Monday, January 30, 2012

News of the day

Toots is still in the hospital. She has been complaining bitterly of stomach pains for several days. She had an abdominal sonogram, which showed nothing of significance. She has been receiving non-prescription pain relief, but as usual she says that does nothing for her. No matter how many doctors she sees, whatever is done for her aches and pains is never enough. It gets so frustrating. Over the weekend, to get more attention for her "plight", she cut her leg with a piece of wood she obtained somehow on the unit. Apparently it wasn't a large cut, but cutting her leg is new - always before, as she is right-handed, she has cut on her left arm and punched walls with her right fist. And, she has a powerful punch, as she studied Karate for a year and a half before she was hospitalized in 2006.

Speaking of punching, the Ninja competed in a martial arts tournament yesterday, and took home first place in 14-15 year-old black belt boys' sparring. If I'm able to get hold of the footage Lew took of his fights, I'll try to post it.

We have a gaudy array of his large and small trophies in our family room. What are we going to do with these when he grows up? Will he take them with him?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Law and Order

The Ninja has always been a person who sees the world in black and white, right and wrong, good against evil. So it's not too surprising that his career goals just now are police officer, Army Ranger, and UFC fighter. He would like to do all three simultaneously.

Last fall, at our town's street festival, we saw several uniformed teenagers assisting the police (who were there just for general order-keeping). I inquired, and found that they were part of Police Explorers, a program for kids 14-21 to explore careers in law enforcement.

So, last night was Ninja's first meeting. I think he was a little nervous, when I shook a leader's hand and left him there, but he wound up having a great time. They role-played domestic violence call scenarios, and discussed gun safety. Right up his alley. At the next meeting, two weeks from now, he will have an interview with the leaders, and then we fill out a detailed application packet. I think he is going to do well. The only part I'm not looking forward to will be keeping him in uniform dress shoes. His feet are size 13 and growing.

Hmmm. The meetings are held at our local precinct. Our address has been in the police computer system for years, flagged as the home of a psychiatric patient with potential for violence. I wonder if any of the officers involved with Explorers will make the connection. At least Toots and The Ninja have different last names.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Lurching along from crisis to crisis

Toots attended school on Tuesday and Wednesday. She told us that she spent all day Tuesday drawing (remember, she's in 11th grade), because "they didn't have all the information on me yet." Wednesday, she got off the bus, went into the residence, and told a staff member that she had a good day. Within a few minutes, that had been downgraded to "it was all right, I guess." Within a few more minutes, she was weeping to the social worker that people picked on her and she wasn't going back. SW, of course, attempted to encourage her. Toots wasn't saying what she was picked on about.

Thursday,she made good on her promise. She wouldn't get up and go to school. And, at the size she is now, you CAN'T get her up if she doesn't want to. During the morning, the SW and other staff attempted to talk to her in the living room. According to SW, Toots took the blind cord, fashioned it into a noose, and laid it on top of her head. I wasn't there to see it, but by her speech and behavior she "appeared to be reacting to internal stimuli". Translated, she appeared to be hearing voices again. The decision was made, with our consent, to take her back to the hospital for evaluation. Apparently, before they left the house, she made another noose out of another cord.

By the time I met Toots, the SW and the house nurse at the hospital, Toots was crying and saying she didn't mean it, she was just fooling around, she didn't need to be there, she just wanted to go back to the house. She said she would go to school if she could go to "Tech" (the well-respected vocational high school program, which she was scheduled to attend this past fall.)

Problem is, she has a long history of hurting herself, more or less seriously, when told to do so by the voices. The hallucinations have been under control with lithium for years, but who's to know if that has changed, or what she would do to herself?

Other problem is, maybe she could go to Tech, but it can't be arranged overnight. Also, it would only be for half of the school day. Also, her behavior there would have to be close to perfect, and the last time she was in school, last June, it was nowhere near.

So she spent the weekend in the hospital and is still there today. I visited her yesterday, bringing her shampoo, conditioner, magazines, and body wash. As she so often does, she complained that she was getting frustrated and mad about "other people's drama". Does she fantasize a world in which no one other than her experienced any "drama", or any rights to express emotions, either? Oh, Toots, you're destined for perpetual disappointment if that's what you wish.

So the school issue remains unresolved. We have hoped and prayed that she would at least complete high school, with either a diploma or other credential that's available to her. It looks less and less likely.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Well, the school day is over, and neither I nor the residence received a phone call about a problem. Whooof.

Lew had a clever idea in regards to the cell phone issue. Toots' phone is on our family plan. If there is another disruptive episode regarding the phone, the staff can call him and he will disable it online.

Timely phone call

As soon as I finished writing the previous post, the phone rang. It was the social worker from Toots' house, with information on what happened last evening.

The rule is that girls may have cell phones, but they can only use them when they are out of the house. When home, they may ask to use the house phone to make calls. Toots has been aware of this rule since before she moved in. Last night, she insisted that she wanted her cell phone, marched into the office, sat for 15 minutes (she weighs over 300 pounds, and she can't be shifted if she doesn't want to), grabbed the phone, lay on the floor, and kept saying that, since other girls didn't follow the rules, why should she? A senior staff member was able to talk to her and get her to give it back.

Now, Toots' behavior at the house has been pretty good overall. Lew and I last night, and the social worker this morning, are in agreement that this episode might be due to anxiety over returning to school. I hope it doesn't become a pattern.

By the way, Toots did get up, dress, and got on the bus this morning. And neither the social worker nor I has received a call yet.

When I have more energy I will write about the events of last spring, and why she wound up back in the hospital for nearly six months.

Keeping Fingers Crossed

Yesterday afternoon, Toots called up complaining that she didn't have a backpack to start school with. I was not about to run out, buy a new one, and take it to the residence. After phone calls back and forth, my husband decided he would lend her his bag for the day; he stopped at the residence after work and dropped it off. Last evening, I found her pink backpack from last spring, reasonably in sight in her room. It looks almost new. Lew took it with him this morning, and will drop it off to her tonight.

The kicker is that, for some unknown reason, Toots became angry with her staff and housemates last night, and would barely speak when Lew stopped at the house. She did say that she was thinking about whether she would cooperate in going to school this morning, and she hadn't decided if she would or not.

Well, it's 10 am, and I haven't heard from anyone at the house. I HOPE that means she got up, got dressed, and got on the bus. And I HOPE she makes it through the day. I'm not a 12-stepper, but the "one day at a time" principle really applies here.

Monday, January 16, 2012


I spent last week with my mom in south Florida. Since my dad passed away four years ago, she continues to be a snowbird, spending half the year in New Jersey and half the year in Florida. She wants to keep doing this as long as she can, and we hope that will be true for a while.

As I think I mentioned before, Toots moved into a girls' residence last month. We are having her at home every other weekend, more or less. She says she likes being home, but when she is here she keeps asking us to take her places - "Can we go to the movies? Can we go to Panera Bread? Can we go to the dollar store?" - regardless of what we are doing or have planned. Shopping and eating are her twin passions. When Toots is at the house, she can frequently go out on shopping trips or excursions with staff.

Being home does not seem to make her happy. Being at the residence doesn't seem to make her happy, either. We despair as to whether she will ever find a place where she can be happy.

Since Toots was in the hospital from the end of June until December, she received very little in the way of education. The hospital offered two hours of instruction per day, but the kids were not made to go, and from when she communicated, I have serious doubts whether it was worth anything. She told me one day that a "school" assignment at the hospital had been, "Make a list of all the team sports you know." Toots is nominally in eleventh grade. SIGH.

Since she moved into the residence, she has been receiving homebound instruction, also supposedly for two hours each day. The tutor often calls to cancel.

Last week, we had the screening to determine whether Toots would return to the special ed high school she attended from January to June of 2011. (A number of her new housemates also attend.) She had been saying for several days that she didn't want to go back there, she wanted to attend another alternative school program (which the abovementioned tutor had told her about). Upon investigation, it proves that the alternative school cannot meet her psychiatric needs, and it would not be an appropriate setting for her.

Anyway. We went to the screening, and the upshot is that Toots is accepted (and, as of this minute, is willing) to return to school tomorrow. While we were there, she saw a number of faculty members and friends who were happy to see her and expressed gladness that she is returning. I hope it actually happens tomorrow morning. She has gotten into the habit of sleeping very late, and I hope the house staff do not have trouble getting her out of bed to meet the bus. We gave her money to have her hair cut and styled today, and a member of the staff is taking her. She is a teenager, after all, and she does want to look good. It is hard, sometimes, to remember that she is just a kid.

I have many things to do today. I am not working outside of home at present (though I am doing some freelance writing and other things), and I have errands to run and projects to complete. When I have time (later today maybe? Ha), I need to sit down and figure out how to get the word out that I'm back online.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Can I show you why he's The Ninja now?

He's the one in white.

Chocolate Angels for the New Year

We spent New Year's Eve at the home of friends, whom we've known since their son attended Tutor Time with The Ninja, 10 years ago. Had a good time with a congenial group of people. The Ninja spent the evening in the basement with the other young teenage boys, playing intense video games. Toots stayed upstairs with the adults - there were no other girls in attendance. She didn't appear to overeat wildly, and didn't have any meltdowns or inappropriate expressions of boredom.

We brought several desserts. The best was Chocolate Angel Pie, which I have now made twice, to rave reviews each time. Not-too-sweet chocolate mousse in a meringue crust. The recipe comes from Allrecipes: I highly recommend it.

This afternoon, Toots is over at a friend's house. All her friends are people she's been in various placements with, which means they all have "issues" of various kinds. Friend B. is back living with her family, and appears to have it together, pretty much. Since Toots has missed out on so many of the normal experiences of adolescence, and doesn't have friends in our neighborhood, we're glad that she has friends within driving distance from home, to spend time with.