Saturday, December 20, 2008

Weirdest Advent/Christmas season ever.

Okay, anyone who knows me knows that I haven't blogged because I, like many other friends, am now addicted to facebook. However, I felt compelled to write and say that I am having the most emotionally numb Christmas season ever. I LOVE this time of year, normally, but I have been dealing with a depression that keeps dragging me to the brink of despair, since late August. I am working with a trained professional to help me through it, so don't worry.

 It's just that I look forward to this time of year as it is usually really motivating for me. I get all sorts of stuff done, I am excited to go places, do things, hang out with people. Now, all I really want to do is hide under a rock. I am the kind of person who starts watching Christmas movies in November. I haven't watched one yet. I have listened to Elf while the kids watched it in the van. I saw about 10 minutes of both White Christmas and  The Nativity Story, but walked away uninterested. You know, I could totally understand if I was like this every year, but I am SOOOOOO not.

 I haven't even listened to any Christmas songs. I love Christmas music, and often have it playing in the house now, but this year...nope.  Not once have I played anything Christmassy. I feel indifferent to the whole thing as if I am watching it from the outside. Everything seems entirely exhausting to me.  I am used to feeling that way in the Summer, but not NOW! At the same time I am feeling antsy, restless and bored out of my mind. I have lots to do, laundry coming out of my ears, crap to be picked up. I am a total neat freak, but that aspect of me is gone, for how long, I don't know. I am doing bare bones housekeeping. I usually care so much about keeping a nice house, but now, I don't care.  I hate not caring. I feel like I am not me, but I don't know where I went. Anyway, it's all weird, weird, weird.

Well, I am not looking for sympathy. Nope. There are people in the world, and some quite close to me, who are really suffering. I am just writing my stuff down to refer back to. Kind of keeping track of my wacky-ass moods. However, if you want to pray for some folks, pray for Bonnie Sager & family, and  Michael Summerville & family, for health, rest and healing. 


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Too Funny and so true!

And let me tell you, that up until about a year ago, I was a die hard PC user. But it is true that once you go Mac you never go back. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

This says it all.

Here's a picture I just found in a box full of pictures (my mom's idea of an photo album) of my mom, me and my brother, Jon. I am probably 20 or 21 here, I think. Do you see how I loved my mother. I am not sad here. I am just lovin' my mama. I loved snuggling into her for no reason at all other than to be close. I really miss her. 

I'm off to vote for Saxby

Here's Zell Miller (okay it's SNL's Will Forte, but still) explaining why he is voting for Saxby Chambliss. You know, I can't help but agree. And I say we start working, right now, on Peabody Tittlecud's bid for the presidency in 2012!

Me and Sara

Here is a Photobooth (a Mac app) pic of Sara and me. Sara's blog is Those That Wonder. She has recently updated the look and has some cool new pictures as well. This was taken when she just 'dropped by' a couple of days before Thanksgiving. I LOVE IT WHEN PEOPLE DROP BY!!! I really do. I am totally into following things on a whim. I am the perpetual 'drop by-er' it was fun that it happened to me.  Anyway, I love Sara. She is a great friend and we share our conversion to Catholicism together.  She is also a homeschooler of 3 kids too. I am hoping to just drop by on her today as I will be in her section of Roswell, in a bit. I am bummed that she is moving farther away. It's just an extra 10-15 minutes north...but it was nice knowing she was just across town. However, I have seen this new house and it is just what she needs, more space. If there is a person in life who needs just a little spoiling it is Sara. I think she deserves this wonderful new place.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

No, I am not going to sleep...I am going shopping.

Robert and I have decided to attend our first ever Black Friday event. I have never gone shopping on Black Friday. At least not that I can remember.  However, I HAVE worked Black Fridays before, when I was much, much younger and working in record stores.  Well, this year, because of the flagging economy stores and malls (we are going to the latter) are opening at 12:01AM Friday morning. So, Hunny and I are off to see all the "deal hounds" and make fun of all the sheeple.  There isn't anything at the mall we want. (Okay, maybe I would like a Twilight t-shirt.) Everything we are getting for each other or the kids or friends is easier bought online than in a store. I am thinking of this as a kind of warped cultural experience.

So, off I go. The only thing luring me is free coffee. Free coffee and great deals (which I won't avail myself of) are what the mall is offering for folks to drag their tryptophan induced exhausted selves out at midnight. 

Off we go....

P.S. I hope you all had a Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Great minds are the same game.

My blog/facebook pal Wendy and I are the same game...who woulda thought.
You Are Boggle
You are an incredibly creative and resourceful person.
You're able to dig deep and think outside the box to get things done.
You are a non linear thinker. You don't like following directions
You draw your inspiration from the strangest places sometimes. You're constantly inspired.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Remember the 80's?

This is me when I was in New York testing for a big deal modeling agency. I am 16 and it is 1982. Check out the New Wave hair!!
This is during the same time, different shoot, different day, different photographer (actually it was the guy who shot the Cosmopolitan covers at the time). Anyone else remember those Norma Kamali bathing suits?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

What Twilight Character Am I?

Okay so I took this quiz twice. The first time I took it as if I were 17 years old again. I remembered what I was like and answered the questions. This is what I got:
I'm a Rosalie! I found out through Which Twilight Female Are You? Take the quiz and find out!
Take the Quiz and Share Your Results!

You are straightforward, tenacious, and beautiful, but unfortunately aware of it. You are attention loving, and people easily flock to you, but deep down you are mistrustful of people in general. You can be judgmental and thoughtless, but you love deeply and are extremely protective of those that you hold dear.

The second time I took it, I answered the way I think and feel about things now. This is what I got:
I'm a Esme! I found out through Which Twilight Female Are You? Take the quiz and find out!
Take the Quiz and Share Your Results!

You are thoughtful and care very deeply for your family. A loving home is of great importance to you and you always try to make people feel welcome. Although you have a great capacity to love, you also have a great capacity to hurt, so at times you can be sensitive. You're firm when you need to be, but people trust your judgment and appreciate the kind way you always handle things.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Tivo the Dowg

My brother was over today with his awesome new camera and took these great shots.

I'm on crackbook ur...I mean...facebook.

You can find me at Rachel Moore Ross.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Twilight at Midnight

I am counting the seconds until 12:01AM when I will get to see Twilight (just 7 hours away...woo hoo!) Yes, it may be pathetic to you, of my friends out there, with more intellectual pursuits.  However, these books got me back in touch with my inner 20 year old. Something I needed desperately. So, I will try to comport my self because of my age and not scream with all the young girls...though let's face it....I will be screaming on the inside. (FYI, If I were 17 that guy up there would be plastered all over my bedroom walls.)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Speaking of my 20's

Here I am at the eternal age of 29. I think this is my favorite picture of my wedding. I loved all the kids around me and playing with my dress.  They had all been really dressed up and sometime during the reception decided to get more comfortable (how I wish I could have joined them!). My Andy is the one in the middle with the white t-shirt and blue shorts. If anyone is wondering why my 6 year old is at my one and only wedding, well click My Baby Is Eighteen on my blog here, and you will know why. It was a perfect day, even though I was in Florida (don't like Florida), everyone I loved was there and love was everywhere. I wish life could be, forever, the way it was that day. 

Below is my 2nd favorite picture. I love the expression on Andrew's face.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Fighting the urge to run

...and I don't mean jogging. I mean run away kinda run. I have been praying and doing everything to stifle this urge to flee my current life. What is pathetic is that there is really nothing wrong with my current life. Okay, well, I *do* have a child who suffers from mental illness, which has in turn, made me a complete whack job, but everything others looking in....would seem just peachy. 

I, literally, have to get away from everyone and breathe really deeply, like Lamaze, until the overwhelming impulse to bolt passes. It scares me that I even feel this way. My conscience is working overtime to talk me out of insanity. What I wouldn't give to be in my early twenties again. I had my life stretched out in front of me, like a blank slate. Now, I have a past behind me with so many mistakes that it's like a bad essay a high school Lit teacher has hashed through with a red pen. 

I am NOT having a pity party for myself.  There isn't anything to pity, really. I am not looking for sympathy either. I just feel so stagnantly still, so pointless, it's as if moving would distract me and keep me on a trajectory forward so that I couldn't stay still and think...of all the mistakes, wasted time, fear, missed opportunities, and forks in the road where I so should have turned in the opposite direction of where I did turn.

I feel desperate to be alone, but I can't ever really get that alone time. 

(insert expletive here _ _ _ _!) 

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

13 Years

Me and Hunny Bunny at a friend's wedding. We are so cute, huh?

Today is my, and my Hunny's, 13th Wedding Anniversary. It is also the 5th Anniversary of the convalidation of our marriage by the Catholic Church and the 5th Anniversary of my conversion to the Catholic Church. All in all a good day in history for the Ross family.

To my Hunny.

You are all that AND a bag of chips!

I love you!

BSCB (only you know what that means. LOL)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

I've completely HAD IT!

My husband seems to forget the dog is a dog. And when my husband decided to leave a hamburger on a coffee table it is a mystery to him as to why the FIVE MONTH OLD dog will eat what he has left there. Then my Ben and Autumn are continually mystified why a dog would accidentally connect his teeth to their flesh when they reach down and get RIGHT IN HIS FACE to pet him, WHILE THEY ARE EATING DINNER (and smell like food). Tivo is not food aggressive. I can stick my hand in his food dish and swish it around while he is eating. When he has a rawhide or bone I will often go and slowly put my hands on it while it's in his mouth and hold it while he chews it, asking him in a soothing voice if it's yummy. (No, I don't expect him to answer.) Why is it that these other members of my family act like dummies and assume that a young animal is going to be anything other than a young animal. Tivo is a flipping puppy...not a Rhodes Scholar!

Now, if Tivo does become food aggressive I will break that habit in a snap. I also don't like it when he tries to be dominant over Autumn (because she is the littlest in the family and he's figured that out). So, I just went on screaming rant at my family because I have HAD IT with their expecting the dog to be anything other than what he is.

It's probably all the personification of animals that Disney movies had done. It's screwed up generations of people into believing dogs talk and toys come to life. Oy Vay!

Take That! Bill Maher (nine minutes of sheer brilliance!)


Help! My husband won't turn off Bill Maher

Okay, I am just going to say it. There is one person I truly loathe to the very core of my being. That person is Bill Maher. I won't even tell you the ways I would like to torture him and see him suffer. These feelings bother me because this the way a lot of Liberals feel about Conservatives. I mean, look at what the put Sarah Palin through. Just let's say, if I came across Maher in a dark alley, only one of us would emerge: ME

Why do I bring this up? Because my husband ACTUALLY tivo'd Real Time with Bill Maher. I asked why on earth he would do that?  He told me it was because he gets riled up, and he's so freaked out that Obama will be milking us dry soon, that he needed fuel to stay on top of his political game.

I am telling you, I am sitting here listening to Maher and his ranting and I can't stop screaming obscenities at the television. See, now I am all riled up with nowhere to take this seething anger! I am am going to Mass in 3 hours! CRAP!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Another blog!!!

I know I told everyone about my blog, UFA, which is for unschoolers in Atlanta. However, that is just an info site for events. This new blog of mine is specifically about unschooling. That is it. I may double post some stuff, but this blog is really about me and anything I am into. However, I really wanted a place to dig deep into my ever growing unschooling transformation. Any hoo...feel free to visit Return To Shornhill.

A special thanks to Leonie...and she knows why.

No camera, can't forget

I took Autumn and our dog, Tivo, to the park today, after it rained. Autumn told me she wanted to play at the park while it was wet. She has done this before but must have forgotten. I didn't remind her. I just said, "OK." SO off we went. Sure enough she had a great time sliding, or should I say shooting, down the slides. They are the new tubular slides so you don't see the kid til they are almost out. She literally shot out like a human canon ball. It was pretty funny. The sky was still gray when the rain stopped and the trees were just dazzlingly hued...definitely the height of Fall here in Atlanta. When she was soaked through from the slides she decided to investigate the very rocky rain overflow canal. It is usually dry, especially in 'drought Georgia', but it was wet...mostly big puddles but not running like a stream. Well, Autumn can't resist mud...ever! BTW, neither can Tivo. The two of them set to digging like you wouldn't believe. They were the cutest, MUDDIEST, creatures you ever saw. They would even switch holes and keep digging. When they were done we went to the actual creek and dragged Tivo through it to get the mud off. Siberian Huskies clean up really well. He is dry now and completely beautiful. You would never know he looked like 'Swamp Thing' this afternoon.

What I am bummed about is that I didn't have my camera. There were some award winning photos to be had, especially when they were both digging. Autumn was just filled with glee. My heart overflows with happiness when I get to see her like that. It was really cool.

Unschooling In the NY Times

Okay, so I pretty much loathe the New York Times and most newspapers in general. However, I do so love it when cover unschoolers. Gotta love the title: The Anti-Schoolers.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Welcome to the U.S.S.A.

Well, now that Obama is President-Elect, I just want to officially welcome everyone to the future United Socialist States of America. One tip, get your cash and put it in your mattress, because they'll be coming for it at the bank!

However, I think it *is* very cool that America has elected her first black President. However, I would rather have had the totally awesome Alan Keyes  (who also happens to be black) become president. I voted for Alan Keyes in the primaries back in 2000.  I hope he runs again.

I do want to say that now that we have our first black president, I don't want to hear one more gripe of "I am oppressed because I am a minority." Spare me, actually spare us all, were are not buying it anymore. Obama just said it himself...I can hear him on the news...saying something to the effect that he is proof that anyone can attain their dreams in America. Obama is now going through his litany of "Yes We Can!"  So it's official...everyone can now shut the hell up.


Unschooling Friends of Atlanta

My new project (this was a long time coming): Unschooling Friends of Atlanta. The above photo, taken near our house last Winter, is the metaphorical image for UFA as we are traveling the unschooling road with friends. Cool, eh?

Monday, November 3, 2008

First music video from Twilight soundtrack! Woo Hoo!

I don't really think one way or the other about Paramore, but I love the video and movie clips!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Why the 'Left' will always get it wrong...

...because they say they believe in peace and tolerance but they proceed from the false assumption that abortion is perfectly fine. If a person doesn't start from the vantage point that all human life is precious, then the rest of that person's arguments for non-violence, no war, tolerance and peace crumble to dust. However,  Mother Theresa said it best:

"If we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people to not kill each other? Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion." 

National Prayer Breakfast Speech Against Abortion (1994)- Blessed Mother Teresa 

Please vote, this Tuesday, for those who support the Culture of Life.


Saturday, November 1, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mom.

If my sweet mom were alive, today would be her birthday, and she would be 62. Yup, she was a young mom, because I am 42. Do you know how cool it was growing up with someone who was 19 and half years older than you?  It was very cool. My dad is going to be 63 the day after Christmas. I loved having young parents.  My mom was my age when I had Andrew. I am so glad he had almost 11 years with her. They totally adored one another and he looks so much like her it is amazing.

And, per my tradition, which I started on Nov. 1st the year after Mom died, I have started decorating inside the house for Christmas, in memory of how much Mom loved Christmas. She really loved Jesus so I imagine she is pretty happy getting to be with Him all the time now.

Happy Birthday in Heaven, my sweet Mom!

Love always!
Your Rachie

Happy All Saints Day everyone!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

For those undecided, or thinking that voting is pointless, read the following

This is from my husband's blog and it is so very well said and so very important. We can't have one party (either of them) in total control of everything: house, senate and white house, especially the Democrats because of the the Freedom of Choice Act and the Fairness Doctrine neither of which is free or fair.


School is ruining my life

I hate school and I hate schooling. I am speaking here of school from prek-12th grade. So much of it is complete bullshit. Let me repeat that...BULLSHIT...big stinky hot piles of bull poo poo! (College is not compulsory. You either choose it or you don't. Andrew is loving college.)  You know when people say to homeschoolers (which one rarely hears anymore), "What about your child's socialization?" Well, to be honest, THAT is about the only value I see to schools. I spoke with Andrew recently about high school and asked him for an honest assessment since he's graduated. He told me the only stuff he really got out of high school are 1) friends and the bands he formed 2) the video-broadcasting dept 3) Fencing.  Two out of the 3 things were mostly social. The video stuff was what he always wanted to do. He said he would have been happy to go and learn about the video stuff, play drums and guitar all day, and occasionally Fence... if he had the choice. I asked him if he missed it at all. He said, "No."

I think it would be super cool if there were a place for homeschooled kids to hang out with a variety of friends of different ages, everyday, for a few hours. But not the way school does it, nor even the way many homeschoolers do it. I mean totally unstructured getting together just to hang kinda time. Even homeschoolers often only get together under the auspices of 'doing something schooly' UGH!!! JUST STOP IT ALREADY!!! Why do homeschoolers copy schoolers AT ALL!?! See that is where school has it all wrong. The socialization in schools, for the most part, is artificial. It takes place under the watchful eyes of 'authorities' and kids can't do what they are interested in. I would love to see a cool place with a big video game room with a bunch of geeky kids playing Halo 3 or Gears of War. Then there could be another room where kids were watching movies, one for art, one for reading, one for chatting and board games, a lab for experiments and on and on. Outside there were would be kids exploring the woods and some playing athletic games. A place like this could be staffed by the parents, each lending his or her special talents to helping kids learn and do whatever it is they are interested in doing whether that is accounting skills, knitting a sweater, designing a computer game, building a website, or baking a cake. How cool would that be?  I know it's been done. Summerhill is a good example. So are Sudbury Valley Schools. They are Unschooling schools, but I am thinking more of a learning enrichment center. 

So, Ben is going to his school just when the 'fun stuff' happens. He is attending the latter half of the day for a social skills class, lunch, and a fun elective (alternates between science experiments and indoor/outdoor athletics).  This is a private school that caters to special kids. But they are still freaked out that Ben isn't being 'educated'.  I think he's getting plenty of an education just hanging with these kids and developing friendships while realizing he can be away from the family (esp. ME) and not DIE.  But all the hoops I have to jump through are just making me loathe any school: public or private they are all a pain in my ass!  I thought, mistakenly, that when I started paying for a school that they would be more willing to work with me in the best interests of Ben. Okay, the private school is much better than the public school he went to (and I am NOT blaming teachers, I am BLAMING the administrators and the state/federal gov't for the public school's inflexibility) but the private school still has an agenda and we had to twist some arms to get what we have now.  Let me be clear in saying that the private school administrators have been fabulously accommodating, but they still want it to go 'their way' when all is said and done.

Anyway, school has been ruining my life for years now. I haven't needed school for Ben.  I have needed what I proposed above for Ben.  If I had the money I would open such a 'place' myself. I think a relative would have to die and leave me money first, so I am not counting on opening any such 'place' anytime soon.  

Leonie just sent me a copy of a book that only confirms all of the feelings I have had about schooling, and unschooling, and has me pining for a simpler life. Especially because of all the shit we have had to wade through these last years regarding Ben and school. I am just so tired of it all.  At first things look like they will work, people make promises they can't keep, Ben falls apart and our family life explodes. I hate it and I just want it to stop!!! Yes, Ben can drive me absolutely out of my skull. However, school is driving him nuts so I am even more crazy. The stress is just insane. I am sick to death of all the frickin outside interference into our lives. I bet I could have gotten a homeschooled teenager to come and play video games with Ben a couple times a week for alot cheaper than his darn school costs. (Yes, I am getting about 2/3rd the tuition back in State vouchers, but not until the end of the school year will I recoup it all. So, we had to pay the whole 18K out of pocket up front.) I know I could have paid a teenager less and there would be far more peace in our home. 

Man, I am an idiot. Will I ever learn what God has been trying to teach me for so let Go and Trust. And to think I have the AUDACITY to get pissed at my kids for not "listening to me" when I tell them to do something a hundred times. How flipping long has God been telling me to stop trusting 'so called experts with my kids and start trusting my kids and myself. I am the best expert on my kids.  I think God's been at this with me for 19 years. How wonderfully patient he is with me and how horribly impatient I am with my kids. Jeez, I really suck.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

How I did it. (Lost weight, that is)

So, a few of my Cyberpals have asked how I lost the weight...wanting specifics. Before I tell you how I did it, I need to tell you why I did it. A person can't lose weight for anyone other than themselves. It will NEVER work until you really want it. And I mean REALLY WANT IT. For me, it was my size 14 jeans getting so tight that I knew I was going to have to get 16's. I just couldn't do it. I knew I wasn't physically the person I was physically becoming. I was almost 42 and I realized I wanted to look more like I did when I was 24 and that the only thing standing in the way of that reality was me, my appetite, and my pathetic lack of activity. I had made excuses ever since my mom had died and my weight started climbing. I realized, that after 7 years, I had run out of excuses (the one's I told myself) and it was time to 'just do it'.

In one sentence 'how I did it' can be summed up like this: I KEPT MY BODY(METABOLISM) GUESSING.

Now to break down that one sentence.

I did reduce my caloric intake and cycled my calories.
I reduced my calories using this calculator at Free Dieting. At the bottom of the calculator one can click '7 Day Calorie Zig Zag' and that will keep one's weekly calories the same but altering the cals daily to keep one's metabolism revved up. A body gets used to the amount of calories a person feeds it when dieting. So, a steady does of 1400 cals, after about a month or so, slows a metabolism down. A body doesn't want to lose weight. It feels like it is starving. So, it will go into starvation mode. In real life people eat different amounts of calories daily. Calorie reduction done the same way helps keep a body out of starvation mode and feeds one's metabolism to keep it burning efficiently.

 I did track all my food & exercise using Spark People. I can't say enough about how awesome, helpful, and instrumental Spark was for me losing the weight I wanted to. I really don't think I could have done it without everything I learned and all the support I got from Spark. It's free and better than any dieting site a person could pay for. I know, I joined Weight Watchers for a month and their online site can't touch Spark People. I do, however, love Weight Watchers' cookbooks and motivational books.

I did eat (and still do) Low fat, Low Protein, High Complex Carbs, High Fiber foods about 80% of the time and 20% was the so- called 'bad' stuff. I am not a vegetarian. I did not cut ANYTHING out of my diet. I just found that, for me, that combo worked best. I ate mostly veggies, fruits, whole wheat breads, I used cheeses as condiments in lieu of slathering them on everything. I switched to light butter.  I learned to make favorite dishes low in calories by simple substitutions. If I screwed up during the week and went a little nuts eating something I shouldn't I just jumped back in the saddle and kept on going. I did NOT let a screw up give me license to just gorge on everything in sight because I'd blown it. That kind of thinking is LETHAL to weight loss. If you go overboard on some food, just make the next day a lighter day and maybe walk an extra mile. It will all work out in the end...kwim? 

I did not drink 8 glasses of water a day (see article here). I drank when I was thirsty. I did switch from regular Coke to caffeine free diet coke. (I like being thin, so if I go nuts from the artificial sweetener, at least I will be thin and nuts....but wait....I *AM* already never mind.) I drank my coffee with cream in it too.

I did not eat breakfast. Okay, this is strange. I know everyone says to eat breakfast, but when I do, I am hungry all day. When I don't my appetite is more stable. What is even weirder is that breakfast food is my favorite food. I secretly would love to be a short order cook. I love eggs, bacon, waffles, pancakes, ham, scones, muffins, bowls of fresh fruit etc...So, I would make lighter versions of breakfast foods for dinner, on occasion, and just have my breakfast at night. I did switch from my beloved real maple syrup to the sugar free kind. Or I will use all fruit jam on pancakes. (My kids LOVE breakfast for dinner.)

I did realize there are foods that I can't resist and will overeat. Oreos and homemade chocolate chip cookies are good examples. Therefore, I didn't buy them or make them. They were's not an option. I have other foods that are INO (though not so much now that I am at goal. Now it's more AIM... anything in moderation.) I also learned the best calorie bargains. So, if I wanted fries and a burger, I knew the best size at the best place for the lowest calories. 

 I did (and still do) walk, but I varied it, so my body couldn't get used to what I was doing. This worked really well too. I didn't read about it anywhere, though. Every book and website says to do exercise consistently. Well, I was consistent with the fact that I made sure I exercised, but intensity and length of time varied according to my schedule. Also, I never did weight training. I lift and carry stuff all day...including a 40lb/5 mos old Siberian Husky. I didn't have the time or money. All my money is being spent on food or the kids. So, I walked. I wanted to run, but I can't. Why? I wet my pants. I have total bladder control EXCEPT for jumping, sneezing, and RUNNING. So, I settled on walking. Some days I walked 5 or 6 miles really fast. Other days I walk 1.5 miles fast or maybe leisurely. The fact is that I walked (aerobic exercise) almost everyday.  Then there were times I couldn't walk for a few days and when I finally got back out there I busted my butt on a long walk. That was always the way I broke through a plateu...(that and upping my cals a bit).

 I did have a weigh in day which was also my pig-out (free) day. I picked Friday's to weigh in. I always weighed in on Friday morning, totally naked, after peeing. Sorry to be gross but I wanted the most empty true weight I could get. That way I got a double bonus. The first being seeing the scale go down (and I was happy even to see a 4 oz shift) and the second to know I could go out to dinner with Robert and/or friends and not worry about food. Fridays gave me something to look forward to that made the sacrifices of the previous 6 days worth it. The extra calories stoked my metabolism, and mentally I stopped myself from sabotage because I knew once a week I would get my fun food day. Also, I knew I had until the next Friday to adjust my calories and/or exercise to keep the weight loss going. Also, even if the scale didn't move one week, I still had my free day. Pretty much everytime I was stuck at a weight I would lose a pound or two the following week. 

I did (and still do) choose to live much healthier. I made losing weight about a permanent healthy lifestyle change, in diet and exercise, instead of just a way to get skinny and then go back to my old bad habits. 

At goal I started weighing myself daily. It helps me to keep inside my "weight box" and helps me to see the effect of how pigging out at a big party, or just having a salad and soup day, has on my weight. It also helps me to know when I need to eat lighter or if I am low enough in my weight box to feel free to eat what I want on a given day. 

At goal I started tracking my calories less. I barely track my calories now, online or on paper. I was OCD about it while losing the weight. What was good about that was that I learned the caloric value of pretty much everything I eat. So, now I keep a loose tally in my head. I have been able to increase my calories, due to the calorie cycling, so that I can maintain my 33lb loss while eating close to 2200 cals a day. That is darn good! (Let's face it, it means more yummy goodies!) I have been maintaining between 135 and 138 for a month now. A few days ago, after pigging out big time at a parish party, I weighed 138.6 lbs. Today, after some extra walking and watching my eating I am back to 135.6 

At goal I realized I will ALWAYS have to be aware of my weight and activity levels. A big mistake
that so many make, who lose weight and then regain it, is to get to one's goal and then abandon all the good habits one formed during the time one was losing the weight. 

Last, but not least, PRAYER. I was tempted many times to just give in and give up. God helped me continue to fight the fight for my health. Yeah God!!!

I think that's about it.


Another look alike

Here's my Ben at 12 (I was 13 below), note the resemblance?  Spooky, huh? We even had the same haircut. Yikes! Autumn, however, has my personality but Robert's family's features. 

Here's Tivo, Autumn, me, and Ben.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Hair Horror Stories

Okay, I only have 2 real stories. The first is when my mom's sisters would take me every Summer (in Southampton, NY) to get my hair cut (OFF) because they thought I was sooooo cute with short hair. Well, that all came to a screeching halt the Summer I was 12 and after getting my hair cut (OFF) my dad took me for ice cream and the guy behind the counter said, "And what does your son want?" I WAS SUPPOSED TO BE THE SON!!! I was a late developer okay!!! As you can see in the pic below (at 13 years old), I would have been a very pretty boy.
Proof that I have always had the same haircut (except for the shearing my aunts did to me) behold my baby bob below:

Oh, I almost forgot the 2nd horror story. I had had my hair highlighted. It looked really great. So, when it was time to get it redone I went and my stylist was gone. So, they stuck me with a new guy who left it on too long and the top layer of my head was blonde and underneath was brown...lovely!  That was about 7 years ago...never had my hair highlighted since.


Friday, October 24, 2008

A Muse B Side...FURY

Why another Muse video? Well, because it's been a long time and there flippin' awesome, that's why.

It's Clark's Tivo!

He's just adorable, isn't he? He is wearing Ben's new glasses and we couldn't decide if both Ben and Tivo (in the glasses) looked like Clark Kent, Dr. Who, or Austin Powers. Thinking about it, I could see Tivo saying, "Do I make you randy?" "Yeah, Baby, Yeah!"

Below is a picture of Tivo about 1-2 weeks old. And now at 18wks. He is huge!


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Happy Birthday Andrew!

I can't believe you are 19 YEARS old. It's seems like moments ago you were just 19 months old. . Each day you become an even more amazing human being. I am so honored and proud that God picked me to be your mom. I will love you forever and always, my sweet boy.


Thank you, God, for giving me such a wonderful child. He is a continued gift and I am so grateful he's mine.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Urgent prayers needed!

Please pray for Michael Summerville. He is only 21 months old and was revived from drowning ( Oct 15th) but is currently in an induced coma. Here is his Caring Bridge website: LoveMichael. Pray for him and put him on your church's prayer chain too, if you have one.  Oh, they are a Catholic family so all you Catholics out there, offer a Mass (0r more) for little Michael. 


Friday, October 10, 2008

Finally! The official Quantum of Solace music video.

Jack White and Alicia Keys being AWESOME!

Cool unschooling site

I think this site originates from England. It is called The Parenting Pit. I found it at the Motheringdotcom forum. So far, I really like it.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

8 Years

(Mom & Me 1967)
Today it's been 8 years without
your voice,
your face,
your hugs,
your kisses,
your sense of humor,
your laughter,
your friendship,
your counsel,
your mothering,
your love,
Today it's been 8 years without YOU, Mom!
I miss
our conversations,
crying in your arms.
your consolation,
snuggling up to you at 34, as if I were only 4,
how much you loved the kids
and how much they loved you,
the kids growing up without you,
me getting older without you,
hearing your laugh or just your voice,
I miss YOU, Mom.
God, how I miss you, Mom.
My heart aches like it wasn't 8 years ago, but 8 seconds ago
that you left us, me.
You were too young. The world lost an angel.
The kids lost their Mima,
Dad lost his wife,
Jon lost his mom,
And so did I.
I'll miss you always.
I love you.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Move over McCain & Obama

Your result for The Presidential Capacity Test...

Presidential Success!

68% Values, 100% Charisma and 76% Judgment!

"In America, anyone can become president. That's one of the risks you take." -Adlai E. Stevenson

Congratulations! You encapsulate everything that a successful candidate should encapsulate.

Crack open the whiskey and break out the celebratory cigar. You are destined for success in the Presidential Campaign. You exude confidence and charisma. You exhibit true leadership abilities and demonstrate the ability to make snap judgement calls if the need arises. You are well-respected for your strong values and your steadfast stance on honesty and loyalty.

The USA needs a President like you. You are one of a select few deserving of the influence and recognition commanded by the Presidential title. Congrats!

Other possibilities:


Take The Presidential Capacity Test at HelloQuizzy


Well, Ben didn't have a wand ejected from his hand but he was ejected from his private school today. According to them, and I have to admit they really tried, Ben is beyond their scope of support.

He is a homeschooler...for now. I really don't know what we are going to do....PRAYERS PLEASE!

Oh....and I forgot to mention that unless we can work something out with the school, we may be out 17K and during this crappy economy that is not something we can handle. Please pray, too, that the school is merciful and refunds the prorated amount of Ben's tuition back to us.


Sunday, October 5, 2008

Stole this from Rob's blog because it is so darn funny!

My new favorite site is Here are a couple of favorites that speak directly to what has been going on in my life lately. :-)

I knew it!

Drinking water alone does not aid weight loss

Drinking eight glasses of water a day does not help dieters keep weight off, scientists have found.


Instead those wishing to lose weight should try eating more foods which contain water, like fruit, vegetables, rice and soups.

In a study the weight and waistlines of more than 1,000 young women were compared with the amount of water they consumed each day from both food and drink.

Women who ate more water-rich food tended to have a slightly smaller waist size and lower body mass index, meaning they were healthier weights for their heights.

The study showed that drinking water alone had no effect on the women's weights, the science journal Nutrition reported.

"These studies suggest that when water is consumed as an integral component of a food, it promotes satiety and decreases subsequent dietary intake, thus possibly working to prevent obesity," researchers from the University of Tokyo said.

They said it could be due to the fact that foods that contain water are also high in fibre and so make people feel more full after eating them.

Earlier studies had suggested that people needed to drink eight glasses of water a day to stay healthy, keep slim and maintain good skin.

But the American scientists said there was no evidence to support this and most people get all the fluids they need from food and other drinks like tea and coffee.

article from

(I knew this just because this whole time I have been losing weight, I have always felt guilty that I wasn't drinking enough water. Yet, here I am 33 pounds thinner and I never got my 8 glasses in a day. I love coffee, and caffeine free diet coke, milk and yes I have water, but maybe 2 big glasses. LIke the article says though, I love soup, fruit, veggies...lots of high fiber high water content foods.)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

How could I forget

to thank My Hunny, most of all, for loving me, sticking by me, praying for me, and getting me through (even though I did not want his help) my recent crash. I had sunk to a place where I couldn't show him I love him (and I am not talking about *that*) I mean just a kiss goodbye on his way to work or a kiss goodnight, or an I love you at the end of a phone call. This may not seem like much to some, but I am a hugely affectionate person. I hug and kiss my friends and tell them I love them, and am even more loving to my kids and husband. Our little family is huge on saying, "I love you" to each other. We can even get Andrew to say it on occasion. :-) Heck, I kiss and hug my cats and dog. I love loving people, so when that all goes away, you know something is VERY WRONG!  So, My Hunny, with enough crap going on in his life as sole provider and father, had to deal with not having his usually supportive wife through it all. Like I said, I just wanted to disappear. I didn't want to care about anyone or anything and I didn't want anyone to care about me. But, in keeping with the sacramentality of our marriage, he loved me through a dark time when I was difficult to love (or like) and, despite my protests to intervening,  still talked to Rick (Dr.C) and got him to convince me to take the Lamictal and ( along with Robert) go and see him to work through all the stuff in my head. 

So, My sweet Hunny. I love you. Thank you for loving me. I don't feel like I deserve it, but I figure God knows better than I do, so he must love me alot to have given me you. 


Better living through chemistry & a concert

The Lamictal has literally changed my life in the last 72 hours. I owe my life (and I am not kidding) to Rick and his amazing knowledge and judicious use of pyschopharmacology. 

I am feeling like the person I feel I really am.  Which is a very good thing. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to all of my blogging and IRL friends who have been praying for me. I love you all for it. 

Tonight, Robert, Andrew and I went to see The Raconteurs.  They are an amazing band fronted by White Stripes' singer/guitarist Jack White. The show was AMAZING! We were 15 feet away from the stage. It was so incredibly awesome! Jack White is one of favorite guitarists. I was blown away by how totally fabulous he and the whole band was. Andrew took pics and video and I will get them on my blog ASAP.


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Full blown Radical Unschooling

Suffice it to say, due to the nature of my cyclic downturn, Tumnal and I are just hanging...watching movies and I am reading Henry and Mudge to her. I am going to take her on a bunch of field trips...assuming I can find gas...and just get us out. The other pressure I was dealing with was my anxiety over her lack of reading. She can read...slowly. I can read and comprehend at the speed of light, so this drives me nuts. I used to be so trusing of kids' ability to learn. I did it fairly effortlessly with Andrew. Ben screwed me though, because he learns sooooo dfferently because he thinks sooooo differently. Anyway, I told Robert she has to go to a real school because I am not a 'homeschool teacher' and it's killing me to try and be that. We either trust her and keep her home or we don't and send her to school, but I am not going to fight for what I believe(d) in because I don't kow what that is anymore. I compare myself to so many other moms their kids and families and I feel like such a failure. I am trying to get my head around the fact that *I* am not like other moms and my family is not like other families. We have to do what works for us and keeps the peace, or I could very easily go AWOL.

Laying it out for all to see

Okay, I am back. I don't know why I can throw around so easily that my son has Bipolar (BP 1) to be exact...and that I have such a hard to admitting that I have it too (BP 2...which means I don't lose touch with least not yet). What happened? I got a dog, I was euphoric and on cloud nine. Initially, Ben took to the Cottage School and Autumn and I were doing fun stuff. Then, crap started happening with Ben, the puppy became more of an issue due to the demands of housetraining etc...(I was cleaning alot of pee....luckily we have hardwood floors), then Ben started freaking out more and ran away from school and the police were called. I was not getting any sleep (and I am still not)which is lethal to me, and I started slipping away. All that energy just dropped away and I wanted to disappear and get away. I didn't feel like I loved anyone...ANYONE....mostly me. (I am still kind of there...but trying like Hell to fight my way back). Dr. C (Rick) has added a new med to me. I ususally just do with an antidepressant, but they don't work for me that way...the Prozac is more for my overwhelming anxiety ( wonder where Ben gets it from????). So, now I am on a mood stabilizer called Lamictal. I have only been on it for a couple of days and Rick has called a 'Team Meeting" (me, Robert & him) because he and Robert went out to dinner last night (yes, we are friends, not just patients) and tho they usually don't talk shop he could tell by Robert's face that something was up (me....or rather not up but down). So, Rick is worried . He told Robert he saw it coming, tho. A few weeks ago at our last appointment I was "On". So on that he saw the crash coming. Robert sarcastically said, "Thanks for the heads up! You could of warned me." (This is what Robert told me last night when he came home from their dinner).

I have a BP 2 dad and a BP1 kid but I figured I was just a QuADD (queen of Adhd) with a serious anxiety disorder, but crap, when I look back at my life it is plain as frickin' day. I was a super high energy kid, very precocious very early. Even though I didn't lose my virginity til I was 2 weeks shy of 20, I was hyper aware of my sexuality and boys. I could stay up for hours and never slept as a baby...according to my mom, and just like Ben, when I did sleep I could never wake up and would sleep the day away. I was and still am the quintessential night owl. I was never anywhere on time and still am not, I have no concept of time. I, like Ben, was scared to death that my Mom was going to die. I hated leaving her. I didn't move out until I was 29 year old. When I heard sirens out the window at my highschool I would be interiorly terrified that they were headed toward her and she was trapped and burning to death in a fire....or anything else horrible. When she died 8 years ago that fear of her death got replaced by fears for my kids. Yesterday, I sobbed out on the deck so desperately missing my mom, who died October 8th 2000. Today, when Robert and I came home from dropping Ben off at school I was so overwhelmed with anxiety about having to take care of the dog, the cats, Autumn, the laundry etc... that I really wanted to jump out of the car. I suddenly felt so sympathetic to Ben when he ran from school last week . God, he drives me crazy, but it's because he is so like I was. I just was less impulsive, though, even as a kid. I didn't deal so much with depression then. That hit really hard when I got that horrible eczema that covered my arms and hands and was excruciatingly painful for 5 FULL YEARS. Then, after Ben , I got full blown PPD and when Ben was 5 months old was planning on divorcing Robert for no other reason than I thought he didn't deserve me. I remember being so unhappy and NOTHING, NOTHING would make it better. Then it lifted. I could go on and on about all the things that happened. The unbelievable obsessive thoughts of my kids dying that played like unstoppable tapes in my head all during my pregnancy with Autumn that had me sobbing and begging God to make them stop in the middle of the night. Then Mom's death and Dad's going completely off the deep end, my car accident and the insomnia and constant pain. And I was alway SO angry...ready to rage at a moments notice. Then these last 4 Summers and now this Fall when I am "up and on" everything is great or at least manageable and then CRASH! Plus, everytime I head down I go through what I call my 'atheist' phase. But, I still believe in God, I just want nothing to do with Him.

I can't explain, like I said before, where I am now. I so don't want to be me. I so don't want to do anything, to go anywhere, to see or talk to anyone. I just want to sleep forever. That is how I feel. This is a cyclical thing and should go away. I am just holding on by my fingertips waiting for it to pass. Hopefully, the meds will help too.
More than anything I don't want people to pray for me. I feel like a whiny baby. I know I am not terminally unique and that everyone has shit going on in their lives and mine shouldn't take any precedence at all. Robert tells me he wakes up thinking of me and goes to sleep thinking of me. I think of no one. I think that I just want to go back to sleep...that I want everything to stop. That I want to run away...far away...but I can't escape me. I worry about what the hell this is doing to my kids and my husband, having a mom(wife) who at once so irritable, then so self absorbed, then so loving, then so insulting, then screaming and yelling, then withdrawn. WTF!?!?!?!?! And I can't seem to stop myself. God help them all. I feel like I have f*cked up so much stuff in my life and I have no idea where to begin to change it.

Okay, so that is where I am. Intellectually, I get that it is stupid and unnecessary. But, if you could feel what I feel and hear my inner thoughts, which I have no way of escaping, and that no matter what you intellectually knew you couldn't act on or feel, because your brain JUST wouldn't let you, you would understand where I am.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Later Dudes,

Hey all my peeps out there. Just wanted to say goodbye. I think I am going to take a break from blogging and it could be permanent. Life is just sucking rocks and nothing I could write would be remotely edifying for myself or any of the other 6 (maybe) people who read this blog. 

Maybe someday, when I am not being sucked down in the rip tide of life anymore, and have finally made my way to shore will I be back to write. 

Til then, keep up with Ben's progress at my husband's blog: Templars Tavern.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

New York Times article on Bipolar Kids

The following article from the NYTimes is an amazing article and peek into our lives. Except for the sexual stuff which Ben does not have (thank you GOD!) so much else is right on the money. He is not violent like he was, since the lithium....but, alas, he used to kick living crap out of me (just like the boy, James in the following article) and once, I gave him a bloody nose, something I can't seem to forgive myself for. Our whole family relates too well with the following parents. My prayers are with them...I know how alone they can feel. Welcome to my world.......

September 14, 2008
The Bipolar Puzzle

When Claire, a pixie-faced 6-year-old in a school uniform, heard her older brother, James, enter the family’s Manhattan apartment, she shut her bedroom door and began barricading it so swiftly and methodically that at first I didn’t understand what she was doing. She slid a basket of toys in front of the closed door, then added a wagon and a stroller laden with dolls. She hugged a small stuffed Pegasus to her chest. “Pega always protects me,” she said softly. “Pega, guard the door.”

James, then 10, had been given a diagnosis of bipolar disorder two years earlier. He was attending a therapeutic day school in another borough and riding more than an hour each way on a school bus, so he came home after Claire. Until James’s arrival that April afternoon, Claire was showing me sketches she had drawn of her Uglydolls and chatting about the Web site JibJab, where she likes to watch goofy videos. At the sound of James’s footsteps outside her bedroom door, she flattened herself behind the barricade. There was a sharp knock. After a few seconds, James’s angry, wounded voice barked, “Forget it,” and the steps retreated.

“If it’s my brother, I don’t open it,” Claire said. “I don’t care if I’m being mean. . . . I never trust him. James always jumps out and scares me. He surprises me in a bad way.”

I left Claire’s bedroom and found James with his mother, Mary, in their spacious living room, which has a sidelong view of the Hudson River. James is a fair, athletic-looking boy with a commanding voice and a restless, edgy gait. He began reading aloud a story he wrote at school called “The Mystery of My Little Sister.” It involved James discovering Claire almost dead, rescuing her and forming a detective agency to track down her assailant. He read haltingly, often interrupting himself. When his mother asked a question, the roil of frustration that nearly always seethes just under James’s surface, even when he is happy, sloshed over.

“If you listened on the first page, it says it!” he scolded her, then collapsed hopelessly beside the coffee table. “You don’t get anything. Now I lost my place. Forget it. I give up.” He crossed his arms on the table and rested his head in them. Mary waited quietly in her chair. Sure enough, a minute or two later James began reading us a list he had concocted of 50 ways to get rich. The next time his mother spoke, he bellowed: “I wasn’t talking to you! I’m not reading it now!” He threw the paper down and stalked out of the room.

The baby-sitter arrived, a 27-year-old preschool teacher whom Mary hired to come in a few hours each week and help maintain harmony when both her children were home. It wasn’t easy. There was a basic rhythmic pattern to the afternoon: James reached out, craving attention and engagement, then stormed away in roaring frustration only to return, penitent and eager to connect, cuddling and hanging on to his mother in a way unusual for a boy his age.

At one point Claire appeared in the next room, and James hurled a ball at her, missing. Claire shrieked as if she’d been hit, screaming, “What did you do that for?”

“Wow, I’m scared,” James said. “I’m scared, right, Claire?” He threw the ball at her again, then asked, “Want to have family time?”

“No,” Claire hollered. “I want James to get away from me. Get away!”

James made a series of loud, taunting sounds, which induced more hysterical cries from Claire. “James, you’re provoking,” Mary said evenly. “Claire, you’re overreacting.”

Claire rode out of the room in her wagon. James sat with his stockinged feet in his mother’s lap and played his Nintendo DS, though it rarely held his attention for more than a few minutes.

“The therapist says that Claire is in crisis,” Mary told me, referring to a social worker the family sees twice each week. “James is feeling better, James is feeling happier, so Claire, who has always been easy, is letting it all out now.”

James has never been easy. Like many children whose emotional problems are being diagnosed as bipolar disorder, his main symptoms are aggression and explosive rage (known in clinical parlance as “irritability”), and those traits have been visible in James from the time he was a toddler. Fifteen years ago his condition would probably not have been called bipolar disorder, and some doctors might hesitate to diagnose it in him even now, preferring other labels that more directly address James’s rage and aggression: Oppositional Defiant Disorder (O.D.D.) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (A.D.H.D.) — both of which have been applied to James as well. But since the mid-1990s, a revolution has occurred in the field of child psychiatry, and a mental illness characterized by episodes of mania and depression (bipolar disorder used to be called “manic depression”), which once was believed not to exist before late adolescence, is now being ascribed rather freely to children with mood problems, sometimes at very young ages.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the current edition is referred to as D.S.M.-IV) describes bipolar disorder as a condition whose average age of onset is 20, but virtually all the leaders in the field now say they believe it exists in children too. What they don’t agree on is what, exactly, characterizes the disease in kids, or how prevalent it is; some call it rare, while others say it is common. Many clinicians say the illness looks significantly different in children than in adults, but the question of how it differs, or what diagnostic terms like “grandiosity,” “elevated mood” or “flight of ideas” (all potential symptoms of adult bipolar disorder) even mean when you’re talking about kids, leaves room for interpretation. For example, it’s normal for children to pretend that they are superheroes, or believe that they can run faster than cars, whereas in an adult, these convictions would be signs of grandiosity. Equally unclear is whether a child who is identified as having a bipolar disorder will grow up to be a bipolar adult. Work on the D.S.M.-V is under way, and discussions have begun on how to address the issue of bipolar children.

As Ellen Leibenluft, who runs the pediatric bipolar-research program at the National Institute of Mental Health, told me, “There definitely will be — and needs to be — more description of what bipolar disorder looks like in children, how one diagnoses it and some of the challenges.”

According to Mary, James was excessively cranky and active from babyhood (except where otherwise noted, the names of patients and their families used in this story are middle names). “By 7:30 every morning, I’d be in the playground with him,” she said. “If it was over 20 degrees I was out the door, because if he was inside, he would rage.” Still, James seemed at first to thrive in preschool. “I said: ‘O.K., this is my problem, not his problem. This is my parenting skills, my lack of discipline, my lack of structure.’ However, when I would pick him up from school he would scream and cry and rant and rage, sometimes remove his clothes, it would take me half an hour to get him out of the vestibule. I’d have to literally tie him in the stroller. He was 3. People were absolutely horrified.”

When James was 4 and Claire was a newborn, his pre-school contacted Mary in the fall and told her that her son seemed hyperactive and aggressive. After three days of testing, a developmental pediatrician diagnosed his condition as Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and prescribed Zoloft, an antidepressant. “We refused to give a 4 1/2-year-old Zoloft,” Mary said. They limped through the rest of the year, but in order for James to remain at the school for another year, they had to promise to hire a “shadow” — someone to be with James full time in the classroom — at a cost of $20,000 a year. Mary and her husband are affluent enough to afford this (her husband, Frank, has his own business; Mary hasn’t worked since James was born); otherwise, James would have had to leave the school.

Meanwhile, life at home was devolving into a nightmare. “James used to wake up every morning violently angry,” Mary said. “I used to wake up at 4:30 and heat his milk in his sippy cup so that when he woke up at 5:00 it would be exactly the right temperature. If it was too hot or too cold, he would take one sip from the cup, hurl it across the room and rage so loudly that it would wake Claire up, so that at three minutes after 5:00, I would be crying, Claire would be crying and my husband would be crying.”

She and her husband took James to a pediatric psychopharmacologist, who prescribed Risperdal, one of a new generation of antipsychotic drugs that have become popular for treating children with rage and aggression because it can blunt their anger and calm them down. These so-called atypical antipsychotics are less likely to cause abnormal movements and muscle stiffness than the earlier antipsychotics, but they can still prompt enormous weight gain and put children at risk for diabetes. Since James was underweight and oblivious to food, Mary and her husband were willing to take the risk.

“So we give him the Risperdal drops before bed, and he wakes up the next morning and he says: ‘Good morning, Mommy. I’m hungry. Could I have something to eat?’ I wake my husband and I say: ‘James is different. The medication is working.’ That day at noon, the Risperdal wore off, and he became angry, miserable, mean, frightening — everything he was before.”

But even with Risperdal and a shadow, James struggled in his second year of pre-K; with his anger under control, his attention problems became more visible. “He could not stay on tasks,” Mary said. “He couldn’t stick with anything. He’d go to the drawing table and make one scribble. . . . He was hopping around.” James’s condition was diagnosed as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, a problem that is said to afflict between 3 and 7 percent of American schoolchildren. Normally A.D.H.D. is treated with stimulants like Ritalin, which can temporarily improve focus, but the two stimulants his doctor tried made James nasty and angrier, and he couldn’t stay on them. (Note: Ben can't tolerate stimulants, they put him in a continously angry state. We tried him on 3 different kinds, because he was first diagnosed with ADHD and Anxiety at 6...the Bipolar came after his first psychotic epsiode at 7, due to the anti-depressants and stimulants he was taking at the time. He was taking Paxil when he tried to slit his own throat just before his 8th birthday.)In first grade he moved to a school for children with special learning needs, but by second grade he was having trouble even there. “He would cry every morning, and cry and cry and cry,” Mary said. “I now realize that that was depression.”

Home life was almost unbearable. “I couldn’t bring them to a playground together, because if he got behind Claire on the slide, he would push her down. If she walked by, he put out his leg to trip her. If they were watching TV and he became overstimulated, he would kick and punch her. . . . There’s never been a dinner hour; he’d push her plate. He didn’t like the way she was chewing. He’d rage. We never had any family meals. No family trips. Ever.”

As often happens with children on psychotropic drugs, James’s behavior began to “break through” the medication, requiring more and eventually different combinations of drugs to contain it. Along with the Risperdal, he eventually went on Depakote, one of several antiseizure drugs that are also used as mood stabilizers. Depakote was ultimately replaced with Lamictal, another antiseizure drug, and the Risperdal gave way to Abilify, another antipsychotic.

In spring of third grade, Mary was walking James and Claire home from James’s school when he demanded a lottery ticket. She refused to buy him one. “He started to scream and yell and rant and rave on a busy corner. We were crossing the street and the light was changing. Coming down 75th Street I saw this big white Hummer. James said to me as we were crossing the street, ‘If you won’t buy me a lottery ticket, I don’t want to live.’ He stood in the middle of the street and he faced the Hummer down. And the Hummer pulls over and the guy gets out and starts screaming.” At the psychiatrist’s office the next day, “James is speaking really fast and he’s mounting my leg like he’s in sexual overdrive,” Mary recalled. Pressured speech and hypersexuality are symptoms of mania. Shortly thereafter, when James was 8, his condition was diagnosed as bipolar disorder.

Later on the April afternoon I spent in their apartment, Claire was on the family computer visiting her favorite Web site, JibJab, when James came over and stood beside her. “Can I start it over, please?” he said.

“That’s nice asking, James,” Mary said. Claire replayed the video, and the children laughed, watching it together. A few minutes later, Claire came to her mother on the couch and put her arms around Mary’s neck. James followed, draping himself across his mother’s legs. Mary mentioned that she was concerned about some of the language she’d just heard on the video and mused aloud over whether to adjust the Internet filter to block JibJab out. “Mommy, please keep that one,” Claire implored. “That’s the only one James and I watch.” When Mary relented, the children cheered, seizing each other’s hands in a rare show of unity. A moment later, Claire, still giggling, said, “Ow.” James had pushed or hurt her somehow. “Ow, ow!” she cried, in real pain now.

“That hurts her, James,” Mary said.

“Get away,” Claire screamed. “Now!”

The children began to roar at each other. Mary took charge: “Don’t hit. Let’s separate our bodies.” Then, almost with surprise, she said, “We were having a nice moment.”

Last fall, James started fifth grade at a school designed to accommodate emotional as well as learning issues. It has a contract with the New York City Department of Education, which means that city children attend free as long as the D.O.E. deems them in need of its services. The first parent conference, last fall, was sobering for Mary and her husband; the combination of A.D.H.D. and anger was making it hard for James to function even in this new school. “He can’t start, he can’t stop,” she paraphrased. “He can’t sit in his seat. He can’t stop interrupting. He’s constantly provoking his classmates. He’s basically barely teachable. . . . It was like someone punched me in the side of the jaw.” Mary went to James’s psychiatrist for help. “I thought I was finally going to walk away with Ritalin,” she said. “Instead, we walked out of that office with lithium.”

Lithium is one of the oldest and most reliable mood stabilizers, but it’s a serious and potentially toxic drug, requiring regular blood draws to make sure that it isn’t becoming too concentrated. It can have unpleasant side effects: tremors, weight gain, acne and thyroid problems in the short term; kidney damage in the long run. But Mary and her husband felt they had little choice. And the lithium, which James took along with his other medication, helped. James settled down in his new school and began to learn, and even to make friends. He was happier. At which point Claire, perhaps in a delayed reaction to trauma dating back to when she was small, became hysterically intolerant of her brother. “The latest edict from the therapist is that Claire’s allowed to take her food and go in the TV room and eat by herself,” Mary said. “And now she’s eating three meals a day in there.”

James’s psychiatrist was planning to raise his lithium dose until he was fully stable, and then to try adding a stimulant to help with his A.D.H.D., so he could concentrate better in school. Mary’s hopes were riding heavily on this plan; lately, James’s psychiatrist had been floating the idea of a residential school for James as a possible solution to his learning issues and conflicts with Claire. Mary and her husband badly wanted to keep him at home.

“I used to cry five times a day, and now maybe I only cry once or twice,” she told me, her usual upbeat practicality briefly giving way to emotion. “So it’s better, you know? It’s better now that I don’t pick him up at school, and he doesn’t rage at me in front of all the other parents. He can rage when he bursts in the door, so no one sees how awful it is. It’s like a dirty little secret. It’s like having a husband who beats you, only it’s a kid. It’s your own.”

A study last fall measured a fortyfold increase in the number of doctor visits between 1994 and 2003 by children and adolescents said to have bipolar disorder, and the number has likely risen further. Most doctors I spoke with found the “fortyfold increase” misleading, since the number of bipolar kids at the beginning of the study was virtually zero and by the end of the study amounted to fewer than 7 percent of all mental-health disorders identified in children. Many also said that because bipolar children are often severely ill, they can proportionately account for more doctors’ visits than children with other psychiatric complaints, like A.D.H.D. or Anxiety Disorder. Still, nearly every clinician I spoke to said that bipolar illness is being overdiagnosed in kids. In Leibenluft’s studies at the National Institute of Mental Health, only 20 percent of children identified with bipolar disorder are found to meet the strict criteria for the disease. Breck Borcherding, a pediatric psychiatrist in private practice in the Washington area, said: “Every time one of my kids goes into the hospital, they come out with a bipolar diagnosis. It’s very frustrating.”

There are many possible reasons for the sudden frenzy of pediatric bipolar diagnoses. First, a critical shortage of child psychiatrists, especially in rural areas, means that many children are being seen by adult psychiatrists or — more often — by family doctors, who may lack expertise in child psychiatry. Managed care usually pays for a single, brief psychiatric evaluation (and it strictly limits the number of therapy appointments a year) — not nearly enough time, many say, to accurately diagnose a condition in a mentally ill child.

Then there is “The Bipolar Child,” a successful book published by the psychiatrist Demitri Papolos and his wife, Janice, in 1999, and referred to by more than one parent I spoke to as a “bible.” The Papoloses’ description of pediatric bipolar disorder was amassed partly by using responses to an online questionnaire filled out by hundreds of parents on an electronic mailing list, who said they believed their children were bipolar (and who often had strong family histories of the disease). The Papoloses’ diagnostic criteria include some idiosyncratic items — a severe craving for carbohydrates, for example — that are found nowhere in D.S.M.-IV. Nevertheless, many parents walk into doctors’ offices having already read “The Bipolar Child” and concluded that their children are bipolar. Because doctors rely heavily on parental reports when diagnosing disorders in children, these “prediagnoses” may have an impact on the outcome.

And of course, there are pressures and blandishments from the pharmaceutical industry, which stands to profit mightily from the expensive drugs — often used in combination — that are prescribed for bipolar illness, despite the fact that very few of these drugs have been approved for use in children.

For all the possible overdiagnosing of pediatric bipolar disorder, however, many in the field also say that a lot of truly bipolar children who could benefit from therapy are falling through the cracks. This is a critical issue; studies clearly show that the longer bipolar disorder goes untreated, the worse a person’s long-term prognosis. Between 10 and 15 percent of those suffering from bipolar disorder end up committing suicide.

Some studies suggest that bipolar disorder may actually be on the rise among young people. One intriguing hypothesis involves a genetic phenomenon known as “anticipation,” in which genes become more concentrated over generations, bringing a stronger form and earlier onset of an illness with each successive generation. Another theory is “assortative mating,” in which a more mobile and fluid society, like ours, enables the coupling of people whose mutual attraction might be partly due to a shared genetic disposition to something like bipolar disorder, thus concentrating the genetic load in their offspring.

Given these uncertainties, how does a doctor go about diagnosing bipolar disorder in a child? To understand that process, I spent several days at the Child and Adolescent Bipolar Services Clinic at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the largest clinic in America devoted specifically to treating and studying children with bipolar disorder. It has about 260 active patients, most of them from Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio and West Virginia, and it evaluates between one and five new cases each week. It accepts managed care, meaning it operates at a loss, which is absorbed by the medical center. (Many child psychiatrists in private practice, who charge as much as $400 an hour in New York, accept no insurance; families who can afford to lay out these sums must collect what they can from their insurers after the fact.)

The three evaluations I watched consisted of what are called semistructured interviews of parents and children, separately and together, by an experienced nurse or social worker, to collect the child’s psychiatric history and determine which symptoms of mania or depression are present (parents are prescreened by phone to rule out cases that are clearly not bipolar, a process that eliminates roughly 50 percent of callers). Parents and child then have a lengthy meeting with either Boris Birmaher, who founded the clinic 10 years ago, David Axelson, its current director, or one of two other psychiatrists.

The first two evaluations I saw were of teenagers, a boy and a girl; the doctors felt they seemed depressed, not bipolar, and directed them to a clinic in the same building that caters to depressed teenagers. The third evaluation was of a 7-year-old boy named Joe (his first name): a burly, sweet-faced kid with long eyelashes and dark curls. He appeared quite depressed, leaning his head on the armrest of his chair and answering yes or no in a mournful monotone. His mother and grandmother described a child who sounded a lot like James — restless and overactive from birth, impulsive, requiring constant attention, but above all, wildly, explosively angry. His mother recalled tantrums lasting hours; a recent one, which took place in Wal-Mart when she refused to buy him a video game, resulted in her having to sit on Joe in an aisle until store employees could help her wrestle him into the car. Like James’s, Joe’s condition was diagnosed as O.D.D. and A.D.H.D. and he had taken various medications since age 4, including stimulants and antipsychotics, none of which really helped. A recent rampage at school concluded with a 20-minute physical fight with a police officer; Joe was suspended, and if his mother hadn’t been able to get there and calm him down, he probably would have landed in a psychiatric hospital.

His mother, who had Joe at 19 and is single, working the overnight shift at a group home for the mentally disabled, spoke through a frequent rattling cough. “He tells me he hates me every day,” she said. “He says he hates himself, and he wants to die. I don’t enjoy being around him. When I’m restraining him, he kicks me, punches me and spits in my face, bites me. Sometimes I don’t ride in the car with him, because I just don’t know what he’s going to do: if he’s gonna open the door, if he’s gonna reach around and punch me, grab the wheel.”

After several hours of interviews, Axelson told Joe’s mother and grandmother: “What is clear is that Joe is having mood difficulties. Whether that’s related to a depressive disorder or a bipolar disorder is hard to tell. I know that’s frustrating.”

What Axelson wasn’t seeing in Joe was clear evidence of mania, defined in D.S.M.-IV as a distinct period of an abnormally elevated (meaning euphoric) or irritable mood, accompanied by at least three out of seven other symptoms (four symptoms, if the mood is irritable rather than elevated). Those seven symptoms are captured with the mnemonic Digfast: distractibility, indiscretion (“excessive involvement in pleasurable activities” in D.S.M.), grandiosity, flight of ideas, activity increase, sleep deficit (“decreased need for sleep”) and talkativeness (“pressured speech”).

“I’m not seeing clear patterns of distinct periods of being accelerated and talking and moving and thinking with an intensity of mood that just overflows and then goes back to his usual state,” Axelson said. “The intense anger outbursts can happen in kids with bipolar disorder, but they can happen with other mood disorders, or with A.D.H.D. and severe oppositional behavior. He’s only 7 years old. This could be the very early signs of bipolar, and it may not be until two, three, four, five years from now that we’d have a clear idea. That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t need intensive treatment — he really does.” (Joe is currently in treatment at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, but the right medication has proved elusive.)

It’s possible that a different doctor might have identified Joe as bipolar. In an influential 1995 paper that began the paradigm shift toward bipolar disorder within child psychiatry, Janet Wozniak — the director of the pediatric bipolar-disorder program at Massachusetts General Hospital and co-author of “Is Your Child Bipolar?” — working with the chief of pediatric psychopharmacology, Joseph Biederman, revealed that 16 percent of the children who came to the clinic met the D.S.M. criteria for mania. This was shocking news; it was widely believed until then that mania in children was extremely rare. Wozniak reported that the children’s mania most often took the form of an irritable mood rather than an elevated one, and that the mood was often chronic: the norm, rather than the exception. All but one of the manic children in the study also suffered from A.D.H.D.

Wozniak told me that the discovery of mania in so many of the kids she was treating came as a shock to her too. “It was like I opened up my eyes: Oh, my goodness, these children have bipolar disorder,” she said. “And I realized that what I’d been treating them for hadn’t been working well. I was often treating them for bad A.D.H.D., using different stimulant medicines or higher doses. I was often treating them for their depression and not getting anywhere. In those days, the teaching was that we had a group of medicines that could be used for ‘aggression’ in children. What’s interesting is that these were the anti-manic agents; they were lithium and antiseizure medicines.” In other words, many of the children in Wozniak’s clinic went unrecognized as bipolar, but they were inadvertently being treated for bipolar.

The tricky part, diagnostically, is that out of those seven symptoms, three — distractibility, activity increase and talkativeness — are also symptoms of A.D.H.D. Which means that a severely irritable child who has A.D.H.D. could be, theoretically, only one symptom away from a bipolar diagnosis.

Does it even matter whether or not we call Joe or James bipolar, since the drugs used to treat irritable, aggressive children are often the same as those used for bipolar disorder? Critics of the more widespread use of a pediatric bipolar diagnosis say it does. For one thing, being bipolar makes certain medications extremely risky to use; stimulants can intensify a manic episode, and antidepressants like Zoloft or Prozac can make bipolar patients not just manic but psychotic, even suicidal. (NOTE: We can testify to this fact. Ben can't tolerate ANY anti-depressants as they cause psychosis and suicidal tendencies every time we've tried them and we have tried a bunch.) In fact, some clinicians say that a number of young patients who become suicidal while on antidepressants — occasioning the “black box” warning currently mandated for drugs like Prozac — in fact suffer from undiagnosed bipolar disorder.

Gabrielle Carlson, the director of child and adolescent psychiatry at the Stony Brook University School of Medicine, has studied childhood mania for many years and says bipolar disorder is uncommon in children under 10, revealing itself in the same discrete episodes of mania and depression that we see in bipolar adults — not in chronic irritability. According to Carlson, a large group of aggressive and explosive children, who in fact are “diagnostically homeless,” are being relabeled as bipolar, which is a development she says is unhelpful both to the children and the field. “Diagnostically it ends up being a very important consideration of what the kid really has,” she told me. “If he really has A.D.H.D. and it’s not mania, then you give him medication for his A.D.H.D. You also give him behavior modification.” One patient she saw that day, who was thought to have bipolar disorder, actually had autism, she said. “If you say, ‘Hey, his problem is bipolar disorder,’ then you’re not going to treat his language disorder, you’re not going to give the social-skills treatment he needs,” she said. Problematic conditions in a child’s home life are also less likely to be addressed if the child’s behavioral issues are attributed to bipolar disorder, Carlson said. “Many people, when they hear bipolar disorder, their brain slams shut.”

Afternoons at the Pittsburgh bipolar clinic are the time when ongoing patients come in for shorter appointments to assess the impact of their medication regimes on their mood and check for side effects. On my visit in March, Axelson’s last appointment of the day was with a pair of bipolar siblings: Phia, 9, and Lucas, 6, both of whom he had been treating for the last year and a half. They were a dynamic and appealing pair, if slightly overcharged; there was constant climbing and prowling in the small office. Phia, who wore a pink sweater, black cords and red wool-lined Crocs, had begun taking lithium just a few weeks before, after two different antipsychotic drugs produced an uncomfortable muscular sensation in her legs called akathesia. Now that she was on lithium and a lower dose of one of the antipsychotics, the akathesia had stopped, and both Phia (a family nickname) and her mother, Marie, agreed she was doing well. On the other hand, Lucas, a vigorous, bullet-headed boy who that day wore camouflage pants, was behaving oddly, Marie said. “Throughout the course of a day, there’s a shift from a whole lot of bravado to limp,” she told Axelson.

“Tell me what Lucas is like at the bravado times,” he said.

“We went to church, and what he had strong feelings about wearing was a glittery lamé vest on top of a striped shirt and a top hat.”

Axelson leaned toward Lucas in amazement. “A top hat!” he said. “Do you normally wear a top hat to church?”

The nurse found a pretext to take the children out of the room so that Axelson could question Marie further. “Is he talking differently when he’s in the top-hat kind of mood?”

“There’s no inhibition,” she said. “He’ll just run up to people on the street or in stores, go right up and start talking to them. He’ll say, ‘Hi,’ and tell them something that went on in his life in the morning; it could be his breakfast, it could be his Webkin. They may not even be paying attention to him, but he’ll persist.”

“Is he physically moving around more when he’s in that kind of mood?” Axelson asked.

“Yes, like touching the stove top, touching everything. But in a reckless way, where things are getting pushed off the counter and dropping and breaking. He thinks that he doesn’t need to wear a shirt outside. You obviously tell him, ‘You have to wear a coat, it’s 32 degrees,’ and he’ll have a fit. I end up carrying him upstairs to try to get him in a timeout to calm him, and I’ll hold him. And after that, it’s like the bottom drops. He gets limp. He’ll say: ‘I’m sad. It’s the kind of sad that isn’t for a reason.’ Or he’ll say, ‘Things aren’t right.’ ”

Axelson decided to increase Lucas’s Abilify dose but warned Marie that he wouldn’t be able to go much higher. If the manic symptoms persisted, they might need to consider lithium — not ideal for a child so young and something both Axelson and Marie said they hoped to avoid.

Later I asked Axelson what struck him as manic about the behavior Marie described in Lucas. “What would mania look like in a 6-year-old?” he asked. “They can’t have sex with strangers, max out their credit card or start new business ventures. But he can dress outlandishly, talk to strangers.” Lucas’s behavior also harked back to some of his premedication symptoms, which included grabbing strangers’ cellphones out of their pockets and trying to touch the guns of police officers. He’d slathered shaving cream on the furniture and drawn all over the walls. Then there were days when Marie couldn’t get him off the couch. He had difficulty connecting to other children; after two years of preschool he had never been invited on a play date.

Axelson’s diagnoses of Lucas’s and Phia’s disorders were abetted by the fact that Marie and her husband are both bipolar, too. There is clear evidence that the disorder runs in families; a recent study shows that children with even one bipolar parent are 13 times as likely to develop the disease. Marie, an artist, learned she was bipolar only recently, having been treated for many years for depression. Once her children were successfully in treatment, she told me, she was able to perceive how mentally uncomfortable she herself was. A psychiatrist, looking carefully at her history, determined that in her 20s, which Marie had thought were simply “awash in bad judgment,” she actually suffered from bouts of mania. The new diagnosis had prompted different medications, which she said had helped her enormously.

Marie’s history illustrates a trend toward a more inclusive definition of adult bipolar illness; little noted in the study that reported on the fortyfold increase in child and adolescent bipolar doctor visits was the fact that the number of adult visits had roughly doubled during the same period. This increase jibes with a recent population survey estimating the prevalence of bipolar disorder among American adults, long thought to be around 1 percent, at slightly more than 2 percent. The survey also projected that another 2.4 percent of Americans have a “subthreshold” form of bipolar disorder — less severe but still impairing. The author of the study, Kathleen Merikangas, a senior investigator at the Intramural Research Program of the National Institute of Mental Health, says that she does not feel that the number of bipolar adults is rising but that greater public awareness and diagnostic inclusiveness account for the jump. Still, that comes to nearly 10 million American adults with some form of bipolar disorder, only a small percentage of whom, the study found, were receiving appropriate treatment.

It was Phia whom Axelson first identified with bipolar disorder, and he described her case as “pretty clear cut.” Like James, Phia was overstimulated almost from birth. Marie couldn’t take her for a walk without Phia becoming hysterical in response to the sights and sounds they encountered. Marie couldn’t wear colored shirts; Phia couldn’t attend a play group. At times Phia seemed bizarrely overconfident for a toddler, pursuing men and flirting with them, showing no sign of fear or remorse when her grandfather, an imposing man, yelled at her. Marie began taking her daughter to a psychologist when she was 4. “I felt like I was doing something wrong,” she told me. Despite troubles with reading and an anxious habit of rubbing the soles of her feet against the bottoms of her shoes until blisters formed, Phia was able to function in public school. But from the moment she stepped off the school bus at the end of the day, it was bedlam.

“Everything set her off,” Marie recalled. “That wasn’t the snack that she wanted. She doesn’t want a snack. She’d want to be pushed on the swing, and it would be too high, or not enough, so I would push her a little bit more. There would be this screaming fit, kicking her legs, flailing on the swing. ‘I hate this, that’s not what I wanted!’ I’d be like, That’s it. We’re done on the swings. Then that would precipitate a fit.” It was impossible to keep Phia in a timeout; she would burst from her room laughing. Marie attached a lock to the outside of her door and cleared the room of things that might hurt her daughter as she raged.

Phia also had “silly” moods that quickly spiraled out of control, resulting in injuries: she broke her collarbone while diving over her bed in a silly fit; flailing, she would smack her arms inadvertently against the wall; she fell down the stairs repeatedly; she cracked her teeth on the edge of a swimming pool. Play dates were impossible; once, upset that a friend was about to leave, Phia told the girl that her father was beating her. She tormented Lucas; screaming at him, pushing and kicking him, once whipping him with a wand so hard that she raised welts through his shirt. And Phia herself was in agony. “She was asking for medicine for at least a year or so,” Marie said. “ ‘Isn’t there anything they can give me to help me calm down?’ ”

Much of Phia’s extreme behavior has eased with medication. When I visited the family at their two-story suburban home on the last day of March, a couple of weeks after their appointment with Axelson, there was an atmosphere of renewal: Marie was painting the kitchen cupboards; her husband (an engineer who works long hours; we never met) had replastered some damaged walls. Nowadays Phia has a best friend and goes to birthday parties. With her mind calmer, she told me, she loves to read and is fond of the American Girl mystery series. She and Lucas are lucky in that they seem not to have any other disorders, or “comorbidities,” like A.D.H.D., on top of their bipolar disorder. Both are doing well in public school.

I sat with Marie and Phia at a round outdoor table facing the backyard. Lucas was using a remote control to send an electric car roaring over the grass. Marie, a calm, gentle woman who chooses her words with care, told me that Lucas had improved on his higher Abilify dose. But Phia — surprisingly — had struggled since the appointment I was present for. After a blood draw, Axelson increased her lithium dose.

“My feelings weren’t really going that well,” Phia told me when I asked her about the previous weekend. “It was like all of a sudden, horribleish. Unexplainable mad, sad horrible feelings inside.” She blamed the several days of standardized tests she recently took at school, saying they made her anxious.

When Phia went inside, Marie told me she offered, the previous week, to take her daughter to the hospital. “She becomes fitful,” she said. “You have to physically hold her down, and that’s getting harder and harder to do. She’ll bang her head against the wall, she’ll bite herself. I brought up the hospital because she said: ‘I can’t take it anymore. I don’t want to be me. I don’t want to feel anymore. Why aren’t you doing anything about this?’ ”

As he played with his car, Lucas kept looking up, waiting for a little boy who lives around the block to appear on the other side of the wire fence that separates his yard from Lucas’s. Marie had repeatedly invited this boy over to play, but his parents always declined — she wondered if the mayhem they’d heard coming from her house before her children were medicated might be the reason. Toy cars and trucks were positioned along the fence from the boys’ prior meetings there. Sure enough, the neighbor soon appeared, calling Lucas’s name, and Lucas greeted him joyfully. Lucas hauled a supply of pirate weapons over to the fence and the boys divvied them up and began to play through the wire. Phia joined them, but when Lucas came over to ask his mother for another sword, his sister chased him down, upset; apparently, the neighbor boy asked who I was, and Lucas made some mention of meeting me at his doctor’s office.

“Don’t!” Phia implored her brother. “That’s our privacy. We don’t want them to know that we’re bipolar, that’s not their beeswax. That’s our secret thing, O.K.? That’s our family secret.” Only her good friends know that Phia takes medicine. “They don’t know what it’s about,” she told me. “They have no clue I’m bipolar.” She worries that if they knew, they would feel differently about her.

Lucas was reluctant to leave his friend for dinner; he waved and bellowed to him through the open window as he wolfed down his ravioli and salad. For dessert, Marie had placed small portions of leftover Easter candy inside Ziploc snack bags: one for each child. She was concerned about their weight, which had increased since they began taking medications — Phia’s especially. She wasn’t overweight, but her body had changed from slender to average, and her clothing size had increased from a 6X to a 12/14. “With all the emphasis on childhood obesity, it’s a daily worry,” Marie said. She dreaded comments about her children’s sizes from family members at a coming reunion; Marie says her parents and siblings don’t believe that her children are bipolar and disapprove of the medication. The school also has doubts. All these things make Marie question the diagnosis and medication.

“Their diagnoses are largely based on the history as I see it,” she told me. “And that feels like an incredible responsibility — how accurate am I?”

Eventually the children prepared to go upstairs for baths and bed. On the kitchen counter were four sectional pill containers, one for each member of the family. Marie put each child’s pills into a spoon and squirted a dollop of whipped cream on top to help them go down. Like any kid, Phia grabbed the whipped-cream canister before Marie could catch her and sprayed some into her mouth.

The next time I visited James and his family, a rainy day in May, things had taken a turn for the worse. The stimulant, which James’s psychiatrist had been planning to add for months when his lithium level was high enough, had made James manic — sleepless, talking incessantly, banging on radiators — and the school had immediately called and asked Mary to take him off it. This was a huge blow; both school and parents were counting on the stimulant to help James concentrate. Each year he has trouble in May (“Manic May,” Mary had dubbed it), and his hostility had reached new extremes; he wouldn’t shower or brush his teeth or do his homework without a fight.

One morning, when Mary’s husband was out of town, James stood on his bed and threatened her with a huge stick. “He said, ‘You’d better back down or I’m going to smash your face in,’ ” she said. “He was really beside himself. I looked at the base of the stick, and I thought, These are things you read about: he’s going to break my nose. And I knew I couldn’t show how petrified I was. So I stared him down, and he put the stick down, eventually.” (Note: When Ben was between the ages of 5 and 8 he told me a few times he was going to kill me with a knife and cut me into a thousand pieces and watch my blood run all over the floor. Since his meds of Trileptal, Abilify and Lithium, I haven't gotten a death threat from my own son, it's been 4 years.)

Another morning, James told Mary, in front of Claire: “I’m going to kill you. I’m going to slice you open with a knife.” Later, he apologized, distraught. But, for his mother, something shifted when she heard those words. “I always wondered what my breaking point would be,” she told me. “I thought maybe it would be if he accidentally hurt Claire, but the look on his face when he told me he was going to kill me, that was it.”

James’s dose of Abilify had been increased, which was helping somewhat. But Mary had also put in applications to three therapeutic boarding schools, where James might start sixth grade in the fall. The classes would be even smaller, and she said she hoped living at the school would help James with his behavioral issues. All three schools were out of state, and the family would initially have to pay room, board and tuition out of pocket — the prices ranged from $93,000 to $125,000 a year — and sue for reimbursement from New York City. Such costs would of course be prohibitive for most families, creating a terrible bind for those who can’t receive approval for in-state residential schooling yet are unable to handle their children at home. In some cases, these children end up becoming wards of the state.

James hadn’t yet returned from school when I arrived, but Frank, his father, was at home; he is a courtly man with reddish curly hair whose posture sagged visibly as we discussed the possibility of his son going away. Two of the schools had already expressed interest, and the third called while I was there; it, too, had a possible spot for James. This last was Mary’s favorite, based on its Web site: rural, all-boy; James could ride horses. She made an appointment to visit the school with Frank the following Thursday.

“Next Thursday!” he said, taken aback. “Oh, it’s moving fast.”

His biggest fear was that James would perceive boarding school as a punishment for behavior he can’t control. “He’s 10 years old, almost 11, and he still holds my hand when we walk on the sidewalk together,” Frank said. “So when he comes out with guns blazing and eyes popping out of his head, I know that this poor kid has a demon that’s just blasting its way out of him. I think what it’s like when I wake up on the wrong side of the bed and I feel angry for no particular reason, and I realize that this is James’s life moment to moment, every day.”
(Note: This is what we know about Ben, that his life is like this everyday, the anxiety, irritability etc...but at the same time he is physically attached to us, especially me.  He still needs to be kissed, hugged and snuggled all the time. He either hates me or adores me. We couldn't send Ben to a boarding school, it would kill him.)

Shortly after James arrived home, cheerful and wearing a silky black track suit, Frank lay down for a nap. Mary asked her son to take his 4 p.m. Abilify pill; he refused. He politely asked to borrow my microphone and used his iPod to record himself singing. Then the sound of Claire laughing in the next room set him off. “Be quiet,” he suddenly shouted.

“Don’t talk to your sister that way,” Mary said.

“Be quiet!” he yelled at her.

“Hey,” she said, “you need to walk away. Now, it’s after 4 o’clock — ”

“I’m not taking it now.”

“Then you can go into your room — ”

James covered his ears and began to chant: “Sorry, sorry, nope can’t hear you, can’t hear you, sorry, can’t hear you.”

“It’s time for you to take your pill.”

“I’ll smack your face,” he said, brandishing his iPod earphones.

“Don’t threaten me with that or you’ll never see it again. Take your pill.”

James took the pill. Then he closed the door to block out the sound of his sister. “You open this door, Claire, I’ll pull out something really sharp on you,” he said.

“Calm down,” his mother said. “And no more talk about sharp things.”

“Sharp things!” James retorted.

He tried to play his iPod recording for us, but the speakers wouldn’t work. He became enraged and crashed out of the room, emitting animal yells that Mary had to translate for me: “I hate it! Never again! Never again!” A moment later he was back, whimpering, “I want Daddy.”

“Sweetheart, Daddy’s sleeping. Do you want him to help you with the machinery?”

“No! I want him! How stupid are you?”

“James, you’re being so rude. Are you hungry?”

“No, I’m not!” he howled, apoplectic. “I just ate raspberries. Why am I [expletive] hungry — frigging hungry?”

He threw himself onto a chair and began to play his Nintendo DS. A few minutes later, he curled, all 105 pounds of him, in his mother’s lap, his arms around her neck, head on her shoulder.

Later, when James was out of the room, Frank, now awake, spoke wistfully of a sense that he was growing apart from his son. They used to go to a diner together on Sunday mornings, just the two of them, but James rarely wanted to anymore. “He’s restless, but he doesn’t know what to do,” Frank said. “And anything you suggest is of no real interest to him.”

James came into the room and draped himself across his mother’s knees. “Sweetie pie, are you hungry?” Mary asked James. “Would you like Daddy to take you out for something to eat?”

James raised his arm, his head still buried in his mother’s lap. “Is that the thumbs up?” Mary asked.


Frank looked startled, pleased. “O.K., I’m going to strike while the iron’s hot,” he said, rising from his chair. “Come, my little man.”

I felt an agonizing quiver of dread as father and son gathered jackets and wallet and shoes. Would James become angry? Would he change his mind? Would they actually get out the door without an explosion? When they did, it seemed miraculous.

In the abruptly quiet apartment, Mary and I talked about her son’s future. “It’s not that we even dream that James goes to college,” she told me. “We just want him to graduate from high school and be a functioning, contributing-to-society individual. Maybe he’ll meet a nice girl from Cape Cod and become a carpenter there. My biggest fear is that he’s going to become a loose cannon when he’s 18.” James’s psychiatrist reassured Mary that he would settle down after adolescence. “But she’s also the person who told me these were early-childhood issues and he’d be off Risperdal by the time he was 7 or 8,” Mary said. There was a long pause.

“It just keeps opening up like an inverted triangle,” she said finally. “The scope of his difficulties just gets broader and broader the older he gets.”

The most basic question about bipolar kids remains a mystery: Will they grow up to be bipolar adults? Because diagnosing the condition in children is still relatively new, no studies have yet followed a large number of them fully into adulthood. One fact is suggestive: bipolar kids are predominantly male, while the adult bipolar population skews slightly toward the female. The likelihood is that many of these kids will grow up to have mental-health issues of some kind, but which issues, and how chronic or severe they will be, no one really knows. A long-term study in Pittsburgh overseen by Axelson and Birmaher suggests that as children grow, the severity of their disorders can change; bipolar II, the less severe form of the disease, can convert to bipolar I, the more severe form. Nearly a third of subthreshold bipolar cases (BP-N.O.S., or Not Otherwise Specified, in D.S.M.) convert to the more serious forms.

Intriguingly, though, some of the bipolar children in the study appear to have gotten well. Roy Boorady, the director of psychopharmacology services at the New York University Child Study Center, told me: “Now that I’ve worked with kids long enough, you see some that had this mood instability or irregularity and were diagnosed as bipolar. But then you see them as they’re older, and they’re off in college and not having these labile mood swings anymore. You really wonder, What was it?”

Most clinicians say they believe that there will eventually be clear “biological markers” of bipolar disorder: ways to see and measure the disease as we can seizures, cancer or hypertension. Scientists are working to identify the genes (there appear to be many) involved in creating a predisposition for bipolar disorder. Brain imaging, still in its infancy, can already detect broad differences of size, shape and function among different brains. The hope is to know early on who is at risk so their condition can be diagnosed and treated as early as possible. Mental illness wreaks brutal damage on a life, crippling decision-making, competence and self-esteem to the point where digging out from under years of it can be next to impossible. And there is also a biological theory for why going untreated might worsen a bipolar person’s long-term prognosis. Epilepsy researchers have found that by electrically triggering seizures in the brains of animals, they can prompt spontaneous seizures, a phenomenon known as “kindling.” Simply having seizures — even artificially generated ones — seems to alter the brain in such a way that it develops an organic seizure disorder. Some scientists say that a kindling process may happen with mania, too — that simply experiencing a manic episode could make it more likely that a particular brain will continue to do so. They say this explains why, once a person has had a manic episode, there is a 90 percent chance that he will have another.

Kiki Chang, director of the pediatric bipolar-disorders program at Stanford, has embraced the kindling theory. “We are interested in looking at medication not just to treat and prevent future episodes, but also to get in early and — this is the controversial part — to prevent the manic episode,” he told me. “Once you’ve had a manic episode, you’ve already crossed the threshold, you’ve jumped off the bridge: it’s done. The chances that you’re going to have another episode are extremely high.”

Along with medication, Chang is exploring family therapy and other forms of stress reduction that might help fortify a child against a genetic proclivity for bipolar disorder. “If we wait too long, they will probably need chronic medication treatment,” he told me. “But if we can get in early enough, they may not need to stay on medication. So we’re hoping to get in and get out, and not subject them to the long-term side effects.” (As for short-term side effects, Chang says medications like lithium may actually be “neuroprotective” — i.e., might actually help a developing brain.) And while it is wildly unclear whether this picture of prevention will ever become a reality, Chang says he is a believer, and his hope is infectious.

Whatever the case, a synthesis is likely to emerge in the coming years. “There’s contention about lots of major scientific issues,” Leibenluft of the National Institute of Mental Health said. “People do the research and gradually, the data speak.”

Shortly after my last visit with James (who has begun boarding school and is doing well), I went back to Pittsburgh to meet Phia and Lucas at an appointment with Axelson. It was a beautiful day at the end of May, and the children were noticeably calmer than during my last visit to their doctor; Lucas sat quietly, making sketches of scenes from “Speed Racer” and “Star Wars” with a marker. Phia also made a sketch: two wavy lines, a pink one labeled “Am Now” and a purple line entitled “Should Be.” It was a mood chart. The lines were nearly superimposed.

Lucas, Phia and Marie all agreed that the two children were doing wonderfully. Phia had kept her cool even when she forgot to bring the music for a violin concert she was performing in. Lucas described a school project involving spring trees and talked fondly about his friend across the fence. Marie looked different; in the two months since I’d seen her, she had braces put on her teeth, updated her eyeglass prescription and had her first haircut in three years.

“We haven’t been to this spot before,” Marie said. “I have a hopefulness that there will be more to come.”

She and her husband bought a small grill, she told me, something they had never been able to do because the kids were too impulsive. And they hired an evening baby-sitter — another first — to go out on their anniversary.

“This is the goal, where we’d like to be,” Axelson said, shaking everyone’s hands as they left the office. “Hopefully we’ll be able to stay with this.”

Three months later, in mid-August, I heard from Marie that after more symptoms of mania in Lucas (which included opening the car door while it was moving), and increases in his Abilify, Axelson had finally recommended a move to lithium. Lucas had begun with a small dose — less than half what Phia was taking — but Marie had a feeling it would be gradually raised, as Phia’s had been since that first appointment I was present for in March.

She wrote to me in an e-mail message: “I re-experience some mourning or grieving for the kids with each medicine change. The unknowns are so daunting and somehow I feel so guilty for taking such risks. Putting them to bed at night seems to be the worst time for these feelings. I suppose because at that time they seem to be their youngest and most trusting and vulnerable. I pray for them under my breath.”

Jennifer Egan is a frequent contributor and novelist. Her most recent book is “The Keep.”

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