Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Megan Goes to ECHO

Megan has some good news to share. She started going to a day program for adults with an ID, Intellectual Disability. The program is called ECHO, though I don’t know if that is an acronym or just the name they chose. There are about eight participants, including Megan. She and I shadowed the program one day, and decided she’ll go there on Fridays to start with, and then add Wednesdays. 

Her first day was four days ago, the day after Christmas. I almost felt like it was back when she had turned 3 and aged out of the Early Intervention Program and started going to an integrated preschool program. You know, wondering if she’d be okay, if she’d fit in, would she be safe…all the things a momma worries about. 

No matter how old her baby is. 

But she did okay, and she made it back home, and I thought I’d share it with you. 

I got Megan up at 6:30, and she got dressed and we started making her lunch. She peeled the cucumber and carrot…

…while I made her a ham, cheese, and lettuce sandwich.

We packed it securely in her new backpack that Phil and I got her for Christmas (regularly $18.28, we got it on clearance for $5.00!!!). 

I gotta tell ya, Megan spent Christmas night going over what she’d put in it, and that morning I discovered that each and every pocket/compartment on that thing held a sandwich bag with a new hair scrunchie, hair elastic, and/or barrette from her Christmas stocking. She is well prepared to do her hair…at least a dozen times a day if she so chooses. ;)

As I opened the front door to let a cat out at 7:19, I discovered that her bus was here! It was supposed to come at 7:28. I told Megan to get her stuff, and I scrambled to get my crocs on and a coat. And snap a pic!

We walked onto the porch, Megan in front, and before she stepped down, Megan turned to me. She said, “Alright, Mom.” and hugged me…expecting me to go back in the house! 

I told her I needed to meet the driver and take a picture of her getting on the bus. Secretly, I wanted to size him up and make sure I didn’t see the tips of any horns sticking up in his hair, or any fangs, or perhaps a GPS bracelet on his ankle. 

He looked relatively safe enough to transport my firstborn. I don’t even remember what his name is now. Megan and I introduced ourselves and she got right on that bus.

She chose a seat and got right into it. She was ready to go, and I realized this was my cue to go back into the house…

…and trust her in God’s hands. I couldn’t help taking one more photo of her bus leaving, though.

And at about 4:35, Megan came home, safe and sound, with stories to tell me about her day, as we hugged and walked to the house, chattering all the way.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas 2014

So, another Christmas has come and is all over again. I guess that’s the way of things. ;) We had a nice Christmas, a comfortable one.

Comfortable in the way that traditions and a relaxed schedule make it. Starting with the tree, which we always decorate at night on my birthday. I sit with the great Christmas box, handing out the ornaments while the children put them on.

Unbreakables on the lower two to three feet of the tree, and the more expensive and fragile German glass ornaments on the top. Caity and Ryan are the privileged ones who handle those expensive ones, while Megan and Tornado Timmy do the less delicate ones.

Christmas morning dawned with presents under the tree. We got together for the fun at 9 in the morning.

Ryan and I handled the handing out of presents. Chaos reigned as I had four children clamoring for my attention, to “Look at this Mummy!” as they each wanted to show me what Phil and I bought them. ;)

Megan opened a huge Crayola art set that Caitlin had given her. “Sweet niblets!!” she said, followed by, “It has pencils, and kwayons, and pencils!!”

Ryan loved the And1 pants and shirt set Caitlin gave him. He also got a football from us that he loved, and wanted to play with right away, but he’s, um, grounded at the moment. We just won’t go there about that, though. ;)

Yeah, grounded at Christmas; it does happen. ;)

Look at my daughter Caitlin. Isn’t she beautiful? She had taken the kids out to buy sibling and parent presents the night before. She’s a brave soul, that’s for sure!

After we were done unwrapping presents, Megan handed out some extras I had neither seen nor helped her wrap. She gave Caity a DVD that Caity had bought her earlier this year. She gave me one that *I* had bought her at some point. And she gave Timmy one  that Caity had bought her over a year ago. It’s the one she had wrapped and given me a week ago for my birthday. ;)

Oh my, but does she ever make us laugh!

Afterwards, we had our traditional orange cinnamon rolls, and I made some cheesy eggs to go with them since it was so late and we were very hungry. We relaxed and each did our own thing, Megan playing with her baby doll, the boys playing with their stuff, Caity getting ready to go to her intended, Tay’s, house. Phil and I took a nap.

Later I made a ham dinner that was quite delicious, followed by cheesecake that Caitlin had made. I got to talk to my mom, dad, and sister Susan, and that was wonderful. The family gave me books by my favorite authors, nineteen of them! Which I will savor and enjoy again and again. <3

It was a wonderful Christmas, and I enjoy everything about it, but it’s also nice to settle back into “everyday” life, with maybe not so much busyness. I think a lot of it simply has to do with the peace in one’s heart. That’s one gift that can’t be bought. You have to find that in your heart, by knowing that you are in exactly the right place, on the path of life that God has chosen for you, at this moment. <3

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Conversation With Megan

This is a conversation that took place recently. Megan, Ryan, and I were in the kitchen at the table, and Timotheus was a couple yards away in the living room. This is just one of the many funny conversations we have with Megan. I just love her! 

Megan: Mummy, wemember back at our church in Plainbill? Wemember the Alberksons? 

Me: Yep, I sure do.

Megan: Katie’s blind.

Me: No, she’s not blind. 

Megan: Oh, yeah, she’s deaf.

Me: No, she’s not deaf either. 

Megan: Ohhhhh, yeah, she can’t hear.

Ryan and Timmy, who have been listening, bust up laughing.

Me, trying not to laugh: Megan, she can hear. She’s non-verbal.

Megan: She has Autism, just like me.

Me: No, you have Down syndrome.

Megan: Oh yeah, Katie has Down syndrome too.

Me, trying desperately not to laugh: Katie has Autism and you have Down syndrome.

Megan: Yep, she has Autism. She can’t hear.

By now Ryan and Timmy are just about rolling around on the floor in hysterics. 

As for me, I had to head to the bathroom before I wet myself. ;)

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Demise of Midge the Fridge

Well, all the micky mousing in the world couldn't save old Midge the Fridge. She was 27 years old, which translates to 153.9 in human years. 

I’m not making this up. Based on the average life expectancy of a human being in North America and the average length of time you can expect a refrigerator to last, Midge topped out at 153.9 years old in human years.

Dang, that’s OLD! Can you imagine living to that age? It’s not a ripe old age, it’s more like a moldy, unidentifiable, science-experiment-in-the-fridge old age! 

So yeah, Midge was old, past ready to be put out to pasture. We’ve been limping along the past 2 years with her, but we kept on, Phil working miracles time and again to keep her going. 

Unfortunately, she was just beyond repair, and life support needed to be removed. It was a tough decision, but we had to pull the plug.  

They came for her today. The morticians. They were big burly men who were dressed in chipper red vests. They kind of reminded me of delivery men from someplace like Lowes or something.

But I know they really were the morticians come to take Midge to her final resting place. I think it was Sunny View Junk Yard. I don’t want to think about that right now, imagining her sitting there all forlorn and exposed, with her door off. <shudders>

So let’s talk about the new fridge that now sits in Midge’s spot. She’s been here for less than an hour, but she seems to be content, for she’s quietly humming. 

And the way she lights up when I open her doors…that shows me that she’s happy to be a new member of our family. ;)

Megan and I had emptied Midge earlier, and we worked together to go through everything in the boxes and laundry baskets we used and put everything into the new fridge, deciding what should go where.

It’s a slightly different setup in the new one, but we worked it all out. And even though we had one space that seemed it might not be usable at all due to it being only about 3 inches high, we did discover what could go there: tortilla wraps! They are a regular member of our diet, and fit perfectly right there! 

“What a perfectly appointed little cubby!” ~Mrs. Doubtfire

So here we are, the new fridge in and running, and no more worrying if we’ll be losing food. We’re very thankful. 

And looking for a name for the new member of the appliance family. Hey, people name their cars all the time, so don’t be hatin’ on a sistah who names just about everything. I’ll be thinking on a name in the next few weeks, and let you know. ;)

Sunday, November 23, 2014


Megan using chopsticks to be a walrus. ;) 

This morning’s conversation with Megan, just one more reminder what a joy she truly is, my darling girl who has Down syndrome. 

She’s been talking about Thanksgiving, a holiday she and I both love, since September. Usually she’s said things like, “Fanksgiving is next week.” or “Fanksgiving is coming up! It’s next Fursday!”

And I correct her by telling her it’s in two months, or three weeks, or whatever. 

But now it finally is coming up; it’s in four days. 

So anyway, we’ve been talking on and off about it, and Megan, who has a wonderful grasp of the meaning of the holiday, has been telling anyone we come into contact with what she’s thankful for. Friends, acquaintances, and strangers alike have heard her say, “I’m fankful for having food, and a house to live in, and a bed to sleep in.” 

All this on her own, too; I haven’t coached her in what to say. Her true gratitude for these things is heartfelt and almost palpable. 

So this morning as I was making my Red Rose English Breakfast tea with hazelnut creamer, and Megan was making hers, she announced to Ryan that Fanksgiving is this week. To which he groaned a little; at 14 he’s not so patient with hearing her say the same thing 331 times in a two month period. 

And then she proceeded to say, “I’m fankful I came out of your tummy.”

She leaned in against me as she sat in a chair, and I stood next to her and hugged her.

“I kicked you, and I had the hiccups. I’m glad I came out of your tummy,” she reiterated.

“I’m thankful you came out of my tummy too,” I said. “Otherwise I’d be hobbling about dragging you around still inside me.” 

Megan thought about this for a few seconds, her mouth pursed in evaluation. Then she said, “Mummy! Take dat back, you fief!” 

And she busted up in giggles. She knows that “Take that back!” is a response to when someone says something not quite right, but she always uses it jokingly, and not always at an appropriate time. I’m not sure where “you fief!” (you thief) comes in, but it always sounds funny when she says this. 

Well, we both were giggling after this exchange. That line of Megan‘s, “Take dat back, you fief!” is almost a cliché in our house, like an oft quoted line in a favorite movie. And anyone who knows my family well knows that quoting lines from movies is almost another language we speak. 

Much earlier this morning, about 4:30 a.m. to be precise, both Megan and I were awake at the same time. I had been awake for hours, so I moseyed into the kitchen to get a snack of toast with cheddar cheese. As I sat at the table slicing the block of extra sharp cheddar, I cut a thicker slice for Megan to have.

She nibbled at it while I finished making my snack, and in the stillness I hear her say, “Mmmm, *so* moist.”

That’s a line from a movie called A Cinderella Story, starring Hilary Duff. The scene was one with the stepmother being mean to “Cinderella,” aka Sam in the movie, as said stepmother had a plate of warm cookies and ate one in front of Sam, saying, “Mmmmm, *so* moist.” 

And Megan, in great movie quoting fashion, has the line and inflection down pat. Even with a slice of extra sharp cheddar cheese, instead of a cookie. 

We both busted up laughing, which made her say it again. And then we each went back to bed.

I don’t know about Megan, but as I tiptoed back to my room, I just felt this great sense of love, and thankfulness, and lightheartedness. Every interaction between me and my children, no matter how small or  silly, is another bonding experience, another little knot in the ties that bind our hearts together. 

And Megan was right; I agree with her. I’m glad she came out of my tummy. 

Otherwise my back would be killing me dragging that 26 year old girl around all day inside me. ;) 

Sunday, November 2, 2014


Disclaimer: I received a free product in exchange for my unbiased review of the product. This review is my honest opinion and evaluation of this product.

Wizzy Gizmo is a company that produces books, audio dramas, and learning cards for Christian families to aid in the growth of their faith. They are useful as a home school resource and Bible study time by families. Their website describes the producers as thus: 

We are parents, pastors, worship leaders, Sunday School teachers, and Homeschoolers who are committed to equipping our children for life, by planting them firmly in God's Word; and we want to help you do the same! Why? Because we believe that, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

I chose to receive and review the audio drama Who Created Everything? From the Book of Genesis Chapter One. I specifically chose an audio drama because my children and I have long enjoyed listening to audio dramas on tape or CD. This one from Wizzy Gizmo did not disappoint us.

Wizzy Gizmo is a young genius inventor who, according to the company, loves God and loves to explore the Bible. He creates inventions that help explore the world around him, and one of his inventions, Gizmovision, makes any book come alive, inside a bubble. As Wizzy explains in the beginning, the children who join him in the adventure will be able to see, hear, feel, taste, etc. what is happening in the book used by the invention. 

Wizzy Gizmo and his friends start their first journey using this interesting invention to explore the amazing creation of the earth and all that is in it, as recorded in Genesis chapter one. I won’t spoil things and reveal everything that happens to Wiz and the rest of the gang, but they have an adventure that brings the Bible to life for them in a way they will never forget. 

The characters are bright and engaging, the drama realistic enough to make you feel you are really there. There are songs interspersed that are catchy and make you want to learn them (by listening again and again!) and sing along. 

This particular audio drama is recommended for ages 4-12, but I enjoyed listening to it too. My children that listened to it are 11, 14, and 26 (she has Down syndrome and is developmentally at a 4 year old level in some skills and understanding). 

This audio drama is definitely something we will listen to again and again at home and especially on long drives. My children and I definitely give it a thumbs up. 

More reviews can be found here: http://homeschoolmosaics.com/wizzy-gizmo/

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Calm After the Storm

I’ve written a lot about Megan, the funny things she says and does, the sweet things she says and does, the fun things we’ve done together. You all know she has Down syndrome and how it has affected her: her limitations in understanding, in doing things, the impact on her speech/language and how because of that, many things she says or how she says them are really cute and endearing. 

She is and always has been a joy and blessing to me, and I enjoy her company, especially as we go about our day cleaning or cooking, shopping, or just hanging out together. She really is a lot of fun and she makes us laugh a LOT because she has such a fun attitude and a great sense of humor.

What many people don’t know is that besides Down syndrome, Megan also has Bipolar, PMDD, and OCD. If you’ve never had any of these disorders, or had children with them, you may not understand what life is like for families who do deal with these challenges. In our family, not only do I have some of them, but some of my children do, as well as every single one of us having other special challenges. 

It’s not like it’s the end of the world to have these disorders, or to have other special needs, but it does have an impact on each individual and on the family as a whole. There are times when a family member’s disorders or special needs can make life difficult or at the very least, challenging, but as time and life go on, you learn how to cope and handle it. You learn what works and what doesn’t. 

Just to give others an understanding of what life is like just about everyday for our family, with all the issues we deal with, I thought I’d let you in on what happened the other night. This is a typical situation in our family that occurred because Megan appeared to be on the “high end” of her Bipolar disorder. 

Please understand that I share this with you not to put my children in a bad light or anything, but simply to give you a glimpse into the life of our family with special needs and mental illness disorders. As much as I share things that happen that are so funny or sweet…we also deal with things that are difficult on a daily basis. But there is a lot to learn from, and a lot to help in the growth of, each of us as individuals and our family as a whole. 

The characters: Megan, 26, has Down syndrome, Bipolar, PMDD, OCD, and other health issues. Ryan, 14, has Intellectual Disorder (mildly mentally retarded), ODD, ADHD, OCD, Tourette’s syndrome, speech and language delays, and memory issues. Timothy is 11 (yesterday!) and has ADHD with very tall, bold, Norman Rockwell font letters. Then there’s me, miseuf34tngs% years old, with Tourette’s syndrome, OCD, anxiety disorder, clinical depression, and some health issues. 

Setting: We get home from shopping and it’s a little late, everyone is hungry, we’re all tired, etc. We’re trying to put the groceries away, talk about what to make for supper, and take care of several smallish tasks in the kitchen. I give Megan the pan with macaroni and cheese from lunch and a small container, telling her to transfer the macaroni and cheese and put it in the fridge so I can wash the pot. I’m  washing the sink full of dishes plus pots and pans from lunch and 2 from a couple days ago that had needed soaking and I hadn’t done them yet. Ryan and Timmy are now in the living room. 

They turn on the TV and we can hear it in the kitchen, and I don’t know why Megan was agitated, but nevertheless, she was. The boys are kind of arguing and annoying each other, and talking back and forth with me about supper: Ryan says he wants a PB&J sandwich, and Timmy, who is sick with a cold and has a splitting headache, says he doesn’t want anything, just wants something for his head and to go to bed. Lots of activity, chatter, and noise.

Me: Okay, I’ll get you something for your head, Timmy. Megan, don’t forget to put the cover on that container when you get the leftover macaroni in it, okay?

Megan: Don’t watch that show. You can’t watch my favorite show.

I recognize that agitated tone, and calmly say: It’s okay, they can watch the show.

Megan: No they can’t. It’s my show. They can’t watch it.

I can hear that the level of agitation has elevated, and am thinking, oh boy…

Timmy: I can watch whatever I want! You can’t tell me I can’t watch this show!

Me, trying to keep this from escalating: Timmy, hush. Megan, they can watch that show on their TV.

Timmy: But she’s saying we can’t watch it! She can’t tell us we can’t watch a show!

Megan, voice rising in volume: Yes I can. It’s MY show! You can’t watch it!

Me, hands wet b/c I’m still scrubbing pots and pans, hoping to head this off at the pass: Timmy, stop! I will handle this. Megan, they can w--

Timmy, interrupting me: Well she won’t stop saying we can’t watch it! It’s OUR TV! She can’t tell us we can’t watch it!

Me, exhausted, and weary of going through this for the 7,805th time, just wishing each of them would stop aggravating the other: IGNORE HER. I. Will. Handle this. Keep your mouth shut and do not respond to her. 

Megan: I don’t WANT them watching my show. It’s MY show! They can’t watch it! 

Me: Megan…<trying desperately to be calm and hang onto what little sanity I have left tonight>…that doesn’t matter. You can’t tell them they can’t watch a show on their own TV. They can watch it and it will NOT do anything to hurt YOU. You can watch it in your room on YOUR tv. And if you don’t stop acting so crazy like this, YOU won’t be allowed to watch the show.

Megan, quiet as she finishes what I asked her to do: Yes Mummy. 

Crisis averted…for tonight. 

I sigh as I finish the last of the dishes and wipe the sweat from my forehead. I take the dirty macaroni and cheese pan and serving spoon from Megan and begin to wash it. Megan announces that she will have some leftover spaghetti for supper, and I proceed to get it for her. 

As I’m at the counter adding a little extra sauce and cutting the spaghetti for her, she giggles and happily says she likes her spaghetti cut.

Me: Do you want some bread and butter to go with it?

Megan, totally calm and carefree: Yep! I love bread and butter! Can I have two?

Me: Yes you sure can. 

I remove two pieces of bread from the Autumn Grain loaf we bought at the local thrift Bread Store tonight, and reach for the butter. 

The house is suddenly calm. Timmy is in the living room watching TV, Megan is getting water for her pills that she retrieved from my bedroom earlier; the medications she takes daily. Two of them are for the Bipolar Disorder, OCD, and PMDD she has inherited from my family. Ryan makes a PB&J sandwich and eats it. Megan is happy with her leftover spaghetti and bread and butter.

“Goodnight! I love you Mummy!” That is Megan as she heads to her room.

 The storm has passed, and the home is calm. <sigh>

Photo: rasikajayakody.wordpress.com

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Guarding the Food

A friend of mine recently decided to take the SNAP Challenge:

“The SNAP Challenge encourages participants to get a sense of what life is like for millions of low-income Americans facing hunger. By accepting the SNAP Challenge, you’ll commit to eating all of your meals from a limited food budget comparable to that of a SNAP participant – $1.50 per meal.” 

Meg’s recording her results, thoughts, feelings, experiences on her blog, This Big Happy. Since three of my children and I are on SNAP, I have eagerly read her blog posts. And even though I’ve gotten SNAP benefits for a year now, a lot of what she’s experienced and written about has been eye opening for me.

Or rather, maybe I should say it’s made me realize things I’ve dealt with and felt, but hadn’t thought about them much, because they’re just an everyday way of life for me. And they're not pleasant. 

But as I was thinking about it today, I decided to write it down. And thus, this post. 

On Day 2 of my friend’s SNAP Challenge, she wrote: 

“I actively worried when my son asked if he could drink the last bit of milk because I knew I couldn’t just run to the store and get more milk, and I knew the baby would need at least one more bottle that day. How do you choose who gets the last glass of milk? Unfortunately these are the daily decisions people who depend on SNAP have to make.” 

~Meg, SNAP Challenge Day 2

And that’s when a flood of realizations came to me, of what I deal with but don’t really think about too much, because #1-I hate going through them, and #2-it’s too frustrating because there isn’t much I can do about it. 

I hate to say this, but I have had to watch our milk all the time, and the kids get into the kitchen and take it without asking and then we don't have enough for cereal in the morning (the boys' favorite choice for breakfast) or for a recipe I’m making for supper. 

I tell them to drink water, which I drink almost exclusively, but they have always complained that they hate it, that they don’t like the “taste.” I’ve always said, that’s the point, it *has* no taste. We use a filter on our kitchen tap to take out the chlorine taste and anything else bad in it.

So far Megan will drink one or two glasses of water a day, and Ryan has been drinking ice water exclusively for three weeks now! Yay me for bringing someone else over to my side!! ;) 

But back to what Meg said, about how you choose who gets the last of the milk? I feel awful about that, and I also feel stressed and pressured because I feel like I have to “guard” the kitchen. I can’t camp out there 24/7 to keep an eye on the milk, or anything else, and I can’t keep the milk in my bedroom.

Which brings me to that. Yes, food in my bedroom. Meg noted that she started worrying over the decrease in fruits and vegetables her family was eating due to the cost of those foods being prohibitive. 

All I can say is, every time I go shopping, the kids ask for fruit. I’m having a hard time writing this, because of the feelings it is evoking in me thinking about it. They ask for it, all kinds of it, every single time. 

And because of how expensive it is, I can’t always get it. If I get a bunch of bananas, and usually there are about 6 on most bunches, that’s 2 each, and I hardly eat it because I’m saving it for the kids. I haven’t had a banana in almost a year. 

I try to limit the fruits to one a day, and I have repeatedly told them when they ask for another that they can only have one fruit a day. If I let my kids eat all the fruit they wanted, they’d demolish a bag of apples, a bunch of bananas, and half a watermelon. But I can’t.

Thus, the fruit is kept in my bedroom, unless it has to be refrigerated, like the watermelon or #10 cans of peaches and fruit cocktail. I bought a bag of apples the other day because they were 98 cents a pound at Walmart. I put it in my room, and for the first day they ate only one. But the next day, they each ate one, and Timmy went and took a second apple a while later, without asking me (he knows I would have said no) and without me knowing. 

An hour later Ryan came and asked if he could have another apple. I said no, told him (again!) that they can only have one a day, and that’s when he told me Timmy had a second. I said that he didn’t ask, he just took it, and Ryan was upset. He was hungry and supper was a couple hours off. 

I told him to take another, but this can’t happen again. I didn’t really think about how it made me feel, because it’s an unpleasant feeling that I tend to stuff down deep inside me. 

I try to shop wisely. We get our bread, hamburg rolls (we rarely even have hamburgers anymore since the cost of beef is so high), and snacks for Timmy for school at a thrift bread store. The other day I hit the jackpot and got 4 loaves of bread, a box of snacks for Timmy, and a bag of bagels for $5.45. The bagels were free for spending $5, and the four loaves of bread were 99 cents each because the use-by date was the next day, but they do last beyond that date, and seriously, it’s not the end of the world to eat bread that’s not so soft. Besides, I can put 2 loaves in the freezer. 

I buy store brand or others if they’re less expensive. I compare prices down to the ounce if I have to. I always look over the shelf cart of what I call the Dead Foods, about-to-spoil fruits or veggies, items of food and whatnot that are being phased out or discontinued, etc. I check out the meats that are reduced “for quick sale.” Though we eat very little meat anyway, except for chicken, and I mostly get leg quarters $6.90 for a ten pound bag and bag it up for the freezer in meal portions. I use boneless chicken breast and cut it up smaller to make it go further. 

But the fruits and vegetables are a hard one. Two nights ago I discovered that someone had taken a carrot, and it was a big one, and used a knife to peel it, carving big chunky strips out of it. I asked the kids who did it, and of course Not Me did it. Two days later, I found the rest of the carrot under something behind the waste basket,  chiseled and shriveled. <sigh>

I think the hardest part is that I feel like a shrew always telling my kids no, and especially because…I have one who “steals” food. I’ll call this child Spike for this. This one opens a small slit into a pack of cheap hot dogs and slips one or 2 out and eats them cold. Spike slips into the fridge and scoops out leftovers with the hands and shoves them into the mouth, furtively sneaking away. 

When I’m cooking, if I have any food out and walk away to go to the bathroom or get something from another room, Spike takes a handful of whatever food is left out. 

Spike says s-he is hungry, so I say make a PB&J sandwich, or some saltines with peanut butter, but later I happen to notice the bag of cereal in the living room, where it was surreptitiously taken, and there are only a few pieces of cereal left and then crumbs. I don’t know how Spike did it without me seeing, but it was done nonetheless.

Last night as Spike was using my laptop in the kitchen while I made supper, s-he went and opened the fridge and stuck the whole head in. I knew what was happening. I said to get out of there, supper would be ready in half an hour. Spike sat back down.

Today as I went to get the bologna and cheese for sandwiches for lunch, I pulled out the package of bologna (this used to be an almost never purchase because of all the fat, but now the ham or turkey is too expensive) and there were two slices in it. But underneath the package were 2 slices of the bologna stuck together, and with 2 bites out of them. That’s what Spike was getting into last night. <sigh>

I can’t guard the kitchen all the time. I do my writing in my room, which is open to the rest of the house, because it’s the coolest room in the house. Even when I’m not cooking, the kitchen is very hot and due to health conditions I have, heat is very difficult for me. So if I had to spend as much of my day in there as I can to guard the food, I’d be in a bad place health-wise. 

And there’s that word: guard. Guard the food. I hate having to think of all of this in that way. It’s like my kids are some kind of villains and I have to keep them from doing wrong. My kids are just hungry. They just want fruit. They want to drink milk without being scolded for it. I’d like to drink a glass of milk now and then without feeling guilty. 

I’m not writing all this to garner pity. I’m not writing it for any certain purpose, actually, except that as I was reading my friend Meg’s blog post, I was flooded with a bevy of thoughts and emotions. And I felt I just had to get it out. 

I haven’t always had to be this way with food or shopping, or my kids’ hunger. And I won’t always have to be on SNAP. At some point, we will be better off financially. I will keep reminding myself that this is temporary. 

And I hope this, as well as my friend’s blog posts about taking the SNAP Challenge, opens one person’s eyes about what it’s like to receive SNAP benefits, and maybe if you’ve ever had disparaging thoughts about people who use these benefits, maybe you’ll think differently now. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Swabbing the Deck

Carol Burnett as the cleaning woman. ;) 

It’s funny how you tell the kids to clean their room or go get any cups, bowls, silverware, etc. from around the house, and they act like you’re depriving them of oxygen. 

Then you go to wash the floor, and suddenly they want to do something. And not just some easy task, something that’s a lot of work and needs to be done a certain way to do a good job on it.

So the other day I was tackling the kitchen floor. I had somehow psyched myself up for the job. And I don’t mean “Oh goody goody gumdrops!!! I can’t wait to wash the floor!!”

No, let’s be serious here, I only mean I had come to terms with it and accepted the fact that I really had to do it, and was just determined to get it done. I mean, my feet were sticking to the floor and at one point I left a flip behind me as I walked through the kitchen.

Yep, it was time.

So I got about three quarters of the floor swept, which took me a considerable amount of time. There was a lot I had to tackle with a knife, chipping away at gum, Life cereal squares dried onto the floor, and once light and airy marshmallows from the bag of Chocolate Marshmallow Mateys now serving as speed bumps. 

That’s when Timmy asked if he could wash the floor. I’m not sure why it seemed so glamorous a chore to him; I was sweating so much just sweeping, that it was running down into my eyes and dripping on the floor every time I turned my head, mixing with the dirt on the floor and making mud. 

But, not wanting to dampen his enthusiasm for offering to help, I said he could but there is a certain way to do it; it’s not as easy as it looks. 

“Well, all you do is dip it (the mop) in there (the bucket of water and cleanser) and push it back and forth,” he said.

“No,” I replied. “You need to dip it in the bucket and squeeze the water out, which I just did so it’s ready for you.”

I indicated the area of floor under the table and about a foot outwards, where the chairs normally sit. “Then you wash this area, only halfway under the table because I still have to sweep over the other side yet. And you wash right here, this area in front of the table.”

Timmy tried to take the mop, and I stopped him. “Wait. Then you rinse out the mop 3 times in the sink, squeezing the dirty water out after each time. Three times,” I emphasized. 

“Then you pick the chairs up, do NOT push them back to their places at the table; you’ll just make marks. Pick them up and place them at the table, then you dip the mop into the bucket again, squeeze it out, and go on to another area. If you do it in a methodical and logical way, you won’t be missing any area or walking back on the clean floor and getting it dirty again.”

Now I handed the mop to Timmy. He didn’t do too badly; he pushed the mop around, and I did have to remind him of what area to do, tell him not to walk on the clean wet area he just washed, etc.

He turned to the sink and rinsed the mop like I said, albeit with me guiding him again on how, do it three times, yada yada yada.

Then he put the chairs back at that side of the table and worked on another area. I reminded him that if there is something stuck, he needs to scrub at it with the mop and maybe even use a knife to scrape. Timmy did so accordingly.

After that second area, he rinsed the mop out again, and started washing right in front of the sink, where up until now he had stood working at this task. What he ended up doing was backing up as he washed that area, until he had now “painted himself into a corner.” 

Ah, another teaching opportunity. I once again told him, as he turned and stood with dirty shoes on the clean wet area he had just washed, that it’s not as easy as it looks. “You need to figure out where to wash next, and do it in a logical and methodical way so you don’t end up getting it dirty and having to wash an area all over again.” 

He figured out that he should have washed areas away from the front of the sink first, and left himself a path to get back to it each time he needed to rinse the dirty mop. 

I told him what he needed to do was wash that area he had backed himself into, rinse, and then re-wash the area in front of the sink. Then use the rag towel I have set aside to dry the area in front of the sink, then move on to the rest.

Timmy happily complied, and had by now washed almost a quarter of the kitchen floor. Then the mop head flew off. I told him that it sometimes happens, and because it’s difficult to get back on, I’d do it.

It took me a couple of minutes, and I rinsed the mop out so it would be ready again for Timmy. 

But when I turned around, he was nowhere to be found. Whatever appeal washing the kitchen floor had for him had left just as quickly as it had come. <sigh>

I just finished the floor; it took me 20 minutes instead of half an hour. 

Maybe today I’ll clean The Dreaded Bathroom. And maybe I’ll pull a Tom Sawyer routine with Timmy…

Friday, September 19, 2014

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines (or How Men Pee)

So, my friend Meg shared this pic on Facebook yesterday, and I did get a chuckle over it, because not only is it true, but the “aim” of males in general can be described in other ways too. 

Or maybe it’s just *my* males that are strange. ;)

My first thought was that with some, it’s not like a shotgun, it’s more like a NASCAR driver doing laps. 


     and around 

          and around. 

*Turning left again…

Then there are some who are like kids with a Hot Wheels racetrack, who like to do crazy eights…

Loop de loop…cross over…and back around again.

And there are those whose ADHD carries over even into the bathroom. Where they are standing before The Throne, trying to take care of business, and SQUIRREL!!

Annnnd there it goes all over the wall, across the pedestal of the sink, and onto the heating vent. Come winter when the heat goes on for the first time, there gonna be a baaaaaaaad smell no one understands.

Ask me how I know. 

Wait, don’t ask. I think I worked hard to repress that particular memory. 

Then there are those whose insatiable curiosity as they carry out the interminably ho-hum task of emptying the bladder gets the best of them. 

See how they look exactly the same?
They both have, um....a hole?

As they stare at the cat litter box kept on the floor right next to the toilet. 

Maybe it’s the aura of mystery that seems to shroud a “hooded” litter box. It looks like a fort! little boys might think.

Or it just may be the wonderment of the clumping litter…

How would I know? Don’t ask that either. 

Let’s just suffice it to say, how males think they pee and how they actually DO pee are 2 totally different things. 

Yes, I did just write a whole post about how males pee. ;)

*Attention NASCAR fans: I really am joking; I like the sport myself. ;)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Waiting For the Sunrise

Photo: UCLA Faculty Association

                                                     Early morning wake-up,
                                                     the sky still dark
                                                     from the sun’s nocturnal rest…
                                                     All is quiet
                                                     but for the soft sighs
                                                     of the family,
                                                     curled up in dreamy repose,
                                                     tucked into beds,
                                                     snug in quilted cover.
                                                     Faces slack and cheeks flushed 
                                                     with warmth of the night,
                                                     sleepers rest in the bliss
                                                     of innocent slumber,
                                                     as I sit and wait
                                                     in the quietude…
                                                     Listening for my purpose,
                                                     my reason for being,
                                                     that still small voice
                                                     in the hush of early hours,
                                                     the lull between dusk and dawn:
                                                     A new day awaits,
                                                     pregnant with possibility,
                                                     laden with opportunity;
                                                     and my path,
                                                     carved before the dawn of time,
                                                     set before me
                                                     by my Creator,
                                                     eagerly waits at the ready
                                                     for me to step out,
                                                     confident in my role,
                                                     and embrace the day. 

                                                     ~VJC 9.6.14~

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Joy of Customer Service

Yesterday I just about lost my sanity. I had to make a number of phone calls, and my new phone was actually alive, working, and on board with the plan. I’ve been experiencing some difficulty with my jaw on and off, so it was time to find a dentist and have it checked out. I also needed to make appointments for Ryan, Timmy, and Megan to see the dentist and an optometrist. And find a new primary care doctor for myself since mine retired two months ago.

Sounds like it won’t take too long, three phone calls, right? 


First I went online to look up dentists for the health insurance we have. They ask if you want to look for a primary care doctor or a specialty doctor. Okay, must be listed under specialty. Only when you put in the required data for your area and select “dental,” it lists several dental surgeons, not regular dentists. 

So I Googled dentists in our area, and started calling around. They either weren’t accepting new patients or they didn’t accept our health insurance. After six calls, I was so irritated. I couldn’t possibly call all the dentists in the area; the insurance company knows who takes their insurance, so it's easier to call them. 

Okay. Find a number on the website to call for assistance. Call that. Listen to the female automated voice ask  several questions and direct me to press or say something, including my member ID number. 

Female Robot Voice: Please enter your member ID number, followed by the pound sign.

I look on the front of my insurance card, locate the number, which is 700310156932, and start pressing the numbers on my phone. I get as far as 7003101, and hear a voice coming through my phone.

Male Robot Voice: The number you entered, 7003101, does not exist.

Female Robot Voice: Please enter your member ID number, followed by the pound sign.

I hold the phone in front of me again and start pressing numbers. 7003101--

Male Robot Voice: The number you entered, 7003101, does not exist.

And again I hear the Female Robot Voice: Please enter your member ID number, followed by the pound sign.

I’m thinking, okay, I just have to press the numbers really fast, no hesitating to check that it’s right, just keep my eyes on the card and my fingers on the number pad on the phone screen. Come on, Valerie, you can do this!


But as I’m pressing the last five digits, a voice comes from the phone again.

Male Robot Voice: The number you entered, 7003101, does not exist.

Followed, of course, by…

Female Robot Voice: Please enter your member ID number, followed by the pound sign.

Exasperated by now, I hang up. Just hang up. Turn the card over and find a number for member services. I dial and wait, and ask for a service rep. She gets on the phone and asks for my ID number, so before I tell her, I inform her that I *had* tried calling member services and entering my number but the automated answering won’t let me finish punching it in. 

We get everything squared away so she knows I’m really me, asking for my full name, date of birth, full address, phone number, social security number, mother’s maiden name, any identifying birth marks, pets’ names and ages, property lot size, and whether I hang my toilet paper over the roll or under. (under, just so you know) 

I tell her my problem, that when trying to locate a dentist for myself and my children, the online provider locator only gives me specialty dentists who are oral surgeons. She says that’s because you have to call a certain number in order to get dentists in your area, and do I want her to connect me right to that number? Heck yeah!

She puts me through and I wait on the line, and after connecting and pressing one to indicate that I’m a member, I hear:

Female Robot Voice: Please enter your member ID number, followed by the pound sign.


Kill me now. Just kill me now and put me out of my misery.

<sigh> I somehow got through, chose a different option, and was able to get the names of several area dentists who accept our insurance. I call the first one and hit pay dirt: they’re accepting new patients, and as a bonus, they also take Megan’s insurance, which happens to be different than what the boys and I have. I got appointments for all four of us on the same day next month. <fist pump>

I also called another number I was given and connected with someone who helped me with optometrists who accept the boys’ and my insurance; she said she’d email me the list. Great, now I call Megan’s insurance and go through the rigamarole again to get a list of eye doctors. 

I called one that was closest and the woman on the line was friendly and we scheduled an appointment for Megan. Done with that, I went to my email to get the list of optometrists I was sent, and upon opening it, I discovered that the first one was the practice I had just hung up with. 

Wish I had known! Called back 3 times and got the answering machine. The fourth time I got the same woman I had spoken to and after 20 minutes I had myself scheduled the same day as Megan, and Ryan and Timmy scheduled the week after that. 

I looked online again for a list of primary care doctors, and with one more call to a local practice,  I had a new primary care doctor for me and my initial appointment scheduled. Almost two and a half hours and 16 calls later…I didn't have to schedule hair replacement surgery *or* a visit to the psych ward. I guess it was a pretty good day. ;) 

*PS: 700310156932 isn't my real member ID number. It's really 7900606--just kidding! ;)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Sacrificial Love

(photo: Treasure Vessels of the Living Word)

Today as I was making grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches for lunch, Megan started talking about my brother and how she missed her Uncle Steven. She started crying, so I was hugging her and comforting her, and she said, "I wish I could die instead and he could be alive." My heart just about broke at such love coming from this child of mine who is "mentally retarded." 

There were so many things I wanted to say to her, so many concepts were wrapped up in that one sentence she uttered, “I wish I could die instead and he could be alive.” 

What ran through my head were things like…it’s not your time, God planned for this for Uncle Steven, this passed through His hands and He knew about it beforehand, we’d all be terribly sad if you weren’t here, etc. 

The biggest thing, though, is that what Megan said is God’s plan of salvation in a nutshell. We are born sinful creatures, and the penalty of sin is death. Nothing we could ever do can take that away. Nothing at all.

But lest we despair, God had a plan. He sent His son Jesus, the only sinless and perfect sacrifice, to take our place and die on the cross, that those who would just believe and accept would be saved and live. God loved and loves us that much.

Just like Megan loved her Uncle Steven so deeply, and was so brokenhearted she was willing in her heart to change places with him so he could live, God loves us even more deeply and is brokenhearted over our sinful state and the death sentence we carry over our heads. And He did change places with us, sending His son so we could live. 

Megan couldn’t really make a sacrifice like that, but God really could and did. Megan didn’t really think of the cost of sacrificing herself for my brother, she didn’t really understand it, but God did know the cost of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. He understood it fully and it was all part of His divine plan.

I’m always amazed at how the Lord shows us His love through not only what He does, but also through people in our lives. And He doesn’t need perfect vessels to use for that; we’re all cracked anyway. He uses cracked vessels because He loves us even with all our imperfections. 

Megan may have Down syndrome, but she can be and has been used by God to teach me so much. 

Especially about love. <3

Thursday, August 21, 2014

High School??

Ryan’s now a freshman in high school. HIGH SCHOOL. Okay? HIGH SCHOOL. 

It's not that I can't believe I have a high schooler; I have a 26yo and 23yo. I’ve been there done that, although I home schooled those two through that. 

But this is Ryan we’re talking about. I don’t know why it seems so strange, but I do know that sometimes it’s hard not to think of him as being “little.” Maybe it’s because of his Intellectual Disability (that’s the newest term, and he also has ODD, ADHD, OCD, Tourette‘s syndrome, and speech and language delays). Maybe it’s because I still remember the day he came to us, as a small round ball of quite long blond hair and bashfulness. 

But whatever it is, I’m struggling to get used to the fact that Ryan is growing up and on his way to adulthood. That’ll be here in a few short years.

Not many people know the story of Ryan and how he came to be my son. Oh, most everyone knows he’s adopted, but very few people know all the other details. Knowing where he started out and came from really gives you an idea of just how far my son has come in life. 

5 years old

As foster parents, we were in our third year of foster parenting that March of 2002. A 3 year old boy named Orian that we’d had in our home for six months had just moved on, and I had heard through the grapevine that there was a toddler who they were having a hard time placing. Hearing that he might have dwarfism, I called our agency on a Friday and said I wanted him. 

That Monday they brought him to me. In the 10 days since he had been taken, he had been in 5 foster homes as emergency placement. I didn’t know it at the time, but my home was where the buck stopped. He was now in his forever home.

I remember the moment the social worker stepped through the door with Ryan. He was very small, very squat, round, and his blond hair was very outgrown so that he almost looked like a girl. He had huge blue eyes, and later we commented that he looked just like Ralphie in the movie A Christmas Story. 

He was very shy as he sat on her lap, and he pushed his face into her shoulder as I talked to him. But minutes later when I held out my arms, he willingly came to me. 

And then our adventure began. ;)

8 years old

Without revealing too many details, Ryan was taken in a drug raid. His mother willingly admitted that she kept him in a crib most of the time. She had and has had other children, siblings of his, who were also exposed to drugs and alcohol in utero, and all have also been adopted. We still don’t know all of the lasting effects this has had on Ryan, but I do know that at least two other siblings are experiencing some issues. 

In the days following Ryan’s becoming a part of our family, I was astounded to discover some things about him, through his behavior and our interactions with him, that were almost unheard of. He was 22 months old, and he didn’t have a bottle, but he had no idea what a spoon was or how to use it. At all. 

He had no language at all, no words, and would grunt in response to us. When he wanted more to drink, he would throw his cup and grunt. 

He didn’t like to be touched at all, and hand over hand manipulation was definitely out of the question, as I found out when I tried to teach him the sign for “more.” Just as an aside about this, through all the years since, Ryan has disliked touch, especially if it seems to be manipulative, like the times we’d be out and I’d put my hand on his chest to keep him from stepping out in front of a car, or try to nudge him forward to go into a store. He’s always been very resistant to that and would jerk away from me.

I quickly learned that with Ryan I needed to let him have his space, and let him initiate touch. There are very few times I go up to him and gently hug him, knowing this; mostly I let him come to me for a hug, which he does when he wants one. The older he gets and the more I’ve come to know Ryan, the more I’m convinced that part of it, at least, is due to sensory issues. And as someone with major sensory issues, I totally get it. 

10 years old

For a while after he came, I noticed that when I’d try to engage him, Ryan would do something like roll away from me, or push his face into the couch. This kind of avoidance behavior further let me know that he needed time and space, and I had to, for the most part, let him interact with me on his terms.

I had never known a child who didn’t know how to play until I met Ryan. He literally didn’t know what to do with toys. The first time I blew bubbles for him was really special. But I had to sit with him and teach him how to play. He just didn’t know what to do with anything.

Food was a big issue for a long time. Ryan would stuff his mouth so full of food that he couldn’t even close his mouth. I was always alert for choking, and tried to work with him on slowing down and small mouthfuls. We gave him plenty to eat, but that never seemed to matter; he would reach over and grab food off of our plates and stuff it in his mouth after eating his own.

He also would take food and run to his bedroom, scrambling under his crib to hide it there. I’d find muffins, crackers, and the like all the way underneath, on the floor up against the wall. 

10 years old

The way he ate and the hoarding weren’t all that foreign to me, after all, I’d worked as a direct care worker in an institution for the mentally retarded for years. I recognized those behaviors.

And I also recognized the hurt in my heart, thinking of what had led him to acquire those behaviors.

As far as suspecting Ryan may have dwarfism, that came about because of his height and the size of his head. At his first visit to the family doctor, Ryan was found to not even be on the charts for height, and the size of his head was off the charts. His legs, and especially his arms, seemed to be too short for his body, even as small as it was. He wasn’t slight, either; he was quite the butterball.

Off to the geneticist in Boston, MA we went, making frequent visits for a year, having tests for this and tests for that. The geneticist said that though Ryan didn’t have dwarfism, his arms were actually somewhat shorter than they should be. He seemed to fit several different syndromes, but test after test revealed that he didn’t have them.

13 years old

After a year of testing and appointments, the geneticist determined that we were dealing with a case of neglect, and that he simply hadn’t grown like other children do because of that. 

Since then, Ryan has of course grown, and though he’s still pretty short, he’s grown into his head and seems more proportionate in every area. 

Through the years, especially once he started formal education, his challenges became more evident. He has always been developmentally delayed and had a speech and language delay. To this day he still has trouble pronouncing some words and sounds, and difficulty processing what he’s told. 

He has memory issues and still can’t remember the days of the week, months, something he learned in class the day before, random words at times…it can be anything at all. He still struggles with reading, and has come to hate it because it’s such a battle for him. His fine motor skills are behind and writing is an even bigger struggle. 

But amongst all these challenges that Ryan deals with, there is so much progress that he has made. He’s come so far, and I’m very proud of him. 

He’s learned how to read, and he’s doing fairly well in math. He still relies on Timmy a lot to read for him and he’ll let Timmy do the math if they’re deciding how to spend some money at the store, but he’s doing more of both on his own. 

The behavior issues we dealt with so long due to his ODD have really evened out, though we still deal with times of disrespect and resistance. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to tell if that’s the ODD speaking or his age and struggle for autonomy. And as far as the ADHD goes, he is so much more calm and mellow now, that it really gives me hope for Timmy. And y’all know I need that hope where Timmy’s concerned! ;) 

Last Christmas, wearing
my tree skirt as a kilt. ;)

Ryan has been developing his sense of humor for a couple of years now. Whereas Timmy is quite comfortable in his and seems to come by it naturally, Ryan is still somewhat testing the waters and discovering what’s funny and what’s not, what’s appropriate and what’s not, etc. 

It’s like watching him slowly get a feel for understanding humor in various forms and finding his own style and niche where he feels comfortable. 

Sometimes I feel I’m walking a fine line between wanting to bolster his confidence, and wanting to let him know when something isn’t funny or appropriate, being ever so conscious of his delicate self-esteem in these difficult teenage years. And our tenuous and sometimes fragile relationship that seems to be ever changing and evolving. 

It’s a day to day thing, to raise your child, dealing with whatever issues pop up, still trying to teach and sometimes failing, and adjusting accordingly to the changes in him. He’s now a pretty mellow guy, loves lifting weights and shooting hoops. He wants to get a job, but can’t for another year; but he has initiative. 

Last month

He loves art, his own music, and playing racing games. He’s learned how to cook by cooking with me, and do laundry. He likes being given responsibility for some big chore around the house or for fixing something. 

Yet he still likes building a fort in the living room with Timmy. 

I’m proud of Ryan, and in the person he’s becoming. High school? Yes, it’s just another step on the journey.