Friday, April 25, 2014

Spring has Sprung!

In My Life ~ We received the news that Goldilocks was turned down for the Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility (PRTF) we applied to recently. They felt that her needs were to challenging for their program. In some ways, I agree with them. The amount of processing (conversations about feelings) that she is needing every day from her therapeutic respite care provider to stay stable is astounding. Even with the high end care she is receiving right now, she is having many voices and trouble staying focused in the real world. We are praying that a change in medication will help next week. Her case worker feels that she may not fit into any PRTF and may need an even higher level of care in the near future. We are focusing on what to do next. Her caregiver has agreed to keep her for a few more weeks while we search for the best fit.

Outdoor fun ~ We took the first step in transforming our yard into a tween/teen haven this week with the purchase of a new trampoline. The kids are in love with it and spent many hours on it this week.

We will be making some more changes in the coming weeks. I look forward to them having a safe place to exercise.
Field Trips ~ We attended the Lego Club this week. It was Little Red Riding Hood's turn to present her Lego creation. She made a candy land drive thru!
We also went to the nature center this week. All of the animals were snoozing. I guess they are adjusting to the increase in pollen and temperatures too. The kids liked seeing the new playground structures that were added around the park.
Otters fast asleep
Homeschooling ~  Nothing really exciting to report in the homeschool world. We are doing lots of math, language arts and writing. Little Red Riding Hood will be tested next week and Tom Sawyer the week after that. I have ordered Goldilocks's test and she will be tested by her caregiver in the next week or two. The most exciting things we have done in homeschool is watch two Imax movies from Netflix and we are listening to From Norvelt to Nowhere which is the sequel of  Dead End in Norvelt.  The kids have really enjoyed both audio books. There seems to be a cliff hanger every chapter. Warning: The humor is a bit on the dark side and deals with death.

Counting Blessings ~ 
  • I made it to the chiropractor this week. My back was killing me. 
  • Our team of professionals continue to be supportive in helping us get the best care for Goldilocks.
  • We are so blessed to have a large back yard to provide safe play space for our kids.
  • There were less phone calls to make this week!
On the blog this week~ I wrote about the importance of flexibility in homeschooling and encouraging another to carry the torch with Goldilocks's education.
Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, April 24, 2014

An Open Letter to Goldilocks' Caregiver

A child should have something to love, something to do and something to think about each day ~ Charlotte M. Mason

As you know, Goldilocks has been homeschooled her entire life. I was thinking about your concerns in supporting her education during this transitional time in your home. I love the quote at the top of this letter. I think it is a wonderful guide. I would add to it that a child needs to use language to express him/herself each day and to find ways to be helpful each day. These two additional skills raise a child's self-esteem and give purpose to his/her days.

So how to accomplish these ideals with a child who is in a mental crisis? The truth is that Goldilocks really needs a sabbatical from school right now. While the "powers that be" expect her to be educated, it doesn't have to be hard or overstimulating to provide her with lessons.

First, I want you to know that you are already providing her a wonderful and useful education every day without even trying. When you go on a hike, you are providing her with exercise (physical education). If you give her a sketch pad and some colored pencils and tell her to draw something in nature and then identify what she has drawn, you have provided science and art. When she writes about an interest or writes a letter to her family, she is doing language arts. When you take her to a store and let her use her allowance, you are teaching her budgeting and how to check that her change is correct (math). Whenever she is out in the world, she is increasing her social skills and learning to navigate in the world (life skills). Then there are all of the hygiene and grooming skills you are reinforcing. You are reviewing how to care for her makeup, wipe her mouth while eating, match her clothing and take care of her hair and nails. All of these fall under the topic of health. Each time you sit down and process Goldilocks' feelings with her, you are helping her learn to express herself in a positive way (what an important skill that is which will have much more impact on her throughout her life than anything she could learn in a textbook). So, you see, it doesn't have to look like our public school education. We are always learning ... ALWAYS!

Thank you for your devoted care.

Blessings, Dawn

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter! We attended several Easter egg hunts over the last week. Little Red Riding Hood loves egg hunts and holds them for herself all year round. She doesn't care that the plastic eggs she hides are empty. The first hunt was in perfect weather. It really was just 10,000 eggs spread across a field, but the kids had a blast.

We also held an Easter egg hunt at home with some of our friends. We decorated eggs and then headed outside for some hunting fun. This time the eggs were well hidden.

Our last hunt came on a rainy day. We joined other crazy motivated hunters in the pouring rain. We attended this hunt because all of the candy was organic and safe for Tom Sawyer to eat.

Easter morning the kids woke up to their Easter baskets. (I had the opportunity to give an Easter basket to Goldilocks the night before.)

After the kids ate way too much candy, we were off to church. The kids enjoyed decorating Easter eggs for Sunday school. We then enjoyed a lovely service. Afterwards, we all enjoyed hot cross buns, which is a tradition at our church.

I hope you had a wonderful Easter.

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Day in the Life ~ In Pictures

Here is a peek into our day. It was a little bit calmer than the last few days have been. As the days slip by since Goldilocks left, we are slowly finding our "new normal" (at least for now). This is a pretty typical day this week. Our school load is lighter and we are turning our attention to more writing and math. We will be returning to World War II studies soon, but for now we just need to concentrate on the 3R's in preparation for end-of-year testing.

7:30 am ~ Tom Sawyer and Timothy eat breakfast while watching The Indiana Jones movies 20 minutes at a time. It is their new morning routine time together.

8:10 am ~ We pick up the completed application from our caseworker and therapist to hand deliver to a Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility (PRTF) that we hope will accept Goldilocks. A lot hinges on this application.

9:00 am ~ After dropping off Tim at his day program and driving out to deliver the application to the PRTF, we give ourselves a self-guided tour of the PRTF property. It is a big working farm with lots of buildings and mountain views. We are told it has an excellent reputation.

9:40 am ~ We are home and begin school. After watching CNN Student News and doing math, the kids work on spelling. 

10:45 am ~ I read two books to the children which covers music and science. We watch a few quick clips of a ballet school in China.

11:50 am ~ BLT's for lunch. Bacon is a comfort food around here. Thank goodness the organic nitrate-free bacon is too expensive to eat it often!

12:15 pm ~ It is time for some fresh air before going to Tom Sawyer's therapy appointment.

2:15 pm ~ Goodness, when we are leaving therapy, Goldilocks's therapist  gives this giant bear to Little Red Riding Hood! The therapist knows she loves teddy bears and says they are renovating the office and don't have room for the bear. The gesture is very well appreciated by Little Red. The bear is so big that the seat is folded down and the bear is siting on the floor while Little Red Riding Hood is on a chair!! We run a few errands while waiting to pick up Tim.

3:10 pm ~ We return from picking up Tim. Tom Sawyer and Little Red Riding Hood take turns working on some skill based chores one on one with me. Little Red Riding Hood draws a bunny while she waits to learn how to clean grout in the bathroom.

3:45 pm ~ The laundry is caught up, Daddy is almost home, and everyone has free time. By some miracle I have only spent about one hour on the phone today working on getting Goldilocks' services and updating my family on the latest about her.

5:00 pm ~ A friend from our adoption support group dropped off dinner. We eat loaded chili cheese fries. It was delicious.

6:00 pm ~ Daddy takes his turn visiting Goldilocks at the hospital. She is responding very well to the institutionalized setting and states that she finally feels safe. She doesn't have to deal with many people, events, stuff or choices. She prefers the controlled environment of the psychiatric hospital, but misses the outdoors. Our prayers are that we will secure a placement that will help her to heal and feel secure until she is capable of coming home.

While Daddy is at the hospital the rest of us snuggle up and watch a movie.
So, that was our day. We also listened to the audiobook, Dead End In Norvelt, whenever we were in the car. This is a very funny story that is giving us a few giggles.

Update ~ Goldilocks was just released from the psychiatric ward. She returned to our therapeutic respite care provider. We are hoping to hear from the PRTF that our application has been accepted in the next few days. I just keep reminding myself that God is in the details. We have been abundantly blessed in how all of this has unfolded. Counting blessings:
  • No one was hurt during this psychiatric crisis, and the more we find out, the more we realize the danger she was in and we were in.
  • Everyone agrees on the level of care required to help Goldilocks (including even the insurance company!!).
  • We have gotten so much support from the professionals on our team.
  • Our adoption social worker was filled with kind words and gave us some important information which will help keep us financially secure as we embark on this journey.
  • Everyday I am seeing growth and healing in my children who are still here at home.
  • Goldilocks is showing through her words and actions that we have had a profound impact on her despite that she finds it nearly impossible to love us or to feel our love (her words). She has shown to us and to the hospital staff that she actually has our core values instilled in her and these will help on her journey during the next few months.
  • Our therapeutic respite care provider is willing to keep Goldilocks for a few more weeks if necessary.
  • Goldilocks is safe...
Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Week 31 ~ What a week!

We are hanging in there and riding the wave of life as best we can right now. If you read my last post, Homeschooling Through a Crisis, you know that Goldilocks was admitted to a psychiatric hospital this week. I have spent 5 to 7 hours on the phone every day trying to get Goldilocks help, find out about placements and funding. I am really emotionally exhausted, so this will be a short post.

Monday ~ Our son Timothy turned 24 on Monday. How is that even possible? He never wants very much and isn't demanding in the "stuff" department. He wanted a calm,  at-home family party. He took a German chocolate cake to his day program (for brain injured adults) and then we had Pizza Hut pizza and deviled food cake for dinner at home. We hadn't had Pizza Hut in years. We gave Tom Sawyer all kinds of supplements to counteract the wheat and corn, but it still wrecked him for a few days. Timothy's favorite presents were a subscription to Netflix and a box filled with 24 snacks! He also loved getting the complete set of Indiana Jones movies.

Tuesday ~ Tuesday started off normal. I went off to meet with Goldilocks' therapist. However, her mental health team ended up deciding that Goldilocks was so unstable that she needed to be moved to a psychiatric hospital. The process to get into the hospital is by way of the ER. It was a long and sometimes frightening 7 hour process. I am so thankful that Goldilocks' respite care provider stayed with us and helped smooth the way. She is great at the mental health side of things and I am great at the medical side of things, so we made a good supportive team for Goldilocks. Giving your child to a facility like that and watching the big locked metal doors clang shut behind her knocks the wind right out of you!!

Wednesday to Friday ~ The rest of the week was a blur of hours and hours and hours of phone calls. I have visited Goldilocks once and will be allowed another visit later today. She is allowed a 5 to 10 minute phone call each day, depending on what level of privileges she has earned. I can call the nurse to check on her whenever I want, but communication with her hospital social worker, doctor and therapist has been slow and scattered.

Homeschooling...What's That?! ~ We have limped along and done about a half of a week's worth of school this week. We finished Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and started Dead End, which our librarian assures us will keep us in stitches of laughter. We managed math every day and read a wonderful book called The Journey that Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H.A. Rey. Little Red Riding Hood wrote several papers about her favorite holiday (Easter) and finished a workbook. Tom Sawyer read three short chapter books this week. Grandma came over and helped the kids get through about a dozen Language Arts workbook pages and we managed two spelling lessons. We also watched South Pacific. Lastly, Little Red Riding Hood made several Disney princess rubber band figurines (art).

Accepting Help And Counting Blessings ~ I am thankful for the homeschooling and babysitting help my Mother gave me this week. I also reached out and asked my adoption support group for a few freezer meals. We received the first one last night and we are grateful for the kindness. According to some of our team, this will be my life for the next 3 to 5 weeks -- hours of phone calls and transitions
 -- so the meals will be a great help. I am grateful that we are being heard by the professionals and that the doors are opening. I also appreciate all of my blogging friends for their kind words and prayers. I am grateful for my side kick, Boomer. He recognizes that my stress level is very high and has sat at attention next to me for days to protect me. He even fell asleep sitting at attention next to me a few times! What a loyal dog. We are so blessed!

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Homeschooling Through a Crisis

It seems like we have spent much of our time homeschooling in one form of crisis or another. Perhaps, everyone experiences a crisis or two each year. In the past 16 years of homeschooling we have faced the challenge of moving twice, being foster parents to special needs kids, unemployment, months of renovations, one child having several pacemaker surgeries, dealing with hundreds of doctor/therapy appointments and several job/schedule changes for my husband. In addition, raising a brood of special needs kids has required an intense form of parenting all of these years. To say that I really don't know what normal is anymore is an understatement. We are swimming through the latest crisis in our family. As many of you already know, our Goldilocks (13) ran away from home and was placed in emergency respite care when she was found. She has stated repeatedly in respite care that she is afraid to come home because she thinks she might hurt one of her family members. Her therapist and case worker became so concerned yesterday about her emotional stability that they had us admit her into our local psychiatric hospital. She will probably be there for a week or more and then move to a residential facility for a few months. We would appreciate all of your prayers.

The point of this post is to share what has helped us homeschool through a crisis. I hope our experience will help others.
  • Audio Books ~ Audio books help our family so much. They allow me to be on the phone or driving while the kids are still getting wonderful literature, history, and an increased vocabulary.
  • Workbooks ~ I am not a big fan of workbooks. However, they are a wonderful resource for a busy mom to fall back on when life is in the way of more exciting schooling. Workbooks can reinforce language arts, math, logic and reading comprehension. There are some great workbooks out there. We love workbooks from Mindware, Flash Kids and Evan Moor.
  • Educational DVDs ~ There are so many wonderful movies and documentaries. We have enjoyed IMAX films, numerous literature-based movies, and PBS specials.
  • Board and Travel Games ~ I love games. They are fun, educational and help us connect with each other. When the outside world is caving in on us, a game can bring us together for a temporary distraction and a few giggles.
  • A Skeleton Plan ~ When I see that we are going to have a rough time for a while, I fall back on my skeleton plan. I throw out my plans and curriculum for the time being and return to the basics, using the above resources. For example, I don't worry that we are watching documentaries about topics such as the 1800s or biology when we are supposed to be studying World War II and Einstein. Those subjects will still be there when life calms down. But in the meantime, the kids are still learning.
Here are a few other things that I have found to help our family etch out time for "school" even when life is overwhelming. 
  • Routine ~ My morning routine helps us a great deal. I start all of the appliances first thing in the morning before too much craziness can happen (dishwasher, washing machine, dryer). This way, I know throughout the day that at least we have some clean dishes, a load of dry clothes and another load is in the washing machine. I also get dressed and the kids get dressed. We can react to the demands of the day faster if we are ready to leave the house or receive guests at a moment's notice.
  • Break the Day Up ~ I prefer to do all of our core lessons first thing in the morning. I like to have at least three hours of uninterrupted time. However, this is not possible in the midst of a crisis. So I look at the skeleton plan, my resources, and the known demands of the day. I then decide how we can get some school in and discuss the plan with the children at breakfast.
  • Ask for Help ~ Okay, I am not good at this one. But it does help. Accept the help that is offered you even if you are not sure it will make an impact. Often it will. If there is something that you know will help...ask. 
Now, I better get my morning routine taken care of and get dressed or we will be off to a bad start. That demanding phone will be ringing with nurses, therapists and doctors in no time!

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, April 4, 2014

So Many Emotions

I don't even know where to start an update. It seems like weeks have gone by instead of 6 days since I last posted. Goldilocks (13) is still safe and in respite care. She has made it very clear that she does not want to come home. The professionals also agree that she should not be in the home until she gets some intensive help with her emotions. She has stated that she thinks she will hurt someone if she comes home. We (her parents) also agree that she should not be at home. For years she has threatened her siblings and me with bodily harm (she never threatened my husband), and those threats seem much more likely to be carried out now that she has followed through on her long-term threat to run away. She also is struggling with multiple "voices" in her mind telling her what to do. This is not the first time she has mentioned this and the doctors have growing concerns about what might be causing the voices. We also found out that although she was found only 3 miles from our home, she went on a 6 1/2 mile journey that involved visiting a fast food restaurant and asking advice from several strangers along the way. She is pleased with herself and still sees no reason to be concerned about what danger she was in during her run. For now, she will probably be in respite for the entire month while we try to get her into a year round residential school for children like her. There is one with a great reputation within 20 minutes from our home. This is our current choice. They will have an opening in late April or early May. Now we just have to convince post-adoptive services (for foster children who have been adopted) and our medical insurance to help pay for it. The professionals are working on it and think we have a very clear cut case.

On the homefront...sleep has been eluding me this week. I have enjoyed watching the sunrise each morning (there is always a silver lining). I have cried buckets of tears and have fluctuated between crying over the loss of our child or at least the dream of raising our child and relief that we are finally getting help. The kids and I have been resting and starting the healing process this week. I can't express how calm and easy parenting is without the constant demands of maintaining line of sight with Goldilocks so that everyone can remain safe. The demands to keep Goldilocks in control took so much of my time that I don't know how I ever stayed on top of anything else. The stress level in our home has dropped a significant amount. 

This week called for lots of cuddles, talking, processing with the children what was going to happen to Goldilocks, watching movies, play dates with friends and rest.

Saturday ~ I had talked to so many people the previous night when she ran, asking for prayers and to keep an eye out for Goldilocks, so needed to spend 7 to 8 hours on Saturday calling everyone back with an update.
Sunday ~ We were desperate for some kind of distraction and to get away from the phone. We went to church and then roller skating. 
Monday ~ We went to a friend's home for a play date. She pampered us. She fed us lunch and cupcakes. She and I watched several episodes of Pioneer Woman Cooks while the kids played. We then went to dance classes.
Tuesday ~ We went to therapy for Tom Sawyer (Goldilocks' therapist was sick but spoke to me over the phone). We did a bit of workbook school and then Grandma did a scratch art project with the kids. In the evening, we went to the family support network meeting for special needs families. The kids got lots of support in their kid support groups. The meeting coordinators organized a huge egg hunt.

Wednesday ~ We attended a new Lego Club just developed at the library. It looks like it is going to be a blast. I am not sure who had more fun, the kids or the young male librarian. We did math and started listening to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. We also spent a few hours at dance class.

Thursday ~ We had another morning play date. In the afternoon, we started our unit study on Einstein which we will be doing for the next few weeks. Tom Sawyer loves that Einstein hated wearing socks. Tom Sawyer couldn't agree more. We finished Hiltler's Youth, which is a fascinating look at how Hitler took over the minds of the youth in Germany.

Friday ~ Today we have more doctor appointments, more phone calls to make and more life to live. We will have art class with our friends and Grandma. We plan to learn about Piet Mondrian. I also hope to have them watch a video about families in Germany today. I am sure there will also be a bit of workbook school.

Please keep us (especially Goldilocks) in your prayers. Thank you.

Blessings, Dawn