"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, November 16, 2011

When the School Shows Up on Your Caller ID

Yesterday one of the more dreaded numbers showed up on my screen: the upper elementary.

Hi Princess. What's up?
I need some pants.
(Long involuntary silence) Ummmmm, there are some in your backpack.
No, I had to use them when I fell in the mud puddle.
(Deep inward sigh) Ok. I'll be right there.

So I took in the pants. However, now my entire insides were liquified, because I know something. I know that Princess has the world's most incredible kegel muscles. Which means that, although she rarely uses a toilet, she can hold it in like you would not believe. In fact, because she's so skilled at letting out teeny tiny amounts of what she needs to let out, the results are rarely visible.


Except when she's unusually distressed. Then there's puddles.
This has never happened at school.

After, I spent the last hour of the school day at home with my liquified insides trying to prepare myself for the horrific evening I was about to endure.

It never came.

I couldn't make a thing of it. My own nerves were completely jangled, and Princess usually reads them like a book and plays off them.

After the girls were in bed, Josh offered the insight. He said he pointed out to Princess that she seemed happy and asked her about it. She said, "I called mom and she came."

If only it were always that easy.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Giant Pile of Grossness

Every time I've thought, hoped, and prayed that Princess would one day be healed, that's what I focused on: the "being healed" part. The end result. Abra-cadabra, voila, you are healed.

Sadly, that is not the way it is working out. Apparently.

I mean, I was right: there is Being Broken, and there is Being Healed. Unfortunately, I'm finding out there is also this giant pile of grossness in between called HealING. Emphases on ING. That being, clearly on the way, but not healed yet. Dr. Sl warned us about it; he said things would seem like they were getting worse while they were getting better. But I believe all I heard was lalalalalalalalala getting better.

I don't know what I was thinking, really. Maybe that she'd start to make baby steps toward being whole and we'd all rejoice and enjoy this newly-emerged part of her and then she'd plateau for a while and then make another step and we'd rejoice and

Not so much.

It's more like how you've got that one child (or husband) who just does not value neatness and organization all that much so every now and then you dig under their bed and pull away the blanket they used to try to hide it and find a pile of rotting mush and ground up dessication that haunts your nightmares for months afterward.

Yeah. Kind of like that.

So what's happened is that Princess has not really raged significantly in six weeks. Which has never happened before. Maybe once, when she was five. I think there was a good summer once. So YAY!!!! right?


Only there was something underneath that blanket.

She doesn't rage much anymore and YAY for that, really, but it has been replaced by Oscar the Grouch, only without the lovable gruffness. Your breath stinks! Don't breathe near me! I hate you! You hate me! You're always mean to me! It's mean to mention my butt crack is hanging out and I might want to fix it! It's mean to tell me you'd want me to tell you if your butt crack was hanging out! Laughing at me is mean! Get out of my room and go cook dinner or something! Stop laughing- it's mean to laugh! How could you laugh at your little daughter? I hate you Peanut; shut up! I hate you Cuddle Bear; shut up! I AM!!! I'm COMING!!! I DID!!! Eighty times two IS 79! You don't know cuz you're not me! You don't get this! You don't know how to do math! I don't want to! No! I'm going to kill you, Peanut!*

Typing this does not do it justice, because there is, as my husband tactfully puts it, no I'm Going To Rip Off Your Head and S___ Down Your Throat font.

Now add to this base line of grouchiness an event like, oh, I don't know, let's say....theoretically of course....Princess miscalculated how little homework she could turn in and still earn the class incentive for the quarter and landed two points short, so is not invited to watch a movie in the gym Thursday, and the Pile of Grossness gets more Giant.

Princess has this rubbermaid box to put her laundry in, with a lid that is supposed to stay CLOSED. CLOSED! I say. Ever since points were tallied (I now realize), she has not closed the box. Every time she comes downstairs after changing, I tell her to close the box. Every time she tells me she did. Every time she did not. One time, I brought the box to her. She yelled at me for being mean, closed it, picked it up, and grouched loudly all the way up the stairs about how I made her have more work. This morning she came down and I told her to close the box and she said she did and I said, "great! Now ACTUALLY go close it!" and she went. I went in her room later to deposit some laundry and THANK HEAVENS it was closed, because I had this moment where I understood those women that get on the news: "how could she! How could she actually get in her car, drive to school, excuse herself to the teacher for interrupting, and throw a Rubbermaid box at her daughter's head! A monster!

I had the rages down. I had them down cold. I could handle a rage like no one's business. Now I feel like I'm some slimy fish grabbed out of a polluted pond and thrown into another. The new pond's water isn't quite as foul and murky, but I was used to my old pond! I could do it, right? Maybe not for much longer, but I had it under control, right? This new cleaner pond sucks!

So now I need to go fish my Big Girl Panties out of the old pond and wear them again. Maybe I'll embroider something new on the butt.

How's that for a mixed metaphor for you?

*Taken from actual monologue, all within the last eighteen hours

Sunday, November 13, 2011


We are in it.

And it's hard to put into words what's going on, so smart me thought, huh, it's a labor word. I'll look it up. The first site on the list was Amazing Pregnancy.com, so being lazy, that's what I clicked on. Here's what they had to say about it:

During transition, you may feel unable to relax or to get comfortable.  While you may have handled labor well up to this point, it is at this time you are most likely to feel like you have no idea what to do, and that nothing is comfortable anymore....

Sometimes taking a bath or shower or rocking in a rocking chair may help you cope....

Sometimes as the pressure increases...you will feel the need or desire to push...

Some things you can do to avoid pushing if you (are) not ready:
-  Lift your chin in the air
-  Pant loudly
-  Don't hold your breath
-  Imagine a balloon above your face and try to blow it away from your face.

Startlingly apropos.

About six months ago, one provider after another told me some version of, "I don't really know why she's not responding/ I don't really know what else to do/ huh?" and I started wondering if this was finally the end of the road and we really were on our own, outside in the dead of winter with the wolves. Then one said, "I had one family who swore by Dr. Sl. He's a behavioral pediatrician who specializes in trauma's effect on the brain. He's expensive, and you won't be able to get in for a long time, but he knows what he's doing.

I called Dr. Sl. He's expensive. Shockingly so, to me anyway, at least for the evaluation. The answering machine message warned me to not expect a call back for a full two weeks. Then I got an appointment-- with a three month wait. We had gotten so desperate that Josh's only question was, "are you sure he knows what he's doing?" Fortunately, I was. He ran the Children's Trauma Center in our area, and at the time our girls were placed with us our agency was requiring evaluations there for children three and older. Dr. Sl was the first person to really explain to me exactly what had happened to Princess's brain.

In September we finally sat down with him. For four hours. The more he talked, the straighter up I sat. For every thought that had ever flitted across my brain, he had already developed an actual Power Point presentation. And compared to what he had dealt with, with moderate success, Princess is a cake walk. He told us that, with the work we had already done, Princess was where he expected a patient to be around the third or fourth appointment. And I started to breathe. He spoke about the changes he'd make in her medication. Lot's of teeny tiny, low dose changes. He said, "we'll talk in a week, and then in two, because honestly, by then we could be looking at a different child." And I bent over and sobbed. Dr. Sl handed me tissues while Josh patted me. "Don't worry," Josh said, "she knew she was going to do this."

It was the hope. I know no one can promise me any type of result. But for someone to say, you're here now, and I have ideas you haven't tried," well, it was like coming out of a stale room. "See," said the Still Small Voice, "I told you. I told you you wouldn't be doing this by yourself. Now do you see?"

And he was right. By the second week, things were different. Just slightly. Just enough. She is more relaxed, more confident, more self-possessed. She laughs and giggles. She has raged twice in the past month, instead of twice in the past day, the past hour. In October, she began caring about her school work. She hasn't had a stamp in her notebook for not bringing home her homework for three weeks. She has only one concerning grade on her report card, with a note from her teacher saying it reflects more of September's work than October's. I truly see a chance for healing.

Except for the rest of us. I felt my anxiety take a hike the last two weeks of October. I figured it was because November is a traumaversary for me related to Princess, and that's probably most of it. But then, at about the same time, Peanut hit the skids. And Peanut on the skids is a far, far, FAR scarier than than anything Princess has ever dished out. And suddenly Buddy cannot stand Princess. Can't stand anything about her. And our feelings do not make sense: she's getting better! She's not screaming, she's pleasant more often, and she's only annoying in the ways all third-grade girls are annoying, yet this, mad, this anger, this junk that's been pent up in us for years is starting to move down the large intestine, and you know where that comes out....

So, basically, the three of us are moving into the therapist's office. It's nice there. She has a great dog. And a Keurig. What else do you need?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ever. For Any Reason

Two years ago Josh and I were badly betrayed by someone the children knew as well. This person had been outwardly kind to them, and there was no way to hide the betrayal from them, so they've had a great need to process it. Over. And over. And over. Every few months one of them (usually the Cuddle Bear) randomly brings it up, and I have to relive it. Big Girl Panties- ON! So again, last night, in the Suburban, again, from the Cuddle Bear.

Is he bad, Mommy?
I'd call it "dishonest" and "untrustworthy."
Is he mean?
(deep sigh)  Everyone has some good and some bad in them. How much of each has a lot to do with the choices you make. It's really hard to know what's in someone's heart. And it's complicated. People who act mean usually have had big hurts, too.

Quiet reflection (I think. It could have been nose-picking). Then Princess.

Like me?
Oh, honey. I don't think you're a mean person. I think when you act mean, it's because your big feelings get too big. I love you so much.
Yeah. You won't ever stop.

No. I won't. Ever. For any reason.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Homework continues to be the o joy that it was last year. So far, there is only one difference, and that is that Princess did not give us a honeymoon during the review month of September.

Yesterday she had a math sheet that involved a calculator, and she had clearly been taught how to operate it in class. She did some of her general toying around (9+4+4+7+4+4+7+9 instead of 9447+4479, for instance), and then settled into doing it correctly. For about four seconds. Then came: "find the difference between the two numbers." When she asked me to check her work, here is what I saw crammed into the answer space (_____):

the first numer has a nine in the front and the seced numer has a nine at the end

So. Of course, like a good mom, I tried to explain that the problem was looking for a math answer, not an explanation, but it went over in the usual way. So I stopped and went back to my knitting. Because this was taking place in the Suburban, mind you. During Peanut's soccer practice. In the rain.

Pretty soon I hear: clickclickclickclickclickclickclickclickclickclick
I hold out my hand.

Hand me my calculator please.
Why? I was just pressing this one (=).
Yes. I noticed. But the thing is, I need my calculator not broken. So I can balance the checkbook and make Daddy happy. So since you're not using it for your homework, kindly fork it over.
But whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?
Oh come on! We both know you're pressing the equal sign 5000x per second because you know I'll take the calculator and then you can yell at me for making you unable to finish your math sheet.


(more silence)

Can I play on the playground?
Because your homework is not done.
Bwaaaa haha hahahahahaha hahaHAAAAAA! See?

I will say, Princess's speech and language processing therapy is obviously paying off. Because she is coming up with much better mean names to call me much more quickly.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Clearly, I've Done Something Right

and it's not often I can say that, so I think I'll say it again. Just to make myself feel good:

Clearly, I've done something right.

I find that major transitions, such as school beginning or ending, are excellent times to sneak stuff into the routine that you know the kids aren't going to be super crazy about. They're usually reeling from change and so bleary-eyed from either too little or too much sleep that they don't realize what you've done until it's too late.

This summer it was, "hey, guess what! Your new job is picking up and vacuuming the dining room/ living room/ family room/ kitchen!"
Them: "uh um uh um. Ok....."

Our typical pre-school routine in the past has been: 1. clothing and hygiene, 2. breakfast, 3. more hygiene, 4. play scream and jump on each other's heads, 5. listen to mom blow a gasket over getting our shoes on and tied.

This time, I decided to remove "play Scream and Jump on Each Other's Heads," and replace it with "Read Bible Quietly to Self."

This was not well-recieved.

Mainly by Buddy, who is very dedicated to his before-school hobby of covering the sofa in cornflake crumbs and watching PBS shows that he'd rather no one knew he liked. So I wasn't particularly surprised to hear the dulcet tones of his crabbing. I handed him a Bible below his reading level.

Fifteen minutes later I had to drag him out the door carrying his shoes.
After school I had to shut it on his hands to get him to get his cleats on for soccer.
Then he disappeared with it for several hours after dinner.

I tucked him in bed and reminded him lights-off was at 9:30.
At 9:31 he came tearing downstairs.


Um. Ok. But then you CLOSE that Bible, Mister! One more chapter, and that's IT! No more God's Word for you tonight, do you hear me?

Um. So yeah.

Friday, September 2, 2011


Today I got the accusation every mom dreads:

"You don't go outside with me because you're always typing on the computer to your little friends. Nyah!"

This summer I've restricted Princess's play with others to within my hearing. She gets irritated so easily (like because someone's breathing too close to her), and when she's irritated, it's zero to sixty in under two seconds. She can earn 15 minutes of unsupervised play time each time she uses her Calm-Down Card, but it's kind of hit or miss whether she has enough control to stop and do it. This restriction doesn't bother her too much with her sisters, but the neighbor's grand-daughters spend every other weekend at her house, and Princess watches for them to be outside like a death vigil. Then she follows me around chatting and complementing me for awhile before she gets down to the nitty-gritty:

"Did I earn any time yesterday?"

This question is only asked when she knows she did not.
The day before yesterday was hideous, requiring quite a bit of restraint and copious amount of spit dripping down my legs and face.
Yesterday, she played in a pool and ate popsicles.
So she figured she had "had a better day," and therefore, "earned time."

When she found out that she was, indeed, mistaken, she figured the next best thing was to inform me that I had to sit outside and supervise her.

When she found out that she was, again, indeed, mistaken, Princess yelled choice insults at me for several minutes. They included:

"YOU WON'T EVER SIT OUTSIDE AND WATCH ME BECAUSE YOU'RE ALWAYS TYPING ON THE COMPUTER TO YOUR (insert head waggle and finger quote-marks, which impressed me because I didn't know she knew how to use those) LITTLE FRIENDS!"

I was a little taken aback by this. Am I on the computer too much? I use F@cebook and read a couple blogs and check e-mail a few times. I'm part of a support group, and if the day is particularly bad I read what people are saying. So maybe I do? Is my parenting suffering? Are my children neglected? I started to worry. But then Princess continued:


Thank goodness! That cleared it all up for me. If my computer time pales in comparison to the time I spend on laundry and hygiene, I figure my F@cebooking future is safe for the time being.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Are You Ready for School?

We are one of the last states in the nation to begin school. One of the ways we try to keep out of bankrupcy is by getting people to come here and pay for stuff, but you have to have employees to take the money, and the only people who want to be paid to take money for just the summer and no longer are...


So, while the rest of the nation is happily buried in textbooks and icky school lunches and maternal bliss, we get an extra week to freak out.

This year, the freak out is compounded by a new school. Princess started hers six weeks ago, Peanut four, and Buddy freaked out six months ago when we broke the news, and is mostly fine now. The Cuddle Bear is just happy that she is finally old enough to do something the other kids do, she really doesn't care where.

I started mine this week.

This, of course caught me off guard.

About mid-August, people start asking, so are you ready for school to start? as a conversation opener to moms. Suddenly, I realized that every time someone asked me, they'd slowly start to back away and then find something important on their fancy-pants touch-screen phone. That's when I realized my mouth had disconnected from my brain: my brain though I was saying, oh, I don't know. I like having them with me, but the reality was

Will my teachers like me?
Will I get in trouble with the principal?
Will I make friends?

What if no one likes me?

No. I'm serious. What if no one likes me? I'm in this horrible phase were no one has as many kids as me, so everyone I suckered into liking me with a boy Buddy's age has had all their kids in school for a couple of years and have gone back to work full time. All the parents of kids the Cuddle Bear's age didn't have enough kids to get to the Eh it's Not Really Dirty You Can Still Eat It Was it You Who Put the Dog in the Pot on The Stove That's So Funny stage, so they're slightly horrified at my parenting. And everyone knows middle kids get lost in the shuffle, so I'm not even sure Princess's and Peanut's classmates have parents. Top that with the economy that has lost three of my friends' husbands their jobs so they moved out of state for new ones, and you find that I know roughly one person in my community.

I am bored and lonely.
And I'm concerned that my social skills have deteriorated.
Am I going to have to *shudder* join the PTO?

Tell me it's not as bad as all that.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Kerrie, Friend of the Reframe

Me last year: For Pete's sake! Can't I be outside for five minutes without someone making someone bleed?!
Me today: Come on, you guys! Can't I be outside for fifteen minutes without someone making someone bleed?!

And that's how I knew things have gotten better on the whole.

It's hard to tell, you know. Kids don't heal on a continuum. It's more like that hose you found in the barn that hasn't seen the light of day since the owners before the previous owners. Tangles. Straight parts. Kinks. Then suddenly you realize there are less knots than there were when you started.

This summer there have been several reunions and weddings and things, and at each one there have been several people who love me who pull me briefly aside and whisper,

so how are things going?

I know what they mean, of course. But the first time I had to stop and think. I didn't really know.

Last summer (which doesn't really count because it was SO hideous because we were moving) sounded like this:
Me: Princess, please (insert menial day-to-day task every member of society must preform to avoid being committed to an institution).
Princess: Primal scream, primal scream, primal scream, whack whack whack, object flies through air, primal scream, primal scream. Kick Mom's shin. Grab Mom in places Mom is unaccustomed to being grabbed. Primal scream. Bite Mom's arm. Don't open mouth back up. Open mouth. Primal scream.

This summer has been more like this:
Me: Princess, please---
Princess: You make me do everything around here! You never make Peanut do anything! This is all your fault! I hate you! You're ugly and mean! You can't tell me to stop shouting! You're making me shout at you and be mean! If you wouldn't make me do stuff I wouldn't shout at you! I'll stop shouting at you if you give me a cookie.

So see what I mean?

I finally decided that yes, I guess things have gotten better. They are not really any more pleasant, but let's face it. Constant shouting, sassing, back-talk, grouching, and refusal is, well, not exactly normal, but closer to the elusive Range.

Embrace the reframe. You never know.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Goodbye, My Love. Goodbye

Physicals. They giveth. And they taketh away.

Four-something years ago we were informed our daughters's first mother's rights to them were terminated, and their last name was magically now the same as ours.

My first reaction was, wow. I now almost officially have four children, ages 6, 5, 4, and 2.
My second was, wow. What if I had a baby, too.

I ran into my doctor's office the next day.

"I need birth control. I need it NOW. Oh, and I've been having anxiety attacks."

She had good news. There was a way to kill both birds with one Pill. Er, stone. Yay.

Three years later I walked into my annual physical. More like my eighteen-month physical, because I put it off until I start to panic about uterine cancer. And she said, "sorry. I have to give you something else." And I said, "no. Absolutely not. No way." And she said, "yes I am. Because otherwise you're going to have a stroke. New research. You'll have to start exercising instead."


And so this week begins my new voyage with the new anti-stroke pro-anxiety anti-fifth-child prescription.
It's day two. So far, not so good.

Not helping the situation is Vacation. Anyone who's lived with RAD for more that two days just got heart palpitations from reading that word. And actually, it's not been bad. Princess has been doing surprisingly well this summer and is working with me more and more to calm herself, but Vacation is a test of all things. Although, honestly, it's turned out to be more about dread for me than anything Princess has shelled out. Even coming home has gone surprisingly well. In fact, it's the first time we've made that particular (6-hour) drive without a rage or tantrum. Granted, no one was sitting by her in the Suburban. Josh and Buddy were driving back another way from their Canadian Boys Beer and Belches fishing vacation. But that means I was driving ALONE, so they cancel each other out. There have been almost no issues since we've been home either. Which means it's me. Anticipation will do you in every time.

So it's day two. And I discovered Princess is out of underwear. It's both our faults. I emptied all the suitcases into the washing machine, but not the drier. But Princess is the proud owner of 20 pairs of underwear, and if ten of them weren't already in her laundry box from the three days before we left, some of them would be available for use. But do you think I handled this calmly, apologetically, with sillines and a dash of not my problem? Not so much. Nope.

So I popped some adrenal support, some niacin, some vitamin D, and prayed for some grace. I'll start training for a 5K (hahahahahahahaha!!!!) again, even though I'm pretty sure it's going to give me elderly, arthritic knees before my time.

What else can you do when your doctor insists against your will that you don't have a stroke?

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Unanswerable

WHY is it ALWAYS someone else's friends!?

Stomp. Stomp. Stomp. SLAM!
Which was probably for the best, because I wouldn't have known what to say, anyway.

I don't think it was really a question.

A friend of Buddy's had just arrived to play, and they headed up to Buddy's room.

Can I play in your room, too?
You're not allowed past the bathroom.

Which was true. And, really, much kinder than just saying plain no.

Our upstairs goes: my room, Princess's room, children's bathroom, Peanut/the Cuddle Bear's room, Buddy's room, and Princess is not allowed past the bathroom for several reasons, most of which involve hitting and stealing. But the real reason Buddy said that was because he needs normal, neurotypical breaks with normal, neurotypical friends.

This year Princess was invited to one birthday party.

Why is it always someone else's friends?
Well, we both know why.
It's just neither of us know what to do next.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Having a RADling means "family fun" is a conscious decision in which you know you're going to pay dearly on one end or the other, but you do it anyway. Because, gosh darn it, you deserve it. Such was Fourth of July Weekend. We partied had friends over. We barbecued. We lived outside. We stayed up reeeeeeeally late to see fireworks.

We got home at midnight.
Five hours past Princess's ideal bedtime.
Seven hours past the youcan'tmakemeIwon'thavefunbecauseIdon'twantto Rage of the Century.

And then we shot off the horde of illegal out-of-state fireworks we bought the weekend before.

So, needless to say, Princess was totally weirded out.

Also, Princess has a latent fear of the dark. She wanted to hold my hand, which was great, because she usually prefers to be either ten feet behind me or five feet in front. So I was enjoying it, but she was still clearly uncomfortable.

Then, her sisters, who have a sisterly radar for hot spots, began talking about robbers. And long spooky shadows. And bats. And coyotes.

I don't want to be out here anymore.
Ok honey. The lights are all on inside. You can go get on your pajamas and I'll tuck you in in a little bit.
Can you come too?
I want to see the fireworks, sweetie, but you can go in if you want.
I'm going to go in.

She ran up to the house like she was being chased by coyotes and robbers and like bats might swoop down and get tangled in her hair. All the way to the lit front porch. And she stopped. For a long time.

Princess? You sure can watch from there if you feel better. You can sit on one of the chairs.

I feel better with you.

She ran back to me, chased by coyotes and robbers, bats swooping, and held my hand.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Where's MY Calm-Down Card?

I have all these great ideas, and no one they work with.

Since spring, I've had to restrict Princess's world smaller and smaller, keeping her closer and closer to me. She's been going 0 to 120 in under a second and hitting or bludgeoning siblings with very little warning, in addition to the bus incident and shouting in the gym teacher's face. I now need her withing hearing distance so that I can catch things going south quickly, which means no girls' room, no basement, and no outside when I'm not there and other kids are. Josh or I are outside plenty every day, but this one is still a particular thorn in Princess's paw.

At the same time, I've been focusing on encouraging her to use her Calm-Down Card. So last night I though, huh; I could pair them together.

This morning I explained that YAY! I thought of a way she could earn some time outside with other kids and no me! Every time Daddy or I tell her to use her calm-down card, and she does, she can have 15 minutes of other-kid-outside-time. Isn't that GREAT?

Princess sure thought it was. She immediately grabbed her calm-down card off the fridge and started to run down the steps.

Um. Princess? So...who told you to use your calm-down card?
But you said if I use it I get time outside with the other kids.
I said if you use it when Daddy or I tells you to you earn time outside with the other kids.

And she went back to running the steps on the card.

Princess. Who told you to use the card?
No one.
Ok. I think you should grab a paper and a pencil. I think you need some help remembering this.

She came back with lined paper and a marker. I recited the conditions. Twice. She wrote them in hot pink marker completely ignoring the lines on the page. When I had her read it back to me, she got as far as word three before she was stumped.

Hey Princess. What do you think the lines on the page are for?
To write on?
Right. So I bet it would be pretty helpful to write ON them, don't you think? Try that.

So she did. Twice.

Honey, do you think it's the marker that's the problem, or your handwriting?
My handwriting.
Ok, then you'll need to write it again, but neatly, because you'll need to be able to read this when if we have a disagreement about it later.


Get a new paper and a pen or pencil.

So it was written and read successfully.

So now can I go outside?
Uh....the Cuddle Bear is out there right now- how many minutes have you earned, honey?
So can I go outside?
Um, no.
Go use your calm-down card.

So she sat down on the steps. A few moments later the noise started up again.

I see you're not using your calm-down card, so you'll need to go finish that noise in your room.

The typical room-scream fest insued, followed by the quiet formal Time Out, and I released Princess to "do over."

So can I go outside?
You told me to do my calm-down card.
Yes, well, but the whole DOING of the calm-down card was missing, and that's kind of the whole thing behind earning Time Outside With Kids.
Oh. Ok.

And she began to run down the calm-down card steps.

Ok! I'm done! Can I go outside?

Seriously, I'll spare you, because this happened twice more with negative-forty calm-down card usage. By 9:30 a.m. I was banging my head on the table trying to hold back tears as to not upset Buddy who was verbalizing his desire to not have to listen to this crap all the time as Josh prepared to leave for work earlier than he had intended because listening to all of this was actually putting him backward in what he needed to accomplish.

Did I mention my Suburban is in the shop? Since Monday night until Friday afternoon? Yep, that's right- I cannot leave. Oh, and by some disgusting slap in the face of fate, Josh has extra stuff after work several nights this week and has to show our old house to several prospective tenants. Fabulous life timing. Plus the thing he's going to tonight has great food and great wine and great people and every year everyone says, "you should bring your wife," but his wife is not fit to be seen because she keeps breaking out in hives and is missing chunks of her hair.

On the bright side, I have plenty of time to pound the calm-down card. Excuse me while I go use it myself.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Peanut Ingenuity

My children are geniuses.
No. Seriously. They are.
Ok. So there hasn't been any testing to prove it. Who needs testing when there is cold hard evidence like this:

Summer (so far) hasn't been as bad as last year, but no miracles have ocured in the past year, either. As a result, the atmosphere of our house could be described as... well,


The good news is: thanks to what they call "pharmaceutical intervention," we're down to one decent size rage per day, plus we're getting about four rage-free days for every 10 non-rage-free. This is a major step up from six to ten rages per day plus my hugely bruised shins, bite-marked arms, and concussed head of yester summer.

Still, it's... well,

The above photos were taken during a particularly noisy moment. I had restricted Princess to smack dab inside my space, and she was making very sure I enjoyed it as little as humanly possible. Princess has patented a noise she reserves for such moments. It is truly indescribable, but if you did a mash-up of fingernails on a chalkboard, squeaking Styrofoam, a fork scratching into ice, and the mating cry of rhesus monkeys, you could probably use it as a springboard for your imagination.

As this hideous noise is taking place, in slither these two blanketed figures, at an incredibly slow pace. So slow that it take at least five minutes for me to realize they are slithering through the kitchen. As they near me, the larger blob raises an appendage and hands me a blanket.

"Here Mom. Here is your snail shell. If you put it on, you won't be able to hear the screaming. It'll just sound like, 'hey I REALLY love my family.'"

See. I told you. Geniuses.

(photo by Peanut. Which is why my hips look disproportionately wide. She's short)

Friday, June 3, 2011

What Goes Around

Our family's therapist suggested (strongly) that I get a "prickly mean" babysitter for Princess once a week for the summer, and take the other kids on a fun outing, or I am risking them hating her for the rest of her life.

Which I totally believe.

So, two sisters came to mind who are in their 20s, have good senses of humor, and grew up with foster and adopted children in their family. But they're 20, so they're not going to be free. I figure $20 for two hours to sit and read, or surf the internet, or knit, or anything just as long as it is not entertaining Princess was fairly reasonable. So then comes the question of how to obtain $240.

I could give up yarn.
I could stop buying hanging baskets.
I could quit feeding the kids. That would provide $100 a week, easy.

None of them sound very appealing. But nether does three children hating one child for life. So, you know.

Then I got a phone call. It was the foster parent I provided respite for last summer.

Last summer I watcher her two medically-fragile prematurely-born foster infant twins for 4-6 hours once a week. While packing for a move. And dealing with Princess's near-constant packingforamove rages. It wasn't fun, but when the girls were placed with me, someone I had never even met came for four hours once a week so I could get two my own appointments. Or Princess's appointments. Or breathe. It completely saved any sanity I had left. And she stuck with me for three years. Now we knit together.

It's important to me to pay that forward.

I didn't ask for, expect, or want money, but when she asked if I'd take payment if DHS would pay for it, I said, sure- why not?

That was a year ago, and I stopped providing respite last September.

So this week, she calls me. And she said,

"DHS paid me for you. Not all of it. I don't think I'll ever be able to get you all of it. But I got some, and I left it at Josh's work for him to give to you.

It's $250."

I am well cared for.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Chihuahua Fear

Jorge was, surprisingly, the first one of us to get in a campground brawl.

I was walking him to shake down a poo before bed. With no warning whatsoever, the most obese boxer I have ever seen came darting out of her campsite and jumped Jorge. She was snarling, Jorge was screaming, the owners came running out to pry her off him, and I stood there, with NO idea what was going on. The first conscious thought I remember having was, "I should really do something." So I yanked him up into my arms by his leash.

Apparently I am fabulous in an emergency.

The owners asked if he was ok. As I said blearily, "I don't know," Jorge started screaming. I went to find Josh. The camp host went to talk to the owners.

He's ok. He has a shallow claw puncture on his rib cage. It's possible he has a bruised rib or a pulled muscle that nothing can be done about, but he's happy and eating and healing, so no worries.

The camp host said the dog was elderly and toothless (or Jorge would likely be dead) and had probably gone momentarily insane. She should have been on a leash, but the dog had never behaved that way before, and hadn't the entire weekend.

The next morning, Jorge didn't want to come out of his formerly detestable crate. I cajoled him out. He didn't want to go down more than half the campsite drive. I cajoled him down. He didn't want to go into the road. I cajoled him into the road. He didn't want to go near the edges, where the campsites were. I stopped cajoling.

Buddy, who was with me, wanted to still introduce him to other dogs. I said, "honey, we're going to let him take his time. He's afraid now, and he has a right to be."

And, as so often (too often) happens, I realized I had to pay attention to my own supremely wise words.

She's afraid. And she has a right to be.

When she refuses to ride her beloved bike rather than adhere to the boundaries I set, it's because she's afraid to let me protect her. And she has a right to be.

When I ask her to put the Monopoly money in the Monopoly box and instead she spreads the entire contents of the two game boxes across our (fairly large) entire kitchen because she's


while complaining the entire time how mean I am to make her put away one of the 26 toys she and the Cuddle Bear were using, it's because she's afraid to do something I tell her to do. And she has a right to be.

When I set out a tank top to wear with her long flowing skirt on a 95-degree day and she selects a long-sleeved fuzzy shirt instead to wear on the second-grade's day-long walking tour of the downtown area and playground, it's because she's afraid to let me be in control.

And she has a right to be.

(And when I say something reeeeeeeeeeally snarky to the people in the van next to me in the car-rider line who use the f-bomb and average of once every three seconds, including to the filthy half-dressed toddler roaming around in the back, because they make nasty comments about who on earth would put on a long-sleeved shirt and a long skirt on a 95-dregree day without knowing that she's the daughter of the unstable-looking woman in the car next to them- before peeling away out of the parking lot,

it's because I'm defensive of my child.
And I have a right to be.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My Favorite Chore

I love Clean Sheet Day. It's when you learn all the good stuff. Like what their secret plans are:

Or what they're getting the next time they're allowed a treat:

If only doing the dishes were so interesting.

Monday, May 23, 2011


*the sound of a gargle of extreme frustration

Have they isolated the genome for perverseness yet? Because the second they do, I am there with my handy hypodermic syringe, I tell you. I will suck that puppy out of my child on a moment's notice.

Princess is getting into increasingly more trouble at school. It happens every year at this time, I think because the work is getting too hard and her already teetering self-esteem is getting hit too hard. But every year it's getting more serious, and it's hard to not fear for what's next.

The girls Princess chooses to call "friends" are the well-behaved, very likeable, academically and extra-curricularly strong girls. But then there are the ones she calls "sometimes friends." These are girls who are mean, then fakey-nice, then mean again, and Princess cannot read the nice as fake. She also learns only very slowly by consequences, so every time the girl is nice, Princess figures she won't be mean again. Princess also HAAAAAATES conflict (until she snaps), so when a girl who's been fakey-nice is mean again, Princess can't leave her alone; she literally hounds her to change her mind.

And so, the Bus Incident. On the way back from Field Day, Princess sat on the bus next to Fakey-Nice Mean Girl. Chose to sit there. This is a verified fact. The other verified fact is that Princess slapped Fakey- Nice Mean Girl in the face. Everything in between is hearsay and conjecture, and is disagreed upon between Josh and myself.

The story I heard was that third-graders were making her feel dumb by asking her math questions.

The story Josh got was that third-graders were asking her hard math question and laughing at her for not knowing the answers. Then Fakey-Nice Mean Girl put her hand over Princess's mouth, and Princess slapped her.

Josh's side is that Princess so rarely defends herself in a bullying-type situation that if Fakey-Nice Mean Girl was physical first, it's not such a big deal (in our opinion) that Princess slapped her.

However. I have yet to hear Princess tell about something that happened without leaving out as much as possible that makes her look bad. So this is what I suspect is the most probable version:

Either Princess or the Third Graders said something challenging about multiplication and the other party reciprocated. A Third Grader eventually said, "oh yeah, you don't know what 8x4 is!" and Princess put her hands on her hips and waggled her head at them and said, "yes I do!" They said, "what is it then," and Princess gave the wrong answer. The Third Graders and Fakey-Nice Mean Girl laughed at Princess for not knowing the answer. The Third Graders laughing was one thing, but Fakey-Nice Mean Girl laughing was another, so Princess uttered a bunch of angry-sounding-hyper-nonsense with her mouth half an inch away from Fakey-Nice Mean Girl's face, and Fakey-Nice Mean Girl put her hand over Princess's mouth. And Princess slapped her.

See how that works? It's happened at home dozens of times.

It happened at home this morning. Princess came downstairs and said something to Peanut and the Cuddle Bear, and Peanut said her breath stank. It was just being mean (mostly), and I told them to stop. But Princess wouldn't stop. She kept trying to get them to say her breath didn't stink. I called her out of the room twice to remind her that she heard me tell them to stop, they stopped, and it was time for her to stop as well. Each time she went back in the kitchen, sat and inch away from one of them, and tried again to make them say her breath didn't stink. The third time I called her out, Peanut smirked. When Princess when back in the room, she slapped Peanut in the face.

But she smiled at me!
I know but
She was saying I stink!
I told her to stop, rem-
She smiled at me!
It's my turn to talk now.

Princess. It's not ok to hit someone for smirking. Ever. If you can't stay away from someone who's bothering you, then I have to help you stay away from someone who's bothering you. Get a book and go hang out in your room.

It's your turn to talk now.

Silence. Because Princess only likes to talk to me if I'm already talking. Or sometimes if I'm listening to someone else.

Go then.
Buuuuuut sheeeeeeeee smiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiled at meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Later, I tried to process with her. I told her that if she couldn't walk away, she was going to be the one to end up in trouble. And she replied,

but everyone always blaaaaaaaaames meeeeeeeeeeee!

Yeah. They do. Because you're the one who hits.

Bring me the syringe.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Gift

We haven't even finished this year's grade, and school for next year is already thoroughly occupying my mind.

When we moved last fall, we moved into a different school district. We kept them where they were for this year, but decided to move them to this district for next year, but me no likey change. I've been stressing out about Princess, particularly, because I can hardly just leave her to the wolves in a new school.

So I scheduled a meeting with the principal.

I spent weeks going over what I'd say and what I'd not say. I prayed for the right words I prayed for people who would trust us that I could trust.

We sat down, and I gave a nice, concise, run down of Princess's background, challenges, and needs. He took notes. And what he said next made it hard to not fall right off my chair.

He said, "we did it the opposite of you."
What do you mean?
We adopted four siblings. Then years later had a baby.
So when you talk about early environment and brain development, subtle manipulation, and difficulty with trust, I know what you're saying.
I know the perfect teacher for her.

I am so stunned. In all my preparation, I never thought to ask for someone who understood.

And it was given to me anyway.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

So. Mother's Day.

Somewhere along the line, Josh developed the theory that I was sabotaging Mother's Day as much as Princess. It could have been that I could not stop crying in public long enough to eat a taco last year. But I don't know. So he decided to spring it on both of us by going out to brunch after church the Sunday before. Which would have worked really well. If I wasn't already freaking out about Mother's Day. And if we hadn't had a rip roaring fight in the car on the way to (and from church). We didn't fight at the actual church. Mostly because I ditched him when he went into the bathroom.

Not my most mature moment.

So it didn't work and later in the day, after hand-scrubbing the floor- which I only do when I'm really upset. Or really motivated. Mostly really upset- I begged and begged and BEGGED, on my hands and knees, even, not to have a Mother's Day. Unfortunately, Josh insisted because, and he wouldn't stop, that I deserve a Mother's Day. And this was a big problem for me because I realized

I don't actually believe that. 

And I've been trying to resolve this in my head, because, really, I know I'm a good mother. I have three children who are above average in everything they do. One of them has come from almost where Princess was and amazes me every day. But Princess. Every day Princess pounds into my head, whether she means to or not:
  • you suck
  • you'll never make a difference
  • what you do doesn't matter
  • you're letting the rest of your family down
  • there's something wrong with you
  • you just might be crazy
and that's not easy to combat. You have to do it consciously, telling yourself the opposite, the TRUE thing, five times for every one you think.

And I haven't been. I've been agreeing.

Friday came, and the school-aged kids pranced up to the car and shoved all their gifts in my lap and insisted I open them while I tried to navigate the car-rider line without committing an unwritten car-rider line felony that would cause another mom to get out of her car and unload her angst upon me. Because it has happened before. And their things were super-sweet.

(that would be Buddy. I especially like the last sentence)

(and there is Princess. I suspect heavy prompting, but still a pretty big deal. It's all true to at least a degree, and she didn't say anything like, "My mom is close to my heart because she washes my socks." So it's all good)

(Peanut. What I love love love about this is that the big red hear is ME! I am the biggest! And that is a big, BIG deal)

Somewhere around Sunday afternoon, I lost it. I don't know how they did it, but the kids managed to be more awful than usual. Buddy was the worst, and since I can usually count on him to think past himself, it really hurt my feelings. And then my hurt feelings hurt his feelings. Since we are essentially the same person, that let to a cry-fest stand-off in the bathroom.

We eventually resolved it, though, and ended up sitting on the front porch together watching the stars come out, and it turned out to be the best part of the day.

Now we do it every evening.

In retrospect, I should have done it differently. I should have told them what I wanted. Point-blank. I should have sat them down and made them paint those birdhouses I bought. And then I should have left while Josh hung my bedroom curtains and cooked me dinner.

So don't be surprised if you call next weekend and I'm out getting a pedicure. I really need one, anyway.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Cuddle Bear Turns Five

I have every intention on venting writing about the two-week depressing saga I refer to by the code name "Mother's Day," but this is so much cuter.

Happy birthday Cuddle Bear. I thank God every day that the caseworker didn't listen when I told her I wasn't taking three.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Another Parenting Moment Unenvisionable Pre-Children

I exit the store and pull the Suburban out of the parking space, passing the store display window as I leave the parking lot. I stop short.

Cuddle Bear?
You did that, didn't you.


I drag the Cuddle Bear back into the store and set her in front of the owner.

"Well, hello again!"

She said she's the one who de-pantsed your mannequin. And she's sorry.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Because It's Been Awhile Since I've Griped About Homework

I would do it again in a heartbeat.

The cruise. There is no fallout that would make it not worthwhile. None.

That said, the past four weeks have been....er....challenging? Difficult? Loud? A living nightmare that I can't seem to wake up from?

Yeah. That one.

There was spring break. And we likey institutional structure. Well. One of us does. And that Friday it was time to pick the homework back up. Mind you, there had been four weeks, FOUR WEEKS, where Princess completed her homework on time compliantly with a decent attitude. It didn't exactly lull me into complacency- it's not like the stomach aches or the twitch went away, but, you know. You start to like it.

And then it aaaaaaaaaaall hits the fan, it's all too much, and you get this:

and in response to the child reporting to the teacher that you "won't help her," and the child reporting back to you that the teacher said, "tell your mom that she has to help you because moms are supposed to help their children," and the resulting e-mail from the teacher saying that what she actually said was, "I know your mom helps you; moms are supposed to help," you make her this:

...which you find the next morning looking like this:

The next day a note came home requiring my signature to inform me that Princess had not turned in her required on book a week.

No kidding?

I slid aforesaid book across the counter to her, and she read it perfectly. With expression. I said, "I do NOT think your homework is too hard for you at all," and I slid the note in front of her. "I think you should read and sign this, too." The Oscar the Princess look shoved itself onto her face.

I KNOW what it says.
Then tell me.
Dear Parent, as you know
No, you said you know what it says. So tell me.
I forgot.
Then read it and tell me what it's telling you.

So she did. With the grouch face.

I don't know what compelled me. Maybe righteous anger that she can do her work, she just, you know, won't. Maybe getting-ahead-of-myself fear for her future. But I said, "do you remember that letter J wrote to you in the cover of her baby book?" (nods) "Do you remember what it says?" (shakes head). I went downstairs to get it. When I got there I stood in front of the door remembering that Josh locked it to keep the kids from using the toilet in there and not flushing and letting it sit and sit and sit until it becomes and actual part of the toilet, forgetting that it's a keyed lock and we don't have the key so now we have to wait for a slow weekend to break off the knob and replace it.

I kicked the door a few times chanting "frick" softly to my self.

I went back up.

"Ok. So I can't show it to you. But I remember it. She told you that she wants you to do all your work in school so you can finish and have choices for a job. J didn't do all her school, and that's part of why she is having so much trouble now. J couldn't take care of you, but she loves you and cares about you. She wants better for you that she had for herself. She wants you to do all the school you can."

Josh overheard and came in. He reminded Princess that just at dinner she was talking about what she wanted to do for a job as a grownup. What was it again?


I said, "Princess, do you know that regular kids answer questions? It's called talking. You can do it, too. You can be brave and answer Daddy's question."


And the three of us went on to have an actual conversation. Once in which Princess actually spoke. Not that she was happy about it. I was not being sarcastic when I encouraged her to be brave: talking to us feels like a risk to her.

At the end, Princess still had her arms folded across her chest and a semi-crabby look on her face. Josh said, "so what do you think a regular kid would do now?"

Smile. And hug you.

"Why don't you try it out, honey? Practice being a regular kid. You can be brave. You can do it. Try it out. See how it feels."

And holy shnikers, she did.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

End of Spring Break Soapsud Reflections

I was wondering, while washing the dishes, why 3/4 of the children can lose their tempers and scream something unsavory at me, and it ruffles none of my feathers

while 1/4 of the children send me into a paralyzed depression.

I think it's because exactly 1/4 of the time I suspect the unsavory things might be true.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

My Suddenly Empty Room

"Look! You made Mommy crabby!"
"No! You made Mom crabby!"
"No, it was YOU!"
"No, YOU!"

Which I found entirely fascinating, because I was feeling the least crabby I have felt all week. Because all I was doing was being entirely fascinated.

Christine saved my life this week by giving me the most condensed version ever of the conference she attended. She does that. It took me about three days to process what she said, so I wrote it on my hand:

Here are the things that actually do make me crabby:
1. fighting
2. tattleing
3. taking your booster seat out from under you in the car and hitting your sister over the head with it repeatedly.

Actually, there are really only two, because fighting and tattling never happen separately. And there was a lot of it this morning.

MooOOOOOooooom, Peanut is using my marker and she's not being respechful with it and she keeps slamming it into the table and writing on the table!
Wow! You sound really frustrated that Peanut is using your marker. I wonder who told you that you had to let Peanut use your markers.
No one.
Oh! No one told you that you had to let Peanut use your markers, and you're letting her use your markers, but it makes you feel really frustrated.

Confused look. Suddenly empty room.

MOOOoooooOOOOoooom, I put Peanuts bike away and Peanut threw my bike RIGHT ON THE GROUND!
Wow. That sounds like it would be really frustrating! I wonder what on earth would make Peanut so angry she'd throw someone else's bike?

Confused look. Suddenly empty room.

Why do you think the kids are so upset that you're singing?
I don't know.
Hmm. Let's pretend you did know. What would you say?
(Really long silence. Per Christine, I put the look on her face onto mine, and tilt my head to the side. Princess becomes increasingly annoyed)
You don't want to talk. That's cool. Let's not talk.
Oh. They want you to not sing, but you want to sing and you want them to like it.
ARRGH! (stomp stomp stomp stomp SLAM)

Suddenly empty room.

How on earth can you be crabby when you're in a suddenly quiet and empty room?
You can't. You can knit.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

When Mother's Day Comes Early

"Let's make Mom a pwesent!!!" spoken in hushed tones by the two children who still cannot pronounce their "r"s.
Peanut and the Cuddle Bear disappear into the depths of the basement playroom.

"Hewe, Mom! Happy Mudder's Day!" shouts the Cuddle Bear. Peanut stands nearby with a grin.

I open the leftover birthday gift bag, peel back the left over birthday tissue and expose...

"What on earth..." Orange rolls of foam spill out. Thousands of them. Josh loves Amazon.
And I recognize them.

Peanut claps her hands.
"They're eaw plugs!" squeals the Cuddle Bear, "you can put them in your eaws when Pwincess sqweams!"

"Oh my. Thank-you, girls. That's so, um.... thoughtful."

Because, of course, it was.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Who Made Spring Break an Annual Event?

It is three hours into spring break, and I have already officially lost it.

Princess is super-nice while Josh is here. Or when anyone is here. Or when she's somewhere else, but as soon as that door shuts...

Well. Not so much.

So the door shut this morning, and immediately Princess began yelling at her sisters about cleaning up their room. Then, when they started yelling at her, she wanted me to "tell them to stop yelling at her."

When I went up to check on said supposedly cleaned-up room (and whatever was making to sound of hyenas in heat fighting each other to the death), Princess was in their room threatening to hit them with a doll chair held over her head.

I sent her to her room. Mostly to calm down my now-triggered self. And was told to shut up.

She calmed quickly because there was a pile of laundry to put away on her bed. Who doesn't love a good pile of laundry? I wasn't angry anymore, but my cow, this stuff HURTS! and I wasn't quite done hurting. So going in was certainly a mistake, but I did anyway. I mentioned that I really did not appreciate that she could be plenty nice while Daddy was here, but turns mean to me as soon as he leave. And I suggested that she reflect on the fact that she spends faaaaaaaaaar more time with me, and perhaps said time would be more pleasant for both of us if she used some of that niceness on me. Except I may have actually said, "fake niceness," which of course was another mistake. Then I went downstairs.

Probably as a direct result of the fake niceness barb, Princess went a whole fifteen seconds before whining about how she couldn't finish her laundry because she didn't have enough hangers. Because there is no way in the world you can do anything with laundry if you don't have a hanger. Putting things in dressers is unthinkable. I told her that if she felt she had too much clothing (which she does. I'm a sucker), she could feel free to bring some to me for storage for someone younger. To which she complied.

By throwing them at me.

And in the course of the dialouge that came next, I broke out the sarcasm. A lot of sarcasm.

Is that mistake #3? I lost count.

She said don't talk to me anymore. I said gladly.

It was all very therapeutic and conference-speaker worthy, let me tell you.

The part I'm thrown by, is what she's been doing since then. She has been walking back and forth, around and around. Pacing is not unusual for her, but it's not pacing. She's trying to get my attention. Probably for resolution.

And I don't know what to do.
I guess I'll go give her a hug.

Only 108 more hours to go.

Friday, March 25, 2011

All Because You're Eew

A conversation, on the way home from school:

Peanut: Mom? Did I ever get lost?
Me: No. Not when you were with me.
Peanut: I don't think I got lost with J., either.
Me: I don't know.
Peanut: I wish I was born with you instead of born with J. and you adopted me.
Me: You think it would have been easier to be born with me.
Peanut. Yeah. Mom? Did you want us?
Me: Very much.
Peanut: Because we were cute?
Me: No. Because you're you.
Peanut: We're eew?

Well. It was almost a poignant moment anyway.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

They Don't Let 30-ish-Year-Olds in the Science Fair

After Buddy's spring concert, there was an announcement. Regarding the third grade science fair.

"Yippee!!! I get to be in a science fair!!!!" I cried out.
Josh's head snapped toward me and his eyes narrowed.

"I mean Buddy. Buddy gets to be in a science fair. Buddy. Yeah."
Josh's eyes stayed narrowed.
I have a history.

Friday, a packet 18 inches thick was sent home with eight million rules and three papers to be signed by parents. The phrase "showcasing the child's work" was printed in bold on several pages.

However, a third-grader can't be left to the wolves entirely, so I started googling. Would you believe in the entire World Wide Web there are only two original science fair ideas? One was an experiment on which type of music most effectively calms cats. The project involved riling a series of cats up with a vacuum cleaner, playing music, and then timing how long it took the cat to stop pacing and meowing with it's hair on end, so it was quite promising. Unfortunately we do not have a series of cats, so it was out of the question. The other was, "which grows faster, hair or fur?" and required the shaving of a patch on the student's head and a patch on the student's Chihuahua. I decided not to pitch this idea to Buddy.

So I sighed and tried brainstorming. Sadly, I tried brainstorming with a nine-year-old whose friend and he did not stop laughing and passing gas until 11:00 the night before.

What do you mean, "po.op."
I want study which dog food makes the most po.op.
Your teacher will never approve it (notice the deft taking the blame off myself- now that's parenting).
Because we don't have a way to study po.op output without contracting a variety of viruses.
Pe.e, then.
Ok. What do you want to know about toilets?
(Thinking) Nothing.
Ok, so now what.
Toilet paper.
What about toilet paper?
Which kind is the thickest and sucks up the most pe.e.

Alright. Now we're getting somewhere. At this point, however, I did not realize Buddy had become serious. Several times over the weekend I tried to get him back engaged in brainstorming and several times he said, no, I'm going to do toilet paper.

How about geraniums? How they grow with and without light?
Mold? You could grow mold on bread.
Timing hamsters in a maze?
I can have hamsters!
Oh. Toilet paper.

And so another dream of parental greatness died.

At the dinner table I announced that Buddy had his science fair idea. Again with the narrowed eyes. Josh insisted Buddy recount verbally how he arrived at his idea.

"I said po.op and then pe.e and then urinals and then toilets. I didn't want to know anything about toilets, so I said toilet paper. So we're going to find out if the more expensive toilet paper is thicker and sucks up more pe.e. But don't worry. It'll just be yellow water."

I stuck out my tongue at Josh.

Monday, March 21, 2011

My Life is Nothing if Not Ironic

I have often said, and I hold by it, that I would have been more than willing to go through another round of labor with each child (well, in the case of the girls, any labor at all), if what came out at the end was an individualized parenting manual. Would it be awkward? Certainly. Would the spiral binding be extremely uncomfortable? Without a doubt. But it would have been so useful in the quest to be four different sets of parents living under one roof.

Because that's what my children seem to need: four different sets of parents. That's how completely different each of them are.

Tuesday is dance and piano day. At least it was. I do not like dance and piano day. Every. Single dance and piano day, Princess has a tantrum to and from school, and Buddy has a whine fest at home as we pack up his piano book. Especially if he has not practiced that week. Learned that lesson the hard way. Anyway. In January I finally noticed that the after-school car rages defiantly had a pattern: every Tuesday. No other day. While it was a relief that they were down to one day a week, I felt it needed to be addressed, so I asked Princess what was bugging her about dance. She gave me a couple I don't knows and some shoulder shrugs and some nothings, and then came out with, "I don't like it that some people are better than me."

In reality, Princess is pretty on par with the girls in her class. But, you know, there's always The One. When you're an adult, The One usually has expensively highlighted hair, lots of time to spend on the treadmill, a handsome husband about whom you can find nothing to snipe, three kids, and two dogs. She has a bunco night, and all  her excellent desserts are from the new Ina Gar.ten  cookbook. There are kid The Ones, too though. The One in Princess's tap class is a charming little girl with tons of energy and charisma who always knows the answer and practices incessantly outside of class. And you just have to get used to The One, because not only is she always going to be there, but her hair is going to look exponentially better than yours as you age. Ahem. Not that I have issues.

So I tried to have a talk with Princess about finding joy in doing your personal best and improving through practice. I reminded her that car tantrums are not an acceptable way of venting one's anxiety, and I warned that we would need to make a decision about dance soon, as recital preparations were underway. She said she wanted to keep going to lessons and she would let me help her do breathing exercises on Tuesdays.

Only she didn't. She missed four lessons in a row because she either was unable to get dressed for lessons or unable to ride in the car safely (read: screaming, flailing, and throwing things). So this week I said, I'm sorry, but we're done. I'll keep helping you learn to manage your anxiety, and probably in another grade you'll be able to do it so well we can try dance again. She shook her head no several times, and a tear ran down her face. It was a struggle for me. I loved having her in dance. It was hard to say we're stopping.

AND, because life is like that, on the VERY SAME DAY I had this conversation with Buddy:

Me: You're going to piano.
Buddy: But I hate piano! Why do you keep making me do it? I hate it!
M: Because there are two things parents make their kids do no matter how much they hate it: school and   piano.
B: Why do you want to make me do something I haaaaaaaaaate?
M: Because everything is easy for you. It's good for you to practice working on something hard.
B: But whyyyyyyyyyyy?
M: I'll tell you why. Because adults who have had everything easy have big adult temper tantrums when they have to do something hard. And they are NOT pretty. And I don't want your wife to leave you. So get in the car.

Sometimes I get the sneaking suspicion I'm being laughed at on a cosmic level. But maybe I'm just paranoid.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

We Left. And Came Back

Two weeks ago, something happened.

Something so incredible that I'm still not convinced I didn't dream it. Because I do have very realistic dreams. Sometimes it takes me days to realize an incident didn't really happen. I'm still working on the one I had after watching an episode of V; the birth of my alien baby was very, very realistic, and I was so worried no one would accept her for who she was. Anyway.

Josh's aunt e-mailed saying that she had cruise tickets she wasn't going to use, and if we could get babysitting and swing the plane ticket, she'd see if she could get them transferred.

"There's no way," I said to Josh. "None. We have four kids. They are loud."
Josh said, "but don't you want to try?"
Sheesh. Yeah. I guess so.

I made some phone calls, and our former neighbor actually CALLED BACK and said that she suspected she might be certifiable, but she'd come stay with the kids for the week.

Really? Are you kidding me? Because that would be cruel.

So Josh e-mailed his aunt, and she replied that she couldn't get the tickets transferred, so she decided she'd go after all and she bought us tickets.

Um. See, the thing is, that stuff never happens in real life. That's the kind of stuff that happens to other people. Someone's third cousin's friend's sister.

So, without me truly believing it was happening, I found myself ALONE WITH MY HUSBAND on a plane, and then on a really freaking huge ship. In the ocean.

ALONE. For seven days. Seven. A week. ALONE.

So we did this:

(actually, that's Josh's aunt. But you can pretend it's me, because I overcame my irrational bird fear and did it too. I thought this picture was me, in fact, until I realized I hadn't worn shorts because I was terrified birds would peck my knee caps)

and this:

and a whole heck of an awful lot of this:

And it was wonderful. I even still have some residual relaxation left in my system.

However, one can only live without a purpose in life for so long. We came home. And that was wonderful, too. The kids obviously missed us, but weren't anxious or worried. Buddy knocked me down and sat on my head while Peanut and the Cuddle Bear squealed and tried to say everything at once. Peanut read me the letter she wrote us while we were gone,* and Princess even moved in signaling hug-wanting. It was nice to be missed.

But, as every Trauma Mama well knows, re-entry is a female dog for breeding purposes. I'm actually quite shocked at how little aftermath I've seen from Peanut. A LOT of talking. The first day. And that's it. Even Princess has been able to control a teensy bit of herself, which is h-uge. But, you know:

1. Us leaving. Trigger. Someone else in charge. Trigger.
2. Josh's birthday is today, less than a week after return. We no likey other people's birthdays. Because they are not ours. And Josh's birthday is a huge hairy deal because it's
3. Ten days before Princess's birthday. AAAAAAGH! AAAAAAGH! AAAAAAAAAAAGH! Princess's birthday is a mine field. Birthdays often are for these kids, but pair that with that her third birthday was right before she came to us; she didn't get to bring her presents with her, plus her fourth birthday was during reunification, both families were under extreme stress, and reunification efforts "ended" a week later; she didn't get to bring her presents with her, and you get BLAMO!!!! Good times. Good times.

There has been almost constant stick-poking this week. The other night she came out of the pantry three times claiming she "just didn't know what to have for a treat." When she disappeared the fourth time, I said to Josh,
"watch out. She's up to something."
"What do you mean?"
"She going on and on and ON about how she can't find a treat. It's going to blow."

And....sure enough. After asking for "help" from both of us and getting two separate, "you know, if it's so hard to find sugar to eat, perhaps you are not so interested in eating it," the scream-fest ensued. It was just an excuse. The anxiety is so high, and I'm sure screaming seems the best way to let it out.

We remind her that we know she is scared. We remind her that we are not leaving for good. We take deep breaths.

Because we are relaxed, after all. Ya mon.

*I Love You Mom and Dad. From Peanut to mom and Dad. we all mist you all varer much. We did when you wer gone we went to a frind's hose for a sleep over. we wennt to a nutr sleep over we had fun. We had riley fun at all the sleep over's at arer freinds hose. We love you verey much we mise you I love you. and how was youre vakin on the ship was it a litler skarey or fun I hope you had a nice day on the ship will you go on the ship agan if you do agan I will mis you verey much I love you evey time.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Friday, February 25, 2011

What I Want to Be When I Grow Up

This came home in Princess's work folder today:

And that is, in a nutshell, what I hope for her.

Monday, February 21, 2011


A few weeks ago there was an episode involving a bodily fluid, the basement sofa, and said items left to be blamed on Jorge. And they would have been, if I hadn't noticed a particular sequence of events that incriminated the culprit. As a result, the offending child has been banned from the basement without parental supervision. The basement that contains the Wii.

Almost daily, she asks if she can play the Wii. Almost daily I say, I haven't seen your plan yet, honey.

I told her basement privileges would be reinstated when she could develop and implement a plan for how to keep the sofa bodily-fluid-free.

This request turned out to be an excellent way to showcase her creativity. Because over the past two weeks she has come up with some fascinating ideas. Most of them involving me doing the work. None of them sounding anything like: use the to.ilet on a regular basis.

She knows the solution. I don't think it's possible to so studiously avoid the correct solution if you don't know what it is. She even came close: she suggested I tell her to use the to.ilet every two hours. Sadly, this does not work, because if she doesn't want to she will do everything involved in using the to.ilet except depositing something in it. So I said, I don't think so, because I've already done all the work involved in training myself to use the to.ilet, and now it is your turn.

However. When I asked, "how do you think Someone Else would solve this problem." she said:

They would use the to.ilet every two hours.

I waited. And waited. And waited. Nothing. No connection. Nada.
Ok. I think we're done here.

A good 98.6% of my frustration parenting this sweet girl is that she won't take help. Ever. I want to help her stop shooting herself in the foot, but she won't give me the gun. So what can I do? Not a whole heck of a lot.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Important Thing

"Cuddle Bear! You forgot your un.derwear!"

Giggle giggle snort snort, the Cuddle Bear laughs at herself while she dresses after swim lessons. "I forgot my un.derwear, Mommy! That's so funny! You can't forget un.derwear!"

"Un.derwear is very important..."

Peanut suddenly stops waving her swim bag at people's heads, takes her face out from underneath the hand-dryer, and stares straight at me, hair sticking out in all directions 18 inches off her head.

"Mom. Underwear is NOT the most important thing. Having a FAMILY is the most important thing. Being with people who LOVE you is what's important. A MOM is the most important. Having a mom who takes care of you is the most important thing of all."

Well said, Peanut.

(Underwear is still important)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Two Moms

The girls went through a period of time recently where they asked a lot of questions about their first mom. Mostly in the car on the way to school. And by "the girls," I mean Peanut and the Cuddle Bear. Princess has a script she uses whenever she thinks someone wants her to talk about her first mom ("she only yelled and only fed us sweet cereal and always spanked us and never gave us baths"),* but she never EVER brings up anything about her first mom that isn't scripted. However, she is always there for these conversations, so I tailor them for her specifically.

*Every statement in this script ranges from slightly true to completely false and does not touch at all on the real reasons for their removal.

Peanut's questions tend to be "why" questions, and I answers them as factually and sensitively as I can. Which is hard, because although I know the facts from that time, I really, really, REALLY don't understand. And I try to leave it at that.

After Peanut exited the car for school that week, the Cuddle Bear asked some different questions. The Cuddle Bear was 18 months when parental rights terminated, so she doesn't have much memory from that time. She wanted to know what First Mom was like. What did she look like? What kind of hair did she have? Did she have brown skin or peach skin? What was she like?

I had the privilege of  knowing First Mom a little, so I did the best I could.

When we got home I got out a picture and color-copied it for her. She was playing in her room. I handed it to her and said, "that's what First Mom looks like," and I headed back downstairs.

At the stairway, I thought to stop and turn back. The Cuddle Bear was looking at the picture with a dreamy, beautiful smile. She raised a finger and softly fingered First Mom's face. I stood there watching, and I checked myself over to see what my feelings were.

Nothing. I felt totally ok.

Then the Cuddle Bear turned and saw me there.

Mom! Why are you watching me!
I'm just loving you, baby girl.

Her smile changed from a dreamy smile to full-on brightness.
I love you sooooo much, Mommy!
I love you too, sweetness.

I went downstairs.
She stared at her picture.

Friday, February 4, 2011


Right at 5:00 my right eye began to twitch, so I knew it was time to start Homework. I pulled it out and called Princess, who proceeded to stare blankly at it for several minutes. Then she listed the numbers from smallest to largest, just as the directions directed.

The first set of directions.

The second set of directions was to circle the median number.

For those not familiar, "median" is the single-most easiest statistical concept know to man. It's formal definition is, "that one there right in the middle."

You would not believe how many times someone can circle a number that is not actually in the middle. I would not have thought it was possible if I had not witnessed it myself. At one point Princess loudly proclaimed that she HAD circled the one in the middle, see! it's that one right THERE.

And she was pointing at the median. Right next to the middle was the number she had circled.

I said, "wait right there! I have an idea." And I ran out of the room and got something.

What! I don't need that right now.
Maybe not. But I do.
Why? Why do you need it?
I need a break. Every Friday you pretend you don't know how to do math, and I'm getting kind of worn out. So we're going to pretend this is me. Every time you feel yourself wanting to tell me that you did do it and it is the right answer, you can tell your doll instead. That way we'll both be happy. And then when you decide you're ready to circle the real middle, then you can tell the real me.

And every time she started to speak, I pointed at the doll.
Then she circle the right answer.
And on problem two.
And on problem three.

Why the heck did that work?

Then I found some inappropriate fluids in an inappropriate place, and we started all over. But that's another story.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

When Logical Consequences Rain Down From the Heavens

Two neurotypical children are hailed from the Wii to put away their laundry.

Two neurotypical children are back downstairs on the Wii unnaturally quickly.

One neurotypical child should be, because she is too young for an allowance so only has to put away underwear and pajamas. The other has been taking seven shirts down every morning and lining them up on the floor to choose one and not putting the rest back.

The neurotypical mom yells down the stairs, "if I find out anyone's laundry isn't done correctly, that little girl will lose the Wii this week."

Seven-Shirt-a-Day Neurotypical child shouts, "it's done correctly!"

This morning, the neurotypical mom opened the girls' closet and went, hmm.

Tomorrow is going to be a snow day.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Is Having No Self-Respect the Same as Clinical Depression?

So. When the summer class schedule came out for the school at which I was taking Zumba,* I noticed they were offering Old People Beginning From Dirt Ballet. Ok, so they called it "Adult Beginning Ballet," but we all know what they meant. And I was really excited, because somewhere I got it stuck in my head that I wanted to take ballet, but no one else offered it for People Who Suck.

I happily bought my first pair of adorable pink ballet slippers and showed up.

I was the only one.

Until another girl walked in, and it turned out she was a professional dancer (as in, "gets paid") for a company in Baltimore. And then I really wished I had been the only one who showed up.

But then she didn't come again, and I talked a friend into joining too, and it was all good and I learned how to plie without looking like a cow. And I took two more sessions and started to feel actually competent, even though whenever I demonstrate anything for Josh, he looks like he's in pain or has gas and says, "I'm really glad you're enjoying yourself."

So I was feeling pretty good about myself. And then class got canceled and I asked what my options were for make-up. The director said, "well. There's Beginning Adult Hip-Hop."

Heh heh. No.

"Well, then your best fit is probably Floor Barre."
Floor Barre?
"It's kind of like Pilates."

So Saturday morning I happily tripped off to Floor Barre.

And she was right. Floor Barre was like Pilates in the exact same way escargot is like potato chips.

The mean age of the class was 16, and the total weight in the room was roughly four pounds. The first thing we did, for a warm-up, was ten solid minutes of plank position, without a break, taking various body parts meant to hold you up off the ground. And it only got worse from there. There was even rolling.

I got home and slunk past Josh and laid on the floor on my face.

Josh found me out. "How was it?"
"Yeah. I thought so. I saw you limp past me."

It was ten years ago, but I'm not sure childbirth was that painful. And certainly not for as long. Buddy was born after two hours of labor. I still cried after every sneeze until this morning.

Josh said, "you know, the next time you're in a room of teenagers and 20-year-olds, you really shouldn't try to keep up."
What are you talking about? I'm only 28."
"You're not 28."
Yes I am.
"No. You're not. You're 37. We've been married for 15 years. Buddy was born when you were 28."


Now I guess I'm supposed to participate in the recital. With a costume. And tights. And I wonder, exactly when did my reaction to such things stop being, "no! I can't humiliate myself that way! What about my family! They need to be able to hold up their heads!" and start being, "heh. Heh. That would be really funny."

*because my doctor said I either had to exercise sometimes or take more anxiety medication. The anxiety medication makes me not sleep, and I really, REALLY like sleeping.