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

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Fish

At RTC, one of her do-gooder teachers thought it would be brilliant to boost the self-esteem of his charges by giving them the opportunity to earn a fish by working hard in the classroom. Betta Fish, hardy little buggers, don't need much space, cost a few bucks, done.

Except when you've put a RADish to the task.

In the classroom at the RTC, students that earned a fish then went on to earn points which translated into dollars to purchase things for their fish. Cool rocks, aquarium sculptures, bigger bowls, etc. Part of the weekly classroom routine included fish maintenance, stressing responsibility and pride of caring for something other than oneself.

Sissy named her fish Felix after the old cartoon character, Felix the CAT. Yes, yes, I know the irony. We've discussed it with her. It was lost on her. All she said was, "huh? i don't get it" *shake head in dismay*

At RTC, Felix was well cared for, largely owing to the classroom routine of caring for her fish. At discharge, the fish instructions were discussed with her and with me in a family therapy session. As the parent, I was given the opportunity to disallow Sissy to take her fish home. Seriously? What parent says no to a fish, even RAD parents? It's a FISH for crying out loud and she had EARNED it, right? RIGHT?!? (oh what tangled webs we weave)

Once I agreed to let Sissy take home her fish, I was counseled to continue the classroom setting in which the fish would be solely SISSY'S responsibility, that I was not to take on any part of fish maintenance or care. Sissy, in turn, was reminded that this was HER fish. She was given the choice to leave her fish behind to become a classroom pet but she opted to keep him even after agreeing to the rules of fish ownership, responsibility and care.

Boy. What a bane of our existence this little fish has become! I have rescued the poor thing twice. Literally, saved him from certain death. Once from the elbow in the drain of the bathroom sink because Sissy forgot to stopper the sink and down down down went the fish. And once from the bedroom floor since she dropped his tank while carrying it back to her space, dumping putrid, foul, vomitous-smelling fish water everywhere. (remember, her bedroom is in my LIVING ROOM. gag) Said to her in frustration and exhaustion with the issue, "Sissy, if I have to save your fish from you once more, I won't. Period."

After she dropped the tank, she was about to throw away the aquarium ornament she'd also purchased (it cost more than the tank)[1]. It had not broken in the fall so I was puzzled. "Sissy, why are you going to throw that away? It's fine."

Her reply, "I'm bored with it."

"Uh... we don't work hard to purchase things so we can throw it away two weeks later because we're bored". Hot air wasted, I know. I know, I know, I know! *sigh* I'm talking to a wall but I'm the mom, I HAVE to say these things. It's my job. The real reason Sissy was bored? Because she bought some ceramic cartoonish shark thingie and she was mad that Felix didn't want to swim into its mouth to sleep at night.

[aside]Sometimes, I think to myself after writing a sentence like that my readers are going to think I'm looney, that I'm making this crap up except I'm not. Which makes me either want to bawl my eyes out or laugh until I pee myself. Not quite sure which. I'll get back to you on that.

Really, this fish has been ... more than my RADish can tend to. I love her, I love the idea this teacher had but honestly, it's not for all families. It's certainly not something that Sissy was ready to take on and she was honest about it tonight. Apparently, after all that rescuing, Sissy has still not learned that the fish tank needs to be cleaned weekly and now the fish has Ick. Sissy tearfully announced that if she knew this was how it was going to be to take care of a fish, she would have never agreed to it.

Honest words, yes. But really. A FISH!?!? The poor dear doesn't have the desire to take care of a fish, the responsibility is so overwhelming in her mind, that she would rather not have it at all?!? Wonder Girl is chomping at the bit to take care of the dern thing. Sobbed and sobbed two weeks ago when Sissy almost killed it a second time. Sissy was really only upset that that tank broke (she'd saved for six weeks to buy a special tank for it.[2]) And after all that, two near death experiences for the beautiful red betta, Sissy STILL hasn't clued in that it needs food daily and a clean tank weekly. I have half a mind to call up the RTC and chew out the teacher, not that it's his fault but because SOMEONE ought to be responsible for bringing one more reason for angst into our life.

Nancy Thomas' words are ringing in my ears. She says it plainly. If your RADish isn't ready to take care of a fish, then they are not ready to be alone with ANY pets, let alone humans. Well said Nancy and thanks for the reminder. Let's hope Felix meets a peaceful demise. I'm sad to admit that I've contemplated taking matters into my own hands by "eliminating" the fish conundrum and similarly cursed myself for saving it a second time. I'm not joking. If I have to rescue that fish from Sissy a third time, I won't. And I might just go and buy one for WG besides. Yes, that's mean. But WG shouldn't be penalized for being capable just because Sissy isn't. And WG really wants that fish. She's got more worry for its welfare in one day than Sissy has had for it in the 12 weeks she's been home.

Curses you ridiculously named Felix the Fish and the RADS that prevents my 10 year old from keeping you healthy, happy and whole!

[1] How, you ask, did Sissy earn all this money? Quite simple. Her first IFI team thought payment for hygiene would be an effective behavior mod program. yes, yes, you're laughing at me. Snorting your coffee all over your computer screens. Let me hand you some wipes and then I'll explain. I TOLD her IFI team that behavior mod doesn't work on RADS. Told them that Sissy would only keep up her hygiene for as long as she needed to earn money. Once she bought what she wanted, she's stop and be stinky, smelly and whiney when I reminded her to do her hygiene. But all powerful IFI team asked me to try anyway. I smiled glibly. And waited for events to prove me right, again. Because I am. Right, that is, but professionals think mommies are daft idiots raised on isolated islands, far from education, reason and sense. It's just easier to agree with them that I'm an idiot than it is to convince them otherwise. Besides, Sissy always does that for me. (I wish she wouldn't)

the tank Sissy saved for. It's for 2 fish. But Sissy only has one fish. But this is the tank she wanted and no amount of suggesting she make a different selection would convince her. So for one fish, she bought a tank for 2. I know, I know. I'm trying to explain logical things to RADS which is by nature, ILLOGICAL. My folly, again.

Day 4

argh. Reading through some of the posts, it seems Day 4 is a deal breaker for our RADishes. No worries. I flopped yesterday too, so that means I can count today as Day 2? lol

Why am I flopping? Hmmm. I don't think it's Sissy. I think it's me. I have too many irons in the fire and my brain is all screwy, overwhelmed and I can't take a moment to think straight. So remembering to hug, touch and ask a child what THEY want to do is, well, a challenge for ME.

On another note, hair.
Talking to Corey about the need to chop our RADish's hair because they are not willing to keep it tidy and unwilling to let Mom help has meant the scissors come out and the hair gets lopped off. Let's think a minute.
#1) chopping the hair is allowing our RADish to say "ha. i win. you can't touch me"
#2) chopping the hair is the RADish saying, "see, that proves it, I'm not beautiful"
#3) chopping the hair for Mom means we don't get to touch them in loving ways like other mommies do
#4) chopping the hair means no more hygeine issues, no more screaming, one less battle to wage war over

So, does chopping the hair make it easier or harder or both? Let's be honest, when you were a little girl dreaming about being a mommy to a daughter, didn't you imagine THESE images?

Tough stuff, gals. And yes, Sissy had a glorious mane and yes, for sanity, it got lopped off, twice. But to be honest, as hard as it was for me to do it (the first time I justified it by convincing her we should donate the 10 inches - oof that still smarts thinking of it), it has meant one less issue to contend with. One less obstacle my RADish can pit against me. It NEUTRALIZES the playing field so we can attack RADs on other terms that are less personal for mother and daughter.

How many of you have had to make this choice?

Sissy's hair on Chopping Day

a "happy" Sissy after it was gone

Hugging the envelope with the hair donation

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Days 2 & 3 and a little more

Yesterday was a flying flop. We were outside all afternoon trying to level off a patch in the yard to put up the pool. 5.5 hours of digging, shoveling and shoving dirt around, believing it to be level and yet, now that the pool is full, it still pitches hard to one side, just as bad as last year. Which begs the question, did last year's lopsidedness warp the lining? Probably.


and of course, sweaty, dirty and unbelievably disgusting, I didn't dare hug a soul. However, I did get in some touch time with Sissy and did what she wanted to do, which was more touching time, as it turned out. So maybe that makes up for the lack of hugs?

3 hugs
no touch time or time spent doing what she likes, but the day's not over yet.

How are the rest of you doing?
Anyone taking the time to contemplate what things about YOUR life make this challenge so hard?
In other news:
the pdoc has taken Sissy off the regular tenex and we are now titrating her onto a controllable dose of intuniv, which is extended release tenex. I haven't checked to see if her tremors are gone but I can tell you that she'll definitely need more than the 1 mg of intuniv. After we get Sissy titrated on the correct dose of intuniv and we watch for side effects, we will discuss reducing the resperidol.

Something else the pdoc asked, that he's never asked before was "is she having any overly dark obsessions or religious thoughts?"

and I thought that was curious. Usually he asks "do you want to hurt yourself or others? Are you hearing or seeing things that others don't hear or see?" but this time he asked about the dark or religious obsessions. I answered "no" to both because Sissy's answer was "huh?"

Has anyone else ever heard of a connection between mood disorders and religious fanaticism or obsessions with cults, goth, etc? This has me really intrigued and I'm going to do some digging/researching about it. Insurance has truncated our time with pdoc to a maximum of 15 minutes so I didn't get the chance to ask pdoc more about it or I would have.

Friday, May 28, 2010

No arms, no legs, no worries

If you haven't seen this yet, you should.
Because we all need to put it into perspective.

Attachment Challenge Day 1:
9 - this one was tough and I was stretching to get in the nine, let alone 10
10 minutes of train back rubs - sit one in front of the other and rub, then switch after 2 minutes
20 minutes playing curious george safari hide and seek game - a game for preschoolers

Reading through the 45 comments and rash of blog posts from readers that are partaking in the challenge, all of us seem to be on the same page with our angst. Why is that?

I'm adding a smidge to Christine's challenge.
While you do these things for your RAD, take another 20 minutes each day to reflect about the things in your own childhood and adult relationships that make it hard for YOU to receive love and affection. Journal it, blog it, pray about it, cry over it, etc. Find the root of the reason that it's hard for you to get to the place of unconditional love for the people in your life, not just for your RADish(es). Start by clicking the link and watching the five minute video.

I love you all!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Three things

UGH to Christine that makes us work. Christine, I love to hate you! xxoo and big fat lip raspberries on your right arm.

Why the hatred, you ask? Because. She's created an attachment challenge for us and since the very notion of doing what she's asking makes me all jittery and anxious and wanting to run away or bury my head, I know that it is EXACTLY WHAT I NEED TO DO.

THAT's why I hate her. She knows what I need when I don't.

OK gals, click the linkeroo, sign yourself up and get your heines in gear. Let's harvest some RADishes from the garden.

Next point of order: Withholding.
After many years of trying to treat Sissy's bowel issues ... (ok, back up Jennie. You haven't told them the whole deal, have you?)

Let me restart with some background.
I told you Sissy's story and mentioned her raw, bloody, blistered, impetigoed bottom, yes? Well, she also had a torn hymen. Which potentially means but is not in itself conclusive evidence, that Sissy was sexually abused and not just improperly changed when soiled. All of her psychological issues about toileting and proper hygiene of her bottom suggests it, however, including her chronic bowel issues.

OK, so, back to the bowel issues.
We've tried many different remedies to alleviate her bowel issues all at the suggestions of the pdoc and psychologist. But since RTC, it's gotten much worse. Much worse means: she won't eliminate for 6-8 days and when she does, it is 6 inches in diameter and bloody. not hard, just mind-boggling enormous. The IFI supervisor suspects some internal issues owing to the suspected abuse, particularly as Sissy is embarking puberty. She says she's seen this before in boys and girls alike that have been abused. They get to puberty and their stools are enormous and it is evidence of a perforation gone undetected. The pdoc just simply said, "let the gen practitioner figure it out."

OK then.
So, off to the gen practitioner today. For now he's calling it "withholding", a typical constipation issue that children have because they condition themselves to hold their stools to save themselves the embarrassment of notifying an adult at school that they need to go or because of fear of the public toilets in the school and the jeers from peers. So we are to increase Sissy's juice (which is nonexistent, she has an aversion complete with gagging), decrease the dairy (which is Sissy's first love), add miralax and schedule toileting as a 15 minute session directly after breakfast, her feet propped up on a short stool.

Guess who was a grumpy gus that made us all miserable when we got back from the doc? Did you guess that it was Sissy? Aren't ya'll so smart! Show of hands, how many of you think tomorrow is going to RADilicious when I tell her to drink juice instead of her coveted milk and then tell her she HAS TO use the toilet? Oh my! ALL of you have raised your hands! Well thanks for nothing then! lol

Anyone else have RADishes that withhold? Is this common? I've never read it in the RAD texts so this is news to me. Talk to me girls. Clue me in.


Lastly, does your RADish do the morning thing? Some days I go to bed and I tell myself, Get ready momma cuz she's going to start tomorrow with a bang! I'll have picked up on a subtle nuance of Sissy's that says, "And now I will make you pay!"

And so she'll start her morning having made a wrong choice and she'll just sit there or stand there or pace or whatever it is she tries to do to get my attention. Her whole body language says, "Ta Da! I'm doing something you wouldn't want me to do on PURPOSE! Now... what are you going to do about it?"

Like Wednesday morning. I come out of my room and there she was, wearing that mismatched outfit she knows I told her not to wear. What I really wanted to say as a good mommy was, "Good morning sweetheart! How are you?" but if I did that, it'd have been my death sentence.

She was sitting on the sofa like she was the queen of England, dressed in her I-look-like-a-baffoon-in-this-ridiculous-ensemble outfit and I stopped, took half a second to gather my strength and resolve and said, "No. Go change it now."

She hesitated and I smiled. "You know that outfit's a no." And I pointed. Then slowly, her eyes on me the whole time, she slid off the sofa and sulked to her room to change. She came out of her space and put her laundry in the laundry room, a very obvious gesture which meant and don't forget to check mom, because i didn't change my underwear and I want to see if you'll care to remind me.

And she hadn't been awake 10 minutes and I had yet to give her a friendly greeting and I picked through the laundry and noticed the absence of dirty underwear. "Sissy. change your underwear." Silently, she went back to her room and did it.

Without meds, she'd have raged. With meds she complies but with or without, she still tests me the instant my eyes are open. I don't get to my coffee before I've had to trouble shoot these irritating tests of my will. Sometimes she'll fire off as many as five or six in the span of 10 minutes. it's exhausting! And I wonder to myself, with all of this plotting, planning, brooding and scheming, the poor dear must be delirious! Some days when the mornings are really bad I just say, "Honey, I'm not going to stop loving you for doing all of this nonsense but neither will I stop giving you consequences. Your choice. Make it a good one!"


And so I conclude on that note with a reluctant attitude to take on Christine's attachment challenge. Sissy starts out every day challenging me before I've even turned on my brain and I'm about to make her mornings that much more fun. I really don't want to do what Christine suggests. I would much rather stomp my feet and walk off in a huff and slam a few doors. But I'm gonna do it. You should too.

xxoo to all my favorite RAD mommies in the world. You gals rock the house! Join me for some stiff drinks next Friday night, we're gonna need it.

Too many variables to draw a conclusion

All I did was call the IFI supervisor, saying "I was hoping you might help us trouble shoot some issues we're having with our IFI team."

The supervisor said, "Never mind, we're switching you to my team. Sissy's been rolled to GA medicaid."

News to me but OK then!

The last two weeks has been a blur. Meeting the new team, reintroducing ourselves and Sissy's issues and phone calls. Oh the phone calls. As the chips settle, we are getting 10 hours in-home therapy provided by three new team members, all of which have RAD experience. Our Family therapist is working on social skills with the children in one session and attachment with me in the other. The individual therapist is reviewing DBT skills and the third member is a life coach, taking Sissy out into the environment to help her navigate more appropriately. The CBAY waiver (community based alternatives for youth, a federal stimulus act grant-funded program specifically created to help kids transitioning out of RTC) is providing wrap around services which includes paying for a Family Y membership so Sissy can access the day camp program and adaptive swimming classes, respite care, neurofeedback, paying the RAD therapist and finally, assistance in payment for the IFI services. (even though she's medicaid now, in July, GA will cut the allowable hours for IFI by 50% and the CBAY waiver will pick up the some of the slack.)

Most kids are in IFI for three to six months. Sissy will get the full six months. Typically clients are on the waiver for a year but if Sissy still needs help, we can get an extension.

Do I think all of this stuff is working?


Here's the thing. I think if I took the RADQ right now, Sissy would probably score 50% better than she did last November (she scored all but 2 at that time.) And I haven't had to call the crisis team to deescalate in four weeks. She's had volatile moments and limits-testing moments including setting off her alarm, but I was able to manage it all. (Don't think I'm a fool though, I made sure the IFI team knew about it afterward.) But back to the question, do I think all of the interventions are helping her? I can't say.

Now I'm going to go geek on you, as is my right as a science teacher on indefinite leave. An experiment must have only one manipulated variable by which to test the hypothesis and to draw conclusions upon. If more than one variable is changed, you can not determine which variable affected the end result. The experiment and any analysis and potential conclusions as it pertains to the original hypothesis is null and void. Sissy's experiment has a second variable. Meds.

A month ago, the pdoc increased her anti-psychotic and added a new ADHD med. Her violent rages stopped. Immediately. She still can't sleep, still manipulates and annoys us deliberately, still tries the waters to make sure her family isn't going to turn into a cesspool of writhing, electrified eels and generally is not "better" per se but the violence? Gone. The crisis calls to IFI? Non-existent. It would be wonderful to say all the therapy has helped, that she's cautiously attaching but I can't say it isn't just the meds.

We are about to discover the proof in the pudding. Sissy has had tremors from the meds and I don't know if it's the increased anti-psychotic or the ADHD med. If it's the anti-psychotic, on Friday, the pdoc is going to take it back down to the original dose. If her rages immediately reappear then we'll know, won't we?

Yes. I am dumbfounded that some how by an act of God we have gotten help finally. I really wish I knew how we landed on the door step of OZ so I could tell you to just follow our yellow brick road but I think Glenda the Good Witch waved her magic wand and that's how we got here. What's more, we'll be getting some for Aspie Boy too since we did an intake with the IFI team just this morning to address HIS issues. But still I'm thinking that the meds have been the true reason for the emerging peace in our home. Four weeks ago I would have still told you were were hitting all but 2 of the RADQ statements. In addition, it seems only I am soaking up the therapeutic techniques so that when Sissy has a crisis moment, I can talk her through it better and therefore we aren't escalating to a crisis situation that requires outside intervention. Sissy's not actually internalizing these things to use of her own recognizance, she really just likes getting all the attention.

The real question I find myself pondering is at what point is RADs a psychoses that requires medication as opposed to a diagnoseable syndrome that can be retrained and reconditioned through the often odd RAD therapy techniques? In other words, does trauma irrevocably alter brain CHEMISTRY and PHYSIOLOGY, not just cognitive reasoning and psychology? Does trauma induced RAD actually become a MEDICAL condition that would show altered brain functioning in an MRI? Have psychology and psychiatry researchers ever performed a functional, waking MRI in which the RAD is asked triggering questions to see what happens in the various regions of the brain?

Indulge me for a minute. If you consider another severe mental health condition like schizophrenia in which the individual displays odd, challenging, defiant and sometimes violent behaviors toward himself or toward others, the first question is usually, what is the medication treatment plan? Not, as it is more likely to be with RADs, what is the therapy plan? On fMRIs, schizophrenia is very distinct, often including smaller than average brain regions and in research, even diminished neurotransmitter receptors in the hippocampus. Once the sufferer of severe mental health conditions is adequately treated with medications so that his symptoms are minimized to manageable levels, he then approaches his therapy plan to help problem solve and trouble shoot the challenging circumstances that are specific to the patient.

With RADs, at least to me and in our situation, the opposite occurred. Sure, we tried meds for Sissy but all of them addressed her ADHD specifically and then over time, adding to address her bipolar. But with the RADs, straight from the start at diagnosis when she was only 18 months old, the treatment was only therapeutic. In fact, the psychologist and therapist only ever talked about the therapy plans to treat the RADs. It wasn't until RTC that the med plan became aggressive enough to batten down the hatches on Sissy's mounting mental health needs. Six months later, she's on a cocktail that has ceased her rage, dulled her mood swings and her yen to exacerbate and made it possible for us to begin building a bridge toward acceptance and appropriate affection.

For four years, I have built friendships with amazing families that have kids impaired with lots of different mental, emotional, genetic and physical impairments. They are all different but one constant has held true, when they are escalating, they have required a med adjustment.

Sissy will always be "off norm" and I accept that. It would be folly if I didn't. But maybe I'm also beginning to accept that her RADs is just one component to her conglomeration of mental health needs. yes, I know. RADs mimics everything but Sissy has needs akin to her birthmom's and BM never had RADs. Likewise, I think my acceptance of Sissy's mental health needs has made it easier for ME to attach to her regardless of HER desire, an unconditional love that has inadvertently become the doorway of opportunity for her to feel safe in considering to love me back. (See, one more variable skewing the results in our science experiment)

Finally, so many of our adopted RAD and alternatively challenged kids were available for adoption because their parents were alternatively challenged and thus ill-equipped to parent a child. I've said it many times, if you have a special needs child, quite often you have a special needs parent. Think about it. Let's say the parent was an alcoholic that abused a child when drunk. WHY was the parent an alcoholic? Was their bipolar disorder unmedicated or undiagnosed and the alcohol became the only way the parent could "help" themselves through his own needs? Was the parent abused as a child and never recovered? I know many parents of Asperger's and Autistic children that are a little quirky themselves and it makes me wonder maybe the MOM's on the spectrum but never diagnosed? And if you ask anyone that's been in mental health professions for any length of time, they'll admit to it. Individuals with unaddressed mental health needs are more likely to be attracted to other adults with unaddressed mental health needs so that they have children that have unaddressed mental health needs, children that are traumatized inadvertently BECAUSE of the parents' unaddressed mental health needs. It's a horrible vicious cycle that I suspect alters brain chemistry as opposed to just individuals perpetually modeling bad behaviors that psychologists say can be retrained by cognitive and dilectical behavior techniques.

Anyway, that's food for thought, eh? I'd love to hear your two cents.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Life with RADs needs Hope and Grace

Taken 11/08, our most recent family photo

Today is the first day of summer vacation for our family, a misnomer at best since summer solstice is still a month away and the children return to the classroom in the dead heat of August. As we finished off the school year, I reflected on the events of the past 12 months and decided it was time to regroup, beginning with the long-ago promised story of Sissy's adoption. But first, a disclaimer must be supplied. As with any story that involves other people, this account is my point of view, the other individuals living these events with me might have a different tale to tell. I give credence to all sides of the story but having only lived this side of the fence, it is all I feel privileged to recount to you.

I first met her, J, who would become birthmom/firstmom to us later, in the fall of 1996 at her uncle's house. She was living with her aunt and uncle after aging out of the system, leaving of her own recognizance at the age of 19, literally running away from her foster home with nothing but the clothes on her back and a certificate of completion from her high school. Finding that she was ill-prepared to take on adulthood, her family took her in as their charge. They were hosting a new weekly small group bible study and J sat lumped in a corner on the sofa, wearing a red hoodie sweatshirt that was ripe with days of wear without laundering. Her broken glasses rested lopsided upon the tip of her nose and her untamed hair begged to be let loose like Medusa's crown of writhing snakes. Finishing off her ensemble was a crooked smile displaying uncared-for teeth. During prayer request time, she unabashedly spoke with a feigned lisp, a garbled tale of woe and sorrow, never admitting that much of her ill-fated life was owing to her immense needs and poor choices as a result of those unmet needs.

I fell in love with her instantly.

As the study was concluding and the last vestiges of church goers were leaving, J resigning herself to her den of a bedroom, The Dad and I lingered a moment and spoke in hushed tones to her Aunt and Uncle. Little did we know that our conversation would lead us on a life-long journey.

"How can we help J?" we asked.

Her Aunt and Uncle hedged and after a moment or two mentioned some of her material needs, offering a brief history of their view of her sordid tale of woe begotten adventures in life that lead her to their door. Unassuaged, we persisted. "Really. Tell us what we can do for her."

Thus began our journey. Over the course of the next four years, we seamlessly blended in with J's extended family, three generations worth. J's grandmother filling that role for me as well, her Noni becoming mine and before long, helping J as we had hoped. One day on a trip with the church, we were transporting J to the event. She sat in the back chattering away and The Dad and I just nodded our heads and said "mm hmm" every now and then. We came upon the lumber yard that we always pass on the way to the lake and The Dad and I began our silly game.

Whenever we pass a lumber yard The Dad says, "huh. That's strange. I smell ... wood, or something."

And I'll reply, "Yeah, me too."

We'll banter back and forth, grinning impishly at each other and then as the lumber yard zooms past the window, conclude the game with a shrug and a "well, the smell is gone now," remark.

On this occasion, with J in the back seat, we thought it would be fun to play with her. The best part of our game is introducing unaware passengers and laughing at them when they say, "Uh, could it be the LUMBER YARD?!?" But J's response was even better. Looking out the other window, purposely redirecting her attention away from the lumber yard says, "could it be that forest over there?"

Not wanting to be rude, we didn't laugh. I may have bit my lip till it bled though. However, we have laughed about it ever since, 12 years later. That moment, unbeknownst to us, encapsulated our future as Sissy's parents. Raising J's daughter, now our daughter, has been one lumber yard moment after another, every single day. If in that moment someone had told me that I had just glimpsed my future ad nauseum, I likely would have jumped out of the moving vehicle. Isn't God so nice that way, by not providing us with a glimpse of our futures?

After a little while at her Aunt and Uncle's house, J got restless and demanded a place of her own. Her family found her a one room efficiency just a stone's throw distance from their front door. Sadly, J was not ready and she did not succeed. She moved on, mostly to dodge her mounting bills and kept on moving, further and further, nearly falling off the radar all together with the exception of the occasional phone calls to her mom or Uncle because she needed something. There were tales of her dating someone and then, just as easily as she drifted out of our lives, she reappeared.

I was at a ladies luncheon event at church, the reason for which I no longer remember. I was sitting in a circle chatting with some women when J magically reappeared. I was glad to see her but before I could jump up to hug her, she walked directly over to me as though no time had passed at all since our last seeing each other and announced, "I'm pregnant!"

Have you ever had one of those moments when you are damn certain that the earth stopped moving? A moment in which you are sure that Richter scales all over the globe are sounding alarms that the globe's spinning on its axis has ceased? Right at that moment, me seated, J's belly directly in front of my nose as she spoke over me her jubilant declaration of her impending motherhood, I felt the planet stop. I knew, in that moment, that the child she carried would be my daughter. I got goose bumps, I STILL get them even know as I type these words. It was a God moment I will never forget.

How do you say to a woman, "I'm glad to hear you're carrying my child?" Answer. You don't. In fact, you tell no one. You breathe not a word of it. You take that nugget of truth and you bury it in your heart and every time it surfaces in your mind, you pray about it and rebury it. You just keep praying and burying and waiting on God because if it's REALLY God, it will play itself out, WITHOUT your doing. I know. Imagine that. God can do whatever the heck he wants to do, WITHOUT human intervention. Silly, but true nonetheless.

Of course, J's family was worried. And some of them knowing of The Dad's and my difficulties in conceiving, began suggesting that we tell J we would be willing to adopt. We agreed that the notion should be mentioned to J but she would hear nothing of it. She wanted her baby. So I prayed and buried and prayed and buried some more. J went to Savannah to a home for young unwed mothers to be that had emotional challenges. The program's intent is to counsel the women toward finding an adoptive family. J ran away. She wanted her baby. So I prayed and buried and prayed and buried.

One day, late in J's pregnancy, I was at her Noni's house (my Noni too at that point.) Noni and I talked and prayed and fretted and worried over J and the baby and I finally said, "Noni, if the baby is to be mine, God will work it out. But I know she's mine. He told me so."

After resurfacing from her run away jaunt in Savannah, J came to church, insisting she sit next to me. I was sitting in the middle of the isle so J had to gingerly side step over toes, her swollen belly swinging in everyone's faces. As she stood over me waiting for me to move my legs out of her way, that baby in her womb just inches from my grasp, I whispered, "Hold on baby, I'm coming. Just a little bit longer. Mommy's here, waiting for you." At that moment, J grabbed her belly and said, "Whoa! She just flipped around in there or something!" I took it as Sissy's way of saying, "HI MOM!" and I just smiled at J.

On New Year's Eve, the last day of the millenium, we were at church ringing in the New Year. We were standing next to J's mom getting refreshments when she told us she'd just heard from J. She'd delivered. A girl. 8 pounds even and no complications. J had delivered alone by her choice. I was speechless. Sissy had finally arrived.

I only saw Sissy once when she was about two weeks old. J was bouncing from place to place again and had shown up for church to show off her new baby. Sissy's infant hair was jet black and thick and boy could she wail! But she was far away and J left before I could ask to hold her. I didn't see them again for another 11 months.

Oh, I heard tales of horror. And I prayed and buried a lot in those 11 months. One day that July, when I had just about given up hope that I would ever be Sissy's mom, when the doctors had said there was no chance of conception for us, when my friend had died of cancer followed by my dog two days later, I got a phone call from a friend. "Have you considered adoption?"

"Yes," I told her. "And I already know who it will be. But for now, I must wait." Silently, I counted in my head, my daughter is six months old now. I prayed and buried again. On a side note, we got a new puppy to ease our pain and we named her Hope because gosh, we needed some!
Our Dog, Hope, now 10 years old

Two months later, J's mom called. J was in trouble, again, admitting she was pregnant with a second child and she wanted to know if The Dad and I would take Sissy. "At last!" we thought. "Sissy will be ours!" We scrambled frantically to get meager provisions together for an infant and then got another call. J had gotten cold feet, owing to Sissy's biodad who was adamant that J not give Sissy up. We prayed and buried some more. But this time we took the leap of faith and more amply prepared the room as we waited.

In November, J's mom called again. Sissy was sick and J, who can't drive, needed transport to the clinic for her and Sissy. Wonder of wonders! You know I jumped out of my skin and drove faster than lightning to be an angel to the rescue. I met J at the door of her home and squeezed my eyes tight before looking in to behold Sissy's face for the first time. And it was a sad, sickly face. And my heart melted. Hurrying, we packed up Sissy, J and her newly swollen belly and dashed off to the clinic.

As with any after hours clinic, the wait was long. J and I talked, let me restate. J talked, I listened and said "mm hmm" a lot while I gazed at Sissy and tried to make her smile. Oh dearI thought. This baby is not well, not right, there's a problem here J chatted and chatted and rubbed her belly and told me she had no one to adopt her unborn child and then she was called back by the nurse and I sat alone to ponder. I've prayed all this time and now face to face with it, can I do this? Sissy's eyes were hollow, she was lifeless and I was hoping that it was owing to the pain she was in from her double ear infection and not a foreshadowing of a life yet to be lived.

Suddenly, J came bursting through the doors in tears, Sissy undressed and wailing, a nurse calling after them, the doctor following suit and barking orders to J and the nurse and I was jolted from my thoughts. At last, I was holding her. Holding a screaming, wailing, naked, diaper-half-off Sissy and J was ushered back in to the office to talk with the medical staff. Shrugging my shoulders, I attempted to dress the writhing, angry infant. As I attempted to fasten her diaper I got a glimpse of her raw bottom, bloody from rash and poor bathing and changing and I hoped not something worse. Again I asked myself, can I do this?

J came out a few minutes later and huffed, "let's go now!" and I followed along like a lost puppy, securing Sissy in her car seat and carrying it and the diaper bag all the way to the car. Once inside, J announced that she had to go directly to the pharmacy to get Sissy's medication. I drove her there and waited as she went in. Sissy was screaming again so I reached into her bag for a bottle and found one and handed it to Sissy who threw it and screamed louder. Inspecting it, I discovered it was rancid. I fished for another bottle and found an empty, dirty one. Digging deeper I realized the diaper bag was no such thing. More like trash bag. There were no adequate provisions for Sissy in it.

J erupted through the door of the pharmacy, just as flustered as she was in the doctor's office, angry about something to do with her medicaid card and how she had to get medication for Sissy's ear infection and could I please take her to the pharmacy again in the morning and just take her home for now and so I drove. When we got to J's place, she was locked out. So we drove to bio dad's mom's house, she was supposed to have a key. As i waited for J to come out, I turned to look at Sissy and said, "Hold on baby, just a little longer. Mommy's here and soon, soon baby, I'll get to take you home."

J returned without a key. So we drove back to J's house and J found a way to pop out a window to access the handle of the front door and we were in.

I was NOT glad to be "in". When I picked them up, we were in such a hurry to get to the clinic and I was so ecstatic to finally find Sissy that I did not survey the living environment. And to be honest, I still don't want to describe the squalor. I think the statement: too disgusting for rats and roaches, will suffice. And I was returning Sissy to it. I cried all the way home with the small consolation that I would return the next day to make sure Sissy had her medications.

The next day I got to meet biodad and we had a "grand" adventure, the four of us, driving around trying to acquire diapers, medications and groceries. Biodad says to me, "You're not so bad. You're actually kind of nice." A statement that would prove fortuitous for us later when it was HIS bidding to J that we would be adequate parents for their daughter. After all of our travels, I left Sissy again, whispering to her once more, "soon, baby. soon." But oh, her empty, haunting eyes.

For three weeks I paced and prayed and tried not to see Sissy's haunting eyes every time I went to sleep. On December 4, 2000, J's mom dashed into my classroom. "GO! Go now! J called, she's sick and too pregnant to take care of Sissy and biodad agrees to it. They said you can take Sissy. GO!!!!" So I left. I grabbed my mom on the way and we rescued Sissy from filth and squalor and horrors untold.

She was soaked in urine up to her ears. She had only a laundry basket's worth of worldly possessions, all of which I threw away because it was so filthy it was unsalvageable. She still hadn't finished her 10 day round of amoxicillin and it was 21 days later. She had open, bleeding wounds on her bottom, impetigo, and a leather cradle cap that took six months of medicated shampoo to clear up. Her skull was flat on one side from hours on end in an infant carrier without being held. She was malnourished, underweight with failure to thrive and was anemic. She had those lifeless, haunting eyes. She screamed when touched and bit and hit when held. And oh, the night terrors, the horrible, dreadful night terrors. She really required hospitalization but the doctors, nurses and WIC staff felt certain she would recover quickly in my care. Sissy, after all that time, was finally mine. Worse for the wear, never fully recoverable, but mine all the same.

Two days later, J asked us to adopt her unborn son.

I will never be able to prove it and doctors will just nod and smile when I tell them but I know it is the truth. Aspie Boy saved Sissy's life. It was his vivacious nature and tenacity despite his own struggles that Sissy studied like a hawk and patterned herself after. The haunting eyes disappeared when Aspie Boy appeared. I also tell people that the two of them have a shared brain. It's like they have their own unspoken, secret language. They just "know". They drive each other crazy but they act more like twins then most twins I know and that's because Sissy's desire for life started the day he came home from the hospital.
15 months and 3 months: 2 peas in a pod

Eight weeks after getting custody of Sissy, the four of us walked into the judge's court room and we were awarded legal guardianship by reason of abuse due to neglect and depravity. J, sadly, did not attend to defend herself. Shortly thereafter, she was sent to assisted living. Equally as sad is that our relationship with J has been challenging ever since.

J did not waive her rights so we could adopt Sissy until two years later. Sissy screamed the entire 25 minute drive to the courthouse and slept the whole way home.
Sissy's adoption day

Every day with Sissy has been a different experience. The only expectation is that she would be screaming about something. It has been hard, it has been wonderful, it has made me cry an ocean of tears and laugh a heaven's worth of gaiety. It has never been easy but never dull. I still pray and bury a lot.

The other night at the super table, Sissy's face was literally buried in her slice of watermelon. I have never acquired a taste for it but every year I make an effort to try again, hoping that I'll finally like the beautiful red fruit. With dismay I said, "nope. I still don't like it."

Her face still in watermelon, Sissy mumbled through her dripping mouthful, "wioen smoe awoeiuflin" which translates to "I love watermelon!"

And I said with a silly grin, "I'm glad Sissy. That means you can eat my share of watermelon on the earth that has been grown for me to eat."

And Sissy, juice and seeds dripping from her chin, the slice of watermelon suspended precariously from her hands in mid air, a classic J moment said, "huh? you GREW this watermelon?"

I laughed so hard! I laughed and laughed until I nearly cried. Wonder Girl laughed too shouting, "mom! You have the best laugh! It makes ME laugh!" and The Dad puzzled over what was so funny and Aspie Boy sat clueless to it all and Sissy cried because I was laughing which made me laugh harder, not because she was crying, mind you but because she thought I was laughing at her when really I was laughing at life. When I could compose myself I said to The Dad, "Lumber yard! LUMBER YARD! If you had told me in that moment in the car with J that I would be reliving that moment right now with SISSY, I would have jumped from the moving vehicle!" I laughed for the hilarity of it all. We wanted to help J all those years ago. We did. We helped ourselves to a great big heaping dose of J reincarnated. Life is a funny thing indeed. Live it, live it well or not at all but please, whatever you do, laugh and laugh loud. If you don't, you'll cry.

our dog Grace, now 8 years old. We got Grace shortly before we began Aspie Boy's diagnosis process because we realized that not only did our family need Hope, we needed GRACE!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


proof that I taught - my former school dedicated this year's yearbook to me. So sweet!

Monday, May 17, 2010


Sissy thinks she's good at tricking and lying, manipulating and triangulating. She thinks she's so, so good but we just laugh because the truth is, she's so, so bad at it! The Dad has been overheard saying to her many times, "Sissy, a little tip. If you're going to lie, at least make it believable."

I've mentioned the "5s" before. This is Sissy's bathing routine, learned at RTC and continued at home because it's so brilliant. Sissy has to get in, soap up and call out, "5s!" and I go in to see her hang out each soapy arm, leg and a soapy head (5 body parts) so we know she's bathed properly but still maintaining a modicum of respect for her privacy. To get her to soap up her privates we verbally remind her, "OK don't forget the bubble butt now!"

Last Thursday she came out of the shower, dressed, her hair wet but she did not smell clean. "Sissy. What are you doing? You didn't call 5s. You have not showered properly."

"yes I did! I called it out two times loudly!"

"uh. No. You didn't." I posted this last week. She didn't obey. She manipulated again, The Dad was nearly duped, it was annoying. Because she believes we can be fooled. Believes if she shouts her lies at us, we'll back down and agree (even though she still stinks) that she has bathed properly. Tricking us about calling out 5s notwithstanding. It's laughable, it's irritating, it's ridiculous, it's absurd, it's insane. She can't possibly believe we believe her.

The next morning, after the shower debacle, I woke her up. "Good morning Sissy. Hurry and get dressed, you have laundry duty for lying last night." And still, STILL she declared her innocence. I didn't explain how I knew she was lying, I just looked her back in the eye and smiled. "Laundry. Go." She gets mad but I believe I see a glimmer of relief in her expression a oh good, mom is still mom, she caught me in my tricks again

Then last night before her shower, I said, "OK Sissy, Just in case you've forgotten, let's review shower routines at the Smith house. You go in, you leave the door open two inches, you get in, you turn on the water, you soap up, you use body wash for your body and shampoo for your hair and you'll use the correct shampoo because I'll be able to smell if you've used the wrong one, i did that on purpose in case you wondered, and you'll wash your face with the oatmeal soap, and I'll know it again because it smells different too, again, mom is so awesome that way, and then you'll shout out very, very loudly so our neighbors can hear and so there's no mistaking it like last thursday, FIVES!!!! and I'll come running in and say, OK show 'em, and you'll show me all your soapy parts, then I'll say, good job and you'll wash off, turn off the water, get dry, put on deodorant, put on clothes and come out clean, smelling like a flower factory and (this is when I spoke very quietly, looking her dead in the eye and directly to her)... and NOT having tried to trick us again. Got it?"

"but, but but..."

"Nope Sissy. We're not going to pretend anymore. You tried to trick last week. We're going to be honest now. You lied last time, right?"


"I'm SO GLAD you admitted it!!!! So, today you're going to do it correctly, right?"


"GREAT! Now go! Prove it to me!"

but of course, she did everything except wash her face. "Sissy, oatmeal soap your face."

From behind the shower curtain, "I did!"


"UGH! OK!!!!" then she sticks out her soapy face after complaining loudly that now her eyes are stinging. "THERE! OK!?!?!"

"Excellent, thank you."

so much work to prove it to them that we know, but we ALWAYS know! (and if we don't actually KNOW know, we fake it like we do.)

Like last weekend when I SAW her break wonder girl's lego tower. I WATCHED her pick it up, watched her break it, she knew I was standing there watching her and yet, Sissy says to me, "I didn't do it. I didn't break it!" A 25 minute scream fest followed by an abrupt stop and a squeaky, "fine. I admit it. I lied"



Because I couldn't possibly have known that she lied when I was STANDING RIGHT THERE!

I'm much better now about not letting her get my goat. As in, she never manages to catch the tail, let alone wrangle me to the ground and hog tie me. Instead, i laugh at her a lot. And maybe that's not helpful either but it's better than getting mad and most of the time, it diffuses her bombs too.

Then there was this morning.

This morning Sissy says to me that she brushed her hair. Says she used a mirror. right there - offering information that wasn't asked for is dead ringer for LIAR!!!! I sent her to go REALLY do it. She walked past my bedroom door and into the bathroom so she could make it appear as though she went to the bathroom to do what I asked but then came right back to me, holding her hairbrush - standing there staring at me, her hair still unkempt.

"Brush your hair."

"I DID!"

"Uh, no. now use MY mirror and do it"

she brushes angrily. I said gaily, "Wow! NOW it looks brushed! Imagine that!"

Sissy stands there glaring.

And I finish it off with "Sissy, I'll always know, in case you wondered. I'll ALWAYS know. I am omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent."

WHY do they go to such elaborate lengths to try to fake us out? I mean all the efforts they go to to try to trick when they could just do what they've been asked to do and save themselves all the hassle, consequence and anger. I don't get it. Defies logic. I know, I know. RADs isn't logical but gosh, it's just plain maddness!

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Written with sincerest and utmost respect and fan-affection for the Chapman family, remembering them in the anniversary of their loss

I just returned from Charleston, SC where I attended a Women of Joy conference. The leading reason my friend (a RADical mom too) and I chose to attend is because the concert last night was Steven Curtis Chapman and Michael W Smith. And if you're a contemporary christian music junkie, well then, you know those two major headliners are too hard to pass up for $79! All the other speakers and worship leaders are just icing on the cake.

Steven CC's youngest adopted daughter passed away two years ago next friday in a horrible accident; their youngest son was backing out of the driveway and little Maria, unseen, was struck by the moving vehicle. This past Thursday, little Maria would have been 7.

I've been listening to Steven CC's music since I was a girl, his career taking off right about the same time as my father passed away. His poignant lyrics and soul-searching rhythms have carried me through many of the painful moments of my life and even the beautiful ones. It can be said that his music has always been with me. Therefore, so has the thought of this man and his family. Although I will never know him personally, I feel connected to him because of the intimate moments of my life his music has been a part of.

Thus, when he and his family suffered such a devastating loss, I felt that much more connected to him and vowed to myself since 5-21-08 that I would pray for his family every time I picked up one of his CD's or heard his tunes on the radio. Suffice it to say, I've prayed for them a lot. Particularly as he is an adoptive parent too. They have three biological children and three adopted daughters from China, the youngest of which having passed away.

Last night's concert then, was a culmination of two years of prayers and renewed faith as our family endured it's own suffering. Many times through Sissy's challenges, I would remind myself, "yes, but our daughter is still alive, while the Chapman's daughter has passed. And which suffering do I honestly believe to be worse?" I never meant it as a slight to their family's pain, rather a plumb line for mine and I was anxious to hear how his music, life view and personal message had morphed to account for the suffering on this planet regardless of choosing to surrender one's life to Christ. Unintentionally, I assigned to the Chapman's loss an air of "see, not even famous, wealthy families escape pain. But how will they navigate their faith in the face of it when by comparison to my life and daily trials, they live a charmed life?"

Of course, with his daughter's birth date having just passed and the anniversary of her death pending, the concert was very emotional and heartbreaking. Don't misunderstand, I wasn't reveling, I was glad that he was honest. It would have been an affront to all of the women in the audience that have suffered as well (because no one walks this planet escaping pain) if his concert was uplifting, ignoring the obvious truth that their grief is still raw in addition to being very public. As I listened and tears rolled down my cheeks, I thanked God that my suffering hasn't been in the lime light, that I haven't had to share my angst with everyone and either be forced to chose to put on a brave face or in last night's case, let it all hang out in front of an audience of 4000 strangers. True, I'm brutally honest on my blog, but I can choose when and what I let loose about. On the stage, in the news and globally renowned, that's not possible.

I purchased his most recent CD which can be summed up as a compilation of soulful ballads that rehash the stinging moments of his grief and left the concert pondering but a little bitter. For the entire length of Steven's career, his music has helped me through all the painful moments in MY life and there have been many. But he goes home to his mansion in Tennessee and I go home to my 1200 square foot house. He has money to pay for his medical bills and I have been uninsured for nearly six years, my teeth literally rotting in my head because I can't afford to have them repaired. He had scores of amazing religious friends and leaders helping his family through their loss and I have had a few close loved ones that understand my pain because they live it too. He has three biological children. I have none. He adopted three times and his children are not impaired. I have adopted three times and two of mine will never be functional adults. He told us all about the successes of his adult children and I harrumphed. He had respites at beaches, resorts and lakes. I've had my little house and a few brief moments away. He's traveled the world over many times. The furthest I've been is Niagara falls and San Diego. He's had the whole world praying for his family. I've had a handful of folks remembering me in prayer. He has created an orphanage in his daughter's memory. I have a free blog. He has an award winning musical career to wend his way through his grief and hundreds of thousands of fans following him for decades. I help my husband in his window washing business, many days biting my lip as the wealthy people we help, treat us as servants and not humans even though washing those windows is often very therapeutic for me. His youngest living daughter is the voice of a new Veggie tales character. My youngest daughter is in counseling because the pain and trauma has been too great for her. His oldest daughter is a missionary in China with her husband. I pray to God that Sissy never marries because oh, what a mess that would be. His sons,one of which is married to a life-long sweetheart, are musicians opening for Casting Crowns. My son will hopefully be able to wash windows in our business.

I read all of the comments on the CD jacket about Steven CC's grief and how each song tells a story about a stage of it and I got angrier and angrier. Yes, his family has endured a tremendous loss but how many ordinary, simple folks like me suffer tremendous losses over and over throughout the course of their lifetimes never having had what the Chapman family has had to fall back on and yet ... and yet THEY still proclaim the love of Christ? Whose suffering is worse? I can never compare. But whose testimony is stronger in the long run? I believe it is that of the unsung heroes that suffer and still proclaim Jesus Christ as their Lord. I don't have songs to sing about my grief. I don't have a CD jacket to tell everyone about it. I don't get to go on stage and stand under a spotlight to tell others about how I still love God despite it. I don't have a fancy house to go home to. I don't have a hope and a future for two of my children that will include the amazing things the Chapman children will accomplish. I probably won't ever adopt again even though some part of me really wants to. It just costs too much, in every sense of the word and without the support that families like the Chapmans have, that cost is too great for us. Despite it all, I stand firm on my faith.

WG's favorite song is Steven CC's song "Yours God." The lyrics of this song tell how everything in our life, good and bad, still belongs to God. Just Thursday my sweet pumpkin said to me, "Mom? We're all just little kids because God? He's the father of everyone. So there really aren't even any dads because God is the Dad of everybody. See? And anyway, it's all His, so I'm God's kid. Get it? We're all just little kids, GOD's little kids. And He's our Dad."

WG's Daddy may never write a worship song that she'll claim as her favorite and she may never be a Veggie Tale Character voice, but her unscripted words speak much louder. And just as the Chapmans take hope in knowing that they'll embrace Maria again when we get to heaven, I will have the opportunity to be with my children in their whole, perfected forms, their impairments vaporizing into nothingness, the pain and anguish of helping them overcome on this planet despite those impairments, vanishing in like kind.

I may have attended a concert that included two music giants yesterday evening, but I walked out of that coliseum knowing unequivocally that all the other ordinary folks like me, are the real giants for the Kingdom of God.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

RADilicious gardening 101

Sissy, sissy sissy. When will she learn?

It's like weeds. You can spray your lawn for 'em but by the end of the summer, they're all creeping back in. Some days, you have to wonder why the *bleep* do I bother at all?

And so the lying, sneaking, ridiculous games have returned. But guess what hasn't? Mommy's riled up response to it all. Said to my sweet child tonight, "you know what? You want to lie about bathing properly and be stinky and get made fun of? Go right ahead! It's not a problem for me!"

Oooo! Did I make her mad!
'cept I was laughing. "I love you Sissy, but you lied and you know it. I know it, we all know it. Good night dear."

There's no other explanation for it beyond weeds. Those old habits just keep on coming back. Short of torching the whole lawn and laying down fresh sod, they'll keep coming back. And guess what? Even the fresh sod ends up getting weeds over time. Welcome to RADilicious gardening 101.

online support group

My Virtual friend, Dawn Friedman, is a freelance writer. You can catch her blog This woman's work at this link. She predominantly covers topics about open adoption and has been quite vocal about it in her local community. She started a website for support for parents of children with special needs and asked me to manage a group for RAD kids.

RADical parenting is the chat group. And if you register now (like very, very soon), you'll be entered into a drawing for a sleepy sheep!

this way gals, we can chat directly with one another when we're having a particularly sh!tty day! And if any of you wins the sleepy sheep, I claim dibs - wonder girl needs it, badly. She's still having nightmares about doggies biting her.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

round and round the merry-go-round

I think I'm getting nauseated at this point.

I called the IFI team supervisor. Voiced my concerns. Just like that, she said, "I've got 10 years in RADs experience. I'm officially taking over your case. I'll be by in the morning to finish off the CBAY paperwork and get the ball rolling."


right, so that means we lose Ms M. *pouts* but whatcha gonna do? It means Ms T won't be making me cry anymore. And there's a plus side I can live with!

Then, I called our CBAY team to say, "Heads up, new IFI team in town." And the CBAY gal is worried. Concerned that if we pursue EBD placement for Sissy, we'll regret it. Because...

Turns out IEP kids in our state only get certificates of completion, not a diploma which means, no college, not even tech or community schools without first passing a GED. And I was like, "HUH?" because Aspie Boy is an IEP kid and this is the first I've heard of that.

But then, Aspie Boy isn't full day resource, he only has 19 hours out of 40 and EBD placement would be full day? And is that the rub? Jury's still out. I've put in a few inquiry emails to the gal pals I know on the front lines (a resource teacher and and EBD teacher) to get the skinny. I'm not ignoring the CBAY gal, I'm just not going to roll over on this one until I know for sure what it is I know for sure. You know? lol

And all of that and Sissy brought home a letter saying she'll be recognized for achievement in something next week and I got an email from her teacher saying that she's at grade 7.2 reading level on the accelerated reading program (that's not achievement testing, IQ, or benchmarks, btw. That's kids reading books that they choose and taking quizzes on them so the 7.2 score is admittedly skewed but still.) 7.2?!? The kid's in fourth grade for crying out loud. So I have to say to myself, "is EBD placement the best option for her?" but I'm reminded at the same instant that she's increasingly impaired emotionally as compared with her peers. She brought home an invitation for a birthday party that we are unable to take her to and she cried and sulked not because she wouldn't get to join in the festivities for a classmate she enjoys spending time with but because it meant she wouldn't get to wear the new swim goggles she bought (see the photo from three entries ago. how does she not know that the kids will make fun of her?!?)


So if EBD isn't the best place because she's technically too smart for an IEP and really should get a diploma and not a certificate of completion but the gen. ed class is getting increasingly more challenging because of the social and emotional impairments so that the teasing and other nuances of NT kids are making her angry and violent at home and the pdoc expressed his concern that she's in gen ed, then it begs the question,


I'm so dizzy.
Someone unplug my merry-go-round so it stops spinning. It's not making me merry anymore.

Monday, May 10, 2010

sing in your head!

Sissy is spacey. It's funny because I kinda chose her online name from the actress Sissy Spacek because Sissy is Spacey. Total space cadet. She likes to listen to music on her mp3 player which is fine by us because it means she's not caterwauling but then it means she's singing. out loud. out of tune. to the music only she can hear. and of course, the music is turned up so loud in her earphones, she can't hear herself. So one by one, as it grates on our nerves at individual rates, we all get on to her, "Sissy, sing in your head!" or "Sissy, don't sing out loud!" and usually it takes all of us standing in front of her hollering over her earphones, "SISSY! SING IN YOUR HEAD!!!"

Which usually nets us a return scream, only hers last for 10-30 minutes. She'll tell the world that her family screams at her all the time and she doesn't know why they are so mean to her. So this time, to avoid the screaming, I added, "or go OUTSIDE!"

*slamming door*

"Finally!" sighed Aspie Boy and the rest of us giggled.

Ugh. I don't mean to be mean but gosh. This daughter of mine can really get us riled up sometimes!

Like this afternoon, when I picked up the kids from school, Aspie Boy's resource teachers are usually monitors at the front exit of the building. They met me at the front door exclaiming nearly simultaneously, "HE PASSED ALL OF IT!" This would be Georgia's standardized testing, CRCT. The results came back and Aspie Boy passed all five sections, some of it by the skin of his teeth but wow. I was figuring he'd be going to summer school. But he passed it all! At which point, Sissy, walking toward us and overhearing our shouts of joy and elation harrumphs, "Ooohhhhh!!!! I didn't pass math last year!" and she sulked her way to the van as we left the building. Ah, but WHY didn't Sissy pass the math section last year? Because she pulled a RADish out of her butt. Someone told her that to move up to fourth grade, she only needed to pass the reading section so my adorable RADish decided she didn't need to finish the math section of the CRCT. Point of fact, she took a nap. (I wish this was a joke.)

And after all that, we were so glad that Sissy went 14 days without a rage episode and then only had a moderately violent outburst on Saturday. (She didn't hurt herself or throw things but she pounded the stuffing out of her bed - she's gonna be sorry one day when she kicks so hard her bed falls apart and she finds herself sleeping on a mattress on the floor). But the fun is short lived. She's gotten the tremors again, like she did on the depakote. Which means her resperidone is too high after our adjustment two weeks ago. Crap. crap, crap, crap. CRAP!

*big sigh*

No. I don't want my daughter to have tremors but I REALLY liked having 2 weeks of nonviolence! We all did.

So she's outside singing while listening to her head phones because she won't sing in her head and she's not brought home homework for two weeks now insisting she has none and she's back to the medicine-induced tremors and wow, does anyone else reading my life feel like my family's riding a merry go round?[1] Because that's sure how it feels to me.

Sissy might need to sing in her head but this momma needs to SCREAM in hers.

[1] never understood why that thing is called a merry-go-round. I know of lots of kids that aren't very merry when it goes around and around and around ...
THAT was a joke.
You can laugh now.

Friday, May 7, 2010

On Grieving Day

Sissy in her newly acquired goggles

This picture makes me laugh. She is more and more like her birthmom every single day (some good ways, some not so good) but BM wears glasses. So when Sissy put these on and smiled the same crooked smile, it just made my head spin and I had to laugh because wow. If ever there was cloning, it has happened right in our home. Sissy is EXACTLY like her mother.

I've had my laughs on my blog this week but as my therapist will attest, I use my laughter to hide my pain. A good coping skill but only if used in moderation. For me, it's a reflex. Fall on my butt and get a whopping bruise that requires icing it down and wincing every time I sit for the next two weeks? I'm laughing. Laughing when I should be crying.

The truth is, despite the laughter about the insanity of a RAD mom's life, and as mama drama times two astutely proclaimed, "If it wasn't all so true it WOULD be hysterical!" (emphasis is mine.) "We have to laugh or we will cry! " said, Bren.

What they said.

As mother's day approaches, instead of getting excited, I find my glee and quick wit dissolving into gloominess. This road of mothering, for ANY mother, is much more than any of us bargained for. But when our children are suffering, we suffer too. It doesn't matter how they suffer, if they're not whole be it physically, mentally or emotionally, the mommas aren't whole either. We can try, we can fake it, we can laugh it off, we can attempt to divert our energies to our whole children, but it's always there. The pain and anguish that we have a child that needs more than we can offer, more than even doctors can give, is always weighing on our hearts. But if you will indulge me once more, I'd like to quibble that adoptive moms often have a harder road to hoe.

Adoption comes from loss. There is the loss of a child's first family. Even in open adoptions, the fact remains that the child is removed from his home and I've never heard an adoption agency counsel the adoptive parents to allow the child to grieve. There is only discussion of transition.

For me, adoption included my own loss, the loss of having a biological child. Sissy and Aspie Boy were adopted hot on the heels of the doctor concluding that natural children would be unlikely without radical interventions. I didn't have time to grieve the loss of the opportunity to have a child that was born to me. I will never look in Sissy's face and see my reflection looking back at me. Instead, I'll always be smacked with glaring reminder that she looks EXACTLY like her first mother. Aspie Boy won't grow tall like his dad, and Wonder Girl won't inherit my love of math and science. Some days, it's very hard to see enormous tummies, burgeoning with life, particularly when the mother-to-be is a child herself. Other days it's even harder to see mothers with their daughters and recognize the overwhelming resemblance. And when people tell me their child "came by it honestly" referring to some trait they have inherited from their parents, I wince. I can never say that of my children.

I am a mother, yes. But just as my children have been torn from their first families, forever altering their fate, so have I been torn from the chance to say that I bore them in my womb, birthed them in pain and joy or nurtured them from my breast. I may be a mother, but a legal document is what declares it to be so. On Sunday, there will still be a mother of my children, lamenting that she does not have them to call her own. They won't be rushing into her room to bring her hugs and kisses and shouting "Happy Mother's Day!" to her. And she deserves to hear those words too. Adoption then, is the essence of loss for every member in the triangle. You'd think that in that great loss, the suffering of all would be eased. We'd be feeling the pain together and grieving while learning to love. It doesn't work that way.

In adoption, there is often trauma. I've heard tales of adoption stories that have happy endings, whole children that grow up to love both of their mothers, stronger for it instead of weaker. But once again, that's not the case for me. Sissy is forever traumatized, and because their mother is challenged, so are both Sissy and Aspie Boy. And Wonder Girl endures it because what else could she do? When The Dad and I were naive and not yet married, we thought we'd like five children. We only have three and as much as it would be tempting to adopt again, the uncertainty, the risk and the fear that we will have more traumatized and challenged children has prevented it. So we grieve again. We grieve that our children need so much extra. We grieve that their needs are so great that it has altered our life and our plans. We grieve that we are so jaded on this road of parenthood that we aren't likely to adopt again.

I wrote a few weeks ago about the first time Sissy injured me. Last weekend I was pouring over my written journals and found an entry written on the day that she had bitten me.

The Plight of the Barren Woman
I adopted Sissy knowing I adopted her despite the possibility of Sissy becoming mentally challenged like her first mom. I did it because I'm barren and I desperately wanted a child to love. The thought has haunted me that Sissy might be unwell too. For the love of a child, I have invited this trauma into my home and my life. Fertile women told me "well, you can adopt. there are lots of children that need loving parents." Sure, that's easy to say when you can give birth to children that look like you, when you don't ever feel like a cradle robber or a baby stealer, when you can be nearly certain that your child will be "normal." So are all the barren women of the world just to lie down and surrender to loving the unlovable because we can't get anything different? What a cruel fate! Barren by chance, doomed forever to suffer grief and sorrow and unwittingly taking on traumatized children just to be called "mother". Adoption is callous, heartless and unfeeling to both the orphan and the barren. The adopted child becomes a generic, second and less desirable option and the barren woman becomes a pitiable, second-rate mother of the unlovable. THAT is the plight of the barren woman.

Lastly, as yesterday's post pointed out, when raising traumatized children, we are forced to grieve once more, because we are faced with the loss of what could have been, what friends we might have had, what careers, what financial securities, what hope for our challenged child's future, what indignities we endure as we are always subjected to defending our characters to first home study workers, then lawyers, then judges then the unending stream of therapists, doctors, teachers, and other "professionals" that claim to know what's best for a child. We grieve that despite our choice to adopt a child so that we might have someone to love, we learn that the RADish is even challenged in finding a way to love us back. We grieve that despite our constant, unyielding efforts to guide and nurture, our RADish still doesn't know how to trust us and instead, steals our trust in them.

So on this Mother's Day, I don't wish for you roses, candies and a breakfast in bed. I don't wish that you will laugh your tears away. I wish that you would have the chance to mourn that which you believe you have lost, forfeited, surrendered or forsaken all for the love of a challenged and traumatized child.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mommies of the NTs

NT or neurotypical children, a term I use loosely to define those children that do not require above or beyond the regular childcare necessities of life. Children without impairments or impediments, children that are content to bounce through life quite contentedly, without daily doses of chemicals. Children that don't need more than food, shelter, love, clothing and an education and for the most part, are content with those five things.

WG is an NT. I have to admit that The Dad and I had some difficulties at first, parenting her. Even as an infant, she threw us for a few loops because she actually hit her developmental milestones when the doctors said she should. After parenting two challenged children, we had to relearn parenting an NT. It's been a challenge all of it's own. So I'm not discounting the daily challenges of mommies of NTs. I'm just saying, it is considerably less cumbersome and I have yet, in nearly six years of WGs life, to go to bed in tears over how I might be a better parent to her. Or worse yet, fearing that if I sleep, I'm vulnerable to WG.

Thus, probably the most challenging aspect of parenting challenging kids, is the mommy that only has NTs. I really WANT to be friends with my peers, don't mistake me. I grieve that my life has taken this unalterable course that has steered me so far away from relating to my chronological peers. And I've tried, as I'm sure many of my RAD mommy friends can attest to, to make those relationships work but when the NT mommies can't understand insanity, well, it becomes one more thing in your life you have to walk away from. It just hurts too gosh dern much to be told, "But, my child does that too. It's [and this is the part that makes me wince and shout in my head, "no! Don't say it! Please, don't say the 'n' word but it'll be too late] just normal kids stuff."

no. no she didn't just say the 'n' word! Crap. Now I'm gonna have to ... what? What CAN I do?

I've got some funny remedies.

Conversation number 1
NT mom: "When your daughter is here, she's just fine. She's so sweet and helpful."
RAD mom: "Great! When can she come back?" *opening day planner, pen waving above a blank week* "Next Monday work for you? 4:00? Because I haven't had my nails done in six years because she gives me so much grief when I take her. I'd just recommend that you purchase a tabletop safe and put all of your valuables in it before 3:30 when i drop her off."

Conversation number 2
NT mom: "Gosh, you look so tired!"
RAD mom: "Yeah, my daughter had us up late, screaming at the top of her lungs about not wanting to wipe her bottom after making a BM. It was horrible. We had to call the IFI team."
NT mom: "Oh yeah, my daughter hates wiping her bum. I just do it for her. All kids are like that at this age."
RAD mom: "Oh. you seem to have a good approach to this. Can you watch the video footage we made and help us decipher what is going on here?" *setting up video camera*
NT mom: "oh my." as her face is ashen when she hears the primal rage. "does ... does she do that often?"
RAD mom: "Oh sure, about five times a day. Would you like to see another?"
*NT mom leaves in a hurry, something about an appointment she just remembered she forgot*

Conversation Number 3
NT mom 1: "Oh, I'd NEVER give my child medications! how horrible! There are plenty of wholistic approaches."
NT mom 2: "Yeah, besides, everyone knows that these doctors are just fudging the diagnoses on purpose because the teachers want the kids doped up on meds because they don't know how to control their classrooms unless they're all in a stupor."
RAD mom: "Sorry gals, i have to leave, CVS just called my voicemail. All of my kids meds are ready for pick up."
NT mom 1: "You give your kids meds?!"
RAD mom: "Do you hear my child screaming?"
NT mom 2: "no."
RAD mom: "that silence is called, 'resperidol' Bye ladies!"

Conversation number 4
NT mom: "why don't you have your daughter join the cheerleading team for upwards football? The girls have so much fun."
RAD mom: "No time."
NT mom: "oh, come on. It's only an hour of practice a week and a two our game on Saturdays. We can car pool."
RAD mom: "Hippotherapy, family therapy, respite, therapeutic leaves, physical therapy, occupational therapy, aqua therapy, support group for RAD moms ... nope. My schedule is booked up."
NT mom: "Do you really have to do all of that?"
RAD mom: "Do you hear my child screaming?"
NT mom: "no."
RAD mom: "That silence is called DBT skills, the ACCEPTS model, actually."

Conversation number 5
NT mom: "you never invite us to your house."
RAD mom: "My daughter's bedroom is in the living room. It makes it hard to entertain guests."

Conversation number 6
NT mom: "what did you say is wrong with your daughter again?"
RAD mom: *calling them off quickly, "ADHD, RAD, ODD, BPI, PDD-NOS ..."
NT mom: *interupting* "What? Huh? Why are you saying letters when I asked you what was wrong with your daughter?"
RAD mom: "I wasn't done. Shall I continue?"
NT mom: "more letters?"
RAD mom: "Yup."
NT mom: "I'll pass."

Conversation number 7
NT mom: "Why do you have so many business cards in your purse?"
RAD mom: "because between my two challenged kids, I have to keep track of 9 doctors plus their therapists"
NT mom: "Well, we just use our family doctor. He can do everything for us. Dr. G. He's great. You should give him a call, save yourself some hassle."
RAD mom: "GPs can't prescribe anti psychotics or anti convulsants."
NT mom: "Anti whats?"

Conversation number 8
NT mom: "I don't understand. She doesn't look like there's anything wrong with her."
RAD mom: "Try saying that to a type one diabetic. Let me know how that works out for you."

Conversation number 9
NT mom: "all of these behaviors you say you have with your daughter, I have with mine. It's never been a problem for us. We don't need all of these doctors or meds."
RAD mom: "Oh, what a relief. Maybe you can help us. Which parenting style are you using? Behavior modification? CBT? DBT? Love and Logic? ACTs? Positive reinforcement models? Conditioning? RAD/trauma therapy? Gregory Keck's stuff? Katherine Leslie? Nancy Thomas? A combination of them?"
NT mom: "uh ... we just spank her or take her stuff away."
RAD mom: "try doing that to a RAD kid. Let me know how that works out for you."

Conversation number 10
NT mom: "how can this really all be from her infancy? She can't remember any of that stuff, she was just a baby. You've had her for nine years. It's all just normal kid stuff!"
RAD mom: "you know what? you're right. All the doctors and therapists are wrong. All the books are wrong. I'm over thinking it. She doesn't need meds. She's just a normal kid. She can't remember any of the trauma. What was I thinking? Here. You take her for a weekend. My husband and I haven't had a weekend away in four years because it's been so traumatic at home. We could really use a break."

Then, quickly, pack your bags, sign a brief medical waiver in case your RADish is injured while you're gone, pack the meds and the instructions but know that the NT mom will likely forget to dose them and if she does, will think your regimented 7 am/7pm schedule is ridiculous because it doesn't really matter, it's just medication and leave. HURRY! Jump on the first plane and buy a one way ticket to who cares where and fly the *bleep* away, preferably to a place where you have no cell signal. Then laugh. Laugh until you pee on yourself. Because it won't take long for the NT mom to realize that the RADish is indeed challenged, does indeed need his meds, really is insane because of the trauma from his infancy and she'll be crying inside of a week and reporting you to child services for abandoning your child and telling them all kinds of horrible things about you because what kind of parent runs out on their kid but "oh how this brute screams and I can't take it anymore!" she'll say. But you'll be far, far away, laughing so very hard. Then return with some RADical tale of pure fabrication about how you couldn't return home because the runway was run amuck with wild geese in their annual mating rituals so you can be absolved of your abandonment charge. Then pick up your RADish after a very long respite and look the NT mom squarely in the eye, "So, how was she? Still a sweet, charming little child that didn't look like she was challenged since her infancy due to her trauma?" but duck, because the NT mom will likely be wielding a giant frying pan to beat you over the head with and your RADish will be taking aim at your shins.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Wacky Words Wednesdays

HEY! I've not done Wacky Words Wednesdays[1]in a long time but in the last 15 hours, Sissy has provided me with lots of wacky word fodder.

It's really hard not to laugh. Sometimes I let a snicker slip but I am able to play it off like a cough or a throat clearing in the last second. She says the oddest things.

Yesterday as I pulled the van into the driveway, the girls were arguing about a squirrel they saw in our yard. As they clamored out of the van, the argument was escalating. Doors slamming, backpacks flinging, voices raising, the argument was about how big they supposed the squirrel to be.

WG used her hands to demonstrate the size. "Mom. It was this big"

Sissy, not wanting to be outdone, angrily protested WG's claim to size and, holding her hands just a millimeter's difference in width proudly claimed, "no. The squirrel was THIS big. It's been exercising!"

WG, undetected, rolled her eyes to her sister's absurdity.

And I bit my lip. Hard. Because wow. Seriously? The squirrel has an exercise program?

Later that afternoon, Sissy was angry that a verbal slight had been cast about her beloved Beta fish named Felix (yes, she named her FISH after the cartoon character, Felix the CAT - but that's not the punchline. Well, it is, but not in this story.) It boiled down to AB in his characteristic Asperger way, flat tone, matter of fact, calling of facts like he's the world renowned expert, he uncouthly explained to his sister that telling jokes to her fish was useless because after all, it's a fish and they can't hear, don't understand english and furthermore, do NOT have a sense of humor.

Again, I managed to stifle my laughter until Sissy in her boiling anger shouted, "He does TOO have a sense of humor!" and then she began telling the fish a slew of jokes as she read them from a book of riddles she borrowed from the library. And after each punchline she declared, "see, he's laughing! He's smiling! Can't you see it?! He does TOO have a sense of humor!"

at that point, my face was in the carpet to hide my giggles.

And the best part was this morning. I was in WG's bedroom helping her get dressed when Sissy called out from the bathroom, "MOM! I have a zit!!!" and I just rolled my eyes. We're reading a body book for girls and Tuesday night's chapter was about skin care and acne. She didn't have a zit when she went to bed, it was unlikely that she had one this morning. But having learned the hard way, I didn't respond. I just waited for the punchline, because it always comes.

About five seconds later, "Oh wait. No. It's just a glob of my toothpaste. Never mind."

So ... zits are blue?

I've said it a million times, it's NEVER dull at my house. The kids here have squirrels that run on treadmills, fish that are a cat's namesake and that love Letterman and blue zits, most likely owing to some strange zit-causing potion in the facial soap, compliments of Fred and George Weasly. Because that's more probable than a squirrel that climbs trees all day, a fish that is swimming fiercely in his bowl from starvation because my daughter has forgotten to feed it again and facial rashes from not having sufficiently washed the toothpaste off one's face.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's entry: what to say to moms of neurotypical kids that proclaim your RADish's behaviors are "normal"

[1] Wacky Words Wednesdays - In comedic fashion, relay some of the wacky things your RADish has said

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Mother's Day Pictures

Click on pictures to enlarge

I was just reading through some of my readers' recent entries and Mother's Day has popped up a few times in others thoughts. I was telling J. at Stellar Parenting about what I expect to get from Sissy. A self portrait. Every year Sissy draws me a picture of herself. No body, no hearts, no flowers, trees, birds, suns or clouds. Just a giant face of Sissy. And never an accurate portrait. A face that Sissy says is her but never looks like her. She'll explain that "this is me how I want to be" or "this is how I will look when I'm bigger". It used to be that her portraits showed only half her face, with hair drawn across the face and only one eye showing. And the one eye would always be in the center of the forehead so The Dad and I came to know them (100+ of these one-eyed portraits) as the Cyclops Pictures.

That will be my gift. It will be folded haphazardly and shoved into a makeshift envelope of her creation that will be similarly haphazardly stapled together. I take solace in knowing that she loves herself. Maybe not us, but most definitely, her SELF. As she hopes to be. (so she doesn't really love herself, does she? Poor kid!)

An example of her stapled envelopes. I got this one on Sunday

Right now, as I type this, I can see on the pantry door (where all Smith Kid artwork is proudly displayed) the one and only picture Sissy has drawn that has two eyes and no hair in the face. But it's still just a head. Sissy said, "this is me when I'm your age, mom" Let me tell you, after years of Cyclopses, I made a huge fuss over it and slapped that picture up on the pantry door faster than I could say "thank you!" to Sissy. It's been there for more than a month now. I didn't miss the obvious - that Sissy believes when she is my age (35) she will be comfortable with herself enough to show her whole face, that Sissy internally believes she will eventually be "better".

I told the psychologist, psychiatrist and therapists about Sissy's Cyclops self portraits. I even told the school. No one believed me that it was a Freudian thing, Sissy externally expressing that she could only see half of herself, or maybe only be half of her true self. But when I told them we had more than 100 of these pictures, some of the professionals would sit up a little straighter in their chairs, lean closer or ask to see an example, maybe even keep one in Sissy's file. And these are the only pictures she draws. Self portraits. Occasionally there will be a picture with a triangle sun drawn too close in one corner to be made round but I never get to keep those. Sissy squirrels them away or tosses them.

Sissy's mother's day gift from last year. It was in the hanging frame with the enormous flowers on it so you can barely see the picture. I think that was a subliminal message too. Maybe I read too much into things... I don't think so, Anyway, this Cyclops picture actually has a body and a triangle sun and hearts. It's a rare one! lol

I try hard to foster her love of coloring and drawing because it seems to be how Sissy expresses herself. She's not eloquent with words, despite her prolific adoptive mom. *laughing at self* We actually talked about those words the other day: prolific, terse and verbose. When I defined them she laughed. "Yeah mom. you're that word" referring to prolific and then she added, "I guess I'm the other one" suggesting 'terse' - I just nodded my head. So much insight for such a troubled soul! She really is a conundrum in that sense.

I tell Sissy, well, I tell all three of them, that their birthmom is good at drawing too, that they get it from her. They really like to hear that. Aspie Boy draws themes until he perfects them. Like the naming of periods for famous artists like Picasso's blue and red periods, Aspie Boy has had a Titanic period, a rocket ship period and is currently drawing up a storm through the dragon/medieval period. He too, will draw 100s until he perfects his craft but he never draws real people. If there are people in the picture, they are fiction or comic book style characters. Typical Aspergers. (Just the other day I muttered at him when I was slightly annoyed, "Could you be a little LESS Asperger's just ONCE?!")

Proof of his prolific nature, and examples from the titanic and rocket periods

Wonder Girl likes to draw still-lifes. She will set up her chair in front of something, anything really, and with her clipboard, pencil and paper, will draw a landscape drawing of whatever she's looking at. EVERY detail. She loses interest when it comes to coloring them. So most of these drawings are pencil-only. Her other category of artwork is wild animals, particularly the big cats. And horses. LOTS of horses. These animal pictures she'll color, staple into a book complete with title page. "My book of animals" is her most recent addition. Every page has just one animal on it which she writes a sentence about. It's SO cute!!!!

All three of them have some makeshift portfolio to store their artwork in. Either a folder, a bin or in Aspie Boy's case, my most prolific (to use the word again) artist, I have created a giant portfolio case from cardboard, packing tape and ribbons. This addition was made after he filled up two folders and a binder and in his disgust for lack of space, dumped his art in the trash. A teary mom pulled them all out again after he left for school. He really is quite good! His most recent dragon/castle creation is also on the pantry door after some repair. It was on legal size paper and his binder is letter size so he CUT HIS PICTURE!!!! to fit it in the binder. I cried about that too, fyi. Maybe I'm just extra weepy lately from all the stress? Seriously. Crying over a nine year old's artwork? LOL

the cut picture on the pantry door

Aspie Boy's portfolio

I've done some casual searching into finding an art therapist locally but abandoned the search. There is only one and the cost is high. Besides, I don't think my kids need to be told to draw to get out their feelings. They already do that quite well. They also really like coloring mandalas, the standard therapists approach to get a child to talk about their emotions while coloring. Which is why 95% of my Mother's Day gifts from the three of them are their artwork. It's how they say, "Mom? We love you." Or in Sissy's case, "Mom, will you love THIS version of me?" One day maybe she'll know that I'll love whatever version of her she is, even the primal screaming one that hurls objects at us and sees things with her Cyclops eye that the rest of us don't see.

Sissy also colors lots and lots and lots of princess pictures. LOTS. It's just about the only thing she'll color. RADish that she is, believes she IS a princess. lol

One of my favorites mostly because of the story. one night Aspie Boy swallowed his supper whole, cleared his place, and ran back to the table while the rest of us were still eating to draw this. It was in his head and he had to get it out! By the time the rest of us were done eating, he was nearly through drawing it

Not a drawing but too cute to pass up. Wonder Girl created a Puppy Hospital in the living room recently, reenacting the trauma of her dog bite accident in March from which she's healing nicely. Her PT says she'll be good to go by the end of May but her psyche is still a little off. She is coming to therapy with Mommy for a few weeks to work through her nightmares and trauma. 26 stitches and a nicked Achilles' tendon from a Boxer will do that to a tiny, 42 lb. 5 year old!!!