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

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Week 29 ~ Art, Dance, Gymnastics and a Haircut

In My life ~ This was the last week of our third quarter. You can read about our quarter here. I am pleased that we are mostly on schedule (not that we must remain on schedule). The kids are really enjoying our study of World War II. This week we started learning about Anne Frank and how the war impacted Holland. We also read a few World War II books that were not in our schedule for this week, because the library needed them back. I have been posting about our World War II studies separately as we finish each country. You can read my past posts here. Of course, we also studied the 3R's.

Art with Grandma ~ Grandma taught our little group about Elijah Pierce this week. We are a little behind doing this artist which we meant to do for Black History month. His wood reliefs are breathtaking. We made clay reliefs last week and painted them this week. They came out great and the kids loved this project.

We went to Pi Day/Einstein's Birthday at the library. Each child read several lines of numbers of Pi and received a moon pie. We followed up with a few YouTube videos about Pi at home. Little Red Riding Hood made the symbol of Pi with her rubber bands for the occasion.

Goldilocks has a new pixie haircut. I gave her a month to do a better job brushing her hair and keeping the knots out. She did not make improvements so off with the locks. This was her own choice since she didn't want to have to brush her hair. Her new hairstyle is much easier to manage and will be great when swimming season comes around.

Special Olympics Gymnastics is in full swing. Everyone is starting to do more complicated things in gymnastics. There were a few cool shots from this week. The pictures are a little blurry, but you get the idea. Goldilocks loves the vault. She is so strong. Now, she just has to run faster at the vault.

Little Red Riding Hood has no fear when it comes to tricks off the beam into the foam pit!

Some kids from church gave Little Red Riding Hood and Tom Sawyer a bunch of Pokemon cards. These two have taken over the table with this game. They are having lots of fun learning it.

The rest of our week has been consumed with preparing for and performing in the most recent dance performance at the dance studio. I am hoping that the professional photographer that was there got some better shots of Tom Sawyer than I did. This was the Tween/Junior Company showcase. Dance is such an important part of my kids' lives. They love all of it ~ the costumes, rehearsals, practices and, of course, the time on the stage. Tom Sawyer says that being on the stage in front of a crowd is the greatest thing. Several people came up to me to compliment Little Red Riding Hood. They said she had real talent and thought she did a lovely job. What nice things to hear, especially from parents of more experienced dancers.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, March 14, 2014

End of Quarter Three

We have completed our third quarter. I can't believe how quickly this year is passing. We continued with our grammar and math workbooks each morning to be sure we have the basics completed before moving on to projects. This system is working well for us and gives me peace of mind. We are almost done with Teaching Textbooks Level 4 and Level 2 All About Spelling. I really like All About Spelling, even though it is a review so far for Tom Sawyer and  Little Red Riding Hood. Tom Sawyer and Goldilocks are both graduating from occupational therapy. Also, Goldilocks started therapy mid- quarter to work on her severe emotional problems. This led us to starting Tom Sawyer in psychotherapy as well. He is the target of much of Goldilocks' angry outbursts, and he has many hurt feelings. We decided it was prudent to get him some help in dealing with his feelings regarding growing up with such a difficult sister.

Little Red Riding Hood (10) ~ I am so pleased to say that Little Red Riding Hood (LRRH) has learned to enjoy reading. She finished all six American Girl Doll Kit Kittredge books by reading out loud to me this quarter. She is also reading Animal Ark books (with difficulty) and Wishbone books to herself for fun! She scored a 97% in math again this quarter. She loves the Life of Fred books. She does her worksheets quickly and is easily picking up long division. LRRH is writing one page papers with good content. There are still many spelling errors and she is working hard at rewriting her edited papers. She continues to be at ease in the Tween Company at the dance studio and can't wait for the next show. She is so delighted that Tween Company does extra dance shows beyond the dance studio's two big productions each year. LRRH is enjoying all of her dance classes and is thriving under the tutelage of her dance teachers. She doesn't seem at all aware that the dances are much more difficult than last year. Little Red Riding Hood also has become enthralled with the rubber band bracelet craze and spends hours every week creating. I am amazed with her fine motor skill control and the many things she has created on her own. She also does a great job following the adult bracelet instructors that she has found on YouTube.

Tom Sawyer (11) ~ Tom Sawyer (TS) had a good quarter. He made real improvement in spelling and handwriting this quarter. His writing skills are increasing day by day. He can now write a few decent paragraphs about an assigned subject. He is doing better with writing capitals and putting lowercase letters in the correct places. TS worked hard in occupational therapy and graduated from it this week. He has an at-home program to continue working on his core strength and sensory issues. He is also making nice strides with his math work. He also is doing such a good job getting his work done each day. The majority of the time he gets it done with limited complaints. He is doing a nice job with art classes with Grandma. I am happy to see him enjoying art more and following her directions. The most exciting thing, according to Tom Sawyer, is that he was invited to join Tween Company with his sister. He is now taking a modern dance class with Tween in addition to his boys dance class. He is really enjoying the extra class each week and being in extra shows. The most exciting thing to me this quarter is the extra support we are getting from his psychotherapist. This man, as well as the intake worker, are very impressed with what a nice boy he is and how well he is doing. They realize that the entire family system suffers when a  very difficult child lives in the home. They are especially impressed that Tom Sawyer is doing so well, considering that he is the target of his sister's (Goldilocks) anger most of the time. Lastly, he is still doing well with gymnastics. He will be going to the Special Olympics and performing in six events.

Goldilocks (13) ~ When it comes to determining how Goldilocks is doing, I have to think outside the box. She is suffering with severe emotional problems and is already diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (both of which are mental illnesses) in addition to being born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Unfortunately, her therapist feels that there will be more diagnoses to come in the future. She resists learning at every turn and spends much of her time in a very complicated fantasy world she has created. Then there are the never ending behavior problems. She does shocking things every single week. This week she jumped into a moving car (that was going about 5 miles an hour) and attempted to hack into the security system of her OT's iPad when she was left unattended for 3 minutes...three minutes! I am not joking when I say that she needs to be in line of sight ALL THE TIME. There have also been a few aggressive outbursts. SO HOW IS SHE DOING? Goldilocks is learning from audio books, despite herself. She loves them and they are increasing her vocabulary. I have seen a vast improvement in her conversational ability this year. I think this is from listening to so many audio books as well. This quarter she listened to three Harry Potter books, 100 Cupboards, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, We Are the Ship, Are You There God, It's Me Margret, Happy Birthday Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, Sounder, The Bridge to Terabithia, The Black Pearl, four 39 Clues books, and Number the Stars. She is almost done with her 3rd grade Flash kids work book and is doing well as long as I don't grade it. She starts "messing up" if she knows that she is getting 100 percents! (Yes, I know, it really is crazy making.) Her math tutor says she understands and is able to do about 60% of third grade math. Goldilocks is starting to resist gymnastics because she is having to work to do well in the Special Olympics. I think her coach may be disappointed. The coach thinks she has great abilities (which she does), but it doesn't mean she will show them when it is time to perform. We have just a few more special needs cheer leading events and then we are dropping out of that. It hasn't been a good fit for our family.

Tim (23) ~ Timothy is enjoying his day program for brain injured people. They are all looking forward to spring and being able to get outdoors more. This past quarter he did lots of volunteer work with the food bank, explored different coffee shops, went to the movies twice, went bowling three times, sat on a panel for brain injured persons, and much more. He likes the afternoons when they play games, have their group book club or cook. It is such a good place for him. We have had limited improvement with his nutritional supplements. He still is suffering with depression and anxiety. In the next few months, we may be switching him to a new therapist who specializes in developmentally delayed adults. He has been working on coming out of his room and socializing with his family more often, as well as helping more with chores. We are glad that he is willing to work on being happier and finding out why he is struggling so much with his feelings.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, March 7, 2014

World War II ~ Poland and Russia

On our journey through World War II history, we moved on to Poland and Russia this week. For this leg of the journey, our chapter book this week has been The Endless Steppe, one of my favorite books since I was a child. It is about a Jewish family from Poland who is deported to Siberia during the war. The story is told from the eyes of a girl who grows from a shy 10 year old to a resilient 13 year old girl. This book covers the experiences of traveling in a cattle car, living in a labor camp, severe hunger, coming of age under hard circumstances, exile, going to a Siberian school, life in Siberia, the loss of wealth, choices in life that seem right at the time but don't turn out well, and returning to Poland after the war. What makes this story even better is that it is a true story written by the person who went through this experience.

We watched several YouTube videos about the Steppes and Siberia. We also had a lovely Russian meal for lunch. I took the kids to an inexpensive little hole in the wall restaurant that makes Russian and Ukrainian food. The owner talked to us for a while about her grandmother's experience during World War II in Russia. She was a wealth of information. We took the food home since we had one sick child this week and needed to get home. We had stuffed cabbage, Russian potatoes, and mini latkes.

With Easter on the horizon, I thought that learning about Faberge and Ukrainian eggs would be fun and tie in well to our studies. We watched some short documentaries about Faberge eggs. The kids loved them. We then tried our hand at making our own eggs. We painted plastic eggs with acrylic paint and then decorated them with as much detail as we could. For the "jeweled" eggs, we covered plastic eggs with glue and put them in a plastic bag with glitter. Then we glued beads from a broken necklace onto the glitter.

We  read about the Warsaw Ghetto and learned about the terrible suffering that took place. The books we read for this part of the study were Irena's Jars of Secrets, Irena Sendler and the Children of the Warsaw Ghetto, and Child of the Warsaw Ghetto.

We also had a wonderful time making a snap circuit radio this week. It gets about 10 radio stations. Tom Sawyer loves it. We will be adding it to our World War II hideout that I will be showing with our next World War II installment.

We finished off our week study of Poland and Russia with a Polish dinner. We had Polish sausage, carrots, and pierogies.

We will be studying the Netherlands and the life of Anne Frank next!

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Week 26 ~ A Satisfying Week

I appreciate all of your kind words and prayers last week. This week went better than the last few weeks have gone. The adults (Dad, Grandma and I) in the family decided to make the boundaries around Goldilocks (13) smaller and tighter. We kept her out of the car more than usual this week because she spends most of her time in the car bothering her siblings. When I had to go out in the car and she didn't need to come along for an appointment, she sat on Grandma's porch when the weather was warm enough or else sat inside her home without talking. We also have truly kept her within line of sight the entire week. That means she is only a few feet from one of us ALL DAY LONG (except when she is in her bedroom). Even with these strict guidelines, she has caught me distracted several times and managed to be out of view for 3 to 4 minutes in which she has taken/eaten three donuts, destroyed every one of my tubes of chapstick, taken the special cough drops for Tom Sawyer, eaten dh's gummy supplements, sneaked two permanent markers, and gotten in a few hits here and there on her siblings. (These are only the things I've found out about.) Of course, she denies doing all of these things ... except hitting, which she insists they deserved. The crazy lying in the face of the evidence always amazes me. It would be easier to deal with her non-stop misbehavior if we knew she couldn't control herself, but she behaves almost perfectly when in respite care. Goldilocks intentionally misbehaves in our family because she wants to constantly cause chaos. This is one aspect of her mental illness. Plus, she says she does these things because she can. However, this is still better than most weeks.

This week was filled with blessings in our homeschool!
  • Little Red Riding Hood discovered the love of reading. FINALLY, she is a strong enough reader to enjoy reading. I have caught her with her nose in a book dozens of times this week. 
  • Tom Sawyer has entertained himself alone with his WE DO Robotics Lego set several times this week. This is a feat for him since he usually wants someone to play/be with him constantly.
  • Goldilocks has written three decent one page stories for me this week. She seems to be embracing writing more and more. 
  • Tom Sawyer and Little Red Riding Hood are really catching on to long division and, dare I say, liking it a bit.
  • No one gave me a hard time about a single subject this week ~ AMAZING!
Tom Sawyer's WE DO Robotics creation.
Books we read or are reading ~
  • The Endless Steppe
  • Pup at the Palace
  • Dog at the Door
  • 39 Clues, book 6
  • Irena's Jars of Secrets
  • Chemistry Basher book
  • Astronomy Basher book
  • Kit Saves the Day
Little Red Riding Hood reading for pleasure!
Intake for Therapy ~ 

We decided to try getting Tom Sawyer some psychotherapy for all of his hurt feelings. Unfortunately, he is the target that Goldilocks most often harasses. He also worries a lot about some members of his family dying. (This may have been triggered by his friend's father having recently died.) We went through intake with the same intake worker who assessed Goldilocks for services. She was extremely impressed with how balanced, well mannered and stable Tom Sawyer was, especially considering the sister he lives with. She said his stability was a testament to the stable home and parenting we have been providing and that we were doing a great job containing Goldilocks. She is looking for a young and fun male therapist who can help him deal with the knowledge that his sister will always be difficult, but that he can have a life separate from her life. Her behavior and actions do not reflect on who he is as a growing young man. I look forward to the extra support for him.

Goldilocks' therapist also mentioned this week that there is a level of care which Goldilocks may qualify for in the future. She would live apart from us (for a few weeks or months) in a therapeutic setting, but we would retain custody and complete control over her future. Her therapist feels that she may need just such a wake-up call.

Our March window decoration. Goldilocks and I made it.
Blessings, Dawn