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, December 27, 2011


Release the anger that holds you captive by refusing to bear another's anger burden. ~ J. Smith

Sissy has been home since the 16th and despite the holiday, her approaching birthday on New Year's Eve and the outlook of going to yet one more new classroom next Tuesday, she's done remarkably well. She's had a few minor upsets but so far so good. She laughs out loud spontaneously and this time, it's genuine laughter, not forced. She speaks her mind (sometimes too often), she smiles (the typical all-tooth-RAD-grin) without complaint and with glee. She has followed hygiene protocols without ado and accepted her limits (albeit begrudgingly at times, but hey, who doesn't begrudge their limits once in awhile?) All in all, I'd say, right now, Sissy is no longer captive to the anger that once imprisoned her.

Does that mean she's better?

Define "better"? If you are asking is she healed, the answer is no. If you asking if she's stable right now, the answer is a giddy, yes.

How long will it last?

With no immediate demands on her regarding school, homework or household chores, the prospects are good. We'll see what next week brings. For now, I'm choosing to be verbally optimistic even if my heart is quaking in my boots. I'm not faking anything until I make it there, that philosophy doesn't work for me. Instead, I'm taking it ten minutes at a time. Small increments are much more manageable both for her and for me.

I know that that past month and a half my blogging has been minimal. Life has a way of bending and twisting us into coves, eddies and narrow trickling streams. The past two years have been an odyssey that has held me captive in fear and anxiety for my daughter, for my family and for myself. It felt like an eternity; going over Niagara Falls in slow motion. It's nice to exhale, close my eyes and be gently rocked by the slow moving waters that bubble over smooth river rocks.

In the past month I've gotten to take naps and share a bed with Sissy several times and not feared the retribution when she woke up. Oh, she's been very vocal and fitful in her sleep, has been a bear to wake up and has kept as far on her side of the bed as possible so we aren't touching but ... BUT... she's slept with me and not retaliated.

In the past month I've learned that it's safe to be family; to laugh, to love, to be myself, to get irritated and aggravated and blow off steam then laugh at myself for getting so caught up in the mayhem of parenting.

In the past month I've enjoyed friendship, sisterhood, being a daughter and a mother, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

In the past month I've stopped being a captive.

I don't know what tomorrow will bring. I don't even know that tomorrow will come. I don't know will happen a month from now and I don't know that I care. Right now, I'm bundled up in my old pink hoodie with the diva rhinestones, wrapped up under a christmas blanket, drinking a glass of wine and listening to the sounds of three sleeping children, their music playing softly in their rooms while the wind howls and blows outside. The dog is gently snoring and the clocks in the kitchen are ticking. I have peace in knowing that in the past two years, I've remained a woman of integrity, recounting our family's story as I've experienced it - not exaggerating, or embellishing - telling the raw, honest truth of how one adoptive family can be held captive by the wages of abuse and mental illness and still survive knowing that tomorrow we might be headed for the next colossal waterfall.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

How Open are You?

For the last three weeks, the kids and I have been hanging out with their biological grandparents' house. They live at the lake in a log cabin home. There are deer, coyotes, wild turkey, hawks and more. It's quiet, it's peaceful, it's beautiful.

I'm sleeping in their great grandparent's bed, their black and white, 1953 wedding photo centered above the head board, a very young bride and groom. How Sissy looks like her! When I wake up each morning, there is a 30+ year old photo of their birth mom and their aunt in matching dresses. Adorable toddlers with bright smiling faces. The room is filled with remembrances of them, the two people I considered as grandparents of my own.

There isn't a thing I don't love about open adoption. Today the kids played for hours with their cousins and are currently in the basement snuggled up on the sleeper sofa watching The Smurfs. It's so much fun to see them together, laughing, rough-housing, fighting, eating. It's what family is meant to be.

Right now I'm sitting at the kitchen table with two of their aunts, WG so very much like her Aunt A, Noni is making gluten-free cookies just for me. We're all wore out from a day of cookie baking. "How many dozens?" I asked her. Noni doesn't know, doesn't want to think about it. Noni's cookies are gifts. Love in a tasty morsel. And part of the love is spending the day in the hot kitchen making cookies for ... 10 hours now. Was up til 1:00 a.m. working on caramel/chocolate covered pretzels with their oldest cousin who will be 17 in January. Fun. Fun, fun, fun.

Is an open adoption easy? For both parties, the answer is simply, "no." An open adoption is a marriage of two families. That's a marriage of each family's quirks and idiosyncrasies and insanity. It's also a marriage of each family's best: their interests, ideas and love. All of it for the best interest of the adoptees. If you get into open adoption with any other thought in mind, it won't be a successful match.

For me, choosing open adoption was a no-brainer. My father died when I was 12. Adolescence and approaching adulthood was hard because half of my identity was gone. I'd look in the mirror and wonder What part of me is him? I only had my mother's reflection on which to form my identity so I always felt like half of me was missing. I couldn't stomach the idea of doing that to my children. Having already established a relationship with their biological family long before the kids were a thought, we didn't blink. Open. Period.

I wouldn't change a thing about it. I didn't just adopt three children, I adopted four generations of extended family. How open are you?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Merry Christmas to ME!

Fall of 2005, Sissy entered the public school system. It is nearly 2012 and finally, FINALLY, she has an IEP!!!!!!!!!!!!

Merry Christmas to ME!

And what, pray tell, finally qualified her as OHI? The private p-doc wrote a very long medical history detailing her medical impairment. The clincher was the fact that she had two consecutive residential hospitalizations within one year.

So how do you get your kid an IEP?
Get a great p-doc that will paraphrase two 6-inch patient files on one 8x11 piece of paper, hand written, no larger than a 10 point font. Suffer through endless meetings for six academic years, be told by one school that it is YOU that needs the psychological evaluation, not the child, get a waiver to transfer to another school, be told that your child needs to come off her psych meds so the testing will show that she's learning impaired and not just drugged out of her mind, be accused endlessly that the reason the child is under achieving is because YOU are a lousy mother that doesn't love your child, call the state department of education and get in the good graces of the head of special services with the state so that she gives you her direct phone number with the directions to tell the special services director in your county that if they don't agree with what you're asking for your child, that they can speak to ME oh, and make sure your child boomerangs in and out of RTCs and crisis stabilization units for two years.

And that will do it!

I'm so happy I could kiss everyone. I think I'll even plant one big juicy one on Sissy's face tomorrow when I pick her up for discharge.

T - 21 hours and counting...

Monday, December 12, 2011

She did it!

Sissy had a "gold star" weekend! Wow. That's awesome.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Not gonna lie

I'm not going to lie. I'm nervous about Sissy coming home next Friday. Our family session yesterday only emphasized the reality that she's still not cluing into the reality of her actions and the consequences for them.

Thursday night she was given the opportunity to go off campus and drive around the community to view the Christmas lights. The hospital is in a great area of town, lots of students, doctors, professionals, and the like in addition to having many older homes that have unique style. A drive to see those light displays would have been awesome.

So Thursday morning I called the unit to talk to Sissy - wish a happy morning and that I was really rooting for her that she would get on green level behavior status and get the reward of going on the outing. She was currently on yellow.

I called that evening and she said she was still on yellow and didn't get to go. She told me she didn't know why they kept her on yellow, that they didn't tell her. All of which is bogus because mid-day the unit meets for group therapy and the residents are told their level status, why it had been changed and if it was lowered, what action plan each patient can make in the future to alter their behavior for the positive.

During family session, the unit director explained that Sissy had to be carried out of the cafeteria by a male staff member and taken back to the unit while she kicked, screamed and tantrumed. Sissy's explanation? "I was only crying a little."

The unit director redirected Sissy to the truth, which she would not acknowledge. The unit director spent a great deal of time talking about what is expected of a child in a home environment, what behaviors are acceptable and which aren't and that in order to get discharged, Sissy would have to start proving that she was ready to accept those limits. (The hospital has not yet alerted Sissy to her discharge on Friday) Then we concluded the session with Sissy agreeing that she would have a "gold star" weekend [1] to prove that she was ready to do what was expected of a child living in a home environment.

Then last night Sissy called her grandmother and said the outing was switched to a theatrical production of The Nutcracker instead of viewing Christmas Lights and that she wasn't disappointed about missing that outing because she'd seen that production while she was in a different facility two years ago. Her color? Still yellow.


This morning at the elementary school's "breakfast with Santa" event, the school counselor talked to me privately. Apparently WG had been in her office on Friday to talk through her fears and anxieties that had crept into her school day. WG confessed that she was nervous and scared about Sissy coming home.

Me too, WG. Me too.

AB's perspective? He says maybe Sissy will at least be good for Christmas Day and her Birthday because she likes them and she might try harder on those days.

Best Christmas present ever? Sissy truly knowing and accepting that what is expected of her at home is reasonable and that she has the strength and self-will to comply without self-harming, threatening or violent behaviors. I'm not holding my breath for that gift to be wrapped up under the tree on Christmas morning. One way or another, the rest of us have to survive her trauma-induced anger and dysfunction. If I hold my breath in hope, I'll die.

Well, that's enough of that for today. WG's Brownie troop is going to the nursing home to deliver lap blankets and Christmas bracelets that the girls made on Thursday. But WG is mostly excited about singing carols to them. I love taking the girls to these types of events, we are blessed to have such a giving, kind-hearted troupe. Truly, all of our girls are super super sweet. And AB? Eh. He'll tag along, pace, whine, stim and be generally miserable.

It's going to be GREAT!!!!

[1] weekend staff apparently have a reward system for the top behaving residents - an effort to get them to behave accordingly in the less structured weekend environment. A Gold Star is awarded to the residents that "accept limits" and "do what is expected without tantrums or disrespect".

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Plus Some

Original poetry by author of this blog. Copyright laws apply

Purpose a journey in life
Walking tall and sure.
Stride the rocky paths
With footing secure.

Onward toward the setting sun,
Downward, run.
Wind stings the face,
Warm tears trace.

Go! Yield not to never.
Anger, fear, loss, pain
Tangle the weary soul
Nothing shall they gain.

Through desert sand,
Cross grassy weeds.
To mountain tops,
Trudge swampy reeds.

Stand upon the ocean shore,
Dare the sea to swallow.
Laugh with glee
When waves roll back, hollow.

Breathe deep the salty air
Closed eyes, take it in.
When purpose driven
The elements never win.

Be granite on a mountain top,
A cedar in forests deep.
Butterfly across the meadow,
An owl that does not sleep.

There is nothing I can not reach
Nor plague will I succumb.
I purpose in my journey
To touch many, plus some.
To touch many, plus some,
To touch many,
plus some.

Up with the Birds

Monday, December 5, 2011

An unwrapped "present"

Merry Christmas, it's a girl. She'll be 12 on New Year's eve and she rejoins our humble abode on the 16th.


Round 293,641 and counting. *DING*

yes, yes, positive, negative, positive. *rolling eyes at self*

positive: she comes home on the last day of the fall semester so there's no need to put together an emergency homebound education plan for the last week of the semester as we originally thought.

positive: her IEP eligibility meeting on the 15th (how many have we done thus far? I've lost count) should SHOULD find her eligible for an IEP with OHI status and EBD classroom for the first 60 days in the spring semester to transition her slowly back to mainstream classes. I'm not holding my breath but yes, that would be a wonderful christmas present indeed.

negative: according to the staff in the phone conference this morning, she still has anger issues and difficulty finding ways to manage her anger in appropriate ways. She needs to work on her social skills and be praised when she only cries during tantrums as opposed to exhibiting self-harming, threatening or violent behaviors.

[aside]: anyone praised a child for a tantrum? 'cuz that just sounds ... odd to me. Just sayin'.

positive: she's so darn cute and she's lost weight now that she's off some of the meds and is managing moderately well on her current drug cocktail.

Oh, and ... *batting eyes demurely* I get to make friends with one more new IFI team!!!!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Hanging in the balance - barely

My mother ended up in the ICU last week with the physician declaring a poor prognosis. A call to the Sissy's hospital to alert them of the family crisis two days before Thanksgiving and the unit director made it clear that we still needed to follow through with our weekend leave plans for Sissy. "We discussed it as a team and we think this is the perfect opportunity for Sissy to prove she can put into practice what she's learned here, especially in a family crisis."


I replied, "You do understand the gravity of our family situation, right? Did I make it clear how ill my mother is? And you want me to drive a total of 10 hours over the next three days to get a child from a psychiatric hospital and HOPE that she behaves all while I process my mother's situation?"


Meanwhile, with no planned schedule for the week, AB was off his routine, had already had one near miss with a rage and was stimming hard and fast. He had been awake the night before past midnight because he couldn't sleep and I was afraid he was headed into another manic phase. "Fine. But I'm leaving my son at home with his dad. He can't make that trip, do a family session and NOT have a rage while we're there."

WG and I drove the distance the day before Thanksgiving, did a family session and drove back with Sissy. I had a narrow window to get to the hospital to see my mother because I left town believing she was still in the ICU. I dropped the girls off at the house and went straight to the hospital, glad to learn she'd been moved to a regular room. Then I returned home to Sissy needing a shower, cookies needing to be decorated, sweet potatoes and a ham requiring cooking and a four hour round trip the next day staring me in the face to celebrate Thanksgiving with The Dad's family.

And Sissy, not home for four hours was already at her games, refusing to shower correctly. Kid you not, my daughter emerged from the shower with her pajamas on, hair bone dry. But wait, there's more. She hadn't even brushed her hair or removed the pony tail bands. And when I said, "huh? what? um..." She screamed and dropped to the floor and demanded that I accept that she had indeed showered correctly and I was on the phone with the RTC begging for assistance. So the staff told me she wanted her hair to look pretty for Thanksgiving, that it was all she could talk about and maybe I should settle her down by offering to re-do her hair the next morning after she showers again, properly.

I got up at 5:30 to put the food on and went back to bed. Got up at 8 ish to get Sissy in the shower and on the way past my bedroom door says, "well, actually, I want my hair to be a different way - i've changed my mind."

O.o you've got to be friggin' kidding me. my mother is in the hospital, i'm cooking food for thanksgiving, AB is stimming his arms off, we have to do a two hour drive and be there by 12:30 and after screaming at me last night and the hospital convincing me it was all about her hair, after driving five hours yesterday, after, after, after and now, NOW she tells me she wants her hair different?!?!?!?! But what I said was, "Uh. No. The Staff said you liked that hair style, that it was the reason you were upset. You're getting the same hairstyle."

"but but but..."

"You don't get to scream at me last night about your hair and then ask for a different style this morning. No."


Seriously? I need this?!?

Then halfway down there she was stick poking like crazy, rocking side to side in the back seat complaining about everything under the sun and then when i didn't respond began chanting very quickly and loudly, "I'm bored I'm bored I'm bored I'm bored I'm bored I'm bored I'm bored"

So i talkie-d The Dad who was in the truck ahead of me, "I'm about to blow a stack. We need to switch. now."

We pulled over and all I said to her was, "You're switching with your brother and riding the rest of the way in Dad's truck."

"What? HUH?!? I didn't do nothing wrong?!!! That's not fair!!! I didn't do nothing!"

"Just get in the truck." I gently nudged her rigid body into the cab and handed her the stack of markers and coloring books, closed the door and mouthed to The Dad, "Good luck."

And that's how it went until Saturday when I took her back and picked up my sister at the bus station. My mother came home from the hospital on Sunday while AB was at riding therapy, my sister is staying at her house, the kids went back to school on Monday, it rained, I slept. The RTC called based on the evaluations of the TL's from the last two weeks, I'm very disappointed with Sissy's performance so I'm requesting medicaid give her another month.

So I went to my mother's house with a bottle of wine, drank it up with my sister and laughed through Laverne & Shirley.

When will medicaid give us their answer?

Next week.

When is Sissy approved through?

Next week.

So when do you get Sissy?

Won't know until next week.

Oh, and her IEP meeting was canceled and rescheduled for the 15th and I said, "you do realize she might be home NEXT WEEK"

"Well then we'll just schedule and emergency meeting."

And how is it NOT an emergency right now? "Ok, whatever."

So I've quilted until my eyes are blurry and stayed away from the blog so I don't say inappropriate things in my blind fury and frustration and worry and contempt and Oh.My.Stars can't it get any crazier?

Well yes it can. Because today was the last day I saw the kids' p-doc. He's no longer taking medicaid patients so both AB and Sissy are without a p-doc until I figure it out and right now, the best option is to make the two hour trip into the metro area. In other words, even after Sissy discharges, I won't be dodging the bullet of that mind-numbing nauseating drive. Oh, and the p-doc is recommending we switch AB's anti-psychotic because his teachers are complaining so much about his performance at school but he didn't want to begin a titration that he couldn't follow up with so I've been deferred back to AB's developmental delay specialist - the same one that wanted to put him on Amb!en last summer.


Stressed much?

Why yes, yes I am.

And now I will return to my quilting and wait, again, for strangers sitting behind desks to decide the fate of my family's life for the next month. You know, the HOLIDAY season.