Monday, June 30, 2014

Teach them Diligently

It's been a couple of years since we were able to attend a homeschool conference. We had the great pleasure of going to Teach them Diligently in Dallas last week and it was wonderful! Even though we're not technically "homeschooling" Timothy as he's a public school student and we send Samuel to a developmental preschool, we strongly believe that the best learning happens at home and parents are the best teachers.

When Timothy was younger, we went to sessions like "How to teach Latin" and "Teaching Advanced Mathematics from a Young Age." Now, our parenting philosophy has changed a bit. We want our children to learn all they can, but we want them to have character, love others, and intimately know God. This year, we went to sessions like, "Involving your Kids in your Family Mission" and "How to have a Home of Peace." We used to spend hundreds of dollars on educational materials. This year, we bought a Bible study for our teen & Timothy and a family devotional unit study (and 2 hair bows). We walked out spending less than $100. (I was proud)

Probably the most important thing we got out of the conference is the necessity to realize your child's strengths and weaknesses. Each individual child is SO different; there is no one-size-fits-all approach to education or parenting. We have 3 children and they're all so wonderfully different.

Timothy is empathetic. He feels for other people. He is SO kind to the children who come into our home for foster care. Sadly, he is also the most distressed when they leave. He is responsible for a 7 year old. He can completely clean the playroom, including putting all the toys away and vacuuming. He can put away laundry. He's diligent in all his tasks. He's an auditory learner, so if he hears it he can easily remember it. He loves audio books

Samuel is intense. He easily learns anything he's near; at 4 years old, he constantly amazes people with his vocabulary and his knowledge of the world around him. Samuel has a competitive spirit--he strives to win all things. Samuel has a fascination with all things transportation.

Hannah is creative. She loves to color and draw, so much so that we just let her have  chalk on the kitchen floor so she doesn't color with markers on the wall. Hannah was very gentle with the baby we had in our home. She's extremely verbal, loud, and a leader. She can't easily be talked out of what she wants to do. She's determined.

Other children will come and go from our home (right now we still have our 17 year old), but these are the 3 we'll have forever. (Adoption is a possibility in the future, of course) We're trying to figure out how to build up each one of them and encourage their individual interests and strengths.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Nutritionist

Samuel went to the nutritionist today. During the last 2 years, Samuel hasn't gained any weight. He's been 32lbs for over 18 months now. He's also quite short for his age. Of course all of this is from his poor nutrition and he's had a very difficult time in life, but it's now necessary for us to figure out how to better meet his nutritional needs.

Disaccharides include lactose, fructose, sucrose, and maltose. Samuel has disaccharide malabsorption, which is different from an allergy. An allergy causes an immediate reaction. Malabsorption, on the other hand, does not get processed by your body and builds up in your system until it makes you sick. And, quite frankly, malabsorption is really hard!

Samuel has a problem with fructose, which is in most fruits and vegetables. We have to learn his tolerances. Maybe someone with disaccharide malabsorption can tolerate peaches once a week, but 3 times a week would make him sick. Maybe he can tolerate things just once a month. And we have to figure out how often he can have certain foods without getting sick. Doing that is very difficult.

In occupational therapy and his developmental preschool, they've really been working with Samuel to try new foods. However, we can't overdo it. In February, the occupational therapist was getting Samuel to eat applesauce and they were pushing it in preschool and we were trying to get him to eat it at home and he ended up hospitalized with dehydration for 2 nights. We don't want that. So we're trying to find the right balance.

We have to write down every bite of food Samuel takes for the next 2 weeks. I already know what that list will include: tortilla chips, fiber one brownies, peanut butter sandwiches, steak, chicken, chicken nuggets, peanuts, ham & ham gravy babyfood, eggs....too much protein, so that taxes his kidneys, and he doesn't drink enough water, so he easily gets dehydrated.

I'm really overwhelmed with how to manage Samuel's nutritional needs, but I'm excited that the nutritionist seems to think it's possible. We'll see what she says!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Gone, Gone, Gone

Our baby went back home to his mother today! We've had him since he was 3 days old (he's nearly 5 months now) so we're all having a hard time with it. Sweet Timothy is having the most difficult time, though. He's cried and cried. He was always so loving and kind towards baby Smurf.

I'm not sure what happens next. There are some questions about what will happen with our teen (whom the kids also love). For now, we're just living in the moment with the children we have in our house right now.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Update

So, we're raising 5 children now.

Smurf, our foster baby, is 4 months old today. He's doing well--he's smiling and laughing now and so very fun. He should be going back to his mother in mid-June.

Hannah just turned 2 a week ago. She's fun!! She's so talkative and fun right now. She's still on a bottle and wearing diapers, so that's what we plan to work on over the summer.

Samuel is 4 years old. Food continues to be a major struggle for him. We just got back from a trip to Disneyworld where his food issues really showed themselves. At one point, the people next to us thought Samuel was having a seizure because he was writhing around throwing a fit because they gave him Timothy's spaghetti instead of his own chicken strip. Samuel continues to attend the developmental preschool, even through the summer.

Timothy will turn 8 this summer. He just finished first grade with Arkansas Virtual Academy. He's just recently tested out of speech therapy but continues with occupational and physical therapies.

Our teen is 17. He is a sophomore in high school. He loves sports and is very competitive. He should be staying with us another 2 years while he completes high school. Academically, he's reading and doing math on an early elementary grade level, so he has to come really far if he has a chance of being a functioning adult.

So we're running from soccer practice to homeschool co-op; we're changing diapers and we're having sex talks. It's crazy and overwhelming and busy, busy, busy!


Friday, April 4, 2014

Life

I've been too busy LIVING life lately that I haven't had any time to write about life.

We had a great Spring Break and did some traveling. It was fun. We spent the night at Great Wolf Lodge. I hope to share pictures eventually.

Then, when we came back from Great Wolf Lodge, we added a member to our family: a 17 year old boy. We're open to ages 0-3 so it was certainly unexpected that we took a teen. We get calls for teens all the time, but we've always said no. This was a weird circumstance so we found out a little bit about him and agreed for a trial visit. He's very polite and respectful but, as expected, has some emotional issues. He loves soccer, so the boys like that since they play soccer, too. It's exhausting having to get him to practice, to school, to friend's houses, to WalMart for the crap he needs for school tomorrow, to the church where his girlfriend goes.... It's always something. We're always driving someone somewhere.

We had to get him into school and change his PCP on his insurance and meet with the counselors at his school and schedule doctor, vision, dental visits. We had to go to court. We had to meet with his social worker (several times). Life is just...busy. In a good way, though.

And Baby Smurf is still with us and he has court next week.

Timothy had his state testing with his school on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week and an appointment 3 hours away at the Children's Hospital on Thursday. These kids just keep up hopping!

Life is busy, but we're still here.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Soccer

We started our second season of Soccer this weekend!

It's amazing how Samuel's changed in just one season. This weekend, he actually ran after the ball and tried to kick it! He seemed to ultimately be enjoying himself, too. His coach seems to really just be letting them have fun; she wasn't trying to teach them any fancy soccer skills. Really, I just want Samuel to have fun so I'm very pleased with that!

Timothy has moved up to the U11 team even though he's only 7. I was very concerned that my 1st grader is on a team with 4th graders. He's very tall for his age. Even so, he's the shortest kid on the team. To complicate matters, his team has no coach. A dad stepped in to coach on the weekends, but he drives a truck and can't do any practices. Another team's coach said the two teams could practice together. So, the coach for the games will never get to practice with the boys...that's too bad.

(They asked my husband to coach and he said NO. I work nights and there's no way he can coach practice while watching a newborn and an 18 month old).

There are good things about Timothy's team, though. They only have 2 extra players so the bench isn't a problem (there's only 1 other kid there with Timothy). They won their first game. The dad who is coaching the games doesn't really yell or scream; he just lets what happens happen.

Timothy played WAY less than all the other players and he's certainly the slowest kid out there. However, he didn't seem bothered by it at all. If he realized he spent more time on the bench than anyone else, he didn't let us know. He was just thrilled that his team won the game.

If the kids are happy, I'm happy too!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Timothy Reading


video
He's reading!! Tonight, he just read and read and read without complaint. He is finally really getting it! I am so proud. (He uses the TAG pen for words he doesn't know).

Friday, March 7, 2014

PACE Evaluation

Children in foster care can sometimes be overlooked. For example, children might need counseling and not get it. However, every child that comes into care doesn't need counseling. So who decides?

In our state, we have a PACE evaluation. Every child in foster care has to complete it within 60 days. A team from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences center comes out and they do a full assessment on the child. For an older child, this involves a psychological report, an academic report, an eye exam, a dental exam, physical therapy evaluation, so on and so forth. If the child tests behind academically, the PACE team will "recommend" private tutoring. If the child tests behind in small motor coordination, the PACE team will "recommend" physical therapy. The thing is, these "recommendations" are actually requirements. The team decides what services the child needs and those are the services the child gets.

Really, it's a good way to make sure that children are getting all the services they need. Studies show that foster children are much more likely to be delayed in all areas.

This morning, Smurf had his PACE evaluation. His only took an hour since he's only 6 weeks old. For older children, they can take up to 8 hours!!

They had one specialist test his "cognitive" skills. Yes, they knew he was 6 weeks old. Even though he's 44 days, his cognitive skills tested at 20 days. (They did things like see if he turned to a rattle or see if he would track an object with his eyes)

Another specialist tested his expressive and receptive communication. He tested at 3 weeks old. (For this, what really hurt him was that he didn't smile to a smile, which he has JUST reached the window of). Both of these specialists were really reasonable and decided to just recommend that he get retested at 5-6 months old. In a supportive environment (which he currently has) he'll likely thrive once all the drugs are out of his system.

The doctor also watched him eat and wasn't happy with how milk dribbles out of his mouth so he "recommended" Smurf get a swallow study at the Children's hospital. They're also a little concerned with Smurf's weight so we'll have to go to the doctor for regular weight checks.

If foster parenting were just about watching the child, life would be so much easier. But this week we had a doctor appointment for his circumcision, a social worker visit, 2 visits with mom, court (which was rescheduled), a meeting with the CASA, a sibling visit, the Early Intervention appointment, the PACE evaluation....feeding the baby and keeping him happy is the easy part. Getting him to all that "stuff" is really the hard part, especially when we're trying to juggle demands of work and our other children.

Nevertheless, Smurf is doing well. There's talk that his mom might get prosecuted for neglect for having a child born with drugs. This is something new for our state, but the precedent was recently set that they can prosecute mothers for neglect for babies born addicted to drugs. So, I suppose we just wait and see what happens.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Early Intervention

Early Intervention came to the house today to test Hannah and Baby Smurf. Hannah officially tested out of the program; her language is great and she's doing everything she needs to do. I am constantly amazed by her verbal abilities and her memory....she just seems to pick up on things so easily! So, hooray for Hannah no longer getting her developmental therapy!

Baby Smurf was referred by DHS. Here, all children with a DHS investigation receive a referral to Early Intervention even if they aren't removed from their parents. Baby Smurf is only about 6 weeks old, but they asked a lot of questions that really surprised me. Does he smile? No. Does he laugh? No. Does he track you across the room? No. Does he coo? No. I'm wondering if their chart is off because I'm not sure those are milestones he should have at only 6 weeks old, anyway.

Baby Smurf needs more thorough developmental testing. The worker said that normally drug-exposed infants do need some therapies, so it wouldn't be surprising if Baby Smurf needs some, too. Right now, Baby Smurf eats and sleeps. He'll stare into your eyes while he's eating, but that's about it. We haven't seen a smile yet (not even a "gas" type smile) but we're sure looking forward to that first smile...and the first laugh...and the first roll over....and......

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