a split-second to decide what to do, but I was not exactly prepared for the skill, speed, and accuracy she seemed to have developed in Loogie Spitting. I have no idea where she learned it or when she practiced, but it was a good one. So, inwardly retching and trying not to vomit, I rubbed the disgusting hunk of five-year-old saliva into my face and neck, telling her in detail how I was so glad she did that, because now I would smell JUST LIKE HER! And mommies always smell a lot like their babies. Isn't that great?

It was and it wasn't. It totally broke Peanut down. She started sobbing instead of screaming, and eventually calmed down. I told her she'd need to pay me back for the time she spent screaming; she could choose a quiet rest in my bed or straightening the entryway. She chose the entryway. Apparently, she was still a wee bit disregulated, however, because she trashed the entryway like it had never been trashed before. I said, "hmm. You made some extra work for yourself, didn't you. That's ok; I know you'll take care of it."

And she did. While I furiously and furtively scrubbed my face raw with antibacterial soap.

Meanwhile, Princess was gearing up for her turn. Shortly before dinner she disappeared, and didn't come down when I called her for dinner. Eventually she joined us and said, "Mom! I put the window back up and cleaned up the Easter grass from my tantrum!"
Me: "You, um, did that this morning, honey."
Princess: "Yeah! And I did most of my laundry! I only have to do my shirts now!"
Me: "Ugggghhhohhhh." Because "Me" knows what's coming next.

We finish dinner. I do the dishes. Princess said,
"Mom? Can I have my treat now?"

There it is.

"Princess, three days ago I told you if you wanted a treat you would need to finish your laundry by dinner time. Three days ago."
(Immediately escalating)"But! But! But you said (something I didn't say)! You said (something different I didn't say)! Wait. No. You said (a third thing I didn't say)! SEE! LOOK WHAT YOU DID!!!! NOW I'M CONFUSED AND YOU!!!!!! WON'T!!!!! TELL ME! AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!"

By this time I was in the middle of giving Peanut a shower, so I told Princess that she seemed to need some extra Mommy Time, so to go ahead and get on her pajamas and brush her teeth. Which she did not do as she preferred screaming "I'm not going to bed" at the top of her lungs, and throwing over a shelf full of toys.

I laid down with her and sang to her and did all the Mommy Time stuff, and then I said (well, sang to the tune of Rock-a-Bye Baby, but no one really wants to hear that), "hey. I know you don't want to go to bed right now, and you're probably not tired. So when I tell you good-night, be sure to get out of bed, stomp your feet, and scream about not doing stuff you know I want you to do. And, you've got lots of time to pay me back tomorrow, so you should probably dump over shelves and throw the toys, too." No sarcasm. I knew she was going to do it, so I was simply letting her know I knew.

Only here's the thing: she didn't do it. There was moderate moaning after I left the room, but that was all. This is unprecedented. The times, they are a-changin.

Which means it's almost Peanut's turn again.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Princess is stuck. I am stuck. We're both knee-deep in some kind of unidentifiable yuck and cannot move. I can see the patterns. I can predict what's coming next with the ease of Houdini. The defiance and noncompliance and tantruming are so the same day to day that I am actually bored. But I can't. get. change.

So I'm tiptoeing back into the land of attachment parenting. When the girls were placed four years ago, I tried to hit the ground running, but attaching with a three-year-old who is not, as far as anyone knows, in a permanent placement is difficult. Maybe impossible. At any rate, Princess was not accepting any of it, and it felt wrong to spend hours holding her and babying her and fighting for eye-contact when all it seemed to do was cause MORE of what I didn't want. I gave up the formal aspects (although not the attitude), and figured I'd try again if/when the adoption ever got finalized.

Well, now it's been almost a year. And Princess is shooting out some strong signals that she might be ready to try again. Sure, the signals are wrapped in "don't come near me or I'll self-destruct," but they are there. Mary the Mom put up a timely synopsis of a Katherine Leslie seminar; I keep going back to that for refreshers. I shrunk up Princess's world. Took away privleges and responsibilities she's clearly not ready for: allowance, chores, free-choice time. Brought back the basics: making her choices (clothing, structure, etc.), lots and lots of Mommy Time. I keep her close. I have left her to her own devices for too long.

This morning, Princess came downstairs and handed me a box of cereal to pour for her. This is her normal routine, the one I have allowed for too long. Each morning the OTHER THREE children come find me, snuggle or hug me, and tell me good morning, and this morning the difference glared out at me. So I took the box and set it on the counter. I took her arms and put them around me. I said, "this is where you say, 'good morning, Mommy." And she said it. And she hugged me. And she smiled.

It's become clear to me over the past week that this is what she wants. She wants to connect, she just has absolutely no clue whatsoever how. Watching the other children for four years has had no effect. She just does not learn that way. Subtlety flies fifty feet over her head.

Yesterday she had a tantrum about cleaning up after a tantrum. Not a problem, honey. If you're not ready to put the storm window back up, then that's just telling me you need some extra mommy time at the soccer field. The playground is just too far away. Here's your book. Here's my arm to snuggle.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Red Jell-O! Red Jell-O!

Hot dog, it worked!
Well. More or less.

Several weeks ago a fit of crazy took me over, and I told Princess the only suitable debate topic between her and I was concerning the variety of Jell-O flavors. Since then, whenever I discern that she really doesn't care what we're arguing about as long as she and I are having an unpleasant verbal exchange, I begin to shout, "red Jell-O! Red Jell-O is the best!" Usually, this does a pretty darn good job of out-crazying her, and she slinks away.

Since spring break had no homework, I believe Princess forgot she wasn't using homework as grounds for fits anymore. So, tonight, no matter how I pulled apart, circled, drew out, or otherwise tried to help her, Princess insisted in misreading "moaned" as "mud, "monday," and "mudayeed," followed by an accusation fest of how I "wouldn't help her." It was painfully clear she had no desire whatsoever to read the word "moaned" in any capacity, so I did my Jell-O thing.

And she played!

In the tiniest, scowliest voice imaginable I heard,

"No. Green Jell-O is better."

I could not believe it. So we argued back and forth (I got pretty loud) about Jell-O for a bit, then Princess turned away. With the teensiest tiniest grin.

It would be super-cool if I could go on and on about how she regulated herself and had a lovely evening. Unfortunately, that would be fiction.

We just take what we can get around these parts.

A Little Slow on the Uptake

When I tucked Peanut in her sleeping bag in my room last night (why? you ask? Because her bedroom was occupied with a tantrum. About what? Why, coming in from outside, of course), she began to sob loudly. She said it was because she wanted to sleep in my bed with the Cuddle Bear. I reminded her that we tried that the night before, and it had not worked out very well, what with them talking and dancing on the bed until 9:00. I kissed her goodnight figuring it was a regular-kid-not-getting-what-she-wants kind of thing and went down stairs.

But the sobbing went on. And on. And on. And ON. Not letting up, not changing in tone, not getting softer. Something else was up. I went upstairs and laid down with her. Still no change. I let her go on for a while, figuring either she'd calm down or I'd have an inspiration, when I actually DID. Suddenly I Knew what the problem was. And I should have know it a heck of a lot earlier, I must say. I was distracted by Princess and blah blah blah blah blah and didn't predict it. So I said,

"You want to tell me about it, Peanut? If you say it out loud, you might feel better."
"Not that, Peanut. The other thing. The big one."

Silence. Crickets chirping.

"I think I know what it is. Do you want to say it, or do you want me to say it?"
"YOU say it!!!"
"Ok. You go back to school tomorrow. And Mrs. B. won't be there. And that is very sad and a little scary for you."

More crickets. Then the floodgates opened and the *real* stuff came pouring out. Then we talked about her loose tooth.


Sunday, April 11, 2010


I love having my children home. I really do. It takes a bit to adjust the schedule, and that's why one- and two- week breaks are challenging, but I love having them around me.


Spring break was a doozy. I will not hide it; it was. Everyone I knew was out of town at least part of the week, so I was left to my own devices. Josh had to attend a string of open houses this weekend, as well, and trust me, that did not help my morale. So yesterday I once again hit the Wall O' Depression. The night before Princess had yet another tantrum over something many would consider basic, such as using the toilet or putting on pajamas. I do not remember. I am too bored of the tantrums to collect enough energy to remember the boring details. This followed a day of tantruming each and every time she was asked to do something (like pick up a toy. Or wear clothes), so I was done. And resentful.

Josh is well-schooled in the Kerrie is About to Jump off the Roof curriculum, so he took Buddy and Princess (and Jorge) to his open houses. I'm not sure why, but it just made me more depressed, like she was willing to behave herself as long as she isn't with me.

(Well of course she is; it's not like I don't know that. I'm the one who would be "dangerous" to attach to, not Daddy, or teacher, or realitors. It's just, well, it gets a girl down sometimes, that's all.)

Anyway. I had an absolutely hideous attitude toward RAD last night. And, it definitely wasn't me, but I thought I heard someone (I don't know who) threaten to twist her head off if she screamed one more time about, I don't know, having to breathe? Shedding skin cells? I don't remember. But, of course, no one would expect me to remember because, like I said, it wasn't me.

Right around this point, Josh pulled me aside and said, "look. I'm going to give validity to one of your theories, so listen up." And he reminded me that exactly one year ago, three months before the adoption finalized, I had to talk him off the roof. Because he wanted to give up. I had remembered March was a possible traumaversery, but I had forgotten about April. April, when we got the phone call that reunification was not going to happen, that the girls would stop unsupervised, overnight visits and go back to having supervised two-hour visitation at the agency. April, when an already stressed, unwilling, and belligerent birth-mom pretty much gave up trying to even look like she was cooperating or bonding. April, when I had to stick very close to the agency during visitation, because I never knew when it would end prematurely. April, when we told the girls they would not see their birth mom again for a long, long time.


The good news is that April to July last year was FABULOUS with Princess.
The bad news is we're running out of months that do not have some kind of traumaversary.

This morning Princess began a tantrum about picking up the belongings that she used to trash her room during the tantrum the night before. Later, we sat down and I said, "Princess, you have a lot of tantrums about doing regular kid things like getting dressed and picking up and using the toilet. Other kids don't have them. What do you think is making YOU want to have them? There was lots of hemming and hawing and complaining about noise (we eventually ended up outside, where she complained about the cold). And a lot of fake answers. Clearly she either wasn't telling, or didn't know. So I said, "here's what I think it might be. I think you have tantrums because you don't want to have to be close to your family. But family time is important for you, so today when you have tantrums, I'm going to give you EXTRA family time. I'm going to scoop you up and hold you and sing baby songs to you. " And she gave me the opportunity to do just that roughly two seconds later when she and I went to update Josh. She started to jump up and down and scream, so I scooped her up, cooed in her ear as we went upstairs, and laid down with her on my bed. I can hold her in a way that is just tight enough to feel calming to her and keep her from piercing my eyeballs with her fingernails, and I sling my leg over hers, because she actually is flexible enough to kick my head from a prone position. It's true.

Later, when Josh took Peanut and Buddy to an open house (but not Princess), Princess followed me around the house scowling, stomping, and pounding the walls. That interested me, because she does not usually follow me around when she is in a mood. Suddenly I Realized, "she WANTS me to hold her." So I did. :) After the screaming subsided, the Cuddle Bear wandered in and asked what we were doing. I said I was holding Princess. The Cuddle Bear asked to be held, too. I snuggled the Cuddle Bear and said (to the Cuddle Bear, of course) that usually when Mommies and babies snuggle, it makes both of them feel good. But Princess didn't get snuggled enough when she was a baby, and so she didn't learn that it feels good. So Mommy snuggles Princess when Princess is upset so Princess can learn it feels good.

When I left the room Princess stayed. I marked it down as a score, because that meant she was relaxed. Then a few minutes later she walked up to me and said, "Mom, after I get enough money to buy my soccer ball (yes, in case you were wondering, that would be the SAME $14 soccer ball I mentioned in January), how much is a baby stroller?" And I said, "I'll be happy to find that out for you when you're earning an allowance again."

Oh well. You win part of it; you lose part of it.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Prescribing the Nonsense

I love prescribing the problem, especially for tantrums. I adore any win-win situation: even if your lovely daughter has the tantrum, you still win, because you told her to. The tricky part is that you really have to be on your toes, and you have to have a good idea when the storm is going to hit. Your radar must be well-maintained, and I'm afraid mine has been known to collect some dust.

I got it out and brushed it off the other day. I took the kids to a movie, and movies tend to be lose-lose concerning Princess. Movies are probably too intense for her, she doesn't cue me when she's disturbed, and the content likely whizzes past her. However, I can't very well take the other children and leave her with a babysitter, not unless she begs to be left behind, which she would never ever do. So.

On the way home from the movie, Princess was holding up ok. She almost always has a tantrum somewhere between 6:00 and 7:30, and I was pretty sure it was a given that night from the stimulation of the movie. But I struggled, because, well, what if she didn't? In the end, I decided to prescribe. As she was getting out of the Suburban I said, "when do you plan to have your fit tonight: before dinner or after?" She looked at me, then shrugged her shoulders and started to move on. I intercepted her and said again, "when do you plan on having your fit: before dinner or after?" "I don't know." "Well, let's hang out here together for a minute while you think, then."


"Ok. We'll plan on bedtime at 7:15. That way you'll have plenty of time to have your fit and be settled down by 8:00."

Right then, I knew it was the right choice, because a foul look passed over her face and she started fussing about having to go to bed first.

"Oh, did you change your mind? Before dinner then?"


"Honey, it doesn't matter to me when you have it; I just like to know ahead of time so we can plan to make it as comfortable for you as possible."


"Ok, then we'll just stick with after dinner. Not a problem."

She stomped inside and appeared at the table with said foul look, and ate dinner. When Josh started her bedtime instructions, she began to fuss about going to bed, and I called up to her,

"Right on time! How about that? Great planning, Princess!"

(Silence. For the rest of the night)

See? Win-win.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Uncovering My Stuff

Most of my stuff is stuff I'm well aware of. Yes. I know I hate to use the telephone; having to call an insurance company makes me break out in a cold sweat and I will procrastinate for months. Months! I will put it off until Josh threatens something more hideous, like leaving me home not alone for the weekend. Or hiding my mini Cadbury eggs.

Yes. I will actually have a bona fide panic attack while getting ready to leave on a trip. Even if there is no deadline whatsoever. Having to make a plane on time will make me go catatonic. Packing makes me cry.

Yes. I get very grouchy when presented with canned green beans and will refuse to set a good example for the children.

Yes. Preparing for the Christmas trip to Josh's parents' brings up PTSD type behaviors ever since The Nightmare Trip From Dante's Ninth Circle of Hell of 2008. Even though I love going.
Ok. So that was only one Christmas trip ago. But it was a doozy, let me tell you.

But this one, this one I didn't know was there.

Yesterday I spoke with a brand-spankin-new foster parent (yes, on the phone, no less). She had been placed with twin three-month-old drug-addicted preemie boys. The agency had wanted her to also take their 11-month-old brother. Because, you know, who cares about setting a foster family up to fail as long as all the baby siblings are together. Priorities. And it all came screaming back, flashing through my head late into the night, making me crabby with the kiddos.

* Holding a crying, needing-to-be fed newborn and being too stunned to prioritize feeding her over listening to the caseworker. A friend took her out of my arms without my even noticing

*Crying and kicking things out of my way to make a path from the kitchen to the living room because I had no time to unpack from the camping trip we had been on and the influx of stuff needed for three small girls

*Screaming "f*** you" at Josh across the yard, a word I've never used before or since

*Watching Princess bounce up and down at an intersection yelling "J's house J's house J's house," having no idea who J was. Finding out J is the birthmom, whom the girls called by her first name

*Driving as fast as possible to the therapist's appointment, praying the three-month-old I had no legal rights regarding would not be hit by the shoes and toys the three-year-old I had no legal rights regarding was throwing at my head

*Trying, TRYING to relax and have fun with formally-only-child Buddy during the girls' two-hour visits


*Picking up the girls early from a visit because the birthmom promised them they'd be home by Peanut's birthday

*Picking up the girls early from a visit because the Cuddle Bear had become so stressed and upset she would not allow herself to be fed

*Allowing three crying, screaming girls to be pried off me by the visit supervisor; wanting desperately to grab them and run away

*Two days from Easter. Knowing we'd only see them two more times before never seeing them again. The call from the caseworker telling us every lie had been exposed and termination proceedings would begin

*The management change at the agency. Changing from loving foster care to feeling completely unsupported and like there was no one I could trust. Keeping everything inside.

*The first investigation. The second investigation. The third investigation. The fourth investigation. Unbelievable stress; each one delaying adoption another six to twelve weeks.

The empty feeling in my heart the day after the adoption was finalized. The hole that fear had left.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Day 5 1/2: Yep, it Was Just for A Day

So. I wasn't even through my coffee yet when the Monopoly Jr. game exploded. Princess told Buddy he didn't have to help her pick it up because Peanut was going to play with her. Sadly, she did not run this by Peanut, who had no intentions of playing. Because it didn't work out the way she had planned, Princess changed the story to make it sound like everyone just left at clean-up time, leaving poor, downtrodden-upon, always-left-in-the-lurch Princess to pick up after them. Now how sad it that? Don't you feel really, really bad for her?

After she was faced with the facts of the scenerio (which she firmly denied), she stomped off to the laundry room to take her angst out on my dryer and small refrigerator, pe.e her pants, and yell at me to turn on the timer. This last part was especially confusing to me, as I had never mentioned anything about turning on the timer, just that she was welcome to stop beating up my laundry room when she felt like picking up the game sans the 'tude.

She eventually regulated and picked up the game. Granted, only after she tried to trick Peanut into having to help by inviting her to play the game again. A few minutes later, I found her and said,

"I wonder if you thought you'd have to be a family girl ALL the time. You don't. I don't expect you to be one today. You were a lot of fun to be around yesterday. That probably felt strange, and maybe a little scary. So, if you need to be not fun to be around today, I understand why. Feel free to only think of yourself and what you want."

I hate saying stuff like that, but she needs to know that I KNOW. That's she's not fooling me. That she's not getting all the family stuff without DOING any family stuff. It's bad for her, otherwise. It would feed into that scary, scary sense of entitlement she's got going on. I can love her. But that doesn't mean I get her makeup kit down every time she asks.

SB Day Five- The Real Princess Arrives

I REALLY don't understand. Maybe someone has a theory. When I feel like I know full well I am not doing the right thing, that's what gets results. I do not get it.

Monday, I did not really even consider myself Princess's mom. I took an emotional vacation. She was not allowed to ask me for ANYTHING. Nothing. I made her do stuff for me. And, she doesn't know where some of her toys are because she did not pick them up. Guess who does know where they are.

And yesterday, she was a complete and total delight. The first thing she said to me was, "who's making my decisions today?" Meaning: "are you my mom again?" And I replied, "you'll make some and I'll make some." Meaning: "yes, but privileges come with reciprocity." The second thing she said was, "can I rub your feet?"

This makes me wonder though. Is it a switch she can turn on and off, that she just happens to choose to keep off most of the time? Like, "whoa, I pushed mom waaaaay too far that time. Better turn it on for the day"? Or, she can be pleasant, but it takes a lot of energy and doesn't get her a trip to the toy store so she just saves it for when she really, really needs it? Maybe, though, she just REALLY is unaware of how her actions effect others. I think that may be the most likely possibility. I doubt she pays attention to her own feelings, much less other people's. She does want to attach, so maybe when it's pointed out blatantly to her she feels badly or realizes what she's been doing.

So, I think I need to do some backpedaling. Back to more of a business relationship, for one thing. Asking her to participate in a reciprocal relationship without constant coaching is not going to work. I'll go back to pointing out people's emotions and exaggerating facial expressions. I'm going to need to get more hands-on. I think I need to find a way to mutate.

Monday, April 5, 2010

SB Day Four- The Day the Mom Checked Out

To be thoroughly accurate, this all started to go down the latter half of Day Three. I had spent the vast majority of the day being available to help Princess work through her weaving loom project. A new medication wears off around 4:00, and I still haven't quite successfully managed this transition; I should have stopped the weaving loom project by 3:00. Four hours is too long to work on ANYTHING, anyway. So, around this time, her brain started to check out on her. I was trying to help her figure out what to do by having her read the direction to me and tell me what they meant. She began insisting on starting in the middle of the sentence, read one three-word phrase, and attempt to infer what to do next from that one phrase. Obviously, it was not working. When I asked her to show me the capital letter that would signify the beginning of the sentence and she pointed to a lower-case "b" in the middle, I decided to call it quits, even though I knew it would be too late. It was.

After she ripped up her directions and threw the project material all over the living room, I sent her to do 50 jumps on the trampoline followed by five minutes of strong-sitting. This activity usually does the trick to regulate her, but she would. not. do it. Nor would she do the activity one is required to do if one refuses to do the assigned activity (hang out in the laundry room and scream all you like). When it became painfully clear that she had no intention to jump and strong sit, EVER, I sent her to her room for a 45 minute rest, in the hopes that she would be strong enough to obey after.

No go.
Mean, mean, mean, mean, MEAN!

After two hours, she had finally taken the required 45 minutes of quiet. She came downstairs and asked if she could go outside.

Now, I cannot claim this next part falls within the lines of "therapeutic parenting." Unfortunately, I am not a machine. I am thinking, actually, that a machine would do a much better job. I may look into that.

I said, "I think you should find someone you HAVEN'T been mean to, and ask THEM for stuff."

Yeah, not that great, huh? And she said (in a very chipper voice, I might add):

"Oh! Well, I haven't been mean to Daddy! I can go ask him to give me stuff."

Yes. Yes, she did. I did not take it well. I did control my temper, but I also told her to leave the room. Enter tantrum #2.

When Josh came in from the barn, he took one look at me, stopped mid-sentence, and said, "what? What did she do." I told him I did not intend on being in the same room with her again that day, and he could decide which one of us he wanted to eat dinner with. So that turned out to be the end of Princess's day.

I was still unusually upset in the morning. I told her how I felt. I highly doubt it meant anything to her, but I had to tell her for me. I added that today she would not be asking me for anything. That would free up her time to think about what OTHER people might want from HER. We pretty much steered clear of each other the entire morning. I did not tell her to do ANYTHING. I flat out told her that I was off-duty and I wasn't going to insist she do anything but speak to the family respectfully. She still has not combed her hair. She still has not brushed her teeth. She still is not wearing her glasses. She has not picked up one single thing. She has not used the bathroom.

Anytime one of the other children did something family-like (picking up without being asked, hugging, bringing me flowers), I pointed out to no one in particular how good it feels when someone does something just because they know it will make you feel good. When the Cuddle Bear asked me to read one of her favorite books ("AHHHH! Spider!), I made sure to point out (again, to no one in particular) how the spider was trying to do things the family liked because she wanted to be a part of the family.

Then it happened. She asked for something. She asked to go outside, and I said, "today you're not asking me for stuff. Today you're doing stuff for me. You can rub my feet." She sat down and rubbed my feet (three minutes on the timer). A few minutes later I told her she could play outside. She asked me to get her bubbles down. Boom. "Today you're doing stuff for me. Here are my feet!" She started to whine. Then she stopped. Then she started to "rub" (I use the term loosely) my feet. With an extremely crabby look on her face.

Then her face relaxed. She started to talk to me. Just talk. She made eye contact. She talked about my feet. She smiled at me. I mentioned how good we both feel when she does something nice for me. The timer beeped. She went outside.

A minute later she came in. With a bouquet of daffodils. For me.

(So. That would have been a great ending, wouldn't have it? Short, snappy, positive, heartwarming. Well. Too bad.)

When I reminded Princess that Daddy told her she'd be taking a nap at 4:00, she went into an hour-long snit, complete with name-calling and details about how exactly she planned to go about not obeying me. Although, the bulk of it was about how I was lying because I hadn't set the timer. The detail that the timer wasn't started because she wasn't following the directions required to earn the starting of the timer was apparently lost. Then, after dinner she tried to use that she had given me flowers to get a treat that she had not earned. So.

But the good news is that this morning she asked to rub my feet. And when Peanut asked what she was doing and I said, "showing me love," Peanut gave me a, "well, she's sure not going to get a leg up on ME" grimace, and she rubbed my feet, too. So I am now far less desperate-feeling than I was an hour ago.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Why I Wouldn't Have the Nerve to Divorce My Husband, Even if I Wasn't Crazy in Love With Him

This is why:

Or, more specifically, this:

Josh and I speak two different versions of the same language. Something about this allows him to communicate with Princess fairly fluently, while I feel like I am speaking to a potato. Or like I'm listening as well as a potato. Half the time, she may have as well resurrected Latin, for all I can get out of it, but Josh, he'll say, "oh, she means blah blah blah blah blah, and he'll be right.

Josh is also very, very gifted at communicating with people for whom English is a second language. I think it's connected. I brought this phenomenon up with Dr. S, and she suggested that Josh is likely hyper-aware of non-verbals, while I focus heavily on what is actually said. This has it's advantages, but not with Princess and her language processing issues. Dr. S, in fact, even suggested I try to do most of my communication with Princess using a modified sign language. This is really, really challenging for me in a way I can't even explain, but I have managed to use more hand gestures, especially when I'm starting to feel frustrated. The one Dr. S gave me for "b***s***" has proved exceedingly useful.

So, back to the photos. Princess received a weaving loom for her birthday. I had put it on her wish list because she had gotten very good at the pot holder loom, and I thought she could handle a step up. But this one involves knot-tying. She can tie her shoes, so it didn't occur to me this would be difficult, but she had a very hard time tying a knot using ONE piece of yarn. I sat down with her for a half hour trying until my blood vessels almost burst to teach her to tie a knot. I'd walk her through each step, she'd follow my directions to the letter, and then stare at the next one blankly with no idea what to do. Thirty times. I kid you not. I finally (gently) told her that I didn't think I could teach her how to tie a knot, and suggested that maybe she'd learn by trying different things.

And she DID try. She tried hard. But she kept doing it the SAME wrong way. Each and every time. So I had an inspiration. I called in the backup.

I explained what was going on and specified that I wanted her to learn to do it (rather than simply follow the directions, without retaining the knowledge). And darn it all, he did it. In like, five minutes. He got her to understand how to tie a knot.

I don't know how to feel about this. I am so breathtakingly THANKFUL that not only is the man I promised to spend the rest of my life with hot, but he can do the things I can't. But I also want to kick things. Hard. Because it's not fair, of course.

So, you see, I could never leave him.

Not that I'd want to. He's hot.

Happy Easter Y'all

My babies in their Easter finery. Most of them, anyway. Buddy did not participate in the Easter dress-up this year. He was tired with a headache and I did not care to fight with him over a shirt with buttons. The problem, you ask? I had "teased" him about the shirt. What did I say?

"You will look so handsome with your beautiful sisters."

Yep. I will note for the future that the word "handsome" constitutes teasing punishable by not wearing said article of clothing for the Mommy.

The real problem, I think, is that the shirt is pink. Buddy likes pink, but only secretly. I thought he'd like to wear the color in a socially acceptable to him manner. No go. I tried to point out it was a BOY's shirt, so a BOY would wear it. Too much social risk for an 8-year-old, I guess. And there. I gave away one of his secrets. Good thing I don't use his real name.

We attended church last night because our church is large and kind of a destination for Easter only visitors. We kept the children in the service with us. Peanut kept occupied by sitting on my lap and continually attempting to make my somewhat-low-necked dress more modest. It did get a little uncomfortable having my dress pulled constantly up to my chin, I have to admit.

Quiet morning with Easter baskets. No one but Peanut here does the Easter Bunny, but I just LIKE Easter baskets. So I do them. I suspect the reason the Easter Bunny brings Peanut's is so she does not have to say thank-you to a person. But that's not confirmed.

Ham later. Because, you know. It's ham.

Have a restful and thoughtful day.

Friday, April 2, 2010

SB- Day Two or The Toileting Beginneth

This morning I came down after my deliciously late shower, and the first thing I saw was Princess standing and watching tv while jiggling her leg. Well. No time like the present.

On every hour on the dot today, I sent her to the bathroom to sit for five minutes. The first time, I glanced in and, yes indeedy, she was sitting on the toilet.

With the seat down.

And her pants up.

So I reframed. "Um. Princess. I'm sorry I did not make myself clear. I meant you should sit on the toilet AS IF YOU WERE GOING TO USE IT. Because, you know, that's what the toilet is in here for."


But, I will say, she did use it every time I told her to without complaint or grouch. And she drank a small glass of water after, also without complaint or grouch. We spent the day at a friends house (with her neighbors and their children), and she only almost lost it once. She was pleasant all day with an episode at 4:00. And

(wait for it)

Just before 6:00 she said, "Mom, I'm going to use the toilet now. 'K?"

I'll wait a minute for you to pick yourself up off the floor.

THEN! Bedtime. Before dinner I told her I wanted to let her know ahead of time that her bedtime would be 7:30. Because I know how upsetting it is for her when she thinks she's going to bed early, so this way she would be able to watch the clock. Also, 7:30 would leave plenty of time for her to have her fit and be settled down by 8:00.

And you know what?

She got ready for bed.
She let me read her a story.
She let me pray with her.
She let me sing her a song.

I took a few books up with me to tuck her in. I said, "there's still plenty of time for you to have your fit. But if you're not up to it tonight, here are some books to read."

She let me hug her.
She let me kiss her.
She let me tell her I love her.


Spring Break, Day One-Half

School dismissed at noon and the children descended like a plague of locusts. I fed them, and we headed off to Crazy Bounce to meet a friend and her children. Crazy Bounce turned out to be better than my wildest dreams. A h-Uge room filled with ginormous inflatable slides and bouncy things. Clean. No music. No flashing lights. An OT dream: walls to throw yourself into, super-fast slides, a bungy cord to pull against and go flying backwards. Narrow tunnels to get squished in. Padded sticks and balls to get hit with. Amazing. Buddy, Peanut, the Cuddle Bear and their friends tore back and forth throughout the building with looks of nothing but sheer joy on their faces; it was a pleasure to watch.

Within five minutes I started to realize the one I had not seen tear past was Princess. I started to watch for her. Five minutes later my friend and I started to look for her. Two turns around the place and we still did not see her. Her shoes were still there, so I knew she had not left. She's not a wanderer-off-on-her-own, and even if she did she would have worn her shoes. That's just not her. I was reasonably sure she had not been taken, because, well, God help the soul who tries to take her somewhere against her will, especially if it is a male soul. So she was there. Somewhere. The catch was that I could not figure out exactly where.

I was roughly three seconds away from panic mode when a woman said, "are you looking for a little girl? My son said there's one in the obstacle course." Sure enough; there was Princess. The obstacle course was set up so a child would jump through a hole, climb a wall, slide down, and crawl through a small, squishy space. I don't know if Princess didn't realize she could squish through the space, or if she just didn't want to, but she had spent about ten minutes trying to climb up a steep, slippery slide with no handles in socks. Over. And over. And over. Without trying anything new. And, without asking for help. I sent Buddy and Peanut in to guide her through. She never once acted distressed.

A few minutes later she disappeared again, and I found her in a small adjacent area staring at the video games. Just staring. I told her we were there to play, not to watch video games, and led her back into the play area. For the next thirty minutes, she continually tried to sneak back out. And she snuck in increasingly sneaky and out-of-character ways. At one point she injected herself in the middle of a pack of older grade-school boys who were headed toward the game area. I started to feel alarmed (and still do, really) without really knowing why, because that is SO not like her. Typically, she will not choose to be around men or boys, especially ones that are total strangers. Finally, I told her if she went out there again, she would be sitting with me. So, she found a place within my boundaries where she could stand stock still and stare at the video games.

I haven't figured out what was going on in her head yet. I do not understand why she did not have fun there. She should have. It was pretty much tailor-made for a sensory-disordered kid. I don't get it. And, I feel sad for her and disappointed. My only guess is that getting stuck in the obstacle course either freaked her out or made her feel like a failure. Either are pretty likely, and her letting anyone in on her feelings is certainly not a given.

I am so bone-tired of not knowing how to help her. I can't get into her head. She can't or won't communicate what's in there. She should have had fun, and she didn't, and I couldn't help.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

It is What it is

We missed the bus. And that extra 10 minutes of me driving to school is the reason I cannot get my stomach unclenched. My stomach is clenched, not from Princess describing the system the substitute uses to help the kids manage bathroom requests, but from keeping myself from screaming, "BUT YOU DON'T USE @#$%^ $#@#%$$^@ &%$^ %**%$^ TOILETS!!!!!!" while banging my head on the steering wheel. It was not easy.

If, when I was 12, you had told me I would someday achieve this level of self-control, I would have knelt down on the floor and cried out of thankfulness and relief. I did very well in school, but I never got higher than a "needs improvement" in the Self-Control grade box. But my 12-year-old self has no idea what that achievement will take to gain. No. Idea.

I cannot be the parent I want to be with Princess. I'm not exactly complaining here; I am blessed with three children with whom I DO get to be the parent I want to be. Well. Two and a half. Maybe two and three-quarters these days. But you always want it all, right? And I am SO SAD that the relationship I want to have with her is not, at this moment, possible. Someday, hopefully, but she's not six anymore, and I'll never get that back.

Instead, I have to be the parent she needs. This means I keep my yapper shut most of the time. This means I always, always stop two beats to think about what I'm going to say. This means when I do speak, I speak in five-word sentences. And this means that when I speak to her in five-word sentences and she starts to fuss loudly at the third word because it has become clear to her that the sentence is not going to be either, "would you like more candy?" or "let's go buy a new toy," I must turn and walk away. The things I want to do with her she is not emotionally ready to do. I have to do what she needs, not what I want. And I only want what every mommy wants. So it is so. very. hard.

I am so sad for her and for what she's missing. And for what I'm missing. But I love her. I want this stuff to get easier for her. I spend perhaps 75% of my time and energy for parenting ALL the kids on advocating and arranging for her. I fail at giving her what she needs every single day.

And all I can do is keep going.