Saturday, August 26, 2017

My Kindergartener

After much thought and investigation, the public school vs. homeschool decision landed on the homeschool side. So far, Apple has learned to read quickly and is already on her third "Bob" book and the first book into another series in less than a month. She can do simple sums in her head, can play Uno and is beginning to teach herself Q-Twist. She can count to 100, knows the days of the week and our schedule for each day (i.e. Tuesday is gymnastics day), and she knows most of the months. She is developmentally behind the average child her age, but not by much. Some of that delay is due to her physical limitations. Writing is hard for her because of her fingers, but she does have the concept and with the right assistive tools can do it. She can spell and write her first name and often her last name, too.

I've not ordered a specific curriculum yet, but I'm investigating a couple of them. Some things, like science, she'll learn along with Blossom and Jie Jie but with more simple worksheets and activities.

She loves to sing and she's into Air Supply right now. I played a CD in the car on our last medical trip and she and the other girls just flipped over Air Supply for some reason. It's cute listening to her. She's very good at carrying a tune and gets most of the words right, too.

She loves to "walk" her dog and train it, imitating what I do with our live dogs. Our puppy, Peyton, is in obedience school right now and Apple is learning the techniques and commands right along side me and the dog really responds well to her.

Dancing with Yoshi. They weigh exactly the same. He's such a great dog!
He never pulls on the leash and adjusts his walk to her speed.

Our Summer

June: We were still in the midst of a ton of appointments so we grabbed our summer fun in little bits and pieces whenever we could. The month began with a few days of mild summer weather then quickly jumped up to 105 and even 108 for several days. Thank heavens for our swimming pool!

This cute little town a bit south of us is famous for this ice cream shop that serves obscenely large sundaes. It's surprisingly inexpensive, too. This was one of the smaller sundaes on the menu!

When we still had only two dogs, I set up this rig on our bikes so we could safely take the dogs along. They loved it! I haven't figured out how to put all four dogs on yet and the puppies still need more training and maturity before it would be safe.

Neither Cara or Yoshi likes to swim in our pool, merely tolerating it, yet Yoshi will go into the irrigation canal every time on his own.

The girls play house often, being sure to serve and feed as many babies as they can fit around their little table. I let Blossom join in sometimes, but her play isn't as developed and tends to turn silly, something the other two girls don't always find fun. I am working on helping Blossom find more appropriate activities, but it's hard for her when she sees her sisters enjoying themselves so much.

Apple is finally tall enough to touch the bottom of the shallow end of our pool. She's been unable to figure out how to truly swim, unable to physically exert force enough to propel herself, but she does understand how to hold her breath well and float.
Half way through June to the end of July, Sissy and Blossom attended a special summer camp that focused on skills for independence and included taking the city bus, visiting our city and state representatives, learning about bank accounts, safety, shopping/money, and more. After three weeks of lessons, they volunteered under supervision for two weeks. Both girls volunteered in a café, serving customers, sweeping, wrapping brownies for take-out and other jobs. Blossom did extremely well and even earned her Food Handler certificate with some help. She completed the two weeks in an exemplary fashions. Sissy didn't get past the third day of volunteering due to some behavioral issues at home that led her to decide to give up the program. The people running the program are all about helping individuals with disabilities advocate for themselves and deal with the consequences of their decisions, which was great since it was the first time I'd gotten true support in this area. Most people can't separate the girls' small size and little-girlish looks and behavior from the fact that they are young adults. It was a good lesson for Sissy to see that being over 18 means being responsible for her actions and that self-control is extremely important. Blossom made friends and developed relationships with leaders and co-workers/students in the program. Getting Sissy to see the human element and be social is a great challenge and something we constantly work on.

We passed this sign twice a day taking Blossom to her volunteer job
and just had to take a picture of such a contradiction! We'd joke every day
about which sign we should obey, the stop sign or the no stopping sign.

Don't let this adorable face fool you.

I spent a lot of June dog proofing after learning the hard way that dogs love to chew EVERYTHING.

I also replaced the screen in the sliding door and added a doggy door.

Watching and waiting.

One morning, a group of gardeners knocked on my door and offered to grind the stumps of the many, many trees I'd cut down over that past year or two. Even though it reached 108 degrees that day, I was out there with my chainsaw cutting down the rest of the unwanted trees in order to take advantage of their great deal.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Girls and Dogs

This is my skate/walk rig. It keeps the dogs from pulling on the leashes and dragging
me along on my Landroller Skates since this stroller doesn't have a stopping break.

What do you mean, this is a cat bed?

Really, I fit in it just fine!

See? I'm not the only one who thinks so.

What are you talking about, I fit, too, see?

Who needs a bed when you have a friend?

Saturday, July 29, 2017

This is Tiki

He's a sweet 6 month-old boy who weighs a skinny 38 pounds. He's currently the same size as Cara, but a few pounds less. He's super smart, gentle, a fast learner, and fit right in with Cara and Yoshi right away. It may be his laid back personality or the fact that he came from the same shelter they did and we visited him there before adopting him. Peyton attacked him at their first introduction, but after our first pack walk the next morning and a few hints from Yoshi, she quickly learned her place in the pack.

Both puppies are good with our cats, but Peyton wants Sky's food and often snitches her bowl so I have to look around for it and Tiki took the lid off Sky's litterbox tonight just for fun.

Tiki is already showing signs of the best traits of German Shepherds. Besides being super smart and quick to learn, it's clear that he's going to be an extremely loyal dog and protect his home and us.

German Shepherd Puppy?

Hmm, what's in there?

Whatever it is, I want to play with it!

It's a puppy!

But wait, she isn't a German Shepherd!

She looks like a lab-shepherd mix.

She's so sweet, we like her anyway!
Can we keep her?

This is Peyton. She's 4 months old and already 30 pounds. She's the same size as Yoshi - for now. She was left behind when her original people moved away. A neighbor rescued her and put her on Craig's List where a nice family found her. They cared for her for a month then realized they couldn't meet her needs. Their backyard had a rock garden and pool and no fence around the pool. They were afraid she'd drown so they decided to put her on Craig's List again, right when we were looking for a puppy to go with our other puppy that we didn't have home yet. We drove over 100 miles to get her and we fell in love with her. We've had her for 2 weeks now.

Monday, July 10, 2017

We Thought She'd Be Ours

We brought this lovely girl home yesterday.

After enjoying Yoshi and Cara for the last three months, we decided we've love another dog in our pack and we chose this gorgeous girl after looking at many, many dogs in three different shelters. We found her in the same shelter that Cara and Yoshi came from and all three dogs got along very well during the two meet-n-greets we did. We also took her into the cat room where the "test cat" resides and she seemed to do well.

Once home, we took her for as long a walk as we could all stand in 100+ heat, then introduced her to our household. She adapted very well to everything except the cats. After a few hours, she saw our cat, Sky, on the back of the sofa and something in her brain clicked into "squirrel" mode and she went after Sky with all the tenacity and skill you'd expect of a German Shepherd. The only reason Sky is alive today is because she'd had experience living in the wild before we took her in. I'm sure none of my other cats would have been successful in evading the dog.

It was awful and I tried to help her, but the dog, at 62 pounds, had the advantage. After a harrowing chase where I thought Sky didn't have a chance after disappearing under the dog, Sky managed to get onto the cat tree, but the dog jumped up ONTO the cat tree and would have easily grabbed poor Sky in her jaws if I hadn't been there to push her away - barely. This gave Sky enough time to reach the safety of her kennel. She'd run for her kennel when the attack first started, but forgot to use the second door. We've been closing one of the doors to keep Cara from eating Sky's food. That closed door actually saved her once she managed to get in because it prevented the dog from getting her head in there.

We were all pretty shocked at how quickly the dog went from fine to that, but I know it's perfectly normal for a dog like this to see cats as prey (or at the very least the most amazing squeaky toy they'd ever seen). After trying many tactics to take the dog's attention off the cat and failing, we made the right decision to return her to the no-kill shelter and look for a dog that can live peacefully with cats.

The dog was so wonderful and we'd already started loving her so it was very sad when we brought her back. If only she didn't have the cat issue... Luckily, the dog was happy enough to return to a familiar environment and see the people she's familiar with, so I didn't have to worry that we were breaking an attachment on her part. We did send her with the toy she seemed to love that we bought for her.

By chance, the shelter worker who has helped us from the beginning of our adoption with Cara and helped us with Yoshi and helped us choose this German Shepherd, was there to receive her back and was happy to see us not trying to make it work and endangering our feline pets, had a wonderful surprise for us. Just this morning, she'd rescued a young German Shepherd puppy from a shelter in a neighboring town and introduced us to him. He was quite stressed from the transfer so we couldn't get to know him at all today, but the lady said she'd work with him every day this week.

So, this Saturday, we'll meet this little man-pup again and see if he'd fit well into our pack. If not, there's another likely puppy who has been fostered in a home with cats that would probably be a good match.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

To My Adoption Community Family

I haven't met you, but we've shared our lives via our blogs. So many of you are still adding to your family. One dad left today for Sofia, Bulgaria. Another mom will leave in a week to China. These two families are adoption veterans, but have added burdens. Both families are adding children with special needs - again. True warriors, these parents! There are also things adding stress and adversity - family members suffering medical issues that have affected travel plans, added stress and heartache where there should be joy.

I'm praying for you all and I'm asking those reading who have walked this path to remember those who are still in the marathon and bringing more children into their families. We all know what it's like.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Long-Term Plans for My Daughters

Well, this commenter raised this very good question after my last post.

The one thing I can say for certain is that my oldest three children will not be able to live independently. They will ALWAYS need some kind of support and quite a lot since they won't be able to learn to cook more than reheating in a microwave.

Because I'm still in the learning phase as to what's available to adults with special needs, I can't say for certain what we'll be doing. Most likely, Jie Jie will always be with me. She and I get along very well and she's very content with me. As long as this suits us both, that's our current plan.

Sissy wants to stay at home, but her behavior, which is within her power to change, may necessitate placement outside our home in a group home/independent living situation. I'm trying my best to get us through the summer and see what she's like after starting the Adult Transitional Program through our public school district in the fall. We've just coming off a three day episode of bad behavior and, quite frankly, I'm just about at my limit with dealing with it. Five years of this is taking a terrible toll on me and the other children.

Blossom may want to live in a group home/independent living situation because she's more adventurous and social. Some days she says she wants to live and home and other days she wants to move out. She's only 16 so we've got plenty of time to see what will be best for her. I think that in the long run, she's going to find living at home and going to a day program just the right balance for her. There are dangers to group homes and one of the faculty at the school where Sissy will be in the ATP this fall told us that her friend's daughter was in a group home and that she had to share a room with a woman who would get up in the middle of the night and punch her in the face. This happened several times before the woman was moved to a more secure place.

There are no easy answers and no perfect solutions. There are pros and cons to every single decision I have to make. The weight of it all is staggering.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Totally Grossed Out

It's been a week with a couple of particularly gross things.

First, we had a friend come and visit us. She used our bathroom politely, but I noticed she'd taken her purse into the bathroom with her. Several days later, on trash day, Blossom was doing her usual chore of emptying the smaller wastebaskets into the bigger one to put outside for pickup and I happened to walk into our laundry room just in time to see her reach into the guest bathroom trash and pull something out. It was a used tampon applicator (in the wrapper, like I said, my guest was polite), but Blossom saw something new in the trash and just had to see what it was, despite millions of admonishments that what's in the trash stays in the trash and it's dirty and we don't touch it.

The other gross happening was at our zoo's yearly event for families with kids with special needs. Across the food courtyard I saw a small girls, about 14 months old, toddling around with a diaper so full that it hung out of her shorts and nearly to her knees. I figured that no mom would let her baby be that wet without a good reason, so I figured maybe she ran out of diapers. I went up to her and asked her if she needed a diaper and she said, "No thank you. I know it looks awful, but I use 12 hour diapers."

I'm pretty sure that when the diaper companies came out with an advertisement for 12 hours diapers that they meant to reassure moms that the diaper would not leak overnight. However, this mom at the zoo truly took that to mean she didn't need to change her baby for 12 hours!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

My Mother's Day

Well, it was a memorable one. It began at 6:45am when my My Firefighter called down the hallway to my bedroom and woke me up. He was going on duty and dropping off his dog (I dog-sit when he's on duty) and when he let his dog into my backyard, he saw Sissy in her polka-dot bathrobe trying to hide behind a tree in the backyard. She was barefoot and it was a cold, windy morning.

Of course, she wouldn't obey and get in the house, but he knows the drill and got her inside and had her empty her pockets. She had the instructions and some hardware from the latest alarms I just bought that will help me track her throughout the house when she sneaks around at night. She'd ripped the instructions to pieces and was going to throw them and the other hardware away in the outside trash bin.

Then, she refused to cooperate with anything for entire day. We didn't make it to church, of course, but I did try and get on with a nice Mother's Day for the sake of the other girls who really wanted the day to be special to me, so I went ahead and baked homemade blueberry muffins.

We tried walking the dogs, but Sissy wouldn't cooperate and the stress and tension freaked Cara out and she wouldn't budge and kept sitting and not budging or straining against the leash no matter what I did.

So, we tried going out. On the way, we saw a junk pile (it's the yearly trash pickup of whatever people put out on the curb) with a beautiful clean baby bassinet on it and stopped to pick it up for Jie Jie's baby doll. It had all the pieces, too, but when we got home, one piece was missing. Sissy had disposed of it along the way. She wouldn't tell us if she threw it out the window or dropped it somewhere along the way, but she was happy to cause us distress since we couldn't put the hood on the bassinet.

This added more stress to everything and it was time to walk the dogs again. Needless to say, Sissy wouldn't cooperate so My Firefighter had to come over and "encourage" her move. She stood by our mailbox outside (because I wouldn't let her stay alone inside the house) while we walked back and forth so we could take care of the dogs but keep an eye on her.

If all this wasn't bad enough, she stood outside for 5 hours, meandering in a small circle, picking her skin or ripping her fingernails off, for all the neighbors to see. She refused to eat (a common tactic of hers) and refused to come in, so at 9pm I had My Firefighter come back over and "encourage" her to come in and get ready for bed. Once in her room, she raged and kicked the doors and walls so he went in and made her understand that she'd better stop and get in bed.

To make matters worse, a few days later I found out that she's been leaving a window unlocked at the opposite end of our house from our bedrooms so she can sneak in and raid the kitchen or any other room, usually my office, and take, eat, destroy, whatever she wants, during the night when she sneaks out her bedroom window. It really freaks me out that she deliberately does this despite how many times I've explained how dangerous it is. It's one of the reasons I got dogs (not they turned out to alert me in any way)- I just feel so vulnerable in this huge glass house with so many entry points and a naughty adult child who leaves us open to anyone being able to come in at any time.

The trigger was that I "talked about her." Yep, I did, to the psychologist who came over twice from the school district to evaluate her, only we were both very careful to be as respectful as possible of her feelings and we didn't single her out but included all family members equally to try and keep attention off of her specifically. I have made it clear to her that I will talk about her and that it's going to be that way for her entire life since she can't manage her own affairs and that it's to help her have as much independence as possible and that she can participate and listen to everything, but she can't understand what we say, no matter how we say it, or she just plain doesn't believe what we say, if she can understand it, so it's upsetting to her no matter what. The psychologist observed me teaching all the girls their homeschool lessons on one day and the next time he came, the girls and I were playing games. The "mistake" he made on the second day was to ask the girls what their hopes and dreams are and Sissy can't understand that. She doesn't have any hopes and dreams other than to say she wished she didn't have a special need. She's having an IEP done and will go into an Adult Transitional Program in the fall since she's technically done with her senior year of high school in another month. Of course, she doesn't want to go, but only because she can't imagine what it is and she's scared. She just doesn't get it that she's an adult now and has to move on to adult things and can't sit around coloring and playing Uno for the rest of her life when she's got the ability to do so much more.

There is no winning with Sissy. That's was Oppositional Defiance Disorder is. No matter what I do, it's never good enough or right or what she wants. Even if I do exactly what she says, she'll then turn around and say she didn't say that.

Needless to say, we are all looking forward to having her in the ATP this fall so we can have peace and harmony in our home, at least for a few hours each day.

As the psychologist pointed out, the older she gets, the more the gap widens between where she is and where her same age peers are. He expects her to make some kind of progress, at the very least, have the ATP reinforce what I teach her and what I do with her here at home. I'm curious to see if he's right or if it's like everything else that's been tried and she just can't do it. Or, she'll perform well in the program and it won't translate to improvement at home. She truly doesn't perceive any problem. She says she isn't going to stop stealing because "she didn't decide that" even though she says she knows it's wrong to steal. When a person can't empathize and doesn't have a conscience, there's nothing to appeal to in them to help them stop hurting others. It's very scary.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Funny Yoshi

Yoshi has been with us for 6 days now and he's feeling very comfortable. So comfortable, in fact, that he rolled over in the middle of the floor with all the girls around him and a bouncy Cara, and was so still that I told the girls he was playing dead. They thought that was hilarious and don't know that playing dead is an actual trick that dogs are often taught.

Of course, when a male dog bellies up for the first time in front of a bunch of girls with intellectual disabilities and a five year-old, questions begin. Apple brought it up first with, "What's that?" Having seen me change diapers and potty train baby boys, she knows the proper names for their parts and that they go potty, she just didn't recognize the same parts on a dog. Next came Blossom's question, "Where's the mating part?" I'm sure phrased it that way because we've talked about how our animals have had surgery so they can't have babies. I kept it simple and said the mating parts are the p. and v. parts on boys and girls rather than going into what part is neutered on a male.

I've seen Yoshi sleep on his back several times now and he often does something quite odd that I finally got a picture of. He keeps one front leg straight and the other bent. Every time I'd grab the camera, he'd bend the straight leg into the typical doggy position but tonight with the girls keeping him occupied, he didn't notice the camera.