On a good day, parenting will test the integrity of your character. On a bad day, parenting will test your will to live. Parenting children with trauma histories will cause you to test the integrity of everything and everyone you thought you knew, for the rest of your life.
~J. Skrobisz

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Total Anxiety

Last night I was quilting away, enjoying the peace and quiet in the house accompanied by the hum of my sewing machine. I wasn't thinking about anything beyond making straight lines and then BLAM! Panic attack. Not a full blown freak-out-OMG-I'm-gonna-die attack, just the sweaty-palms-swimmy-head-heart-beating-faster kind.

Because it hit me like a flash that I had been enjoying my time to myself a lot lately, my late night revelries in personal pursuits becoming a norm instead of an occassional treat I eventually found time to indulge in. This new found time to indulge and take care of me is because Sissy is at the RTC. Sissy's needs were so demanding I couldn't breathe, or think, or live or laugh or love or do anything of life sustaining value. Life was Sissy Sissy Sissy Sissy Sissy... and I can't go back to that. I have to take control of that but I still feel so powerless.

So I panicked. Sissy's dysfunction still has that much hold on me and I'm struggling to really let it go and relax and enjoy and not look over my shoulder every other second, anticipating another one of Sissy's catachlismic meltdowns. I panicked because I don't really feel confident to turn the tide when she comes home. I've been so busy enjoying all of the things about life that I couldn't do because of Sissy's demanding needs that I haven't strategized a way to prevent her from becoming that all-consuming driving force in our family life again. My breath was gone, I paused the sewing, I gathered my wits so I didn't fall apart into a crying or hysterical heap, and I centered my thoughts. I can do this. I can enjoy this moment and not let Sissy steal it when she's not even here. Sissy's not returning for awhile yet. I have time to read some more, I have time to plan, it'll be fine. Then I resumed my sewing after I wiped a few tears and eventually went to bed, but reluctantly. (Sewing is so much fun!)

Then this morning, just after I got out of the shower, it happened again. I thought I heard Sissy screaming the way she always does every morning about whatever it is she would scream about (sometimes we joked and said she was screaming BECAUSE it was morning). And in that split second before I could remind myself that Sissy was at the RTC and most definitely NOT at the house and that it was just my mind playing tricks on me, I lost my breath and the sweaty palms and the racing heart started again. I can do this. I can enjoy a shower without racing to get out before Sissy tears down the house. Sissy's not here, she won't be returning for awhile. I have time to read some more, I have time to plan, it'll be fine. Then I wiped a few tears and opened the bathroom door bravely.

I told The Dad all of this. He understands. He is a little nervous too. We get to see her on Monday to take her out for her birthday and if I see her therapist, I think I might take a second to tell her how things are going for us at home. "Better," I'll say. "We're laughing and having fun and coping but..." I'll add carefully, "I think we might all be suffering a little post traumatic stress." How else can these errant panic attacks be explained? It still amazes me, almost makes me cry, when I hear us laughing as a family, cutting up and having fun, tickling, giggling, enjoying each other because I know that none of that was possible while Sissy was in the house.

I want her back, don't get me wrong. I'm not emotionally detaching from my child. I'm just coming to grips with just how critical and chaotic it was with her at home. Some how, some way, we must recover and be prepared for her return. But if I think about that too much right now, I'll start another attack so Ill leave it alone and go to bed.

Anyone else have these types of issues while your RADish was at RTC? What types of things did your family do to recover and get ready for the RADish's eventual return to family life? Right now, I'm feeling like reintegration will never be possible and I could really use some help.

Friday, December 25, 2009

why I was up until 2 am Christmas morning

I was up late finishing this dolly sweater for Wonder Girl. Totally worth it! It's so cute.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Visit with Sissy was good. No. It was great. It was the first time all five of us were together in a "normal" setting. We took Sissy off campus for a trip to McDonald's and to open her Christmas gifts from us. I had a slight twinge of guilt about her presents, only one toy in the mix BUT my careful shopping meant that everything we gave her was permissable at the RTC. New clothes, lots of hygeine items, a book, some markers, that kind of stuff. She has a small locker to keep extra things and is allowed 5 personal items at a time in her room so we were really limited by what we could give her. The no batteries, no hard plastics, no metals rule is harder to follow than you might think!

Before our TL (therapeutic leave) we had a therapy session to talk about coping skills. Sissy brought some coping skill tools with her on our outing - her anger ball, some markers and a coloring book and a small lovvie. She had a few moments when her anger got the better of her but overall, she managed very well. I can definitely see that it will take lots of practice before she will be able to function in the normal home environment, especially since she'll have to come to terms with the fact that Wonder Girl is techinically emotionally and mentally more mature than her at this point and that Aspie Boy will never be anything other than what he is (most of Sissy's trouble spots yesterday revolved around Aspie Boy and her inability to process HIS needs). The Dad and I have said it a thousand times, we'd gladly take 1000 more of Aspie Boy over Sissy's unique mental health issues. Aspie Boy is that much easier to manage but Sissy apparently doesn't understand that his special needs are not an issue, we just keep rolling along.

So the Hrm...
The therapist told me that they did and EKG and will be doing another EEG (gosh, I REALLY thought those things were the same ... must do some wiki searching later) because the staff are puzzled about Sissy's very flat affect and lack of emotional processing. I still say HELLO!!! RADs YOU NINNY'S!!! but they are still thinking spectral disorder. I just can't see it.

Aspie Boy's needs are so very, very different than Sissy's. I can't possibly imagine that Sissy is on the spectrum. I've taught spectral kids. I have friends with spectral kids. We've tested Sissy for spectral disorders. I just can't see it. Still, the RTC staff wants to test her and rule it out. I'll be helping the cause a little by providing the results of Sissy's sleep-deprived EEG that we did in September (results were inconclusive showing one diffuse spike of uncertain significance - possible seizure type activity from the Wellbutrin???? we don't know) I'm hoping the EEG results i provide will serve as a baseline for diagnostics. Seriously. If they diagnose Sissy as a spectral child I will instantly become one of those Lifetime Movie moms that "lives in denial" about her child's diagnosis. I just can't see it. To me, it's RADs. Furthermore, Aspie Boy never needed an EEG to prove his spectral disorder (neither have any of the other spectral kids I know/have known) so that's just a weird diagnostic tool to me. Argh.

OK. Enough angst. I am saving my energy for fun for the holidays.
xxoo to everyone and Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Tonight was our phonecall night. 10 minutes some time between 6-8.

At first, phone calls with Sissy were tough. Until her placement, she staunchly refused to use the telephone. Lots of irrational phobia stuff going on there. But being away from us and in a strange environment for the first time ever, the phone became a must-conquer-this-fear issue.

Then they changed her meds last Monday.

OMG! You can HEAR her smile. Wow. She hasn't sounded this good in nearly a year. And that's talking to her on the phone! She asked me if I would please bring her two different lovvies to snuggle with and then told me she would have to miss her group outing tomorrow. The kids are going ice skating but they won't be back before our visit.

I expressed my regrets that I scheduled our therapy during an outing. I had to do that once before, keeping her from equine therapy. But Sissy said, "It's OK. I know that visiting with you is more important."


I wasn't sure if I should jump or cry or shout or WOW. Just wow. So I went for Nancy Thomas style pizazz with lots and lots and lots of very direct verbal positives and I tripped over my words because, WOW! HOLY CRAP! That was amazing.

Maybe it's the meds. Maybe it's time away and evaluating the choices she made that resulted in a placement, choices she can change. Maybe she's parrotting rhetoric (I don't think so.) I don't care. That was the most amazing thing she has ever said to me. Tomorrow she will be getting an enormous hug from me. I just might squeeze the stuffing out of her!

Absolutely best christmas present I'll be getting this year.
:) :) :) :)

Monday, December 21, 2009

awesome church

Our church has been amazing. More specifically, our sunday school class. In the past few months our church and sunday school class have provided:

1. partial payment for all of my pastoral counseling appointments
2. a prepaid grocery card
3. a new oven (our old one hadn't been properly working in nearly 2 years)
4. a new furnace (we hadn't had central heating in 5 years)
5. walmart gift card for a considerable amount (more groceries and supplies for Sissy's RTC needs)
6. christmas shopping money
7. a bunch of McDonald's gift cards and gas money to help offset our traveling expenses to and from Sissy's RTC
8. when weather and time permits, the church will be replacing rotting soffet, trim and clapboard on the house
and non church related assistance:
9. my school also gave us a Walmart gift card (I have a new winter jacket!)

There was an article in our paper about a local family that has a severely and profoundly handicapped child and the dad is about to be deployed. The community is raising money to help the family purchase a wheel-chair accessible van before the dad goes to Iraq. The mom was quoted in the article as saying that she believed God put her on the earth to be the parent of her special needs son.

That's a better woman than me! I went into adoption for strictly selfish reasons, I wanted to parent. I had NO idea how hard it would be or that I would end up with two children with needs. I've really struggled with it and am mostly on the other side of the fence in which I can say that I feel that ultimately being a parent of special needs kids is the path I was intended to be on in this life. But that I was put on the earth for the sole purpose of adopting and parenting SpEd kids? Not so much. I have so much more to offer this life.

Like with church. I continue to feel so overwhelmed by the generosity of our congregation but am equally amazed by the verbal praise we receive. Instead of being blessed, our family's story and our positive attitude is blessing THEM! It's reciprocity at it's best and I for one am not going to turn it away. Our family can use all the help we can get. I quit my job because it was too hard to manage Sissy's critical needs and Aspie Boy's needs. In addition, Wonder Girl has needed a lot of TLC and repairitive work to help her feel safe and confident again. (I am glad to report that Wonder Girl has been sleeping in her room without any issues for 3 weeks!!!)

I hope the family in the article is able to get their van before the Dad deploys. I know that it will happen because there are so many generous people in our community that are all to glad to lend a helping hand where it's needed, our family is proof of that. I just hope that some day I can be on the giving end instead of the receiving end but right now that seems improbable. I think our family will be in a perpetual state of need given our children's issues. As I told Sissy's therapist, "we have opted to live as hovels for the benefit of our children." But for this holiday season, unemployed, recovering from nearly two years of Sissy's chaos and balancing the checkbook to discover that because of the help from so many generous, empathetic people, we have a little bit of hope. To God be all the Glory.

Merry Christmas to you and your family. I hope that your life story is the same this holiday.

Friday, December 18, 2009

some help

I'm reading an insane amount of literature in a very short period of time so I will be adequately prepared to help Sissy when she returns. (ETA is late March - insurance only gives us 120 days wether she's better or not) That means I have to be better. nice.

One of the many texts I'm reading address an issue we seem to be having while trying to help people understand what is happening with our family. It seems that despite our best efforts, our communication is still generating confusion, hurt feelings and misunderstandings. That's not our intent but we are also having problems helping people understand that our intent is not to be hurtful, rather to be 100% invested in our family's needs right now which includes Wonder Girl and Aspie Boy (who has his own set of unique issues) and me and The Dad. It is so easy for parents to overlook themselves but we must.be.first! Always!!!! If something will be an energy drain for The Dad and I, we can.not.do.it. We have to save ALL of our energy reserves for the children and we need to store up insane amounts for Sissy's return. She's going to drain our energy account when she returns and we know that so we have to be prepared with a very full energy account.

Somehow, even typing all of that I know that those words will be lost on our loved ones that aren't walking these miles in our shoes. Despite my best efforts to hone my communication skills, I still feel helpless to express what we need. The Dad said it so perfectly the other day, i wrote it on the white board in the kitchen and have yet to erase it, "We need people to have compassion and empathy even if they don't understand." Well said, Dad!!! xxooxxoo to my excellent spouse.

I was also trying to figure out what it is about The Dad's mom that makes my heart sing instead of turn sour and it's that "she makes no demands of us and trusts us implicitly."

Here's the cruxt of the matter, as parents, we are not doing anything illegal, immoral or abusive to our children. Indeed, those things have already been done to RAD kids. On the contrary, we are doing everything possible to HELP our children. Sure, the help our children need requires unconventional methods but why does that matter if in the long run we have safe, happy, healthy, mentally stable children that eventually become functional adults in society? The end justifies the means and furthermore, I'm not questioning anyone else's parenting skills (provided that they are not doing anything immoral, illegal or abusive.)

Then I read this passage in Katharine Leslie's book, "Coming to Grips with Attachment" (pg 130) I do not know that we can ever hope to have the complete support of people who do not live with an attachment-challenged child. I've gotten over t. I say to my friends and family, "You can feel bad for our children, but I hope you also feel bad for me and my spouse." I explain to them that even though what we are doing may not feel right to them, it is right. And if they can not stick with the plan we won't be able to spend much time together. A lot of parents tell me that even though their family and friends think they are not parenting their attachment-challenged children properly, these smae fmily members and friends are not interested in giving it a try when offered the chance."

[aside: Leslie recommends Dan Hughes' book, "Building the Bonds of Attachment" to help address the challenges famiily and friends pose to us and how to mange these problems. If anyone has this book and would be willing to loan it (I'll pay S&H) please let me know!]

To conclude, the part where Leslie says, "and if they can not stick with the plan we won't be able to spend much time together" really resonates with me. Not because i'm being a meany but because it gives me the freedom and the guilt-free privelege to say that unsupportive responses will drain my energy account and Sissy needs a lot of my energy. I also need to take it one step further and say that if they can not be 100% verbally supportive, I will have to choose the same recourse. That includes no unreasonable requests of our time and energy (it's not like we haven't spelled it out for everyone that Aspie Boy and Sissy can not do conventional things that healthy children of their age can do), no anger, no sighs of discontent or looks of disdain or disapproval and no demands of explanations (I'll just angrily shove a list of books under your nose). All of those things drain my energy account and for mine and Sissy's sake, I can not abide by it any more. Even if that means I'll be stepping on toes and causing other people pain. It's not intentional, it's survival for our family. We are simply taking an unconventional path toward healing for our family that is not illegal, immoral or abusive. I make no further apologies or exceptions.

Lastly, for my readers that are not RAD parents, it might be best to say to you that if you are going to try to figure out RADs, don't. The very nature of this disorder is mental disparity and even insanity. That which is unexplainable or incomprehensible to a sane mind simply can not be explained or rationalized, it is futile to try. The best a RAD parent can do is attempt to rewire the RAD brain with paterning, modeling, love and any unconventional or insane tool at our disposal. The best a RAD parent can do to survive this insanity is to laugh, hug and be reminded 12 times a day that they are amazing, wonderful, beautiful people that did nothing to earn their child's hate and malice or the disdain from the friends and family that do not understand.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

more RAD questions for Awesome RAD moms

Seems the more I read, the more questions I have. I REALLY wish our region had better mental health support and services, particularly in the form of RAD help. We have 3, THREE certified RAD therapists in our area of 350,000 + people and a strong adoption/biological children ratio. (Blame the Bible belt, high incidence of infertility and affluence)

Thanks to all that replied about the spectral diagnoses our RADishes get, even when it's not clear if it's the RADs or genuine developmental delay. Sissy is also diagnosed with bipolar so tossing Asperger's or PDD-NOS into the mix when all of it can clinically be explained by her RADs diagnosis makes me very leary of adding one more thing to her growing list.

Question #1
Nancy Thomas is a strong proponent of sugar = love. She cites several examples of giving sugar as therapy to RADishes and seeing very positive results. For example, she uses the milk caramels in snuggle therapy to mimic the breastfeeding bonding RADishes didn't get. She also explains about one particular RADish she had that responded very well to ice cream therapy, saying that in three weeks time, he said he'd had enough and afterward, he no longer abused sugary treats priveleges. There is also clinical proof of crack babies needing the sweet to repair brain damage. Thomas cites RADs development impairment to be similar to crack babies. Finally, Thomas says that which we take away, our children will reach for. Her example is that with her biological son was not given guns or sugar and he is now a marine that has very specific habits about his sugar consumption as an adult. Even in my own husband I've seen this issue. His father was a severe diabetic that held the principle that if he couldn't eat it, no one in the family could either. The result is that my husband has a VERY STRONG procilvity toward sweets and he'll readily tell you that he knows he's compensating for that which he did not get as a child.

Katherine Leslie has an exact opposite approach. In her book "coming to grips with attachment" (pg 78) she says "Sugar addiction is pretty typical of traumatized children. I locked all the sugar stuff in a tackle box and attached a combination lock. Only my son adn I have the combination because we are the only ones in the family who can control ourselves. All sweets must now pass through me. This ended up helping our whole family control their sweet teeth."

I know many RADishes have a hoarding issue. Sissy likes to hide food but she never actually consumes it. She is challenging at mealtime in the sense that she'll often refuse to eat (even throw away an entire plate of uneaten food) or she'll consume too much and I'll have to rehearse portion control with her. But my "the kitchen is closed, it is not food time" rule seems to help minimize her eating dysfunctions. But perhaps Leslie's approach is more affective for severe hoarders?

I was wondering which approach you subscribe to when it comes to sugar - Thomas' or Leslie's? If you've tried both, which has been the most successful? If you have more than one RADish, have you used different techinques depending on the child's needs? Has your approach been largely based on clinical evidence or your personal ability to enforce a rule YOU can live with? (because we all know as RAD moms, if we can't live with the rule or the child's consequence for breaking the rule, it's a lost battle before we've even gone to war)

Question #2 - Has being a RAD mom made you harder/cynical or have you managed to stay true to yourself in the midst of the mayhem? I ask because my counselor and I had this discussion this past week in my session with her. I was explaining my frustration with Sissy's therapist at the RTC, my reason being that the therapist was allowing Sissy to triangulate us, that I felt the therapist was too weak and allowed herself to be vulnerable to Sissy's charms and lies and that I felt vulnerable as the parent. My counselor asked me the question, "what is the therapist like as a person?" I explained that she's very soft, wears soft, comfotable clothing in subdued colors, had soft flowing hair in a pale blonde with light curls, she had very fair skin and a quiet, slow, almost child-like voice. I ended my decription with, "she comes across as a pushover which is counterproductive to heal a RAD kid!"

But as my counselor and I wend our way through my other needs, we came back to the issue of "soft is lacking in my life" partly due to the fact that I've had to be so cut and dry with Sissy, to the detriment of who I am naturally. If Sissy wasn't a RADish, would I be a more soft, gentle mom? Would my personal attributes be more like this therapist that frustrates me? Is my frustration with the therapist exacerbated by my inner struggle to be me despite Sissy's RADs? Reading and listening to all of this RAD material, I feel myself needing to be more staunch and less soft but it feels counterproductive to eventually seeking attachment with a traumatized child. If Sissy were an infant, I wouldn't be playing chess in my head all day long, thinking six moves ahead of her. I'd just be snuggling her and loving her, cooing at her, humming, rocking, rubbing, tickling, etc. I'd be "soft".

How about you? Have you found a balance and if so, how? Or have you found yourself in my position - a hardened, cynical mom that is currently struggling with my choice to parent because I didn't know how hard it would be to help a RADish recover, to be true to myself, to love despite the enormous deficits Sissy has created in my love bucket, to know that there is a clear reality that despite my best efforts, ultimately healing is up to Sissy and she may not choose it. Can I live with that reality and not take it as a personal affront to my role as her parent? Is it easier to be hard now, preparing myself for a possible reality to soften the blow for later? Or do we have to make ourselves hard to love these RADishes so they have a better chance at healing?

Oh, it's all so hard. I'm glad for my counselor. I highly recommend you get your own therapy. RADs is hard on the moms, maybe harder than it is on the kids.

Question #3 - How involved is your spouse/significant other in the RAD therapy at home? Are you a team or is the one parent the RAD "mom" and the other the co-parent that simply supports? Thus far, my husband is not actively participating in reading/learning about RADs although he is highly supportive. How necessary is it for both of us to be completely in the know about all the therapy techniques if The Dad simply supports The Mom in her therapy approaches for the RADish? In other words, The Mom institutes all the necessary therapy and The Dad supports The Mom and helps with the non-RAD siblings?

OK, finishing this rather heavy post with a funny. I heard this song on the radio and I imagined a bunch of RAD moms confidently walking side-by-side in slow motion down a busy street crowded with screaming RADishes in active defiance, the wind whipping the moms' hair but they had smiles on their faces and expressions of being all-knowing and all-powerful (perhaps this is a RADish's nightmare? lol) The lyrics of the song are very fitting for parenting our RADishes!
I give you, "running with the devil" by Van Halen

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Question for RAD moms

the psychiatrist at the RTC says he and his staff have seen PDD-NOS when evaluating Sissy. I said it's common for RADs to mimic delays and spectral disorders, particularly because Sissy's brother is Asperger's. I also cited her Gilliam-Asperger Quotient scores the pscyhologist's psychometric testing came up with. Sissy consistently scores just outside the diagnosable parameters and the psychologist and I have gone round and round about wether or not to diagnose her as Asperger's but have always erred on the side of caution, citing her RADs diagnosis as the more likely culprit for her presentation as a delayed child.

Anyway, the RTC psychiatrist disagreed.

I told him not to put it in her file.

He agreed to that request.

So... how many of your RADishes got a misdiagnosis of PDD-NOS or Asperger's?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


After therapy at the RTC and the long drive (this time in the blinding rain - had to stop 24 miles from home just because my eyes and brain couldn't deal with it anymore) I am tired.

Sissy was prepared with good hygiene and I made a big fuss about how I was disappointed that I brought the toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush and baby wipes for nothing. Sissy thought it was funny. I'm glad. Goal accomplished.

We didn't do talk therapy this time. We did a communication game which was a cool exercise but instead of feeling better about myself as a parent, I felt worse. NOT good. The last thing I need is a kick in the pants. I don't understand this therapist and that's doubly challenging because I've always managed to get along famously with other professionals in that venue. So I'm puzzled about why I feel frustrated and more anxious and angry after therapy instead of better. I think a lot of it has to do with Sissy. She is with the RTC staff 24/7 saying whatever crap that comes into her head and they are taking it all down. They see me for 45 minutes/week and have had their heads filled with all of Sissy's jargon about me so they approach me with a we need to fix the mom attitude. And I get defensive which only makes them all the more certain that it is me with the problem. Seriously, Sissy told the staff that I have a screaming issue and that she wishes I would practice the coping skill they are teaching her. (STAR - stop, think, assess, react). And of course, the therapist allows Sissy the opportunity to tell me that she wishes I wouldn't scream so much and the therapist asks me what I do to manage my anger when I'm frustrated with Sissy. So I looked at Sissy as I answered the therapist and explained the 6 different ways I actively engage in coping with Sissy's rage and screaming behaviors. That's right. Typical RAD, Sissy is projecting her bad behaviors on me and typical non-RAD versed therapist, she's assuming it's my problem. I wanted to stand up and say, "HEY, Numbnuts! Who's locked up in a psychiatric facility for their behavior, me or Sissy?!?!"

yeah. that probably wouldn't go over well.

So I played along like a good Mommy and then did all of the RAD therapy things I planned for Sissy during our free visit time, which included lots of PIZAZZ that Sissy practiced good hygiene like I asked.

On the drive home, I got some trouble-shooting phone calls on the cell phone that took even more of my energy (I need to practice throwing that thing out the window while I'm driving at 70 mph instead of answering it... geez).

So between the lying Sissy was doing about me to her therapist that the therapist was calling me out for, the long drive in the torrential rain and the trouble-shooting phone calls, I was physically and emotionally spent. I spent the remainder of the drive home reminding myself of the following three things:

1. I'm an amazing mom. I need to remind myself often that I'm amazing and I need to surround myself with people that tell me I'm amazing ALL.THE.TIME.

2. I need to learn to advocate for myself. If I'm always considering everyone else's emotional, physical, mental, environmental, spiritual and social needs before mine, I'm going to be all used up. I MUST serve my needs first.

3. other people aren't spending this much time and energy trying to be a good mom or trying to meet other people's needs. Sure, it's noble to be so self-less but in the long run, it's self-deprecating and it will have the opposite affect than what I intend. I will become a disrespected doormat and I will loathe myself for it. I need to stop overthinking things and just float.

So this tired but amazing mom is going to float her fanny to bed. If you don't like it, tough.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Therapy Session #2

Tomorrow I drive the 6 hour round trip again. I'm feeling older just thinking about it. I'm really hoping I can convince the therapist to do something other than that ridiculous talk therapy. I'm bringing my cache or RAD books to go over with her if time allows. And hopefully we'll get an approval from insurance to do telecommunications because I have to go back again on Saturday for our visit time. Oye. I just aged another 3 years thinking about THAT!

Meanwhile, I'm daily amazed by how peaceful our home is without her here which makes me sad and angry at the same time. Sad because I don't know how to make it a peaceful home when she's here and angry because I didn't know how much she was affecting our peace and I wish I had realized it sooner and done something about it sooner. I'm also feeling guilty (but only a little - thank you Katherine Leslie for helping me give myself the permission to admit that it's hard to love Sissy) because I WANT to love her and I WANT to be successful as her mom but right now, everytime I think of Sissy's eventual reintegration to our family, I wince like I'm about to get a DTAP inocculation. That's not good.

Took Wonder Girl to see Santa at the mall. I've been a mom for 9 years as of this past weekend but this is the first time I took a child to the mall Santa. Sissy and Aspie Boy made such an event an impossibility. It was so nice to do a standard "mom" thing with a child. I hate that Sissy and Aspie Boy's needs are so challenging that Wonder Girl and I can't do "normal" family things.

Clearly, there's still the need for time and healing of these wounds.

So tomorrow I drive 334 miles to talk to Sissy for 45 minutes and hopefully she took the bait and will have practiced good personal hygeine as I requested. Otherwise, snuggletime will be preempted by practice-good-hygeine time. It's her choice, I spelled out the rules for her last night on the phone. I'm REALLY hoping she's prepared to surprise me because I'll be prepared to surprise her back but I'm preparing for her I-don't-give-a-flip-what-mom-wants response to my ultimatum. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Family Therapy Session #1

Yesterday was family therapy sessoin #1 with Sissy at the RTC. I drove a total of six hours so I could spend 45 minutes in talk therapy with a 9 year old RADish.

I am now quite annoyed. Annoyed enough to scream my head off and run around with my clothes torn off as though I were the RADish.

Let me first point out the highlights, then I'll mench.
#1 - tudusmom was so fabulous to meet with me before therapy. (((HUGS))) to tudusmom. Wishing I could drive back tomorrow for the dinner.

#2 - I listened to all three CDs of Nancy Thomas on the drive (thanks Lisa) and learned some really great RAD therapy ideas to try out on Sissy during our free time after therapy.

#3 - my preplanned RAD therapy time with Sissy was successful. Here's what we did in our hour after our completely fruitless and utterly useless talk therapy session:

a) follow the leader - this is an adaptation of the original game children play based on Nancy Thomas's comments that RADishes should either walk behind or beside the mom but never be allowed to walk ahead of her. The rules are I was the leader and I'd call out "behind!" and Sissy would have to walk behind me and do exactly as I did. Then I'd randomly call out "beside!" and she'd have to hurry to my side and continue to do exatly as I did. If she got ahead of me, bumped into me because she wasn't paying attention or didn't follow exactly as I did, she had to shout out, "you're the leader! you're the leader! you're the leader!" Of course, I made it more fun/challenging by walking in funny ways, waving my arms strangely, hopping, skipping, jumping, making whooping noises, you name it. She only had to shout "you're the leader" one time and she seemed to really like the game.

b) rocking chair chatter - the front porch of the admissions building is enormous with scads of old fashioned oversized rockers. We sat side-by-side and rocked forward/backward three times in tandem then stopped cold and Sissy had to make eye contact and tell me something good about herself or about her time at the RTI since our last visit. She had to be precise about her language, no "i like lunchtime" comments. Failure to rock three times in tandem or to prepare a thoughtful statement meant more silent rocking (LIMBIC SYSTEM!!!!). It didnt' take long before Sissy got the rhythm of the game and began to talk about useful things.

both Follow the Leader and Rocking Chair Chatter are my own fabrications but they are excellent at helping concentration, limbic system, sensory, frontal lobe processing

c) hugging game - Nancy talks about the 12 hugs rule for RADishes and parents of RADishes but she is also very clear about not allowing the RADish to seek out the affection because those will be inappropriatly gained moments of touch that don't help heal. Previously I gave Sissy a photo book but I intentionally did not fill it. The promise was that with each subsequent visit, she's get more photos (forcing her to think about my return every time she looked at the empty photo pages). Of course, I kept my promise and this time brought pictures of common things - the house, her bedroom, the van, the kitchen, etc. (forcing her to think about family and what she did not have access to - the photo of her room really gave her pause. GOOD!) But I didn't just hand them over. The rules of the game are that I have to hug her and she has to hug back appropriately before I gave her the photo. Incorrect hugging procedure required us to start over. All told, we managed to nail down more than our 12 hugs for the 9 pictures I brought and by hug 12 or so, she was beginning to anticipate the touch, wait for my initiation, soften to it AND relax in it. I highly recommend it!

d) snuggle time - another of Nancy Thomas' ideas. Nancy talks about the sweetness of mother's milk and how she uses the caramels under the RADish's tongue while she cradles and snuggles. The caramels encourage the sucking (LIMBIC SYSTEM!!!) and it's a sensory bonding moment that encourages eye contact. I gave it a slight twist anticipating Sissy's rejection of the idea. The rules were we could not talk at all and she had to try to suck longer then the christmas song I hummed to her. I chose the humming because that's me - it's what I did for my other two when they were babies and I was feeding them or helping them sleep. Of course, I made sure I hummed very, very slowly and still gave her 7 out 9 opportunities to win. This was GOLD! PURE GOLD I tell you. As we snuggled and she sucked I thought to myself this is what I missed with her! I am actually recapturing what I wanted to do with her when we first got custody! and it was very, very encouraging. When we were through, Sissy's body was completely relaxed, her bottom lip was blistered from all the sucking as an infant's would be, her breathing was rhythmic and she nearly fell asleep! She has NEVER been that vulnerable with me! Plus, she asked if we could do it again next time. :) :) :) I highly recommend snuggle time. A must for all RAD moms and their RADishes, regardless of age.

OK, now the menching.
#1 - talk therapy?!? OMG. I just wanted to kick the therapist. We role played the "I feel ... when you... I wish you could ..." phrasing. *roll eyes* Right. Giving a RADish that much leverage is a safe idea. NOT! We were to practice negotiation. Is she kidding me?!?! then we had to draw pictures of our future family. Sissy copied mine, verbatim. In fact, she parrotted EVERYTHING the therapist or I said. Seriously. I was nonplussed. Wanted to fake wretch. Then, THEN, the therapist asked me to please consider using their bathing rule since I mentioned it as a trigger for Sissy at home. I just glared at her then said, "Sissy got a fungal infection on her butt last year because I allowed her too much freedom during her bathing. I have not allowed unsupervised bathing since. The 5s rule you have here will not work. She will still not bathe her genitals because that is a trigger for her." Sure enough, Sissy admitted it later after I said, "Sissy, do you know how I know you are lying to the staff about bathing your bottom?" And she said, "Because I stink." Oh, our RADishes are so, so smart. Too bad the therapist is a dilly!

#2 - OMG! Sissy is in a room with a 5 year old!! I told them at admissions that our therapist and psychiatrist told me Sissy could not be alone with her 5 year old sister because Sissy was hurting her and they put her in a room with a 5 year old!!! I told the therapist that neither girl will heal - Sissy will continue to pattern and the other child will suffer. The therapist says they are monitoring the kids 24/7 and that nothing has happened and then added that it could become part of Sissy's therapy plan. I said, "Good, let me know how you make it part of her therapy and I'll agree. Until then, I stand on my original statement, Sissy should not be in a room with a 5 year old." Then to make my point very clear, I called today and left a message saying, "let me know what your plan is regarding Sissy's room placement and the 5 year old." SERIOUSLY!?!?!

#3 - I have yet to meet the psychiatrist!!!! or talk to him!!!! or hear his plan for Sissy's treatment!!!!! UGH!

#4 - I told the therapist that other than Sissy's bathing issue, she is still lying to us. Because the staff keeps telling me they're not seeing the behaviors I'm talking about - that Sissy is being a model patient. No, she's not. She's doing just enough to not get caught. Her own admission - she's not acting out because she doesn't want them to see her behaviors. She said this to the therapist. The therapist says, "when you go back home, what's going to keep you from returning to those behaviors?" And Sissy says, "I just won't" Seriously, I just wanted to throw up.

#5 - the finale, the therapist asks me what I'm doing at home to get better. She asks this in front of Sissy. Of course Sissy LOVED that question and waited with baited breath to hear the answer. So I looked Sissy dead in the eye and said, "I've made lots of friends with other RAD moms, I'm reading four different books, starting a local RAD support group with our RAD therapist in town, listening to RAD teaching CDs, preparing our home to receive Sissy, attending my own personal counseling sessions and recovering from the last seven months of Sissy's challenges..."then I turned to look at the therapist, "... which may or may not include getting therapy for the traumatized children at home, in particular the 5 year old that has suffered the most becasue of the harm Sissy did to her. What books have YOU read about RADs? Can I recommend a few? I can write down the RAD therapy things I'll be doing with Sissy after this session if you'd like me to go over them with you so you can see what we'll be doing."

yeah. I was pissed. My voicemail message to the therapist today also included this little tidbit "6 hours is a long time to be on the road for 45 minutes of talk therapy in which Sissy is just going to parrot everything you or I do or say. What is your plan for our future sessions, I hope they will be more dynamic and hands on otherwise that 6 hour drive won't be worth my effort."

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Paper Snowflakes

The children's building that Sissy's in is kinda drab. Let me restate. It's institutional-like, as it should be. The children shouldn't get comfortable being there or it won't be worth their while to follow their treatment plan and get better enough to go home. I can just imagine an RTC full of RADishes saying to themselves, "well gosh, I don't have to deal with relationship, I'm fed at exactly the same times every day, I have only to follow some rules AND all of my lovely things are here with me ... why go home?"

The RTCs would stay full forever! lol

But it is a bit gloomy, especially with Christmas fast approaching. Plus, as I sit here with mountains of Christmas stuff around me, I have extra. Let me restate. I have copious amounts of stupid, hideous Christmas decorations. I can spare a few. I have to go there tomorrow anyway for therapy (right, TALK therapy - lmao - THAT's going to be useful...*snort*) so I called her building. "Can I bring some decorations?"

Over the phone the building manager and I discussed what I have and what is NOT permissable. He was imagining what damage these items might do to another patient or the facility when lobbed in anger by a frustrated patient. Or worse, how the items might be broken down into their smaller parts so they might be used as weapons for either personal harm or harm to others.

There wasn't much left to bring. As in, nothing.

So I said, "What about snowflakes?"

He skeptically said, "What are they made of?" I imagined his raised eyebrow as he considered my suggestion with hestitation.

"Paper and glitter?" I offered.


So, en masse, I am assembling pretty snowflakes, enough to adorn the common areas of the building. Some cheer and, my modus operandi accomplished - some of ME in Sissy's daily line of sight. She won't be able to forget about me or pretend I'm not a part of her life when she sees the snowflakes hanging everywhere she goes.

Cheeky, ain't I? I'll post piccies later.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

to RAD moms

Can someone help me understand why other people are teary-eyed and emotional about Sissy's placement in an RTC? Because I don't get it. It's a GOOD thing she's getting help and the rest of us are getting a break. So I am having trouble understanding these emotions from other people that learn about Sissy's placement.

It almost feels like I'm a bad, heartless mom because I'm NOT crying.

Actually, I'm trying hard not to be giddy! I had no idea just how stressful things had gotten with her in the house. Being in it everyday and saying it was stressful and challenging made it hard for us to quantify the severity of her issues and the impact it had on our family. Not being in that stress everyday? I am flabbergasted that it took us so long to cry, "uncle!"

So you can imagine why it is odd and even disconcerting to see other people being so distressed and emotional about her placement because the four of us that lived with her challenges every day are rejoicing!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Holiday without Sissy

We had a relaxing day, enjoying the weather and the three hour drive to Warner Robins, although we were a little sad that we couldn't also find the time to drive north to the RTC to visit Sissy.

Only one of the Dad's family members inquired about Sissy's whereabouts. The dad and I fortuitously discussed and rehearsed what we would say when asked because we didn't really feel like explaining it to everyone. Our rehearsed speech went off without a hitch, "Well, you know Sissy and Aspie Boy have special needs. Sissy is spending the holiday at a therapy center."

It pays to plan ahead but that means you have to THINK ahead first. Sometimes we forget the think-ahead part and we have to plan on our toes which doesn't always work. Being a RAD mom is exhausting for no other reason than all the thinking, planning, discussion and damage control!

Tonight was our night to talk to Sissy by telephone, we get three nights a week for 10 minutes. We are pretty amazed that she has managed to do it since she has always been extremely terrified of the apparatus, despite our many role-playing sessions. (To all the people that tell us our RADishes are "normal" I'd like to ask them if they've ever role-played phone calls with THEIR "normal" kids)

Today she got to go on an outing to see a movie so she has "green level" status for good behavior. She had a traditional holiday meal and as per our request, was prepared to tell us the name of her roommates. When we talked to her on Tuesday, her characteristic reply to the inquiry of the names of the other immediate people in her life was, "I don't know." So we challenged her to learn and remember her roommates' names for our phone call tonight.

Of course, there is always much to be thankful for but above all, I'm thankful that Sissy is at the RTC.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Aspie Boy lets us know how it is

Yesterday Aspie Boy woke up and skipped into the kitchen, announced,"I'm glad Sissy is gone." and skipped away before I could think of a response. Ok I thought, I'm glad he's letting us know how he feels but how do I help him?

This morning he was singing at breakfast a song he made up that had five words in it, "I'm glad Sissy is gone!" over and over to his not-so-melodious tune.

hmm I thought again. We might need to really explore this

Of course, it doesn't help him much that school is out, messing up his rigid routine so he's been stimming and pacing alot. The school starts out every day with compressions and I'm doing my best to get him similar sensory input but it's always second rate. Then we really messed with his world by starting out the holiday week with Sissy being removed from the home. Now admittedly, he is glad to have her gone but routine is like gold to Aspie kids, even if routine includes damaging behaviors from older RAD siblings.

The Dad and I discussed having a visit with Sissy on Saturday since we won't see her tomorrow. I hedged, both Aspie Boy and Wonder Girl have made it clear to us in their own way that they are relieved she's gone. A visit this soon into her placement might really upset things. Aspie Boy is known to make us "pay" for stuff for two days or more afterward. I told the Dad my concerns and he agreed to consider it further before we all piled into the van on Saturday. We've learned the hard way that you can't play the game unless you're fully suited up and ready to rock and roll. No way was I getting into a van and visiting Sissy without first feeling out the other two siblings for the potential reaction.

Wonder Girl was over hearing my conversation so that when I hung up the phone, she was in my face, "You put me on the list?! For WHAT?" this from a 5 year old, mind you "I don't want any therapy!"

"Ok, ok, just hold on a second there missy," I laughed. "I put you on the list to visit Sissy. Would you like that?"

Wonder Girl glowered and her hands went on her hips. She was really thinking hard. So I gave her an out. "You can say, 'no'"

"No, then."

"Ok. That's fine."

"But wait. Maybe I do. What's it like there? You're not going to leave ME alone, are you?"

"No, silly! We just want to see her, spend time with her, maybe you can see where she eats."

"Oh. OK. I guess. But i'm not getting any therapy!"

I tickled her a little and pretended to do holding therapy with her and she rolled her eyes and shouted out, "MO-OOOMMMMM! Geez, I'm fine, I'm FINE! Ok?" but she was laughing the whole time.

So I asked Aspie Boy if he wanted to visit Sissy next. He responded with a stoic, "yes." Then he disappeared into his room, I presumed to don his shoes since we were planning an errand run.

10 minutes later, Aspie Boy still hadn't emerged from his room, shoes still not on and Wonder Girl went in to see what he was doing. That's when all hell broke loose.

45 minutes later, Aspie Boy was just about out of steam. He was mad, let me tell you! I got socked in the face, my hair pulled, kicked, spat at, you name it. He was furious! I kept asking what it was that made him mad. "You know!" was all he could muster.

But it's not lost on me that at the mere mention of visiting Sissy, Aspie Boy went straight into a fit. Hmmm. I don't think Wonder Girl and Aspie Boy are ready to see her and if we choose to bring them anyway, then we had best be prepared for the murderous onslaught of their raging aftermath.

It just gets harder every day, doesn't it? And I thought bringing Sissy to the RTC would help. lol Jokes on me, I guess!

Thankfully, Aspie Boy has hippotherapy today. Some routine and therapy should help me...er, I mean, HIM. :)

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Blogspot help please and a Conversation with Wonder Girl

I'm well versed in LiveJournal and Facebook but this Blogspot? not so much.

How do I get comments to my posts sent to my email inbox?
How do I reply to comments left on my posts?

For several months now, Wonder Girl has fallen asleep in our room, on our bed. Then we carry her to her room at night before we go to sleep. There were three reasons for this.
#1 - Sissy screamed every.single.night at bedtime and Wonder Girl didn't need to deal with that.
#2 - we don't have an extra room in our house so the girls couldn't have their own room*
#3 - Sissy was hurting Wonder Girl when we weren't looking, putting Wonder Girl into her own bed after Sissy went to sleep and waking them both up in the morning was our best option.

But now that Sissy is at the RTC and hopefully learning new bedtime habits and respect for others, we see a need to retrain Wonder Girl. This evening she and I discussed it after the aggravated Dad begged that we just let Wonder Girl sleep in our room anyway.

"Wonder Girl, do you remember the reasons you started sleeping in our room?"

"Yes. Sissy screams EVERY NIGHT! UGH!!!"

"Yes, that's true. But now that Sissy is getting help, when she comes home, she will probably be better about bedtime. Do you know what that means for you?"

"Yes. I won't have to hear her anymore!"

"Yes, but it also means you have to learn to sleep in your room too."


"What about a compromise? Every other night you can sleep on my bed, OK? And if that goes well, then we can work towards you sleeping in your room for two nights and then one night in my room? How does that sound?"

"It's a pattern, Mom!"

"So we have a deal?"


I can't count how many times I'd approach problem solving with Sissy the same way and how many times the outcome was Sissy screaming at the top of her lungs for an hour or more. It was strange for me to have a normal dialogue with Wonder Girl, reach an agreement to a problem we had and for her to be happy about it. I could feel my hackles rising and my nerves preparing for the anticipated screaming even though I knew in my mind that Wonder Girl doesn't have Sissy's issues.

Boy, it's going to be hard for me to retrain myself too!

*We only learned a few weeks ago in RAD therapy that RAD kids need their own rooms with an alarm on a door. This is one of the many reasons we weren't prepared for RAD therapy. The children only have privacy curtains for doors because the rages always included slammed, locked doors that got barricaded followed by an hour or more of unscrewing door knobs and pushing the door open. Thus the doors were removed. When Wonder Girl told us Sissy was hurting her, we put a baby monitor in the girls' room so we would always know what Sissy was doing while in there. Not perfect, but the best we had.

Monday, November 23, 2009

RTC Day one

We brought Sissy to the RTC today. When the nurse asked her what she hoped to accomplish while at the facility, she said she wanted to "speak better". When the psychiatrist asked her what she hoped to accomplish, she said nothing. When the threapist aske her what she hoped to accomplish she hestiated and then said, "help my inner spirit body" which nearly made the Dad and I laugh, but we held it together.

Here's to RAD kids saying crazy, unexpected things when they are searching for what they think grownups what to hear them say.

We were very pleased with the facility and staff. Of course, our happiness means nothing if Sissy doesn't pony up and do the hard work required for her to accomplish the goals of her prescribed therapy plan. I talked to my RAD mom friend and she said that her daughter, now age 19, is finally showing remorse.

I didn't cry when I left Sissy at the RTC but I will definitely cry the day Sissy demonstrates full understanding of how her choices affect others. THAT will be an amazing day, worthy of lots of tears, hugs and "pizzazz" as Nancy Thomas would say.

Until that hopeful, much anticipated moment in Sissy's life, the rest of our clan recouperates from the past seven months of her rage, violence and suicidal ideations. It's hard to help people understand the reverse abuse RAD family members endure. It's difficult to explain what it's like to watch a child force vomit in response to toothbrushing and then explain that you were unsympathetic, even frustrated instead of nurturing and caring because your child has mastered gagging and wretching on command. Said Aspie Boy when we told him that Sissy would be gone for awhile, "good, she won't be screaming every night at bedtime, I can finally sleep." Said Wonder Girl, "Will she eat?" because of course, RAD kids think that mealtime will NEVER, EVER happen and that they will waste away waiting the intense, horrible, inhumane 4 hours between meals.

Thank God for RAD moms, we keep each other sane in the absolute insanity RAD creates in our lives.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Peace in Puzzles

It's a curious thing, blogging. Broadcasting the parts of your life that you are willing to share with countless strangers, globally, requires some pizazz, the ability to phrase things adequately and some boldness. Certainly, you can't be a private person that gets her feathers ruffled easily by comments from readers that don't see your point of view and aren't afraid of saying so. Likewise, you have to keep your readers interested while protecting the feelings and identities of the loved ones you discuss in the blog. It could be argued that blogging is a precarious occupation that has the potential to precipitate enormous chaos in your life. But we do it anyway because for those of us that are diehard bloggers, we know that putting what we think, say and do on the page and connecting with other bloggers that think, say and do as we do, is kin to a narcotic addiction.

The Pizzazz
"Peace in Puzzles" means...?
The blog title started with the iconic Autism image of puzzle pieces. Our son is on the autism spectrum and is he ever a puzzle! Following the free associatiative thought process, it is easy to make the connection that our daughter's mental health issues make her a puzzle to sort out as well. Since both of them present with enormous, daily challenges for our family, it often disrupts the peace in our home. And who doesn't like homophones? piece was easily swapped for peace. Voila! Peace in Puzzles

The Phrasing
Here's the deal. I have another blog in which I freely discuss everything I think and feel, with reckless abandon. But that blog is for a select audience. I know that what I say there could be hurtful to some of the people in my life. This blog will be different in that aspect. I will not disucss with abandon, rather I will be painting an informative portrait of events that occur in our family's life. No fabrications, just an article-style format.

The Boldness
Just like the next person, my feathers can be ruffled but when I know what needs to be done or that my decisions are good ones, I won't be moved. I like to hear and discuss other points of view but ultimately, I know that I'm making the best choices for me and my family.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

RAD blogging

I'm not new to blogging. I've kept a personal blog for six years or more. My personal blog,http://integritysinger.livejournal.com, is about me. This blog will be about our family's journey as we help our daughter recover from RADs.

Sissy will be 10 on the last day of the year. She came home nine years ago after 11 months of challenges in her first mom's care. Her RAD diagnosis came shortly afterward but it wasn't until years of other therapies, medications and doctors that we were finally directed to pursue RAD therapy as our last chance at helping Sissy recover and become functional.

But we were not prepared for the ramifications of the therapy and it only escalated Sissy's rage to the point of suicidal ideations. 9 years of difficult parenting and 5 weeks of RAD therapy, Sissy will be taking some time to stabilize at a residential treatment center while the rest of the Smith clan regroups, recovers from the malestrom and adequately prepares to reembrace Sissy in our home.

We are also proud adoptive parents of Sissy's biological siblings, Aspie Boy, turning 9 a week after Sissy's birthday, and Wonder Girl, age 5.