Saturday, October 22, 2016

No Time to Be a Mom

I've been spending my night hours working on my pile of mail, housework, decluttering and sitting nearly comatose, trying desperately to figure out how to do all that NEEDS to be done, by myself.

I've been spending my day time hours preparing meals, driving to therapy appointments and medical appointments, taking 6 hour round trip medical trips, homeschooling, doing more housework and more paperwork, feeding, bathing, changing, dressing kids, combing their hair, cutting their hair, and the list goes on and on and on.

In between all of this are very few stolen moments of taking a bike ride (a major undertaking), going to the park (have to drive to get to one), bowling now and then, perhaps a movie every couple of months, and not much else. I try to have fun, but the stress builds as the hours tick by and I think of all that's not getting done that is so important.

I don't have time to be mom to my kids. Some might argue that doing all of the above IS being a mom, but I'm not getting in those down-time moments of plain and simple enjoyment with my children and I miss it terribly. I know my kids miss it. I even wonder if my older two kids know about it or if it's just a meaningless distant memory of their first months home before the move and the diagnoses and all the things that we now deal with because of their multiple and many special needs.

I have hope that things will eventually settle down, but each time this seems to be on the horizon, another program or agency sends a boatload of paperwork my way with impossible deadlines to meet that correspond with deadlines from another agency. If I don't meet these deadlines, my kids are dropped from services and programs they, that WE all, desperately need, but doing all that is required to keep them in these programs is keeping me away from them by taking up all of my time.

I don't know how I'm going to do it all. How many moms have said this and had another older, wiser, more experienced mom say, "Welcome to motherhood. You'll never get it all done." And these were moms with neuro-typical kids. Well, they didn't HAVE to get it all done. But I do, because if it doesn't get done it really matters and the consequences are dire.

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Mail Bomb: Part 2

It's nearly 4am and I've been at it for 5 hours - maybe more - things get fuzzy at this hour.

Last night I looked online at several websites that were supposed to help me get through my mail. They all look great until it's time to go through all the nice, neat piles. Here are my notes:

Here is my new sorting shelf, $15 at a garage sale, that replaced one table:

While I did have a lot more success knowing what to throw away, I still can't believe how much mail there is! The sheer volume of mail makes it impossible to get through to the point where it's not in this room any more!

There is some progress looking in from the doorway:




From the other side:



Looking from opposite sides of the room:



I suppose I'll see a difference after I start the filing part because this sorting part sure doesn't seem to make that big of a difference.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Mail Bomb: Part 1

This picture was taken in June. It's our former school room, now my mail sorting room. It was taken AFTER I'd worked for several hours a day for several day, trying to catch up. It's worse again now. I can't stand back far enough to get a picture that shows the true horror of just how much mail is in here, but there are 7 tables and 2 school desks full of mail, plus what's on the floor. Even the tables have multiple level shelves created from scraps of wood and large cans of marinara sauce. Funny thing about the sauce, too. I went to make spaghetti last month and couldn't find any sauce in the pantry. I bought a ton more on my next shopping trip, then a few days later went to have another go at the mail and saw that I did have several cans of sauce and I'd forgotten how I'd been using them to make the shelves.

How can mail be such huge a problem? Well, let me tell you, sometimes I get the exact same piece of mail 5 times, one for each family member, from the same organization. I've even gotten the same piece of mail, one for each family member, from the same organization, sent twice, dated two days apart! After finally being able to figure out why I received these, I was told to throw them away! That meant I opened 10 envelopes for nothing.

Again, how can mail be a problem and such enormous one at that? Let's add four kids with special needs and all of their doctors, therapists, insurance, etc... On any given day, I may receive as many as 6-7 pieces of mail just from Kaiser alone. Then there's the other medical centers, like Shriner's, the eye doctor, the speech therapy reports, Easter Seals, etc... The list never ends.

I recently house-sat for My Firefighter while he was gone for exactly 2 weeks on a wildland fire. Two weeks worth of his mail made how much I get in only 2-3 days.

So, the problem is multi-fold:

The amount of mail is staggering.

The time is takes to sort it.

The time it take to open all the envelopes.

The time is takes to figure out what it all is.

The time it takes to take the necessary action, whether by phone or in person or on the computer, often adding up to hours and hours spent.

Then, the big question... What do I keep? How do I keep it? Files? Binders? By kid? By program?

Which programs need copies?

And there's yet another problem...

What do I do with my kids while I deal with all the mail? It takes HOURS to handle the mail and my kids can't be left unsupervised. Should I pay and hire a sitter just so I can sort the mail? Even if they are engrossed in something, they still come in and interrupt several times - or the phone rings and it's an important call - or I simply run out of time and need to get lunch made, dinner made, a child needs tending to, or I simply need to go to bed because it's 4am and I need to be up in 3 hours.

I did buy a cool little shelf today at a garage sale for $15. It will mean I can put away one table and have more room in there to work. I'm going to have a go at it tomorrow and see what can be done.

I have started binders for each child and have a well-established filing system. I'm hoping that I've also gotten more skilled at knowing what to keep and what to toss, but I always find I've been too optimistic about this and freeze up when I can't figure it out.

I'd love to hear how other families with an over abundance of mail handle it all.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Four Years Home

Today, well, technically yesterday, marked the four year anniversary of Blossom joining our family. Tiny for her age, scared; I remember every detail of what it was like from the moment I first saw her in her pretty turquoise dress to the hamburger she ate at lunch, to watching her play with Jie Jie, and all the other little things that happened that first day.

She talks a mile a minute and is very out-going, doesn't know a stranger. She's pleased to have learned her multiplication tables over the summer. Her journey has been long and hard and continues to be pretty hard as she struggles to learn and find her place in this world, but she's easy to please and make happy.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Our First Week of School

Actually, we homeschool all year long, but August marks the time when I access each girl's progress and determine what their main focus needs to be and introduce new curriculum materials.

Year one of the last three years, obviously, was all about learning English and adapting to family life. In addition to that, was basic arithmetic, fine motor skills as it relates to academics (writing letters and numbers and coloring), reading in whatever language was easiest, and English site words. Electives were games that facilitated all of this, plus critical and strategic thinking, art and P.E.

Year two continued with much of the same, but I began to notice an increase in the struggle and lack of progress in all three girls.

Last year went better as more and more information about each girls' learning ability was revealed. Our focus was now on Functional Skills, reading, writing and math.

This year, it's more of the same, but with a greater focus in Functional Skills, reading comprehension, English and creative and critical thinking. Up through 2nd grade, much of the learning involves memorization (alphabet, numbers, multiplication tables). By the end of second grade and beyond, it becomes more about applying the memorized knowledge by using it and then building on it.

Our first week has been very interesting.

Less demands are placed on Sissy academically. If she cannot understand something after explaining it three different ways (learning styles), we pass over it. She also doesn't have to make corrections. I go over it with her and explain the corrections, but we move on. This way, we cover more information with her taking in whatever her ability allows, keeping things more interesting, rather than dealing with her frustration when she can't grasp something.

Blossom is having a hard time with the IDEA that her work is harder this year. She doesn't understand why she needs harder work when she's finally succeeding in her current level. We'll see if she can overcome her fears and make progress or if she, like Sissy, is arriving at the limits of her academic ability.

Jie Jie is in a more complicated position. While she seems to have more areas of the brain in use than the other girls (creativity, empathy) the level of functioning is still low. The nature of her intellectual disability gives her inconsistencies that are a bit similar to someone with Alzheimer's Disease. One day she can remember that California is a state and the next she thinks it's a country, but she can't comprehend what a state and country actually are and that's why she gets it confused.

Apple is excited to being doing pre-K "work." She's always imitated her sisters during school time, but now she wants to be challenged. At this time, she's continuing to progress, but in many ways has not caught up with her same age peers. There are many factors involved, including continuing speech issues, the examples of her sisters (she's equal to them in many ways already and in some areas has passed them up) vs. neuro-typical siblings, her physical disabilities that limit her from participating in activities with her peers at their level. It's too soon to know if she has a learning disability, but she's making steady progress and that is very encouraging.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Bowling Nite

My Firefighter and I went out to dinner and bowling - adults only.

Then, a few days later, we took the girls. It was Apple's first time.

I was there, too, but since I'm the photographer, I'm invisible.

Gymnastics Fun

You call this fun? Too scary! Apple's fingers can't bend so she can't really hold on to the bar, but using the muscles in her arms and putting weight on them is very good for her.

Yep, more arm strength exercises. Get those legs up, too!

Thatta girl!

This is more like it, something she can do "All by myself," as she loves to say.

Jie Jie wants to learn as much gymnastics as she can and make videos of herself doing gymnastics before her spinal surgery.

Blossom has been working hard on her bridge
and can start standing up and bend backwards into it now.

Sissy is also in gymnastics but got off the floor before I could take her picture.

Another Medical Trip

This is Shriner's Hospital for Children Northern California. We came back up here on July 8th to check on Jie Jie's scoliosis, Blossom's feet and Apple's hips. Everyone is great here, very friendly and no waiting in the x-ray department! Everyone commented on Apple's painted toenails. I'd actually painted all the girls' toenails and it helped them have fun when they got examined.

The news was mixed:

Blossom's feet are doing fine.

The surgeon here disagreed with the Kaiser surgeon about Apple's hips and suggested a "wait and see" approach because, while they are deformed, her hips are not dislocated.

Jie Jie's spinal fusion surgery is being planned and scheduled and it will take place in less than four months. In the last 6 months, the thoracic curve increased and is now at 47.5%. She's also developed a significant lumbar curve. We can't wait for her to grow any more, lung function is now going to start being compromised. She's worried and scared and it's been very stressful for her, but she's working through it all in a very healthy way.

Part of me wonders if the surgeon said what he did about Apple's hips just to put my mind at ease so I can get through Jie Jie's surgery first.

Apple is Growing

Apple is 1/2" taller, the same weight and 2 shoe sizes bigger (at age 4.5 yrs.) than Jie Jie was at age 7 yrs. 3 mon. Apple is now in all the clothes Jie Jie wore when I first got her. Here they are wearing the same outfit.

July 4, 2016, Apple age 4.5 yrs., 33 pounds, 32 inches tall.

May 2011, Jie Jie age 7 yrs.

Jie Jie age 12 yrs., Apple age 4.5 yrs.

June 26, 2012, Age 8 years.

This darling Land's End bathing suit was a gift from another single adoptive mom who has a daughter from China and a son who was adopted domestically. It was for Jie Jie but she was never able to wear it. I've been saving it all these years. What do you think, Tiff?

Showing off her first pedicure with toenail polish. She was thrilled! She woke up in the middle of the night needing a drink of water and when she laid back down, she said with a dreamy grin, "I like my pretty toes." Those were also the first words she uttered in the morning when I woke her up.

Apple is still one of those kids who falls asleep anywhere when she's tired.

Our 4th of July Celebration

We had a low-key backyard swim/bar-b-q party with a few friends at My Firefighter's place, then had a front row seat to the town fireworks from the front yard. I made a fruit pizza.

Jie Jie is my best swimmer, though all three older girls can swim. Sissy is the best at diving from the side.

Apple is learning and can swim underwater about 6 feet, but can't come up for a breath yet. For some reason, all my girls learned to swim underwater first and learning to swim with their heads above water was hard. Sissy is still working on it, but chokes a lot, Blossom can now do a real doggy paddle. Jie Jie can actually tread water.

The girls showed off their cartwheels. Jie Jie is the only one who can do a one-arm cartwheel.