Compulsive hoarding is a mental disorder that is just beginning to be understood. As a hoarder, I have acquired things over the years with a specific purpose in mind at the time of the acquisition, used some of those items for their intended purposes, forgotten the goal for different objects, but now that I find that they have outlived their purpose in my life I am struggling to rid myself of those same things.

You can read the start of my journey here.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Goodnight, Sweetheart. Well, it's time to go....

Stopped over at Bugster & Bubster's last night for 10 to 15 minutes. It was too much. I'm wheezing like crazy today from being around their dogs. I miss being able to be around them without wheezing loud enough you can hear me in the next county, but it is what it is.

I hate to leave you, but I really must say...

I haven't been sleeping like I should, so I'm going to go crawl into bed now and  hope I've got some energy tomorrow. 

.... Goodnight, Sweetheart. Goodnight.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Where do I start to dehoard? pt 3 Perfectionism

Back in January of 2010, when I saw that first episode of Hoarders,  I was scared to death. I knew things were going to have to change, and that I needed to accept responsibility for my part in the mess getting to this level. It wasn't easy. I was embarrassed. Humiliated. Discouraged. 

But I was also hopeful, because I knew that I'd made that first gargantuan step. I recognized that I had a problem. I knew I had a lot of work ahead of me, but I also knew that I could do it. 

I realized that I'd hidden for years behind excuses. Some excuses were legitimate, (the girls demanded much more of my time and attention and energy than a typical child ever would, and it was bound to affect my life), but some of the excuses were just that. Excuses. 

I don't think I actually set out to make it impossible for Hubster or Bugster to meet my expectations in order to blame them for the mess, but blame them I did. Yet my perfectionism played such a major role in the whole thing. I made it nearly impossible for their efforts to be good enough.

I wanted them to do things like I would do them, if I had the time to keep up with things myself. The towels need to be folded lengthwise in thirds and then in fourths, because it made it easier to just get just one when we grabbed one out of the linen closet. Laundry needed to be 'fluffed and hung' just so, so it could hang dry without wrinkles, shrinkage or fading. Dishes need to be loaded perfectly within the confines of the dishwasher but only after they'd basically been washed free of everything before loading them.

On more than one occasion, Hubster said he felt like he had to walk on eggshells around me, because I seemed more concerned about either he or Bugster getting things done right, rather than being happy with the fact that they were trying to help. Eventually, he and Bugster just stopped helping. Why even bother when all I could see was that they hadn't done something up to my standards?

In spite of the fact that I hated the perfectionism trait I carried around with me everywhere I went, it didn't just go away on it's own. In fact, I can't seem to shake it no matter how hard I try. It's here to stay, but I've worked really hard at minimizing it as much as possible.
I've tried to consciously be aware of when my perfectionistic tendencies take over and instead allow for things not to be perfect. If Hopper folds towels for me and puts them away, I don't refold them. I leave them in the linen closet in the same condition they were in when she put them with the other towels. There are times it's a real struggle, and I feel like I'm in a physical fight with myself to leave things alone. Occasionally, I do have to rearrange the kitchen towels, so they'll fit in the drawer, but I do try to just leave them, if I can.

If Hubster happens to do a load of clothes and doesn't get the wrinkles out of the clothes before they're hung to dry, I do my best to wear the clothes wrinkled. It's obviously a lot easier to do this, if they're clothes I usually just wear around the house, but even that can be hard at times. If a load of clothes I don't normally dry in the dryer go through the cycle, I try to shrug it off. It isn't necessary to do everything right all the time.

And when I'm writing a post for my blog, I sometimes don't proofread and correct the mistakes that are bound to be there. Sometimes, I go back and fix mistakes I see at a later date, and other times, I try to leave the mistake there for a few days, so I expose myself to the imperfection. 

There are times that each of these seemingly simple things are monumentally difficult for me.

But I've found that nothing bad happens, if the towels aren't folded just so. The world doesn't come to an end, if I don't fix a mistake on the blog. And shockingly, I don't explode, if I wear a wrinkled t-shirt. 

Life. goes. on.

I struggle with perfectionism on a daily basis, and I will likely grapple with it for the rest of my life. 

But I am determined not to let it rule me. 

I want to live.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Tiptoe Through The Tulips?

When I woke up this morning, I felt like I could hardly move. Walking on concrete for as long as I did yesterday makes me ache from head to toe. I'm just thankful it's not always as bad as it was today. I'm sure I'll feel much better tomorrow.

Spent part of the morning in the laundry room getting the laundry sorted and the floor swept. Moved the freezer, so I could vacuum the dust underneath. I found a colony of dust bunnies but was able to thwart their attempt at a takeover of the laundry room. For now. I'll have to wipe the herds out a little more often to keep them under control.

Hubster and I got the cubbie units put together and set up in the girls' rooms. They look great, and the girls are thrilled with them. They're excited about what I'm going to be doing with the baskets we got to use in them, as well.

The baskets we picked out are fabric lined cardboard, but the cardboard seems pretty sturdy. I think they'll hold up fairly well, but thankfully, they're only $5 each, if we need to replace one from time to time. But they're just white and... well... plain. But I have ideas floating around in my head, and I'm going to have some fun with them.

The fabric is just a thin cotton, so I'll have to apply gesso to it first to  get it ready to paint. I'll be painting different flowers on Hopper's baskets, because she has flowers in her room that resemble the type I've doodled since I was a kid. I'm not sure how many of them I'll be painting, but I'll have some fun with it. If she gets tired of the look of the flowers, I can paint the opposite ends of the baskets in a different design, and she can mix things up a bit.

Scooter adores butterflies, so it's a given that I'll be painting butterflies on some of her baskets. But I thought of another idea I may go with for the other side. I may either paint on giant butterfly using all the baskets, so it would look almost like a set of puzzle blocks when the baskets are put back in the cubbies, or I may paint some sort of a  garden scene. I figure it would be a fun way for her to get used to where things go, and if she takes more than one basket out at a time, she'd be able to see where they go by putting the puzzle back together. I'll sketch a few designs out on paper and ask her what she wants me to do. 

I'll likely sketch something for Hopper, too. 

She's probably going to want a big picture on one side of her baskets once she sees Scooter's. :) 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

IKEA had me blushing.

So tired tonight. And sore.

Ventured to IKEA today. We'd never been there before. It was fun but exhausting. I've never seen a shopping cart where each wheel could turn independently. It was nearly impossible trying to keep the cart going in a straight path while Scooter was helping me steer. It was an adventure, to be sure. 

I looked quite the sight, too. Hot flashes and rosacea combined make for a really interesting look. The flushing was going all the way down my neck, even. Ahh. The wonders of growing old. 

The girls don't have dressers in their rooms for a few reasons. First, they tend to forget where things are, if they're in drawers. Second, they have a heck of a time being able to get things in and out of them and still be able to get the drawers closed. And third, they have a hard time closing the drawers without breaking them. We've had to reattach the fronts of the drawers of baker's rack in the kitchen several times over the years, because Hopper closes the drawers with such force that they come apart. Even after we've glued them. 

Plus the girls have used some sort of cubbies in school for the last how many years, so they're used to the system. They know how it works. We just think it will be a good investment for them, so they'll be able to keep their rooms clean and will be able to find what they're looking for, since there will be a place for them to put their things. We're hoping to get them put together tomorrow, since we won't be doing anything with them tonight.

Before we left for IKEA, we got the Christmas tree down and the decorations put away.  We've been wanting to get them put away for a couple weeks now, but everyone's been a bit under the weather, and we just didn't get around to it. It's really nice to have it all put away, so we don't have to dread getting it done, and at least we didn't keep it up for over a year like we have in the past. I can't express how really glad I am that it's done. I'm so tired tonight I can't imagine having to put it away tomorrow. 

Speaking of tired...

G'nite y'all!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Where do I start to dehoard? pt 2 - Feeling responsible for everything.

The other day, when I wrote about feeling responsible for stuff, and how I felt mentally paralyzed by the decisions I had to make for items, Penny left the following comment:

"I completely identify with feeling responsible for stuff. I have a physical reaction when I recyclable is trashed. I can give away anything but I have huge problems throwing anything away. 
How did you manage to get your head in a place where this responsibility wasn't in control?"

I am still not at a place where the responsibility isn't in control sometimes. On things that have been particularly hard for me, like recycling newspapers and soda cans or not wasting the ketchup packets, I've worked really hard to desensitize myself to those particular objects. After I sorted out the condiment packets and sent the ones we wouldn't use to work with Hubster for their breakroom, new ones would occasionally make their way into the house. 

While I saved the kinds we would use, I would purposely throw the ones we wouldn't in the trash. I considered holding onto them until we had enough for Hubster to take to work, but I realized I needed the practice of throwing them away. To start, I was anxious about tossing them out, but I sensed I needed to process the uncomfortable emotions I was feeling rather than pushing them aside like I had for so much of my life.

The first time I tried it, I struggled with actually getting the packets into the trash and put them in the refrigerator instead. But I knew I needed to do this, so I walked away for an hour or so. When I came back in, I fought through the feelings and threw the packets in the trash. Once they were in the can, it was easier for me to leave them there. 

A month or two later, I took things to the next level and threw a ketchup packet away, even though there was nothing wrong with it and was something we'd have eventually used. I knew I needed to know for sure that I was capable of letting them go. I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't as hard as throwing out the soy sauce that first day. Now I intentionally throw sauce packets away, including occasionally getting rid of those we would actually use, so I don't get back into the habit of hoarding them. But I really try not to bring them into the house in the first place.

Newspapers and other recyclables were easy enough to deal with, because the recycling center is over 20 miles away, and I can't justify spending $8 in gas to take them up there. So the newspapers go in the trash when we're done reading them, and the plastic milk jugs or glass spaghetti sauce jars do, too. I still struggled with feeling guilty about it, but because I had a legitimate reason not to save them, it was easier for me to handle.

Aluminum cans are a different story, though.

We have 4, almost 5, contractor trash bags full of flattened aluminum cans. I've haven't taken them in to the recycling center for several years, because it's way across town, and I just haven't gotten around to taking them up there. But I don't want to throw them away, because at this point, there's enough of them that they'll give us a little extra money to buy something for the house once it's cleared.

In my head, the cans are a different category than the regular recyclables, because they're actually worth money. They have an actual value. And while a can here or there isn't worth much, adding them all up makes a difference, so I really struggle when I see them in the trash. In the past, if someone has thrown them away at home, I've dug them out, flattened them, and put them with the rest of the cans to be recycled. I've even been known to bring them home from vacation, if we've gotten a can of soda on the road, instead of throwing them away when we get gas.

However, in the last couple of years, I've worked on letting go of my control over the cans. If there's in the top of the trash can, I'll go ahead and take it out and put it with the others, but if it's covered in garbage, I don't. My heart still skips a beat when I let one go, but I know I need to do it, if I'm going to beat this thing. 

I know one of the reasons I struggle so much with cans is that we recycled cans when I was little. We'd pick up trash on different trails when we'd go for a walk as a family, and we'd save the cans we found to recycle. We'd use the money from the cans to save up for a family treat of some sort. Sometimes, we'd use the money to go to the fair. Other times we used it for picnic lunches at the park. I've always associated them with family and fun. 

There are other things that I've worked on using this same method over the last couple of years, and I'm sure there will be other things I will work on with it in the future. I just know that it is getting so much easier to take my life back by doing it, and it's worth every sweaty palm and every skipped heartbeat. It's as much, if not more, about processing the emotions I'm feeling at the time, as it is about throwing the stuff away.

To be honest, I have to say that that the feeling of responsibility for finding stuff the best home possible still creeps into the driver's seat from time to time, but it doesn't happen nearly as often as it used to. I'm realizing that in order to be in control of my future, I have to take the reigns. 


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Where do I start to dehoard? pt 1 - Acquiring

I have a feeling that when most people think of dehoarding, they think of removing clutter from a space. It's so much more than that. If a person has a hoarding problem, just removing the stuff isn't going to help them at all. It may help temporarily, but it won't result in long-term change. I think I knew this instinctively when I started this journey 2 years ago and got so frustrated and overwhelmed by people telling me how to do it. It's why the people showcased on the hoarding programs are rarely successful. 

As a result, the next several posts are not going to be about how to clear out possessions or how to clean out a hoard. I don't feel I'm an expert on what to do first or how to do each bit of organizing. I only know the change has to come from within, if I am to succeed. As a result, the following posts will be about different things I have worked on to change my way of thinking. The more my attitude about things changes, the more successful I will be, and I have no doubt I'll eventually get to the bottom of the hoard and reclaim our home for us.

I also knew that in order to be successful, I was going to have to put in the work. I was doing to have to do things that made me uncomfortable, and when I thought I couldn't handle anymore, I would have to increase my discomfort. It was going to take time. It may take years, even. So I refused to put a time limit on myself. As long as I was making forward progress, I wasn't going to really worry about how long it took. It was more important for the changes to be permanent than to get the stuff out of here in a hurry. I was not going to add the stress of a deadline to my already stressful endeavor. 

When I mentioned the other day that I had a problem with acquiring things, I only mentioned shopping. But I also had problems getting free things from some of the free groups online, and I knew I needed to stop. At one point I was an owner/moderator of both a free group and a buy/sell group, and I found I was obtaining way too many items. I'm impulsive by nature, and I realized the groups were only nurturing that impulsivity. I needed to put an end to it.

So as hard as it was, I stepped away from the groups. I'd thought about leaving for a few years, but I'd put so much into them that it took awhile to convince myself it was a good idea. I know part of it was that I felt a responsibility for the groups. Would someone else run the group like I did? Would they put the love into it that I did? But a big part of it was also that I didn't want to miss out on a great item being given away. 

It was hard giving up the groups. For a few days, anyway. After a week or so, I felt such a huge relief having let go of the burden to be responsible for everyone else's actions and only be responsible for my own. It wasn't my job. I realized that, if someone decided they were going to throw something out with the trash, it was not a requirement for me to save it from disposal. 

I felt...unburdened. 

Recognizing that I was not obligated to rescue other people's discards helped me tremendously. I was changing my way of thinking, and I was loving how free I felt. As a result, I started working on other things.

I started by staying home. If I wasn't in the stores, I wasn't buying anything. I stayed off the websites that I shopped from time to time, as well as all the free groups I frequented in the past. There's a lot to be said about the old saying, "Out of sight. Out of mind." I was able to keep from bringing things home that we just didn't need.

When I did actually have to go to the store, I still shopped the clearance endcaps, but I realized I found things less and less appealing. If I did find something I felt I could truly use and wouldn't be wasted, I would only buy 1 instead of the 4 that were sitting on the shelf. Occasionally, I would put all 4 in my cart and think about them while I continued shopping. More often than not, I realized I'd lost all interest in them by the time I got up to the cash register and was able to resist the purchase. 

I got to the point I could withstand the urge to buy things fairly easily, but I felt like I still needed practice saying, 'no'. I started putting things in my cart that I absolutely loved. As I would walk around the store, I would try to find at least 5 reasons I didn't need it, and then I would repeat those reasons in my head while I was walking around. If I still wanted the item when I was done shopping, I would purposely put it back on the shelf with the thought that, if it was still there when I came back to the store later, I could buy it. 

Sometimes, it was downright torturous, but I can't tell you how often I totally forgot about the object of my desire when I got home. I'd get busy with life, and I would never think of it again or when I thought of it again a week later I was relieved I hadn't succumbed to an impulse purchase. I found I rarely went back to the store to buy whatever it was, and it was even more unusual for me to actually feel bad about not getting to the store in time to buy it before the item was gone.

It just wasn't worth paying the price of bringing it home.

This will be a lifelong struggle for me, but it gets easier the more I practice. I figure that by the time I'm ready to leave this world, I'll have practiced enough I might have it down. I'm definitely up to giving it a go.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How do I know, if I'm a hoarder? Pt 6 - What do you think?

So far, I've covered several things that I have in common with those with hoarding issues. The last two things that come to mind are obsessive negative thoughts and trouble communicating.

I don't ever remember a time in my life that I haven't struggled with negativity. It often consumes my thoughts for days at a time. I can  just be minding my own business and boom! Something creeps in and takes my thoughts captive. 

I never know when it will strike, what will set it off, how long it will last, or what the topic will be. I just know it's incredibly discouraging. Most often, the thoughts I can't get out of my mind have to do with someone hurting someone I love. Like when I was preoccupied for several days with  the way my in-laws had treated our family

It's absolutely exhausting to relive the hurt over and over again. I'd rather just forget it, put it in the past, and leave it there never to be thought of again. But the thoughts aren't always about someone hurting me or my family. Sometimes, it's worry about things that I have done wrong. And believe me. I've got plenty of fodder for the thoughts that dance in my head.

When I was very young, (maybe 8?), I remember hearing someone in church saying that humans are in a constant state of sin. I took it very literally, and I couldn't sleep, eat or breathe for days after I heard that. I thought it meant that every single breath I took, every bite of food I ate, every thought I had, everything I did was a sin. I specifically remember breathing in and thinking, "Oh my goodness! I just sinned!" Breathing out and thinking, "Oh no! I did it again!" And I remember feeling very, very guilty.

The thoughts eventually stopped, but I'm not sure exactly how it happened. I don't know, if I asked Mom, if I was understanding it correctly, or if I mentioned it to one of my older brothers and sisters, and they explained it to me or what. I do remember feeling relieved when I was no longer struggling with the negative thoughts. They would, however, still come rushing back when I would get in trouble for doing something naughty. 

And just to be perfectly clear, my parents had nothing to do with the negative self talk. I firmly believe it's something I was born with. Something in my personality. I don't blame anyone for it. Not even myself. At least I don't blame myself when I'm actually thinking clearly. I still fall victim to my pointing fingers when I'm in the middle of a mind assault, but I believe it is how my brain is wired. It just is who I am, and I need to learn to deal with it, so it's not a debilitating thing.

I've also struggled my entire life with communicating my thoughts. I've written before about how I've struggled with talking too much. I've been told more often than I can count to 'get to the point' or to hurry up and say what I had to say. I always feel so belittled when it happens, but I can't find the words at the moment to say, "That hurts my feelings, and I feel belittled. Please let me finish my thought." 

And there are certain topics that get me riled to the point I feel like I can't put two words together and make any sense. I have definite thoughts or feelings about the subject, but it's like they get stuck in my head and can't make their way out of my mouth . If I go ahead and try to address the issue right then and there, I come across as being in attack mode, because I can't get the right words out. My frustration level increases, my voice raises, and I go right into a fight or flight response. I am rendered completely ineffective to defend my thoughts, and my anxiety level increases dramatically.

It's maddening. 

I've come to the conclusion that these will be lifelong struggles for me, but I also am hopeful that I will learn strategies for circumventing both situations before they get out of control. 

I am more than my struggles.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

How do I know, if I'm a hoarder? Pt 5 - It's about time.

For as long as I can remember, I've struggled with time getting away from me. It extends into so many facets of my life, and it can be so incredibly frustrating.

Its taken years to realize that I need at least 2 to 2.5 hours to get all 3 of us girls showered and ready to go anywhere. It takes time. Lots of it. If we don't have any plans, and we're just hanging out at the house, it still takes about an hour and a half. If we don't start getting ready soon enough, I end up scrambling to get out the door on time and rushing to wherever we're headed. 

That's about the only thing I have a clear idea of how long it should take. I'm not sure, if it's because my mind wanders, and I think of everything else that needs done when I'm working on a project, or if I get too distracted with other things that I end up doing, and it just takes longer or what. I just know that, if I think it should take me 15 minutes to do the dishes, and I allow for 30 minutes just to be safe, I'm still usually not done in an hour. 

It's maddening. It's like I have no concept of time.

Any painting job I've started in the house, whether painting a room or painting furniture has taken at least twice and sometimes three times what I thought it was going to take. I sort of understand that, because I tend to be a bit anal retentive when it comes to painting. Once I'm done with the main part of the painting, I end up going back with a little tiny paint brush to fix my mistakes. I'm always satisfied in the end except for the length of time the project has taken. 

And the dehoarding has taken so much longer than I expected it to. I was hoping I'd be done by this past Christmas, but realistically I now think it will take at least another full year. Maybe two. And once I'm done with the whole house, it will be a constant battle to make sure I keep it under control. 

Besides struggling with time management, I also find that I'm constantly planning. It's like my mind won't shut off. I'm always rearranging furniture, hanging pictures, painting, sewing, dehoarding, or designing something in my head. In some ways it's great, because I always have an idea of how I want a room to look or what I want to dehoard well before I start working on it. I can see it in my mind's eye, and that can be a really good thing.

But it also has its pitfalls. I often find I'm lost in my head living in the future or even spending so much time in the past, relishing moments that have long gone, that I am not here in the moment like I should be. Don't get me wrong. Memories are a good thing, and we should all be able to enjoy them, and planning is essential. But it's not good thing, if it keeps you from living in the present. 

You know why it's called the Present, don't you? 

Because it's a gift. 

I've been working on living in the present more often. I do something Hubster taught me years ago... 

We were on a date for our anniversary when he suddenly went very quiet and started looking around. I thought maybe something was wrong, so I asked him what he was doing. He said he was taking a mental picture of how he was feeling, what he was smelling, what he was seeing, and what he was doing, so he could remember the moment. 

I was bowled over. It was one of the most romantic things I'd ever heard. 

It also reminded me how to live in the now, so I have wonderful memories of it later. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

How do I know, if I'm a hoarder? Pt 4 - Too many categories.

I've always struggled with sorting things. It's not that I can't sort. I can. But something I have in common with other hoarders is sorting things into too many categories. 

For example, in the past, instead of just being able to close the box of crayons and put them away, I would have to sort them into like colors. It wasn't good enough to sort all the shades of red together. I'd have to sort them into shades of red starting with the pink on one side and ending in purple on the other. And it's something I did every time I'd put the crayons or markers away.

And laundry? 

Towels are sorted into:


Clothes are sorted like this:

     *Dress clothes
          *Light Weight Clothing
               *Whites with any sort of non-white trim
          *Medium Weight Clothing
               *Whites with any sort of non-white trim
          *Heavy Weight Clothing
               *Whites with any sort of non-white trim
          *Light Weight Sweaters
               *Whites with any sort of non-white trim
          *Medium Weight Sweaters
               *Whites with any sort of non-white trim
          *Heavy Weight Sweaters
               *Whites with any sort of non-white trim
     *All other shirts 

Thankfully, the kids are grown now, and I don't have to do all the sorting I did for their clothes when they were little anymore. I generally washed them separately from the rest, because their skin was much more sensitive. So add all the categories above to baby clothes, and you can understand why I've struggled with laundry over the years.
And when I clipped coupons? Yeah. I pretty much micromanaged my coupons. I stopped using them, because it was so time consuming. And toys? Oh my goodness. I'm not even going to go there. And this doesn't even scratch the surface of all the things that I need to sort in a day. 

Needless to say, it's exhausting. 

I've been able to curb the sorting of crayons and markers. And the toys the girls with are not the type that need sorting as much now. I still have a lot of their old toys, but they'll be sorted into 3 main areas when I get to them. Keep, donate & trash. And I will be getting rid of most of them. 

But I don't know that I'll ever be able to sort the laundry any differently than I do now. For whatever reason, I can't seem to put the categories into bigger groups. I can handle crayons just being crayons. 

But I can't handle laundry just being laundry.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

How do I know, if I'm a hoarder? Pt 3 - Perfectionism

I'm a perfectionist. You may not know it by looking at my home, but I am. In fact, I've been working on this post for 4 days now trying to get my thoughts into words. Trying to make it perfect.

Once again, I think I'm trying too hard.

Growing up, we were taught to do the best we could at anything we attempted. To give it our all. If you do your best, you can take pride in your work. You can be proud knowing you gave it your all, and your effort will be rewarded. 

You know the old adage... If you can't do something right, don't do it at all. 

When I was a kid, I thought that meant I had to be perfect. And when I wasn't perfect, when I didn't get something right, it meant that I was wrong. And I equated 'wrong' with 'naughty'. With failure.

My parents wanted me to apply myself, and rightfully so. Kids should apply themselves. Thankfully, my parents were not stage parents who pushed and pushed wanting me to be perfect. I was the one who wanted to be perfect, and I made things so much harder on myself as a result.

Even though I got good grades in school, I would be so disappointed when the grade on my paper was less than an A-. When I would get a B+, I always chided myself for, if I had only applied myself a smidgen more, I could have gotten an A. Disappointment doesn't describe what I felt, if I got a C on a paper. I was traumatized. Report cards were even harder to handle, because I could never quite get straight A's. I'd get all A's and 1 B one quarter and the next I'd have brought the B up to an A while in a different class my grade slipped to a B. It was maddening and disheartening.

School wasn't the only area where I had perfectionism issues. I didn't like art, because I couldn't seem to draw or paint anything that resembled what it was supposed to. As much as I loved to sing, I couldn't carry a tune in a bucket with the lid duct taped on tight, if my life depended on it. So I didn't sing where anyone could hear me.

Shortly before Bugster was born, we bought my sewing machine. I loved it, but I was so afraid of making a mistake and having my project not look good that it took me months to sew the only baby outfit I ever made. I made plenty of baby blankets and curtains and the diaper bag and bumper pads, but they were fairly easy things to sew. They were straight lines for the most part. Plus they stayed in the nursery. If I messed up on a baby outfit, people would see it when she wore the clothes. People would be able to see my mistakes, so I just never made clothes.

The list goes on and on. 

It carried over into my life as a mother. I needed to be a perfect mother. It felt so personal when one of the babies cried. I just knew that it was, because they didn't love me, because I wasn't a good mother. I would be so embarrassed, if one of them spit up on their new clothes. I mean, if I was a good mom, they wouldn't get their clothes dirty, because I would have kept them from getting sick.

By the time life became so overwhelming with hospitalizations and the different medical needs the girls had, I was exhausted. Not only couldn't I get ahead on the laundry and housekeeping, I couldn't keep up on the daily stuff. It didn't matter that what I was going through as a mom was not typical, and that the only way for anyone to really keep up with what I had going on was to have extra help. I felt very, very imperfect.

In the meantime, I still had to make sure the clothes were all folded and put away without wrinkles. (Wrinkled clothes have always made me feel like a failure). The towels and sheets had to be folded exactly the same way each and every time. The dishwasher needed to be loaded, but it didn't get the dishes clean, so I had to pre-wash all the dishes before they went in the machine

When I started getting so overwhelmed I couldn't keep up I stopped trying. I started living the, 'If you can't do something right, don't do it at all' to the fullest, because I didn't know how to do it any other way. As a result, all sorts of stuff piled up. Papers didn't get filed. Clothes didn't get sorted out of the main laundry when the girls outgrew them. Forget about getting the clothes sorted. I couldn't even keep up with keeping them clean. Dishes didn't get done in a timely manner, if I didn't have time to wash them all before the dishwasher was run.

I couldn't do it. I was a bundle of nerves, and depressed enough that I struggled with daily life.

And once again, I was a failure.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Stop the ride. I want to get off.

I've been trying to get a post done for the last couple of days, but I'm struggling with my concentration. I just keep getting distracted. It's so frustrating. So instead of trying to force myself to think in a way that I can't right now, I thought I'd go in a different direction.

We got the reports from the court visitor in the mail yesterday. They are the ones she filed with the courts. She did a good job of representing the girls and made it very clear she felt like we should be awarded guardianship. It helped take the pressure off a bit. It feels like we can breathe a little better now.

We expect the attorney will be calling in the next week or two with a court date. We feel fairly ready. Hopper and Scooter did so well when the court visitor came out that we're hoping they'll do as well when we visit the judge. 

In spite of feeling confident that everything is going to go smoothly for the guardianship, my stomach still flips when I think about it. Once again, I am very thankful for anxiety meds. 

I just hope the anxiety takes a leave once all the legal stuff is finished. 

My stomach is ready to get off the merry-go-round.

Friday, January 20, 2012


My head is full tonight. 

Mind won't turn off. 

Can't concentrate to write a post at all. 

Will be back tomorrow. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

How do I know, if I'm a hoarder? Pt 2 - Feeling responsible for everything.

While watching the hoarding shows, I recognized a familiar stress in the participants of the show when they were challenged to get rid of certain items. Sometimes, they were little things like empty cans or jars that could be recycled. Other times, it may have been something that belonged to a loved one who was no longer alive.

The person being asked to make a decision would often look like a deer caught in the headlights. You could see the fight or flight response kick into high gear. They were scared. There is no doubt that they wanted to just run and hide. 

I get it. I've been there. I've felt that very thing when I've tried to make decisions about getting rid of stuff over the years. Instead of making a decision, I would just decide to make a decision later. It wasn't logical that I had such battles with myself to get rid of some of these things, but struggle I did.

For example, I really wrestled with getting rid of ketchup packets. I mean, really. Ketchup packets? It made no logical sense, but I was afraid of wasting them. I mean, it's not like the world would come to an end, if I threw them in the trash, but they were good food. Surely someone could use them, but I didn't know who, and I didn't want them taking up space in the refrigerator anymore, but I didn't know what to do with them. As silly as it sounds, I felt a responsibility to be a good steward of the condiments, and I was was terrified of making the wrong decision. 

So I just didn't decide.

I didn't decide which of the girls' clothes to get rid of. I didn't decide which toys needed to go. I didn't decide which clothes I no longer needed. I didn't decide which mugs I loved and really wanted to keep.

I kept everything, so that I didn't make the wrong decision. 

I remember feeling a panic in my gut when I would see someone throw a newspaper or pop can in the trash instead of putting them aside to be recycled. After all, it was irresponsible to just throw things away that had any use left in them. It was my job to save stuff like that from the landfills. I would get it to it's proper place. It was my responsibility. 

Except that it wasn't.

I was miserable. I felt absolutely overwhelmed by stuff. I was carrying the weight of every single pair of pants, every shirt, every toy, every baby blanket, every newspaper, every pop can and every ketchup packet on my shoulders. 

I felt mentally paralyzed. 

How was I ever going to have the time to find the right home for each piece of clothing that the girls had outgrown? How would I ever find the mates to all of the socks? I couldn't just give a half a pair of socks away. They'd just be tossed in the trash. People need 2 socks. They have 2 feet. I needed to find all of them, so I could match them up and find them the proper homes.

What about the toys and puzzles? I knew that the pieces were all there for each one, but I also knew that some of the pieces were in the garage, some were in their bedroom, and some were downstairs. How was I ever going to reunite the pieces, so the toys would be complete? No child was going to want an incomplete toy, but we spent hard earned money on them, and it would be a total waste to just throw them in the trash. Right?

The more I fought to figure it all out, the more paralyzed I felt. 

I knew others could see that same fear in my eyes that I saw in those who appeared on the shows. 

How do I know, if I'm a hoarder? Pt 1 - Acquiring

Over the last couple of years, I've noticed 2 recurring searches that bring people to my blog. The first is something along the line of, "How do I know, if I'm a hoarder?" The second is variations along the line of, "Where do I start/How do I start to dehoard?"

I will try over the next few days to answer these questions to the best of my ability.

In my opinion, if a person is searching about information on whether or not they are a hoarder, the chance is they have a problem. It's only a matter of degree. 

I realized that I had a hoarding problem after watching Hoarders the very first time. I physically felt the anxiety the participants in the show felt when someone would try to help them discard things. Whether it was someone demanding that something be thrown, a family member chiding or ridiculing them for saving something, or touching their things, I felt their anxiety. I could feel my heart rate noticeably increase, my palms begin to get sweaty, and my stomach start to flip. It scared me, because I saw myself in the people on the screen. 

I was taught to trust my gut, and I knew. 

I. just. knew.

Several years prior, I recognized I had a major problem with acquiring. I loved shopping, and if I found something that I thought was  good buy, I would buy every item like it on the shelf when 1 or 2 would have been enough. 

I was obsessed with bargains. 

If for some reason I didn't buy an item I'd thought about buying when I was out and about, I wouldn't be able to get it out of my mind. Seriously. The thought that I had to have it would wake me out of a dead sleep, and I would go on the hunt for it the following day. If I was too late and the thing was gone, I'd feel like I'd lost something. The feeling of loss was very unsettling. 

If I was able to actually buy the item when I went back to the store, I would be elated. Giddy, even. But it didn't last long. I would often be disappointed within a day or two of bringing my purchases home. At times I would come to my senses and return my purchases, but more often than not something would prevent me from returning things to the store. 

I didn't enjoy using those things that I knew I shouldn't have bought. If I bought 6 of the exact t-shirt in different colors for the girls I would feel guilty about it when I would get them dressed. Even if the clothes were as little as $1 each, I would feel guilty over having bought as many as I did, because I knew they could never wear them often enough to wear them out. 

I hated myself for being so weak.

I noticed on the hoarding shows that most of the homes had bag up on bag upon bag of purchases that had been dropped when they were brought in the house and totally forgotten. I recognized that was part of the hoarding behavior, and I recognized that I had struggled with that very issue for years. 

From time to time I find myself slipping into the same mindset I had when I was acquiring. When I notice that I'm debating buying more of something than I need or we can use, I purposely stop and ask myself, if I really want or need the things in my shopping basket. Thankfully, I don't find myself in the position often, and 99 times out of 100 I put the items back on the shelf. 

Years ago when the acquiring was so out of control, I went shopping several times a week. Now it's rare, if I go shopping more often than once every 2 weeks. I have noticed that the longer the time between shopping trips the harder time I have saying no at the register. Being mindful of this, I often window shop online to exercise my 'no' muscle and keep it strong. I put things in my online shopping cart and then never go through the checkout process.

I don't want to go back to unhealthy habits again. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Woke up with a horrendous sinus headache. It took the better part of the day to get rid of it. The girls are feverish again. We have been hit with yet another cold. Seems like we can't seem to shake the colds this year. 

So I'm off to bed. Hoping I'm up to doing something tomorrow. 

My pillow is whispering to me...I must heed its call.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Coming clean.

Almost 2 years ago, I walked around the house in a bit of a panicked daze taking pictures of how things looked before we started the dehoarding process. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done. It brought me face to face with my hoarding problem, and it made me sick to my stomach. 

But it also motivated me. As a result, the levels of hoarding throughout the house have decreased. In some rooms, the decrease has been substantial.

Our bedroom probably started at about a 3 on the Clutter Image Rating on the International OCD Foundation site I mentioned the other day. Today, our bedroom pretty much stays at a 1, although the night stands climb to a 2 from time to time. Both Hubster and I find that we can't seem to allow it to go over a 2 before we go nuts and clean things out again. It's been pretty nice knowing it's always our little refuge from life.

There has been a much more drastic change in the girls' rooms. 

A year before we realized we had a hoarding problem, the basement flooded due to a burst pipe. A lot of stuff was ruined as a result of the flooding, and what survived was stuffed into storage pods on the driveway. Even though she'd only been staying in the room for about a year before the mess, Hopper's room had been freshly painted, and it was the only dehoarded room in the house. But it became a dumping area for everything that wouldn't fit in the storage pods on the driveway, and we had to start over from scratch in her room.

With all that had been stored in Hopper's room, it would have easily rated a 7 on the visual scale. Mom helped me get it done when she was down here last year. We worked really hard for several days, but it was so worth it. Hopper's room has been at a level 1 for the most part since we finished. From time to time, it gets to a 2, and I'm quite happy with that. The best part is that it will never get really bad again. Ever.

Scooter and Hopper shared what is now Scooter's room for many years. When the basement flooded, they had to share it again, and it was so incredibly frustrating. I would work for a week or more on the room and would never seem to be able to get it under a 3. Within a week of having it clean, the girls would undo everything I'd have gotten done, and it would be back up to a 5. The clutter would creep back up to a 6 or 7 within a couple of weeks. The girls still slept in their beds every night, but there would be piles of stuff that Hopper had stacked as high as 4.5 or 5 ft at the heads of their beds. I could never seem to get the room clean and keep it that way.

Because of the magnitude of the clutter in Scooter's room, I focused on it early on in my journey. Mom helped me get started on it when she came down for Bugster and Bubster's first wedding when they got married at the courthouse. I finished it after she went back home, but it wasn't easy. I know that I had to have gotten rid of enough toys in the bedroom to fill a 'grand' van from top to bottom, front to back, and side to side. That doesn't even count the amount of stuff that went to the trash and the clothes that found their way to the laundry room to be washed, sorted and donated. 

Since I finished cleaning Scooter's room, it's stayed clean. It would get messy from time to time before we got Hopper into her own room, but overall it has stayed clean. For the most part, Scooter's room remains at a 1, occasionally climbing to 2, but it has only gotten to a 3 once in the almost 2 years since it's been clean, and that was with Hopper's 'help'.

The bedrooms are definitely the biggest success stories, but I think they should be. The rest of the house hasn't fared quite as well. 

The laundry room, was probably a 7 or 8 on the visual scale at its peak. It was bad. Once we finished clearing out the laundry room, it stayed at a 1 or 2 for the longest time, but it's crept back up to a 3 with the hospitalizations this year and the stress from the guardianship. I'm working on getting it back together. Hopefully, I can get it down to a 1 and keep it there!

The living room and dining room/kitchen have never been too bad, so there hasn't been significant improvement like the other rooms. They've crept up to a 4 for short periods of time over the years, but they probably averaged a 3 before I started this dehoarding process. Since then they stay between a 2 and 3 on average. They get down to a 0 or a 1 from time to time, but they don't seem to want to stay there without help. 

There's also a large baker's rack in the living room that is a 7 all by itself. I don't count it as part of the rest of the room, because it's so out of place. I filled it up with paperwork when I was sorting through boxes back in October. I'll get it done eventually, but it might be awhile.

The study is bad again. It's always been a catchall, but it has the remnants of the paperwork I didn't get all the way through when I was sorting boxes. It's on the list. Not sure when I'll get it crossed off. I'd say it's currently a 5. I want to get it back down to the 1 it was years ago. It'll happen.

The garage had been really bad, too. Hubster thinks it was a 9 at its worst, but I think it was closer to an 8. Not that there's a huge difference between the 2. It's probably at about a 4, maybe a 5, since we worked in it about 18 months ago. We have plans to knock it out this Spring or Summer and get it under control. And the back porch? It easily started out as an 8, but it's probably at a 4 right now. It's also on the master list to finish up once the weather warms up.

The bathrooms have never been too bad - usually a 2 at the most, but we're in the process of remodeling a couple of them, so we just don't use them at all. They're not being used due to the remodel, not hoarding, so I'm okay with them.

That leaves the big room and workout room downstairs. They're the ones that were flooded, and we've worked so hard on. They were probably at an 8 or 9 before the flood 3 years ago. I'd say they're still at a 5, but that's because I still have to unpack and sort the boxes that had been in the pod on the driveway. I got through well over half of them, but I still have plenty to keep me busy.

So there it is. I've laid it all out there. 

We still have a lot to do, but we've made incredible progress over the last 2 years. I still can't believe it's already been 2 years, but it has. 

The really neat thing? In 2 more years, we should be at no more than a 2 in any room in the house. 

You can mark my words!

Sunday, January 15, 2012


I had every intention of coming clean about where I fall on the visual scale of hoarding I posted about last night, but it's going to have to wait until tomorrow. Each time I've started writing something, I've fallen asleep. 

Tomorrow then.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Where do you weigh in?

I know that I always wondered how bad a hoarding problem I had. I mean, I knew I had a problem, and I knew it would just continue to grow, had I not realized I had a problem with hoarding. But I still wondered exactly how I stacked up. How bad off am I?

The International Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Foundation has tests you can take to determine whether or not you have a hoarding problem. You can find them here, if you're interested in checking into it.

I tend to be a pretty visual person, so the thing that spoke the loudest to me was the Clutter Image Rating. Just scroll down a bit, and you'll find it.

The thing I found interesting was that there wasn't an image 6. Can't tell I have OCD, can you? Ever since I visited the site the first time, I have been thinking about whether or not they purposely left that picture out, or if it was a simple human mistake, and the pictures were numbered incorrectly. I go back and forth between wondering that and wondering, if it's a test. You know. To see, if people pick up on it, and then how many of them obsess over it.

Regardless of my warped thoughts on the whole #6 picture, it gives a really good visual idea of where a person's hoarding might fall on the scale. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Good news.

Good news.

I don't have skin cancer.

I didn't realize how much I'd been holding my breath waiting for today's appointment until I got the news. Now that I know that the new growths on my face that just made an appearance a couple months ago are benign, I am so relieved I feel weak. And achy. 

My body apparently decided to celebrate with a pretty decent fibro flare. That's okay. I'll live. This fair skinned chick doesn't have any suspicious moles or nasties to worry about. The fibro ain't nothin' but a thing.

The best part? No meltdowns from Hopper for 2 full days. 

Things are definitely lookin' up!

Now if Tebow can just lead the Broncos to victory tomorrow night, the weekend will be complete.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Me and my hangups.

When the court visitor was here last week and looked in Scooter's closet, she said, "Wow. OCD much?" She thought Scooter had arranged the closet, but I told her I had. I explained that it just made things so much easier for Scooter to find what she needed at a glance. I had all of her clothes sorted and hung neatly. Starting at the left were the long-sleeved blouses followed by short-sleeved blouses, short-sleeved t-shirts, long-sleeved t-shirts, pants, dresses and skirts, and each section was arranged by color. To me, it just looked nice and neat. It makes things much easier for Scooter to see what's available in her closet and to pick out what she's going to wear for the day. 

I was thinking that her closet was the only one that looked like that, when I realized all of them do. Hopper's closet has one of those wire closet organizers installed, so it's organized a bit differently but even the coats in the coat closet are organized by who wears them with the winter coats to the left and lightweight coats to the right. And the linen closet looks amazing, if I do say so, myself. Everything is folded neatly and in its place, and looks great. Best of all, things are very easy to find. 

When any of the closets start to get messy and disorganized, I find my anxiety level goes up. It's just disconcerting. Maybe it's because they're the only truly finished areas in the house. All I know, is that I have to have them looking neat and organized as much as possible.

It can be a real hangup for me. 

Almost 2 years ago, I wrote about the struggle I was having with my hangers. I had so many different types  of hangers that I was compelled to sort them every time I passed them by. I had to have a different color for each person in the house, and it drove me absolutely nuts when the colors were mixed up in the closets. I wasted so much time and energy on them.

At the time, I realized that the best thing for me to do for myself in regard to the hangers was to start over from scratch, and I gave myself permission to buy all new hangers for our tops. It was hard for me to justify the expense, but I'm so glad I felt I was worth the small cost. It has helped tremendously. 

At the time, I thought I could get away without doing anything about the pants and skirt hangers. Well, that's not entirely true. I did get rid of a hodgepodge of pants hangers (at least 4 different styles and 4 different colors), but I still had 3 different colors and 2 different styles left. I've found that it's still too many choices for me.

In the last 2 years, we've had black, opaque and clear hangers that had the pinch things on them that opened like a clothespin to hang the pants or skirts. The clearest ones were supposed to only be used for Scooter's clothes, because her pants and skirts are the lightest weight, and they'd be least likely to break the hangers. Then the black pinch ones were Hoppers, and the opaque pinch ones were Scooter's. Hubster's hangers were black, but instead of pinching open and closed, there was a little part that went over the clothing and then a silver piece slid down over the plastic to hold the fabric in the hangers.

It's bothered me over the last 2 years, but it hasn't bothered me enough to do anything about it. 

Until today. 

This past week, I realized I've been wasting a lot of time and emotional strength and energy on these stupid hangers. It was frustrating when one of Hopper's was used to hang my clothes, because none of mine were available, or when some of Hubster's clothes were hung on Scooter's hangers and were heavy enough they snapped the hanger in two. Never mind the amount of time waste looking for the 'right' one to use when I had something to hang. 

I've tried for years to make the hangers work. But now that I've come to the conclusion that they aren't working for me, I've decided to do something about it. I realized that it was worth it to buy pants hangers in bulk on eBay, so I'm not obsessing over the mismatched hangers anymore. I will donate the old mismatched ones. The new ones will take the stress over who is using whose hangers away completely, and they'll cut down on the time looking for the right hanger to nothing. The choice will be gone. 

I'm already looking forward to their arrival next week. It will just be one less hangup for me to deal with on a daily basis.

I can deal with that.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I feel like I'm in a Carol Burnett sketch.

Remember in the sketches on the Carol Burnett Show how Carol's eye would twitch and twitch and twitch when she was stressed out? Yeah. That could be me. My right eyelid has been twitching for over  a week now, but it hasn't been nearly as funny as the sketches on her show.

Hopper was marginally better today, but it was a pretty narrow margin. The antibiotics haven't really had time to make much of a difference just yet, and she still melted again today. 

I was able to squeeze a few loads of laundry in, but I'm hoping to get a bit more done tomorrow. I've got several things I am wanting to write about on my blog, too, but I can't seem to concentrate enough to put more than 2 words together. 

Tomorrow then. 

Twitchingly yours,

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tomorrow is another day.

Sure enough. It's a sinus infection. Antibiotics started tonight. Hope they kick in quickly, so Hopper is back to her meltdown-free self, soon. 

Very long, very stressful day again today, and now I can't keep my eyes open. I'm sure the anxiety meds I took are playing a role, but the first time in 2 days I feel like I'm finally starting to relax. 

Hoping tomorrow is a better day.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Is it hot in here?

Today wasn't a good day for Hopper. She doesn't feel well, but on top of that I think reality is setting in that she's done with school forever. She finished right before Christmas break, and it's hitting her hard that she's not going back.

Days like this are just emotionally exhausting. The day was filled with several meltdowns, and it was hard on all of us. Her hoarding tendencies were also very apparent. 

She'd been loud today, but it wasn't anything really worse than normal. That is until I brought her backpack upstairs, so we could switch out the contents for the new one she got this weekend. I could not even explain to her that I just brought it up, so we could get it ready for her to use, before she started screaming, "NO!!! MY STUFF!!"

On the surface it appeared as though she was freaking out simply over the fact that I had picked up her backpack. In reality, it was because she was afraid I was going to take her papers out of the backpack. She's very possessive about her things, which is very typical for someone who hoards, and I can handle that just fine. The thing I can't handle is her screaming at the top of her lungs right in my face. 

I'm hoping I can get an appointment for her to be seen tomorrow. I'm thinking she may have a sinus infection. This is typical meltdown behavior, but it's not typical for her to have a meltdown complete with an hour of screaming at the top of her lungs over paperwork. She's gets crabby just like others do when she's not feeling well. I'm hoping that ridding her of her sinus problems will help with her mood.

I don't know how many more meltdowns at the top of her lungs my ears can handle. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Tired. That's all.

Long day today. 

Celebrated the Bubster's birthday today. Enjoyed the time with the kids. Came home and watched an amazing Broncos game with Hubster and the girls. And ached all over.

I'm not sure, if I'm getting what the girls have, (they were both feverish before they went to bed), or if it's just a firbro flare, but I've  been pretty much exhausted, achy and wheezy all day. I'm sure the asthma is just kicked up from being at Bugster & Bubster's house. I've got a severe allergy to dogs, and they've got 2, plus they have 4 cats and a rabbit. The dogs were outside, and they vacuumed before we got over there, but I just don't think it takes much. 

I'd love to get allergy shots, so we can get a dog at some point, but I don't know, if my allergies are too severe for them to help. We really miss having a dog. It kills me when we go to Bugster's, because their dog used to be ours, and I can't pet her or be around her at all. She has a tendency to pant in your face to get attention, and that always takes my breath away. It makes me so sad, because I know she misses me. She was my buddy. 

Maybe someday. 

But today I need a dog today, like I need another hole in my head. 

Retail therapy.

Took the girls shopping today. It's the first we've been out together in forever. It was so much fun, but I'm so tired. It's amazing how tiring shopping can be, isn't it? 

We had a blast. The girls did an amazing job paying for their purchases, and it was such a fun day. 

I'm just dead to the world tired tonight. I decided to take the time to post this pathetic little tidbit, because I'm trying to commit to do a daily blog post, but now I'm off to bed.

I'll check in again tomorrow.

Happy Sunday, everyone! 

Friday, January 6, 2012

If you think a black eye is good, how about head to toe bruises?

Things were tough for Scooter her first few years of life. She was considered medically fragile and ended up hospitalized with pneumonia or asthma, if we even dared to take her out in public. She was so ill so often that I would have constant nightmares of bringing her home from the hospital in a body bag. It was horrific. If it were not for her strong desire to live, I don't think she'd have survived her many close calls with death. 

She was willing to fight to stay, and fight she did.

Scooter's indomitable spirit was crucial to her survival and development. If she hadn't had the fight in her that she did, she'd have never learned to sit. Granted, it didn't happen until she was 4, but it happened! And walking? The doctors felt it was out of the question, but they didn't know her like we did. We knew in our hearts that she was going to walk someday. She took her first ever steps 2 weeks before her 6th birthday, and she never looked back. We gave away her wheelchair when she was 7. 

Her strength and determination helped her beat the odds time and time again. 

Scooter's frustration over not being able to sit up, not being able to eat solids until she was 5, and the constant illness, combined with her lack of ability to communicate was very apparent. She often lashed out. She would reach over when she was angry and pull someone's hair as hard as she could, relieving the victim of a small handful of hair each and time.

She hits herself in the head when she's angry. When she is upset and smacks herself, you can hear a gut-wrenching thud from the other room. It's a horrible sound. For years, she's had not only a bruised lump on the back of her right wrist but on her forehead above her right eye, as well. When she was little she had bangs to help cover the ugly bump. Mostly, it was so other kids wouldn't gawk at her, but the issue of someone reporting us to CPS for something she did to herself definitely played a role in her having bangs. 

But these aren't the only examples of Scooter's temper problems and our concern that we'd be reported to Child Protective Services. 

Because Scooter couldn't sit up until she was 4, she was in the crib until we felt it was safe for her to be in her own bed, but it frustrated her to be so immobile. When she wasn't in the crib, she got around pretty darned well. She did what we called "the backstroke" across the floor to get anywhere she wanted in the house. Lying on her back, she would raise her elbows above her shoulders, firmly plant them on the floor and pull her body with her head cocked, looking over her head at her destination. As a result, she had no hair on the back of her head at all except the occasional stubble where some of her hair was trying to grow back.

Her crib was the only place we felt she was safe, if we couldn't be right there watching her. So if it was time for Hopper's bath, or if we had to use the restroom, Scooter was in the crib. We felt we had no choice. Her safety was of utmost importance.

For several months, maybe a year, she hated being in the crib, if anyone else was awake. She would let us know of her displeasure by retaliating. At times she would take her diaper off and smear it around, (thus, another reason for the 20 bottles of rubbing alcohol), but other times she resorted to hurting herself. She would put her arms and legs through the spindles of the crib and beat them until they were bruised. 

If she was angry that we put her in the crib, so we could shower, the length of her legs and arms were absolutely black and blue by the time we toweled off. It was terrifying. If we left the house, we had to keep her in long sleeved shirts and long pants even when it was 100° outside. Anybody seeing a child in a wheelchair, who couldn't even sit up, with the bruises that Scooter sported would have assumed she was the victim of child abuse.

We told the doctors what she did, and they believed us. But still. Would that be enough? We went as far as videotaping some of her tantrums for our own protection. We were terrified of somebody seeing her bruises and reporting us to CPS. I have no doubt that an investigation would have been launched, and if it hadn't been, I would have really questioned the integrity of the local CPS unit.

Scooter was hospitalized a few months before her 4th birthday due to another bout of asthma and pneumonia. While she was hospitalized, the doctors ordered a PH probe study to test how often she was experiencing acid reflux. The results were not good. It didn't matter what position she was in, whether she had just eaten, or whether she was sleeping or awake. She was experiencing heartburn over 80% of the time. 

She needed surgery to correct it. The doctors didn't want her going home without having the surgery. So once the pneumonia was cleared up and the asthma was under control, they booked the OR. She had a fundoplication. It's a surgery to wrap her stomach around her esophagus and give her a sphincter of sorts to replace the esophageal sphincter she was born without.

Normally, I stayed overnight with the kids when they're in the hospital, or we take turns, but this time I was sick. We didn't want Scooter to catch whatever ailed me, so Hubster spent his nights at the hospital this time . By the 6th night or so he was exhausted from the nurses constantly coming in through the night to give her meds or breathing treatments and then putting in a full day at work. He needed to get some sleep, so he stayed home that last night. She was to have surgery in the morning. 

I was still getting over my illness and didn't want to compromise her recovery, so for the first time ever, Scooter was alone at the hospital overnight. It was the only time she ever has been, or ever will be, alone overnight while hospitalized. She desperately needs one of us to be there with her. The hospital is a big scary place for a kid to be alone.

When we got to the hospital a few hours before the surgery, the next morning, three nurses came running down the hall to meet us. We didn't know what was going on, and we were a bit startled. What was wrong? How serious was it?

MrsHubster! MrHubster! Wedon'tknowwhathappened! We'resosorry! Wedidn'ttouchher! Wedidn'tdoit! Wecameintotheroomandshelookedlikethis! She'scoveredinbruisesfromheadtotoe!!

We walked into her room to see that Scooter was indeed covered in bruises. These were the same type of bruises that we covered up during the summer for fear that CPS would take our daughters away from us. And the bruises were deeper and uglier than any that she'd had to date.

The hospital had two types of metal cribs they used. Some cribs had round rods. Others had rectangular spindles. The rectangular spindles were about 1" by .5", and although they were not sharp enough to cut anyone, they were definitely sharper than the rods. Scooter's crib happened to have the rectangular spindles this time. 

She glared at us when we came in. She was mad. She'd gotten so upset that neither of us stayed the night that she put her arms and legs through the spindles and flailed. It had to have hurt. The bruises were so deep, and they were such a dark black. They lasted for what seemed like forever but in reality was just a few weeks.

It absolutely broke our hearts. We felt horribly guilty that it happened, because we weren't there with her. It was our fault. On the other hand, we were also completely relieved. The nurses were relieved, too. They knew we had no intention of suing them. 

It hadn't even crossed our minds.

For the first time in months, we felt like we could breathe. 

We knew that this incident would be recorded at the hospital. It would be recorded in the file at her pediatricians'. And it would be kept in those records until she was at least 18 years old. This incident would keep CPS at bay, should we ever be reported. We finally had proof we didn't cause the bruises on her arms and legs. The relief we felt was immeasurable.

Between Hopper's black eyes and Scooter's black and blue marks, we had a constant cloud of fear under which we lived for years. The anxiety from that came rushing back to us when we first learned we needed to get guardianship of the girls a few years ago. It just kicked into high gear the last few months as we began this journey. 

After the chat with the court visitor the other day, the relief was once again palpable. 

We have nothing to fear. 

And in a few weeks when we go to court, it will be official. 

And we will be able to breathe deeply once again.