Monday, December 1, 2008

Mirror, mirror on the wall.... (or, we need a couple of screws loose)

Oh dear. This is amazing. Zoe believes her head is too small for her body. Its called "Body Dimorphic Disorder" and she is on anti-psychotics for it. Trust the experts, right? More therapy.... good drugs... thats what she needs. NOT! 12-year-old little sister comes to us and says "Hey, I KNOW why Zoe thinks her head is too small.... it's the mirror in our room. It's like a funhouse mirror. Dad put the top screws into the wall too tight, so it's warped. It makes your head look small!" (Dad had put this mirror up in the girl's room about 2-3 years ago, and hasn't touched it since!) SO, dad fixed it the night before we brought Zoe home, and now it gives a MUCH truer image of head-size and shape. It was just a matter of loosening the screws.

Sadly, the damage has been done, and Zoe still believes her head is the wrong proportion. Its hard to remove a belief so easily that has stuck in your head for years.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Still a Rebel.... at 40!

Well, THANKFULLY family week at Remuda Ranch is over. It was brutal. The other families who shared our week only got to see our family through the eyes of our ill daughter. When it was their turn to tell us their opinions of our family, (mostly negative, in the sense that we try to hard) it was mercifully cut short by time constraints. My head and stomach are still churning from the experience. I came home unsure of how to parent, for every decision I made seemed to have such possibilities to be misconstrued, fall short, or be more than necessary.... depending on my intent and how the actions were received. In other words, I came home constantly second-guessing if I was doing the right thing. Do I let the child cry over spilt milk, and thus express negative emotions.... or do I try to help them learn optimism and risk the accusation of putting a good face on a situation that is false? Do I have standards for behavior and set the bar high.... or do I let the kids do what they feel like and risk latter that they resent me for not teaching them social niceties? Do I use nicknames, as we have always done, or are they demeaning? Needless to say, I cried for about 48 hours straight when I got home. Freaked out my kids. Took a walk on our country road in the pitch black night, praying for 4 miles that the wandering mountain lion or rattlesnake would relieve me of my misery. Came home unscathed and disappointed. It was a sucky 40th birthday. At moments, I thought how symmetrical it would be to have the same dates for birth and death on my tombstone.

BUT I am coming out of the fog. More on specifics latter. But I am humbled by the prayers of friends, and I want you to know that Zoe tells us she is 90% committed to recovery. If I had to go through hell and be humbled to give her a shot at regaining life, then I don't care if a bunch of families I'll never see again think I am a nutcase.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


I'd LIKE to be reading "The Brothers Karamazov." I'll probably take it with me for Family Week at Remuda next week. But, at present and for the forseeable future, I'm reading the above book and finding some comfort in it.... though not as much comfort as I find in "The Brothers Karamazov." Dostoevsky speaks to my heart of the evil in the world, and our part in it- our possibility, every moment until death- of our redemption if we just accept it. Hmmmm maybe these two book WILL have something in common.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Happy Birthday baby daughter!

My littlest girl turned 9! (The four babies after her were all boys, which I used too think quite unfair of God, but after dealing with oldest girl, I am GRATEFUL for boys!!!) Belle is a ray of sunshine, compassionate, intuitive, optimistic. Neat kid! Happy birthday, darling!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Punching bag

You can say all you want that anorexia is just as much a disease as, say, cancer..... but I have never herd a cancer patient blame her mother... say she has no attachment for her mother.... prefer that her mother kept out of her life. Cancer patients rally to their support systems. Anorexics push them away and use them as punching bags. Cancer is a disease we group together to fight, and we want the disease to lose. Anorexia is a disease that divides the family, and the patient herself wants it to be triumphant.

I feel like a punching bag. My dd's cool, calm, "stick-the-knife-in" pronouncements during therapy make me question if I am, or can ever be, a good parent to my remaining children. I hate second guessing myself, and dd seems to have some legitimate memories of times I failed her.

All parents fail. None are perfect. But why did it have to be THIS disease that came out?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Homeschooling causes eating disorders?

My dear daughter is obsessed with getting back to her social life. Her social life, and all the anxiety and obsession that come with being a "modern" teen in a non-Christian setting, was one of the things that launched her into an eating disorder. Yet just a few short months ago, she was so THANKFUL I had homeschooled her, and she hadn't had to deal with the hell of middle school.

So dad and mom say shes not going back to her old high school. What I got in reply was a diatribe against homeschooling- how poorly socialized she was, how she can't be "normal" and date and hang out with her friends 6 days a week, how unhealthy it is to grow up surrounded by (gasp!) FAMILY instead of peers. How homeschooling caused her E.D. basically.

I say bull. She had a superior moral education (wether she chooses to follow it is her choice). She had family who loved her. She got to spend extra time in intergenerational relationships (grandparents and younger siblings) and not be so peer obsessed. She had the freedom to develop interests beyond the Disney channel and the mall. She had time at park days, scout meetings, field trips, 4H and birthday parties with peers, but she didn't get to be engineered by their expectations of her.

I am sad to hear her say this. I hope one day, when she grows up, she'll change her tune. Till then, I need to remember I am talking to an eating disorder, and it won't let my daughter hear me. She's a hostage. But she's a willing one, and she is dying to disolve herself in the peer culture and lose her identity and the responsibility of being thoughtful and Christian in her actions.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

3 weeks in!

It's been 3 weeks since we took Zoe to Remuda. Are things better? Well, she's eating! Thats a VAST improvement! And she says they are teaching her how to cope with anxiety (a major issue we JUST learned she had.) She says we had the attitude towards her of "be perfect or get out of the way." (her perception) She says we have left her unable to attach to anything or anyone because we always use it to threaten her into good behavior (her perception). She says she's believed her head was too small for her body since she was eight years old (MAJOR body misperception!)

Do I still think I made her sick? Well, a little. But the more she opens up about her thoughts and feelings and goals, the more I realize I am talking to a mentally ill person. You can't actually talk to her, she doesn't listen. Magnify basic adolescent deafness, insecurities, and irresponsibility by about a thousandfold, and you see how a conversation about reality is impossible.

She loves Remuda. The focus is all about her. I wonder how she'll take having to leave?

Monday, October 13, 2008


We spoke to Z's therapist this morning. She says Z is rather bossy and know-it-all with her peers there at Remuda. Oldest son, Pavel asked us when we got off the phone "So, hows Zoe doing?"
"Well, they said she's being bossy to the other girls."
"That's GREAT news!" says oldest boy.
"Huh?" we ask.
"Well, these past few months, the anorexia has made her cry and collapse all the time... if she's being bossy, it means shes getting back to normal!"

Saturday, October 4, 2008

suffering produces... endurance (Romans 5)

I looked for and found this image years ago, when a dear woman friend was going through a messy family situation. I know we all have times when it seems Christ is asleep, and our little boat is sinking. Lord, wake UP or we shall perish! Yet I know He will not give us more than we can handle. And we only APPEAR alone. He is still with us, still in charge.

Christ's passion and death didn't save US from suffering, but allowed our suffering to be united with His, and have value because of His Divine Power to unify it all. He was not a SUBSTITUTE for our sinful humanity, but He was our representative. He has suffered, innocently, for all the sins of the world. Yet the storm didn't break Him.

This is a storm for our family. The storm metaphor is all around us! It started because of what Matt and I call "the perfect storm." Zoe was getting older, needing a different type of relationship from me. I was very busy running the household, and more comfortable meeting everyone's physical and academic needs. Her new on-line school was a source of companionship for her, but it quickly became a peer-obsession, with all of the futile high-school romances and catty friendships of a typical teen soap opera. She dived right in. At public school the next year, she attached to some really nice teachers- as if they were her parents, and found the same type of peer drama. It didn't help that both of her grandmothers have food/ weight issues- one is Jack Spratt... and the other is not. The skinny, weight-obsessed grandmother told her she needed to lose weight when she was 13. Matt and I knew she was carrying around an extra 15 pounds or so, but most kids do before they hit puberty, and we were sure it would melt off. At away school, she was both pleased with her newfound beauty and it's power... and scared by it. And I wasn't there, as a good mom, to guide her through it. And her dad was angry she was so lazy around the house. So she was alone, to figure out life without a guide except herself and some friends who were as rudderless as herself.

I'm learning right now- how to connect better with the kids. Making time to play more. Praising more. But even though Zoe is away at Remuda Ranch, there is still the storm damage of my negligence and the injuries she left behind.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Happy Birthday Oldest Son!

He allowed his 14th birthday to be co-opted for his sister's journey to Remuda ranch. We WILL make it up to him. He is a great kidlet (ahem) I mean young-man-who-is-taller-than-me.


Relax. I am home after an 18 hour day- got up early to drive Zoe to Remuda Ranch. Emotionally, it was like ripping my heart out. I KNOW she needs love from me! But when I show her love, she freaks out and wants to purge. One of the (very sweet, dear, Christian) counselors there said some girls just need that separation to realize that they need to be parented. I've been feeling that for awhile, but it hurts to say it. "Dear, you need to go away so we can gain a little perspective on this, and start to refocus energy on EATING so you have the strength to work through your emotional issues with me."

We met with her therapist, and I think they will be a good fit. I was encouraged when the therapist took seriously that Zoe had PRAYED to be anorexic, and that has let some dark spirit of oppression in.

I believe our family dynamic will be stronger, healthier, and even more Christ-centered now. God has our attention and won't let us rest on our laurels. (Laurels feeling very much like a crown of thorns right now!)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I'll take an order of Christian joy, a side order of worldly scorn- oh, and hold the martydom!

For years we made large, loud Catholic homeschooling family life look easy. To those who wanted that kind of thing. And to those who looked down their noses at us- driving an airport van to hold all the kids, educating them IN THE CLASSICS at home, cooking large batches of everything and still finding the time for long road trips disguised as field trips to follow the events of the Revolutiopnary War or Louis and Clark's Journey. ... well, to the uninitiated, we were just WEIRD! All those kids. And never getting a break away from them! EW! Gaining and Losing 50 pounds (or more) with every pregnancy. This "open to life" stuff is celebrated in the Catholic culture I am blessed to inhabit, but so scorned in the world at large. AND we built our own house. Come on! Out of STRAWBALES! Now, the lefty, environmentalist types thought THAT was cool, and the conservative, individualistic types thought we were awesome.

And, I admit, my skills as an organizer and director were an easy way to forgoe begging God to help me in this ever-so-serious endeavor. It didn't help that the first six children seemed reasonably happy and fairy easy to manage. And my husband was an on-fire convert to the Catholic faith, and we had the unity we always prayed for. Oh, yes, we prayed. Oh yes, we gave God the glory. But I didn't depend on Him for my daily bread. When I considered all the blessings in my life, it seemed as if I just KNEW God's plan for us was to be the poster family for "Casti Connubii" (faithful, joyful Catholic family life). He would never let us down- we were supposed to be a light to the unbelievers. The naysayers.... they would look at our lifestyle, our family, and be unable to ignore how following Christ in this world just made it all so EASY and JOYFUL. Conversions would follow in our wake.

The snide remarks in check-out lines. The pitying looks. If that was the extent of my martyrdom, bring it on! I had JOY, dammit. Life was GOOD! My kids were nice. My husband was loving.

Then came child #7. We call him lovable Liam, now. Back when he was a year old, it was lemony Liam- el Diablo! A fussy, tantrum-throwing, loud child. Child #3 took him on as her special project and loved the beegeebies out of him. It was harder for me. He was making my life complicated. A lot of my time was spent parenting Liam. Not a lot of time for the more fun stuff we used to do. And now I was homeschooling FOUR, and still caring for three little ones, one of whom was incorrigible. I found a whole new respect for the gentle, loving, joyful gifts of child #3. And, suddenly, dh's job became much more demanding. We saw less of him. I was still recuperating from a nasty bout of infighting in our homeschool group. I had been used for target practice by a group of embittered moms. It was emotionally difficult, but I functioned alright for my family. I thought. I prayed. Maybe this was just a little dose of humility. I had prayed that dang "Prayer of Humility" that Cardinal del Val wrote. (I don't recommend it. It's more efficacious than a Saint Therese Novena!) So, a rowdy child marring the look of our happy family to outsiders; I'd get a few more stares and tsk-tsks from strangers. So husband was having a successful period in his work and being wined and dined all over the world. We'd manage.

Maybe if I'd let that drive me to my knees, this wouldn't have happened. Maybe since I sidestepped a lot of the cross at that time, I thought it would be the worst that could happen. I didn't learn the lesson. I didn't embrace the suffering.

Now, my daughter's anorexia comes along. Nothing unsettles a parent more in their child than a mental disorder. A mental disorder that the child prayed for, because they felt unloved and fat all their life. A massive failure of parenting: a child feeling unattached and lost, a child wanting to starve and die. Lord, how did I let it come to this?

Lack of intimacy. Thats it. Without intimacy, there is no REAL joy. Christian joy has only two ingredients: intimacy and meaningful purpose. Both of those ingredients have a healthy dose of suffering attached, but the joy truly makes up for that. I had the meaningful purpose. I believed serving my family was the best thing I could do on this earth. But I lacked the affinity for intimacy. Now, with small children, thats not a problem- they don't want to know about your inner life- they just want food and fun, on schedule. I can do that. Or at least, if I'm not attending to Lemony Liam's needs, I can try to serve everyone else. But when children hit puberty, they want a sure guide, a loving hand to help them through this unknown journey. They test to see if they are still lovable to you, the parent. They stand straddling two worlds, without a foot in either, and they fear they will be swallowed up by the chasm below them. They want to be affirmed, and known, and smiled at.

And I didn't give that. I directed. I provided opportunities for fun. But I didn't share myself. Intimacy is difficult for me. Partly because I take after my stoic father, who is fairly emotionless, and whose affection I never was able to capture as a child or teen. Partly because intimacy might show people my vulnerability. Yes, it had made my early married life, in some aspects difficult. But Matt and I were learning to work through that. But I hadn't even begun to start working on intimacy with my children.

I had prayed, since I realized what was lacking in me and so abundant in my husband, for the desire to love as Matt loved.... as God loved. Lord, break my heart if that is what it takes, that I may feel more, love more. When Regina Doman's boy, Joshua, was killed, I wondered if it would take something THAT earth-shattering to break my heart. Well, this eating disorder is a pretty close second. Regina's boy knew, in his last moments of life, that his mom loved him. My daughter, if things keep going this way, will probably die in my arms feeling unloved and fat. No matter how much I try to show her.

Thats the battle I have to fight right now. "Why bother learning to show love and intimacy, since shes going to die anyway?" Then, I'll have gone through all the pain of losing my stoic attitude and have to suffer through her death and FEEL it.

I'm embracing the cross Lord. No one is going to look at my family and want to convert. It won't be easy, but maybe I can save the other children from feeling what Zoe does. And, please Lord, when we send Zoe off for inpatient treatment these next 2 months, send her home ready to connect with us. Ready to be intimate- with all it's messiness and risk of pain. Because I want my joy back, Lord. And I want it back in a new form, with intimacy and meaning at the center. Please pray for us.

(and no, our family never focused on dieting or physical beauty... this is just the self-punishing form my daughter chose to express her deep wounds. It had nothing to do with our family pushing physical perfection.)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Will heaven be like Paris?

Well, we'll always have Paris, right? My darling husband took me to Paris in July. It was phenomenal. I SO enjoy my time with him, and I am so blessed God sent him into my life. (Whether I am a blessing to him is another story!) As much as I love family life with him and the kidlets, I pray that God will give us some years together AFTER the kidlets have been fledged, so we can enjoy time together, just the two of us. We never really had that- our firstborn came along nine months after we got married. The children have been a blessing (as in "Look-honey-how-these-little-people-are-forcing-us-to-grow-in-holiness!) but I still look forward to the time in life when it will be just the two of us, and we can have an extended conversation that isn't interrupted by a wee one with a problem necessitating we have the wisdom of Solomon to divvy up a toy, or book, or the very air they don't feel like breathing and sharing with a sibling. (Ok, yesterday, on the way to mass, the kids were quiet and sleepy, and we DID get to have an extended conversation on the roles of men since the 50's- how the war has most likely scared so many of them, so they weren't the most hands-on, twenty-first century kind of dads, and this lead to the rebellion of the children in the 60's who smelled hypocrisy and disliked rampant materialism. Add in that many of these fathers would have experienced at least a part of the Great Depression, and so needed to "provide" materially for the family, and add in a good dose of the rise of television and youth-oriented culture, and you can see how the 60's happened.)

Oh, right... back to Paris. Why, I'd LOVE to go back to Paris! Notre Dame left us speechless.... literally. We went to mass there Sunday morning, and I was so overwhelmed, I couldn't remember the words of the Pater Noster! To stand in that cathedral, where so many have been! All those souls, through the ages, worshipping God! And Matt and I.... just two more souls in the long line stretching to eternity. The kids and I had just finished the French Revolution in history, so my mind was still fresh with details of the Terror, and here I was, standing in these sacred spots, history made real and immediate. It must be a taste of what heaven is like- all times are now, all places are here, and we shall know these things and comprehend how they were all part of The Plan.