"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."

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Santa: Myth or Legend?

I am not super-big on Santa. Friendly stranger breaks into your house via the chimney while his reindeer poop on your roof, leaves his stuff in your living room and eats your cookies. Creeps me out. So when Buddy was little, we just didn't really talk about Santa. When he was two-ish, he started to get a confused look when people would ask if Santa had come to his house and to be uncomfortable with their confused looks when he said no. So he asked what this whole Santa deal was about, and I told him.

But then the girls came, pre-packaged with Santa lore. Especially fun was comforting a teary 3-year-old who spent two weeks excited beyond her brain capacity to "give Santa a hug when he comes to J's house," only to find that Santa had come and gone and left presents and she had missed it.

And things have gotten a little blurry.

Last year Princess wrote Santa a long and involved letter asking for a boot ornament. That was all. A boot ornament. And I, in my deluded short-sightedness thought, oh, how cute. A boot ornament. And I spent two weeks scouring the internet and the stores for a boot ornament. They are not as easily found as one might think. But find one I did.

Only she hadn't wanted a boot. She had wanted a boat. Which should have been obvious to me, since Buddy's favorite ornament is a boat, and Princess is never confident that what she has and likes is good enough.

Santa, as it turns out, cannot read first-grade spelling.

So it is now post-Thanksgiving, and Princess has in the last two days killed a small forest of trees to write letters for Santa. And Buddy is dropping several hints that maybe it's about time for her to drop this Santa thing already. And I am dropping Buddy not-so-subtle hints that this is not his area to meddle in and I will drop-kick him off Santa's sleigh if he continues.

And I don't really know what to do.

I do know Santa is not going to attempt to decipher second-grade writing this year. But I don't feel it's my place to burst the bubble, either. I'm adopting a, "well, I guess we'll see what happens I don't know," attitude.

But I can't shake the feeling that I've painted myself into a corner.

Cover Your Mouth

The Cuddle Bear handed me a Thanksgiving Present. She had worked hard on it, just for me. I looked down at my hand. In it was a small, cut-out circle of posterboard with a little smiley face drawn on it in crayon. I smiled and opened my mouth to thank her. Before I had the chance, she said:

This is for you, Mom. It's a mouth cover. You can put it over Princess's mouth so she can't bite your hand. Maybe you should keep it in the car, for when she screams.

This is my fear: that the environment I raise my children in will grow bitter, resentful, angry, twisted adults.
This is my hope: that the environment I raise my children in will grow compassionate, proactive, loving people.

Which one will it be?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Peanut of the Pierc-ed Ears

Don't you just want to box up all that adorableness and put it on a shelf so you can take it down and unpack it on a bad day?

I think I will.

I love taking daughters to get their ears pierced. It makes me feel like a mom.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Loving the Scarred Ears and the Too-Small Backpack

As I was combing Peanut's hair, she asked, "can I get my ears pierced Mom? I know it'll hurt- I'll be brave. Can I?"

I'm kind of ambivilant about ear-piercing, so I had decided that when they were old enough to ask, they were old enough to have them pierced. So I said, "sure; let me find out when the store has one person for each ear. Maybe this weekend."

(Scene fades; colors blur; camera pans to the right)

Once upon a time there was a princess in foster care. She desperately wanted her ears pierced "like Mom's" and asked permission at regular intervals starting at age four. Foster Mom's reply was always, "It would be great to match, wouldn't it? I really wish I could say yes. But I'm not allowed to say yes or no unless your last name matches mine." Two years past, and suddenly on a Friday the magical and elusive Legal Guardianship Fairy descended and matched the princess's last name to the Mom's, removing (but not really) the "Foster" part while she was at it. The princess said, "Mom! I can get my ears pierced now!" and the mom said, "and so you shall!" The glittering horse-drawn Suburban deposited the family at the Ear Piercing Store, where the princess's ears were pierced with great ceremony.

However, what the mom had conveniently forgotten was that the combing of the princess's hair and the brushing of the princess's teeth were daily battles that, if the mom was not careful, culminated with the princess wailing, screaming, and thrashing on the floor while the mom sat on her trying in vain to perform various important rituals of hygiene. The mom failed to connect the dots and realize that ear-piercing required the dreaded enemy Hygiene as well.

Needless to say, the novelty of caring for the piercing soon grew dim, and the mom grew weary of sidestepping tantrums and loud noises. The mom taught the princess to care for her own ears, but again, the novelty waned, leaving the princess with constantly swollen, infected, oozing, and painful earlobes.

The king of the land soon issued an edict that no longer would the king and queen be forced to Look Bad by the swollen and pussy earlobes, and the saga of the Ear Piercing of the Princess came to an end.

(Scene fades; camera returns to present day)

The Princess of the land, who had been lurking in the hallway, lept out and shouted, "can I get my ears pierced too?"


"Yeah. Princess, that didn't go so well last time. Do you remember? You didn't want me to take care of them, so you laid down on the floor and screamed and kicked me whenever I tried."


"And so I taught you how to do it, and you tried to trick me into thinking you took care of them by throwing a dry cotton ball into the waste basket every morning."


"And so they were red and sore all the time, and Dad and I told you that if they got infected one more time we would take out the earrings and let the holes heal closed."


"And you said ok, but you still wouldn't take care of them and they got infected again so we took out the earrings and now the holes are closed up."

"My backpack's too small. Can you buy me another one?"


"I'm not sure that the problem is that your backpack's too small. I think it might have something to do with that you've got a change of clothes, a sweatshirt, a jacket, and your winter coat in there in addition to your homework and your lunch box."

"It's tooooooooo smaaaaaaaaaaaaaall!!!!

"Well, honey, I guess you can figure it out however you like, but I won't be buying another backpack until next fall."


So, at this point I slap myself upside the head remembering that the backpack is not the issue. The issue is all the lies Princess is throwing around in her head at the moment:

  • I am bad. I can't let anyone find out.
  • Crap. Everyone knows the earring debacle was my fault. I need to find a way to make them forget.
  • I am bad. I can't let anyone find out.
  • Everyone gets everything they want except me. It's not fair.
  • I am bad. I can't let anyone find out.
  • Mom loves Peanut more than she loves me.
  • I am bad. I can't let anyone find out.
I said, "Oh Princess. I love you so much. I love you with pierced ears and I love you without pierced ears. I love you when you take care of your body and when you don't. Nothing can make my love for you go away."


And this was where I broke into song. Whenever she opened her mouth. I said to Josh, "thank goodness all that musical theater experience in high school didn't go to waste."

He said, "or something."

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Homework; Sans the Fight - or - Can You BELIEVE It???

This time, on Dr. S's suggestion, I got proactive. I pulled out Princess's new homework while she was out of the room and chopped it up into tiny pieces. When she came in, I said, "your homework hasn't been getting done in time, so sit down and we'll start it now." And I handed her a paper with three math problems. Easy ones. And another. And another. And another. Then the hard one.

The first and last problems were correct. The rest were, er, ridiculous.
Well, hello RAD! I was wondering when you'd show up.

After several more equally ridiculous corrections, I heard her work 53-3 the following way:

"53...52...51..........(catches self almost solving problem correctly).........40."

Which was the answer she had already had. For several "tries."

"Oh! We're playing that game! Oh, thank you for letting me know! I was wondering if you were trying, or if you were playing the Pretending Not to Know game, and now I know! Ok, so we need to handle this differently, then. So here's what you do: while you're Pretending Not to Know how to do that math problem, please pretend to ask me to check it. Of course, if you decide to go back to trying, you can ask and I'll check it for you for real. But for the game, please pretend."

"50. It's 50."

"Oh yay! You're trying! Ok, now fix number 16."

"But I don't remember how!"

"Ohhhhhhh, that must be so frustrating! To have your brain suddenly lose something it knew a few minutes ago? I don't know how you can stand that! That must be horrible!"

"But yoooooooou're noooooooooot heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelping meeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!"

"Why, how can you say that? I'm right here! And I'm reminding you to do it Mrs. C's way! That's help like crazy!"

"But.... (yeah. That again. I'm not going to type it. It's almost as annoying to type as it is to hear)!"

"Ok. I'll help you a different way. I'll put away your homework. There!"


"Seriously Princess, you have got an Amazing Helping Mom. In fact, I'm such an Amazing Helping Mom that YOU should give me a high-five."

(OMG! She gave me the high-five! A totally scowling and grumbling high-five! I could barely keep from howling!)

"Oh, and Princess. Here's some more help: put away your pencil so you can find it later. AAAAAH! Can you believe how awesome I am??? YAY MEEEEE!"

She put away her pencil. And asked for an orange. And did not have a snit.
And yay Princess.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Stuck in I Don't Want To

Princess has been raw since her last therapy session. Because the good news is that Princess is having some predictable rages. But the bad news is that Princess is having some predictable rages. At therapy, we discussed one of them. And by "discussed," I mean that Dr. S. and I talked as if Princess was joining in while Princess played with a car looking decidedly uncomfortable.

The predictable situation is this: Sunday morning. We picked it apart down to the catalyst: the God Time Card. Every week, I'm given a paper for each kid that breaks a theme into four days of study, mainly one Bible verse to look up, a four-sentence devotional, and a little word game. They are meant for about a third-grade reading level, so Princess and Peanut can't do it independently. Princess, however, won't even try. Every time I encourage her to work on it there is a bloody battle, culminating in a war Sunday morning.

As Dr. S and I worked through the scenario, we figured out what is happening. Princess has a visual processing disorder. What she sees doesn't necessarily make sense to her. So she looks at the God Time card (or a page of math problems), and immediately tells herself, "I can't do this." Which is followed by, "I am stupid." The daily tantrum works nicely to deflect from the frustration: she's letting us know (CLEARLY!!!) that it's not, of course, that she can't do it,

it's that she won't. She doesn't care to.

She doesn't want to.

But this philosophy has a problem. And the problem is called: My Teacher Will Give Me a Prize If My Paper is Signed. And this problem has a co-problem called: My Mom Won't Sign My Card if I Didn't Do It. And not getting a prize causes Princess copious amounts of anxiety. And copious amounts of anxiety cause our family to have to listen to screaming trapped in a Suburban for 30 minutes every Sunday morning.

So good. Now I'm clear what's going on. Dr. S then talked with Princess, and I was slightly astounded at the conversation. In response to a question, Princess said that she was not good at tap. Strangely, out of all that is difficult for Princess, tap is not one of them. She is excellent at tap, and she's gotten a lot of praise and attention for being excellent at tap. So Dr. S asked her why she thought she wasn't good at tap, and listed some tap components. After a lot of shoulder shrugging, Princess said, "I'm good at all that stuff. I am good at tap." So Dr. S asked her what she was good at in school. Princess said, "I'm good at everything. Reading, math, writing." She listed all the parts of school that are a deep struggle for her. She did the denial thing for a while longer, and then looked down in her lap and mumbled that she gets confused and then frustrated and then angry.

Wait. You might not have noticed that. Let me say it again.

Princes SAID, "I get confused, and frustrated, and angry."

And Mom expels the breath she was holding.

Then, Dr. S talked with her (at her? for her?) about how she looks at a paper, gets confused, and doesn't want to try, but still wants the prize. Princess is seeing the "I don't want to" and the "prize," but is skipping over the "but I have to the get the" part. Dr. S said to her, "you are stuck in 'I don't want to.'"

She is stuck in "I don't want to."
And that is the raw nerve that is still sticking out.

Since, we've had a cycle of bad evenings that lead to bad mornings. We have those a lot, but something's different. I don't want to say it out loud, but it's almost like she's about to let something out.

For one, she's acting more hurt than angry. And she's letting me soothe her.

This morning she wouldn't go out to get the back pack she had left in the car. The back pack that held her lunch box. The lunch box she needed to carry her lunch. She kept putting her shoes on to walk though the house (which the kids are not allowed to do- with all their mud and filth and all) to get the coat that was not there (because it was in her back pack). And she insisted there was no other alternative. And that I was keeping her from getting it. So, by the time we needed to leave, she was irate and high anxiety. Her lunch was still sitting on the counter. Usually this means a bad, bad, bad car ride.

But when I went and got her, I said in mock excitement (but without sarcasm, which is a trick, especially for someone who loves sarcasm as much as I), "Guess what! I know a way to get your coat without wearing your shoes in the house! You won't even BELIEVE how magical it is! I bet you didn't even know you could do it that way!" The whole time, I kept making a big deal about how amazing it was. I sat her down and played baby games with her feet and shoes, having her name the parts, getting real excited whenever we got a shoe on.

Another child would be offended and furious. Princess would usually be irate and furious. But she quieted and softened. She played along. And a few minutes later, she made a plan. She said, "I will not talk in the car, so I don't end up with trouble.

And she did it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

When Animals Eat Their Young

Six months ago I would have pegged Princess's emotional age at 3-4. Now it is decidedly a very young three. Oddly, I think it's a good thing, because this time around I can tell exactly what age she is, instead of guessing at this muddled 4/7 mix and trying to figure out which one to parent. While the new medication she's on hasn't magically eliminated all that is frustrating (my preference), it has made whatever's going on clearer. Or at least less blurry.

Her behavior of choice this past week has been to screw up her face and shout "NO!" or, "I DON'T WANT TO!" and stand and stare at me with her hands on her hips.

The problem is: toddlers are cute. They are cute for one very, very important reason:

so their mothers don't eat them.

When Buddy was seven, I enjoyed his emerging humor, his creative ideas, and his new ability to have a fairly mature conversation. But he was not cute. Cuteness is not necessary to engage parents at age seven.

And so.

Buddy was the easiest toddler and preschooler in existence (he was a horrible baby, but that's another story). If we had stopped with him, I would have thought I was the best parent in the universe, and would have enjoyed many years of mentally criticizing other people's parenting. I will always mourn that loss. I would turn a corner and find him in his time-out spot and have to ask him what he did. He has always been intrinsically motivated and self-disciplined. If he was acting out, all we would have to do was hold up our pointer finger (like, "hey. Wait a minute), and he would stop. We have a movie from our South Dakota trip when he was three. He was having a major car melt-down because we wouldn't give him something he wanted. He was red-faced, crying, and screaming, "MY! FINGER! IS! UUUUUUUUUUUUUP!!!!" With his finger up. In the background you can hear Josh and I rolling and choking with laughter in the front seat. The camera is shaking because I was laughing so hard.

Why? Because he was so! CUTE!!!

Princess is not seven. She is beautiful, but she is not cute. Because at age seven, she shouldn't need to be. But she's not really seven. So finding ways to remain un-annoyed by her behavior, take her into my lap, and rub her back and coo until she gets melty- well, let's just say it's a challenge.

Peanut helped me out yesterday, though. Peanut was looking at a book about dance around the world while Princess was in her tap class. We were discussing where the people in the pictures were from and their skin color. Peanut was comparing skin colors to her own and I was half-listening when she pointed to one and said, "he looks just like Princess."

I looked, and my first thought was, why did she say that- it's the face of a man with darker skin than Princess's? I looked again. It was a page about how to express emotions with your face. The one Peanut pointed to? Disgust.

And it looked exactly like Princess.
Hey. If you can't laugh....

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Toilet is Your Friend. Really. It is

That's right- we are back where we started. All the effort from spring break: pffffbth. Gone. Down the crapper. So to speak.

It's been a slow decline, of course, gaining force as the moving boxes piled up. Why it's suddenly reached it's full point of non-toileting now, two months after moving, I do not know. I don't need to know. I am done. Cooked. Stick a fork in me. Al dente. The toast has popped up. I figure either Princess will use the toilet regularly by the time she's married, or she will find a very understanding husband, but either way I have fully accepted that I. Cannot. Change this. I can't.

And I'm ok with that. The part I'm not ok with, however, is that along with the pe.e come Ye Olde Epic Laundry Battle. Because Princess waits until she is entirely out of pants and/or un.derwear to start a load of laundry. And even that generally involves an argument about whether or not clean pan.ties should be expected to magically appear in her drawer.  Not being able to shut her box doesn't cue her. Taking out the last pair of un.derwear doesn't cue her. Even not having any un.derwear or pants when she needs to change cues her. It's maddening. And I can't even just ignore it, because it's all an excuse to have a major blow-up in which everything it My Fault.

So today, Princess will come home from school exhausted from eight hours of holding pe.e, wet herself, and find no un.derwear in her drawer. And while I'm trying to cook a well-balanced dinner before leaving for gynastics, Princess will spend 45 minutes coming up with thousands of vastly creative ways to produce clean un.derwear, none of which involve starting a load of laundry. Then she will accept a load of laundry must be started. The next 45 minutes will be dedicating to much vocalization and thumping regarding the degree to which the situation is My Fault.

And tomorrow, when the clothing is dry, I will fold it all up and put it away. In the linen closet. To be doled out piece by piece, by me, as needed. Because as much as I hate taking choices away from my children, I hate being coerced into arguing more.

If it's too hard to manage your laundry, that's ok, that's why I'm here.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Trick or Boo

Yes. Jorge is wearing a costume. One boy and three girls and it is the boy who is picky about what he wears. Every year he wants to go trick-or-treating, but every year it's an ordeal to select a costume he doesn't feel "silly" wearing. Last year we settled on Charlie and Lola (semi-obscure children's book) for he and the Cuddle Bear, and of course no one knew what they were. But I struck gold this year- I discovered that Buddy will dress up as anything if Jorge is part of the costume. Our first plan was Jorge as a lobster and Buddy as a chef (carrying Jorge around in a large blanketed pot), but T@rget was out of lobsters. Hence the sheriff and outlaw duo. Jorge's costume is far more hilarious in real life than in the picture. You'll have to trust me. And really, isn't he about the handsomest boy you've ever seen? I'm not supposed to say that, though. I get punched in the leg.

Anyway. The point. The point is Princess, there. Historically costume discussions have been pretty predictable. Every year she's been a princess, a fairy, a dance, a princess-fairy, a fairy-dancer or a princess-dancer. This year started out as no exception, and suddenly she cried out, "NO! I want to be PINKALICOUS!!!"

For those of you that have only boys and/or expose  your children only to high-quality literature, this is Pinkalicious:

Obviously. What's not to like? Anyway. The point is that this is the first truly creative idea Princess has come up with. So Pinkalicious it was.

But there was an even bigger deal. Trick-or-treating seems to be challenging for a lot of families in our situation, although I don't know that anyone's pinned down exactly why. I've been finding myself lately more in tune to Princess's behavior linking to fear. At one point in our trek Princess, seemingly randomly, yelled at Peanut for "making her shoes come off," and stomped her feet around. However, me and my stealth eye had just noticed a particularly scary-masked, black-hooded figure pass, so I said, "some of those costumes look pretty scary, don't they? It makes a feeling inside you, kind of like "mad." That feeling is called "scared," and if you feel "scared," you can come hold my hand.

And she did.

I'm sure people wondered why my seven-year-old needed her mom to walk her up and could barely mutter "thank-you," before turning and bolting, but I don't care.

She needed her mom to walk her up.