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, October 24, 2011


Reality bites worse than an empty bobbin five inches from the end of the last seam to sew on a king size quilt.

The quilt retreat was wonderful, as usual. Although I'm always a little sorrowful that there aren't more women my age quilting. The gals in our group are all at least fifteen years older than me, great fun to be with, tell me all kinds of tales about the pleasantries of female aging and tease me a bunch. I just wish some women in their thirties attended too. I'll post pictures tomorrow.

Coming home is hard because I'm always forced to face the reality that I live a challenging life. When I'm away I can pretend for a little while that I'm just a run-of-the-mill woman that likes to spend her free time with fabric and thread, lulling myself to sleep with the hum of a sewing machine.

When I got home I saw on the green board [1] a note about an upcoming transition meeting for Sissy. My heart started racing immediately. I thought to take some of my panic tablets but instead just closed my eyes and breathed through it. Like it or not, Sissy will be home eventually. And it will likely be within the next few weeks.

I can't escape the feeling that I'll be returning to hell. I want to think better of her, I want to believe that this time around she'll have gained some ground and will be OK at home. And by "OK" I mean, not raging, not being violent, not wanting to hurt herself, not defying me at every turn, not being mean or hurtful on purpose, not dissociating. I know, I'm shooting for the moon. Pie-in-the-sky ideal that I should desire that my 11 year old daughter be a typical annoying, hormonal, pre-adolescent that guffs at her mother one minute then hugs her and asks for a favor "Please, pretty please with sugar on top? I love you Mommy!" the next.

Nope. All I can see is hell, fire and damnation.

I don't know why it has to be one or the other - a beautiful, peaceful life without my daughter that is filled with grief and sorrow that she is gone or an angry, rage-filled, violent, tempestuous stormy life with her that is filled with grief and sorrow that I can't help her, coupled with anger and fear that I'm being expected to raise her when I know I can't; when I know that it destroys my family for us to even try.

No matter how hard I try to bend and reshape myself, my life and my relationships, it always comes back to this hard, cold truth: I can either have a nice life without her or a miserable life with her and I'm powerless to choose when I get either. Money, Med!caid and the Great State in which I reside dictate my day's contents for me.

All I've got for that is Oh, look! a new quilt magazine just came in the mail. I think I'll make the one on the cover... half-square triangles in batiks, twelve inch finished block, posts and sashes (I think this time I'll do a nine-patch post with triple sashing, that looks so pretty) and ... oh look! there's a coupon in the Sunday paper for 50% off any one item at Jo@nn's. Guess I have to go shopping, right after I finish this coffee...

[1] it's a dry erase board that is green, not white, thus we call it the "green board"

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Away I go, off to the annual quilt retreat with the kids' bio-grandma.  (AKA - Noni).  Three nights and three days of quilted bliss.

I shall be returning with goodies for some Orlando moms that have commissioned I Spy quilts, among many other things.  Stay tuned because I will be making some items available for sale on e.bay.  (That $900 orthodontic bill for AB looms large) [1]

The director/administrator of our quilter's group was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.  I made her a surprise.  I can't wait to give it to her tonight! [2]

I leave AB and WG in the capable hands of The Dad. We all know Grace won't miss me. Probably won't even notice that I'm gone. Crazy dog. Oh, that reminds me! I have to pick up her dog food before I head out of town! (The Dad recently discovered how exasperating it is to take AB shopping. I'll be kind and spare him the hassle of a grocery store run with AB in tow.)

I gave Sissy a quick call this morning since I'll be missing her evening calls. Well, that is, when she calls. I like calling in the morning because it catches her off guard. She's always tongue-tied so I get to chat it up all happy and chipper and tell her I love her and she's too sleepy or irritated from morning routines to rebuff. I'm a sly dog that way! Gotta get in all the love now while I can (and while she's too far away to get me back with RADilicious behaviors.)

[1]AB's dental appliance is working quickly. He just might be one lucky boy and get it removed next Wednesday. But I'm not saying a word just in case I'm wrong. Besides, I guiltily admit, if he only wears it for two weeks, I'm going to be thinking that it was an expensive two weeks!

[2]The "pink ribbon" bag (and yes, I plan to make more because I suspect it's going to generate lots of interest.) It has a four inch flat bottom base and stands 18 inches tall. Free-hand quilted with the pink ribbon symbol. One interior pocket perfect for keys. Size is intentional to tote comforts from home that will be soothing during treatment (blanket, neck pillow, beverage, bible, hoodie, etc.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Burning desire to lick a face off

She sulks. Grace, our lab, sulks. She cries, pouts and whines. She loves Daddy. Me? I'm just the human that serves her food and opens the door to the backyard. She tolerates me. Hope, the dog we lost last fall, was my dog. Grace? All Daddy's. Currently she is lying in the hallway outside our bedroom door, still sporting the cone of shame, her muzzle resting just inches from the door jamb of our bedroom. The light is still on. She must think Daddy is in the bathroom and will emerge any minute.

I've even seen her sulk and cry outside the bathroom door for him.

And last week when he was gone for a few days, she was such a wreck she went back to licking the granulomas on her right paw. Licked it raw. Hid her head and front paws under the bed (as if I couldn't see her enormous back end sticking out) and licked and licked. Thus the reason she's back in the cone of shame.

And sulking in the hallway.

It makes me want to get another dog just for me out of spite. A gesture to Grace that says, hey! I'm a good dog mommy, just so you know!!!

Life has taken such a different spin with Sissy's hospitalization this time. I've rested, gotten things done (and let other things slack off - you should see the kids' bedrooms!), loved on myself, laughed, cried, and processed. This November will mark the second anniversary of this blog and the two year mark from Sissy's first placement. Depending on how medicaid reviews her case this month, the grand total will be close to a year of the last 24 months that my daughter has been in a hospital environment, away from me, away from family, away from comforts of the home environment, away from the normalcy of every day childhood life, away from public venues, away from the standard classroom, away. The only thing that makes me nervous about her potential return the first full week in November is that she may have been away so long that she may never recoup that time.

I translate that to mean that any hope of a regular, healthy relationship with my eldest daughter is long past my grasp. It is the only thing that still gives me anxiety at this point.

Still, I know inherently that she needed to be away for her health and safety and for ours. It's so commonplace now that I hardly notice that to the outsider hearing of our story, it's actually jarring and sad. To me, it just is what it is. Strangers have had more influence on my child's life in the last two years than I have in the last 11. And we've only just begun. When she's discharged, there's no way of knowing if she'll fully escalate immediately and boomerang right back into the hospital environment. There's also the countdown to her 13th birthday, just 14 months from now, an age the state provides alternative resources and services because they are adolescents and not youths anymore. As much as I'd like to think that we're through this storm in our life, I know without a doubt that we've merely reached a cool-down.

In our cool-down, so much has changed. AB has grown so much that he is now four full inches taller than Sissy. I'm puzzled but not surprised that she hasn't grown at all since last year. AB has also come into his own at home, comfortably assuming the position of "oldest", working hard at school, being helpful at home and attempting to communicate his thoughts in a more meaningful and useful way. WG's reading level has jumped again, she's now at 6.0 grade level for reading. Her imagination is strong and despite her restrictions for school behaviors, she manages to keep herself fully occupied, many times taking it upon herself to do things for the family without being asked. Last night The Dad discovered she'd filled the wheel barrow with fallen sticks and branches for the purpose of burning in our fire pit.

I've been busy as a beaver. With unexpected birthday gift money and a recent package of fabric scraps from a reader (thanks Kathy!!!) I was finally able to seat and cover my dining room chairs, a project two years in the waiting. AB says, "they should be for a king or something" and WG said, "you're the bestest mom EVER!" I think my friends and family and readers are the bestest ever. I'm seated comfortably at my table because of you.

And I've not been shy in returning the favor. I just finished and shipped a wall hanging to another RAD mom.

Regrettably, I must admit that I've not been reading other blogs. It's not because I don't love the people I'm following, it's because I've had to concentrate on myself and my family the past few months. Reading other people's stories makes me emotional and stirs up my anxiety for what lies ahead when Sissy returns. Like Grace, I sulk and gaze forlornly at my daughter's empty room. But unlike my faithful black lab who will be rewarded in a few short hours when The Dad returns, I'm liable to meet a frothing, seething, violent storm when my daughter returns.

Two years is too long to be living on the edge of sanity with a challenged child. I'd like to hope Sissy's return will make my tail wag and thump and give me the burning desire to lick her face off but The Dad is the only one that will get that reward ... from Grace.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Dot Dot Dot

On Thursday, the family therapy session that was scheduled to be done by phone was bumped to Friday evening. Our plans to do a family session at the hospital on Sunday with AB and WG present (for the first time) had not been changed. By Friday evening, thirty minutes after the scheduled family phone session was to have occurred, the phone finally rang ...

yeah. dot dot dot

because that's the story of my life with mental health services.

We did the family therapy session, The Dad and I on the house phone, WG and AB running around playing, begging for food and being shushed. WG doesn't like being shushed, fyi. That is to say, she gets down right angry. Then, as we wrapped up the session the therapist says, "oh, by the way, I just found out, this is our last family session together. I will no longer be working with your family effective immediately. The hospital has hired a new unit director who begins on Monday."

I paused. Dumbfounded. We had be asked by many on our various therapy teams to do a full family session at the hospital so the staff could get a better picture of our family dynamics, which include another impaired child. We finally set up one such appointment, which requires driving 140 miles one way with AB who is NOT a happy traveler and at 6 pm on a Friday evening, less than 48 hours from said scheduled visit, the hospital changed staff. "Oh, you can still do your birthday celebration with Sissy as you planned, we just won't be having a session."

"So... staff will not be overseeing our visit, no one will be with us getting a glimpse of how our WHOLE family interacts when Sissy is added to the mix?"

"No. Sorry about that. I just found out myself just a little while ago. *slight awkward chuckle*"

*expletive expletive expletive expletive expletive expletive expletive*

No, I didn't say them out loud. I'm a good girl that way.

Sunday came and we celebrated my birthday with Sissy in a 7x12 therapy play room that was riddled with sand and broken toys. Sissy barely interacted with us with the exception of WG whose time she monopolized. She was bored while I opened presents, made an insane mess with the cupcakes but at least she sang happy birthday to me. (A first, I believe)

She also colored a folder, picture and card for me. It was clear she worked very hard and I thanked her generously. She wrote:
Happy Birthday Mommy I *heart* you very much and I wish you the best! Sincerly [sic], Sissy S.

I read the card out loud and WG said without missing a beat, "How do you even SPELL 'sincerely'?!"

I must confess, it's odd to have your daughter sign a card with "sincerely" followed by her first name, middle initial and last name. But still, it's pretty. And she HAS wished me the best. Admittedly, that's pretty standard speak for an eleven year old, complete wit Just!n Be!ber sticker on the front. lol

The drive was tedious, there is construction on the one and only interstate that takes us from our city to the metro area where Sissy's hospital is located. AB managed better than I figured and as a whole, outside of the therapy debacle (what else is new?) I'd have to report that my 37th birthday went rather nicely.

Today, we meet the new therapist via phone session.




dot dot dot

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Worth it

I've been away from the blog for so long I had to login and then I couldn't remember my password so I had to reset it!  Geez. 

The internet hiatus was not intentional but it sure was nice to be unplugged for awhile. I've been doing lots of thinking, tinkering and quilting. And apparently lots of sleeping. When did I get so sleepy? I feel like a bear in winter and it's only just fall. Is this what happens when you creep closer to the 40 mark? I don't think I like it very much. I had so much energy in my 20s. When I think about it, it makes my head spin. Now it's a struggle to brush my teeth before I sack out at night. *tsking at self*

Life has gotten so slow and normal and lovely that I hardly remember the daily chaos of raising Sissy. With her hospital stay extended through November 8th, I feel decadent, rested, peaceful and hopeful. Spending time in the classroom volunteering has me thinking about continuing my education so I can return to the classroom. Then I think nah, that would be settling. I can reach for a higher goal than that.

In the past few weeks I've come to a very clear and resounding revelation about myself which is that were it not for my energies being completely spent on raising challenged children, always striving for the idealistic goal of "happy, healthy family," I would be accomplishing many other great things. That's not to say that parenting isn't a great thing in itself, rather that I've allowed parenting to usurp my personal identity. It's life affirming because for many years I lived with the misunderstanding of myself that my inability to accomplish my personal dreams and goals was somehow caused by an error in my character or a lack of ability, discipline and determination. Not so. I've just had my ability, discipline and determination diverted to one unilateral goal.

Which segues to the next personal revelation, if all my energies and identity are used up in attempting to raise a healthy family but I have no more control over the choices the people I love make than I did ten years ago, then it is futile to continue. That doesn't mean I'm giving up, it means I'm diverting. I've had the flood gates open at full to flood one narrow tributary for so long that my lake is bone dry. I'm effectively closing those flood gates emotionally and mentally, leaving them open just enough to keep the tributary of my family full, not flooded. I'm going to let my lake refill and then I'm going to use the power and force of the reserves to turn the turbines of the dam and generate power to benefit everyone whose life I touch.

So as I wait for Sissy's eventual return and our families inevitable return to daily chaos and trauma, I will be refilling my lake one drop of water at a time. I'm taking back my life, my energy, my dreams, my goals, my resolve because (and this is the third personal revelation):

I'm worth the effort
Worth the sacrifice
Worth the price.

I'm worth it.

Truths I never accepted about myself, truths that I now cling to steadfastly. Go ahead, try to take this power from me. I'll drop to the floor in the best knock-down drag-out RAD ragefest this side of the prime meridian. It won't be pretty.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Anyone for Tennis? Wouldn't that be nice?

This song popped into my head this morning.  Just *POP* and I was singing:
when you're there I sleep lengthwise and when you're gone I sleep diagonal in my bed

Then of course I got snooping around on you.tube because I had thought the song was by Cream. 
[aside] did you know Clapton got his start as a member of Cream?  Searching hopelessly for "Lengthwise" amongst the Cream music, I stumbled on all my old favorites like this one:

or this one:

or this one:

Ah heck, who am I kidding.  This one is the best:

So I listened fruitlessly but with delight, remembering my college days and my introduction to so much amazing music and how fun and carefree those times.  Following my stream of consciousness, I chuckled at myself because mostly, I only like British artists, still do. And how AB likes it too, loves Cold.play.  Then I recalled that the new Cold.play CD is coming out and I want it for my birthday but I'll have to burn a copy for AB and *OH YEAH!* It occurred to me that one of the girls in my college dorm had introduced me to Cream, dubbed a cassette for me so I left the laptop, still playing "White Room" to go rifling through my old cassettes.  They've been picked over because AB is enthralled with that archaic form of entertainment and dagnabbit, what has that boy done with my Cream tape?! So I dashed off to his room to rifle through his hoarded stash, tsking that he has "adopted" so much of my old music, now happily and lovingly showcased on his bedstand bookshelf.  And there was my Cream tape, right next to my XY Cold.play CD the little terd, I wondered where that was! I yanked the Cream tape and read through the list of songs, sure I'd find "Lengthwise" because that dorm college pal had put it on that tape and VOILA! it was at the end and ... it was labeled as PHISH *bells ringing in my head/lightbulb flashes* Oh yeah, I forgot about that!

I returned to the laptop and you.tube, hit search PHISH - lengthwise and ... bliss (FYI - NOT a UK band)

I love music.  The Dad walked in to the den as I began typing this post.  "What do you want for your birthday?" 

I smiled.  That question is easy.  "The new Cold.play CD but I think it comes out the week after my birthday so I'll have to wait."  And I'll need a blank CD to burn a copy for AB

Heck, since this is a stream of consciousness post, I might as well continue.  My birthday is next Sunday and I have volunteered to sacrifice my special day by doing a family session at the hospital followed by a birthday celebration in one of the therapy rooms.  Bringing AB and WG and having ice cream cake (no gluten).  It should be a rousing good time.  NOT.  Which is the point.  I want the hospital to see Sissy's behaviors, the behaviors WE see, in all of our quasi family glory complete with a road-weary stimming AB and a happy, excited, energetic WG all while we celebrate MOM.

Me thinks it's time to switch to something a little harder:
Black Sabbath - Paranoid

Incidentally, Black Sabbath is another UK group and they are releasing a new album soon as well.  But it's not all weird, psychedelic or hardcore. I'll leave you with this one:  arguably the most beautiful lullaby ever, (and yes, I played it for my kids when they were babies, how could I not?)

Black Sabbath - Fluff

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Suit Up!

What do you call it when you drive 140 miles one way to be judged, scrutinized and held at figurative gun-point?

You call it a Family Team Meeting (FTM) at a pediatric psychiatric residential facility.

Prosecutor: Therapist(s)
Defendant: Parent(s)

Therapist speaking to CBAY team leader while I sit in the room: "Sissy has been approved for another 30 days, we just found out last night"

Therapist to me when she realizes she gave information I needed to know before speaking to me first: "oh, yeah. I guess that's news to you as well."

Me: "yeah. thanks."

It comes full circle, again and again. When the hospital or therapist or doctor can't figure out why Sissy is just so plucky, chipper and delightful in the PRTF but a raving lunatic at home, it MUST be the fault of the parents. So I got grilled ... again.

Maybe they're trying to make me into a grilled cheese sandwich, which ironically, they served us for lunch directly after the meeting? I declined of course, on the grounds that I can't eat gluten and not because I couldn't stomach the double entendre.

I've decided from now on that I'll be attending all therapy appointments with a bullet proof vest and combat helmet. Perhaps the visual will remind therapists to tone it down a bit? We all know that's wishful thinking, but until I can learn how to mentally and emotionally not feel the pressure of a gun pointed at my head every time I talk to my daughter's therapy team, I'll be more comfortable donning body armor. Call it my "security blanket".

Leveled, I spent the rest of the day trying to keep myself together. No panic attacks this time, thank goodness. I took WG to dance and sat in the van in the parking lot, the dutiful mother, waiting for her lesson to be over. I over heard one of the other mothers shouting a string of expletives at the younger children waiting in the vehicle while she walked her daughter into the dance studio.  Sure.  I'M the bad parent.  If the therapists compared me to her, I'd be Mother Theresa.

The parking lot cleared out, leaving me as the only parent hanging around until the end of class. The silence and solitude was killing me so I started singing "Henry the VIII". Then I decided, to hell with it, these therapists think it's my parenting skills but Sissy and I both know it wouldn't matter how I say it or when. She's not going to behave. So I called the unit and asked to speak to her.

"Hey Sissy," I started. "I was just wondering something. The staff is always thinking that I'm talking to you in a way that makes you angry. That when I ask you to shower or wash your hands or use a coping skill that I'm saying it the wrong way. They're pretty much saying it's my fault you behave badly at home because you behave good at the hospital. What do YOU think?"

"No. They're wrong. I'm bad here. I've been on red for like four shifts now. It's not you, you're not a bad mom. I just don't want you to know I've been bad or to tell me I've done something bad."

"What about when I ask you to shower or wash your hands or do your homework? You always rage then too."

"I do that because I just don't want to do those things. I love you. You're a good mom."

"Will you do me a favor then?"


"Tell your therapists that, because otherwise they're going to keep telling me it's my fault."

"It's not your fault. I just don't want to."

I hung up the phone and laughed until my sides hurt. The firing squad can point their guns at me all they want, my own child knows the truth - she just doesn't want to do what I ask. Period.

Suit Up! I'm going in and I'm planning on coming out alive and victorious.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Carousel Horse? I don't think so!

The Girl Scout Law says:
I will do my best to be honest and fair, friendly and helpful, considerate and caring, courageous and strong, responsible for what I say and do, respect myself and others, respect authority, use resources wisely and be a sister to every Girl Scout.

If every human lived by this law, imagine the world we would have! Of course, after the past 72 hours, I'm not really keen on the "be a sister to every Girl Scout" part. I'd much rather deck 'em all square on the nose, then sock 'em in the gut, then laugh at them when they cry.

Sheesh. Angry much? Yep.

Full circle, my friends, full circle. Once again, riding this friggin' carousel of mental health therapy, the finger is pointing back at us for erroneous parenting strategies.

What does a good Girl Scout do when she's mad as hell at the world and wants to get in her van and drive until she gets to the Pacific coast, then keep on going? She spends her entire Saturday outdoors, helping other people.


I wore myself out. I was so stinking exhausted I didn't have enough energy to pee before I sacked out in the bed.

The day started at 9 am at the local Girl Scout camp, which is just two miles from our house. Animalpalooza, a service unit event, was a blast. All were encouraged to bring donations for the local animal shelters. We made dog biscuits, catnip toys, watched K-9 dogs at work, met therapy dogs, learned the importance of spaying and neutering your pet and signed a petition for the local county to make some ordinances in favor of protecting animals. My Brownies had a blast, WG included.

Then we went home just long enough to put on boots, grab a drink, collect AB and head out to the horse ranch for a barn party. I volunteered myself as a farm hand and worked HARD! But I love those horses and I love all the people and I even got to ride!

I was still pretty angry when I crashed at 8:30 but at least I helped a lot of people while I worked off some of that angst. Next up: another FTM at the hospital on Tuesday and finding out if Sissy gets another month or if she's discharged next week.



















See? I'm a happy Girl Scout. *enter fake smile here* At least I can give you pictures of REAL horses and happy riders:
 WG and AB hunting treasures in the backyard
the priceless part isn't the treasures they found, it's that they are happily playing together
Although the people pictured are all dear friends, I've not officially asked permission to post these photos so I will only name the horses.

 In the ring - go around again!

3 year old mare, Maya
(and an unhappy helper - after I snapped the photo I took the
lead rope and walked Maya to a happier babysitter)

I rode him later


Left to right: Sterling and pony Mingo

In the middle: Serafina

Sterling and Serafina with WG as her rider

270' view of Rock Creek at sunset
(South is the cow pasture across the street)