"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."

Sunday, May 30, 2010

AC Day Three; Things Are Getting Interesting

Here is today's chart. No new levels of chart sophistication have been reached.

Because I overreacted yesterday, "shut up" was the first gun Princess pulled out this morning. But I was ready.

"Oh, Princess, thank-you! I love it when you tell me what you need! I know it's really hard for you to say, "Mommy, I would rather not have any special fun or extra treats today," so you used secert code! Good job!"

"NO!!!!! I DIDN'T SAY THAT!!!!!"

"But, yes you did, Princess. You told me to shut up. "Shut up" is secret code for "No thank-you, Mommy; special fun and extra treats would be too much for me today. I'd rather just have the things I really need, like meals and clothes and hugs."

She stood there. With a horrified look on her face. Bingo.

So she did not have a particularly nice morning. She had to tell Peanut she threw Peanut's things around their room. I had her hand Peanut each item for Peanut to inspect, and had Peanut tell Princess what Princess could do to make it right. Princess ended up cleaning a doll, gluing a jewelery box, and picking up the room (the scratches on Peanut's speakers could not be removed). However, Peanut was really very upset about the jewelery box, and crawled onto my lap and cried. I told her to tell Princess how she felt. And she did. And she did not mince words.

This incident set up the next two hours, because I think Princess felt bad. Unfortunately, Princess cannot yet express that she feels sorry for her actions. Instead she blames others for the bad feeling inside her. Loudly.

So I had Princess spend some time playing in her room. We all had lunch, then I called her down to fix herself a cheese sandwich. Then I offered her the opportunity to restore some of the energy she has sucked from me like a vampire on acid by helping me clean out the Suburban. Which she took. Sort of.

HOWEVER! Did you see the hug section? Twelve! Despite all this! Rockstar!!!

The bonding activity is blank. I really thought I was going to hit them all today, but the Mom Time took it out of me. I invited Princess to pot some plants for her teachers with me for Mom Time. She said yes, turned around, went in the house, and didn't come back out. For fifteen minutes. Then she came out in high-heeled white shoes. The ones she is not allowed to play outside in. And she said, "I'm ready!"


She turned around, went in, and put on her tennis shoes.

"I'm ready!" I said, "well, I've spent most of your mom time sitting here by myself. But I guess we could do one."

After that, I honestly could not muster a bonding activity.

But later she said something voluntarily about telling me to shut up, and I asked her if she would talk with me about that a little. She agreed. I helped her list everything she lost out on by speaking disrespectfully to me. She actually got most of them. I suggested she think of a way to stop herself the next time she wants to say it. I braced myself for, "not do it," "stop doing it," "don't do it," or something as equally deep and useless. But instead she said, "take my five deep breaths." Shocked, I said, "that might work." I said, "I think you'll want to use that idea, because saying shut up is expensive for you. You lost a lot today."

She said, "you mean you'll take something every time I tell you to shut up?"

I said, "no. You'll lose everything if you tell me to shut up any times."

We finished up, and she stood up,

and she hugged me. With both arms. And her head touching me. And with squeezing.

I wouldn't let go.

And I didn't even count that one! Rockstar!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

AC Day Two: Not So Good, Either

Saturdays are always pretty rife with fuss in these parts. We don't likey change, and Saturday is always different. Today it was a car show. I figured, great; we can hold hands at the car show! Bonding Activity! Ok, I know it's a little lame; it's not like it's really a "game," or "fun." But I hit the pool with my tippy toes, so I figured it was as good a start as any.

Unfortunately, there was a problem in the car on the way there, and it's name was Buddy is Licking His Lips at Me. As we parked, I tried to have Princess brainstorm things SHE had control over, as screaming STOOOOOOP!!!! WAAAAAAAH!!!! at Buddy did not seem to be achieving her desired results. As always, the results of her brainstorming session were I don't knows and shoulder shrugs. But when Josh told her they'd be waiting for us outside, take her time, she came up with "ignore him." I gave her some pizazz and thumbs up for that nugget, none of which was received well. So we were not off to a good start on the hand-holding. The walk from parking to the show is responsible for the claw marks and scratches on my hand- the type of thing that happens when someone is trying to pry their hand out of yours. Finally I said, "I tell you what. I'll make you a deal. You hold my hand for ten minutes, and then you can do whatever (the h@&&) you want. The prying stopped. We walked around looking at car (after car after car after car), and I said, "Princess, I love holding your hand and being this close to you. You can choose now to walk on your own where you want, or you can choose to keep holding my hand."

She said, "I want to keep holding your hand."

And she did. For almost the whole time. And it was very sweaty. I was so happy.

It would be so nice if it ended there. Here is today's chart. Notice the slight added sophistication:

There are five neat tallies next to the H. Those were before and during the car show. The B was during the car show. The M is suspiciously empty. And then there are the undefined number of rather agressive tally marks.


There was this issue outside involving socks and shoes and the order in which they should or should not be involved with the wearing of roller blades. And things got a little nasty. Not a lot nasty. Just nasty enough to necessitate a short time out. Or, it would have been a short time out. If a certain member of royalty had opted to take it. But she didn't.

Long boring repetitive story short, there was a lot of screaming. A lot of throwing other people's things down the stairs. A lot of a particular mommy being called stupidhead and being told to shut up. A lot of pretending to believe earnestly that she really had done a good job picking up items from stairs, much convincing that said things were indeed invisible, and then a thorough job picking though the logic of how it could not possibly have been her who did it, despite that she was the only person actually inside the house. And there may have been an incident where a mommy who probably wasn't me may have actually ripped a swimsuit off a child who would not change it and would not stay within the boundaries the woman who probably wasn't me set. In the end, I decided that she really could not possibly spend another minute not with me.

And that's where the tallies come in. Because I think that cuddling, kissing, and stroking my kicking clawing fussing 48-pound seven-year-old daughter on my lap while calmly talking with my dinner company like everyone's day is like this is good for at least five hugs. Maybe ten.

I earned those tallies.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Stinkin' Attachment Challenge; Day One

Well, right after I wrote about needing to hug Princess more, Christine had to coincidentally go and be a big poop by issuing the Attachment Challenge which was, as one could imagine, met with much groaning and gnashing of teeth by the general RAD public. So here I am. Participating. Here is a picture of today's "chart:"


Ok, the thing over to the left is my magnetic dry-erase marker. The words are the last two items on this week's grocery list. They were out of sesame oil, by the way. What kind of supermarket is out of sesame oil?

The Post-it Note would be the chart. Those are the hugs I rolled out. And before you scoff, please keep in mind that this is my sad sad world record.

Where is the 10-minute Fun Bonding Activity?


Where is the 20-minute Whatever Princess Wants Me to do With Her?


Let's face it. I've got a LOT of excuses. And if I was going to make them, they'd sound like, "she got off the bus at 4:00 and I had to mow an acre of grass," and "seriously, people?" and, "it might not sound like it to a lot of people, but this stuff is haaaaaaaaard!" But I know they're just excuses and that this is not really anything I can't do, and, dang it Christine that 'she didn't choose this OR you, you know' phrase won't get out of my head!!!!! (pant....pant....pant....pant...)

And just to make myself look better, I'm counting bedtime as a bonding activity. We had a really good conversation about underarm hair.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


So clearly I have been pushing Princess away lately. Josh voiced concern and the stinker is usually right. So. Lately every. Thing. I say. has been met with defiance, sneakery, and/or lies and I just got TIRED. I took off my therapeutic parent hat. If it were up to me, honestly, my favored method of discipline would be Crush With Cutting but Witty Sarcasm Until Said Child Withers Into a Compliant Mass of Gel. Sadly, this method has been historically documented to work with exactly no one. Time to put on the big-girl panties.

When I'm doing something wrong, the easiest thing to do is exactly the opposite. I decided to praise absolutely everything she did right. You'd be surprised how much there is when you start looking.

"Princess! You got dressed! Without me asking! Way to go!"

"Your hair looks nice this morning. I can tell you combed it and used conditioner."

"Woah! I've given you two directions so far and you did them BOTH without complaining! That must feel good."

"Check it out! I told you to get pants and underwear (for the extra clothing you used at school today- why? Why did you do that?) and you got a skirt and underwear! You followed part of my directions! That's great! Now you get to follow the rest of them!"

Plus, every time I praised her I got down and gave her a hug and a kiss. I want to be giving her ten hugs a day. I am highly embarrassed to say I struggle with my goal of five. Most days I hardly make three. It's stubborness on my part. Even though no one enjoys hugging a catus, sometimes cacti need hugs too, you know?

And, miracle of miracles, we had a pleasant evening. With a bedtime tantrum. But I read Eency Weency Spider in my best toddler-mommy voice and prayed Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep and did my best to snuggle with a writing mass of clawing kicking entirely covered up by a comforter daughter. I'm not even sure what end of her body I was snuggling.

But feet need snuggles, too.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Who Keeps You Off the Edge?

Last night my neighbor called and invite me up "for whine." So I tossed the Cuddle Bear in bed, ran up the hill as fast as my little legs could carry me, and has a glass of whine. And some darned good reflective conversation. My neighbor has always looked out for me, ever since Buddy was born, and somehow she knew I needed to vent some steam. I guess the clue could have been my F*cebook tally of Princess time-outs Saturday. If you're interested, I got up to fifteen.

The end of a school year is always a reflection time for me anyway, and we got to talking about the first several months after placement. Her husband commented, "I remember what your church did for you," and my mind threw itself back there. So here is the support network; the amazing people who have surrounded me the past four years:

My church. It's very large and very multi-generational, and one of the most beautiful things I ever saw was how the older people of our congregation, people I had never had much contact with before, surrounded us, checked on us, and gave us diapers. Some of them even slipped me fives.

The woman who, after hearing of us from a mutual friend, offered to provide several hours of respite once a week. We fell in love with her, and even though it's just the Cuddle Bear home and I shower now, she still comes twice a month.

The aforementioned neighbors, who have made sure I was still alive.

The friend who had a brutally simple adoption from foster care. She gave me all the advice I asked for, then came over with baby bottles and a bassinet, laughing the entire time when I dumped it ALL and said yes to my girls.

Our families. They didn't ask for this. No one says, hey, we're thinking about adopting from foster care- how do you feel about that as a grandparent/aunt/uncle. Every one of them has been a good sport, even when they haven't understood. They've loved us. They've loved our children.

Friends who totally do not get it, but give me the benefit of the doubt and love me anyway.

My childrens' kindergarten teacher; excellent with all kids and a special heart for children with special needs.

Buddy's first-grade teacher, who does not get this at all, but cares about me and the children and is always good for a snarky laugh.

Princess's language therapist who has a sympathetic ear.

The girls' play therapist, who has gone above and beyond for me over these past four years in ways I would never have room to detail.

I don't know how far over the edge I would have gone if it were not for these people. Who are you keeping from jumping off the roof?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Vanilla Milk and Caramels

We've hit a rough patch. Again. Almost constant tantruming on Princess's part. Some tantruming on mine. It's probably due to the end of school wind-down; even Buddy is a mess. But Princess has upped the ante a bit and added in this fun game I like to call Do Absolutely Nothing Mommy Wants Me to Do and Pretend I Do Not Know She Wants Me to Do it. I tried to come up with something snappier, but the creative portions of my brain are a little overtaxed these days. The best part of this game is the disobedience is over very, very small things; so small that I am starting to appear crazy and controlling. This sensory-challenged (read- somewhat clumsy) child wore two-inch wedgie sandals to stack firewood, for instance. Or, she asks if I'm going to set the timer (yes) every. single. time I remind her to use the bathroom, and has a snit with some pretty teen-ager-y insults on my character when I won't answer or say something clever like, "hmm. You have to ask me because you just cannot remember. How frustrating that must be for you." It's getting really really old. And I'm having a harder time not being hurt or offended; she's always taken more out on me than on Josh, but lately it's become a Jeckyll/ Hyde thing. She will literally flip over to charming and chatty when Josh walks in. It's really disgusting. Blech. Bad taste in my mouth just thinking of it.


She's been having a LOT of trouble getting along with the sibs lately, and this morning I had to pull her from the breakfast table and wait for everyone else to finish before she could go back. I put her face-down over my lap and explained that's what I did with Buddy and the Cuddle Bear when they were fussy as babies. I rubbed her back and reflected her complaints until she calmed. Then I picked her up and took her to the sofa.

I quit holding times a while back. Princess turned everything about it into a battle, refused eye contact, and it ALWAYS escalated her. It wasn't doing either of us any good. This time, she started off the usual way, but then the Cuddle Bear asked what I was doing. I said that I didn't get to hold Princess when she was a baby, so I was doing it now and I was really thankful Princess was letting me know she needed it. And Princess looked at my eyes. Well, eye. And she was only looking with one. But she was looking. Pretty soon she brought the other eye over too, and then I saw her pupils twitch back and forth the way they do when someone's trying to see inside you. Real eye contact.

So she clearly wants to bond. Break out the warm vanilla milk. Cheers!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Storm Fronts

Well, I think the storms blown back out. We had enjoyed a couple of days of Princess Pleasantness when Josh went and did it. I had taken some kids to soccer and he kept some with him, and when I got home he was tucking in Princess. However, when I took Peanut up to bed, things were clearly not well with Princess's soul. Princess came down about six times to tattle on Peanut, things like Peanut reading her book too loud or having too many stuffed animals. Then Peanut came down once to tattle on something legitimate like Princess dancing on her bed. Then Princess came down another six times. Finally Peanut came down and asked to sleep in her sleeping bag in my room (where the Cuddle Bear goes to sleep). I allowed her to, which did not sit well with Princess. Josh came back from the barn and I asked him what time I got home, and said whenever it was, it wasn't an early enough bedtime for Princess. He said,

"shoot. That must have been my fault."

Josh went on to say that after he read her a story, he commented on how well she'd been behaving and how pleasant she had been and how enjoyable she was to be around the past few days.

Deep. Long. Groan.

So, for the past four days she's been hell-bent on proving she will NOT behave and she is NOT pleasant, and she is NOT enjoyable to be around. And, boy, is she good at it.

She went at it strong from 9:00 this morning to 1:00 this afternoon. She's had eight time outs and a nap. She's pretended to not know where the dryer is, where her laundry basket is kept, what her clothing looks like, and where it goes. Somehow, and I haven't figured this one out yet, putting her laundry away involved taking much of Peanuts clothing out of the closet and burying it under Peanut's laundry. When required to put Peanut's clothing back in the closet, she lied, tantrumed, and lied again. She came clean when I insisted she think up her own consequence for the lie, but by then I was no longer asking if the job was done, so that didn't end up working out for her. The consequences she generated involved cleaning already clean rooms, so I assigned her the entryway. No likey. That was where the nap came in.

She was quite a bit more compliant when I went back up to get her; she did a good job on the entryway efficiently without complaining. But when she was done she found me and asked me if she could have a plum.

"Princess, I think before you ask me for stuff, you should probably do the stuff I asked you to do this morning. Check in with me after that, ok? Because I love to say yes to you."

"Can I go outside?"
"Princess, I thing before you ask me for stuff....blah blah blah blah blah."
"Can you tell me what it is?"
"That sounds like a mystery for you to solve, Princess! How fun! To find the clues, you'll have to think back to the job you lied about. Let me know when you've solved it."

Anyway, she went and did the rest of the stuff in about 20 minutes. It saddens me. Here she spent FOUR HOURS not doing something that would have taken ten minutes. And she needs to be outside. But if she's going to sabatoge herself, she GOING to do it, and there isn't always a whole lot I can do to stop her.

I did tell her at one point when she looked regulated enough to receive it, that the pressure was off. I said, "Princess, I know Daddy told you we were really enjoying being around you. I think you misunderstood something, though. We don't expect you to be enjoyable all the time. We know you're going to need to push us away and be unenjoyable. It's ok. We love you both ways. Be unenjoyable if you need to. We can take it. We'll still be here.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Homework Shmomework

Just when I thought I had it. Just when I had freed myself from the chains. Guess what. Yep. Homework's done for the year. This news should bring me joy. Instead, I feel tired.

Oh, and now that homework's done for the year, guess who wants to read to me? Yep. Princess. I was doing my usual after school work-around-the-kitchen-talking-to-the-kids-while-they-acclimate schtick when Princess brought in two books and asked if she could read to me.

"Princess, you are not kind to me when we read together. I don't feel good when you yell at me and hit me."
"So... does that mean no?"
"That means you are welcome to read anywhere and however you want as long as you are not trying to bother someone. It also means that I am welcome to NOT do something that often ends with me getting yelled at and hit."

So she pulled up her princess throne and began to read. And I continued with my work, including taking the garbage out and conversing with the other children.

Harsh? Maybe.

Or maybe not. It's possible that doing something moderately difficult for her where she knows she might make a mistake with me right there breathing on her is too much. It's possible she wants my attention only on her terms and never on mine. I also don't think it hurts to (gently, oh, so gently) send the message that her actions hurt me- and others- and cause me- and others- to want to be more careful around her and less involved with her. After all, no one is going to send that message as kindly as I will. Her siblings don't. Her classmates certainly won't.

A while back I read Look Me in the Eye: My life with Asperger's, and found it fascinating. Princess does not have asperger's, but I recognized many of the feelings and much of the pain. One thing Robison indicated that's stuck with me is that the adults in his life did him no favors by pretending his interactions with them were normal and acceptable.

And, while I want my children to have a strong sense of honoring their commitments, I do NOT want them to grow up learning that when someone treats you horribly and continually takes their anger out on you, you come back for more. I love my daughter. I love her so much my heart is in constant pain. But how she very often treats me is NOT ok, and I want her and her siblings to understand that.

I stayed nearby. I engaged with her lightly when she commented, summarized, or wanted to show me a picture. When she was done, I said, "I'm really glad you enjoy reading, Princess." And it all must have been ok. She's playing teacher in the kitchen.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Humility, or Humiliation?

I do not know what I have done to instill this level of doubt of my mothering skills in my children. I do not know because, clearly, I am an excellent mother. Especially if you look comparatively. Cough. I have never left them anywhere accidentally. I do not have any criminal behaviors. They have bedtimes. They take vitamins. They see the doctor every year on their birthdays. Well. Within four months of their birthdays. We eat dinner as a family. They have chores. The only time I lost one, I only thought I lost one. It turned out I had left her with a babysitter earlier. So it's not the same. It's not!

Regardless of all this wonder, they have doubts. I found out last night, for instance, that Peanut does not believe I have the skills to pack a sack lunch.

"Mom! I need a sack lunch! I have a field trip tomorrow!"
"I know, honey. I'm just about to start packing it now."
"But it has to be in a paper bag, Mom (gesturing with hands, just in case I have never seen one before). So I can throw it away (again with the gesturing)."
"I've got it under control, Peanut. See? I'm getting the bag now."

Sadly, the bags were not in the first cabinet I went to. I moved them at Thanksgiving, after using them to make Turkey Luminaries (gol dang it Family Fun Magazine, would you FEATURE my blog, already???). I quickly found them, but the damage was already done in Peanut's sharp eyes.

"But Mom! I have to be able to THROW IT AWAY! You can't give me a THERMOS! Or a SPOON!"
"Peanut! I've got this! Packing a sack lunch IS part of my mothering repertoire, even though you've never seen it before!"

"Well. Can *I* write my name on it?"

So, sack lunch properly made, we move onto Field Day. Buddy:
"Mom. Do you have my class shirt?"
"Yes, because your Wonder Mommy did a separate load of laundry JUST so your's and Peanut's shirts would be clean. But Field Day is tomorrow."
"No, I think it's today."
"But I have it on the calendar for tomorrow, and your sisters' are tomorrow too."
"But you can put it in your backpack just in case."
"No! Mom! It IS today! Because I remember writing 'Field Day is tomorrow' while we were practicing cursive!
"Ok, honey; I've been wrong before. Wear your shirt."

Now, I thought I was being humble and stepping up and admitting parents can make mistakes too. But my children latched onto a different aspect:

"Yeah, like when you went to the wrong state for Princess's Daisy Girl Scout Build-a-Bear party."
Princess joined in: "Or when we went to the second kindergarten concert when Peanut was supposed to be in the first."
Buddy again: "Or like Tuesday when you tried to pick Princess up at the library instead of school where she actually was because you thought she was on a field trip when it's really next week. Mom? You seem to have a lot of trouble with Princess's Daisys, don't you?"

Guess who isn't getting a snack today?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Amusement Park I Call Home

Really, just about anyone could describe life as a roller coaster. And although around here it's more hilly than most terrain, lately my head is spinning. And if that isn't a mixed metaphor, nothing is.

We've always had the "make some ground, then turn around and go back" scenerio. One of the weird things I often chant to myself is "steps forward are permanent; steps backward are temporary." I imagine there are certain people, if they've seen me on a bad day, who are sure I have conversations with a voice in my head. The ups and downs have never been so close together, though, as they are now.

Princess is literally on an every-other day schedule lately. Her good days are phenomenal. Her bad days...well, I usually need to lay down after she goes to bed.

Yesterday was a good day. An up. She had an appointment an hour away at 9:00 and another 20 minutes away (in the opposite direction) at 1:00. Basically, there wasn't any (good) reason to take her to school in between. She would have been there for two hours, and one of those would have been lunch and recess. The cost-benefit analysis revealed that two extra transitions in her day would not- no way!- be worth it. At any rate, I could say being with me all day without all of the other three might have had something to do with it, except the first appointment involved talking about her at-home behavior (hates), and the second involved a shot (hates more) and the doctor touching her (super-hates!). So that ought to have balanced out the alone time.

Except it didn't.

I mean, of course there were things. When homework time ended, she held up pages from a notebook to show me that she used her homework time to draw and copy words from a book

(This is where, by the way, that I take deep breaths, take a drink of water, and remember that she is likely learning as much from the notebook and the books as she is from the homework. And also that I do not "care" about the homework anymore. Stop it. You don't care. I mean it- you don't care! There.)

                                                                                                                             and when I gave her permission to take her skip rope to the soccer field playground (1. No leaving the playground. Not with anyone. Not with a kid. Not with someone you know. No one. 2. Do not walk or run with the skip rope around your leg, you will fall and break your face. 3. The skip rope stays on the ground. It does not go on the climber where the ball will swing around and break someone else's face. 4. I will not hold it or remember it for you) she did/did not do EXACTLY TO THE LETTER everything I told her to not do/do. But really. She took the consequences without falling apart and trying to take me down with her and let's face it, that's all I really ask.

But after we had our her-and-me bedtime, she shot me the hugest smile I have ever seen from her. As in I have NEVER seen that smile before. Not even once. It reminded me of puppies, or when a baby thinks you're so funny she wiggles all over. That kind.

That was yesterday. We'll see what happens next. That smile will carry me through a lot. And we are going to dance tonight. If I get whipped in the face with a leotard, well, I guess she just won't be wearing one.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I Just. Don't. Get It. OK, So Maybe I Do, But I Don't Like It

It started with the fruit bowl. I entirely blame the fruit bowl. We had just gotten home from Dr. S. Princess had obtained permission to play outside, but she knew she would be required to go to the bathroom first (!), so she went (!!). However, when she came out, both Peanut and the Cuddle Bear were eating fruit. ZING!!! went the RAD brain. I could almost read the message it was sending her: "hey. Look. Your sisters are eating fruit. Eating fruit must be better than playing outside. They must know something you don't. They must be more special than you. If you eat fruit, too, you'll feel special." So, keep in mind she did not actually want to eat fruit. Also keep in mind I am battling PMS.

Princess asked me if she could have a kiwi. I said that would be fine if she could find a ripe one. Ripe ones are soft when you press them gently. Princess left and returned. None of the kiwis were ripe (later parental inspection would show this to be inaccurate. Still not sure what was going on there. Anyway), could she have a pear? I reminded her that pears are ready when they are yellow and soft, and none of our pears were. She could have a banana. I entered the kitchen a few moments later and found Princess with one green pear in each hand squeezing hard. Beginning to feel exasperated I said, "Princess! None. Of. The. Pears. Are ripe. Put them down. You may have a banana. Two minutes pass. Princess enters. "The pears ARE ripe, Mom." "No, Princess. They are not. You may have a banana." Two minutes pass. "Mom? Can I have a banana." Head met desk. Mouth said, muffled by desk, "Princess. I do not believe you actually want to eat fruit. That is ok. You are special all the time, even when you do not want to eat fruit. Go play outside."

Um, yeah. Didn't go over so well. My memory is clouded, but I remember much stomping and yelling, and being loudly instructed to shut up. Which around here is grounds for a cool-down. Unfortunately, she would not take it, and piled some more shut ups and stupids on top of it, plus some door and wall kicking. And we have the most awful doors in the entire universe. They are hollow. Yes, the are. Also, they have a horrible not-quite-wood-like veneer that easily peels off, convenient for if you happen to feel like destroying something. So the seven-minute time-out turned into twenty. Which I thought generous. After 15 minutes, she finally complied with the time-out. So, if you're keeping track, it is now around 5:00.

A few minutes after she returned downstairs, I reminded Princess that her laundry was waiting to be turned over. Instant explosion. More shutting up. Another cool-down. Only this one was NOTHING compared to the last one. She knew the timer doesn't start until the door is closed, and she would NOT close the door. Not only that, she would not stay in her room. I passed on the info that it was getting dangerously close to dinner time, and she would not be participating until her time-out was completed. No dice.

Now, why on EARTH? What is it that tells her that screaming and being rude for HOURS is better than sucking up the seven-minute cool-down and doing the chore that every single memberofthefamilyincludingthefouryearold is required to do? What? Why is being miserable and alone more desirable than complying to a fairly normal parenting request.

I love you, Princess.
I hate you, RAD.

As I left for Zumba (and of course she was done screaming, being that Josh was home), I congratulated her. Because, after all, she managed to not have to do one single thing asked of her.

And that, folks, is what it's all about.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Coaching is something I really have not gotten good at yet, so obviously I try to avoid it. Unfortunately, not doing it just doesn't work well. I believe Princess WANTS to have good relationships with her siblings and friends. I believe she loves me the very best she can, and that she WANTS to show it. She just plain does. not. know. how. Her emotional age is much younger than her seven years, so she has difficulty pulling her wants down from the first place shelf.

The day after the Chewing the Chair day she was freakishly compliant. I interpreted that as recognition that her behavior had not been anywhere near appropriate. She got her pajamas on and brushed her teeth at 4:30 without complaint. She sat in the Homework Chair from 5:00 to 5:30 with nary a curled lip. She even did a homework she with not one I Need Heeeeeeeeeeeelp. Ok, yes, it was a math sheet that was a repeat from last week; she had done the exact same one two days before, but we take what we can get around here.

So Saturday morning I wasn't completely emotionally wasted. I was seated with all the kids doing the Cuddle Bear's hair when I heard:

"Peanut, you want to play Mommy. I mean House?"

Now, I have heard this conversation 84,000 times. I know what's coming down the pipes. It is not pretty. So I say, buck up, Kerrie; time for some practice. I listen in a little longer.

Peanut: "Can I be the mommy?"
Princess: "No. But you can be the kid. Or the grandma. Or a teenager."
Peanut: "But I want to be the mommy! I NEVER GET TO BE THE MOMMY!"

Wonder Mommy: "Princess, did you hear Peanut? She's telling you that she wants to play with you but she wants to be the mommy."
Princess: "But I want to be the mommy."
WM: "I know you do. Which is why I want you to take a moment to decide which is more important to you- being the mommy or playing house with Peanut."
Princess: "Peanut, you can be a teenager...."
WM: "No Princess. When you play with other people they need to have what they want sometimes too. Or they leave. You can have everything the way you want when you play by yourself. So which way do you want to play?"
Princess: "By myself."

Of course, the conversation didn't go exactly like this. There was a lot of fussing and whining by both parties involved. But there really isn't a font for that on this program.

Princess got out her weaving loom for a while, and it was ok. But as I was getting ready to leave for a hair cut (by myself! Oh joy!) the two of them ran up the stairs like elephants and I heard Peanut say, "it's ok; I'll be the kid." Then, inexplicably, Princess said, "ok, let's play. What do you want to be?"

The best explanation of what was going on in her head *I* think was, "ok, if Peanut says, 'I want to be the kid,' then that's me compromising! Yay!" Regardless, I intervened.

WM: "Whoa! Hold on there Princess. You just asked Peanut what she WANTS. So let's here the answer."
Peanut (sheepishly): "I want to be the Mommy."
WM: "Princess, you just asked a question you didn't want to know the answer to. Let's try that differently. You can say, 'Peanut, is it ok to play with me even though I'm the mommy?'" She did. Peanut said yes. I found Josh.

I gave Josh the rundown, letting him know the game would last about five minutes before degenerating into screaming and hair-pulling. Then I went back to the girls' room.

"Ok guys, I told Daddy that Peanut compromised and is playing something she doesn't really want to play because you both want to play together. So he'll be listening in on the voices and words you use with each other. Bye!"

Josh told me later that they never even played. They went outside. Too much risk, I guess.

Last night was totally brutal, and I was still REALLY angry when I woke up in the morning. I said something a little on the snarky side to Princess about her first daily words to me being in the "gimme" category. Then I had my coffee. Before we left for church I said, "you know, I'd really like you to try something. I'd like you to pay attention to what the other kids say to me. Because they talk to me very, very differently than you do, and I don't know that you've noticed. It might be interesting. I'll help you." Then, when we got out of the Suburban, I said, "did you notice the other kids would say, "Mom!" and then they'd tell me something they were thinking about? The do that a lot."

And here is my proof I am on the right track: as we were leaving church, Princess said, "Mom! How was your church class?" Stunned out of my mind I replied, "I really enjoyed the singing and learning that God is big. Thank you so much for asking!"

Of course, the joy ended at the farm store when she stuck her hands down in the bin of baby chicks and waved them back and forth. And it didn't increase any when I lent Buddy money for "squishies" (a second-grade boy collecting fad) out of a vending machine.

"But why don't I get one!"
"Princess, where are the ones I bought you?"
(exaggerated nerve-pinching shoulder shrug)
"Uh-huh. Buddy, where are your other squishies?"
"In a bag on my desk."
"Princess, I will be happy to contribute to a collection when we find something you care about. But I am not going to use money to buy you MORE of something you already DON'T care about. I love you and you are special even when I don't buy you things you don't really want."
"But I like bouncy balls (in the other vending machine)!"
"Yep! That's great! Daddy's waiting for us!"

Up. Down. Up. Down. We've gone up and down together at least four times while I was writing this. I keep reminding myself that she has to push me away every time she lets herself get close.

But man, do I have bruises

(Later, by the way, I happened to be at the grocery store, and I grabbed a skip-ball rope for Princess; she had mastered the one I bought last year, but it broke and I wanted to replace it. In the car on the way home I suddenly realized how perfect the timing was. I found her and said, "you remember when I wouldn't buy you the squishies, but I said when I saw something you WOULD care about, I might buy it?" She nodded her head. I handed her the bag. Her eyes lit up, and without even opening it, she yelled, "thank-you Mommy!" and threw her arms around me. Ahhhhh.)

Friday, May 14, 2010

That Went Well...

So Princess gets home and she tells me she's going to go to the bathroom. Good start. She comes out, and I say, "ok Princess, time to get on your pajamas and brush your teeth."

"WHAT! But it's not bedtime!"
"No, it's not, but I know getting your pajamas on at bedtime is very, very hard. I love to help make things easier for you, and practice usually makes things easier. So you get to practice getting your pajamas on without fussing earlier when you're not so tired. When you get really good at it, we can make it a little later."


I guess she still needs practice.

After a lot of stomping and wailing and threats of defiance, Princess came back downstairs, wearing pajamas. She came into to kitchen and looked at the fridge. The following conversation was in a relaxed, cheerful tone with lots of hugs and snuggles and kisses and massages. On my part. I can't quite say the same for Princess.

"Where's my homework card?"

"Oh. I threw it away."
"Well, I did a lot of thinking last night. A lot. And I realized that I care about your homework more than you do. And I care about you getting prizes more than you do. And that is just WEIRD!" So I decided to let go of having to care more about your homework than you do. I'm not going to do that anymore; it's too much work and frustration for me.

So. Starting tomorrow, you will have 30 minutes of homework time at the table. If you don't care about getting the points at school, you don't have to do homework- you can look at the books I put there or write in a notebook instead. You decide whether to do homework. If you decide not to, you decide what to do with the time at the table. If you decide not to sit in your chair, I will sit with you and give you some extra attention. Then you decide whether to have a tantrum. Don't worry about me if you decide on a tantrum; you can pay me back with peace and quiet or by doing some of my work, whatever sounds good to me. But I will only be caring about your homework as much as you do, not more."

"But that's toooooo loooooong WAAAAAAAH!"

"No Princess! It's shorter! Isn't that GREAT! I love to make things easier for you, because I love you."

And this is where things got a little weird. She paced the house like a caged animal- for HOURS. She alternated by going into one of the designated scream areas to scream and clamping her mouth shut against the screams, which continued the zoo animal theme. THEN, she began to gnaw on one of the wood dining room chairs. That one was pretty alarming. But I reminded her that we do not chew on chairs at our house, we bite carrots instead. I set a carrot near the chair she was biting. She ate it. She didn't bite the chair again, but she was very, very, VERY disregulated until bedtime.

And as I was writing this, I realized that she has never, never been that disregulated for that long. Why? Because she always escalates into a rage. So although this was all HIGHLY disturbing to watch, I think it actually signifies progress.

Which makes me think: what the heck kind of crazy bizarro-world do I live in where THAT is progressive?

Scary, isn't it.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Could I Please Just Have a Manual of the Brain? Please?

Here are the symptoms of Reactive Attachment Disorder:
(I starred the ones Princess exhibits)
  • * unable to give or receive love
  • * oppositional, argumentative, defiant
  • * emotionally phony, hollow, or empty
  • * manipulative and controlling
  • * frequent or intense angry outbursts
  • angry child inside
  • * unable to cry about something sad
  • * avoids or resists physical closeness or touch
  • cannot be trusted
  • has little or no conscience
  • superficially charming
  • * lack of eye contact on parental terms
  • * not affectionate on parents' terms
  • * destructive to self, others, and property
  • * more disobedient toward mom than dad
  • cruel to animals
  • steals
  • * lies about the obvious (crazy lying)
  • * impulsive or hyperactive
  • * lacks cause and effect thinking
  • * gorges and hordes food
  • * poor peer relationships
  • preoccupation with fire, blood, or violence
  • * persistent nonsense questions or incessant chatter
  • inappropriate demanding or clinging
  • sexual acting out
  • * bossy with peers
See all those stars? And here are the symptoms for ADD, inattentive/impulsive type:
(again with the stars)

  • * doesn't pay attention to detail or makes careless mistakes
  • * has trouble staying focused; is easily distracted
  • * appears not to listen when spoken to
  • * has difficulty remembering things and following directions
  • * has trouble staying organized, planning ahead, and finishing projects
  • * frequently loses or misplaces homework, books, toys, or other items
  • * blurts out answers without waiting to be called on or hear the whole question
  • * has difficulty waiting for her turn
  • * often interrupts others
  • * intrudes on other peoples' conversations or games
  • * inability to keep powerful emotions in check, resulting in angry outbursts or temper tantrums

Then, did you see I colored them? The coordinating lovely colors are cross-over symptoms where I see both in one behavior. The homework scene, for instance. The accursed homework. Can she not read the word "study" today because she is being oppositional, defiant, and manipulative, and more disobedient to mom than dad (RAD), or because she's not paying attention to detail, having trouble staying focused, and having difficulty remembering things (ADD)? When she starts throwing the dining room chairs because I am reading the reader to her so I "won't let her read to me WAAAAAAAH," is it because she's oppositional, controlling, prone to angry outburts, destructive to property, and lacking cause and effect thinking (RAD), or is it because she has an inability to keep powerful emotions in check (ADD)?

Because here's the thing: I would handle the situation based on the motive behind it, and the way I would handle it for RAD is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT from the way I would handle it for ADD. For RAD, I'd assume she was trying to appear powerful because she feels she is the only one she can trust to keep her safe. RAD says, "I will die if I let you be in charge of anything." But with ADD, I'd assume that she wants to please me but can't because she lacks the executive functioning to organize her brain.

So what the heck do I do when she won't read the word "study" when I'm the only parent home, but when Josh insists she read me her reader because we all know full well she can read for everyone else, she stomps off to get it grumbling, "I KNOW what the word is... it's 'STUDY." What? Seriously, tell me, because I do not know.

New plan. We'll see what happens. All I can do, it seems, is stab at radically (no pun intended) different set-ups and reactions and see how they work. I trashed the reward system. Literally. There's only a few weeks left of school anyway, so I'm going to try scheduling homework time from 4:45 to 5:15 (instead of the previous 45 minutes) and sit Princess at the dining room table (with me close at hand) with a stack of books, a notebook, and her homework. I plan to tell her tomorrow that she can do her homework or not- it's her choice whether she gets the points at school for turning it in. She can sit in her chair being somehow productive or not- I'll sit with her if she's not strong enough to sit by herself. She can have a tantrum or not-she can pay it back with quiet or by doing my work later. It is silly for me to care more about her homework than she; if she cares- fine, she can do it. If she doesn't- that's fine, too. I am sick and tired of it being a battle ground no matter how hard I try.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

In the Name of All That is Good and True, Isn't it Time For School to End Already So We Can Stop Fighting About Homework and Start Fighting About

Something More Interesting Because I Just Plain Cannot Take One More Day of Listening to My Daughter Pretend All the Intelligence is Vacuumed Out of the Atmosphere Every Single Time I Sit Down to Listen to Her Read Even Though She Can Read Perfectly Well if Her Father is in the Room?


Important Reminder and This Means YOU!

The note that came home to remind me of the Kindergarten concert was a pretty blue or yellow to match the rain or shine theme. It was darling, with clip art and everything. Obviously, they didn't work well for a certain type of parent.

Here is what came home yesterday:

Notice the fire-engine red paper and all the bold print.

I do, truly, appreciate that the music teacher refrained from adding, "This means you, Princess's Mom, and you know what I'm talking about" right under the Important Reminder, but I think we all know she wanted to.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Whew We Made it and We're All Still Here

It started on the way to church Mother's Day morning. The tears started seeping from my eyes and they just didn't stop. Yes, Josh did mention something about the as-of-yet-still-unbalanced checkbook, but that wasn't really it. Somehow, in a moment, I had convinced myself I was an utter failure.

I was tempted to make Josh take me back home, but I figured I'd be ok after awhile. Not so; I could not get the tears to stop. Then, a woman I hadn't noticed before walked up to me, hugged me, and said,

"You don't know me at all, but I see you with your children and I think you do a great job."

It was so sweet and so loving and such a risk for her, and I handed Josh the child security stickers and said to him, "I've got to go out to the car. I am a sham and a lie and I can't listen to people who don't know me tell me I'm great." And I ran away.

So Josh got the kids their donuts and told my inquiring and mystified friends that "Mother's Day is difficult at our house" and brought the kids to the car. And Josh and Buddy set to work deprogramming me. After all, Josh knew that would be his main job when he married me. All's fair.

The original plan was lunch at my favorite Mexican place; I begged Josh to take me home and he said no. Which turned out to be great, because not only do tacos ALWAYS make a person feel better, but a kid in the booth behind us got his head stuck in the wagon wheel decor. Not my kid! Not my kid! Happy Mother's Day to meeeeeeeee!

The rest of the day was filled with smallish landmines that I mostly avoided and let Josh handle. Princess chose use secret code (ie: wearing her white heeled not-for-playing-outside shoes to splash in mud puddles) to let me know she was not strong enough to play somewhere as big as outside, so she stayed in "helping" Josh with porch repairs (his gift to me. The help. Not the porch). We kept her under direct parental supervision all day, so there were no sibling wars.

But, since we hadn't given her the chance to have a tantrum all day, she had one at bedtime. It was so mundane I don't even remember what started it, but she managed to kick the top bunk off the bottom one. This, from a child who swears her baby sister is to strong to take a toy back from. So the day ended with some Happy Mother's Day Restraint on the Floor.

I came back in after she was quiet to give her a med, and I said, "I think it'll be easier to make good choices again after today. Mother's Day is hard when there are two mothers. I love you."

And as I went out the door I heard, "I love you too, Mom."

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Birthday Number Four

Made to order Spider-Man cake:

+ Made to order (surprisingly not-that-hard) Super-CuddleBear cape:

= one excellent fourth birthday.

Happy birthday, Cuddle Bear.

Friday, May 7, 2010

It Goes On. And On. And On

When I enter heaven (oh, blessed day! Oh, blessed, blessed day!), I am going to find out if the creator of Mother's Day is there, and then I am going to hope that I am too full of peace and joy and love to wring his neck. And then we are going to talk timing.

Mother's Day is on Sunday. Which means we get to celebrate "Oh S*&t It's Mother's Day" (Thank you, MITT) for :

three days.

The children came home and bombarded me all at once with their gifts and cards. It was really very sweet. Really! I especially enjoyed Peanut's self-portrait:

(totally makes me smile)

and I thought the pen-in-a-flower-pot from Buddy was a very cute (and practical) idea:

After watching for a bit, Princess got out the aforementioned gift she had made:

Now, I'm going to preface the next part by saying that I don't believe Peanut has the conflicting feelings associated with Mother's Day that I think Princess experiences (although it's possible there is something related to the fact that we are celebrating the Cuddle Bear's birthday tomorrow- oh curse ye! oh Mother's Day Timing!). Which means what happened next was just Peanut, and that's why I have a bone to pick with the Mother's Day creator for making this last three days.

Peanut can't keep gifts she thinks are great a secret, so I knew she was making me a set of "coupons," and that the coupon she especially cherished was for doing the dishes for me.

Read: Peanut really, really, REALLY wants to do the dishes. Because Peanut likes to splash in water and overflow sinks. Really.

Immediately after I opened her gift, Peanut insisted I pick one for her to do. So I obliged. "Pick up all the toys," I read. Peanut's face clouded over.

"No. Pick another one."
"Make all the beds."
"No. Look at them all."

So I read them all.

"Now close your eyes and pick one."

I suppose I could have picked Wash the Dishes. If my Momming was more like my preschool teaching days, I would have. But I was paid (fairly well) during my preschool teaching days. Also there was a janitor. So I pretended I picked Pick Up All the Toys by accident.

She didn't buy it.

"Peanut, I have to say, this is starting to sound like a gift for you."
"Sweetheart, there aren't any dishes for you to do right now."
"YES THERE ARE (sweeping hand to indicate heavy ceramic mixing bowls)!!!!! AND I'M GOING TO DO THEM RIGHT!!!!!! NOW!!!!!!"
"I'm sorry Peanut. Y ou don't have permission (gently taking away the step stool, laughing my butt off while trying not to look like it and unable to resist making the next comment:). But you can pick up all the toys."

And she took my gifts back.

Well that went well.

Ok, Who Took the Baby?

June, 2006. A four-week-old.

Do you see this child? This is a baby you could watch fall asleep in a bassinet. I had thought they were a myth.

That baby? That one right there? She's turning four. This is her now:

When did that happen? Did I blink?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Here it Comes...

I keep my expectations very low most of the time. That said. Last week Princess began talking about making a gift for Mother's Day at school and I started my deep breathing and vitamin supplements routine. Tuesday the gift came home. She proudly handed it to me and asked me to put it up high in a safe place. Wednesday the poo hit the turbine. At homework time of course.

She couldn't read the word "blew." It was literally the second word in the reader- the reader focusing on the "oo" sound. I pulled her into my lap and read the entire reader to her. That was a new trick, and no siree, she did not like it. It foiled the plan. My foiling the plan does not necessarily, however, foil the tantrum. She switched to plan B: "you won't let me read to you WAAAAAAAAAAAH!"

In the middle of the throwing and ripping and crumpling and screaming Buddy had to go to piano lesson. So we loaded into to Suburban. Yep. Trust me, every time this happens I get sooooo tempted to not go. At least, until I remember what having to power to pre-empt another child's activity would do to Princess's behavior. Plus, I hoped the change of scenery would break the fit. Not so. She picked right up again where she left off. When the hard objects started to fly through the air I said, "Princess, I gotta warn you: the next thing that you throw is going to be secret code for 'I can't do dance today, Mommy; it is just too much for me right now." Princess's response was to scream, "NO!!! I CAN GO IF I WANT TO!!!!" and whip me in the face with her leotard.

So. Long story short, we did not attend the last Watch Day and fourth-to-last practice before the recital. Princess enjoyed a solitary peanut butter sandwich and bananna (deemed "disgusting." I said to Josh, "geez! You'd think I gave her hot dogs or chicken nuggets or pizza or something!), and some needed extra quiet time in bed. It was 6:00. I told her that, unfortunately, there were some things other than her going on (ok, a little sarcastic. Sorry. Sorry.), and I would check back in with her in a hour.


Josh and I scrambled around getting the stuff done that needed to be done that wasn't getting done because my face had been having leotards whipped at it for the previous hour. I went back upstairs at 7:00. Princess's eyes were closed and all nine hundred things that are usually on her bed were on the floor. I covered her up and her eyes opened. I got in bed.

"Once upon a time there was a little girl who had two moms. The first mom made the little girl in her belly and carried her around in there and had her born and took care of her for a little while. The first mom did the best she could, but it wasn't good enough for a little girl. The little girl got left with other people a lot. The little girl got left alone a lot. Little girls have to have more taking care of than that. One day when she and her sister and cousins were alone without a grown up, a police officer came and took them to Miss S and told her the girl and her sister needed a Forever Mommy. Miss S asked Mommy if she's be the girl's Forever Mommy, and Mommy said, 'yes please!'

"So now the girl has a Forever Mommy who never leaves her alone, but the girl still thinks about her first mom a lot, even though she never talks about her. Mother's Day is hard, because the girl has two moms, but she only has a gift for one of them. She might like to give the first mom a gift, but she doesn't know where the first mom is. Sometimes she doesn't know if she wants to anyway, because she is sad and angry and confused, and then she feels bad about that, too. But her Forever Mommy knows she feels that way, even if the girl doesn't talk about it. And the Forever Mommy loves her more than anything, even when the girl acts mean. The Forever Mommy knows.

The end."

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Nightmare

I woke up at 2:00 am panting hard and unable to shake it. I dreamed that we put the Cuddle Bear to sleep on the floor and left. When we came back she sat up and sobbed with a broken heart about how afraid she was and why did we leave her alone, and I swept her up and sobbed with her how sorry I was.

I got up and walked around. I was perplexed about why the dream was so upsetting. It wasn't real. It's not something I would EVER do in my waking life. I couldn't shake the shame and horror of doing such a thing to my daughter, even though I didn't actually do it.

What my 2:00 am brain was slow to realize is that it DID happen. Not to the Cuddle Bear. Not by us. And not in quite that way. It happened to Princess and Peanut. And suddenly I was socked in the gut with the utter fear and helplessness that Princess, at least, must have felt, and I cried for her and in place of others.

You wouldn't think that this would have been the first time, but Princess will not verbalize "before," and I think somehow it becomes less real to me. I wish SO HARD that she would talk about it. I wanted to be the kind of adoptive mom who had frequent discussion about their first mom, their other life, but no one seems to want to talk about it. I'm sure Princess remembers absolutely everything, and I'm reasonably sure she thinks of her on a regular basis. But she has made it clear in no uncertain terms that she will. not. talk about it. Why, you ask? Well, because if she tells, "it" will happen again here, of course. She said that. And how do you convince someone otherwise?

With Peanut being so well-regulated these days, I just came out and asked her, "do you think about Mommy J a lot?" She shrugged her shoulders and said, "not really," and went on with what we were doing. Is it true? I don't know. I do know I have done everything I can think of to facilitate safe and open discussion about their first mom. Outside of talking about the stuff I know about when they were babies, they don't seem to care to participate. And why do I care if they talk about it anyway? I guess I think it has to come out sometime, and better now than when they're 30. But I can't do it for them. The timing is in their hands.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Homework Heh Heh Heh

The week I had the mental breakdown involving kindergarten concerts and Build-a-Bear, Peanut's teacher offered to watch the children for an evening while Josh and I got away. Did I mention she's recovering from knee surgery? Yep. Because that's the kind of person she is. And I am the kind of person who will accept babysitting from a person recovering from knee surgery just to have an uninterrupted conversation with my husband. Hey. Don't judge.

Mrs. B was also Princess's (and Buddy's, incidentally) kindergarten teacher, and knows pretty much whatever is going on with my kiddos, so she also offered to do homework with Princess, to give me a break. And, I think, to see what happened.

What happened is I chose the most difficult of the math assignments, the one that involved a lot of in-your-head thinking, the one I knew without a shadow of a doubt was going to cause WWIII in our household. I didn't say anything about it to Princess, but within five minutes at Mrs. B's house, before I even left, she was working on it.

When I came to pick them up, it was done. Perfectly, with very little erasing. Mrs. B said she did it without any help, and that she was impressed with how easily Princess completed it. She said, "are you going to do that for Mom next time?" Princess shrugged her shoulders and said, "I dunno."

My first thought was how to keep my head from spinning around and popping off shooting green puss everywhere. My next thought was: well, now I AM SURE that she is perfectly intelligent and is not having a hard time with school work because of a neurological issue or a learning disability; at least I don't have to question THAT anymore. And then I thought. Hmm. WHY is she only doing this for me. The obvious answer is, of course, attention.

To be very honest, I am having a difficult time giving her more positive attention then negative. When she's not acting out, I'm mostly just relieved and kind of lay low hoping not to draw attention to myself or say something that's going to cause the next blood bath. So naturally, she's going to have fits, because that's how she KNOWS she's going to get my attention. Unfortunately I don't always leave her much of a choice.

So tonight she was working on a math sheet: fact families. I know she knows this; it's not anywhere near new. So when she got to problem 5 and said, "I need help," (Princess for, "I think I'll see if I can start a fight now,") I had a plan. I moved in close. I got next to her. And I read her worksheet.


And I handed it back. With a sweet smile.

She took it back to the table and finished it.


And lucky for her sake, too, because the next phase in my attack plan was to tell boring stories from my childhood.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Stranger Than Fiction

I was reading a book, a fiction book, about almost nothing to do with parenting, solely because I liked it, when I ran across a line where one character had another character finish her sentence.
And I thought, hmmmm, and I stored it away in the dark recesses of my brain for later use.

I've been noticing lately that, although Princess really doesn't initiate conversation with me all that much, she is guaranteed to feel a desperate need for mother-daughter connection if I'm talking to someone else, particularly a girlfriend. Today after church I was catching up with a woman I haven't gotten to talk to in a while when I felt the familiar taptaptap on my arm.

"Yes, Princess?"
"Can I have some juice?"

Our church has juice and donuts in the gathering area, and every. single. week our children have a donut and a glass of juice. They do not ask, they just go get it. They are allowed to and they know it. I lean down.

"Princess, you asked me a question you know the answer to so you could interrupt. Go sit down by your brother and sisters."

And I resumed my conversation. Later I sat down across from her, cris-cross-applesauce knees touching, and I tried it out.

Me: "You asked me for juice while I was talking because...."
Princess: "I wanted the answer."
Me: "You knew the answer and you interrupted to ask me anyway because..."
Princess: "What?"
M: (Patient Smile)
P: "I wanted juice."
M: "You knew you could have juice and you interrupted to ask me anyway because..."
P: "Aaaarhugh! Because I wanted you and her to stop talking and look at me instead."


M: "Well good news, Princess, because now is the time for you to have all my attention!"
P: "But the juice is gone now!"
M: "It is."
P: "Can I have a drink?"
M: "You want to use my attention to ask for drinks."
P: "But I don't have any more questions!"
M: "You don't have any more questions, but you do have all my attention for a little while."

Big toothy grin. From me, of course. This is where Princess tried to get away from me, so I pulled my seven-year-old in my lap while she flailed around in the church gathering area. I kept going after eye-contact, so she covered my eyes. I kept smiling. She couldn't resist, of course, so every few seconds she would lift a finger to see if I was still looking at her (I was), and I'd shout "peek-a-boo!" She grouched at first, but soon she started giggling. We played for a while, then walked out to the car. Fully regulated.

So much for the parenting books.

Flashback 2009

I wrote this last year. Seems like a good time to pull it back out of the vault.

The Adoptive Mom on Mother's Day

I've noticed a lot of adoptive families do a "birth-mother's day" the week before Mother's Day. I thought about it, but decided to let the girls show me if that was something they needed. And yes, one of the did.

This morning I noticed more "crazy laugh" than usual coming from Princess. She did it again while we were waiting for the bus. I leaned down and put my arms around her and said, "I notice you're laughing a lot this morning when nothing is funny. Please tell me what's worrying you." She groaned and whined and told me to stop hugging her and I said, "that's ok. I'll just hug you until you feel like telling me, and if you don't, that's ok too, because then I'll get to hug you until the bus comes and I'll love that." She told me she was worried about Jorge eating grass. I told her I'd love to hear about what really was worrying her. She said, "I don't know." I did a double-take, because she always says "nothing." She never says "I don't know." Then I heard a grumbling growl. Then I heard it again. I asked her to look at me, because I couldn't understand what she was saying. She looked up at me and said, "I was thinking of Birthmom because I used to live with her."

Princess has never, ever, ever, told me what is bothering her before.

I said, "Mother's Day can be kind of hard for adoptive families, because there are two moms, and one of them the adoptive kids don't get to see. We can't send Birthmom a card because she kind of ran away and no one knows where she lives, but maybe we can write one anyway.

When she got home, she said, "Mom, can we....oh!" She ran to her backpack and got out the mother's day crafts she had made at school, proudly gave them to me, explained what she had done, smiled the whole time, gave me hugs. Then she asked to write Birthmom.

We got out the helium balloon I had picked up earlier and some streamers. She dictated while I wrote: "I love you Mommy Birthmom. I wish I still lived at your house. I liked going to restaurants with you. I miss you." I tied it on the balloon's string and we walked up to the top of the hill. We talked about how it probably wouldn't get to her house, but if it did wouldn't she be surprised. She asked me to hold it and let it go with her. We let it go while I held her and we watched.

I didn't feel threatened.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Fighting the Balance of Nature

Everything in nature strives for balance. And apparently the natural balance of my household is five people who use the toilet. Because, of course, just after writing a celebratory post about Princess is the time I discover that Peanut has not been wearing und.erwear.

Why? Because she doesn't have any left.

Friday is usually Kiddo Laundry Day, so in many alternate universes running out of un.derwear would be excusable. It would be excusable in this universe as well, except that in this universe, Peanut has FOURTEEN PAIRS OF UND.ERWEAR.

So, the only conclusion to draw is that she is bringing nature back into balance.

Oddly, I have handled four years of Princess's anti-toilet behavior (mostly) in a stride. But Peanut performing the semi-typical behavior of wetting her pants because she doesn't want to be bothered to stop what she's doing to participate in basic hygiene is making me lose. my..... whatever.

The Und.erwear that Wasn't losing of the whatever happened last night at bedtime. Which, incidentally did not a peaceful bedtime make. This morning when Peanut wanted to get dressed, she asked me for un.derwear. I stared at her. "Peanut, we talked about this last night. You haven't been using the toilet as much as you should so you are OUT OF UND.ERWEAR!!!!"

"But it's morning now."

(Long pause for more staring) "Peanut, how do you think your und.erwear gets clean again? Do you think it dances out of your hamper at night, twirling and pirouetting to Tchaikovsky as it goes, washes and dries itself, and skips back humming a jaunty tune? I DO NOT DO LAUNDRY WHILE I AM SLEEPING!"

Probably a little too sarcastic, I am thinking.

I'll be patiently (cough) sitting two on a potty timer for a while, I guess. Although not at the same time. You can thank me for placing the universe back in harmony.