Monthly Archives: March 2012

Paul’s knee surgery

image

We’re back home and Paul is peacefully sleeping in the recliner.  The surgery went well. His meniscus was torn in two places and it was cleaned up and repaired.  He starts physical therapy on Friday.
He had a good time posing for pictures at the surgical center.  If this post disappears,  you’ll know that the medication has worn off and he’s regained his senses.

image

Calming Storms

There has been so much going on here, so much to process, so much to do, so much to be.  It has kept me from blogging, but my mind has been whirring away.  Paul goes in for knee surgery tomorrow (torn meniscus  in two places, only one knee) and we’ve been running around getting set for that – groceries stocked, yard work done, you can imagine I am sure. It was a crazy busy weekend, doing the spring yard work and clean ups around the house along with soccer games and the usual activities of life.

We finally got the lift installed for Caleb in the garage.  It first came welded incorrectly; it had to be sent back.  I was mad about it.  I got over it, and it came again, and it worked.  It only took eight months to get the lift. And then that first day,  Joshua thought he’d show it off, pressed too many buttons, and triggered the breaker to fail.  And Paul fixed it, because he is talented with electrical problems.  I wish we had learned our lesson then, and realized Joshua has either a problem or a fascination with the lift for Caleb, but we didn’t.  He broke it again; this time, he stood on the ramp that closes up the end, and it pulled out and broke off.  Bent the bolts, and that end came off, and it was broken again. Paul fixed it again-  new bolts, longer ones, are now installed and it is running again.    We are smarter now – it has to have keys in it to run, for safety, and all of the keys are now kept up high, and away from the lift.  Joshua was grounded – that means he can’t be outside of my sight, for one week, not even in the backyard on the swing set, since he has broken our trust.  This accounts for  the blog silence, for sure.  Too busy parenting to write about parenting.

It is a tricky thing to parent Joshua.  There’s an immediate tendency to blame all things Joshua on the orphanage, on his early experiences, on “adoption issues”.  This lift breaking business may or may not have anything to do with that, though.  Kids break stuff and do bad things, all kids.  Some kids break more stuff, more often, that were parented with love from birth, and some adopted kids don’t have a cloud of chaos that follows them around.  Sometimes trouble comes from just living and breathing and making mistakes.  Either way, all we can do now is teach, love, set consequences, and keep the keys up high and the toolbox readily accessible.

Joshua is also telling some crazy lies lately.  When I say “Crazy”, it’s because they don’t make any sense, and he gets no benefit from the lying, but he stills does it.  Not that I am condoning plain old lying, but when a kid does something they shouldn’t,  like, say, having food in the living room, and then they lie about it, it makes some sense why they lied.  But when they tell you that they saw someone at school and talked with them, that you know doesn’t go to the school, it doesn’t make any sense, and we have no idea why he does that.  So we call him on it, and he doesn’t know why he said it either, and thankfully he’s pretty obvious when he crazy lies.  It’s very easy to spot.  This is a very common thing for children who have lived in Eastern European orphanages.

As an aside to those of you  who are parenting now in the trenches of baby  and toddler-hood; what goes on in the first few years of life IS IMPORTANT.  I can’t overstate that.  When I was parenting my biological kids when they were tiny ,my life seemed like groundhog day -the not sleeping, changing diapers, feeding, cleaning, singing  songs, reading Goodnight Moon again, and doing it again the next day.  It feels endless, even though it does pass.  But when those days didn’t happen, when a baby wasn’t fed and loved and changed and bathed and read to, day in and day out, it’s a big problem.   Those days can’t be relived, those skills of relationship can’t be rewound and re-done, at the right times, when the brain was ready for it.  And so everything is harder.  So we have to go over what it means to speak the truth, what is real and what isn’t, how to look people in the eye, how to accept a cuddle.  It shouldn’t be that way, for any child, but that’s the way it has been and still is   for millions of children around the world.  The good news is that  hard work pays off – orphans change, they can accept love, they become the beloved.  God is in the redemption business and eager for us to join Him in that.  It takes longer and is much harder than that 10,000th reading of GoodNight Moon was, but it can be done.  So hang in there, moms and dads of all sorts.  What you do can’t be replicated or replaced, and it matters more than we can comprehend.

 

Prayer Time Funnies

Peppermint Patty, 8 years home

We love St Patricks Day.  First off, it’s a grand holiday when the mother of the household doesn’t have to decorate, clean, cook elaborate meals, or set up presents.  There’s no candy wrappers, no red dye, no list of duties from the schools. It’s just fun and memory making, and we have the extra added bonus of it being our dog Pepper’s Gotcha Day.  For some of us that live here, the day of birth and the day of joining the family is the very same day, but for others, the day of birth and the day they became part of the family are different.  The day of arrival at home is called the “Gotcha Day”, and that’s worth celebrating.  So in Pepper’s case, she came home on St Patrick’s Day eight years ago, and so she was named Peppermint Patty.   So in honor of this  auspicious St Patrick’s Gotcha Day, we had a nice dinner (green chicken enchiladas!) and ate a green cake (prepared mostly by Justin) and talked about Pepper’s big arrival, and St Patrick too.  Poor Pepper got dog food.  Again. But we did pat her on the head and treat her nice.

Caleb must have been paying attention to the birthday like goings-on.  We had two extra folks for dinner (Justin’s friends) and so it was party-like, especially with the cake. I say this because Caleb had  a remarkable moment at bedtime prayer.  When we put him to bed, we  pray with him.  I pray some stuff most of the time; That he will be strong and brave, truthful and kind, a man who follows after God, and that he will get up and walk. Other times we pray differently, more addressing the concerns of the day.  I ask for stuff; I ask God to help Caleb, and me.  Then, when it’s Caleb’s turn to pray, he says,”God?…………God? …………Amen!.” and that is all. Until last night. Last night, Caleb prayed. He said, “God?….. God? …… Can Jesus come to my birthday party? Amen!!!!.”

I think Caleb has it right – I spend too much time asking God to do stuff for me, and I should just be asking for time in His presence.  But still, it’s cute.

Struggling; mostly with myself

Spring break isn’t much of a break for moms.  This year, with Abigail away, Justin mostly away on various manly adventures, Carolyn somewhat busy with her friends, it’s been me and the three youngest hanging out.  I get spoiled having personal care workers to help me with keeping up with Caleb’s exercising and hauling him around.  They are all gone this week, visiting their families over the spring break too. Not that I am not having a good time with the kids. Just physically tired. Which probably had something to do with my attitude yesterday.

So, I have to bring Caleb to see physiological-type therapists next Monday.  I applied for funding for respite care for him – kids that are adopted through the state are supposed to get money to pay for respite care, which means that moms and dads can get away for a little while.  We figured we’d ask for the money, so we can get into the respite care system and then we were planning on using it to fund his future summer camp adventures – he will be old enough next summer.  Special needs summer camps are fabulous, we hear, but they cost money, so why not ask for it since he’s supposed it get it anyways? Well, there’s a regulation that people who apply for the respite funding have to be evaluated by two counselors at a state contracted therapy center to make sure the kids aren’t at risk for disrupting and the families are ok.  I do understand the thinking there, but he’s four years old, doesn’t have many deep thoughts to share about his feelings,  and is pretty much the happiest person I’ve ever met.  We’re in no danger of  cracking, and I told them that, but it doesn’t matter that the regulation makes no sense in his case.  He has to be seen, both both therapists will meet with him at once so we can get it over with.  Alrighty then; and since he has Medicaid coverage, they will just file it with his insurance.

As silly as the situation is to begin with, while I was on the phone setting this up, I found out that I am not his authorized representative in the Medicaid computer system.  What in the world?!?! I told the person I was talking to that I am his mom, and have been signing stuff and making decision for almost 2 years, and that’s the first I’ve heard of that one.  They can’t even discuss it with me, they said.  I’m not authorized.  So I asked who is able to discuss this with me.  To make a long story short, I spoke with 7 workers at four different departments  and two hours down the line, I figured out there was a computer back up done on March 1st, and while Caleb’s information (name, address, etc)  is all correct, his birth mother’s name is now appearing in his file, on the computers, as his authorized representative. A-ha.

So I threw a little fit, got upset and all stressed out, because no one I spoke to have any idea how to fix this.  They freaking work there, and they have no access to change anything.  What chance do I have? So logically I loaded everyone up and went to Starbucks.  While I was talking to Carolyn over a Caramel Frappuccino, and she was discussing her problems with her broken down cell phone and the impossibility of dealing with AT&T on the issue , we noticed we’re both being driven crazy by things out of our control.  Why do we let ourselves get stressed out about this stuff? I said something about how maybe the root of my being angry was that I am powerless, and I don’t like to have that pointed out to me, even though it’s pretty true in most of life, and I am a Christian who is supposed to be putting my trust in God, but I am struggling with that part.  She said that yes it’s the powerlessness, but maybe more so it’s powerlessness combined with responsibility that’s a harder thing to trust God over.  I think she’s right there.

So I was thinking I wouldn’t blog about this, because I don’t want to be a discouragement to adoptive special needs parents and focus on the nonsense difficulties.  Honestly, dealing with insurance and paperwork is a major downside, and it’s a pain, but it’s worth it; Medicaid has paid for the surgeries , equipment, and without it it’s impossible to fund a rehab like Caleb’s; for us, anyways.  But then, I got this fantastic phone call from my friend Wanda.  We’re planning a trip together this summer to see her daughter in Ecuador, and we needed to talk about plane reservations.  Her timing was perfect; Wanda has a son who is disabled also, and even as an adult he is needing care and she is his court appointed guardian now.  I told her my day’s tale of woe;   and  she goes through this nonsense too – and she is a biological parent.  She has also been challenged on who-are-you-to-make-decisions-for- this- child, she’s fought with Medicaid over and over, and she assures me this has nothing to do with adoption.  It’s just what it is to be a special needs parent. She reassured me that God is always on this case, working behind the scenes. She’s been embroiled with getting an appropriate placement for three weeks now with her son; you just have to persevere.  It’s finally come through for her son, and we will schlep through this issue with ours, and then there will be another one, and God will get us through that too.  Relax. God is good, and He is present, even when it’s hard. Furthermore, Wanda thinks I should keep on blogging, the good the bad and the ugly, because who knows – someone may need to hear from me, just like I needed to hear from her, and so the cycle of encouragement goes on.

Ahh.  So I am moving forward. Here’s the real story of how I got mad, and discouraged over things that have no eternal importance, and then I got up again to start over. That’s grace, the chance to start over, and I need a lot of it.  I am going to start calling again on Monday to figure this mess out, and I am going to therapy with my happy boy so we can have funds for summer camps, and next time maybe I’ll be smarter about keeping my cool, but probably not. I’ll be needing  grace again shortly, I am sure.

round button chicken

Details, catching up

I haven’t had much computer time this week, and when I do have the time, we are working on scholarship applications for Justin. It took more time to figure out  which ones he can apply for than it has to fill out the paper work and write the essays for the four that he’s going after.  Pray for him – he needs a little boost! It’s probably not what he had in mind for his spring break, but it it what it is.

Abigail is off in Italy on a special trip  with her grandmother(Paul’s mom) and we’re getting regular reports of the fine things she is eating. Carolyn is hanging out here with me and it’s been good to have some time with her.  Matt’s been playing with friends, and playing Age of Empires. Addictive computer games  are strictly forbidden when school is in session, but he’s on break so we’re letting it slide. Joshua is enjoying hanging out at home, and  running around the yard.  Caleb has had a few days off for physical therapy, which has been weird.  We miss Ms Alicia coming to see him, but it is also nice to sleep in some.

As for me, I am trying to get some yard work done, help Justin fill things out and get references, and keep after the little kids, and read the new book that describes Eisenhower’s presidency (documents have been unclassified! Yay!), and get some photography done with the wildflowers that are so beautifully in bloom,  which explains why the blog has gone quiet.  Also, Paul has had some knee pain and has had an MRI, which shown two meniscus tears.  He’s scheduled for surgery later this month.  So grateful for medical care, and medical insurance, at this moment.

So there’s the update.  Hopefully I will get back to writing soon. 

Shameless Self Promotion

I will keep this short and sweet.  If you aren’t using an adblocker, you may have noticed that I have added some advertisements to the blog; Google AdSense and Amazon Affiliate program are now installed.  I do not have editorial control over the ads.  We’re hoping to be able to cover the hosting costs for the site.  So far, we’ve made $3.42.  Whoop! Whoop!

I receive  a small  referral payment  if you click through the Amazon affiliate ads on my blog and purchase something from them.  If you’re going to buy something anyways, we would appreciate it if you would click though  the blog.  It’s not a lot, but every little bit helps.  I realize that I’m not going to earn an actual income here, just trying to break even. Thanks in advance.  That is all.  Back to our regular programming.

We need a dog – by Matt

Matthew wrote this for a school assignment.  He was supposed to write a five paragraph persuasive essay, and I think he did very well.  I wonder what triggered him to start thinking about getting a dog?

 

I think the best kind of dog is the German Shepherd. I think that because they look cool, they are kind, and they are in the Military and the Police. Another reason I like them is because they are the 3rd most intelligent breed of dog. They were also the 2nd most popular breed of dog in 2009 in America.

I think they are best for me because my older brother Justin and I both like German Shepherds. Also, we have a big yard, though we would have to have a fence put in if we wanted to let it run around. Plus, we have a big house with two floors, so there would be a lot of room for it to play in.

I feel that it would be good for our family to have another dog come, so there would be more than one to play with. I also think that our dog, Pepper, might like the new dog if we get one. Then we would not have to fight over who gets Pepper.

I think that it would suit me well to have a German Shepherd because of the kindness, the lovingness, and the security system built in to it (sarcasm). It would be very helpful to have a big dog such as the German Shepherd, to defend against burglars and such.

In conclusion, I think that whoever has a big yard with a fence, a big house, and a loving, caring family, would be perfect for this dog.

Ridiculously Cute

Lovely friends have gotten a new golden retriever pup. We were so glad to drop by and have a look at the new pup, but none of us were more impressed than Caleb was. He’s in love. He laughed and giggled and played with the puppy long after the other kids ran off to play and the adults went on  to drinking coffee.  Caleb just loves dogs in general, and this one in particular.

We were able to resist the allure of a new puppy for ourselves.  Cooler heads prevailed, but we will have to visit this puppy again soon to get our fix of furriness.  This puppy is ridiculously cute.

 

Caleb – Moving with the Scooter, the Walker, and the Trampoline!

It’s been too long since I’ve updated on Caleb’s progress.  I am tired- it’s been crazy around here lately.  He’s had an ear infection this week, and with other issues gong on around here, I just haven’t sat down to write much about him.  But he is doing well.  He’s made progress that’s subtle.  He is bending his left knee upwards when he is taking a  step in the walker, and that’s huge -he used to swing it out sideways and hope for the best.  We are working on getting him to stand up without aids.  Not happening yet, but the building blocks are being laid for that to happen.  Also, I ordered a cute little scooter online that operates with hand controls on the advice of our lovely Occupational Therapist, Miss Cecilla, and it should hopefully encourage him to use his hands and arms to move it, and make progress towards being able to use crutches sometime in the future. He played with it some yesterday, and he thought he was hot stuff out there on the driveway with Joshua riding bikes.  So he’s calling it his bike.  It works for me. Here’s how he is doing with his walker.

I wish I could get good video of him talking.  He’s made so much progress with his talking, but when he sees the camera he clams up.  You’ll just have to come see him in person, and you’ll see he’s becoming quite chatty.  He is also developing some core strength and head control, and a good deal of that is because of the trampoline he got for Christmas.  Justin takes him out to bounce, and as boys will do, he got carried away with it.  He bounced him pretty high, and Caleb LOVES IT.  Justin has the coordination and strength to do this trick, but please don’t try this at home with your own disabled kid, and don’t make nasty comments on how crazy we are to allow this.  Caleb is having a wonderful time, and he’s not being injured.  You will enjoy this video – Caleb’s laugh is infectious.

The College Racket

My brother Dave, Carolyn, and Me

Carolyn started her college search last weekend with a visit to Houston Baptist University; they were having a preview weekend, they have an RN program, and they’re a small school  in a big city.  So we drove over to have a look.

She had a great time.  She loved the people and thought that it was a good environment on campus.  The mascot is a husky, and that’s very cool.  On the downside, it doesn’t have much walk-ability around the campus; there’s big enormous 6 lane highways.  The public transport isn’t convenient to get to downtown.  I think everyone in Houston must drive cars; there’s no trains, and if a person wanted to take a bus from the school to the airport, it would take 160 minutes, a half mile walk, and two transfers to do it.  To get to downtown museums, it’s about an hour on the bus, with a half mile walking, and at least one transfer.  And still, after all that trouble, she’d still be in  Houston when really she wants to be in New York City.  So it’s undecided, and she has a lot more schools to go and see before any sort of decision is made.

We also made a weekend of it and went to see the my brother Dave and his family; they leave near Houston now. It was a good time all around. But the whole college search thing makes a parent turn philosophical sometimes.

Is college a racket? A definition I found of “racket” was : a dishonest scheme, trick, business, activity, etc.: the latest weight-reducing racket.  So I guess technically, they publish the prices, so it’s not dishonest, and therefore is not a racket, but sometimes it feels like one.  In many ways. though, the college situation we have in America in 2011 is an odd, unsustainable situation.  In the last 20 years, college costs have increased 130 %, while incomes have pretty much stayed the same.  In 1988, the average tuition and fees for a four-year public university were $2,800, adjusted for inflation. By 2008, that number had  to roughly $6,500 a year — to say nothing about the rise in room and board.  This year at the University of Texas at San Antonio, the room and board will run about $8000/ year.  That’s  a low-cost University.  Baylor University in Waco is costing $33,000 in tuition and fees, plus another $11,000 in room and board.

While I try to stay out of politics here on the blog, I do think our government’s student loan programs are somewhat  to blame.  When more and more student loans are available, the colleges can continue to jack up prices, and just let the kids be saddled with debt, to earn degrees that will put them out into a job market that has an average annual  income of around $40000.  Let’s just do the math.  Suppose someone goes to Baylor, and spends $44,000 X 4(years), and that’s 176,000 dollars.  It’s public statistics that 57% of Baylor students take out federal student loans , and the average loan per student is $9,627 a year.  They would graduate with around $40000, on average,  in debt.  The rest is made up with scholarships, cash, parents taking out debt, and aid of other sorts.  Meanwhile, Baylor is sitting on an endowment of 1.004 billion dollars, which they are using and I am not necessarily faulting them on it.  But I do think that overall, the colleges are getting richer and debt loads on young people are exploding, and that’s just not right.  And I’m not picking on Baylor, it’s just an example, and most universities would have very similar statistics.  The price of the University of Texas and Texas A &M is skyrocketing also.  This is not a sustainable situation, and for a family of 8 that lives on one income, there are going to have to be some hard decisions made about college, and it isn’t going to involve starting out in  life in enormous  debt.  If we can’t make the numbers work, then that’s not the school to pick.  Justin’s going to Dallas Baptist University next year.  It’s more affordable to begin with, and he’s received some very nice achievement and leadership scholarships, so it will cost what one of the more affordable state schools would for him.  It’s a good fit for him, but he’s going to have to come up with a job that adds in to the cost of the school to make it work.   Carolyn will find something that fits for her too, but they both feel strongly that they are not going to the same college as each other, and they don’t want to live at home and commute.  Hopefully, they will be working and have enough cash to make that happen for four years of college.  Only time will tell how it will all play out.