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

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Golden Universe Awards

I like music. Lots of music, lots of different genres, lots of humming, swinging and hip swaying goes on behind closed doors. I was listening to Adele "19".  Her song Tired is about how love without a return is exhausting and really, not worth it. The song's lyrics resonated for me because Sissy has been ... Sissy with RADilicious flair. As we cruised down the street and I absorbed the message of the song, I wanted to scream and shout about how incredibly unfair it is to have chosen to parent and inadvertently ended up on this road in my life. The song ended and I was lost in my personal thoughts when WG shouted, "Oh man! The song's over. I like that song. It makes me want to dance."

Sure, dancing, yeah, that's exactly what I was thinking of doing too but I played nice and said, "You're right WG, that song has a great beat."

I'm hard on myself. I've said it before, I'm insane about overachieving. If I wasn't a mom, I'd be some super awesome career gal in whatever career I put my efforts into. That's just me, I won't make excuses for it, I won't rationalize it, I'm just going to be straight and let you know that I get a rise out of doing my absolute best in whatever I set my hands to. So when I overachieve in my parenting and I'm still faced with what looks like, acts like and sounds like failure because Sissy is always ... RADilicious Sissy, I assume it's me. Then I make it worse by looking around at other mommies and berate myself  See, that mommy over there has twice as man kids with even worse impairments and she's doing great OR if insurance is stepping Sissy's therapy down because the IFI team reported that she doesn't need as much therapy then I must be doing something wrong because I'm still struggling. I leap to the same conclusion every time, no matter where I start in my convoluted thinking: I'm not cut out for this, I'm not good at this, someone could and would do it better, this is too hard for me, I'm a failure, I'm failing my kids, I'm going to be the reason they're all screwed up.  They're going to be in counseling until they're 40, blabbing to some therapist about all the horrible things I did or didn't do to them.

That's the back story, the subconscious runaway train of thought that rattles through my brain at ridiculous speeds every time Sissy is RADilicious (which lately has been a whole heck of a lot). So when I listened to the song, "Tired" I just wanted to say,
  "Damn. I AM tired of all this! I'm tired of never being recognized for the hard job I do every day. I'm tired of being shouted at and screamed at and treated like crap every day when I am nauseatingly nice, patient, kind and loving. When I am doing ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING the therapy team tells me to and I still have to report to them that their ideas don't help. I'm tired of working so hard every single second, literally from the second my eyes are open to the last second before I drift off to sleep to take two steps backward in Sissy's progress. I'm tired, I'm just so friggin' tired of it all! No human can be treated so poorly every day without being brought to the brink!  For crying out loud, MOVIE STARS get praise and attention, big fancy parties, ginormous houses, gargantuan vacations for making a FRIGGIN' MOVIE that doesn't even change lives and I'm busting my hump for what?  So Sissy can scream at me at 5 am, waking the whole house, because I'm telling her to wipe her butt after toileting?"

Right about the time WG told me she liked the song because it had a good beat, I was being struck by a nugget of wisdom. THIS is unconditional love. This: what moms of challenged kids do every single day.  It's hard, exhausting work that makes me want to walk away from it but I can't.  I can't because I'm doing that which God calls us to, to love unconditionally as He loves us. Right here, right now, I'm doing it.

Can I just tell you, it sucks?

Then I thought yeah, and Jesus pretty much agreed that dying on the cross SUCKED. He literally begged God to provide another way to save mankind, for crying out loud, he sweat drops of BLOOD. 

But he ponied up, didn't he?  Because that is the definition of unconditional love.

It FEELS like parenting challenged kids is like being asked to die. In essence, it is because as I said already, if I wasn't doing this, I'd be in some cool job with a salary and accolades and a nicer home and perks equal to my efforts. I've had to die to that. I have put myself last so much lately that I forget that I'm a person too, an individual that deserves praise, support, love, kindness and unconditional love in return.

Once upon a time I was a little girl that wanted to do exactly what God asked her to do with this life. In my naivety I didn't make conditions to my prayer, I didn't specify who, how, what, when or where. I just put myself out there and begged God to use me: my life, my talents and my time, to bring Him glory. Then I prayed for the wisdom of Solomon to help me do what He asked me to do. Then I set a course for my life that would put me on GOD's path.

Now that I'm here, I think I want to change my mind. Dear God, can't I be a missionary in South Africa instead? A chaplain for the navy? A Methodist minister? A pastoral counselor? Isn't there something ELSE? ANYTHING?

I'll end with a modified quote from our beloved Corey's most recent post (Corey, we love you. Just sayin')

RAD sucks. A lot. And if [someone] is telling you about the horrible awful things that [her child] does to [her], please, please BELIEVE HER, for starters, because it is HARD for her to tell you. And do not BLAME [her], because it is NOT HER FAULT. She IS a good mother. [Her child] is just very ill, and [this woman] is doing the very best she can in a very difficult situation. And please do whatever you can to SUPPORT [her]. LISTEN to her. ASK her what she needs. RECOGNIZE that she is grieving.. no mother WANTS this kind of motherhood experience. This is PAINFUL.

[Do] not judge me for what I feel, or what I say. Sometimes what I feel and what I say is not pretty. Sometimes it is downright ugly. I am on the receiving end of downright ugly 99% of the time! It has to come out somewhere!
Thanks Corey for putting into words exactly what I needed to say today.  Here's hoping all of the challenged kids in the world get some insight into this crazy life and that all the mommies and daddies get some love and support, accolades and recognition for the incredibly difficult job we do every day to guide our children through their debilitating impairments. I'm expecting a party and awards ceremony 100,000,000x better than the best bash they throw for those absurd Hollywood divas.  And oh yes, I'm going to look GOOD in my gown when I walk down God's red carpet.  And my face is going to be on the cover of Saints magazine in heaven.

If nothing else, perhaps this post will help someone pray a more specific prayer about how they hope to live a life for God's glory.

Really.  Be specific.  That is to say, tell God you're NOT willing to do RADs for His glory.  Yeah.  That's a good start.  Because I don't want you to do it better than me and steal my award.  I'm not going for the nomination.  I want the Golden Universe award.  Cause I'm that kind of overachiever.  So please, tell God you're not up for the RADs challenge, tell Him you' can't handle the heat.  Beg to be a Methodist minister in a rural community.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A new week dawns

Sissy has rebounded, it took her a whole week. I'll admit it made me a little nervous because typically, after a crash that follows a long rage cycle, she bounces back in three days. With the delusional episode last Saturday, Sissy's crash lasted six days. And we woke up this morning to her peeing on the floor in her space.

Ah, normalcy.

The Dad said it best It's so hard to enjoy her days of peace because the whole time you're waiting for the other hammer to come down And when it doesn't come down when I'm expecting it to, it scares the crap out of me! lol

So tomorrow we rise early and start our week off right - with a visit to the pdoc. I've tried to get Sissy to talk about the voices in her head but she has shut me down at every turn. I told her I wanted to talk about it before her appointment because I WOULD be telling her doctor so he could help her. More tears. Such hard stuff for both of us, let me tell you. And we also get to address the night time wakefulness, the step-down in IFI services, the withholding that she will NOT let up on despite the Miralax and volume of fruits and veggies, the supervised toileting and showering and the rages which included two interventions, three phone calls and one other incident all in the span of two weeks. He's probably going to suggest a med adjustment *roll eyes*.

This just in, The Dad and I have finally put a finger on the nighttime waking - she's waking because she has to pee. Of course, it took a urine soaked floor this morning to sort it all out but hey, as long as we're on the road to somewhere, right?

Also up for this week -saying goodbye to two of our IFI team members and meeting two new members (really, you can't convince insurance that RAD kids can't do lots of hellos and goodbyes no matter how hard you try.)

It's always just one long week rolling into the next. In my head I escape it all and sit on a beach for a week, no one needing me, no rages, no meds, no appointments. Just unlimited drinks, reggae music, coconut scented sunscreen, waves, vitamin D from the sun, seagulls and sky. Then I'll pack up my rested body and drive to a new house that is four times bigger than the one I currently live in and it will be somewhere in the country but the kids waiver will still allow them to go to the school here. My hubby will have a truck with AC and unlimited residential clients with jobs that start at $800 so he can hire employees to work for him. The weather will have cooled off, the kids' backyard pool will have righted itself, the pine trees will be replaced with palms complete with a hammock, my tomatoes will be ripe along with the South Carolina peaches and I won't have anything to do but quilt all day.

I've been watching too much TV. Real life doesn't work that way. Maybe I'll just take the kids to the lake tomorrow after the pdoc appointment. I can pretend it's the ocean.

tunes I'm currently listening to
Peace out.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

road trip

Traveling 2.25 hours to eat lunch in a restaurant for a family reunion with people I've never met then traveling back home the 2.25 hours.

Show of hands: how many of you think this trip is going to be fun?

what? none of you? you must know AB and Sissy quite well by now. Thanks for reading so faithfully!

No, I am not expecting this trip to go smoothly but there's a method behind my thinking. If I expect the worst then it can only get better and the idea is to end the day saying to my pillow, well gosh, it wasn't so bad afterall. Sissy's behaving quite nicely right now so there's hope.

I'm bringing the camera in the event that there are a few happy photo moments. For now, here's WG yesterday. (disregard my old camera and it's wonky date) This is after her very first haircut at a salon - she felt so pretty it unnerved her so she marched right outside and sat in the dirt under the trampoline with Gracie. WG is all boy in a girl body but I think she secretly liked being primped and preened.

Friday, June 25, 2010

one more day

To Bren,
Yes. I did.
I hand quilted about 5 square inches of the matching pillow sham to my quilt

thank you.

Sissy woke up having sexual ideations! Huzzah!
*takes a deep breath and digs deep to muddle through another day*

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Stick a fork in me

Today one of the IFI team therapists made the suggestion that perhaps Sissy is adamantly denying the voices she spoke to because they told her NOT to speak of them.

She's been a trip today, let me tell you. At what point does the RADs end and psychosis begin? This line is getting blurrier by the minute. Pdoc appt on Monday.

I'm exhausted so I really don't have anything more for you all today. Mostly, when I close my eyes and try to rest, I have visions and worries of my child losing her mind altogether and us not ever being able to recover it. Does she need hospitalization? is she on too many meds? Not enough meds? Am I making a bigger deal of it than necessary? Am I downplaying it too much and need to be more proactive? What if she's violent again - rage is one thing, violence is a horse of another color.

I'm so tired of being in crisis with Sissy. I'm just so tired of it. I know she's not doing all of it on purpose, that it's not all just her RADs but it doesn't make it any easier. I saw a mom with an impaired child the other day - her daughter had limited motor skills and was clearly MR but her child had a smile on her face, was compliant and loving.

Having a child on the edge of reality, a mind that is cognitively aware but slipping, the ability to manipulate, lie and self-preserve in a very perverse narcissism even though she can feed herself and toilet (although she needs supervision because she chooses not to use good hygiene and healthy habits) just might be the harder pill to swallow.

I'm cooked. Stick a fork in me, I'm done.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Can I get a migraine... er, I mean an Amen?

The shake down went like this:

When we first got IFI services, Sissy was a CMO insurance provider patient. CMO paid for very few hours. These hours we got with the first team, the team that crashed and burned us.

At the same time the CMO dumped Sissy's case to our state medicaid program, we were transitioning to a new IFI team and switching Sissy's meds. We got triple the hours and they reported that Sissy had made significant improvements, improvements that were due largely to the med change.

So technically, even though Sissy has had two very difficult weeks and we didn't get near the hours of support we needed the first seven weeks Sissy was out of RTC as we've gotten the last five with medicaid money, Sissy has expired her 12 weeks of IFI support. Medicaid will not reauthorize and we're downsizing to just Intensive Core, cutting hours to one third and changing teams, again.

yep. I cried.

No amount of explaining that this is absurd, that we've been shafted, that transitions for RAD kids are ridiculous, helped. The IFI team was extremely apologetic and sympathetic but their hands are tied. Because the anti-psychotic has reduced the violence of the rages and consequently the number of crisis calls in the last five weeks, the new team did not report the same issues as we had when Sissy was first discharged. The past five crisis interventions in two weeks notwithstanding in the grand scheme. The end.

CBAY, the waiver that provides the unskilled wraparound services, is going to request funding to replace the decreased hours but those hours will be respite only for the next 90 days and not family, individual or life skill therapies.

OK, so the good news. Please, bring the good news!

We get Ms M back from our first team. HOORAY! We liked her bunches and the kids nearly knocked her down at the door when she came in, they were so glad to see her. We get to replace the individual therapy with attachment therapy, returning us to Sissy's RAD therapist in town. Ms P will still be working with AB and the new team member has lots of years of experience with RAD kids. CBAY will also be requesting approval for payment of adaptive swim therapy for Sissy so I won't have to pay for both AB AND Sissy. And CBAY is paying for two weeks of day camp for Sissy so she can get away and we can get a break.

I told Ms M as she prepared to leave, "Sissy won't stop having needs. Her challenges won't ever end. Plus puberty is just around the corner. When we get discharged from IFI, mark my words, it will be at best, a year before I'm calling you guys again."

Ms M nodded her head. "That's the most frustrating part of our job. Seeing our clients get discharged or stepped down in services by insurance before they're ready. Those cases ALWAYS return. It makes no sense."

At least Ms M understands. She's no more able to change the system than I am. Morosely, her lack of ability to alter the mental health services paradigm is comforting. It helps me know I'm not the variable in the equation that is causing the hang ups. It's also helpful to know that I'm not the only one that foresees the same prediction for Sissy's future. Bottom line, it's up to Sissy to see the need for change. I've said it before, Sissy's therapists and I can give her all the tools and support she needs for change but if she is going to choose to stay as she is, there is nothing more we can do.

After all that, 5 hours of sessions today, I had a migraine - flashing lights in my eyes, sensitivity to sound, nausea, clumsy motor skills, slurred speech ... oye. I've had lots of migraines lately. Do you think it might be stress? lol

I'm done, wasted, toast. These last two weeks have fried my resolve. As I said to The Dad this evening while I covered my eyes to block the light, "I just don't know how to explain to people how much energy and effort it takes to shadow Sissy all day, to explain everything to her so patiently, over and over, to keep a cool temper and a level head, to think ten moves ahead, to explain Sissy's issues to one more team of therapists, all day, every day, AND adequately parent AB and his separate needs and spend quality time with WG."

The Dad paused a moment and said, "I don't think you can. I don't think it's possible for people to truly understand unless they've lived it too." And then he added, "But you do an amazing job. I could never do it as good as you."

I needed those kind words today.

So to those of you that are living this life too, to those of you that get migraines from the stress, to those of you that can't catch a break long enough to come up for air, to those of you that have run out of energy to explain it all with patience and kindness one more time, can I get an "Amen!"

Monday, June 21, 2010

Why blogging is useful

After two weeks of rage and wobbly moods, Sissy's pdoc upped her Intuniv to the full load, 4 mg. Shut her down. Then...she woke up Saturday night, talking to herself.

Let me restate. She screamed, "OH NO!" and then explained to The Dad, who was quite concerned, that when she said "hello" to the people she was talking to, her voice sounded wobbly.

Yes. She was trying to talk to people. People that weren't there. People "in her head" as she said. And her voice sounded different to her when she spoke.

The Dad said her facial expressions as she explained all of this, were odd. Odd in an alarming way.

Now I know that Sissy has a 15 day cycle but her anti-psychotic has really dampened it so I'd lost track. After the last two weeks of nonsense, i assumed it was one of her cycles but this delusional nonsense? Not so much.

Reading through old posts, I turned up the one in March in which Sissy crashed after a particularly harrowing rage cycle. In her crash, she had some delusional stuff.


The pattern emerges.

See, this is all good.

Let me restate. Because it's not "good" that my child's mental health needs are so severe that at this point I tack on "RADs" as an afterthought which ellicits the complimentary moans and groans of empathy from my listeners. (I like the empathy, BTW, so keep the complimentary moans and groan coming! lol) However, it's good that I blog it, it's good that I keep a record, it's good that I'm tuned in, it's good that i'm advocating, it's good that I can tell her pdoc what is happening so we can work together toward helping Sissy achieve whatever balance of "normal" she'll be capable of as an adult.

When I want to bury my head in the sand, drink my sorrows away and move to New Zealand without saying another word, it's good to have a baseline and an anchor to my life. Seeing an emerging pattern in Sissy's issues, as odd and disconcerting as they may seem, is one such anchor I'm glad to weigh so we can move forward in her treatment.

And this just in (AB's doc called mid post) We're diagnosing him with a "mood disorder" (DUH - this will eventually morph into a bipolar Dx) and adding another anti depressant to his mix with the knowledge that it will probably not work (and cross our fingers, not cause the seizure activity it did for Sissy last spring adn summer) and he'll end up on the anti-psychotic sometime within the next six months.

I've said it a million times, by the time Sissy and AB make it to adulthood, they're going to be on the same meds and save me the trouble of having two different med bins! Hey, you've got to find the silver lining to every cloud, right?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Morning Foibles

Sissy tried her crap again this morning. HATE HATE HATE the morning crap. I can't open my eyes fast enough before she's head long into the crap. "Exhausting" just doesn't explain it.

I had to go to the pharmacy to pick up her med and grab some donuts, a Saturday treat. All of this meant leaving the home for 25 minutes. We did as the therapy team suggested, we had Sissy pick the activity (from a list of "safe" options) that she would do in her space while I was gone.

This was NO GOOD. Mushroom cloud explosion. And yes, I could have just taken her with me but she wasn't dressed yet and a trip to the pharmacy and Dunkin' with Sissy is invariably double in time just because she's with me. I just wanted to go and come home.

We upped the ante for severe consequences if she continued her nonsense (no swimming for a week if she continued to escalate) so she turned it off quickly and did as she was instructed without further ado. I left, hoping all would be fine. Praying, crossing my fingers, holding my breath, all of the above.

At the drive up window at the pharmacy, the employee was so nice, so smiley, so kind, using such kind, heartfelt words all about the silliness of medicine and I nearly cried. As i pulled away from the window I said outloud Self, WHAT did this woman's kind attitude stir in you?

She was kind. She spoke kindly. She smiled, she was nice, hey eyes said "kindness". All at 10 in the morning. I was overwhelmed by how painful this truth was, that genuine kindness and a kind face is so rarely seen in my daily life that when a stranger at the pharmacy has these qualities, it is so off-putting it catches me off guard and nearly makes me cry.

As I pulled into the driveway, still mulling over these thoughts, I said, "God, I can't do this every day, be hated by my child, be treated so poorly, manage her rage, every day, all day, it's too much!" I gathered myself as I laughed at the hummingbirds fighting over the feeder at the front window and went inside to try to convey the morning's lesson to The Dad but he was stressed already by Sissy's foibles. I just wanted to tell him the truth I'd learned but our conversation crashed and burned and I just stopped everything, hugged him and cried, "It's not you! it's not me!" We have got to try harder to out love this insanity, to kill it with kindness, to sweep away the stress and capture the kindness of a pharmacy employee every single day despite the insanity.

WG hugged me and said as she held the palm-sized New Testament she'd gotten at VBS this week, "if you read this, it will change your life," the controlling theme of this year's program.

Hysterical! Her timing couldn't have been more poignant. Really. REALLY! "Yes, WG," I hugged her back as I laughed, "it will change our lives."

We served the donuts and sat at the table and I read the fruits of the spirit passage from Galatians in WG's little bible. Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Gentleness. Faithfulness. Self-control. And we laughed and giggled and shared some of those fruits while we nommed on donuts.

AB told a joke. What is Chicken Little's favorite pizza? Little Caesar's. Get it? LITTLE Caesar's. Because his name is Chicken LITTLE. See?

The Dad told a joke. I can bend minds with my spoon.

WG told a joke. What do rabbits like on their pizzas? CARROTS!

I laughed the whole time.

Sissy ignored us all, refusing to participate or laugh and when we were all done giggling and began clearing our plates said loudly in a monotone voice, "Can I have another donut?!?"

I sighed and rolled my eyes so only The Dad could see me. "You can have fruit." (Our "free foods" rule [1]) But The Dad had an idea.

"Sissy, we couldn't tell if you were paying attention to us when we read from the bible. If you can tell us three of the eight fruits of the Spirit, you can have another donut. If you can't, you can have a FRUIT ... of the counter."

Sissy spouted off three, without missing a beat. Honestly, I was surprised. VERY surprised! I gladly opened the box and let her chose whichever donut she liked. "Wow Sissy! Great job!!!" I told her and she smiled.

Many thanks to the pharmacy lady, whose kindness went further today than she could have imagined, and to WG who listened to the Spirit's leading that we should read the word of God.

and one more joke, compliments of AB (because Aspie jokes are so literal you can't help but laugh): What is it when sometimes you might get tied up? You are hypnoTIZEd. Get it? TIZed? That's what it is when you are tied up.

[aside] AB loves Amelia Bedelia because "she's so dumb" and I think that's downright hysterical because if there was ever a literary character that had Asperger's, it would be AB, er, I mean, Amelia Bedelia. His therapist also had him read the story All cats have asperger's and AB said, "I don't get it. What is this book supposed to be about anyway? It doesn't even make sense." Seriously. I could not make this stuff up. AB kills me sometimes!

[1] idea compliments of tudusamom
free foods: to help prevent hording and over eating behaviors typical of RAD kids, the children can have one helping of the main entre and unlimited or "free" fruits and vegetables until they feel full. It has helped immensely. Sissy still gorges but I don't care if it's fruit and veggies. It takes a whole lot of stress out of mealtime, preventing RADical explosions.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Raging for The Dad

Every time I have to leave the home without Sissy, she gives The Dad serious crap. I always walk in the door to another crisis or crisis averted. Her biggest issues when I leave are lying or flat out defiance. Many times we end up having to call the crisis team to deescalate. It gets old. It gets weary. I hate that I can't go anywhere for any length of time without knowing that I'll return to Sissy's rage ... again. I don't ever feel guilty for going anywhere, I just get exhausted of it all. It would be nice to walk out the door and return again without chaos meeting me in the face the very second I open the front door.

OK RAD moms, dissect. Why is Sissy doing this? Is it payback for me because I left? Is she trying to drive a wedge between The Dad and I? Is it anxious attachment: is she feeling nervous BECAUSE I'm gone?

What recommendations do you have to prevent these episodes? Her IFI team's initial thought was that we plan exactly what Sissy will do in my absence so that she doesn't have a chance to have free time to wobble in her mood, triangulate, manipulate or whatever other crap she wants to try.

It's been two full weeks of Sissy's hell so I'm done, cooked, wasted. I've got nothing right now. Respite tonight, thank GOD. We're celebrating 14 years of marriage and we have NO idea what we want to do beyond escaping this hell for three hours but now I'm thinking my respite is going to bite me on the a$$ if the IFI team doesn't deescalate Sissy when I return. No point in having a respite if Sissy's going to undo it all 10 minutes after I get home.

Talk to me.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Miracles in my own home!

Currently I'm sitting on the back porch watching the children as they swim in our pool that is probably not going to make it through the summer. One side heaved and dumped a large volume of water, now the 3.5 foot capacity is barely holding at 2.5 feet. Oh well, it's twisting, pitching and heaving but cool on hot summer days, which has been a welcome respite after yesterday's 101'F before heat index factored in.

Of course, the tepid water is only respite if the occupants are getting along. Right now, AB is screaming that I need to skim out the pine straw. Last night's storm left a blanket of brown needles everywhere even after I threatened all the trees with a chain saw - apparently trees don't respond to verbal threats. I'm supposed to be doing bills but the IFI therapist will be here in 30 minutes and well, wifi access on the back porch is too tempting to NOT blog. I'm such a junkie.

Sissy has been all over the map, mood wise, including a crisis call on Sunday. Yesterday was "fun" with her moods up and down like a yo-yo, changing from one extreme to another in the span of 30 minutes. Literally, from angry, gritting teeth, tears and complete defiance to higher than a kite: giddy, waving-hand motions, running about the house and Cheshire grins complete with toddler-like squeals of joy and laughter. It's a little off-putting and bewildering. I nearly called the pdoc but my IRL friend said that her RADish does that sometimes. OK. I'll go with that. It's weird, slightly alarming but immensely easier to accept than the possibility of another med change.

True to form, Sissy has been sleeping like a baby all night despite her rash of complaints to any listening ear, including professionals, that she was waking many times and never going back to sleep. The baby monitor nipped those claims in the butt with the exception of last night's conversation with her IFI therapist. Like an idiot, instead of talking to Ms K privately, I told Ms K in front of Sissy that we were dosing Sissy's meds at supper time now to help her sleep patterns. Sissy got irate and interrupting me blurted out, "But! I AM WAKING UP! JUST LAST NIGHT! HONEST! I DID!" I gave Sissy that condescending look only mother's can give that says sure ya did, kid. and we're not even going to acknowledge the words that just came out of your mouth because you know they're a lie and I'm too weary of your games to think of a decent consequence and then I turned to Ms K and gave her my best glib smile, complete with the cock of my head and a roll of my eyes and Ms K took the cue from me and changed the subject.

Have I mentioned I like our new IFI team?

Hot on the heels of trying to nip her withholding issues in the butt, pun intended, Sissy has been so idiotic about tending to her hygiene when toileting that we have stripped her of her privacy. Now, like a potty-training two year old, I get to give her assigned toilet times and accompany her every time she goes, making sure she uses all of the required toileting manners. She tries my patience with her incessant demands the she "has to go RIGHT NOW, REALLY REALLY BAD, honest, I can't hold it anymore!" and I enjoy casually looking up at her and saying back, "I'm not ready to take you right now." But the biggest issue for Sissy would not be aggravating me about feigned toilet emergencies. No. Her issue is over soap.

yes. the dreaded soap. *echoes of the scene from Christmas story "It was ... it was ... SOAP POISONING!!!!!" complete with harrowing moans and wails of despair from the melodramatic parents*

Really. I should be imprisoned.

ANYWAY... In the past Sissy has gagged, wretched and even vomited over soap. Yes. Vomited. (gosh, even as I typed that I was wishing I was lying to my readers but sadly, it is the truth) So in particular, I monitor her soap and hand washing. Imagine my surprise this morning when the following conversation occurred not 10 minutes after we were awake (really, WHY does the crap start so gosh dern early every day? It's exhausting to wake up knowing that I'm going to get crap just because it's a new day):

Sissy: I'm wiping! *sounds of toilet paper coming off the roll*
I'm flushing! *sounds of toilet flushing*
I'm washing! *my cue to enter the bathroom*

*mom enters and nauseating smell from toilet fills the space - we're having issues when it flushes, filling the room with the most wretched stench*

Sissy: UGH! That stinks!

Mom: Yes, I know. It's the toilet, when it flushes it makes that smell. I'm not sure what's going on with it.

Sissy: *condescending and glaring at me* Well! Maybe you should use SOAP then!

I flicked her on the head, lovingly of course.

Mom: Maybe YOU should clean the bathroom. That comment was rude. I just told you why it stinks like that.


When she regulated and we were in the kitchen serving breakfast I said, "Sissy, it's curious that you suggested I use soap to clean the bathroom. It tells me that you KNOW soap is needed for such a job." I paused. She grunted. I resumed. "Is it getting annoying yet that I have to babysit you in the bathroom every time you need to go?"

"YES!!!!!" She hollered and glared.

"maybe you should take your own advice and USE SOAP."

more glaring and grunting followed by, "I KNOW I SHOULD USE SOAP!"

I was annoyed, irritated, agitated and really, really wanted to holler back. Instead I dug deep and said gaily with a hop and my hands thrown to the air, "It's a miracle! My child has been cured! She knows she should use soap! Hallelujah and Praise Jesus, a miracle, right here in my very own house! Sissy has been saved!!!!" I finished it with a twirl, my hands still in the air.

Sissy was not amused. But I felt better.

Then this afternoon she decided she hadn't been RADly enough. I've put Sissy and AB on Harry Potter ban because OMG, is it ever getting annoying with their 24/7 Harry Potter. So they have 2 weeks no HP. At the library, the rule for our family is 3 books if you want to borrow a movie. Sissy comes to me with ONE book and a movie. "MOM! Look what I picked out!" She's happy of course. She's holding a Harry Potter book. Again, i wanted to go crazy right back at her. Instead I said, "NO."

*screaming, whining, wailing and protesting* "WHY!!!!!"

(thank God our librarians know me and my kids - 3.5 years at the same tiny library and some brutal honesty on my part about my kids' needs is a real boon, let me tell you)

"Harry Potter ban for two weeks. You need three books if you plan on checking out that movie," I said to no one in particular as I walked away.

She picked out four and a magazine. When we got home she announced to her dad that she picked out one of the books for her brother which was news to AB. It was her way to get in a little "dig" about the HP ban. Dad says to me, "Not counting this book she claims she got for AB, how many other books did she pick out?"

"Three and a magazine, the movie's legit then."

Sissy shouts at me, "FOUR other books! I got the American Girl magazine too!!!!"

"Right." I say back to The Dad. "Three books and," I turn to face Sissy, "a MAGAZINE."

The Dad says, "Sissy, HP ban for four weeks."

"BUT! I didn't remember about the ban when I grabbed the book!" she lied.

"Then next time you'll try harder to remember what mom tells you. Stop screaming and you might get to watch an HP movie before the summer's over. Keep it up and it'll be two months before you do."

She clammed it. Fast.

Another miracle! Sissy can shut off her screaming at will! Praise Jesus and Hallelujah, there's hope for us all yet! Maybe she'll keep having miracles? It's more fun than screaming.

Can you tell this summer is really wearing on my nerves already? Pour me a margarita and call it a day. Peace out, lovelies. XXOO

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Not for the faint of heart

Half of my childhood was spent in Lancaster County, PA, also known as "Amish country". Maybe it's where my love of the outdoors and green spaces, gardening and quilting came from. I've always considered it "home" and I miss the honest, humble, every-day people that live in Pennsylvania. All over the state, people are just ordinary folks, squeezing out a life and a living. Not unlike the Amish horses that pull the buggies with blinders to shield their eyes from colorful, fast-moving or otherwise distracting objects that might spook them, the average people there move through life in a similar fashion. Every home is different, every family has different rules but all have the same goals to love God, love family, and do what is necessary to provide all while getting along with the neighbors. With the exception of the more historic places in the state, affluence doesn't exist and where it does, it's never flaunted. Everyone is "everyman".

Now I live in a different region of the country in an extremely affluent community which has really challenged my ability to remain content with what I've been given. True, living in a community that has this much wealth has made it possible for us to operate a business. Undeniably, a window cleaning and pressure washing company would have marginal success in the rural or mining towns of PA. But here, where keeping up appearances is supreme, it is our bread and butter. So I can't begrudge the wealth that surrounds us which keeps our business open, provides an education for my children, fresh books at the libraries and keeps the roads paved. I just can't relate to it. At all.

When I'm in my little home, enjoying the comforts we've been able to provide for ourselves, I feel like I'm living a good life, providing adequately for my children and have more than God needed to provide. That's when I'm wearing my blinders, shielding myself from the distractions of my community. I'm content, I'm thankful, I never give it another thought and most days, I am very grateful that God allowed me to be born in such a wealthy nation, that I'm not raising my children in a poverty stricken, disease-ridden third world country in which my home is nothing more than mud and straw. With the blinders, I see quite clearly that which is before me - to pull my weight in this life without question. So I do, happily.

Then I go about town, I talk to people, I make connections with others, I struggle to make friendships, I help The Dad in his business and enter the homes of the other members of the community and I'm overwhelmed. I'm flabbergasted, astounded, floored and humbled by the jaw-dropping wealth around me. By comparison, I have so little. And the government agrees, classifying our family of 5 as living just above the national poverty level. I feel so incredibly outclassed, out of place, small, insignificant and unworthy. We work so hard for what we have. We are so proud to be business owners and to not only have kept it floating through a struggling economy but to have provided a few jobs for others along the way. But despite our attitude and work ethic, our morals and our ideals, by comparison, it all pales like exposed film.

If I never take my blinders off, if I stay in my little home, in my little corner of town where we fit in economically, if I only make friends with people in my social class, if I ignore the nauseating wealth of our customers, I do just fine. But if I look up for half a second, it all fades. I can't help but imagine that if we lived in a community that was comprised of ordinary Joes like us, it wouldn't matter. I never felt the economic disparity when I lived in PA, it felt like everyone was on the same playing field. Living in a community where there are still debutant balls and our customers confide that they hired us because we were white and then in the same breath ask us to park in the back because the hired help should not be seen, well, it just begs for some antacid and Tylenol for the psyche.

I try to make myself feel better by saying that I'm an intelligent woman, I taught science and math for many years in a private school. But in this community, if you don't LOOK smart, you're not. Even if you open your mouth and prove otherwise. (And the contrary is true, if the wealthy idiots open their mouths and prove they are indeed idiots, it doesn't change the community's perception because they have money to cover the ills of IQs lower than 110) I try to make myself feel better by remembering that Christ didn't promise us wealth and riches and that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle than it is for a wealthy man to surrender all and follow Christ. I remind myself that Christ only promises freedom form the wages of sin and death. Well, I've already been granted that when I proclaimed Christianity and technically, that's a whole lot more to write home about than a big fancy house and three cars in the garage that are each worth more than the average U.S. citizen's annual salary. Right? That should carry me some, shouldn't it? Being honest here - sadly, it doesn't. Hey, I've never laid claims to being Mother Theresa or Mahatma Gandhi. Point of fact, that was never even a goal of mine when I set a course for this wild and crazy life though now, it seems that is EXACTLY what God is asking of me.

Thus, I continue to feel incredibly out of place, wrong, a misfit, underestimated, misunderstood, misrepresented and horribly homesick for a place that "works" for me and my family. But there's the rub. I don't have a "standard" family, do I?

Not only do I feel ostracized by my lack of wealth, I can't even relate to my peers because my children have such polarizing needs. Even if I was socially and economically equal to the average citizen of my community, I still couldn't relate because despite my extraordinary efforts to explain the daily nuances of parenting my challenged children, it escapes people how difficult even the simplest tasks are. For crying out loud, Sissy can not, under any circumstances, be unsupervised. Ever. Not even in the bathroom. At 10 years old, that makes it very challenging to have relationships with families that have other 10 year old children, annual salaries notwithstanding. Even my daily language, which has been reduced to an odd jargon of acronyms for my childrens issues and needs, is ostracizing. One mother might tell me she's taking her child to ballet recital and I say, "oh, that's fun! I'm taking mine to hippotherapy, AFO fittings and RAD sessions and my 6 year old is recovering from PTSD." Or when someone tells me they are off to the movies and then icecream and asks if would we like to come I'll say, "well, Sissy has a therapist coming to the home and then we have the pdoc appointment and I have to pick up AB's prescription..." yeah. Those are real conversation generators. not.

I should pray daily, at all times, with all kinds of prayer (Ephesians 6:18) but recently my prayers have been reduced to Lord, I need you to do something. Anything. I'm wondering what your big plan is for my family because Lord, I'm not feeling it here. This isn't jiving. And quite frankly, I'm not keen on being everybody's example of what Godly living is all about. Didn't sign up for that one. Just trying to live by Your rules and to do something that brings You glory. So anytime you feel like turning the page for us, I'm all over that like white on rice. Amen.

Then I put my blinders back on, hole up in my little house with rotting siding and trim and jump in our lopsided, wonky, red-neck backyard pool that we got on sale at Walmart, float on my busted raft and cuss at the 15 Loblolly pines that litter my yard so that it always looks like a wildlife refuge for reptiles no matter what I do. I drink a beer and splash with the kids for the whole 10 minutes before AB blows a fuse and screams that splashing is not the rule and Sissy gets in a few verbal digs toward WG when I'm not paying attention to her and then primal screams at me when I tell her she can pull a chore from the chore bucket for being disrespectful.

This life is not for the faint of heart.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Hierarchy of Needs

True to form, if I'm not posting or reading and commenting, then life in our home is ... bad. Horrible. Unlivable. Very, very bad.

22 days into summer vacation and I'm done. The kids are done, Sissy's ... ugh. AB is stressed and WG just wants to scream because having two older siblings with such demanding, challenging needs is too much for her to take (and boy howdy, do I know what she means!)

I should probably take the time to rehash it so I can sort out what went wrong, what can be fixed, blah, blah, blah. I don't want to. I've hit a wall. I don't know any other way to tell the IFI team that I'm not functioning, can't take it, am going insane, that AB and Sissy's needs are too much for me all by myself, every single day without help. It's just too much. Period. I don't want to make this a pretty, wonderful, flowery blog post. I don't even want to discuss it, I just want to grump and bury my head. I have NO idea how I'm going to make it through the rest of this summer. I'm already hanging on for dear life at 22 days in.

So I thought I'd discuss the need to take care of ourselves, something I've severely neglected because the kids are so overwhelmingly needy. When the kids went to weekly behavior modification therapy sessions, the parents met in a separate room and the psychologist had us all say one thing we are doing for ourselves. The philosophy is, if a parent isn't taking care of themselves first, meeting their hierarchy of needs [1], then the parent will not be capable of taking care of the child. Makes sense, sure, but gosh almighty, very challenging to implement when EVERY.SINGLE.SECOND of EVERY.DAY from the minute my eyes open to the very last second I go to sleep, someone or something needs me. There is no down time, there is no in between, there is nothing but full speed through each and every day.

But let's review anyway, shall we? It's good therapy. I'm raising my glass to the screen and toasting you all (really, I'm doing this - strawberry martini). Here's to moms taking care of themselves first! If you haven't already, I encourage you to make your own list. Print it out and tape it somewhere you'll see it often to remind yourselves:


Top ten things that I do for me:
1. Day lilies. Lilies are my favorite flower. I have a small lily bed in the front yard that I enjoy tending and every June they bloom for me. I took some cuttings and as I was fixing my drink, saw that one of the buds was about to burst open. That makes me feel good. I like gardening because it's still nurturing, like parenting, but there's an immediate return for my effort. Parenting? Not so much.

2. Tomatoes. OMG! I LOVE growing tomatoes. It just makes my heart all fluttery and happy and smiley and ooey-gooey to plant tomatoes, take care of them and get an amazing harvest of scrumptious fruit to eat all summer long. Again, it's still nurturing but an immediate return for the effort.

3. Quilting. Yep. I changed my blog design on purpose. I love to quilt, and crochet and sew. I'm creating things in a short amount of time and getting an immediate return for my effort. (seeing a pattern here? lol)

4. Gal time. I have to spend time with other women. It instantly fills my love meter to overflowing.

5. Green time. I have to be outdoors, breathing fresh air, listening to birds, seeing green things, hearing the sounds of being outside, feeling the grass between my toes. I painted it on my dresser mirror: "Get your green time!" It's that important to me.

6. Church. If you are religious at all, you know that just being in the building with like minded believers resets your tone.

7. Reading. At any given time, you can walk into my bedroom and see a stack of books on my night stand and another stack on my dresser. Oh, and the three shelves of books in the hallway ... I love books. I like to feel them, smell them, find them in used bookstores, buy them new on discount racks, alphabetize them, but most of all, fall asleep reading them. Literally, I fall asleep with my nose in them.

A lot.

Sometimes there's drool.

8. Alcohol. No one report me to AA, please. Here's the skinny. It's not because alcohol was taboo in my home when I was a kid, there just wasn't any. Throw in my religious upbringing and it's easy to deduce that alcohol inadvertently became something that good girls didn't do. But sometimes I just need a little something to take the edge off, plus it's very freeing just to be able to say to myself, you're allowed to drink. And there's lots of fun drinks to be had! I have three strict rules so I don't over indulge:

A) never before 5 pm
B) never more than one a night
C) never more than three times a week

9. Blogging. Yeah, you already knew that one. I have reams of handwritten journals but let's be honest, I'm too prolific to keep up with that. Besides, they take up precious shelf space where I'd much rather put a book! Plus, I don't like the idea of carpal tunnel syndrome. So blogging has been a fantastic replacement. Heck, it often doubles for #4 when I strike up conversations with the more cheeky gals that comment! xxoo

10. Poetry. I've actually won contests and even have a poem in a book, a compilation of works. It's very healing to put my thoughts to prose.

There's an eleventh but I don't do it anymore. Singing. Thus the name "integrity singer". I used to sing a lot. It might even be said that I sang well. But now only my children hear me sing. There are just too many harrowing, emotional tales wrapped up in my singing escapades for it to be enjoyable for me anymore. It makes me sad but ... whatever. I just can't go there today, this is supposed to be an upbeat post.

OK. So, truth time. Which of these ten am I currently doing, particularly this past week which was so challenging that I lost my cool? Um... *crickets chirping*

Right. Dead ringer for Hey Mom! Take care of YOU first or you can't take care of your kids!

How about you?

[1]Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Heck, I TAUGHT this stuff in the classroom and I still have trouble remembering it.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Vehicle travel

Nancy Thomas talks about using some strict rules for vehicles. I've listened to her teaching tapes over and over and when I get to that part when she talks about vehicles, I always pause and think to myself, Gosh, I just don't know if I can do all of that!  But I don't like to be outdone and I especially don't like to do things halfway.  So I've come up with some concessions to her suggestions and I'm wondering if any of you do the same types of things?  I got some of these ideas from the travel rules at the RTC and the rest as been my own trouble shooting.

The children have assigned seats in the van, they have particular doors in the van by which they are allowed to enter, they have particular orders in which they are allowed to enter and exit. Violations of these rules earn 10 pushups.

The reason is I was tired of the screaming, hitting, kicking, yelping, pounding on glass and mostly, to protect WG who was always getting the brunt of Sissy and Aspie Boy's wrath.

Here's how it goes. On the passenger side door, Sissy enters first and sits in the way back bench seat followed by AB after he closes the door (he is rewarded through our ticket system for closing the door because it always has to be him and he hates doing it) WG enters from the driver's side door and sits in the middle bench seat in front of Sissy and directly behind me. I close her door.

Exiting, AB gets out first through the passenger side door, followed by Sissy. WG gets out on the driver side door. AB and WG are responsible for door closes. If we are in a parking lot, all kids must wait on their side of the vehicle, hands to their sides until I say they can come. If we are at home, AB is the "key master" and is handed the house key before anyone else gets out of the van so he can be the first one into the house (it's THAT important to him). He is ticket rewarded for this "job" as well.

Why? Why so much effort?


Our children were never safe in the van. Not even for one mile of travel. I had to pull over so many times I couldn't go anywhere. So I didn't. And that doesn't work either. Thus, the travel rules. Has it helped? You bet your butt it has! What a HUGE difference. We still have flare ups, I still have to pull over but that happens so infrequently now, it's negligible.

Other trouble-shooting things we do:
1. MP3 player for both AB and Sissy. The reasoning is we got tired of them screaming (I don't mean being mad, I mean primal-rage screaming from the gut, full-on rage, adrenaline driven, fight or flight responses). And it would be over music. Uh? No. That's not safe. MP3 players nipped that in the butt

2. music for adults. I turn up my tunes in the front. If the children like the music, they can turn off their MP3 player and ask for me to put the music in the back. All must be in agreement. If the song is over, MP3 players go back on. WG usually likes my tunes and since she's never the one with the music issue, I often put on the stuff she likes up front.

3. Singing to the music. No. Never. Drives AB batty (again, primal-rage, kicking, etc. NOT SAFE) If the children like a particular song, they can take the CD into the house when we return home and listen to it ad nauseum in their rooms, singing as loudly as they like. Vans? No.

4. Movies. I pick 'em. Period. And only for long trips. We bought a headphone jack splitter so all three children can wear headphones to hear the movie and The Dad and I can hear our tunes or talk up front.

5. Toys. No. Never. One stuffed doll or toy for trips to doctors that make the children feel anxious - reasoning is the doll/toy is a comfort item and self-soothing. Otherwise, no. Besides, they clutter up the vehicle.

6. Food. Yes. But they are responsible to clean it up. I am a drill sergeant about it. If they have left the vehicle and not gathered their trash, i will not move, I will not pass go, i will not collect $200 until I make sure they have cleaned up. Period. And that means EVERYONE must wait for the offending person to do as asked because no one is safe without supervision.

7. Talking. Limited. AB can yammer incessantly and it drives us all insane. Plus, he demands responses. That doesn't work when I drive. "no talking, put on your MP3 player" is heard a lot in my van.

Disclaimer: I really wish our family could be loosey-goosey with these things but we've been unsafe on the road far too many times for me to not have very strict rules. The IFI team and I have reviewed them many times to tweak them and get it just right. They are fully aware of our plans and have given me a rousing thumbs-up. Would it be cool to think we could be like a "normal" family and get along in the vehicle on road trips and the like, even to the grocery store? Sure. For half a second I let that idea play out in my head and then I surrender it. There's no point. You must remember that my van is just a few feet shy of being the proverbial "Short Bus". If bus drivers of impaired persons can have assigned seats and strict rules so all riders are safe, than so can I.

So, what have YOU done to make your vehicle safe? I'm always open to new ideas!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Why Wonder Girl is so Wonderful

On the beach, dancing at the edge of the water, all arms and legs with elbows and knees too big for her tiny body, Wonder Girl dances, struts, kicks, runs, squeals, jumps, splashes and digs in the sand. She is covered head to toe in sand, a goofy grin spreading from ear to ear when I approach and say, "can I play too?"

"Sure Mom. Go fill my pail, I'm building a sand castle."

I do as she bids and return with a full pail only to discover that she is no longer there, she has skipped off, chasing darting minnows in the shallow waters that roll and recede with each new wave.

"Hey!" I call to her. "What about the castle?"

"Oh, not yet!" She lackadaisically waves back at me, shouting into the wind so I have to strain to hear her. I put the pail down and wait, dig a little bit by myself and give up. She's not coming back, she's having too much fun, exploring, imagining, investigating, learning and making a mess. I think to myself, some how she is turning out to be just like me, wonders never cease. I shake my head, giggling to myself as I remember my childhood summer days spent at the beach or lake. Invariably, I was content to be alone, having grand adventures in my mind and not giving a thought to anything else. For Wonder Girl, these moments must be her own respite from the demands of being emotionally more advanced than her two older siblings whose needs always squelch hers. I dare not bother her to come and be tethered to a boring mom that wants to dig in the sand. Eventually, I get up and seat myself under the umbrella and watch her instead.

Two days ago, exasperated with her siblings for the umpteenth time that day, Wonder Girl came into the kitchen and let out an exaggerated sigh, her nonverbal cue that she wants to tell me something that's on her mind. "Mom? I'm the kid sister, right? I'm the one that's the youngest and I have bigger siblings, right mom?" She flopped her arms down low, dejected, her shoulders slumping forward and her eyes imploring me to set her straight.

I had an idea where she was headed with this line of questioning so I answered her unspoken thought, "Yes, you're the youngest but... I wonder if sometimes you might feel like Sissy and Aspie Boy are actually younger than you?"

Her face lit up and her shoulders stood at attention. It almost looked as if the curls in her hair bobbed and curled tighter in agreement. "Yes! Sometimes ... " she hesitated, watching my expression for any clues that I might disagree with her. "Well, never mind. It's rude if I say it."

"Go ahead honey, say it, it's just us and I promise I won't tell or get mad."

She gathered herself and drew a deep breath. "Well, you know." One hand was on her hip and the other was out like she was holding an invisible platter. "They just ..." and she giggled. "They just act like littler kids sometimes, you know?" Chuckling again nervously, she eyed my face for any hint of my disapproval and held her breath.

"My sweet dear, you are absolutely right. It must be very frustrating to have big siblings that act like little kids. I'll bet you feel like YOU'RE the big sister sometimes."

"YEAH!" And she hugged me tight, asked to kiss me and added emphatically, "I love you mom!" Then she galloped off to more imagination adventures.

"I love you too baby. I love you too," I called after her and silently, you restore my faith in parenting, Wonder Girl

Hers is a tough life, not one I'd want for her. In all the therapies available for our kids with needs, there are precious few resources for the unchallenged siblings that grow up in our rage-filled, often violent, always strange and bizarre homes with challenged kids. That in and of itself, becomes a challenge. Will it make her stronger or worse for the wear? Will she end up in years of PTSD counseling, bitter and telling tales about the horrors she witnessed because of her older siblings or will she rise above it all, take the mantle upon herself and follow in my footsteps, becoming a stalwart advocate for the troubled souls of this world? Will she achieve all the wonderful things she's capable of or will she internally feel guilty that her siblings won't accomplish those things and as such, subconsciously stymie herself?

When I look in her beautiful hazel eyes and brush her luxurious brown curls, I wonder these things for Wonder Girl. I chastise myself for neglecting her for even a nanosecond in my efforts to support Aspie Boy and Sissy. She needs just as much as they do, if not more and she needs to know that no matter what, I will always be a safe sounding board for her as she processes the chaos around her every day. Referring to the psychology reports of the doctors' opinions of her brother's and sister's emotional status, at age 6, Wonder Girl is technically more mature than they are and she's their kid sister. The harsh reality of that truth is starting to dawn on her. So as she pranced about by herself on the beach while Aspie Boy and Sissy bobbed together in the water, it pierced my heart once more that Wonder Girl will always be set apart from them, that being alone may not be so much choice as it is inadvertent isolation.

I had an intuition that I would be parenting another child, just one of those feelings in my gut. Sissy and Aspie Boy were 3 and 2 respectively and I just couldn't shake that feeling that another child was going to enter our home. So when the kids' grandmother called to say BM was pregnant again, the word "YES!" escaped my mouth before she officially asked me if we'd consider adopting again. It was the week of my 29th birthday so the phone call felt like a present.

It's a strange thing to be emotionally pregnant but never physically. In your head and in your heart, you are preparing for another little being but the outside world never has any clue of it. There's no estrogen glow, no rounding belly, no waddle, no swollen feet, no voracious appetite or frequent urges to urinate. Just a hope and a prayer every single day that your child will be OK.

When BM conceived WG, our relationship with her was tentative. We had resumed some casual visitations and were in contact by phone and mail. She was living on the streets in Savannah so an unplanned pregnancy was inconvenient to say the least. Add to it the fact that BM still hadn't gotten her life in order and it was a recipe for disaster. But still I loved her, wanted the best for her and if keeping the baby was her road to stability, then I was for it. So my prayers about the pregnancy and potential adoption opportunity reflected the double-sided emotions I was plagued with.

Referencing the story in the Old Testament about King Solomon using his supernatural wisdom to deduce the true mother's identity of an infant, I considered the duplicity of my role in WG's pregnancy. In the story, two women were sleeping with their infants. When they awoke, one child was dead, presumably smothered while the mothers slept. The women fought over the surviving infant, both claiming it to be hers. Thus the King was called upon to settle the dispute. He said he would just split the child in two and give each mother a half. One woman thought that to be a novel idea, glad that no one should have an infant. But the real mother, rather than seeing her baby be destroyed, relented and begged the King to please just let the other woman have the baby. The King knew then, that the woman that would see the infant killed was not the mother, that only a true mother would part with her child if she knew it would save its life.

When I prayed for BM and about her pregnancy, I asked God to help me have the heart of the true mother in King Solomon's story.. I asked for strength to part with WG rather than have her destroyed by the anguish of two feuding women claiming to be WG's mom. I prayed many long, hard hours, often into the early morning. I wanted WG to be mine but I knew it would never happen if I wasn't first willing to part with her. I may not have had a burgeoning belly, but my heart and my prayer life couldn't possibly been more pregnant.

As the pregnancy wore on, we visited BM with the children. At that time BM was living with a good Samaritan woman that was taking in woe begotten people, most of them sufferers of severe mental health issues, addictions or both. It was not a safe environment for BM, let alone a baby. The Dad and I fretted and pined and prayed. We would return from those visits very anxious but certain that somehow, someway, God would intervene.

One day, late in the pregnancy, BM called and asked if I would help her deliver. She'd been alone for Sissy and Aspie Boy's deliveries in part because she labored so quickly that no one had time to get there. This time she was going to be induced because WG was so big. A planned date was easy to show up for and I knew it was my window of opportunity to bring WG home. During the entire pregnancy, we called lawyers, social services and other agencies to determine what to do but the law is clear, in part because it is written to support abortion. A pregnancy is a fetus until the infant breathes it's first breath. Which means, no legal course can be made on behalf of a child in danger until the child has air in its lungs and is deemed to be in danger by the hospital staff. If WG was going to avoid foster care, I HAD to be at the delivery. Even with this window of opportunity giving a hint that we might really become WG's parents, I prayed, "Lord, if BM is the 'true' mother of this infant, make it clear by preventing me from taking her home. Help me be willing to part with this baby if she is not mine to have."

10 days past the due date and a three hour road trip behind me, I met BM at the front doors of the hospital in Savannah. It was just the two of us and the delivery team in that room. I'd brought quiet, soothing music, we turned the lights low and we chatted while contractions came. I alerted the delivery nurse to BM's train wreck deliveries but she shrugged me off. "It's going to take hours, so get cozy" she told me.

"Not this gal," I said back. "She labors hard and fast. Mark my words, this baby will be here in less than 7 hours."

The nurse laughed at me. "First time participating in a birth?" She asked me.

"Yes. But I know what I'm talking about. BM does NOT want to miss her epidural this time and I'm here to make sure that doesn't happen."

"Oh, OK then," the nurse said a bit sassy. "I'll come back in an hour to check on you."

But I watched the contraction monitor like a hawk. BM started to get uncomfortable and I saw a few high spikes. I pushed the nurse-button on the bed. A few minutes later the nurse came in, a bit annoyed. "Check her" I demanded of the nurse.

Exasperated, the nurse did as I instructed and said to BM, "WOW! You're already at 3 cm!" Then she looked at me and said, "you weren't kidding!"

"Right. Our son was almost delivered in a delivery room shower, so no, I'm NOT kidding."

"your son...?" The nurse threw me a quizzical look.

BM nodded. "She adopted my two other children."

The nurse looked from me to BM and back to me and then said, "Can I talk to you in the hall a minute?"

I figured she was going to call me out for being a lurker/baby snatcher. You know, some perverse woman that hangs around women like BM to take their babies. Nope. As soon as the door closed behind me and we were in the hall, the nurse dived in. "Her chart says a lot of stuff. Her OB has been very concerned about her mental state. The rest of the staff here are really confused, can you clue us in? What's your role, tell us everything you can."

So I filled her in. On EVERYTHING. I was even honest about why I was there to help BM deliver, that I was indeed hoping to circumvent the child being placed in foster care by bringing her home to her siblings. "OK" said the nurse. "I know what we need to do." And it was game on.

The delivery was fast and hard. We managed to get BM the epidural but barely. Her water broke as they positioned her for it, dilating her from 6 to 8.5. I looked at the clock while the nurse and I held BM's shoulders steady, "This baby will be here before 1:30 a.m."

The nurse looked at the clock too. It was already 12:55. "No way. We've got at least another two hours."

"nope. 1:30 this baby will be crying in this delivery room."

"If you say so!" she laughed at me. And the delivery team and epidural team whisked away, flipping off the light and letting the epidural take affect. "We'll be back in an hour" said the nurse.

"See you in 10 minutes" I called back. And with that, a contraction spike of 10 showed up on the monitor. I mashed the nurse button.

"Yes?" she called over the intercom.

"She's ready to push."

"HOLD ON! Tell her not to!" shouted the nurse and she was in the room in two seconds, dragging the delivery doc, who had just shown up for the night shift, behind her.

It was tough on BM. WG was big, she got hung up, we thought there was going to be an emergency C-section but BM pulled through and at 1:21 am, we all met WG. I looked at the clock and said over BM's belly to the nurse, "Told ya so."

As per our discussion earlier, BM agreed to let me cut the cord. Holding the surgical scissors, I prayed a silent prayer, "Lord, as I cut this cord, this symbolizes severing WG from BM. It marks the end of this unique relationship between BM and I. Let this be the end."

BM was still in recovery when the nurse was calling the hospital social worker. By 9 am the next morning, I was in a small office explaining it all again. At 11 am, the Chatham County social services team was in BM's room, grilling both of us. We hit a snag.

BM in her limited understanding of the situation, was mentally stuck. She did not want WG to go to foster care, she wanted to take her home. Social services told her that taking WG home was NOT an option, under ANY circumstances. But I was told that I could not coerce her, that BM had to come to the decision on her own that I was a third option, that she could place WG with me. She wouldn't, couldn't, was NOT going there, period. All she kept saying is, "I want my baby. I don't want her in foster care." No amount of the staff telling her otherwise could derail the runaway train in her mind.

So I drove the three hour trip back to Augusta to get Sissy and Aspie Boy so they could visit BM and their new sister. The hospital and social services staff giving me some hope that they had two days to convince her, two days before her discharge.

I drove the road trip again, bringing the other two with me. BM was glad to see them and to show off WG. She still had not agreed to let me take WG, ignoring the fact that it meant WG would go to foster care. I drove to my mother in law's, two hours away, still without WG. Praying "I've got to be willing to let WG go or I won't be the 'true' mom."

At 9 am on day two, the social worker called me. "She won't agree to taking the baby. There's nothing we can do."

I said, "let me see what i can do." I called BM's mom and told her what was happening. "Convince her. BM thinks she's taking WG home with her. WG will go to foster care if she doesn't let me take her."  All you need to know is Noni can be very convincing.

An hour later, social services called me back, "I don't know what you did, but she's agreed. How soon can you get here?" I was two hours away with Sissy and Aspie Boy in tow! I sent them back to Augusta with my mother in law and drove the two hour trip in 1.5 hours. I raced to BM's room and saw that she was in tears. My heart was breaking for her. Faced with it, I didn't know if I had it in me to take her baby from her a third time, but if I didn't, WG would be in foster care. So I steeled my nerves.

It was 12 noon and I had to go to probate court to get the paper work necessary, return to the hospital for BM to sign it, get it notarized and go back to probate court to get the judge to sign it and return a copy to the CPS building and the original to the hospital all before 5 pm when BM would be discharged. Oh, and it was G-8 summit so the entire downtown area of Savannah was on lock down, loaded rifle-carrying MPs on every block, 10 men strong and the courthouse was like Fort Knox, the closest parking spaces four blocks away. Oh yeah, and the judge was on vacation, point of fact, in EUROPE, not returning for three weeks.

I don't know how but I pulled it off, the clerk in probate court was very sympathetic and signed a temporary order until the judge returned. At 4:35 pm, not having showered in three days, not having eaten for 24 hours, having driven a total of 13 hours in 48, I returned to the hospital only to find that the hospital social worker was no were to be found. Dejected, teary-eyed and exhausted, I told the maternity ward nurses that I was going to the cafeteria in the event that the social worker showed up before the county social services did to take WG to foster care.

In a daze, I slogged off the elevator, ordered a coke and stared numbly at the TV screen that was announcing that Ronald Reagan had died. I looked at the clock on the wall, 5:10 pm and no phone call. Through my tears, I prayed out loud, "It's fine God, I told you straight up that if WG wasn't mine, that you should prevent me from taking her home. She's BM's baby, not mine. I give WG back to you." I picked up my things, threw my trash away and waited for the elevator to take me to the first floor where I would leave the building and drive the three hour trip back to Augusta without WG.

The elevator doors opened revealing the hospital social worker's happy face. "Oh my God, there you are! I've been looking all over for you!!! Where have you been? They're discharging BM and the county has called, releasing the baby to you!"

I think I dropped my purse. "you mean?" I stammered through tears, my throat locking up.

"YES! But we have to hurry!!!!" I got on the elevator and we rode to the third floor and ran to BM's room, meeting the discharge nurse in the doorway. I couldn't see much through my blurry eyes but I could hear BM's wailing. She was being discharged to the psych floor, she'd had a psychotic break in my absence.

An orderly took WG from BM's arms and said to the social worker while glancing at me, "Is this the woman?" The social worker affirmed that I was and the next thing I knew, I was being sat in a wheel chair, handed WG whom I hadn't held yet and being pushed out of the hospital room as BM wailed and a team rushed in to sedate her.

I told the person pushing us, "I can walk"

She grunted, "hospital policy, newborns are not carried out. Too much liability. You can get up when we get to the front door."  It felt so isolating, just me and WG and some strange burly nurse brusquely ushering us out of the building.

I met WG's eyes for the first time as we approached the elevator. "Are you my WG?" I whispered to her. We were both pretty confused and I wasn't sure if I was extraordinarily happy or horribly sad. Still holding her gaze, we were wheeled into the elevator and I laughed as WG's eyes got really wide when she felt the weightlessness of the elevator as it descended.

The nurse saw her do it too and said, "That's a bright one, most babies don't pick up on things like that so soon."

At the front door of the building I was met by another nurse. "Go get your vehicle, I'll watch the baby." She instructed. I did as I was told. When I arrived at my van in the parking deck, a wave of grief hit me like a brick wall. This is not how it should be. For BM who doesn't have her baby, again. For me who gets to be a mom again but instead of excitement and fanfare meeting me at the hospital doors, there is no one here but me and WG to celebrate our going home.

When I drove the car to the front circle, the nurse saw my tears and said, "I'm so happy for you too honey. I love it when our adoptive families get to take their babies home." But I didn't say anything back. There was no point  the reason I was crying.

I cried the entire 3 hour trip home. WG slept. At 11 pm, I walked into my house, stinking, starving, carrying an infant, MY infant and all I wanted to do was cry. It had been such a long, horrible, difficult ordeal for BM, WG and I. I was happy, I was grieving, I was inside out emotionally but I had to hold it in. We were up until 2 or 3 as my parents, the kids grandmother and great-grandmother arrived to meet WG. The fanfare we should have had at the hospital.

The next few weeks were a blur. WG had a broken collar bone from the delivery, Chatham county released the case to our county so the social workers were marching in and out of my house doing home studies and the like. It had been a chaotic pregnancy so WG was very needy, she had to be by me, next to me, near me, touching me. Aspie Boy was mad that she wasn't a brother. Sissy RADified everything times 10 and BM was released to assisted living but she refused to go, claiming she was going to get back on her feet so she could get WG back.

It took three and a half, long, grueling, heart-breaking, expensive years to finalize WG's adoption. It effectively terminated our relationship with BM.  It required two teams of lawyers, gun-carrying cops, two states, two court proceedings, more home studies, more case workers, more of everything including my emotional reserves. There were days when we thought WG might not get to stay, days when the phone calls to the lawyer were more for our comfort than to get legal information, days when we cried, begged and pleaded with BM to waive her rights. In the middle of all it, BM was pregnant again and getting married, Aspie Boy was being diagnosed and Sissy was raging.

Through it all, WG has proved herself to be simply wonderful. The Dad and I had to relearn parenting because she was the first unchallenged child we had. On countless occasions, she has reminded us that our choice to parent was a good one. She laughs, she smiles, she tells jokes and drives us batty. She rolls her eyes at Aspie Boy and Sissy and then winks at me because we both know they're annoying as crap some days. She reminds me to "ignore them mom. Just ignore them" when they drive me crazy and she rubs my back when I cry. "I know mom. I know." She snuggles with me and begs to be held and snuggled. She is exactly what I thought raising a daughter would be like and I'm mystified, amazed and incredibly humbled that after everything, God saw fit to let me be her mommy.

On adoption day, December '07, the third date the lawyer had put on the calendar to close the case, it was so anti-climatic that we didn't make a big fuss over it. We left Aspie Boy and Sissy at school, we left work and showed up in the judges chambers. When the judge signed the papers, it was as if my prayer when I cut WG's cord had finally come to fruition. We have let her be the end but we won't let it bring her isolation. She restores our faith in parenting maybe enough to convince us to do it all again.

Happy 6th Birthday to Wonder Girl!

Adoption day

Sunday, June 6, 2010


The adoption post is coming, it's half written. It's just harder to do than I thought. Wonder Girl's journey to our arms was tough so it's been emotionally difficult to put to words.

In the meantime, I bring you PAYBACKS

Of course, Sissy paid us back for all the fun in the sun. A royal butthead. Beavis style. WHY does she do this? I mean, I know why, I understand all the RADspeak about it. It just still really drives me batty. Why, why, why?

For some reason, Sissy loathes hand washing. I have never figured out why. This issue of hers requires that we follow behind her after toileting to inquire about her hand washing. Of course, she lies. Right? duh. If you ask a pathological liar a question, they are going to lie in the answer. *smacks forehead* So we have modified our approach. "Sissy, wash your hands."

"I did!"

"use soap this time."


or it might go like this: "Sissy, wash your hands with SOAP and water"

*grunting response*

Or my personal favorite: "Sissy, wash your hands."

"I did!"

"And in the event that's a lie, go REALLY wash your hands." It's funny because she ALWAYS turns around and walks back to the bathroom.

So it's a given, she won't wash with soap and water unless we instruct her to.

Cue this morning's scenario. She had a great day at the beach, ate a full meal, took a bath and sacked out. Woke up on the RAD side of the bed. Used the bathroom, we began our hand washing debate and exasperated because I'd only been up for a little while said, "Sissy, stop lying, go wash your hands with soap and water."

Scream, moan, stomp, disrespectful, ugly faces, lying ... crap.

"sissy, just do it, it's not that big a deal"

More of the same. The Dad intervened and announced to Sissy as he stood over her at the sink, "The consequence will be that for the rest of the week, you will be supervised while you wash your hands" And Sissy finally did it correctly.

Skip ahead a few hours. The girls and I were in a public restroom. Sissy went in one stall and I went in the other with WG (she's afraid of the automatic flushers.) I used the opportunity to be behind a door so I could spy on Sissy as she approached the sink. She stuck just her right hand under the water for a count of about two seconds and then reached for the lever to release the paper towels. I interrupted her mid-pull.


"Huh?" She spun around and saw me peeking from behind the stall door.

"I was sneaky. I spied on you" I sung in a teasing, sing-songy way. "You need to use soap."

Screaming, wailing, gnashing of teeth, hollering, lying, all of the above.

"Sissy, just use the soap and wash correctly."

She stopped and did as I bade but mostly because by then, WG was finished and was at the sink too, washing her hands properly. What big sister wants to be outdone by the kid sister? None that I know of.

We got to the van. The Dad inquired how it went, I explained that Sissy had to be reminded to use soap and instantly, the van was filled with screaming, wailing, gnashing of teeth, hollering, lying, being disrespectful, making a royal fuss all from the backseat; eruptions from Sissy's mouth.

When she finally settled down and we were on our way I said, "Sissy, we don't get mad and jump down your throat when you do these ridiculous lies. We simply remind you that truth is better. Every time you lie and then insist that you were telling the truth, it destroys our trust." I waited to see if I still had her attention. I did so I went on.

"Sissy, the road to truth is easy, straight, fun and quick. What's more, Mom and Dad are at the other end jumping up and down shouting, 'Sissy! come down this road, this is the one you should take! Don't lie, we're right here to hug you and kiss you and love you!' The lying road is full of snakes and scorpions and spiders and bugs and cobwebs and thickets and briars and thorns and all kinds of horrible things that can hurt you. You always go down that one. Why?"

She started to cry and whimpered, "I don't know"

"I don't know why either. Because Dad and I are on the truth road, rooting for you, your very own cheerleading section, ready to hug and kiss you all over for telling the truth. But you'd rather get bitten by bugs and stung by scorpions." She nodded, not because it's what she WANTS but because it's what she does and she knows it.

The Dad chimed in, "Sissy. Did you wash your hands correctly in the bathroom or is MOM the one telling the truth?"

"Really, I did! I washed them!"

Exasperated and my will draining, I gathered some more patience and adjusted The Dad's question. "Sissy, did you wash your hands correctly BEFORE mom caught you or AFTER because I was sneaky and spying and caught you?"

"IwashedthemAFTERmomsawme" she mumbled into her shirt, barely audible.

"Sissy, please speak clearly."

*grunting* followed by more mumbling.

"Sissy, we can not understand you."

"UGH! I washed them AFTER mom told me!!!!"

"Thank you for being honest!"

Really, it's like pulling teeth and it makes me so exhausted and exasperated with her. And this is only ONE of the ways she tried to pay us back today.

Later she had one more opportunity to demonstrate correct toileting habits. We were 45 minutes from home and The Dad decided we needed to stop. "Great," I muttered. That means I get to listen to Sissy lie again about washing her hands." I was not pleased to have to deal with it again.

"So just watch her this time, say nothing, see what she does," The Dad offered.

"OK" I mumbled.

In the bathroom, I watched as Sissy walked to the sink and paused. Mmmhmm I thought. She's weighing which will cost her more. Lying again or just washing her hands the right way the first time. She looked back at me and then at the soap and hesitatingly, squeezed the lever to release the foam. "Good choice" I called to her. She ignored me.

I kept watching as she finished, WG joining her at the sink again and I took the chance to relieve myself. The very second the stall door was locked, (read: Sissy waited until she knew I was busy and unavailable to intervene) I overheard Sissy say to WG, "You need to use more paper towels, that's not enough! THAT'S NOT ENOUGH!!!!"

I noticeably cleared my throat from inside the stall and spoke sternly. "Sissy, you're the last one that needs to be coaching someone on proper hand washing. Leave WG alone."

grunting. "Sissy, don't leave this bathroom until I do." I came out of the stall, washed my hands correctly making a big show of my effort, keeping my eyes on Sissy the entire time and waving my hands with flourish and flair so it would be obvious that I was demonstrating it to her, again. And that I had done it correctly. I reached for the towels. Providence stared me in the face as I saw the enormous sign on the back of the door.

Employees must wash hands before returning to work

Oh, this is rich I thought. "Sissy, what does that sign say?"


"Come on Sissy, just read it."

Mumbling to the floor, not even looking at the sign, "Employees should wash their hands"

"Try again. What does the sign say?" (she had to say it exactly because if you read what she said, you'll agree, she was giving herself a loop hole. The word 'should' does not imply a necessity, rather a suggestion)

This time she read it correctly. "Great reading! Can you tell me WHY it's so important?"

"Because they touch toilets and I don't want those germs on my food?"

"What else might they touch?"

She stood there dumbly.

"Come on Sissy, you know this. When you use the toilet, what else is touched?"

"Privates and poo and pee" she muttered.

"RIGHT! So why is it important to wash the hands using soap, rinsing them all the way and drying them all the way?" (i have to say all of those specific steps, any loop holes and she's snagging me again)

"because it's for our health and safety! It's sanitary!" she shouted angrily.

"THANK YOU! And guess what else?" I cooed gaily. "It's a rule for EVERYONE, not just something I made up. People in the WHOLE WORLD have to do it."

more grunting.

We exited and left for home.

I really wish there weren't paybacks to deal with. I wish Sissy didn't have such a big deal with toileting and hygiene. I wish Sissy wouldn't play dumb all the time (seriously? She used words like "health and safety" and "sanitary" as if they were words she used every single day but not until I put her to it) I wish I didn't have to be so patient, painstaking and persistent to get Sissy to be honest, intelligent and correct. It is so much gosh darn work every single day and I for one, get tired of it. Some days it feels like it's never going to be anything different.

Oh, and for the record, Sissy did get an unofficial consequence for all those shenanigans she tried to pull. The rest of us had a grand ol' time chewing gum and blowing bubbles with it (WG learned how this weekend and we all made a big show of how proud we were of her new skill) but Sissy wasn't offered any because she is always telling us just how much she hates it. That's probably a lie on her part too but today that lie cost her the satisfaction of chewing gum with the rest of us. We never said it was her consequence, we just simply said, "Sissy, we know how much you hate gum so we're not going to bother you by asking you if you want any."

Today, I would have been quite glad if the world had gone away.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Jekyll Island Day trip

A "Happy Hippo Power" Blog Award

To all the RAD mommies that did Christine's Attachment Challenge and to all the RAD mommies that just couldn't do it this go-around. Love and hugs and kisses to all of you wonderful, cheek-pinching worthy gals! If you have bloggy friends that don't follow my blog, please send them here anyway to claim the award.
Just copy and paste!

Beach Day Photos
Jekyll Island, Georgia

Wonder Girl - the cheesy grin queen

Aspie Boy and Sissy bobbing in the water, two peas in a pod

The Dad, chillin'

Sissy - is this a RAD photo or what?

Aspie Boy trying on The Dad's cool hat and looking just as cool

Goofy Wonder Girl - a grape tucked in each cheek like a chipmunk

 Hey, it's ME! 

 The Dad out cold on TOP of the super posh hotel bed. 
I may get in trouble for posting this picture! lol

 The best part of a long day at the beach: They all go to sleep!
Check it out  -  Sissy and Wonder Girl sleeping together!  
Progress is small steps like this one.

By Wonder Girl's request, her backside.
"Hey mom!  Get a picture of my butt!!!!!"
guess what is now my desktop photo?

Next up: Wonder Girl's adoption story
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