"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, August 27, 2010

I Have No Fear of Drowning, it's the Breathing That's Taking All This Work

-Jars of Clay

We're buying a house today.

There's a hole in Princess's newish medication regime. It starts to wear off at about 1:30 and I can't give her the next one until 4:00, which allows an awful lot of time for Anxiety to rear her ugly head and tear up the house and her host's mother. Dr. D is only in the office Monday and Tuesday. I missed his call Tuesday.

Sunday was one of the worst in the recent past. Princess began raging at 2:00 and didn't stop until 7:00. I wasn't even able to give her the 4:00 dose, because, even if she had been willing to take it, there's no way I would have made it to the kitchen and back with everybody (and me) still safe. She's getting very hard to restrain. She's very strong, very sweaty, and very very anxious. I was hit (open and closed hand), kicked, bit once, and pinched repeatedly. Five days later my arms are still covered in bruises. My face was red and swollen. And for the entire five hours, she threatened to call the police to tell them I hurt her.

I mention these details, because when I e-mailed Dr. S in fear and desperation she said that either Dr. D needs to change her medication or she needs to be admitted.


And, she told me that it is imperative I tell Dr. D exactly what she does, because I tone down her rages when I tell people about them.

I do?

I must, because my husband is doing my doctor's refinancing. He happened to be meeting with her that evening, and the subject of possible inpatient surfaced. And they both said the same thing about be. They feel I downplay her behavior because I want to be seen as a good mom.

Which is true. But. It's not the whole truth.

The truth is fear. The only time I trusted someone with this information did not work out well. Our caseworker (and I am not defaming her: she was wonderful, and I understand this incident had more to do with someone above her) frequently told us she was "here to be a sounding board for venting." So, when Princess began screaming from the time she stepped off the bus until the time she got back on, from November to January, we asked for some help.

Wanna guess what kind of help we got?

We got an investigation. Not that it was called an investigation. Princess was required to see an outside therapist, and it was presented to me as "round-table discussion, to see if there's anything Dr. S has overlooked. Maybe she'll have some new ideas for you!" Right. The only "new idea" in her report was: "I cannot substantiate abuse in this family."

It delayed our adoption six months.

Additionally, I don't know anyone in real life who lives with this. I'm lucky enough to know a handful of people whose children were almost as challenging in other ways, and some parents of blended families, and to have a therapist for my children who has seen a lot of it. But no one who lives RAD and PTSD. Which means I hear a lot of this:

"Oh. Well. I'm just so surprised. She never acts that way when I'm with her."


"It's just so strange she only does that at home. Why does she only do it at home?"

I test the waters with people, and when I hear one of those (which is almost always), I don't share everything. How can I? I don't feel safe.

This does NOT mean I do not have a supportive network of friends and family. Do not misunderstand. I think these people are EXTRA wonderful, in fact, because they don't understand. They quite likely do think I am legitimately insane, and they love me anyway. Some of you are reading. I love you. I am very very lucky.

So: a recap: I was basically physically abused by a seven-year-old Sunday.

And now she is on her fifth perfect day.

This is the part that completely stumps me. I understand the raging. I understand anxiety getting so overwhelming that it has to explode out of every pore. I understand having to take out all her anger and fear on me. I understand the move is overwhelming and likely laden with triggers from her pre-three life.

I don't understand how she can follow it up with five days with not one tantrum. With sharing feelings, feelings for pete's sake about the move. And with this:

She had an ice cream cone last night, and she likes to eat them outside. She was riding a bike while eating an ice cream cone, and Buddy mentioned she should be careful because her ice cream was probably going to fall off. She kept riding. It fell off. She made the sort of sounds a three-year-old would make upon losing an ice cream cone. And the fact that Buddy warned her? Well. Let's just say she does not like to be wrong. I thought, well, here we go. She came in and demanded more ice cream. I apologetically said no and empathized with her disappointment. She went into her demanding/why? pattern. I thought well, here we go.

She recovered.

I waited. I waited for the shoe to drop about something else. It didn't. I grabbed some Skittles, handed them to her, said, "good job handling that disappointment," and walked out.

The weekend's coming. She's never made it more than five days in a row. And the longer she goes, the rougher the rages. They are painful to anticipate.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Patinaed Dreams

I rarely remember dreams. I think it's because my brain is overactive and doesn't need any extra exercise. My brain is lean and muscle-tight. And exhausted. So it usually goes right to sleep like a good girl.

Last week I had a startling-clear, remember-every-detail, continue-to-bother-you-for-a-week, why-exactly-did-I-dream-in-copper-green-patina, WHAT-THE-HECK-DID-THAT-MEAN? kind of dream.

But, of course, I know what it means.

I was in the car with my dad; he was driving (my dad always drives in my dreams. What frightening things would Freud say about that?). We turned a corner onto a private road leading up to a house (do you see where this is going?). Only, the road was not even as wide as the car and held up on impossibly tall stilts over a bottomless black hole. Dad turned another corner, and the car tipped off the road. We went down. Down. Down.

And I leaned back in my seat and smiled and open-mouth smile of pure joy. I was so. Happy.

So, am I highly disturbed that I dreamed about being ecstatic that my life was ending? Yep. But not exactly surprised. Princess has been taking the move HARD. Well, that's not exactly accurate. Princess is not dealing with the move cognitively. She is dealing with the move by beating the sh*t out of me and her room and any belonging of someone else. She is dealing with the move by screaming that I don't take care of her because taking care of someone means you give them what they want and that she's going to call the police to tell them I'm hurting her and that I'm not treating her the way I want to be treated. For five hours at a stretch. She is dealing with the move by pulling a smack-down on any sibling who says or does something she doesn't like. Such as breathe too loud.

And then, after a week-plus straight, had a perfectly lucid day, complete with a perfectly lucid expression of her insides: "Mom? I'm happy and sad about moving. I'm sad because I'll miss S and L and I like this house, but I'm happy because I'll have my own room and I don't know what else, but after I get used to it I might even like the new house more."

What was THAT??? I would understand if she was always a "regular kid." I would understand if she was always a combative beast who hates my guts and everything holding them inside me. But I don't get how she can claw, bite, hit, pinch, kick, destroy, and spew hate for days on end, then WHAM!!! pull out the normal kid that in there somewhere under a pile of fallen boxes. What is it???

We'll own the house Friday. We'll move in next weekend. And then school will start. In the meantime, I'll just go ahead and fall down my crevice with a giant ridiculous smile on my face.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Please Stay Tuned

No. I have not died. I have not quit writing. I have not even run away.

I am packing. And dealing with a RADling dealing with me packing.

For a sneak peak into Moving With A RADlet, I refer you to Christine and her musical talent.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Good, the Bad, and the Really Ugly

Good #1: Awana-based Soccer Camp. I LOVE YOU, AWANA-BASED SOCCER CAMP!!! You are my best friend. You have taken three of my children for four hours each day of the last five days. You have preserved my sanity. You have made it possible for me to continue on. You have even lied about enjoying having them there. I. Love. You.

Good #2: Princess and Peanut got lip glosses after therapy, and Princess's was in the shape of a cell phone. She left it in the same room with Peanut for a few minutes, and Peanut (accidentally but she shouldn't have been touching it) broke the clip. Princess was mad, but stayed reasonably calm and asked me to fix it. I looked at it, but told her that plastic can't be fixed once it breaks. Then she yelled at Peanut to fix it and stuffed it into Peanut's hands. Peanut fumbled it, and it shattered. Princess started yelling at Peanut; I pulled her over and reminded her gently that I had told her it couldn't be fixed, and she tried to make Peanut fix it anyway. It took a couple repeats, and then she stood back and cried. No lunging. No verbal threats. Cried. So I pulled her on my lap and empathized a tiny bit. She wanted Peanut to pay to replace her lip gloss. Normally that's how it would work, except Princess is in deep debt to EVERYONE for breaking their stuff. I told her I couldn't make Peanut replace it for breaking it on accident because Princess has broken so many of her things on purpose. Again with the repetition, but she accepted it. She did! I told her that it was hard but she did it, and tossed her a handful of Skittles.

Good #3: The house purchase is rolling along, we quite possible have already found renters, and I have thus far been able to talk myself off the anxiety-attack roof by reminding myself that moving into a fabulous house at a fabulous price is not a good reason to waste a perfectly good anxiety attack.

The Bad is, of course, related to the Good. The Bad is that, while Peanut seems to be ok with moving into a new house, she is not ok with someone else moving into this one. Josh wanted the kids and I to meet the perspective renters (no matter how fervently I tried to talk him out of it), and for an hour before they came until and hour after they left she became a whirling dervish wearing an invisible Darth Vadar mask that gave her a Darth Vadar voice at three times any sound level previously noted on this earth. She knocked over people. She knocked over bikes. She knocked over herself. She moved at the speed of a bullet train, keeping up the LOUD!LOUD!LOUD! with unquenchable energy. Today she told me she didn't want to move because this house is bigger (it's not) and more toys fit in it (they don't). I said, I know.

The Ugly. Princess is perfectly fine with people moving into our house. She's just through the roof about living in a different house herself. So last night she spent from 8:00-10:00 screaming about bug bites. I gave her the itch medicine to put on before bed. Then she washed it off. Then she screamed. Then she got out of bed to tell me she needed medicine. Over. And over. And over. At 10:00 she switched to I'm Scared and I Need All the Lights on So I Can Play Instead of Sleeping and Oh I Want the Cuddle Bear to Play With Me, Too. Which did not fly. I tried everything, and nothing worked. Finally I threw on my swim suit, pulled off her clothes, and got in the shower with her. We stayed there while she moved from screaming to fussing to moaning to telling me she was going to have the light on and read books to finally acquiescing to staying in bed, quiet, with the radio on. It was 11:00.

The thing is, she probably was scared, though even she probably doesn't know of what, because she had worked herself up to the point of delirium. Regardless. This is the third night in a row she has experimented with some form of "I can't sleep" and stayed awake until 10:00 or later. This child, that until now has needed 12-14 hours of sleep. What I don't know is if she really can't sleep, or if this is just a new thing for attention and to drive me out of my mind.

So this afternoon she'll get "ready for bed" and be graciously granted a chance to redo last night's bedtime. I'll start up Ye Olde Six Mg of Melatonin again tonight and see if it gives me enough peace to unknot my intestines.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

So Roll Out the Red Carpet

Rachel at Select All + Delete shot me an award. So here are seven things about myself, whether you wanted to know them or not:

1. I have an irrational fear of birds. I won't even go in the poultry barn at the fair anymore; there's a turkey in there that has it out for me.

2. I can't understand language before my first cup of coffee. No, I am serious.

3. I like doing laundry.

4. I get really, really, upset when the boxes the kids' things come in get ripped up.

5. I cannot have Toaster Strudel or Little Debbie products in the house because their voices call sweetly to me until I have eaten the whole box.

6. I like the kids' Bandz bracelets more than they do.

7. I eat chocolate syrup with nothing under it.

Passing it on to:

Bridges. Because she really is awesome, and not just because she's my cousin. Although there's no shame in having a great set of genes. Go read her.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Benign Neglect

Until maybe this year, I've identified "gardening" as a hobby (or interest, because people with four kids don't have hobbies). I thought I liked it, but was just really, really bad at it. Recently, though, it occurred to me that I don't like gardening...I like pulling weeds. It's really satisfying after one didn't do all the things one wanted to do when one's daughter tells one that one is not "treating her like (one) wants to be treated." One can do all those things to the weeds instead. But even the weeds get overwhelming after a while, and usually by July I've left the garden to fend for itself.

You'd be surprised what shows up in a garden that's not being actively taken care of.

The last two weeks have stunk. It's hot. It's so humid I can barely breathe. Josh is really busy at work, and we've both been working whenever possible to get the rental ready. The kids fight and gripe constantly. Princess has been off the charts. So, after an enlightening conversation about my psycho controlling intense and hand-on personality, I backed off.

I pretty much did not parent today.

Well, not really- I helped Buddy get ready for his camping trip and took the kids to and from soccer camp and warmed a can of soup fed them lunch and took them to swim and cooked dinner. But other than that, I laid sprawled out on the sofa with my dorky math puzzles (say what you will- they relax me) and ignored the children. If they came to tattle, I said, "oh. Would you like to play next to me?" and they'd leave. They played outside. I said nothing. They fought. I said nothing. They did gymnastics on the stairs. I said nothing while wondering if a trip to the ER would be worth the parenting vacation. And you know what?

They were fine.

Better even. They worked their crap out on their own. They asked me to play a game and they did. I went and got some cherry tomatoes from the neglected garden and shared them.

And now I can breathe through the humidity.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Random Conversations and a Neurotypical Break*

Princess: Mom, are we going to be in a parade?
Mom: Yes.
Princess: That's weird! I didn't know we were going to be in a parade!
Mom: That's weird! Because usually you listen to any conversation I have with anyone!
Princess: (goes inside and comes out with ankle-skip-rope-thing)
Mom: Please put that back where you found it.
Princess: Why?
Mom: So I know where it is tomorrow morning when I need it.
Princess: But I wanted to practice.
Mom: You couldn't have wanted to practice, because if you didn't know you were going to be in a parade, you couldn't possibly know that's what you were to do in it. GAH!

Peanut: Dear Jesus. Thank you that Mom is so funny. And help Daddy get the rental finished. Amen.

Princess: I miss school.
Mom: Oh? What do you miss most?
Princess: Homework, and reading, and free time in art.
Mom: Hmmm. I don't think so. You refused to do your homework, you pretended you didn't know how to read, and "free time" in art is the same as "markers and paper" at home.
Princess: Oh yeah. I miss clay.

Buddy was invited to go the the big family-reunion-camp our neighbor has every year. They take over the campground, have tons of organized activities, ride bikes and go to the beach, and have an RV. So, basically, Buddy's vision of heaven. He is thrilled, and I am thrilled for him because he really needs to go. For the first year, Josh and I kind of wish we had looked into overnight camp for him. He's been very tolerant of Princess's behaviors until now, but now he's starting to wear real thin. He's at that stage in child development where rules and norms are very important, and I think he knows Princess's social behavior will not fly and, maybe, could be embarrassing for him at school. And for everyone, tantrums get more annoying as the person having them gets older. So he needs to get out. Be part of a pack of boys. Roam freely (within the campground confine and in a helmet, of course). Get sticky and filthy.

I'm happy for him. And sad for me. Because I'll be home with three jealous girls. Which brings me to the last random conversation:

Buddy: I'll tell the girls to be nice to you before I leave, Mom.
Mom: No need, but thanks.
Buddy: (evil grin) Or.......you could give them to Mrs. E for the weekend!
Mom and Buddy: Mwa ha ha ha HAAAAAAA!

So see. My son and I can laugh evilly identically. I have passed on something of value.

*A regular person doing regular things with other regular people, lacking vigilance in regards to: screaming, kicking, throwing, biting, scratching, pinching, pe.eing, lying, stealing, hoarding, faking, triangulating, and manipulation in general.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Is it "Two Steps Forward and One Step Back, " or "One Step Forward and Two Steps Back," Because I'd Really Like to Know if I'm Gaining Ground or Losing it, Here

Everything I gained this summer in the pe.e department has been flushed down the toilet. As a figure of speech.  I went into the laundry room to start a load, and there were the shorts Princess didn't change out of at bedtime last night, the shorts that had been sitting on my sofa until I told Princess to go to the bathroom and put on clean clothes. Lately she's been pe.eing her pants so she can throw them at me when she's mad, but this; this is more like it used to be.

At least they were in the laundry room, where pe.e clothes are supposed to be deposited. I guess I haven't lost everything. Yet.

So I'll have to get out the waterproof mat again. And I'll have to make her sit on it, even when we have company. And I'll have to boot her off the sofa and carpeting when she doesn't. Again.

I suppose it's because of the impending move. But does it even matter? If it weren't the move, it would be school starting next month. Or a camping trip. Or Vacation Bible School. Or being out of peaches. It's. Always. Something.

This is me. Tired. Near the end of a difficult summer. Ack.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Dipping My Toes in Lake Respite

So the "tomorrow." On the "tomorrow," we had plans to get together with friends. Every last one of my nerves assigned to Riding in the Car With Four Young Children was frazzled and raw. Before we left I said to Princess:

"We are going to drive to L's house. I expect you to ride safely, not screaming or hitting. If you refuse to ride that way, you will not come with us to the next fun family activity."

Well, you know what happened, don't you?

Half-way there, Princess beat the heck out of Peanut with the seat belt buckle. So I had the additional joy of standing in someone's front yard on a busy road while Princess screamed, kicked my shins, and tried to run away.

I never said anything else about it.

I provide unofficial respite one day a week for a foster parent. She is....unique. I cannot imagine anyone telling her what to do, ever. I've had to put up firm boundaries with her about when, where, and for how long I'll care for the babies. But, slowly, something about her personality dawned on me: with some training, she would be and excellent respite provider, at least, for what I'd be looking for. Once, I was describing an issue with Princess and she said, "send her to me," and I thought, "hmmm."

So I called her and booked her for yesterday evening. The night of our traditional Dollar Ride Night at the Gladiola-Peach Festival.

(Yes. It is as glamorous as it sounds. Shut up.)

I wrote her a note telling her exactly what I wanted Princess to do and not do, and I knew she would follow it and not give in or be fooled. I packed a bag for Princess with work gloves, books on her reading level and a bottle of water. Princess did not say one. word. on the drive there. She did not say one. word. when we walked in the house. And, reportedly, she did not say one. word. the entire time she was there. She pulled weeds from the landscaping. She read her books aloud. She drank water. That's it. Exactly as I had planned.

Her eyes were HUGE when I said good-bye. I told her I wanted her to know that I would much rather have her with us. I wanted her with me and I wanted her to act safely in the car. I wanted both. And I love her and would pick her up before bedtime.

And the foster parent graciously clinched it as I walked out the door with, "bye! Have fun with your family!"

Not having her with us. It was such a strange feeling. No one stomped their feet about going first. No one crossed their arms and scowled when someone else's choice came before theirs. But nothing felt quite right. It wasn't our family.

I didn't expect this to be a cure-all. It was to make a point, to give us all a break from the chaos. But I expected a bat-out-of-Toledo explosion today, and it hasn't happened.* Princess has been hovering around me all morning. She's complied with directions. There's been very little friction. And right now, she is playing with princess figures on the steps....by herself. So the respite seems to have had the effect I intended.

And almost like a parting gift, as we left the foster parent said, "she walks just like you." I turned, a slow smile on my face. "She does? I didn't know that."

"Yes. I couldn't believe it when I saw it. You'd never know you weren't her first mom. She walks exactly like you do."

Thank you.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Healing and Not So Much

The last few days have been......not nice. Was it the out-of-town trip without Daddy? Is it the boxes full off stuff ready to (hopefully) go to our new house next month? Should I just be thankful Princess is not pe.eing on actual things?

I wish I knew.

The worst part is the car. She knows. She knows that pounding Peanut in the car (and then pounding me outside the car in someone's front yard our shoulder of the highway) is my absolute numero uno biggest button to push. She knows. I know it, too. What I don't know is how to make it NOT my absolute numero uno biggest button to push, because, in my opinion anyway, keeping Peanut from being hit with a seat belt buckle is, I don't know, important? And our family not being held hostage by a four-foot-tall bundle of rage? Also important. So button it is.

Two days ago, we got the Double Whammy. Princess was showing Josh a flashlight I bought her at the zoo. I was feeling reeeeealy depleted and hadn't sewn my mouth shut yet, so I interjected, "yes. Because I'm mean. And that's what mean moms do. They buy their daughters flashlights at the zoo." And Josh said, "wow. That IS mean. No wonder you called her mean today." And Princess said:

"But she didn't buy it for me today!"

I lost my rocks and stomped away from the table, refusing to eat with Princess in the room (I know; not my shining Therapeutic Moment). So Josh told Princess she had to wait to finish dinner until I was finished.

And then she lost her rocks.

Somewhere in there, Peanut decided she needed to clear the air with a rage at the same time. Josh decided to put them in their room together, to enjoy and savor one another's noise. After a while (a looooong while), things quieted and I began to hear the sounds of weepy conversation. So we did what any red-blooded parents would do. We snuck upstairs and listened.

The levels they're healing at are so telling when they're together. Princess was still very very angry. At us, of course. Because, you know, everything is our fault. In the World According to Princess, none of her actions are her responsibility. Daddy and I should be very very careful and watch our step lest we make her mad or hurt her feelings, because if we do, apparently it's ok to break everything in the house including her drywall and pe.e her pants and throw them at us. Cause it's our fault. Anyway. Princess was still yelling about how we "don't take care of her and she's just a little giiiiiiiiiiirl," and about how everything is our fault and all the things she's going to do to us when she gets out of her room. Peanut, on the other hand, had moved on and was doing more of a whining, feeling-sorry-for-herself deal. Plus she was a lot funnier. She suggested she and Princess pretend they were sick because they'd get popsicles (fatal flaw: you can't fake being sick enough to get popsicles), and suggested they chase me around with a fly swatter. But the real snorter was when she told Princess that Daddy was had "such a baby brain that he doesn't even know how to log us into Websmutz." I had to run away as to not blow our cover.

Right about then I needed to get the Cuddle Bears pajamas. When I walked in Peanut told me she has something to tell me. In another mature moment, I said, "oh, I've already heard what you have to tell me. You think I don't take care of you, that I don't love you, that I have a baby brain, and that you will hit me with a fly swatter.

She laid down on her bed and sobbed.

So I took her out. This sent Princess into a rage I have not seen before. She was completely irate at the "unfairness" of Peanut being allowed out. No matter that Peanut was making different choices. No matter. I brought Peanut into my room, and she started taking off her bracelets. She kept telling me I should take them back and she shouldn't have them because she was bad. Hello, shame. I hate you. I told her I gave them to her because I love her and because she behaved safely in the car, and that it made me feel good to see her wear them. And then we had an amazing conversation.

Peanut has had such an impressive year. She has just bloomed. Of course she has setbacks- we process them and move on. I have been so excited by her healing and progress that I don't think I've ever taken into account how frustrating it is for her. Out of what seemed like nowhere, she wailed, "I have to tell you something! I whispered to Princess that you do take care of us and you do love us! And Buddy and the Cuddle Bear NEVER make mistakes and I ALWAYS do!" and she threw herself down on the bed and sobbed. My heart broke.

"Peanut? Peanut? Do you know why it's easier for Buddy and the Cuddle Bear to do the right things?"
"Peanut, Buddy did not lose his first mom. His heart has never gotten hurt. And the Cuddle Bear? She was a baby. Her heart hurts too, but not like yours does. You have worked so hard. You try so hard. And most of the time now? You do the right thing. You used to make choices that hurt a lot. Now you hardly do at all. And you're only going to get better at it. Your heart is going to get stronger and stronger.

But Princess's heart? It's hurt more than yours. Some of her heart got hurt because she was protecting yours. It's even harder for her to make healthy choices. So when you're deciding if you should act the same way as Princess, listen to your heart first. Because your heart...it will tell you the right thing."

I snuggled with her. And she went to sleep.

And Princess. It was very different. Same stuff underneath, same sucky shame, but she's keeping hers. It's good and buried, locked safe in a box so it can't get out.

I sat in front her her bed, with her in the "power position." And just sat. Said nothing. She immediately tried to bolt, and I guided her gently back the where she was sitting. When I could see that she was regulated enough to comply with at least that, I said, muy muy softly,

"Are you treating others the way you want to be treated?"
"Are YOU treating others the way you want to be treated?"
(repeat x3. Or x6. Or x 84,642)
"Are you treating others the way you want to be treated?"

So I put my arm around her. She actually collapsed into me and (I think but am not positive) cried. And I told her today was done; she could start over tomorrow. And I tucked her in.

And "tomorrow" was absolutely not better. Not even one bit. Does it matter?

Wish I knew.