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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter! We attended several Easter egg hunts over the last week. Little Red Riding Hood loves egg hunts and holds them for herself all year round. She doesn't care that the plastic eggs she hides are empty. The first hunt was in perfect weather. It really was just 10,000 eggs spread across a field, but the kids had a blast.

We also held an Easter egg hunt at home with some of our friends. We decorated eggs and then headed outside for some hunting fun. This time the eggs were well hidden.

Our last hunt came on a rainy day. We joined other crazy motivated hunters in the pouring rain. We attended this hunt because all of the candy was organic and safe for Tom Sawyer to eat.

Easter morning the kids woke up to their Easter baskets. (I had the opportunity to give an Easter basket to Goldilocks the night before.)

After the kids ate way too much candy, we were off to church. The kids enjoyed decorating Easter eggs for Sunday school. We then enjoyed a lovely service. Afterwards, we all enjoyed hot cross buns, which is a tradition at our church.

I hope you had a wonderful Easter.

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Day in the Life ~ In Pictures

Here is a peek into our day. It was a little bit calmer than the last few days have been. As the days slip by since Goldilocks left, we are slowly finding our "new normal" (at least for now). This is a pretty typical day this week. Our school load is lighter and we are turning our attention to more writing and math. We will be returning to World War II studies soon, but for now we just need to concentrate on the 3R's in preparation for end-of-year testing.

7:30 am ~ Tom Sawyer and Timothy eat breakfast while watching The Indiana Jones movies 20 minutes at a time. It is their new morning routine time together.

8:10 am ~ We pick up the completed application from our caseworker and therapist to hand deliver to a Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility (PRTF) that we hope will accept Goldilocks. A lot hinges on this application.

9:00 am ~ After dropping off Tim at his day program and driving out to deliver the application to the PRTF, we give ourselves a self-guided tour of the PRTF property. It is a big working farm with lots of buildings and mountain views. We are told it has an excellent reputation.

9:40 am ~ We are home and begin school. After watching CNN Student News and doing math, the kids work on spelling. 

10:45 am ~ I read two books to the children which covers music and science. We watch a few quick clips of a ballet school in China.

11:50 am ~ BLT's for lunch. Bacon is a comfort food around here. Thank goodness the organic nitrate-free bacon is too expensive to eat it often!

12:15 pm ~ It is time for some fresh air before going to Tom Sawyer's therapy appointment.

2:15 pm ~ Goodness, when we are leaving therapy, Goldilocks's therapist  gives this giant bear to Little Red Riding Hood! The therapist knows she loves teddy bears and says they are renovating the office and don't have room for the bear. The gesture is very well appreciated by Little Red. The bear is so big that the seat is folded down and the bear is siting on the floor while Little Red Riding Hood is on a chair!! We run a few errands while waiting to pick up Tim.

3:10 pm ~ We return from picking up Tim. Tom Sawyer and Little Red Riding Hood take turns working on some skill based chores one on one with me. Little Red Riding Hood draws a bunny while she waits to learn how to clean grout in the bathroom.

3:45 pm ~ The laundry is caught up, Daddy is almost home, and everyone has free time. By some miracle I have only spent about one hour on the phone today working on getting Goldilocks' services and updating my family on the latest about her.

5:00 pm ~ A friend from our adoption support group dropped off dinner. We eat loaded chili cheese fries. It was delicious.

6:00 pm ~ Daddy takes his turn visiting Goldilocks at the hospital. She is responding very well to the institutionalized setting and states that she finally feels safe. She doesn't have to deal with many people, events, stuff or choices. She prefers the controlled environment of the psychiatric hospital, but misses the outdoors. Our prayers are that we will secure a placement that will help her to heal and feel secure until she is capable of coming home.

While Daddy is at the hospital the rest of us snuggle up and watch a movie.
So, that was our day. We also listened to the audiobook, Dead End In Norvelt, whenever we were in the car. This is a very funny story that is giving us a few giggles.

Update ~ Goldilocks was just released from the psychiatric ward. She returned to our therapeutic respite care provider. We are hoping to hear from the PRTF that our application has been accepted in the next few days. I just keep reminding myself that God is in the details. We have been abundantly blessed in how all of this has unfolded. Counting blessings:
  • No one was hurt during this psychiatric crisis, and the more we find out, the more we realize the danger she was in and we were in.
  • Everyone agrees on the level of care required to help Goldilocks (including even the insurance company!!).
  • We have gotten so much support from the professionals on our team.
  • Our adoption social worker was filled with kind words and gave us some important information which will help keep us financially secure as we embark on this journey.
  • Everyday I am seeing growth and healing in my children who are still here at home.
  • Goldilocks is showing through her words and actions that we have had a profound impact on her despite that she finds it nearly impossible to love us or to feel our love (her words). She has shown to us and to the hospital staff that she actually has our core values instilled in her and these will help on her journey during the next few months.
  • Our therapeutic respite care provider is willing to keep Goldilocks for a few more weeks if necessary.
  • Goldilocks is safe...
Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Week 31 ~ What a week!

We are hanging in there and riding the wave of life as best we can right now. If you read my last post, Homeschooling Through a Crisis, you know that Goldilocks was admitted to a psychiatric hospital this week. I have spent 5 to 7 hours on the phone every day trying to get Goldilocks help, find out about placements and funding. I am really emotionally exhausted, so this will be a short post.

Monday ~ Our son Timothy turned 24 on Monday. How is that even possible? He never wants very much and isn't demanding in the "stuff" department. He wanted a calm,  at-home family party. He took a German chocolate cake to his day program (for brain injured adults) and then we had Pizza Hut pizza and deviled food cake for dinner at home. We hadn't had Pizza Hut in years. We gave Tom Sawyer all kinds of supplements to counteract the wheat and corn, but it still wrecked him for a few days. Timothy's favorite presents were a subscription to Netflix and a box filled with 24 snacks! He also loved getting the complete set of Indiana Jones movies.

Tuesday ~ Tuesday started off normal. I went off to meet with Goldilocks' therapist. However, her mental health team ended up deciding that Goldilocks was so unstable that she needed to be moved to a psychiatric hospital. The process to get into the hospital is by way of the ER. It was a long and sometimes frightening 7 hour process. I am so thankful that Goldilocks' respite care provider stayed with us and helped smooth the way. She is great at the mental health side of things and I am great at the medical side of things, so we made a good supportive team for Goldilocks. Giving your child to a facility like that and watching the big locked metal doors clang shut behind her knocks the wind right out of you!!

Wednesday to Friday ~ The rest of the week was a blur of hours and hours and hours of phone calls. I have visited Goldilocks once and will be allowed another visit later today. She is allowed a 5 to 10 minute phone call each day, depending on what level of privileges she has earned. I can call the nurse to check on her whenever I want, but communication with her hospital social worker, doctor and therapist has been slow and scattered.

Homeschooling...What's That?! ~ We have limped along and done about a half of a week's worth of school this week. We finished Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and started Dead End, which our librarian assures us will keep us in stitches of laughter. We managed math every day and read a wonderful book called The Journey that Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H.A. Rey. Little Red Riding Hood wrote several papers about her favorite holiday (Easter) and finished a workbook. Tom Sawyer read three short chapter books this week. Grandma came over and helped the kids get through about a dozen Language Arts workbook pages and we managed two spelling lessons. We also watched South Pacific. Lastly, Little Red Riding Hood made several Disney princess rubber band figurines (art).

Accepting Help And Counting Blessings ~ I am thankful for the homeschooling and babysitting help my Mother gave me this week. I also reached out and asked my adoption support group for a few freezer meals. We received the first one last night and we are grateful for the kindness. According to some of our team, this will be my life for the next 3 to 5 weeks -- hours of phone calls and transitions
 -- so the meals will be a great help. I am grateful that we are being heard by the professionals and that the doors are opening. I also appreciate all of my blogging friends for their kind words and prayers. I am grateful for my side kick, Boomer. He recognizes that my stress level is very high and has sat at attention next to me for days to protect me. He even fell asleep sitting at attention next to me a few times! What a loyal dog. We are so blessed!

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Homeschooling Through a Crisis

It seems like we have spent much of our time homeschooling in one form of crisis or another. Perhaps, everyone experiences a crisis or two each year. In the past 16 years of homeschooling we have faced the challenge of moving twice, being foster parents to special needs kids, unemployment, months of renovations, one child having several pacemaker surgeries, dealing with hundreds of doctor/therapy appointments and several job/schedule changes for my husband. In addition, raising a brood of special needs kids has required an intense form of parenting all of these years. To say that I really don't know what normal is anymore is an understatement. We are swimming through the latest crisis in our family. As many of you already know, our Goldilocks (13) ran away from home and was placed in emergency respite care when she was found. She has stated repeatedly in respite care that she is afraid to come home because she thinks she might hurt one of her family members. Her therapist and case worker became so concerned yesterday about her emotional stability that they had us admit her into our local psychiatric hospital. She will probably be there for a week or more and then move to a residential facility for a few months. We would appreciate all of your prayers.

The point of this post is to share what has helped us homeschool through a crisis. I hope our experience will help others.
  • Audio Books ~ Audio books help our family so much. They allow me to be on the phone or driving while the kids are still getting wonderful literature, history, and an increased vocabulary.
  • Workbooks ~ I am not a big fan of workbooks. However, they are a wonderful resource for a busy mom to fall back on when life is in the way of more exciting schooling. Workbooks can reinforce language arts, math, logic and reading comprehension. There are some great workbooks out there. We love workbooks from Mindware, Flash Kids and Evan Moor.
  • Educational DVDs ~ There are so many wonderful movies and documentaries. We have enjoyed IMAX films, numerous literature-based movies, and PBS specials.
  • Board and Travel Games ~ I love games. They are fun, educational and help us connect with each other. When the outside world is caving in on us, a game can bring us together for a temporary distraction and a few giggles.
  • A Skeleton Plan ~ When I see that we are going to have a rough time for a while, I fall back on my skeleton plan. I throw out my plans and curriculum for the time being and return to the basics, using the above resources. For example, I don't worry that we are watching documentaries about topics such as the 1800s or biology when we are supposed to be studying World War II and Einstein. Those subjects will still be there when life calms down. But in the meantime, the kids are still learning.
Here are a few other things that I have found to help our family etch out time for "school" even when life is overwhelming. 
  • Routine ~ My morning routine helps us a great deal. I start all of the appliances first thing in the morning before too much craziness can happen (dishwasher, washing machine, dryer). This way, I know throughout the day that at least we have some clean dishes, a load of dry clothes and another load is in the washing machine. I also get dressed and the kids get dressed. We can react to the demands of the day faster if we are ready to leave the house or receive guests at a moment's notice.
  • Break the Day Up ~ I prefer to do all of our core lessons first thing in the morning. I like to have at least three hours of uninterrupted time. However, this is not possible in the midst of a crisis. So I look at the skeleton plan, my resources, and the known demands of the day. I then decide how we can get some school in and discuss the plan with the children at breakfast.
  • Ask for Help ~ Okay, I am not good at this one. But it does help. Accept the help that is offered you even if you are not sure it will make an impact. Often it will. If there is something that you know will help...ask. 
Now, I better get my morning routine taken care of and get dressed or we will be off to a bad start. That demanding phone will be ringing with nurses, therapists and doctors in no time!

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, April 4, 2014

So Many Emotions

I don't even know where to start an update. It seems like weeks have gone by instead of 6 days since I last posted. Goldilocks (13) is still safe and in respite care. She has made it very clear that she does not want to come home. The professionals also agree that she should not be in the home until she gets some intensive help with her emotions. She has stated that she thinks she will hurt someone if she comes home. We (her parents) also agree that she should not be at home. For years she has threatened her siblings and me with bodily harm (she never threatened my husband), and those threats seem much more likely to be carried out now that she has followed through on her long-term threat to run away. She also is struggling with multiple "voices" in her mind telling her what to do. This is not the first time she has mentioned this and the doctors have growing concerns about what might be causing the voices. We also found out that although she was found only 3 miles from our home, she went on a 6 1/2 mile journey that involved visiting a fast food restaurant and asking advice from several strangers along the way. She is pleased with herself and still sees no reason to be concerned about what danger she was in during her run. For now, she will probably be in respite for the entire month while we try to get her into a year round residential school for children like her. There is one with a great reputation within 20 minutes from our home. This is our current choice. They will have an opening in late April or early May. Now we just have to convince post-adoptive services (for foster children who have been adopted) and our medical insurance to help pay for it. The professionals are working on it and think we have a very clear cut case.

On the homefront...sleep has been eluding me this week. I have enjoyed watching the sunrise each morning (there is always a silver lining). I have cried buckets of tears and have fluctuated between crying over the loss of our child or at least the dream of raising our child and relief that we are finally getting help. The kids and I have been resting and starting the healing process this week. I can't express how calm and easy parenting is without the constant demands of maintaining line of sight with Goldilocks so that everyone can remain safe. The demands to keep Goldilocks in control took so much of my time that I don't know how I ever stayed on top of anything else. The stress level in our home has dropped a significant amount. 

This week called for lots of cuddles, talking, processing with the children what was going to happen to Goldilocks, watching movies, play dates with friends and rest.

Saturday ~ I had talked to so many people the previous night when she ran, asking for prayers and to keep an eye out for Goldilocks, so needed to spend 7 to 8 hours on Saturday calling everyone back with an update.
Sunday ~ We were desperate for some kind of distraction and to get away from the phone. We went to church and then roller skating. 
Monday ~ We went to a friend's home for a play date. She pampered us. She fed us lunch and cupcakes. She and I watched several episodes of Pioneer Woman Cooks while the kids played. We then went to dance classes.
Tuesday ~ We went to therapy for Tom Sawyer (Goldilocks' therapist was sick but spoke to me over the phone). We did a bit of workbook school and then Grandma did a scratch art project with the kids. In the evening, we went to the family support network meeting for special needs families. The kids got lots of support in their kid support groups. The meeting coordinators organized a huge egg hunt.

Wednesday ~ We attended a new Lego Club just developed at the library. It looks like it is going to be a blast. I am not sure who had more fun, the kids or the young male librarian. We did math and started listening to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. We also spent a few hours at dance class.

Thursday ~ We had another morning play date. In the afternoon, we started our unit study on Einstein which we will be doing for the next few weeks. Tom Sawyer loves that Einstein hated wearing socks. Tom Sawyer couldn't agree more. We finished Hiltler's Youth, which is a fascinating look at how Hitler took over the minds of the youth in Germany.

Friday ~ Today we have more doctor appointments, more phone calls to make and more life to live. We will have art class with our friends and Grandma. We plan to learn about Piet Mondrian. I also hope to have them watch a video about families in Germany today. I am sure there will also be a bit of workbook school.

Please keep us (especially Goldilocks) in your prayers. Thank you.

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, March 29, 2014

A Shocking Day...Prayers Please

I had a wonderful post in my head about all of the things we did this week. However, Friday took a shocking turn. We went to a school performance in the morning, out to lunch, and then had an art class with Grandma. Daddy came home and we went out to dinner and grocery shopping. It was a nice and peaceful day. We started putting the kids to bed. Goldilocks (13) went to bed first which is the norm. She makes bedtime very chaotic so we settle her in first. About an hour after she had been put to bed, her brother asked her a question through her closed door. Her light was still on, but there was no answer. My husband opened the door and found her window open, screen popped out and she was gone! Her window is about 1 1/2 stories off the ground. She has threatened to run away for years and last night she carried through on her threats. We quickly searched the yard, cars and outbuildings. We discovered that the back door was unlocked and searched the house to make sure that she hadn't doubled back into the house to hide. When all our searches failed, we called the police and placed a missing person report. We explained that she had a low IQ and that she also suffered with severe emotional problems. The police response was fast.

Goldilocks was found safe at around 10:30 pm about 3 miles from our home. She had crossed several large roads and traveled through some heavily populated areas to reach her destination, about a half mile of which has a homeless men's shelter and a strip joint. Apparently, she decided to go see a friend of mine. She intended to visit with my friend, have a sleepover, learn about how to runaway (with a further destination in mind) and have a nice breakfast there. She thought my friend would then bring her home so she could go to her big cheer leading event in another state this afternoon. Of course, this is not at all what would have happened if she had found my friend.

In reality, she found my friend was not at home and began knocking on neighbors doors to ask where this person was and did they know her number. Luckily, one of those neighbors called the police and was able to keep a discrete eye on which direction she headed until the police arrived. It took five police officers to surround her in a semi-circle and finally corner her. Once caught, they returned her by police car to our home. She was transferred to my husband's car from the police car and transported directly to her respite care provider. She will stay there for nine or more days. Hopefully, after that she will be placed in a longer term therapeutic setting to get some real help. At this point, we cannot imagine her coming home after the nine days because she has NO regrets. She isn't sorry or scared about how much danger could have come her way out on the street. She is filled with ANGER...anger at us for being her family, angry that (in her eyes) we don't love her, angry that we are not providing all that she wants (a phone, horse, more candy, more freedom), angry that a "better" family didn't adopt her years ago, and especially ANGRY that the police caught her. Since she shows no remorse or fear, it seems obvious that she will run again as soon as the chance arises.

She has revealed to the respite worker that she has planned this for a few months. She even put it on her calendar that yesterday was the day she planned to run away. What is the most crazy making part to me is that she acted so content all day. Her behavior really made me realize how much she is faking her emotions. I am also surprised that she managed to pack a few belongings and remembered to take her jacket and shoes to her room in preparation for leaving. Goldilocks doesn't understand why her family is exhausted and frustrated with her behavior. She doesn't see that she has done anything wrong by running away or, for that matter, by verbally abusing her siblings. She only thinks we are terrible and don't love her.

Please pray that Goldilocks can get into a program that will provide some real help. She is really in a terrible emotional crisis and needs some intensive help.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, March 21, 2014

Lessons Learned on Spring Break 2014

We took our Spring break a bit early this year. My husband's sister offered her timeshare to us for a few days. We needed to switch the location from her usual vacation place to one more convenient for us. We had a hard time finding an available timeshare to stay in on short notice. We ended up in a rural part of South Carolina. However, the place had an indoor pool and we really did need rest and relaxation. We decided to leave Goldilocks in respite for the four days we were gone. She does not do rest and relaxation well. Also, she is making it more and more clear that being part of our family is less than desirable to her. Reactive Attachment Disorder and the teenage years are a terrible combination. Timothy also decided to stay home and stick to his normal routine. A girlfriend of mine drove him back and forth to his day program each day and made sure he was getting all of his needs met. I love all of the things I learn about my kids when we get away for a while. Grandma came along on our trip.

It was strange, yet nice, having only the five of us. We really had an opportunity to see how much easier it was to take care of everyone without the chaos that Goldilocks brings to every single minute. It was also heart breaking. We are in such a quandary about how to protect the other children in our family from the constant chaos and drama that come with having a mentally ill child. Also, what on earth can we do next for Goldilocks? She told her respite care provider that she was ready to leave our family and try out another one (as if there are families just waiting around for an angry teenager with a low IQ). These are devastating words to hear after investing 11+ years into a child (even when taking into account that she probably doesn't fully comprehend what she is saying). Her respite care provider says she is just not able to function in a family setting at this time. The experts feel that she is being triggered by having a mother (any mother would trigger her) because her birth mother was so cruel to her in infancy. But I digress. For 3 1/2 days Goldilocks was happier in a group home setting, and we were resting as a calm family.

The kids and dh had hours of fun in the pool and hot tub. I think they could have stayed in it for even more hours than they did. Little Red Riding Hood is a much better swimmer than last year. She was very brave in the deep end and could swim back and forth across the pool with no problem.

The hot tub was so warm it that it created lots of steam.
We went to Babyland General Hospital to see where Cabbage Patch dolls come from. This was fun for Little Red Riding Hood. The rest of us were just along for the ride. However, I do remember my first Cabbage Patch doll. When the dolls first came out, my mother waited in a very long line and got one for me. I was about to go into the hospital and she wanted me to have something special. I loved that doll for a long time. Babyland is really just a glorified shopping experience. We did not buy a doll. We did let the kids pick out a few pieces of candy, which delighted them.  Little Red Riding Hood loved posing for the camera. I love this stage in kids.

We also went to Helen, Georgia, which is a town made over into a old fashioned German village.It was mostly a tourist trap, but the food was good and it tied in nicely with our studies of Europe and World War II. The kids loved our dessert picnic. We gave Tom Sawyer lots of supplements, but even so, he turned all splotchy in the face and became very hyper after so much grain. He thought it was worth it to have such a yummy picnic.

On another day, we went into one of the larger towns around the resort and went out to lunch at a 1930's restaurant. We had a lovely lunch and then went antiquing for a little while. I bought a pressed glass deviled egg dish. I have wanted one for a long time and the prices were very low in this antique mall. The kids behaved so well in the restaurant and the antique mall, so we surprised them with a movie! We saw The Lego Movie at full price. This is almost unheard of for our family. We had the entire movie theater to ourselves. The movie was great!

Our last adventure was a trip to the Duke World of Energy (nuclear station museum). We saw the nuclear plant from a short distance away and then toured the museum. It was free and interesting if you could get past the propaganda and self advertising that Duke Energy informed us of at every turn. The kids learned about electricity coming from water, coal and nuclear energy. It was hands on and worth the trip if you find yourself in this rural part of the country.

We really must work harder at having breaks from our daily grind. It was so nice to get away and to have a  break. It was a relief to see how well Tom Sawyer and Little Red Riding Hood behaved when they are apart from their sister. We must find a way to conquer the chaos. I am trying to get Goldilocks into a developmentally delayed day camp this summer. It looks like a good fit with a low adult/child ratio. She would be at camp away from the family for the daytime hours. It might just be the break we all need.

Blessings, Dawn