Monday, March 29, 2010


Today is Rocky's hearing. We were talking to him this morning about what to expect, and what he should say, and he came up with yet another explanation about what happened.

Finally, I had him make up a cheat sheet about what he told each person involved, so he could keep track of that was said. It turns out he lied to us up until this morning, even when we told him we wanted the truth.

I asked him if he really wanted my support. He said yes. I asked him if he thought the best way to get it was to lie and keep pushing me away. He started to cry.

Three minutes later, I asked him a question, and again he lied.

I give up.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Lull before the storm

I have been reading back through the posts for the month, and I discovered that we had a nice, peaceful period of time right before the knife incident. Things were ragingly middle class normal, the lull before the storm.

Which makes me wonder--why is it I was given this brief period of serenity, one where I could breathe without feeling the knot in my diaphragm? Was it to give me hope? To tease me? To show me how things should be? Well, all it did was make things harder still. I deeply resent Rocky's absolute stupidity in taking that knife to school. I find that I am feeling pretty uncompassionate about his situation--I'd like him to suffer more. This morning, he was sitting at the kitchen table, staring at the floor and smiling to himself. It made me think of one of those creepy kids in the horror movies.

Today it is raining, and we will be in the house together all this dark day. I am thinking of sleeping it away.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Patty Hearst

I was thinking about Patty Hearst just now, trying to get a handle on how she became indoctrinated by her captors and bought in to their agenda, something which is called Stockholm Syndrome.

You would think, after ten years of living here, that Rocky might have bought into something. Yes, yes, I know--the first two years of his life were trauma and neglect, and then when he should have been bonding to us, he was terrified and fighting for what he thought was his survival. Plus, the prenatal exposures, coupled with the trauma, have affected his ability to use cause and effect thinking. No matter how much effort we make, how much work with do, how much therapy we provide, he still lies and steals and makes really really stupid choices.

We have a life which no one wants and few understand. My house has become like a prison or boot camp, and I have become the warden, drilling and supervising and sounding like Tommy Lee Jones with PMS. No offense to Mr. Jones--he is a fine actor, and I enjoy his work. But I am tired. Tired of chaos, tired of never believing what I am told. Tired of the fight, fight, fight, of not ever getting anywhere.

Maybe I'm the one getting Stockholm Syndrome.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Nest Box

My friend Maeve has directed me toward this web site, where a camera is in a nest box of a mother owl hatching owlets. I am fast becoming addicted to her activities.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ten Days

For some stupid reason, Rocky took a steak knife to school. Of course, since he is a candidate for the dumb criminals hall of fame, the flap of his backpack, where the steak knife was stashed, got caught in his locker door, and the knife fell out.

And, being Rocky, he denied it up one side and down the other, horribly sincere. I told him, "I want the truth. I do not want to be blindsided when I go into the principal's office tomorrow morning. Our knives are unusual, and I will know right away if they are ours, so let me know now what to expect."

Nope. No way was it our knife. Wide eyes, sincere expression. I swear, Mom. Okay. Glad to hear it. I will defend you.

When I went in to the principal's office the next morning, I was of course blindsided. I told the principal, "It's one of ours. The little squirt's been lying to me. Where do we go from here."

I think he was a bit dumfounded at my reaction. However, why would I deny it? Obviously it was ours, and unless aliens beamed it out of my kitchen drawer and into the locker, Rocky was involved.

So we have ten days of suspension, which I am attempting to make as close to Hell on Earth as I possibly can. If I had my way, he would have been suspended in school, in a public area, where everyone could see him. However, this at-home thing is a punishment for me, too, as I have to come up with activities and labor to fill his time. I gave him a stack of worksheets and had him clean the linen closet, and it is now nine a.m.

This is going to be a long long long suspension. For both of us.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Little Dog

Yesterday I did a hospice vigil. In the room with me and the patient was a charming little dog, who was no larger than a cat with stubby legs, and a small, almost cat-like face. Actually, she looked more like a bat than a cat, with her little snub nose and teeny fangs and pointed little ears.

I was quite taken with this dog, who quietly sat there with us, snuggled down in the bed, giving comfort by her warm little presence. I am partial to dogs anyway, and I am periodically reminded of how they have learned to live in our world. They understand our language, and we sometimes learn theirs. My old dog, who is now gone, understood over 100 words and read my moods better than any human I have ever met. My Harry has learned to open the refrigerator and has his own schedule which dovetails with ours. Penny, my wild child, sits on the sofa and watches television after a hard day of playing ball with us. And Nash, well Nash is just dumb, but he wants to be loved by me or Rocky, little realizing that incessant yapping isn't helping that.

Just now I scolded Harry for licking the walls, so now I wonder how much he really has mastered living in our world after all. However, despite the wall licking, I think I'll keep him. He makes me smile.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

We have become them . . .

Yesterday I went with my sister and cousin to see my only surviving aunt, the baby of the family, who is in hospice care. My sister commented that this was the last of that generation, and that the next wave of deaths will be the older cousins; they are not much younger than my aunt is.

Kiki is at girl scout camp for the weekend, and Nita asked a friend over to play. The girls are jumping around upstairs, over my head, giggling and playing, tweedling on the recorders which I force Nita to keep in her room and not play anywhere else in the house. I am sorting coupons and reading the paper. EG is watching a war movie on television, much like my father would watch John Wayne on Saturday afternoon, and Rocky is in the room with him, half watching and half devouring a new book he got today.

I realized that we have begun to settle in our "real" life, the one without the nursing home and the dreading of phone calls in the middle of the night. Kids are playing in the house, the dog is sleeping on his bed, and the war is on TV again for this generation. So, for a few years, we will this way of life, one which Nita called "boring" this afternoon when she asked to call her friend. And, frankly, a few years of boring is what we need.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Letter to the teacher

I sent this letter to Rocky's homeroom teacher this morning:

Rocky has not been availing himself of all his educational opportunities and has not be completing his classwork. Since he does his homework, I am assuming that there are other factors at school which are, ahem, interfering with his education.

After a long and confusing conversation with Rocky in which he finally revealed the reasons for his less-than-stellar performance in his classes (along with numerous other facts which were apparently intended as red herrings to distract me), I have the following concerns (and this is just the list about school).

I do not have an email address for many of his teachers (and I like you), so would you please forward this email to his subject teachers?

Language Arts: Rocky has been showing a poor performance on POD's, which are given at the end of class. He said (after careful cross examination and considerable head banging on my part) that he is in a hurry to get these done so he can read quietly. While I am thrilled that Rocky is enthusiastic about reading and impressed and a bit amazed he wants to do anything quietly, I emphasized to him the importance of prioritizing work. He and I came up with three options, which I told him he needed to discuss with his teacher. First, he could be moved to the front of the class for class so he won't lose focus for the POD (fewest popular votes and a wide-eyed "yikes" expression). Second, he could be given extra time to complete the POD by not being permitted to read quietly but could sit quietly until class was over and/or he completed the work correctly and had it checked (needless to say, that wasn't a favorite, either). Or he could do the work correctly the first time and then read. I will be tracking to see if he does any better.

Keyboarding: Rocky is taking this during the last period of the day. Unfortunately, the timing on his meds is sketchy there, and he might be lacking focus during this time. We see that he did poorly on the Internet safety assignment, and we would like to give him ample opportunity to learn this essential information, so could we please have access to the assignment, either online or on paper? If this does not change the grade, that is fine; as you know, I am a firm believer that education is its own reward, and if the paper is blank and he needs to start over, it will be an excellent chance for a review.

And, saving the best for last: Rocky is at a table with Bobby for science labs. He and Bobby are great friends. They goof around. He reports they are not showing off for the girls at the table, as he doesn't like them that way, but since he is not always an accurate reporter in his own affairs d'amour, then who knows. I told him that, if he and Bobby didn't work together and his grades didn't come up, then I would request that a third girl be exchanged for Bobby, leaving him the only rooster in the henhouse, so to speak. Or, after living with his sisters, it might be a capon in the henhouse.

Anyway, Rocky's dad just accused me of composing War and Peace (little did he realize the irony of THAT), so I will stop.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Last night I had a dream

I have been walking around with what feels like a knot in my solar plexus, a twisting up of nerves, anxious to the point of taking Xanax so I can sleep. Since anxiety is symptom of menopause, I have been trying to see what works in helping me cope. My doctor told me, "You have a lot going on" when he wrote the prescription, but really, who doesn't?

This past weekend was my mother's birthday. She would have been 85. Since she was a children's librarian at our neighborhood elementary school, and since she loved the quirky humor of Shel Silverstein (one of the books which our beloved hospice volunteers read over and over and over again to her), I bought the anniversary edition of one of his collections to donate to the library in her honor. Her youngest sister is now in hospice care as well, and this week I am going to see her and say goodbye.

Nita had a friend come over for her birthday. We took the girls to the Lake Erie Nature Center and then out to eat. Rocky had a friend come over yesterday, and while we were out with them, I noticed that a local horticultural center had removed its fence for the widening of the highway. This place always has a lovely display of ornamental cabbages long into the fall, and since they are on my side of the car, I enjoy them when we are at the stop light near the church.

It has been sunny for five days now. Last night I had a dream in which Harry the dog was old, and he went to sleep in the sunshine out by the end of the driveway, lying on his side, totally relaxed and warm, and he gently and peacefully died there in his sleep, just becoming more and more relaxed until he was gone. In the dream I was in the living room, and when I looked out the window, I saw that my father, who loved flowers, had planted rows of ornamental grasses and cabbages at the end of the driveway there, and then had erected this huge and really ornate and very implausible bird house condominium contraption as well. In the dream, EG said to me, "He knew about Harry, and didn't want you to be sad every time you looked out there."

I woke up crying. No, he wouldn't want me to be sad. But I am. So much loss, so much sadness, and none of it peaceful and gentle, but painful and terror-producing for those who lived it personally, and frightening and frustrating for those of us who were on the journey with them. Yes, I am sad, but I have been dancing around the grief, ignoring it or pushing it back until it seeped out and bubbled up around the edges as anxiety, finally nesting in a big knot inside me, just waiting to be unleashed.

Today I am still crying off and on, but the knot inside me is gone for now. My father's favorite hymn, because it had been my grandmother's favorite, was In the Garden, and this year I will create a garden. It will be one which I can see and know that he wouldn't want me to be sad anymore. He is at peace, and I need to remember that and be there as well.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Lamp dance

The other night, Nita called downstairs from her room. "The lights went out up here."

Her father, who doesn't do well with chaos, asked, "What did you do?"

"I moved my bed." Silence, as no one could follow that.

I asked, "Did a light bulb burn out?"

"No, all the lights are out." EG went downstairs and threw every circuit breaker until he found the right one, which of course, was the last one he tried.

The next day, at bedtime, Kiki informed Nita that the house was going to burn down and we were all going to die in our beds, and it was going to be All Her Fault. Nita got hysterical, and then I attempted the maddening chore of finding out exactly what happened the night before to determine if death was imminent, her fault not withstanding.

"Wellllll," Nita drawled, carefully choosing her words, which made me realize that this was going to be an irritatingly long operation. "I moved my bed, and then the circuit breaker went off."

"Okay, and how did your bed make the lights go off?"

"The lights didn't go off until the circuit breaker went off." I glared at her and made a go on movement with my hand. "Wellll, I moved the bed and my lamp was there, and the circuit breaker made it dark. "

"And how did your lamp get involved?"

"It was plugged in."

"To the bed?"

"Nooo, to the wall." She gave me a look like she never realized how darn dumb I really was, and me a Ph.D. candidate, too. "And I moved my bed, and then the lights went out."

"Oh-kay. So the bed touched the lamp?"


"So what type of relationship did the lamp have with the bed?" Honestly.

"The bed didn't touch the lamp."

"Then what did the bed touch?"

"The lamp's cord."

"So, the lamp was plugged in, and the bed touched the cord, and the circuit breaker went off."

"The lamp wasn't plugged all the way in."

"But it was turned on?"


"Okay, so the lamp was plugged in, and when you moved the bed, the lamp jiggled and the lights went out."


"So you can plug the lamp in again and use it again."

"No, because the lamp is plugged in, and every time I try to use it, the circuit breaker goes off."

"Is it plugged partway in? Then just plug it the rest of the way in."

"But what do I do about the burn marks on the outlet?"

At this point I had developed an eye twitch, much like Inspector Dreyfus, Peter Sellers' superior officer in the Pink Panther movies.

"Burn marks?"

"Yes, my brushes must have gotten tangled in the bed and made the burn marks on the wall."

"Brushes?" My voice was now scaled three or four octaves above normal.

"Yes," she sighed, obviously exasperated at how dense I could be. "My drum brushes."

I put the heel of my hand over my right eye and pressed and took a moment. "So your metal drum brushes must have touched the prongs on the plug when they fell off the bed, and since the lamp was plugged in, it threw the circuit breaker?"

"Of course. That's what I've been saying. So am I going to die?"

Well, not in a fire.

So her so tacky that it is wonderful gilt and leopard print lamp is on the kitchen table, making the kitchen look like a seedy bordello until I can replace the plug. EG has gone out and gotten another outlet and will replace the burnt one this afternoon. And Nita has opted to move her bed away from the wall. And the brushes are now downstairs with the drum set.

If I survive this child's teenage years, it will be a miracle.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


The school called me Tuesday. When I saw the readout on my cell was the junior high school, I said, "Uh, oh." My office partner, who knows what "uh-oh" means, then said, "Oh?"

It turns out that I have to go in to update Rocky's paperwork, as he is doing fabulously in school and was officially mainstreamed in his last class this past Monday. However, as the mom of a kid who is healing from attachment disorder, I was reluctant to be delighted by this turn of events. With Rocky, you just never know.

Later that day I went to Nita's conference. Apparently, she has not been doing her homework, and she has been telling her teachers that Harry the dog has been eating her papers, even embellishing how ill poor Harry has been from the fiber. This is not to say that Harry cannot or will not eat anything which piques his interest even slightly. However, I was a bit perplexed that a child with as much savvy and attitude as she has would use the oldest and lamest excuse ever. Unless, of course, she figured that something so cliche would have to be true.