This blog is my place to vent and share resources with other parents of children of trauma. I try to be open and honest about my feelings in order to help others know they are not alone. Therapeutic parenting of adopted teenagers with RAD and other severe mental illnesses and issues (plus "neurotypical" teens) , is not easy, and there are time when I say what I feel... at the moment. We're all human!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Kitty's Coming Home

Kitty is being released tomorrow! We're planning a quiet weekend. No school on Monday. Pdoc appointment Tuesday (8am yuck!), then straight to her ARD where we'll decide what school is going to look like for the rest of the school year.


  1. Drop her 2 electives - which are in the morning on "B" days and her only regular ed, and most stressful classes, and just have her come to school late on "B" days - after lunch (which is also stressful).

  2. Change her electives to something else - like social skills. Put her in the behavior program during lunches.

  3. Homebound - doubt they'll go for this one - it's supposed to be almost impossible to get and is more for kids with physical issues.

  4. Drive her to school and pick her up for lunch every day to limit the

  5. Suggestions?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Back on the Wagon

As we were visiting with Kitty after family therapy yesterday we walked Kitty to the cafeteria and she held our hands. She was talking so quietly I couldn't hear her well, but I think she was saying people were commenting on how attached she is to us. I could tell it bothered her, and I know she finds it too embarassing in front of her friends, but she always holds my hand when she doesn't think her friends are around. I told her that it's OK to want to hold our hands and she's just making up for lost time. She's still my little girl.


Kitty wants to come home. I want Kitty to come home. It's out of my hands right now. Before she gets back I want to make things better, both for her, trying to get school fixed and talking about meds and psychiatrists, and for me, trying to figure out what I can do to keep this from happening again.

I had a long talk with Hubby and Grandma about my fears on why the episodes with Kitty have escalated. Obviously some of it is her issues and things I cannot change - particularly anxiety caused by school, but more and more when the kids start arguing I find myself getting agitated and I know I need to change it up, be empathetic and help my child emotionally regulate, but I just can't. I've questioned whether this is because:

  • My bipolar stuff. I'm not medicated and I hadn't thought the meds were helping much when I was, but I'm having trouble with transitions - particularly getting off the computer and going to bed, but then again I've always been a night owl.

  • PTSD - every time I deal with Bear, I find myself waiting for the shoe to drop. Whatever he's doing, I'm trying to stay two steps ahead, anticipating the consequences, trying to detect the lies, and even though he hasn't been truly violent in years - I'm still aware of that capability

  • Attachment - Hubby suggested this. That as I've grown more attached to the kids, the better they are at being able to push my buttons (which Bob was born able to do). When the kids first got here, there was really nothing they could do that could get me upset.

  • Lack of sleep - This was Grandma's suggestion. Basically for whatever reason, I'm not getting much sleep. Obviously this effects my reserves. So this is the one I finally decided I was what I was going to choose to address.

I’ve decided this has been a long week because I’m just so tired. I’ve been burning the candle at both ends, and in the middle – using a blow torch. I feel that I might have been able to prevent her from escalating to the point where she hit me, if I hadn’t let myself get so depleted. I’m going to view this as a blessing in disguise because I’m hoping it will help us get the changes we’ve been advocating for at the school, but I also want to take it as a wake-up call. I’ve added a lot to my schedule (NAMI classes, job hunting, volunteering and getting more involved in the mental health/adoption communities, trying to get my oldest son’s transition to adulthood…), but hadn’t taken anything OUT of my schedule – except apparently sleep.

Back in November I went on an "internet diet,"but over the months everything has crept back up. So I’ve decided to stop reading most of my blog roll (there were 119 feeds!), limit the list-serves, cut back on the forums and try to get to bed at a reasonable time. Not doing so great at it yet, but there’s always tonight, right?! Wish me luck!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Counting my Blessings

If you haven't seen this post A letter to Grandparents of Children with RAD over at Welcome to My Brain- (the blog of an amazing therapeutic parenting guru who has made some therapeutic parenting videos not to be missed) then seriously, go read it. Then know how blessed I am because my mom aka Grandma is just like the grandma who wrote this letter, only mine takes my kids for respite almost every Saturday afternoon and keeps them until she feeds us all lunch Sunday afternoon, and comes over and watches them while I attend therapy with Kitty, takes us all out to dinner every Friday night, in past Summers she's taken care of all 4 kids all Summer! Her wonderful husband, Poppy, is equally amazing (more on Poppy in a minute).


Christine from Welcome to My Brain is also the creator of the Parents of Trauma Map - so we know We are NOT Alone! Please go add your pin to the map and look to see who is near you. I'm hoping to see all the moms from Parents of Children of Trauma there! I want to see Central Texas solid with support because I know there are lots of moms out there.


This week I finished up my NAMI Family to Family class. I learned quite a bit, and I made some really good friends. I highly recommend this class to parents with adult children and those with spouses or other adult family members with mental illnesses. The best part is the support groups. I'm hoping to finish the NAMI Visions for Tomorrow class this week - which is for parents of young children with mental illnesses. I've offered to do a lot of volunteer work for NAMI, but I'm still waiting to hear back.


Saturday I got to go to a great workshop sponsored by the Council On Adoptable Children (COAC) about caring for the caregiver this weekend with a bunch of adoptive moms and it was so invigorating to hang out for a few hours with a bunch of moms who "get it." The workshop had a lot of good information too. Sunday we found out the hard way that Kitty has not been sleeping well.


I let my World's Meanest Mommy title slip and let Kitty and Bob attend a birthday slumber party on Friday night. They stayed up talking until 3am and woke up at 6am. They got a brief nap Saturday while I was at the workshop. Saturday night Kitty and her siblings spent the night with the amazing Grandma and Poppy as usual, and she claims she didn't sleep well (although Bob says otherwise).


When I arrived for lunch at Grandma's (Hubby was teaching scuba diving all weekend) Kitty was in a good mood. She and I even made a lemon meringue pie together (from scratch!) after lunch. It was a little soupy, but yummy! All seemed fine. Then we got home and I made the mistake of asking Kitty to do her chores. I told her she could not get on the computer until they'd been checked (by Daddy when he got home) . She wouldn't get off the computer. I finally threatened her with not being allowed to use the computer for a week and she got off after 15 minutes.


Then Ponito got home from a playdate. I told him he needed to get his chores done quickly and we were going to watch a movie. He claimed all his chores were done (he's been lying a lot lately though), but refused to empty a trashcan I told him to empty. Repeatedly. Defiantly. Then he suddenly announced he had homework... and got on the computer.
******************************* This was the final straw for Kitty. She started screaming he should be punished, and was breaking rules, and I treated him special, and she hated this family, and she wanted to die. I got triggered too and finally told her to go to her room immediately, do not pass go, do not argue and if she did as I asked then she could come down in 5 minutes and watch the movie. ******************************* She pushed the ottoman away from her so hard the cat flipped off (which she felt horrible about), then banged her way upstairs. She was hitting walls and doors so I followed. Flash forward 30 minutes and dinner wasn't made, the movie was started without us, and I was still too triggered to calm down enough to help her emotionally regulate. She finally appeared to calm down a little and agreed to make dinner with me. ******************************************** She got angry again when she realized I was following her. She stormed upstairs and of course I followed (she was still making threats). 1/2 way up she turned and told me to leave her alone or she was going to hit and kick me. I got nervous because I didn't want either of us to fall down the stairs, so I was focused on that. She surprised me by hitting me in the face! Scared her half to death and she turned and ran and locked herself in the bathroom. Thank goodness she hits like a little girl and caught me on the fleshy part of the cheek. It's a little sore and swollen, but no bruising. ******************************* After last Tuesday's suicide threat, it felt like everyone was questioning me about why we hadn't called someone, so this time I dialed 911 and asked for the mental health deputy to come out. When Kitty realized I had actually called the police she ran out of the bathroom, right past me and downstairs to the kitchen where she pulled out a butcher knife and held it to her wrist. Unfortunately I couldn't hang up with the police officer to calm her down and talking to the officer made her worse. Finally she left "Fight" and "Flight" and moved into "Freeze." That's where she stuck. ************************************* The police said because she hit me they had to file charges of domestic violence, whether I wanted them to or not and she had to leave the house. She could go to jail or a psychiatric hospitalization depending on the verdict of the mental health deputy. Luckily he chose to believe that she was suicidal and chose to allow her to be hospitalized. The charges don't disappear, but she doesn't have to go to court or anything. ************************************** Unfortunately the nearest bed open was a 2 hour drive away! Luckily Hubby got home from teaching scuba diving about the time we were leaving so he could watch the kids. He was too tired to drive though. Wonderful Poppy was willing and able to drive the 2 hours there, wait 3 hours to get her admitted and 2 hours home (then another 15 minutes back to his home). Since he'd been up at dawn as an emergency responder for the Capital 10K this was even more amazing (he had grabbed a nap earlier in the day, but still pretty impressive for a 70 something year old man). *************************** The good news was because the traveling and waiting time was so long (5 hours total), that during the ride in the uncomfortable hard plastic back seat of the unmarked police car in the dark, late at night after a major outburst, Kitty slowly calmed down and was finally able to reach out to me. By the time we got there she was snuggly and able to accept reassurance and comfort from me. She gave me (and Poppy) a big hug at 1:30am as they led her off to finally sleep. Poppy drove me home and was safe in bed at home by 3:30am. ******************************** Sweet Hubby tried to let me sleep in this morning, but the psych hospital doctor called early to talk about meds, and I've been on the phone and e-mail ever since trying to get stuff settled. I've been hearing good things about the psych hospital. *yea!* * ************************* Visiting hours are late evenings on Tuesdays and Thursdays only, but we had the option to have family therapy in the morning so we can see Kitty then and she won't feel abandoned when we don't come to the evening visitation session (my last NAMI Visions For Tomorrow class is Tuesday night and there's a parent support group meeting the rest of the family is going to). ************************************** I was told the average stay at this psych hospital is only 3 days so we fully expect Kitty home this weekend. I wasn't happy about what the hospital's pdoc said, but I talked to Kitty's regular pdoc and I think we're going to finally make some good progress. Kitty's revision ARD is going to meet early in April to start the school testing needed for her new FIE (Full Individual Evaluation).

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Wrapping my brain around it

Bear's (and my) therapist suggested something to me that I'm seriously considering. If DARS can't get him a job this Summer (which would be my first choice), then she suggested sending him to his biograndfather in rural Oklahoma for at least part of the Summer.


  • It will let him get more realistically reacquainted with this grandfather that he has put on a pedestal.
  • More realistically reacquainted with the rural lifestyle that he has put on a pedestal.
  • The whole family would probably go, so Kitty would get a chance to get reacquainted with the grandfather she thinks hates her
  • It will allow him much more freedom, but in a setting where there is a little less opportunity for him to get into trouble than in our urban part of the world.
  • It will be a visit so may not trigger his abandonment issues and he will have reasons to come home.
  • Trial run on meds and stuff - while we get his SSI/ Medicaid worked out here.
  • Good excuse for us to get a Power of Attorney
  • Gives us a break, and would allow me to work through the Summer if I get a job (Grandma is fine supervising the other kids, although Kitty doesn't handle it well).
  • If we can find the money then we could tag it on the end of a trip to Nebraska and kill 2 birds with one stone.


  • We might have difficulty getting him back - legally in TX and OK he's an adult, if he doesn't want to come back it would probably be impossible to get the police to help
  • Adoption subsidy, getting switched over to NE Medicaid, not being there to sign legal stuff issues
  • Handling meds
  • He'd probably receive no psych services and therapy for the entire time he's gone
  • Getting him there and back - probably drive which costs money
  • Having to talk to the relatives to see if they'd even want him
  • If he has a breakdown, meltdown or difficulties of any kind we won't be there to help - or document them
  • Legally he's an adult - if something goes wrong he could have major legal trouble - and he'd be in another state.
  • He'd get used to a LOT of freedoms and will probably be allowed to get a driver's license.
  • We'd miss his 18th birthday and his adoption day (both at the end of July).

I'm sure there's a ton more pros and cons those are off the top of my head. I just don't know what to think about this.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Sorry, Officer!

I had a meeting today to help me get Bear signed up for SSI. I had provided everything but a questionnaire from Bear's special school regarding Bear's functioning, so I ran by and picked it up from the school on my way to the meeting. 

Bear's special school is right off a highway and at that time of day the morning traffic was jammed and barely crawling past. As I was sitting in traffic, I glanced at the questionnaire.

Oh my goodness, it plainly said what we've been insisting for years but couldn't get the school to admit!

Bear is almost finished with 11th grade. His special school has a 5/2 Student/Teacher ratio and he is in almost all special ed classes.

  • Reading Level: 8th grade
  • Main Level (which I interpret as an overall level): 8th grade
  • Written Language Level: 6th grade
{I was so shocked that we had this in writing that, I stupidly got on my cell phone to tell Hubby... just before I slowly crawled past the "end of school zone" sign. *sigh* Wanna guess what happened?}

Serious Problems in:
  • Understanding school and content vocabulary
  • Reading and comprehending written material
  • Comprehending and doing math problems
  • Providing organized oral explanations and adequate descriptions
  • Expressing ideas in written form
  • Learning new material
  • Recalling and applying previously learned materials
  • Completing class/ homework assignments
  • Working at a reasonable pace/finishing on time

--- He appears to jump around when he reads: this causes him to miss important information.
--- He can't write down a coherent explanation or conclusion in math unless told word for word what to write down.
--- Bear works slowly and this reduces the amount of material he can complete in a year.

Serious Problems in:
  • Expressing anger appropriately
  • Following rules (classroom, games, sports) - slight
  • Respecting/ obeying adults in authority
  • Handling frustration appropriately
  • Being patient when necessary - slight
  • Using good judgment regarding personal safety and dangerous circumstances
  • Identifying and appropriately asserting emotional needs
  • Responding appropriately to changes in own mood (e.g., calming self)
  • Knowing when to ask for help
--- Bear is sometimes oppositional/ defiant with adults. Most of the time he is respectful and compliant at school.
--- Bear tends to let things bottle up inside instead of getting help from adults
--- I have noticed infrequent sleepiness and irritability at school.
--- Bear's disorders seem well-regulated by his medication with occasional isolated incidents involving inappropriate behaviors at school.

The lady helping us fill out the SSI paperwork thinks we have a VERY strong case and shouldn't have to resubmit (she says the reason most people get turned down the first time is they don't show their proof). (Getting SSI for an Adult Child)

Also, we have Nebraska Medicaid until Bear turns 19 so even if he doesn't get Medicaid through SSI right away, we'll still have meds and stuff covered until the adult Medicaid "kicks in." 

Small problem with that is that the agency through which Bear currently receives psychiatric services does not take private insurance - including Nebraska Medicaid. So while we have meds covered we won't have a psychiatrist to prescribe them! The pdoc might be willing to give us 3 months of refills though since he's not on any Federally controlled substances like Kitty's C*ncerta.

{FYI - While the lights are flashing (or during the designated times if they don't have lights), you cannot use your cell phone in a school zone or on the school campus, unless your car is in a parking space - preferably turned off.)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Why I'm not blogging as often

1. Job hunting
2. Finally finishing up the NAMI Family to Family Course and attending support group
3. Finally finishing up the NAMI Visions for Tomorrow Course
4. Networking and trying to set up volunteering for NAMI
5. Walking with a neighbor
6. Ponito started soccer (gotta get a picture of him in his uniform - so cute)
7. Not getting enough sleep - might be time to start on meds again?
8. Starting the Parents of Children of Trauma
9. Trying to keep up with all the online support groups, blogs and e-mail
10. Getting Bear enrolled in DARS so he can get a supported Summer job
11. Finally getting the kids enrolled in their tribe because Bear is about to turn 18 and the tribe is supposedly being Federally recognized soon - right now it looks like we may need an affadavit from birthmom! *eek*
12. Back and forth with the school about Kitty:

Hi guys,

I’d like to set up a time to meet, as soon as possible regarding my daughter, Kitty. For those of you not familiar with Kitty, attached is the letter I sent out at the beginning of the year to acquaint you with some of her issues. To catch you up, she is having great difficulty with the stress and drama of high school.

Although the morning vomiting has stopped, she is still spending quite a bit of time in the nurse’s office (4 visits this month). As far as we can tell there is no underlying illness to these constant stomachaches, headaches, nausea, etc. it is pretty much stress related. We are working on making sure she has food when she takes her morning meds as that could be causing some of the problems. I’ve talked to her assistant principal about getting her FIE (Full Individual Evaluation) updated before the school year ends so there will be an ARD (IEP meeting) for that soon, but in the meantime I want to see if we can brainstorm ways we can help Kitty, as there is very little left that we can do at home to reduce her stress.

Tuesday night, after her therapist appointment, Kitty did hold a knife to her wrist and threatened to kill herself. We were able to get her calmed down without having to call the mental health deputies, and I stayed close to help her emotionally regulate
until she finally fell asleep. We have a call in to her psychiatrist, but the earliest possible appointment is Tuesday (and that is standby only). I did keep Kitty out of school yesterday and she stayed pretty emotionally regulated. I sent her back to school today, and she typically holds things together there, but obviously I’m pretty worried. I do not think she is truly suicidal at this time, but she clearly is crying out for help.

Thank you,

Mary theMom (###)###-####
" Life isn't about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain."

Sunday, March 20, 2011


I'm writing this post in the spirit of, "Those who can't, teach."

Did I ever mention that when we were wrongly investigated for child abuse, that we were also cited because the house was too cluttered? Honestly one reason (admittedly not the biggest one) that we haven't pursued adoption again was having to keep the house perfectly clean all the time. We're not filthy people, but I am a packrat and sometimes it's not worth it to me to argue with the kids to keep things picked up. (Funny story: Once Kitty asked if we could adopt again. I told her we'd have to keep the house picked up all the time, and she said, "Never mind then.")

Our biggest solution for baby clutter while satisfying my packrat, cheapskate green ways, was:

"Mary's Closet."
We were planning on adopting and didn't know what age child we would get, so we kept everything just in case. Every time my child outgrew a size or type of toy, I put them in big Rubbermaid tubs - carefully labeled "Boy" or "Girl" the size and season if applicable. 

My kids were the first grandchildren so there was no one around to hand stuff down. I had a girl then a boy - so most of Bob's stuff couldn't be handed down to Ponito. When my sister's first child was born he was only 6 months younger than Ponito so we really couldn't hand down much, but we tried. My sister returned the clothes with all of my nephew's clothes too (and he was the first grandchild on her husband's side so was pretty spoiled! *grin*).

I continued this practice with friends, family, neighbors... pretty much everyone. Trying to keep what eventually became the "Wall of Clothes" out of the house. I told all the borrowers not to worry about anything getting damaged (I buy almost everything second-hand so I wasn't terribly worried about it), and if they didn't want their own child's stuff when they were done with it then they could throw it in when they returned the rest of the stuff to "Mary's Closet."

I realized that things had gotten out of control one day when I ran into a woman at a thrift store who was unexpectedly getting custody of her two year old nephew, and needed clothes and items for him. I arranged a time for her to come by the house and started pulling "Boys 24mo/ 2T Warm weather"... there were easily 6! of those huge Rubbermaid tubs, several lawn trash bags and some toys!! It was ridiculous, and the worst part was the woman ended up not getting custody and brought it all back!

By the time we were ready to adopt Bear and Kitty (who were teens!),  you'll have to use your imagination about what the "Wall of Clothes" looked like. Of course Bear and Kitty wore mostly adult sizes, so needless to say they didn't need ANY of those little clothes.

"Mary's Closet" had become "Mary's Storage Warehouse." I had one last friend with several small children approach me and I told her that she could have the entire storehouse if she promised it would never return. She could sell it, burn it, whatever, I no longer cared!

So that's my best solutions for clutter.


Two to three times a year we declutter the kid's stuff. A few weeks before school starts and about a month before Christmas (Thanksgiving Break or the start of Winter Break). Sometimes I'll throw in a Spring Cleaning over Spring Break. 


Santa is Coming
My goal is to have the kids go through the house and de-clutter their own stuff. It works especially well to do it over the Thanksgiving holiday. I think I've blogged about this before. Basically I tell the children that Christmas is coming and they have too much stuff. Lots of kids would love the stuff that they no longer use or play with and the more they give away the more room they'll have for new toys from Santa!

Numbers Game
When going through items they had many of, I told them they could keep "X" number of items. I tried to make it sound like I hadn't just pulled the number out of the air. Sometimes it was based on their age, how many they needed (7 days in a week so 10 shirts), or how much room the toy took up (Ex. Ponito got to keep more match box cars than his age that year, but Bob could only have 10 stuffed animals). I didn't tell them my reasoning, just said, "You can keep 10 stuffed animals." I'm still a little shocked that they never questioned having to keep only a certain number of items!

This way the control issues were kept to a minimum and they didn't argue with me about what should be kept (it wasn't my decision it was theirs!). This helped them learn to prioritize what they like and wanted.
If it came down to they had a few too many items and couldn't decide, then I helped them.

For example, Kitty could only keep 10 stuffed animals, but had gotten down to 14 or 15 and was stuck. I picked up each stuffed animal and asked her why it was special and she wanted to keep it.  One or two, were in the pile only because someone had given it to her and she didn't want to hurt their feelings, but she didn't actually care about it. We discussed whether or not the giver would know if she still had it or not (boyfriend wouldn't know because he wasn't allowed in her room!) and how much some child would love it, then into the bag it went. If she waffled, then it went in to the donate bag. One stuffed animal had been given to her by her birth mother and she didn't want to give it away, but she didn't want it on her bed either. It went in to her Memory Box, and therefore didn't count against her 10!

I've also been known to let them keep one or two extra of something because I'm a nice mom. 

Memory Box
Like most kids from trauma, my kids tend to be hoarders. They keep every scrap of paper, empty wrapper, McDonald's toy, sparkly rock, dried out tubes of who knows what...  So we created a Memory Box out of an old Paper box. I wrote Memory Box on it in fancy lettering and let the child decorate it. When we were decluttering a child's room, we put things that had special meaning to them in the box. With a reminder that when the box was full, it was full. If the child wanted to put more in, then something had to come out. Most of the things kept were small (like medals and awards) so we never actually had to deal with it getting so full that things had to come out.

Back to School Fashion Show (usually before school starts and again when they come back from Winter Break)

I don't know how the clothes manage to accumulate like bunnies (except for socks of course, which disappear singly). Rather than just having them try on clothes, we make it a little more fun with a "fashion show." Once we have clothes pared down to just what fits and they still like, then they have to pare it down to just what's needed (the rest can go in the Clothes Closet or Good Will bag), usually one for every day of the week, plus a couple of extras. The girls enjoy shopping for new clothes needed to fill in what's needed (the boys not so much, so I tend to shop for them).

Again keeping control issues to a minimum, because they get to choose which clothes they want to keep.

Clothes Closet

Clothes are back to being a huge issue for me because the girls and I wear similar sizes and all of us fluctuate in weight so it's harder for me to get rid of the clothes (I want to hang on to them just in case). I tend toward classics so it's not as easy as throwing away all the acid wash jeans with zippers and the ripped up off the shoulder sweatshirts (am I showing my age)?

Garage Sale Prices
I paid the kids $1 a bag (large kitchen trash bags) for all the toys they got rid of - the theory was I would sell them at some future date in a garage sale and this way they got their share of the money now instead of waiting and hoping it would sell. We got rid of a lot of those McD*nald type toys that clutter up everyone's toy boxes!

Trading Spaces/ Big Girl Room

Trading spaces is a reality TV show where you have 48 hours to redecorate a room in your neighbor's house. Kitty wanted to convert her room to be more "grown up." For Christmas, I got her a "big girl bed" (queen size) with more sophisticated bedding. I'll paint the walls the same neutral color as the rest of the house (we're planning on selling the house in the next couple of years), but we can have fun with the rest.

Follow-up: As expected, Kitty was unable to do the clean up on her own and kept refusing my help. One day as she was walking out to hang out with a friend, I informed her I was working on her room today as it was convenient for me then. It went from this to THIS in 4 hours. I put all non-trash items in bags and boxes in her closet and told her we would go through them together - knowing this would be hard/ triggering for her. {I let her put me off for 2 days, then I finally got her to sit down with me and go through everything. I used the Numbers Game and the Memory Box for most of it.} 


I posted the AFTER pictures on FaceBook and tagged Kitty which put the post on her page. All her friends saw what a good job I did and told her how awesome it looked and how sweet it was of me to do that for her. That way she couldn't get away with blaming me and complaining to all her friends about how mean I was for cleaning her room!

Moving Time

Every time we move stuff around (like when I had to give up my sewing room to Bob for a bedroom), I try to go through it again with an eye to "what have I used recently... or never"? What do I have space for in the new location? How do I want the new location to look (cluttered and messy? or uncluttered and organized?) 

After Ponito graduated high school, we decided to downsize (4250 sq ft to less than 1800 with 6 people living there - my disabled MIL moved in with us). To put the house on the market, we had to move out at least 1/2 our stuff. I can't believe how much stuff we had that we hadn't used in decades and didn't even know we had (I found infant feeding stuff - spoons, dishes... and the baby was 18!). I grabbed a sharpie, a ton of trash bags, and some Rubbermaid tubs and moving boxes. I did a room or area at a time. I labeled the bags, "trash," "sell," or "donate." If it went in to storage, I put it in a tub or box. I cleaned as I went. After the room was decluttered, I painted it if needed (it usually was).

"Donate" bags and items went into the trunk of my car and I can't tell you how many fully loaded trips I made to the local Charity/ thrift store. If an item didn't sell in a reasonable amount of time, it got donated. 


Kid school projects

For all the cute school stuff the kids brought home, I'd put it in a folder marked with their name and age/school grade. A couple of years later, surrounded by the detritus of 2-4 kids' massive amounts of awards, report cards, writing, art projects I am able to go through it again and be fairly vicious. Come back a few years later and it's even easier to pare down more. You can also take a picture of the item and trash the original.

Sort Immediately
Paperwork is my other big clutter issue. Hubby keeps every bill we ever had - mostly not opened because he pays online - and that's a LOT! Now that I'm in two NAMI classes, trying to study for my social work license, and keep up on my reading, that adds up too. I try not to even go to the mailbox unless I'm ready to sort right then. Hubby's, Old Company, Mine, and Trash (recycling). Coupons and stuff go in my car - which I usually end up throwing away as they expire. 

 3" 3-Ring Binder 

I have IEPs, psych evals, applications, reports... for both kids. I've gotten a little more organized about that, because otherwise the piles will eat me. Now I use a 3" 3-ring binder for each child and I can't tell you how much easier it is, especially at IEP meetings and when a child is being admitted to a hospital. All those documents at my fingertips and neatly organized. 


I read books about de-cluttering (and donate them when I'm done!), watch lots of trash TV including things like Clean House, Hoarders and other decorating shows for inspiration. 

Company's Coming

I make plans to have guests over (especially my friends who are neat freaks/ OCD), and it motivates me to frantically clean before they arrive. 

 Accountable Organizing/ Cleaning

I signed up for Fly Lady at one point - which was really helpful. Of course the kids are old enough now to do lots of stuff for themselves (laundry, dishes, etc.) as evidenced by our chore chart

40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge

Over a 40 day period (or longer) each day you take at least one bag of clutter (trash, donations, whatever) out of the house. This blog post has several charts and ideas on how and what to declutter and stay accountable (they also have a tutorial, but you have to pay for that). I joined a very motivational Facebook group called 40 Bags in 40 Days, where you can post about your own progress and dilemmas and see how others are handling it. 

Why I Strip Declutter My Children's Rooms

It is sometimes necessary to simplify a child with trauma issue’s life a LOT to lessen the feeling of “overwhelm.”  This can be like childproofing – avoiding and removing things and events that can be triggers.  This can be making their world smaller and lowering expectations. 

Because our children are easily overwhelmed, our children's therapist recommended that we strip their rooms to a bed, a toy, and a book. It was NOT a punishment, and not something they could "earn" back (or actually not earn back, because my kids are afraid to be emotionally attached to things as it gives others power over them so they pretended indifference to them. ).

For a time, I even took my daughter's dresser out of her room and had her check out her clothes each day (this cut way down on the wet pull-ups stuffed behind dressers and other places). It sounds extreme, but too much stuff was overwhelming. {Structure and Caring Support}

Remember - your child may struggle with the process of cleaning/ decluttering. My kids emotional and developmental ages were much younger than their physical age {Therapeutic Parenting Based on Emotional/ Developmental Age} so what most kids their age could handle, often triggered Rages and Dysregulation (Meltdowns or Shut Downs).

While my neurotypical biokids could be told, "go clean your room," despite being a teenager in body (and attitude), Kitty was easily overwhelmed and often couldn't handle directions with more than 2 tasks (One task if she was Dysregulated).

We had to cut way back on the chore expectations that she "should" be able to handle. I would break down tasks into small steps and give them to her one at a time. 

Instead of saying, "Clean your room," which was overwhelming and just didn't happen. I would say, "Empty your trashcan." and when that was done, then I would say, "Put your dirty clothes in your laundry basket." Then, when that was done, I would say, "Put your laundry basket next to the washing machine." Then"put all your dirty dishes (which aren't supposed to be in their rooms at all!) in the sink. Then, "Put your stuffed animals on your bed and your toys in the toy box." 

Three or more tasks, even if they were written on a checklist, was too much for her to handle.

95% of the time, I needed to be with my child and help them clean/ organize/ declutter to help keep them on task and calm. Sometimes I had to do it myself when my child wasn't present, because it was just too much for them to cope with.

Most of the time, I would have to do these things with her (not for her, but be present in the room, often helping clean near her). Chores, Responsibilities, and Other Things My Kids Can't Handle. 

Eventually, she got to where she could do a few tasks at a time, but the chaos in her head will always be reflected in the chaos of her room. I still help her keep it regulated.  Therapeutically Parenting the Adult Child

What happens when I don't help my adult child clean her room: 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Fund - raiser

Oh my goodness I'm still crying. This lady is a friend of a friend, fellow blogger and she and her family are trying to adopt 2 little girls one of whom needs surgery ASAP or will suffer serious brain damage. They don't have near enough and are running out of time so she decided to put up her wedding ring as a fund-raiser. Her two daughters have also put up some of their jewelry. I can't really afford it, but I decided to donate $5 and I figure if I win I won't take the ring.
I read a lot of sob stories, but this one really touched my heart so I decided to share it.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Spring Break H*ll

Monday was horrible because of the cleaning issues. Kitty melted down the whole day. Ponito got mouthy and/or hid. Bob was actually pretty helpful (and was rewarded with books). Bear disappeared for most of the time.

Tuesday is historically a light cleaning day because Kitty has therapy in the evenings so doesn't have time for chores (and I'm with her so couldn't supervise). This week Poppy took the boys so they could garden at the grandparent's house and to the duck pond to feed the ducks (Ponito went fishing, but Bear is old enough to need a fishing license. He tried to get Ponito to pay for it, but Hubby and I nixed that idea. We don't like the kids to loan each other money and Bear has no way to pay Ponito back. He'd offered to do Ponito's chores, but a lot of Ponito's chores are in areas Bear is not allowed in (like the Master bath) and Bear has enough chores of his own to not do.

This Tuesday Kitty had a psychiatrist appointment in the morning and afterward I talked to financial services lady about getting SSI for Bear when he becomes an "adult." Long meeting and we're meeting again next week. Afterward I took Kitty and Bob bra shopping (they've grown - Bob - and shrunk - Kitty! and now wear the same size *yea?!* which is not a standard size carried in most stores. *boo!* So after hours of shopping we came home empty handed. *phbbt!*).

Wednesday was Bear's turn at the p-doc, but he couldn't get out of bed in time so we had to reschedule. We were supposed to meet with his casemanager and skills trainer right after the appointment to discuss his transition to adult services (he turns 18 in July) so we had to go anyway. Then that afternoon we went back for his p-doc appointment (we were lucky to get a cancellation for the same day), and while we were there we met with his potential adult casemanager, who completely confused us (she said that since he was still in high school he would stay with the Child and Youth services for another year - which is the exact opposite of what we'd been told that morning). So back to Child and Youth department to get that officially confirmed or denied... Well they've got 4 months to figure it out I guess.

Today/ Thursday is a "heavy chores" day (normally we do volunteer work with the horse therapy place on Wednesdays so it's a light day).

By the way today has SUCKED almost as much as Monday (worse in some ways).

  1. Kitty had bathroom chores – but she actually didn’t melt down “as much” as Monday, even though no one helped her. Even after I made her scrub the mold in the shower with a toothbrush, and sent her back a dozen times to actually clean the toilet and surrounding area. In our house we all share the master bathroom because the kids' bathroom stinks (Bear is the only one who uses it and he can be pretty disgusting for a kid who spends hours in the bathtub). I did try "prescribing" - telling her to have her tantrum first, get it out of the way, before I started critiquing her chores. She started to have a fit a little later and I stepped back and said, "Oh, ok, you're going to have your fit now? Go ahead." She didn't do it. I acted disappointed. She doesn't have ODD so it always surprises me when this works. I've got to remember to try it more often.

  2. Bob’s definition of clean and mine are dramatically different (I know this shocks you! Brace yourself it gets worse), and she whined, sneaked and just plain ignored me a lot of the day, but she did get most of her chores done right and she didn’t get nasty about it (we actually had some laughs - she was dusting an artificial tree with big leaves and doing a pretty poor job of it. I kept finding leaves that hadn't been dusted - every single time she said she was done, so I'd try to write "Hi" on the leaf before she could swipe it with the duster).

  3. Bear. *sigh* His chore was his room. Which was pretty clean. Except I made the mistake of asking him what the whitish spots all over his rug, floor mat and walls were. He admitted it was spit, and claimed he couldn't get it off. I gave him some cleaner and a brush, but he chose to do something to his rug outside with the hose (I try not to think about the carpet). I told him I also wanted him to scrub the black spots off the stairs (vacuum stairs and upstairs hall were one of his chores today) and he had a minor meltdown (I’m “perfect” and I want him to be “perfect” like me, and it’s not his job, and he’s NOT going to do it…). I told him the same thing I tell Kitty, “if it’s not your job, whose is it?” and “It’s your choice not to do your chore” – no threat, just left it open ended). He did the chore... after a lot of yelling, intimidating, pouting and insults. In a minute I have to get up and inspect it. *yuck*

  4. Ponito. *deeper sigh* Where do I start? Well the highlight of my day was when he squirted me in the face with cleaning solution (he thought the nozzle was closed, but it was still done in anger), and then hid and refused to answer me when I repeatedly called him (I didn’t find him for almost an hour, but admittedly I didn’t look for the first 15 minutes after I washed my face. He was glad I wasn't hurt and he did sincerely apologize).

Yea, I’m REALLY popular right now, but on the bright side, I got all the green eggs with asparagus and spinach/ cheddar biscuits to myself!

When is "vacation" over so I can get some rest?!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Spring Break Cleaning

I think I've mentioned that our kids have pretty extensive chore charts. They look even more elaborate than they are because we've broken down all the tasks into smaller tasks. Some days kids have therapy or have requested almost no chores on the weekend. I try to avoid blank spots (so others don't complain that someone has fewer chores than they do) and if you notice they're lots of "Hug parents" as fillers.

Bear (17) still owes about $100 for property damage and theft so he is on "double chores." Which means he can earn up to $2/day with a possible extra dollar for attitude. (We realized since he only did about half his chores, at the rate he was going he'd still owe us money when he was 50 so we doubled it. Now he still does half his chores, but that's twice as much!).

Ponito (12) has full chores, which means he can earn $1/day (with the extra $1 for attitude). Lately he's been lying about completing his chores (rerunning the dishwasher with the same dishes, claiming he cleaned something when he didn't actually do anything...).

Bob (14) is on 3/4 chores because she has so much homework.

Kitty (16) is on 1/2 chores, because that's all she can handle. Chores are a major trauma trigger for her.

Hubby has been checking the chores for the last few weeks because it had become a MAJOR issue for me (Ponito's lying, Kitty's meltdowns, Bear and Bob's defiance, everybody's general laziness as to what constitutes "complete" chores... trigger my own issues. The kids are not allowed to watch TV or play with anything electronic (computer, Gameboy, Playstation...) until all chores are done and checked. Now that I no longer check chores, this means they have to wait till Hubby gets home at 6:30pm. This has been tough on them, but no one has suggested I take back over! *grin*

Hubby had threatened that they would have to do extra chores over Spring Break, but told them yesterday that they were off the hook. No extra chores. Just their regular chores... done to MOM's standards. They all thought this would be easy, but it's almost 3pm and they're still cleaning.

Actually most of the kids had finished their chores. All but Kitty. Her chore was the playroom. Which is rarely used, but Kitty has been giving it less than a lick and a promise for months and months and it had become a HUGE undertaking, even though I've enforced a cleaning/ decluttering about every 6 months.

Here's some of the things they've removed:

  • An empty fish tank full of naked Bratz dolls with missing limbs and shaved heads

  • School notebooks from 5th grade (the child in question is now in 9th grade)

  • Winnie the Pooh and Rescue Heroes VHS tapes

  • A trash bag full of candy wrappers, Christmas wrapping paper, beads, colored coloring pages...

  • A lot of broken toys, DVDs, tools, cups, socks, hair bows..

I'm not a perfectionist, but I think you all would agree that their definition of clean is not the norm. Normally I'd insert a picture here, but my network is down and I can't access one. *pout*

Please just use your imagination. Or maybe you shouldn't. If I go missing, please interrogate my kids.

I seriously need to get my World's Meanest Mom badge made.

MTM Word Search

Make Your Own Word Search

Thursday, March 10, 2011

School casemanager response

Kitty's casemanager is also her math teacher. Here is her response to my e-mail. She's the only one who responded.


Kitty appears to be fine in math class. However, it has been a difficult 2 weeks because of her friends in math class being withdrawn to attend schools out of the school district. One of the young ladies Kitty considered to be one of her best friends, and was in all of her classes. This loss has been the most difficult for Kitty. The other young lady was whom she shared a lot of "gossip".

Kitty has not asked to go to the nurse from Math class. I think she may have missed a class because the nurse sent her home.

Kitty does not have a BIP {Behavior Intervention Plan}. It was dismissed at the last ARD {IEP meeting}. I really don't know if a BIP can address behaviors as you described. Would you like for her to see the crisis counselor, Ms. S? She can also visit with Mr. C {her guidance counselor - although she has talked to a different guidance counselor (female) who will be her counselor next year}, Mr. J {her assistant principal}, or me.

Kitty completes her class work. Any homework which I have given her is not done at
home and is usually late, so I have not given any lately.

Anyone else have any ideas? I hope this helps

Mrs P

I don't even know where to go from here. To address the e-mail:

We knew Kitty's friends moved away, but this happened after the increase in her emotional issues so this isn't too helpful in figuring out the problem.

I didn't realize that Kitty's BIP (supposed to limit her visits to the nurse) was dismissed at the last meeting. I'm not sure it was. I know at the ARD the teachers said it wasn't being used, so they didn't see a need for it (she was only leaving one class - so the others weren't seeing the issue) and therefore they weren't following it.

No worries on the not giving her homework anymore. Saves me time arguing at the next IEP meeting that she's not ready for mainstream classes with inclusion. To keep her from being put in regular ed classes (which I don't think she can handle emotionally), I've been using the fact that she never has homework as a major reason why she wouldn't be able to be in a regular ed class where there is lots of homework. Instead of trying to get into the more subjective stuff, like her inability to handle the emotional demands.

I did talk to the school's crisis counselor who used to be a foster parent and mostly "gets it," but I don't know what I want from her (she suggested social skills class, DBT, talking to Kitty about what biopolar is (Kitty probably isn't ready for this)... all good, concrete suggestions. However, I think the problem is that I want to discuss finding alternate school placements for Kitty, not vocational assessments. I have messages in with other people too so maybe I can address this in another way. I haven't found any alternatives yet, and of course coming to the school without options and a plan, means nothing happens, so I'm not ready for that yet.

I better get some sleep.

Survival Advice

Read! Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control helped me understand why my kids act the way they do and be a little more empathetic when I felt like screaming at them. I love everything by Katharine Leslie (you can search my blog to see more about her). If you (or anyone else) wants it, I can e-mail you a document I’ve compiled with reviews of a lot of books and methods regarding adoption, discipline, psychiatric diagnoses….

Simplify! We stripped our kids rooms, broke all tasks down into simple steps given a little bit at a time, and reduced expectations to be more developmentally appropriate (I’d expect a 16 yr old to do their own laundry, but my "developmentally only 6" yr old has difficulty putting it away).

Empathize. This is hard, but try to remember your kid has been through a lot, and even though your child may have lived with you 8 years, he learned a lot of ways to handle the trauma during those early years and probably feels as though it could happen again at any minute. It’s like growing up in a warzone. In addition to trauma and diagnoses, there's often other issues going on too. A fight with a friend, feeling overwhelmed and unsafe in the cafeteria... Plus, if the child is 9 and up, he or she might be starting puberty (trauma can trigger early onset). All those lovely hormones rushing through the body.

Take care of yourself! This is probably the hardest of all. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made and move on. Focus on the present and the positive. Laugh!! Find support groups. Have a date night at least once a month. Bubble baths, read a good book that has nothing to do with kids and issues, eat better, get enough sleep, exercise… yea, yea I know this is hard (I was up till almost 3 last night and for breakfast I had a pound of strawberries with chocolate chips), but it is important to try!

Remember you are not alone!!!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Letter to Kitty's school

Hi guys,

I wanted to check in with you regarding Kitty and our concerns about what appears to be a major increase in her stress over the last few weeks. I wonder if there might be some sort of increase in the usual drama at school causing this, and I would appreciate any insight. She has begun calling home even more frequently with stomach aches, headaches and various other psychosomatic ailments. At home she is easily upset and increasingly prone to meltdowns. I’m worried that she is heading toward another emotional break requiring psychiatric hospitalization.

Kitty has always had issues with the emotional drama at school. She has admitted she’s a pretty big gossip, and apparently has a need for all her friends to feel sorry for her and believe that we (her parents) are mean and overly controlling. Her world is very black and white. Kitty has talked a lot about S_____, a junior boy in which she is interested, that is depressed and into cutting. Kitty is very empathetic and has mentioned that she is negatively influenced by his depressed outlook.

I also want to mention the issues we’re dealing with at school regarding Kitty’s siblings. Last week Kitty walked into the cafeteria, and in front of everyone, pointed at her sister and loudly announced, “ there’s the backpack breaker.” (At home, Kitty had put her backpack in a room Bob, her sister, was cleaning. Bob tossed it in another room and a plastic piece on the back pack broke, making one of the straps not work. Kitty wanted Bob punished for the damage, but we determined it was an accident and partially Kitty’s fault so we did not give Bob any consequences. This caused a major meltdown at home.) Kitty’s outburst in the cafeteria really upset and embarrassed Bob of course. When my husband confronted Kitty about it, Kitty claimed it was intended as a joke, but she admitted that her tone of voice was serious, not joking. Bear, Kitty’s older brother, and Kitty seem to be attracted to the same type of kids (ones with big issues!). Kitty’s gossip about Bear is creating even more drama than already exists (yes, we realize he’s just as big a gossip as she).

Honestly I don’t know what to do. Kitty’s issues seemed to be getting reinforced and worsened by allowing this to continue. I need your input and suggestions.

Some possible options:
• Social skills classes?
• Look into a different type of school for Kitty? Charter?
• Call an ARD and get the team to brainstorm options, if not for now, then for next school year.
• Is this something that should/could be covered by a school Behavior Intervention Plan? I don’t feel that her current BIP restricting her visits to the nurse (while necessary) is addressing her issues. {Making Kitty rate her pain on a scale of 1 to 5 is her only BIP - but the teachers have stated they don't use it}
• Continue to ignore it and focus on keeping her regulated.

We’ve talked about giving her homework so that next year she can try inclusion classes. Obviously this hasn’t been happening, but she’s not dealing well with what she has, so I have to admit I’m not terribly upset about this. Still this is something we need to address eventually as I’m sure it causes her anxiety. She is making good grades, but I’ve noticed that the area she’s having problems in is missing assignments. Usually she does the work, but has trouble getting it turned in.

Obviously we are addressing this at home and are working with Kitty’s therapist, but I feel Kitty needs more support. I look forward to hearing from you about this.

Mary Themom cell ###-####

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Letter to Bear's schools

Bear's schools had standardized testing yesterday which really messed up the schedules. The schools couldn't arrange a bus to take Bear from his special school to his regular school so they asked me to drive him. One "advantage" of my not having a job.

I don't know that I really expect anything to come of this, but I decided to send this letter to Bear's schools regarding several calls I received yesterday. Will be interesting to see if Bear gets any consequences from this. Do you think I should have mentioned he's failing two classes as well?

I just wanted to clarify that yesterday I dropped Bear off at school at exactly 2:45pm. At about 3:30pm I received a call from Mr. P {One of the behavior program staff at the regular high school} to confirm this time, as Bear hadn’t gone directly to class as he was told he needed to go. Apparently Bear was confronted by a teacher who thought she saw him during lunch hour, and Bear lied and told Mr. P that he wasn’t dropped off until 3:15pm to hide the fact that he was missing for ½ an hour.

Within a couple of minutes of my talking to Mr. P, I received a call from Bear. He was irate about having been confronted with skipping class, and was trying to deflect this by focusing on the inaccurate accusation of him being at the school at lunch time. I tried to both get him to accept responsibility and calm down. According to his point sheet I was successful on the latter, but I doubt I had any success with the former.

As I told Mr. P, I believe that Bear needs to be held accountable for his attendance and blatant lying to Mr. P. According to Home Access {Online access to kids' attendance and grades that's usually about 48 hours behind}, Bear has been tardy to a class every day for the last 3 school days (although it was my understanding that he actually missed an entire class yesterday - Home Access may not be reflecting that yet). Bear has always shown a need to take advantage of any perceived weakness in the rules and structure and escalate until it is finally noticed and stopped up so that he can feel safe again. How far do we want to let this escalate this time?

Mary TheMom

" Life isn't about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain."