"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, June 30, 2010

When Being Paid Back Does Not Involve Money


It started in the car on the way home. It always does. I think it might be legally mandated. So, since I strongly suspect these tantrums are completely under her control 98% of the time and because I've really been hammering this one home, Princess started yesterday morning with an hour of time to "pay back" to me, because she "took that time and energy from me without asking." So, right away after breakfast she popped right outside to stack wood.

Ha ha ha ha haaaaaaaa. That even made me laugh. Erg. Excuse me for a minute.

Um. No. After fifteen minutes of accelerated grousing and five minutes of trashing the entryway, she went up the hill where she spent a half hour intently inspecting her navel and scratching her arm.

I had plans with a friend at a playground with a bike trail. When I went out to load the (three) bikes into the Burban, Princess came down to see what I was doing tell me she wasn't sure what to do because there wasn't any wood to stack.

Uh huh. Sure there's not. I pointed back up the hill.

Further navel-gazing ensued.

The twenty-minute drive to the park was filled with twenty minutes of general nastiness, so I seated Princess on a bench to "pay back" the kids the time she spent filling their ears during the drive. See a theme?

Got home, had lunch, pointed Princess to the entryway. Told her it needed to be reorganized now, and of course it would count toward paying back the time and energy of my she took.

Didn't go over so well.

It's (slowly, slowly) occurring to me that I am not the toe-the-line mother I thought I was. I think I have been letting a heck of a lot slide. I realized yesterday that she asks me for things she knows she's not to have/didn't earn when we're not home with rapid-fire speed. Why? Pride. I hate how it "looks" when I deny a child something stupid. I know I look like a control-freak. I am, actually, a total control-freak, but come on! I like to be able to hide it sometimes, just like everyone else. I also realized that she is surprised when I make her finish something later or the next day. I fell into to trap of Oh Well She Did Some of it With a Good Attitude and That's Really the Point Isn't It So Why Should I Trash a Whole Other Day by Making Her Finish.

I think Princess figured she would not be required to follow through after semi-good behavior at the park. Because behaving well at a park is so hard.

Where is that sarcasm font when I need it?

When we walked in the door, Princess has 55 minutes to pay back. By 5:00 pm, she had 210 minutes to pay back. Guess what I was doing during those 165 minutes? I'll give you a hint: I threw two half-pairs of shoes in the trash, Buddy's nose is swollen, and my muscles are sore down my back from my neck to my ankles. I am determined to not let this continue unchecked any more. Every. Single. Time Princess so much as fussed, I was there. And, of course, every time I became "there," the fussing escalated. My back is sore from not allowing Princess to pinch me or head-butt me. My legs are sore from not allowing Princess to kick me or my belongings. Buddy's nose is sore from having a shoe thrown at it. Because he walked through the kitchen. What? That's not a good enough reason? And during it all, I repeated maybe 86,000 times, "you're right...I will not allow you to hurt me or damage our things. I'm sure that is very frustrating for you. This is hard! I'm right here." Honestly, I cannot even believe how calm I stayed. What I felt like doing when Buddy was screaming in nose pain? Well. I didn't.

I gave the others snack at the usual time, reminding Princess that snacks are a "family privilege" earned by doing "family work," none of which she was currently participating in. I let her know that she would be provided with an early dinner, and the early bedtime that would follow had the dual benefit of : a) paying back some of my time with peace and quiet and not having to deal with any more of this crap, and b) providing her with the extra rest she needed from a day of tantruming. Which is exhausting. For her, too.

The Magic Switch flipped at exactly 5:00, and she began earnestly organizing the entryway. Why? Sure wish I knew. My best guess is If I Work Really Hard Now, I Will Only Have Had to Do Anything Productive For a Minimal Time and Then Tomorrow Will Happen and Mom Will Not Make Me Do it Any More.

It is 8:45 am. Guess where Princess is.

The woodpile.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Something Beautiful


This has become, lately, our family's "song." Not so much because I really like it. Not even so much that every time it comes on in the car, all the children belt it out at the top of their lungs. Not because when Peanut plugs her MP3 into her speakers, all her siblings gather around to sing. Which is really, really cute.

This song has become a mission statement. What I do with my day. Looking for something beautiful. It's there. Somewhere. In all of us.

I won't stop until I've found
Something Beautiful.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Wedding Weekend

We left Friday to attend a family wedding six hours away. I adore Josh's extended family and was really looking forward to being there, but I bet, if you try, you can imagine some of the trepidation we were feeling.

It began by Buddy asking to have the seating arrangement changed. He was very polite and reasonable, and he has been back there getting smacked up for a looooong time, so I granted him his "break." Unfortunately, the Cuddle Bear cannot manage her seat belt herself, and I will! not! have Princess in the middle row until she's done screaming in the car, so that left Peanut having to go back there. Which is the most volatile child-child combo in the family. And which led to some interesting conversations like "why can't Iiiiiiiii sit in the middle row?" (because, Princess, it's unsafe for the driver when you are screaming in his/her ears and kicking his/her seat. He/she may get distracted and cause an accident), and "but why do Iiiiiiii have to sit by Princess?" (because, Peanut, someone has to and Buddy has been doing it for a long time and needs and deserves a break).

But, really, the trip there went better than could possible be expected. There were disagreements and incidences aplenty, but hammering the visitor/daughter choices and privileges actually kept her on track and diffused a surprising amount. We continually pointed out the "family privileges" she was receiving by doing the family work- getting to go into the restaurant instead of waiting for her dinner in the car with me, treats, swimming in the pool instead of going to bed- and things stayed fairly stable.

The pool. We didn't get to the hotel until 9:30, way, way, waaaaay past Princesses bedtime. But I was pretty sure a swim would be worth it, and so we went. She hit the wall with the hot tub. All the kiddos wanted in, but we sat ourselves in it and only let them dangle their feet. Three of four children asked why and then stuck their feet in. Princess stomped around behind us claiming it wasn't "fair, because Daddy and Mommy get two pools and I only get one." We explained (once) that is was, indeed, "fair," because when she was a grown-up, she could choose two as well. Then we let her be, because she was clearly intent on being miserable. After a while, Josh said, "we'd better get her back in the water," so I swooped her back into the pool and sang Row, Row, Row Your Boat over and over and OVER while Mommy and Me swimming with her. She groused mildly the whole time, but I could tell she liked it. We went back to the room (suite! oh blessed suite! suite that comfortably sleeps six instead of four! suite with a DOOR between rooms! oh how I love you, dear suite!), and I laid down with her and she went to sleep. I went into the other room (I love you, suite!) and kissed Josh and said, "that..was a combination of a miracle and some fantabulous parenting, my love!"

And the whole weekend went pretty much the same way. Oh, there were times. Princess had a thing on a run to Wal-Purgatory and ended up required to hold my hand in the store (family work = family privileges!). When she started stomping her feet, Josh and I, in the very same milisecond, stomped along with. And it finally happened. I'm surprised it took this long, actually. Buddy turned around from pushing the younger girls in a cart and hissed, "Mom! We're in a store! People are going to think you are crazy!"

I do wonder why I'm the only one who got hissed at. Dad was doing it too. It's not faaaaaaaaaaair. But I digress.

And there was a big one. Josh and I just happened, unbeknownst to the kiddos, to be discussing getting ice cream on the way back from Wal-Prison, when Princess hauled off and clobbered Peanut. Josh questioned out loud whether Princess should be invited to ice cream, and I said, "no. Princess and I have been doing a lot of talking about family work and family privileges. She knows she wasn't doing family work. And she knows she's not going to get the next family privilege." Hard, yes. Loud, yes yes. But I do believe the point got across. When Josh dumped us off at the hotel (no ice cream for me. Now, if you want to talk "faaaaaaaair," that is not, and believe you me I pointed it out), my sister-in-law and nephew happened to be outside, so Josh invited Nephew to take Princess's place. Oh ho ho. You can imagine how well that went over. Then I added, "you know Princess, I'm feeling a little tired. And I bet you are too, because fussing takes a lot of energy. This will be a perfect time for a rest." She kicked the curtains. She crabbed. She flailed and tried to make it look like my perfectly still body was hurting her. She tried incessantly to argue with my closed and fake-snoring mouth. But she did. not. scream. She didn't. Maybe it helped that there was an entire wedding party outside our door when we went in, but that wouldn't have necessarily made any difference in the past.

I think she is really trying. We may be working with plain old habit now. Most of the weekend, she was completely delightful.

Now if I can summon enough energy to keep on top of her today, we'll be golden. For today.

Friday, June 25, 2010


Princess has been on a jag, and it is not! pleasant. I feel sure it's not trauma-based, but it takes nothing! to set her off. She has pretty literally spent the entire week somewhere in the range from scowling to full-blown rage. She bit my arm to the degree that I felt I had better photograph it. And there seems to be no basis, just plain old pushing us away. I've been hitting her hard the past few days about what it means to be a "daughter" versus a "visitor," and what kinds of work and privileges go with each. Josh and I have both been wearing reeeeeealy thin.

I ran off to "Beginning Adult Ballet" (and there is a post in there somewhere, oh yes there is) last night; and when I returned, Princess had a gigantic scowl gracing her face. I hopped out of the car and in my most cheerful voice said, "well, THERE's that big frowny face! Good thing, too, or I might not have recognized you!" and turned to the much more pleasant looking Peanut, who showed me a marble she found. We walked into the house while I tried my best to ignore the grousing whining complaining voice and stomping feet behind me. I'm good at talking cheerfully and incessantly.

Josh asked me to pick up a prescription for him. Sure! Peanut asked to go with! Sure! Princess asked to go with.

If you can, picture a beautiful child with a hideous look on her face whiningly asking if she can go for a ride.

"Princess, love; I don't think that is going to work for me. I can tell by the look on your face that you will start screaming and hitting Peanut soon after we start driving, and that will be unpleasant for me. And for Peanut."

The screaming ensued.

When I got home, Princess was in bed (clothed), and Josh was doing his best. I watched the unproductivity for a while, and said, "I'm going to put her in the bath tub."

Princess apparently thought I intended to have her sleep in the bath tub, which made the next few minutes interesting. But the understanding of my actual intentions didn't really change her mood. While the bath was filling, every time she opened her mouth, even, to tell me she didn't waaaaaaaaant a bath, I repeated, "but I am not asking what you want. I would be interested in what a daughter wants, but you are not choosing to be a daughter right now. A daughter is pleasant, fun to be around, and talks about her thoughts and feelings. You are choosing to be unpleasant. You are choosing to be not fun at all to be around. And you are choosing to keep your thoughts and feelings to yourself." It was a lot to repeat, so it usually covered two or three anti-bath statement.

I put her in, and of course the temperature of the water was not to her liking. And it was too wet. Yes it was. During the grouse-fest, Princess commanded me to leave the bathroom. I said, "but you want to be a visitor. I don't do what people tell me to do with a mean voice. In fact, I think I want a bath, too.

And I whipped my clothes off and got in.

This was not planned.

Ohhhhh, did that throw her for a loop. I was banking on the water and my skin and the whole baby-bonding experience to calm her, but holy nutso did she fight it. I snuggled her closer and closer, talking the whole time, bright and happy. Mostly repeating the differences between daughters and strangers/visitors and what she could expect if she chose family work or if she wanted to be a big crabber-crab. Not in those words.

Suddenly, there was the same crabby noise, but with different vocal-like sounds.

"Wait, what?"
"Mumble smumble grumble."
"Can you be more clear? I want to hear that."
"I mumble to smumble dagrumble."
"I couldn't understand that. But it sounded interesting. Would you try again?"


"Oh. You do. Interesting. It won't be easy, Honey. You'll have to practice. Would you practice with me now? What do you want to start with: being pleasant, being fun to be around, or talking about your thoughts and feelings?"

She wanted to practice being fun to be around. So we played this little piggy. By my first toe, she was actually giggling. Then we practiced Talking About Your Thoughts and Feelings. She wanted to talk about getting mad a Peanut about marble ownership.

"Lets pretend there's a girl who looks a lot like you, but she's a Regular Kid. Her name is Molly. She has a mom, dad, two sisters, and a brother like you do, but nothing bad has ever happened to her so she's just Regular. What do you think she would have done?"

There were some false starts, but then Princess said, "Molly thought of a game they could play together with the marble. And she felt good about it."

"And how did you feel after you handled it?"
"So who do you think handled it better?"
"Molly. Because she felt good and I didn't."
"What does that tell you?"

"I don't handle things the best way."


We got out of the tub, and she was beaming. I pointed it out and asked her where she felt happy. She circled her head and said, "here, because I'm smiling all over."

So, so thankful. This child does not talk to me. Ever.
This child, who does not talk to me, ever, spoke.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

So Tell Me How You Feel, Mom. Really.

I hit the ground running, wearing the shirt. That thing is magic, I tell you. Nary a peep. I took it off around 2:00, and Princess shoved the Cuddle Bear too hard over a container in the water table. The water table for toddlers. She did actually take her time-out, but not exactly gracefully. Then I put the shirt back on.

She was relatively well-regulated all day. So when the opportunity came, I took a risk.

I was putting together dinner (giant antipasto hero sandwich) while listening to an exhausted foster parent on the phone. This combination was more than Princess could resist, so she poked me twice while I was on the phone and said, "Mom!!!" three times while I was negotiating a fight between Peanut and the Cuddle Bear. When I was finally able to give her my attention, she asked,

"Can I cook with you?



"Princess. Do you remember the last time I said yes to you? You slapped Buddy across the face because you wanted his stepstool. You screamed at me and called me stupid. You told me you hate me. You kicked me and slapped me and hit me and slammed your head into mine and bit me and threw toys at my head. You threw your toy shelf across the room. You shook your bed. You kicked your door and your wall. You threw toys down the stairs. I did NOT feel good, Princess. When I say yes to you and you treat me like THAT? It does not make me want to say yes again. So no. I love you very much, but I do not want to feel that way again."

Harsh? Maybe a little. But maybe not. I never know before it's said. I didn't use and angry voice. I didn't make character judgments. I wasn't loud. I didn't point my finger. I named what she did and told her how it felt. I think, in moderation, she needs to know.

She didn't scrunch her face into a scowl or fold her arms or stomp away. She did, however, walk straight into the kitchen and elicit a howl from Peanut. I called her back.

"Princess, it's ok to feel angry or upset. It is not ok to find Peanut to make her feel angry or upset with you."

And Princess started to cry. Not the usual, UUUUUUUGH UUUUUUGH UUUUUUGH uncry, but a snuffling with actual tears sort of deal.

So who knows. A little expression of mommy hurt feelings might not have hurt.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Technological Stuff

If my feed is not updating automatically, please paste http://feeds.feedburner.com/GoodMomsAreALotOfThings in and let me know if it works.

Thanks to Cassandra at  CyberSunshine, Inc.

Monday, June 21, 2010

I Hate You. Feed Me

I understand triggers. I understand anxiety. I'm even starting to understand the whole shame thing. I get that. I can tolerate those behaviors. I get real tired, but they don't really push my buttons.

But sometimes, sometimes, I think Princess is just being a bully.

I feel like my family gets hijacked by a beautiful dark wavy-haired child. Who is very, very loud. I got out the ingredients Sunday to make no-bake cookies for Josh for Father's Day.  Buddy immediately asked if he could help. I said, sure, you can help scoop them out. So Princess asked if she could help, too. I said fine. Buddy's hackles rose. He's tired of being copied. I don't blame him, exactly, but I reminded him privately that she's going to learn stuff better from him than from me. I also told him to suck it up. Although not in those exact words. Anyway. Princess couldn't find the step stool that exactly matched the one Buddy was using. She got the better step stool, the one that would let her see more up higher, but the anxiety had already set in. So Buddy was crabbing about Princess infringing territory, and Princess was crabbing that Buddy could see better (regardless that she was higher and closer); I raised my voice and cried, "I am NOT having a good time here!"


This has been happening more and more often lately. Princess get frustrated and fast-as-lightening whacks someone, anyone, me across the face. I sent her for a time-out, which turned into a Princess-shaped hurricane spouting stupid and shut-ups as it whirled around the house thrashing everything in it's path.

It continued into today. It was one of those days where she very literally did not say anything to me other than,"can I have (insert food item here)?" and "shut up, Stupidhead." She was somewhat regulated after breakfast, so I sat her down to talk. I asked her what she missed out on yesterday, and she glibly listed every. single. thing. Than I asked her what she got from the tantrum.

"Well, there was something. And it must have been better than making and eating cookies. Cause you chose the tantrum instead."
"Well. I wanted to smash stuff."

So that was something. 

I tried rationalizing with her. I told her she was traveling down a road that would just keep getting her things she doesn't want, finally finding herself as an adult living where she doesn't want to live with people she doesn't want to live with doing things she doesn't want to do. I pointed out that, at 10:00 a.m., every sibling had already mentioned they did not want to play with her.

I don't really think I got anywhere. She spent a lot of time in her room today telling me (loudly) what she wasn't going to do. I spent a lot of time doing things in other parts of the house.

I guess tomorrow I'll break out the shirt and put the therapeutic parent hat back on. And maybe some foam ear plugs.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Big Feelings, a Theraputic Moment, and More Big Feelings

We spent the day at the beach yesterday, which turned out to create a kind of buffer zone between the Cuddle Bear's disappearance and today. But I knew it would be coming.

The police.

I had the presence of mind when the police arrived to get down in front of Princess and say, "the police are NOT here to take anyone away. The police are here to help me find the Cuddle Bear." But still. A mob of uniformed police officers, a hysterical mother, well, see a pattern?

I was surprised at how well everyone held up yesterday. There was even a babysitter in the evening, and bedtime was still relatively calm. Peanut was the one to lose it first. She had bug bites, and she sobbed and scratched violently and screamed that she couldn't stop itching. I gave her all the medicine I could, and then Josh held her on the sofa with her MP3 in until she fell asleep.

Peanut woke up kicking this morning, crabby and rude to everyone. Slapping, name-calling, and tattling picked up between Princess and Peanut. Peanut escalated, and I ended up holding her while she screamed. I read once in an otherwise pretty useless book that if you guessed at your traumatized child's feelings you'd be right more often than you were wrong, so I took a stab. I said, "it was pretty scary having all those police officers here, wasn't it. It reminded you of other scary times with police officers." She vehemently denied it, but then mumbled,

"I only liked the German Shepherd. I'm only going to have German Shepherds and Chihuahuas when I grow up."

After that she calmed down. When she had sat calmly with me for five minutes, I suggested we work on that Big Feeling by drawing. She thought that was a great idea. Here is our collaboration:

After drawing the police officers* I suggested we draw ourselves and how we were feeling. I drew myself, and Peanut insisted I draw her in my lap. After the Cuddle Bear was found and I had held her squeezed the bejeebers out of her for a while, Josh took his turn. I had to hold somebody, so I grabbed Peanut (who was nearest) and squeezed her for a while. It's hard to see in the picture, but she had drawn a kind of /\/\/\/\/ mouth on herself, and actually articulated that she had felt crazy and scared. Then she skipped of on her merry little way, fully regulated.

Princess watched this entire process vigilantly. Something about watching Peanut successfully process this affected her, but I'm not sure exactly what. So Princess herself also had a giant rage, topping the charts and reminding me why "no neighbors" is a criteria for our house hunt. Four rages, in fact. So far. Although each one has decreased significantly in intensity. Thank goodness. After she had been calm for five minutes (each time), I said, "wow! That was a big feeling. I wonder what words you use when you tell me about it." And she'd start off on another one. Finally, she paced around the house (with me following six inches behind her) and asked me for things she knew she couldn't have. At first she mumbled everything except "mom?" so I could get away with just saying, "I'm right here." But then she started enunciating, so I had to switch to, "it's really hard to hear 'no.' I love you even when I have to say 'no.'" Eventually (a loooooong eventually), she went outside to jump on the trampoline, came in, and found a quiet space without me directing her to. Right now, she's successfully re-entered sibling relations.

Not that we're done, I imagine.


*No. I do not know why one is naked and endowed.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Cuddle Bear Meets the K-9

The Cuddle Bear was missing for 30 minutes yesterday.

The worst 30 minutes of my life. And that includes being told a tumor was cancerous.

She had gone to play in the sandbox. I checked a couple minutes after she went out. I sat down and did five minutes work on the accursed checkbook. I checked again. Not there.

It's not unusual for her to go off. Usually she sneaks back to where she's supposed to be and answers my call. Usually. I went around our property in ever-widening circles and she did not answer. I started to panic after checking at the warehouse across our busy street. I had been looking five minutes before I called Josh and had him call the police.

I knew if a car had pulled up and called her over, she would have gone. Despite my almost constant "never get in anyone's car"s and "never go away with anyone"s. She would have gone. All I could think was, "she's so pretty. Someone took her. I'm never going to see her again."

The other children were so good. They did exactly what I told them to do. Later, Buddy expresses his frustration at have to stay in the house and not help me look. But he did what I told him to do. And he led the girls in prayer.

There were four police cars, a K-9 unit, and a fire truck. I had to describe what she was wearing. I couldn't even get the words "pink cowboy boots" out without choking. We had to give them a picture. There was an Amber alert. It was terrifyingly real.

The dog began to search the outside of the property, starting with the road. Other officers searched the house. I was told to stay put. I knew my terrified screaming her name wasn't productive, but it was something, and now I had to do nothing.

She's so pretty. Someone took her. I'm never going to see her again.

They said they found her. I took off running. They made me stop and wait. I collapsed onto someone I've never met before. Josh says I was only crying, but I felt like I couldn't stop screaming.

The neighbor had left their back door unlocked. She's gone up there a couple times without permission and been sent back down, but no one was home this time. She came out because she wanted to see the "puppy." Later I asked her, "Cuddle Bear, you heard me calling you. WHY didn't you answer me?"

"I was busy. I was jumping on the bed and eating my cookies."

Sure enough, the beds were rumpled and there was an open package of cookies and a scissors on the floor. Her cookies. She opened a pack of dairy- and egg-free cookies. How mature of her.

So she's fine. She's not going out of the house without me again before the age of 35, but she's fine. We're fine. And somehow, all that other stuff, it's not bothering me so much right now. Because we're all here.

Princess is convinced one of the officers was Barack Obama.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

When Vultures Attack

This is how I feel whenever I enter the kitchen. Buddy is almost nine and thinks about nothing but food. He hears the opening of the pantry door and he is THERE. He starts asking (repeatedly) when the next meal or snack will be an hour before. Princess is hypervigilant and thinks about nothing but making sure she's first and has the most. Or, at least, that no one got more. And Peanut and the Cuddle Bear are the middlest and the youngest, so they want to make sure they aren't lost in the shuffle.

The hard-core fact that I have never, not even once, forgot to feed someone is apparently vastly overlooked.

In the summer Josh gets up first but has the kids wait (the whole 15 minutes) for me to be available to serve breakfast. Princess haunts the kitchen like a specter, floating back and forth silently across the tiles, waiting for my coffee pot to start. Then she pounces.

Today, she made a mistake. She got a little too involved in Curious George, and the Cuddle Bear jumped her position. When Princess walked into the kitchen to haunt me, the Cuddle Bear was already immersed in yogurt and cherries. Which she had gotten by herself. I swear I could feel the panic: "oh no! Breakfast has started and I missed it! GAH! What can I do? What will make it right? I know! I'll have exactly the same thing as the Cuddle Bear! Even though that's not really what I want! Because then I won't be missing something!" The tension was palatable, I tell you.

Every meal preparation is accompanied by a tense little visitor afraid of missing the meal, making sure she has the most, evaluating everyone's plate and finding more on them no matter what the reality. I get exhausted watching it. She must by beyond exhausted feeling it. I try to allay it. I show her how I measure everyone's portion. I count rice cakes in front of her. I make sure no one gets a broken one. But I've conducted little experiments now and then, and even when I set the obviously bigger portion in front of her, she is beyond positively sure that someone else's is better. By the nature of not being hers, it must not be the best. And how do you compete with that?

Time, I guess. And in the meantime, maybe I'll give her a sheet with eyeholes to wear while I'm cooking.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Fun Foam Gluttony

I have a feeling this is one of my own personal weirdnesses, and I should probably just bite my cheeks really hard and take deep breaths and walk away with my mouth clamped shut.

I cleaned out the craft supply box yesterday and put something new in it. This picture was taken an hour later:

I mean, really. These people are fiends. And this was only Peanut's production. There is one up there earmarked for every person she's met in the past year.

I do NOT want to be the kind of mom who's always walking around harping, "just three each! Remember, just three each! A-HA! That was FOUR! Go to your room!" But seriously. These people have been know to go through $40 of whatever I set down in 30 minutes flat. Princess literally cannot relax unless a shared item is GONE. Who can keep up with that? I did wind up telling Princess that she had to clear whatever she was going to use with me first, and I limited Peanut's Give-Away of the Century to people she was actually going to see this week. But I hate it. Hate. It. I majored in child development and minored in art. I've always dreamed of having this giant art center in the kitchen for the children to use to Express Themselves. It's just no one told me it would be this expensive.

In the meantime. Off the the big-box craft store.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

County Fair: Joy of Life, or Bane of Existance

I loooooooove the fair. I love the smells. I love the corn dogs. I love the people with no teeth. I love the rip-off games. I do not love the poultry barn. I especially love the exhibits.

The exhibits. Yeah. So here's the problem. Buddy and Peanut are the kind of annoying kids that everything is pretty easy for. And Princess, sandwiched in between them, well, isn't. Don't think this is a problem for Josh and I. It's not. We're really not all that achievement-oriented, and Princess is just fine; she's right smack in the middle of "typical" in almost every area. But you can't enter tap-dancing in the fair and, well, we just haven't found Princess's Fair Talent yet.

Every summer Princess becomes absolutely obsessed with entering something in the fair, but doesn't really care for "closed-ended" projects (things that are supposed to turn out a certain way), isn't big on following my directions or suggestions, and doesn't want to make a big time commitment to anything. But she wants a blue ribbon. She wants it BAD.

Last year, I was sure I had it figured out. I was so pre-impressed with myself. Princess likes to cook with me, so what better entry than Bundt Cake From Cake Mix? Bingo! So the day before fair entry day, we go to town. Princess (with no more than 25% help, as stated in the Fair Entry Rule Book) greased and floured the pan, mixed up the batter, poured it into the pan, and put the pan in the oven. Then, five minutes before the timer went off, (with 0% help) had a big giant screaming kicking conniption fit. So the cake baked. And baked. And baked. Oh, I have never wanted to rescue a child from her actions SO BADLY. But I didn't interfere. And the cake baked.

Eventually Princess became capable of retrieving the cake. She thought it looked beautiful. With an inward sigh, I wrapped it up on the regulation-sized piece of cardboard. Then came Writing Out the Directions. As it turned out, Princess was not as regulated as I thought. She got frusterated because I insisted she copy the directions off the Betty Crocker box (as opposed to her vote: me spelling everything letter by letter), tore everything up, and announced loudly and not-particularly-politely that she did not have to do it.


Entry day. The lady says, "I'm sorry, but we can't accept this without the directions written out." Princess and I go sit on a park bench and wait for Buddy, Peanut, and the Cuddle Bear to come back from Buddy's entries. One tear makes it's way down Princess's cheek. She says what I believe now was her first step in healing: "I think things would be easier for me if I did not have fits."

Yes, Baby. Yes they would. And, oh, how I wish I could do it for you.

Buddy's project, by the way, not only got a blue, but an honorable mention- rare for a seven-year-old and further upping the bar. GAH!

Flash-forward to today. Buddy asked for the Model Magic and later showed me a model swingset, asking if he could enter it in the fair. Five minutes later, Princess asked me if she could enter "something" in the fair.

"Why, yes Princess, of course you can enter something. What do you have in mind?"

She showed me a picture. That she had spent all of the....last five minutes....working on. Now, we have been through all the ribbons and what they mean. She could tell you:

Blue means a judge thinks, "wow, that is just unbelievable for a seven-year-old. I bet most seven-year-olds wouldn't be able to do that."
Red means, "hey, that's really great work!"
White means, "yep, that's about what I'd expect from a seven-year-old."
Pink means either, "hmmm. That child didn't follow the rules," or, "hmmm, I don't think this child spent very much time on this."

So I was stuck. Do I comment on the piece and leave her feeling criticized, or do I say nothing and plan on her as an adult telling her therapist about how her mother knew she would get a pink ribbon and did nothing about it?

I had to pick one, so this time I went with the first.

"Wow. Those sure are colorful rocks in your picture, Princess. You know, whenever I'm entering something in the fair, I like to ask myself, 'I wonder what a judge would say about this.' And I wonder what a judge would say about that giant piece ripped off the lower corner."

I think I should have left the last part off.

The rest of the day did not go super-well, and I am pretty sure the ripped-corner comment was why. But, I had washed sixteen of the walls of our rental today and was feeling pretty rockstar, so I did not let myself get sucked in. Plus, when she said she wanted Buddy's sandwich at dinner, I gave it to her and added an over-the-top-bigger-than-everone-else's glass of milk for good Being Special measure. I can't say she appreciated it. But there you go.

I wonder if it's too late to start raising livestock.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Erg. Shame. Hate It.

Oh, my goodness, Princess has been beautiful. We have had between ten and fourteen gorgeous days. Others participating in the attachment challenge spoke of their RADlings getting scared of all the closeness and pushing away. Hard. I kept waiting. Ok, it'll be today. Nope. Today? No. Boy did it feel good.

And then. Yesterday I came in the kitchen to get my coffee and Princess was hard at work making cards, assembly-line fashion. I poured my coffee. Glanced down. There, on the floor, was the drawing pad with Princess's name on it. Baaaaad sign.

Background: Princess consumes art supplies. Not, "uses." Consumes. She has had that art pad seven days, and all but maybe ten pages have a medium-sized mark on them. Very few pages have a picture or writing. This had gotten so bad that during the school year I saved all the school papers with blank backs (so, just for perspective, maybe fifty paper per week) and put them in a bin. They were for Princess's sole use. Everyone else had a drawing pad. One drawing pad lasted each of them six months. They used them for, you know, drawing. Just for illustration purposes: over Thanksgiving we left the kiddos with my dad, brother, sister, and brother-in-law for an hour while we ran an errand (alone!). When we came back, Princess had traced her hand on roughly 200 sheets of computer paper. *

So. Back to my coffee. I say, "Princess, that is not your art pad. You may use YOUR art pad. Please find it and tear out four not-drawn-on papers to replace the ones you used." Princess then pretended to be absolutely shocked that she was not using her own art pad. Baaaad sign number two. This went on and on. Everything was either a mystery or done incorrectly. I was pondering the sudden appearance of this behavior when I mentioned it was time for Princess to put away her laundry.

ROOOOOOOAAAAAAAAR! The rage rushed in like nothing I have seen since the Christmas Trip From the Bowels Of Hell. It was bad. Very bad. Crying on the phone to my husband while he tries to earn a living bad. It was during the Crying on the Phone to My Husband part where I discovered the problem. He said, "oh."


"That might have been my fault."

"What do you mean?"

"I mentioned to her last night about what great days she's been having."

"Crap. Stop doing that."

We had plans that day. Complicated pans that involved more than one set of friends and a time we needed to be home by. I was mad. I did not want my summer held hostage by my daughter. So I decided we. were. going.

Really, this wasn't a totally off-the-wall decision. We were going to the beach, and there's nothing more regulating for any of us than the beach. Princess already knew she would be having lunch, but not treats (pudding and kool-aid). She knew she'd be hanging out with me with a book, if she wanted it. I really thought she'd be ok by the ride home.

And, really, for the most part, she was. There was one thing: she was suddenly wearing her bathing suit. I said, "you're wearing less clothing."

P: "I want to wear this."
K: "Yes. But I wonder if you remember the part where I said You Will Not Be Wearing Your Bathing Suit and you whipped it against the walls and said I Can Do What Ever I Want Because You're Stupid and I Hate You?"

She put her clothes back on.

And all was well. And then we got back in the car.

I have had a lot of bad car rides. I've got a bag of tricks to deal with them. But those were nothing. NOTHING, I tell you. The other kids were terrified. I was terrified. I was so upset about feeling like I could not protect the other children that it couldn't have even been really safe for me to drive. Plus the ear-piercing screaming. Later, I discovered that one of my nails was bent back and bleeding, and I'm not even sure how it happened. That bad.

I called my husband crying. Again. Then I e-mailed my sweet Christine, who gave me more car-riding tricks and talked me off the ledge. She pointed out that Princess didn't actually DO the stuff she was threatening (stabbing Buddy and Peanut with a pen she found, opening the door, biting off the Cuddle Bear's toes, removing eyes with a headband), and she actually COULD have, which shows quite a bit of restraint, really. Which was very comforting. In a "this can't possibly comfort normal people" sort of way.

And I e-mailed Dr. S, who came up with this gem:

With regular kids we acknowledge their positive behavior so they will do it more…with irregular kids when we acknowledge something, often they don’t get the whole “oh so this is good and I should do more good things”…instead the calling attention to it makes it feel shameful and they don’t like the feeling they get from the attention.  Even though it is that “aw shucks, dad” feeling, it feels like anxiety, like ‘bad’ so they act out to get rid of the bad feeling…even though it is supposed to be a good feeling.  The line between feeling good and feeling bad is a bit thin.

So hence, note to self.  Do not reinforce what is going well by calling attention to it…treat it as normal verbally and give extra ‘treats’ (again with the bag of hotdogs in your pocket.)  

So, I'll hit the ground running this morning. I'll have to. There's a birthday party today, and if I'm not wrong, she'll do her darndest to show me she doesn't "deserve" to go. But she's going.

Because she deserves it.

*We love you, Uncle J!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Even the Library is Not Safe

Princess wants a library card. Not that she's told me with, you know, words, per se, but we moms, we pick up on such subtleties.

The burning desire started with a Daisy Girl Scout trip. I'm not sure why, as Buddy has been in possession of a library card for three years, but there it is. It started on a Daisy Girl Scout tour of the library. When I picked her up, she excitedly announced that children could actually own and use a library card. I responded out loud with, "oh; that's sure interesting," and inwardly with, "crap. Here we go."

Today we made our first summer pilgrimage to the library. Buddy dug out his library card, as is fitting for the first summer pilgrimage to the library. After returning our books, three of my four children stampeded back to the childrens' library. I hung out at the front desk for a while signing up for summer activities and discussing the reading program and Bandz with the librarian. Princesses hung out with her chin on the counter the entire time. Wanting to be close to Mom? Perhaps. Hoping to be offered a library card by a non-Mom adult? Much, much more likely.

I suspect Princess is at least as tuned-in to me as I am to her. I imagine she hasn't actually asked me for a library card because she guesses that I  would rather strangle myself  have concerns.

Concern #1: I would say, "Princess, a library card is a privilege AND a responsibility. One of the responsibilities is knowing where your books are on Library Day. What is your plan for knowing where they are?" And she would have a plan. She would say she will keep them in one of the two places we keep library books. Which would be great. Except she won't.

Concern #2: I would say, "In the event that you do NOT know where your books are on Library Day, you will have to pay a fine. A "fine" is money you pay for keeping the books longer than you agreed, thereby inconveniencing someone else. How would you pay a fine?"

And that is the real problem. Princess was given an allowance when she turned five. Which I retracted when it became painfully clear she had no concept of money, buying, or owning things. It was not as mean as it sounds. Really. Then I re-worked the system and gave her a smaller allowance and restricted what she could buy with it. It worked really well, and she even made gains in her understanding. However, as she got older but the raging did not lessen (much), an allowance actually became less age-appropriate for her, if you can imagine. So a few months ago I stopped her allowance and put what money she had on hold. I explained that we needed to save that money in case we needed to replace her door or her bed- a legitimate concern- and that she could let us know she was ready for money choices again when she could be angry without kicking her door, throwing her sisters' toys, or lifting the top bunk actually off the bottom bunk with her feet.

I know she understands this, because although her rages have lessened significantly and she is doing very well at controlling her temper, she still throws a rage exactly once a week. Just enough to let us know she's not ready for money. I am not kidding. I am almost positive it's staged for that purpose.

So, I don't see how she can have a library card until she can handle an allowance

I guess it's just as well she hasn't asked.

Monday, June 7, 2010

When RADlets Get Sick

RADlets don't even get sick the same what the rest of us do. From general information gathering, it seems it's typical for them to not get sick at all. Because, you know, that would give us moms and excellent chance to cuddle and nurture, and oh no, they do not want that.

I am well-versed in the pre-vomit signals my non-rad children give off. Buddy always gets a fever and a headache. Peanut gets really (REALLY) grouchy. The Cuddle Bear takes a nap. Interesting note: before I'd have considered Peanut "attached," she'd cry a lot, vomit, then fall asleep in it. I much prefer the grouchiness.

Princess, on the other hand: no signal. Nothing. Yesterday she had a pretty decent day. Ok, she picked cherries I specifically said were not ripe even though they were red and specifically told her not to pick and then announced to me in a rather snotty voice that they were ripe, SEE? But other than that. She had her dance recital. She enjoyed the flowers and the attention. She ate several slices of pizza. She went to bed peacefully. And then...


This morning she woke up and has been perfectly fine. This happens every time. Fine. Two pukes. Fine. It smells slightly diabolical. I'll keep mom and dad awake all night in fear and then have a great time hanging around the house the next day (read: not going anywhere that might be new or challenging). Not that I actually think she is doing it intentionally. It just has a related odor. Kind of like the floor of her bedroom.

Friday, June 4, 2010

AC Day Eight: Re-Do and Reflections

I got in my ten hugs. Plus. We colored together (Princess's choice. I drew us swimming together and she drew us swinging together). We read about not having eating disorders. This is all shockingly easy.

Honestly, I cannot even believe I've only been doing this a week. It got so easy so quickly. This morning Princess CAME AND FOUND ME and gave me a hug. And I feel more affectionate. I enjoy her more. Heck, let's just consider this week for me.

Others have noticed. Earlier in the year Mrs. B the Kindergarten Teacher remarked that Princess seemed uncomfortable saying hi or talking or hugging now that she was no longer in kindergarten. Princess more or less acted as if Mrs. B no longer exists. I stopped into Mrs. B's room this morning the give Peanut some gifts that were too awkward to bring on the bus. Mrs. B mentioned that Princess had stopped in several times during the week to smile, wave, hug, or say hi. When did that start, again? Oh yeah. Two days after I began the Attachment Challenge.


I don't care. I am liking my daughter.

There hasn't been a single tantrum since I began. This won't end here for me. I am so thankful Christine did this at this time. Apparently, I needed someone to step into my life for a moment and say, "do this like this right now." I'm still going to make my tallies and check marks. And now I think I understand: what's good for Princess is what's good for both of us.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

AC Day Seven. Do-over! Do-over!

I did not like today. Actually, I haven't liked this week. I really think Christine should have scheduled this whole shebang at a time more conducive to my low anxiety levels. There; that's my RAD coming out- just with bigger words. Me. Me. Me.

This has been the last week of school. Stressful for the kiddos. Stressful for me. They are a mess knowing they will miss their (excellent) teachers. I am a mess knowing I will be needed every ten minutes for the next three months. I do love love love having them home. Really. It just takes me two weeks to feel how much I love it.

So, amongst preparing for three last day of school, three sets of gifts for seven (wonderful) teachers, parapros, and Mrs. M (who defies labels), and bus driver (seriously. She almost never yells), field trips, parties, parent-child soccer scrimmage, dress rehearsals, recitals,

I lost my mind somewhere.

I only made in five hugs. No Mom Time. No bonding, unless you count that she chose to hold my hand into OT. I can't even count that with a straight face.

Princess let me know it, too. Not with words, of course. And no tantrums, which is amazing. So amazing. But I saw her face change over during our bedtime ritual. I'm sure something I said wrong triggered it, but I can't even remember. I know she had felt inadequate (even though she wasn't) and frustrated during the soccer scrimmage. And right before I had discovered she had not put away a mess I had directed her to clean up earlier. The mess actually impeded her entering her bed, so I had to mention it. Anyway, I saw her face change over. If you have a RADlet, you probably know what I mean, but I can't describe it. I said, "I saw you just have a big feeling. I wonder if you'll tell me what it was." I have never gotten anything with the "big feeling" discussion, but I keep trying it. This time was no exception. She tried to convince me it had something to do with her cuticles. I did manage to keep things light and silly while letting her know I didn't buy it, not even on sale, and not pushing it too hard. But the look was there.

She walked around her room for the next hour. When it got too noisy, I popped in and told her not to worry about it, I wasn't angry, and she'd have a chance to pay back the time tomorrow.

And then all was silent.

Tomorrow is the real day seven. I'll rock it for all it's worth.

But I can't promise a chart.

The Apple

...doesn't fall far from the tree.

(pun intended)

AC Day Six: Kerrie Rocks the Chart

Princess was home sick yesterday. When Princess gets the flu (or whatever), she generally barfs once, and then is totally fine. So I knew it would be totally and completely inexcusable to not hit everything in the Attachment Challenge, and that I would never be able to show my face again.

And, you know, it was really a pretty nice day. Usually, I dread Princess being home sick, because I'm never sure what's real, and because she has a very hard time entertaining herself. The hugs were shockingly easy; I thought back to how difficult a time I had been having getting to only five; I can't believe how much easier they are in just five days.

We painted nails for a bonding activity. She asked to play a game for Mom Time. I braced myself for Memory or Chutes and Ladders (oh the HORROR!), but she chose Mancala. Not only that, but she picked up on the strategy I was using and used it herself. I was quite impressed. Then it was 2:00. Princess starts to fall apart around this time; she honestly still benefits from a nap most days. I told Princess we'd play one more time, and then have "rest time." For the Cuddle Bear, "rest time" is sitting by me watching part of a movie. It's really more for me. Princess asked if she could play during rest time. I told her she could play quietly in her room, read books on the sofa, or agree on a moving with the Cuddle Bear. She asked if she could play in the living room. I repeated her options.

I've thought a lot about shame lately. I don't completely understand it, but I understand enough that I now believe that it's a good chunk of what's going on in Princess's head and driving most of her behavior. This quote stood out to me especially:

"They don't understand you are only commenting on the last thing the did. They think you are commenting on them, and their worthlessness as human beings."

I've been keeping this in the back of my mind as I interact with Princess, remembering to keep my face soft and neutral, remembering to be careful (oh so careful) with my words. And here is where that came into play.

Princess said she wanted to choose a movie with the Cuddle Bear. Of course in retrospect, I never should have set things up that way. I probably should have just chose the movie myself; no one would have minded. Or, maybe she needs the practice. I don't know. It is what it was.

It did not go well. The Cuddle Bear chose several movies, all of which Princess nixed with "no. I don't want to watch that one." Then Princess chose Bunnytown, which the Cuddle Bear vetoed. After that, to whatever the Cuddle Bear suggested, Princess replied, "no. I want Bunnytown." I let it happen twice, then I got down in front of Princess, rubbed her arms, and said, "it's ok for you to say no. It's ok for the Cuddle Bear to say no. It's ok for you both to say no. It's ok. We will not watch Bunnytown. We will not watch Blues Clues. If this is too hard, I will go lay down with you for a while. It's ok. I am here."

I stepped back. The Bunnytown whining continued. I scooped Princess up. Normally, this is were the escalation would fit in. But I said, "this was too hard. You tried really hard. Let's go rest together. You are good." I laid down with her, and she got as close to the wall as she could. I got close, too. She did some odd combination of fussing (sound, but no tears) and crying, but she didn't kick. Or scream. Or yell at me. She quieted fairly quickly. After ten minutes I got up. She wailed, "WHAT???" but was quiet again after a few seconds. And then she napped. Very, very unusual sequence.

If others' experience with this challenge is any indicator, today will be a blood bath.

But I will still be here at the end of it. And she knows it.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

AC Day Five: My Life is Impeding My Life

I had such big plans today. I was going to rock it. I was. Painted nails. Reading about periods. But it turned out I forgot about the rest of my life. The evil Last Week of School schedule.

It's blurry. My camera is having issues I can't decipher. There were four hugs. The bus. Daisy Girl Scouts. Pre-puke. Post-puke.

I was worn out, to start with. I didn't eat enough, and what I did eat wasn't all that nutritional. I spent the morning packing in errands that would be much easier with one child than with four. Buddy had a field trip; I seriously considered not going, then thought, "but he'll never be a second-grader again! Waaah!" Came home, did some housework, got frustrated at the Cuddle Bear. Kids unloaded from the bus. I became alarmed that Princess was not with them. Ok, ten entire minutes after they came in I became alarmed that Princess was not there. That's how bad it was. Then I remembered. Daisies. Bridging Ceremony. Important. 4:45. I set the timer. I was not messing around with my brain.

The Bridging to Brownies ceremony was surprisingly emotional for me. Princess was all smiles and happy we were there. We came home, and Princess laid down on the bathroom floor and told me her stomach didn't feel good. I asked her when she started feeling bad. She said, "on the bus."

"This morning?

Typical RAD. She has called home with a tooth hurting, a fingernail hurting, forgetting her glasses, forgetting her meds, a bee hitting her face, but feeling ill? Not so much.

I'm going to still be doing the challenge next week, when no one else is. I need to ingrain it, and I can't give it a fair shot around soccer practice and dance lessons. And the puke.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

AC Day Four: Overachieving Bites Me in the Butt

Well, in typical overachiever fashion, here's day four:

Still no bonding activity. I honestly thought it would be the Mom Time that would be difficult. But no, I apparently can knock out twenty minutes, no problem. It's the ten minutes of hand-holding that's stumping me.

And the hugs. Pretty disappointing there. But I do think (this time) my excuse is valid. This is what we were doing for most of the day instead:

For Mom Time, we read Princess's current favorite book : The Care and Keeping of You.
We're on the chapter of breasts and bras. I bought this book when I panicked, thinking Princess was going to hit puberty. I figured she was going to be, er, "full-fledged" by nine. Without going into details, er, the doctor assured me I was misinterpreting various signs, and she probably won't be there until ten. Which is still WAY to young. But at least I have another year to refine toileting skills before we have to add another layer of hygiene to not do. And she won't be one of the first girls in her class. At any rate, I figured it wouldn't hurt to read it two or six or four thousand times between now and then.

Buddy stumbled in during Mom Time, and wanted to stay when he heard the content. I've been hiding this book ever since I found Buddy completely engrossed in it. I asked him what he found interesting in there, and he said he was hoping for pictures of naked chicks. Well, that's not an exact quote. I took the book and said, "well, they're in there. For educational purposes only." So, after I booted him and finished Mom time, I asked what he wanted to know about bras. He said, "what colors are they and what kinds are there. So I showed him the illustration of the different varieties to choose from.

I'm hoping for the Clinical Information Removing the Mystique Phenomenon. Good luck to me.

While we were snuggling, Princess picked up her Kimochi cloud doll (these are super-great for communicating about emotions- I seriously recommend these; thanks Aunt Beth!), turned his head to the frowny side, and said, "this is me yesterday when I said mean things to you." Then she turned it to the smiley side and said, "this was me today!" I said, "boy, he sure looks like he feels good today; I wonder what big feeling made him so angry yesterday." She said a pretty typical, "I told you to shut up," although I thought it was very interesting that I was talking about Cloudy and she was answering about herself. Then I said, "but there was a really big feeling right before you told me to shut up. I wonder what it was." And I swear she was about to say something real.

And then Jorge howled at the Cuddle Bear. Sigh.