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, February 28, 2012


New on my ETSY site: Jewelry, just in time for spring!

Prices just lowered this morning. Yes, I'm desperate, money is tight right now and I am trying to earn gas money to drive to Orlando. If you're not interested, perhaps you have a friend that is? Pass on the link please!

Thanks and happy shopping!!!

Monday, February 27, 2012

51 weeks

It's been 51 weeks since I brought all THREE of my children to the same school at the same time with the anticipation of picking all THREE of my children up at the same time from the same school.

One year ago, the Tuesday after I returned from Orlando, Sissy went to RTC. Today she rejoined the general education population with an IEP and will be spending half of her day in small group classes with her brother. They will come home with the same homework. They will be there to support each other through the rest of their school years.

Finally, I have the satisfaction other mothers have when they pull away from the school car rider lane: I'm satisfied that all THREE of my children are getting the best possible education.

And it only took seven years.

Unbelievable that we are finally at this place. Surreal. Of course, Sissy screamed for thirty minutes last night before bed but otherwise, life is great!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Why Orlando?

Next week is ORLANDO! What is so stinkin' fantastic about Orlando and the ETAAM group and all of that wonderfulness? It's not Orlando, it's not the food, it's not the hot tub or the kid-free time. It's the women, 90+ this year, that understand and respect the Personal Bill of Rights.

I don't know the original author. I picked this up in therapy

1. I have the right to ask for what I want.

2. I have the right to say “no” to requests or demands I can’t meet.

3. I have the right to express all of my feelings, positive or negative

4. I have the right to change my mind.

5. I have the right to make mistakes and not have to be perfect.

6. I have the right to follow my own values and standards.

7. I have the right to say “no” to anything when I feel I am not ready, it is unsafe, or it violates my values.

8. I have the right to determine my own priorities.

9. I have the right not to be responsible for others’ behavior, actions, feelings or problems.

10. I have the right to expect honesty from others.

11. I have the right to be angry at someone I love.

12. I have the right to be uniquely myself.

13. I have the right to feel scared and say “I am afraid.”

14. I have the right to say “I don’t know.”

15. I have the right not to give excuses or reasons for my behavior

16. I have the right to not feel obligated to validate my feelings or decisions to anyone.

17. I have the right to make decisions based on my feelings.

18. I have the right to be playful and frivolous.

19. I have the right to be healthier than those around me.

20. I have the right to my own needs for personal space and time.

21. I have the right to be in a non-abusive relationship or environment.

22. I have the right to make friends and be comfortable around people.

23. I have the right to change and grow.

24. I have the right to have my needs and wants respected by others.

25. I have the right to be treated with dignity and respect.

26. I have the right to be happy.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Golden Miles

In the past, journal assignments just became one more reason for Sissy to rage and refuse to comply. Yesterday afternoon I explained to her that the point of the journal is not to punish her but to help her mind focus on the reasons why she is feeling bad and to process those emotions in a healthy manner. Then, instead of giving her a blank page, I wrote out questions that could be answered succinctly but still get the point across.

1. "What are the three top feelings I have about my first problem?"
2. "What are the two steps from the ACCEPTS [1] model that I'll use next time I'm upset about this problem?"

I asked her the same for both concerns she had that morning. I left the appropriate number of lines in between the questions and then I followed up the journal with the clincher:

"Why is using my skills to handle my emotions the best way?"
Using my skills to handle my feelings helps me because it distracts me from the thing that's making me upset. Not using the skills doesn't help the problem and only makes the problem worse.

I can't believe it! I was so amazed by her answer. It didn't take her long but her answers are well thought out and concise. I love that she knows she's hurting herself by not using her coping skills. I told her how proud I was of her and asked if I could share it. She didn't believe me at first that her answers were good but I assured her that they were not only good, they were fantastic!

Here's another shining "Sissy Moment":
Last week at the psychiatrist office, we were waiting a long time and she decided to peruse the pamphlets on the shelf, in particular, one about suicide. The first page of the pamphlet lists who is at risk for suicide. At the bottom of the list, it says siblings and family members of someone that has talked about, attempted or committed suicide is at risk. Sissy turned to me and said, "Mom. That's WG."

Stunned, I said, "yes, actually. It is. Everyone in a family is impacted when one person is suicidal."

"But WG definitely."

"Yes. I'm proud of you for recognizing that. It's called empathy: when you can understand how another person feels about a problem." (On the inside, I was shouting and jumping up and down and dancing a jig but I didn't want to spook her so I kept it neutral.)

Sissy started to cry, "I didn't know I was doing that to her."

"Well, that's WG's story; that's what she is working on in her therapy. You have your story and you're getting better every day."

I'm blown away. She understands EMPATHY! NEVER in a million years did I think it would be possible that Sissy would be able to get this far.

Don't get me wrong, it's not all rainbows and unicorns. Just last night before Sissy's shining journal moment, we were all crashing, burning and fuming at the supper table. I called a silence truce so we could all gather ourselves individually, THEN I had Sissy do her journal assignment and since WG wanted in, she and I did one too while AB did his math homework.

There was also the issue of the chocolate milk to deal with yesterday. I'll tell ya, 11 years in as a RAD mom and I'm STILL missing the cues. Sissy has been talking about "Tru Moo" milk non stop. Every time we go to the store she's begging for it like a two year old. If that's not enough, Sissy mentions all the wonderful things about Tru Moo all the time, and ten times more than that if she's just seen the commercial. It's been nothing but six long weeks of Tru Moo chocolate milk commercials flowing from her lips. You'd think it was liquid gold.

Then yesterday afternoon the school auto emails me that her lunch account only has $1.75 left. hold the phone. I paid that account with a month of lunch charges! I logged onto the lunch account website and clicked her transactions.

Tru Moo

In the past ten days of school she'd bought 14 extra milks at $0.50 a pop, $0.10 charge more than her reduced lunch rate. $7.00 in Tru Moo in ten days. I was really mad. Mad mad. How does a 12 year old not know that this milk costs MONEY?!? Answer? She DOES know. UGH UGH UGH UGH UGH Yes, she emotionally behaves like a five year old the majority of the time but she's intellectually 12. So I made a 12 year old consequence. I wrote her a bill for $7.00. The invoice listed the number of milks she drank, the cost for each milk and the total bill. Below I wrote "Pay to the nearest mom." Then I wrote a list of chores and varying rates so she could pick and choose how she would pay me back. I put it in an envelope, addressed it, drew a fake stamp, sealed it. When I picked her up from school, I nonchalantly said, "You have mail," and handed it to her.

She read it twice. Said nothing. I waited, holding my breath anticipating fall out. Finally at the traffic light I took a gamble and spoke. "Do you understand your mail?"

"yes. I like the part 'pay to the nearest mom.' That's funny. YOU ARE the nearest mom. Duh!"

We both laughed and it was over. She came home and started on some of the chores and has already gotten her debt reduced. She said she wanted to just pay me the money but I explained that just as everyone else has to work to earn money to pay their bills, she needed to learn the same. She didn't argue, surprisingly.

A day filled with highs and lows, followed by this morning's two year old behavior which just makes me looney. It's never dull but every centimeter of progress I consider a golden mile.

[1]ACCEPTS is a DBT model for "Wise Mind" Each letter represents one of seven different ways change the cognitive thinking process including activities that cross the left and right hemispheres (think NeuroCore work) so the negative emotions that drain the seratonin levels cease. The overall objective is to connect the body and mind to process emotions in a healthy way. This model is the only DBT that has proven to be successful in reducing the number of hospitalizations for children and adults.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

In It

Are you IN it?

When I taught Physical Science (my favorite - yes, i actually do LOVE teaching eighth graders)one of my favorite lessons was about mixtures, solutions and suspensions. I enjoyed bringing every day household items from home to demonstrate the differences. Making science come to life with ordinary objects is the way I teach.

Applying science to abstract life concepts is the way I process my emotions and experiences. Despite the fact that science is ever changing as humanity continually uncovers the mysteries that govern our world from the cosmic to the microscopic, science can be trusted. There is methodology, proofs, data collection, analysis, continued study, hypotheses, theories and eventually, laws. The road to discovering new medications for bipolar disorder is the same road to discovering new moons. There's room for error which provides opportunity to learn but science is a constant that can be relied upon. The constancy of science is crucial to my ability to trust: to trust the earth upon which I stand, the air I breathe, the rising of the sun and ultimately, humanity.

Trusting the fallacy of humanity is not an easy undertaking. It begins with first accepting that I am fallible. Then it progresses to acknowledging that humanity's fallibility does not necessarily deem utter soul corruption. Without trust, the universe has nothing. The Earth's gravitational force "trusts" that the moon will not careen into the surface and destroy our planet. The planets in our solar system "trust" that the nuclear explosions on the surface of the sun will continue to provide radiant energy. Likewise, Oxygen "trusts" that the single electron in two Hydrogen molecules will create a polar molecule in which all eight electrons are shared to make the most unique and stable molecule in the universe; a molecule upon which life earns a foundation. Science, therefore, proves that trust is essential for good things to happen.

How then do we approach a RAD child? How do we teach trust a mind that has incorrect imprinting that suggests at the most basic level of needs that humanity and this world can NOT be trusted? How do we salvage what is lost before we find ourselves dodging the bullets of one more utterly corrupted soul? And what then, shall we do if the mind itself is organically diseased from the start?

As with anyone, you begin with Maslow's Hierarchy of needs. The first step is physical needs. For many RAD children or children with trauma and abuse histories, they never get past this level. They remain in daily mental torment that their physical needs will not be met, such is the erroneous imprinting in their brains.

The second step is safety. It is easy to assume that once a child is adopted into a loving, nurturing home that they are inherently "safe" but if a child hasn't accepted the first level of their needs, regardless of how safe you make their living environment, they can not progress to this level.

Levels three through five are goals to strive for but for many, never achievable. But then, how many functioning adults without abuse and trauma histories actually achieve that level? Do YOU? Take some time to process it for yourself. Are you having a hard time with your RAD child? Could it be because you haven't achieved your own self-awareness? There's always a place to start in therapeutically parenting our children and as much as we don't want to admit it, that starting place is always us, the parents. So are you IN it?

1. Are you and your child a mixture?
A mixture is a something that is made up of two more more substances that are mixed together, but not chemically combined.

in this relationship, you and your child may be cohabitating and blending but you can still separate one from the other with ease.

2. Are the two of you a suspension?
when two un-mixable substances are in a container together, usually one a liquid and the other a solid

in this relationship, you and your child can come together with aggressive mixing or agitation but left alone, you both separate.

3. Are you a solution?
a homogeneous mixture of one or more solutes dissolved in a solvent

In this relationship, there is no separation, the two of you make something entirely new together with it's own properties. In this relationship, you are IN it! Sugar, koolaid powder and water individually are nothing fancy in and of themselves but stir them altogether and VOILA!

What does being "IN IT" look like from a therapeutic parenting point of view? Here's the last 24 hours of events that became the inception of this post:

Sissy's emotions were spinning her into a whirlwind. She was smart mouthing, hollering, screaming, hoarding food, provoking, false illnesses and all the wonderful RADilicious behaviors I'm used to seeing. It started yesterday afternoon and continued on through this morning. My initial instinct was to smart mouth, holler, scream, provoke and overeat right back. Instead, I called an "I'm not talking to you" truce. Once she settled down I was able to think FOR her. what is going on? what does she need? What is happening in her head that she can't process on her own? In what way do I need to be IN her head to help her?" As soon as I had a moment's peace to be IN her, to blend into a solution with her instead of insisting on being a mixture or a suspension with my own physical properties, I saw it.

Without saying a word, I grabbed a piece of paper and wrote at the top: "Things Mom Knows are Bothering You." Then I listed four things I thought were eating at her. I slid the paper across to her and said, "Check the ones that are true, add any that I forgot"

She circled two and said, "That's it mom. I don't have any others." She slid the paper back to me.

"OK.  I made a crisis call to your therapist and she said you needed a consequence for your behaviors yesterday. That consequence will be to journal about these two things after homework today."


"Hug time?"

"Yeah." I hugged her, she cried a little and it was over. ALL of it. All the RAD behaviors stopped, including the mysterious sore throat.

IN it. Be IN it. Be in it with your own needs so you can be in it with your child's needs. Make a solution with your child in which together, you trust one another to make something new and wonderful TOGETHER. Step by step, your child will achieve her own hierarchy of needs but you have to be committed to be IN IT, every day.

Now go make some koolaid and trust the universe to catch you when you fall.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Aww, so sweet

Baby on the way? Friend expecting? Headed to a shower and haven't got a clue what to buy? Here's two baby quilts I've been working on. I hope to have them on the etsy site by this weekend with a bonus buy for quick shoppers. Early birds get the worm!

Baby Girl Quilt

Baby Boy Quilt

Finished size is 36"x42". Machine washable, tumble-dry low.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Verdict

Sissy was in a good mood at supper last night. She was so busy chatting and being silly she wasn't eating, which is HUGE because although she no longer hoards food, she will absolutely inhale anything you put in front of her.

Taking advantage of her good mood, I snagged her unused napkin, grabbed a pen and wrote a multiple choice question.

Gummies are healthy.
A. false
B. false
C. false
D. all of the above

I got Sissy's attention and said, "Hey look! A pop quiz. You're guaranteed to get a 100%"

I surreptitiously pushed the napkin in front of her. She read the statement and a smile slowly crept across her face. She said nothing but grabbed the pen and confidently circled letter D with a giggle. Pushing the napkin back towards me she made eye contact and smiled.

"Hey look, you got a 100%!" And we both laughed out right.

Verdict is in. Gummies are NOT healthy. Just in case you wondered.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Are Gummies Healthy?

"Gummies are healthy!"

"no, they're not."

"Gummies are TOO good for you! The box says 'fat free'!!!!"

This is what Sissy hollered in my face yesterday as she leaned over the table in front of the therapist. She'd already had a brownie, was pacing, still hungry. Rules at my house are if you ask for something healthy when you're still hungry, I'll always say yes. Such was her rebuttal.

I did offer a banana, banana chips, almonds, prunes, raisins, apples, oranges, celery, carrots, salad, cheese, applesauce, peaches, yogurt ... heck, I even threw in pudding at the end. (I know, it's not "healthy" but I was going for broke)

Each offer was met with a defiant, angry, hollering, "WHAT?!? I HATE THAT!"

I tried redirecting. "What book are you reading in school right now?"

"Gummies are healthy!"

"You did a good job on your progress report. Keep up the good work. I'm proud of you!"


"now that your spelling is done, how would you like to spend your free time?"


*me looking at the therapist for help*

She laughed.


I sighed.

The therapist ignored Sissy and asked me, "So, how are you?"

My turn to laugh.

Sissy stomped off, "FINE!!!!!"

WG called from the other room, "Sissy, Gummies are NOT healthy. They're like candy."

"No they're not!"

"Whatever," WG quipped.

To WG, "WHAT?!? Geez!" To herself as she stomped to her room, "The box says they're fat free, that's got to mean they're healthy."

The therapist says to me, "She really does argue, doesn't she?"

"Yep. Only, her arguments have no support and make no sense so it's really hard not to laugh."

"And laughing..."

"... pisses her off. Would you like some gummies? I hear they're healthy."

Sissy, shouting at us from her room, "AUUUGGHHH!!! They are TOO healthy!!!"

It's never dull at my house. Never, ever dull. Come on over, anytime. Door's always open. Just a heads up, you might want to bring your own healthy snacks because apparently at my house, gummies are healthy.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Mustache Cash-Stash

Commissioned quilt for GB's mom. Well, actually for her eldest daughter.

All folded up
On the bed
Sissy wanted to pose with the quilt

Just reminding my readers that I also do commissioned quilts.  Don't ask GB's mom how long this one took me.  I'll tell you, TOO long.  I had extenuating circumstances impeding my progress but she was obliging and understanding.  I promise to keep to reasonable deadlines in the future.
Visit my Etsy store (see link on right sidebar) or email me using the profile link.  If you've got something in mind, perhaps we can put our heads together so I can create an product you will love.

Not interested in purchasing a quilt but want to contribute?  I will still gladly accept your cast-off fabrics or unused batting and threads.  There is still a large portion of AB's dental bill to pay off.

Speaking of AB, he woke up bright-eyed and cheery this morning.  With his mustache filling in quickly and now some hair showing up on his chin, he is excited but apprehensive about entering manhood.  "Mom.  I have hair on my chin."

"Would you like to start shaving now?"

"NO!  I like it!"


We piled into the van and he was tapping and squealing.  "Mustache cash-stash! Mustache cash-stash!  Mustache cash-stash! I LIKE it!" *giggle giggle giggle*

That boy cracks me up.

And Sissy, after the past few days of ugh-omg-is-she-going-to-keep-spiralling-downward?! she was gaily watching the neighbor's work crew scrape off their old roof while she ate her breakfast.  WG asked her what she was looking at and without missing a beat, Sissy said, "they're just up on the roof for the view."

Guess they all just needed extra sleep because wow, last night was rough and we all sacked out early (their bedtimes as a consequence mine as a result of managing three wild kids).  We left for school this morning, everyone happy, Sissy begging to be allowed to work on the neighbor's roof, WG dragging my hairbrush to groom in the van and AB giggling over mustache cash-stash.

Onward and upward.