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.

Meet Yoshi

Never having had a dog before, I learned right away, that like cats, two are better than one. We brought Yoshi home last Monday. It's the end of Day 5 with him and it's like he's always been here.

Last Saturday on Cara's first week anniversary with us, we went back to the shelter to look for another dog, having a little guy in mind that we saw on the shelter's website. Turned out he was her yard play buddy but was off site on the adoption truck. Not only did we not get to see him, but when the office staff called to tell the truck staff we wanted him, another family was walking him and decided to adopt him. We looked at another dog called Penny and decided to return the next day with Cara and see how they did together.

Sunday, on the way to the shelter with Cara, I had the overwhelming feeling that I needed to tell the shelter people to put us on a waiting list in case Cara's buddy came back and that the other dog we looked at wasn't the one for us. I walked into the office and the desk clerk recognized me right away and the first thing she said was, "Cara's buddy might be coming back and you can have him. Oh, and Penny got adopted this morning." The person who adopted Cara's buddy was a rather old and infirm lady. The dog escaped from her "impenetrable" yard and she wasn't fit enough to go look for him so the shelter lady was going over to look. If they found him and he was in one piece, we could have him right away.

I got the email on Monday and the dog was found so we all went to get him. He and Cara were so happy to see each other, licking each other's mouths and bouncing around. Best of all, in the play yard, when I called Cara, she came to me right away, tail up, happy and affectionate so the staff could see how well she was doing with us. Such a far cry from them having to carry her out to our car one week before.

Yoshi is a German Shepherd-Beagle mix and weighs in at 31 pounds. He's got perfect manners indoors and out and is especially fine on a leash. He's great with the kids and the cats, but he does snore like crazy and when I pet him, he loves it so much that he started to made funny noises, a cross between a rumble a wheeze a cough and a snore. He sleeps in with Jie Jie and Blossom on his dog bed and Cara sleeps in with me on her dog bed.
Cara is making huge improvements every day. No matter how scared she gets, she doesn't have any aggression - no growling, yipping, nipping - nothing except avoidance. I can take food right out of her mouth if I want. Her greatest weakness is that she's afraid of people (not us). She cowers and becomes a statue and averts her head. This makes walking her difficult. As long as no one comes along, she's fine. If she does see another person, she freezes. She also doesn't like cars, but she's getting over that, at least during the day. She wants to come out with Yoshi and I at night, but when she sees shadows and headlights, her fear gets the best of her. Tonight, I let her go back inside then left with Yoshi. She'd pushed the screen door open while we were gone and escaped. Luckily, Yoshi's super Beagle nose led me right to her and she was still in our yard and close to our house.

Her desire to be with us is working in her favor. She was in the wagon today crossing the street to the park (because she refused to walk) but got excited after only 30 feet or so and walked the rest of the way. She's starting to see the wagon as her safe place and both dogs are doing well walking beside it or the stroller.

This morning when I put the two dogs out in the yard, I peeked at them through my bedroom window without them seeing me (otherwise they run right up to me) and saw Cara absolutely flying through the yard. She must have some kind of racing breed mixed in with her to account for such a long, airborne stride. It would account for her lean line, too.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Day 7 With Cara

I've discovered that I really like having a dog. Having always been a cat person, I did find it oddly disconcerting that when I'd pet her she didn't purr, LOL!

Yesterday, the daily high temp reached 99 degrees so we had our first swim of the season. We took Cara into the pool. While she didn't seem to enjoy the water yet, she did love running around the deck playing with us while we swam. I also heard her bark for the first time yesterday when she was trying to play with the cats. It was a GREAT bark! Anyone hearing it will assume she's much larger than she really is. The cats are great with Cara and she with them. Below is Brother getting to know her.

This was Cara's dinner tonight. Like my cats, she's getting a BARF diet (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) and some recipes suggest giving dogs an entire egg still in the shell. At the last minute I remembered she'd had enough bones today not to need the extra calcium so I cracked the egg. It seems strange, but when I think about it, foxes and wolves do raid henhouses, eating the chickens as well as the eggs. So, also in the bowl tonight was a duck wing, a piece of beef heart, a single chicken liver, and a little bit of cooked peas. A dog wouldn't seek out vegetables on their own to eat, but if they ate a quirrel or other animal, they'd get some grains and nuts or plant matter because that's what would be in the stomach of the prey and it's be partially digested, which helps the dog absorb the nutrients as it digests.

April Part 3: The Rodeo


Every year there's a rodeo here, apparently one of the largest in the country. On the last day of the rodeo, before it starts, there's a great event for kids with special needs. They get to try some rodeo skills like roping, rocking bronco riding, and horse riding and rodeo participants escort each child through it all. Jie Jie was escorted by the Rodeo Queen and Apple was escorted by an acrobatic rider from Australia.

It was for kids 12 and under, but once we got there, Jie Jie was invited to participate, much to her animal-loving heart's delight. The older two girls were also invited to take a ride on the horses, too. The participants received a t-shirt, rope, cowboy hat, trophy, and a gift bag from Smokey the Bear. There was also free face painting and Jie Jie made sure to choose a design to match our new dog.

April Part 2: Easter and The Dentist

We kept Easter very low-key. We went to church and I made an nice Easter meal. I didn't do baskets, but did get a couple small treats for the girls. It was perfect!

We all went to the dentist this month and it was Apple's first time. The three older girls went on the same day and Apple watched. Then, a few days later, she and I had our appointments. I went first and Apple watched. She wasn't nervous at all and so well that the dentist was able to use pumice and remove some of the stains on her teeth from when they first grew in and she went through all those surgeries during which time teeth brushing was neglected due to pain, screw turning upsets, falling asleep early and then I wasn't willing to wake her.


She looked so tiny, just a little speck in the chair!

Apple has an absolutely delightfully joyful personality. Sugar and spice and everything nice describes her perfectly. I love the way she sleeps with her baby dolls and carefully tucks them in beside her. When she found one last balloon left over from February and wanted to take a walk with the balloon and her baby doll, it was just the cutest, cutest thing. A couple people driving by actually slowed down to wave and smile.

April Part 1: Fun at the Park and Merlin's Surgery

We kicked off an extremely busy April at the park. It felt wonderful to take a break from our extreme appointment load to play outside and just enjoy the moment.

For some strange reason, our cat Merlin loves to eat the edges of the rubber floor in our exercise room. We do our best to keep him out of there, but sometimes the girls aren't diligent in closing the door and his luck ran out. After many years of the pieces coming back out of him at one end or the other, some got stuck and he had a huge surgery to get them out of his intestine.

I'm happy to say that the surgery went extremely well! There wasn't any intestinal damage (necrotic intestine is common in cases like this, requiring more extensive surgery) and my vet used a Fentanyl patch for pain management so Merlin didn't suffer and seemed to be very, very comfortable all throughout the post-op period and his full recovery.

This was the day after his surgery.

22 staples on his tummy holding him closed.

Taking a break from the cone under careful supervision.
That's the Fentanyl patch on his foot