"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."

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My heart is full.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Two Legs in One Leg Hole

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think I'm going to like this woman.

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

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

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Homework: The Darkness Dispels


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

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

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

It never came.

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

She changed the +20 to +10.

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

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

Go play.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rock-a-Bye, Baby

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, heck yeah.

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

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

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

"I love you, Mom."

I could get used to this.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Insidious Voices

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

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

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

"All of them?"

"Um. Yeah."

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

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


"You asked."

"You have to stop that."

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

"You could just cover your ears, Mom."

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

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

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

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

"Oh. Well then. Go for it."

Thursday, October 14, 2010


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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Thou Shalt Not Trigger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I know why. Should I tell you?"

Well, yeah.

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

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

Just a little irrational.

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

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

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

Trigger: Refer to the bracelets. Commandment # 8.

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Good Timing

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

Dum dum dum DUM

a very young woman in county jumpsuit and tethered handcuffs.

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

"Mom, why was she wearing handcuffs?"

So I said it.

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

I love being inadvertently backed up by life.

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

Saturday, October 2, 2010

What Thirty Dollars Can Buy

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

So what happened?

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

And then I put it in the cart.

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

So, for you viewing pleasure:

It was worth every penny.