Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Our Adoption Journey: Pre-Placement



We originally answered the call to be foster parents in 2005.  I know God had been working on my heart for a while, but I kept coming up with excuses as to why we shouldn’t do foster care.  For one, I was on permanent disability, suffering with joint pain and chronic headaches from a meningitis infection I contracted in 2001.  I was also home schooling our 2 biological children and wasn’t sure how it would effect that.  Daniel was working nights at a local grocery store.  We were really involved in the recovery ministry at our church, both teaching classes on a weekly basis.  God was relentless though.  It seemed like everywhere I turned the subject of foster parenting or adoption came up, including a dream I had one night.  And then a friend I hadn’t talked to in years called to announce the adoption of their son through foster care.  

I finally approached Daniel in January 2005.  I told him about this burden on my heart to become foster parents and that I wanted him to pray about it.  I would only move forward with the certification process if we were both in agreement.  Within a week, he came back to me and said that he felt this was the direction God wanted our family to take.  We knew the foster agency we wanted to work with because they were a faith based agency and we had some friends we attended church with who had previously been foster parents with this same agency, then went on to adopt.  I scheduled an appointment for our orientation and we attended.  At this orientation, we ran into another friend from church and knew we were in the right place.  The facilitator at this orientation said so many things that touched us.  





We turned in our application and were very motivated to begin the certification process.  Daniel had just undergone surgery on his feet and was off work for 8 weeks.  We began getting the house ready and had our home inspection.  Because Daniel was off work, we were able to get through the entire certification process in 6 weeks!  We received a call before we were officially certified, wanting to know if we would be able to take 2 children.  They were placed with another family within the agency, but the foster mom was having health problems and they needed to be moved.  We made the necessary arrangements and the social worker finished our certification.  Then we received another call stating that the children ended up going to live with relatives.  We were so disappointed.  {This was only the beginning of all of the ups and downs that we now know are part of being foster parents.}  


Another week passed and we were getting anxious for a placement.  {I can look back and laugh at the absurdity of that.  Wow did we have a lot to learn!}  Then we received a call from a county worker that she had 2 boys who needed to be moved from their current foster placement.  She described Alex as a very quiet 2 year old, with red hair and big blue eyes.  Then she said James was 12 months old and that he had been born with a cleft lip and palate.  I told her that I did not know much about the care associated with a cleft lip and palate, but that we would be willing to take the boys.  I had a background as a medical assistant and figured that would help with taking care of James.  We made arrangements to pick up the boys in 2 days, which was our son's 13th birthday.  In the mean time, I did a lot of research on children with a cleft lip and palate to educate myself about the necessary care associated with it. {That researcher in me has come in handy on numerous occasions.  I truly believe that knowledge is power.}  


We were excited and nervous all at the same time, although we didn’t know quite what to expect since this was our first placement. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Joey's Journey: Strabismus Eye Surgery


Joey suffered from a right sided head tilt from the time he came "home" at 2 months old. The medical term for head tilt is torticollis. We did exercises with him and eventually physical therapy. He didn't tolerate physical therapy very well because he did not want the therapist to hold him or touch him. Some sessions he would scream the entire time. This was prior to Joey receiving his autism diagnosis, but I was beginning to suspect it. 




Then his in-home Occupational Therapist recommended having his vision checked. We saw a Developmental Optometrist, but at the time it was extremely difficult to perform an exam on Joey. She did however suspect that Joey had strabismus. (I reported that when Joey was not upright, his left eye would roll upwards.) This would need to continue to be followed. We were eventually referred to a Pediatric Ophthalmologist. It was then that the diagnosis of strabismus was confirmed. Again, the exam was difficult. In fact, the doctor performed the exam with Joey in the backpack carrier that we used on a daily basis due to Joey's extreme sensory processing difficulties. 


                                  

When we returned to her office around the time of Joey's fourth birthday, he was much more cooperative with the exam. The Pediatric Ophthalmologist said that it was more apparent on exam now that he has strabismus. She gave us the options of waiting and continuing to follow up on an annual basis, or surgery to loosen the upper eye muscle to help balance the eye.


We opted to proceed with surgery. In the case it was altering his vision, we thought that correcting it sooner rather than later would be better. Also, if we could correct the torticollis before it became worse or caused permanent damage that would be an added benefit.

Joey did great through the surgical process! The hardest part was keeping him on "low activity" for a week following surgery. We made a YouTube video documenting the process. Please let us know if you have any questions or comments.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Disneyland Tips & Tricks

Since we are nearing the end of our Disneyland Season Pass year, I thought I would share some tips with you. We generally travel as a large group, with multiple children who have special needs, so keep that in mind.  One thing I found to be helpful is to plan in advance. Think about the items you or your children use throughout any given day, then make a list. I am including the list I use for you to download if you'd like.

Going to an unfamiliar place is difficult enough, but when it's filled with crowds and new sights/sounds it can be overwhelming. If you are not familiar with Disneyland, I would recommend that you sit down with a map of the park prior to your arrival. We also had our younger children watch videos of Disneyland on Youtube so that it would not be completely unfamiliar. I created a social story for our son who has autism.  You can find that video here:


 


We recommend downloading the Disneyland app seen below onto your phone prior to your arrival also. It will give you park hours, showtimes, wait times for attractions at Disneyland and California Adventure, locations of characters/dining/shops/restrooms/guest services, as well as you can link your pass to get FASTPASS vouchers loaded directly on them.   




We are naturally early risers since our children wake up early every day. That is very beneficial when visiting Disneyland. Get to the park early and beat the crowds! We have found that visiting the park opposite of the one offering the "Early Morning Entrance" is a best bet also.  For the more popular rides, you will want to get your FASTPASS vouchers first thing to ensure that your ride time isn't at the end of the day. If you are traveling with a child who cannot ride and need to have 1 adult wait off the ride with them, you can ask for a rider switch which will allow the adult who was waiting off the ride to gain entrance through the FASTPASS entrance once the remainder of the party has exited the ride.



If you are traveling with a guest who has a disability, you can check in with guest services at City Hall or any green umbrella throughout the park to have a DAS (Disability Access Service) added to their pass. This will allow the disabled person and their party to obtain a return time for that attraction. This is helpful as you don't have to actually wait in the line while you are waiting. You can use the restroom, get a snack, or even enjoy another ride!

Feel free to comment with any questions and I will respond as soon as possible.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Kids Bowl Free





I am sharing a resource that our family found incredibly useful last summer. You can register your family at KidsBowlFree.com and your children will receive 2 FREE games of bowling everyday from April 17 through September 8, Monday thru Thursday 8am-8pm and Friday thru Sunday 8am-6pm. On their website, you can choose which bowling alley you'd like to use.

You can also add a family pass for $29.95 so that up to 4 additional adult guests may bowl during the entire season.  You will also need to rent bowling shoes if you do not own a pair.

I highly recommend this as our family loved it last year and definitely got a lot of use out of it. If you have participated in this event, please leave a comment below. We would love to hear from you.



Saturday, March 3, 2018

Major Update



I know I haven't posted in several years and there is a good reason. Our family has grown to abundance! The picture above was taken in November 2016 at the California State Capitol. Our family was being honored as Adoptive Family of the Year by our foster/adoptive agency, Koinonia Family Services. Wow, what an honor!

Our oldest son, DJ, is pictured on the far right with his girlfriend, Ashley. Our oldest daughter, Adriana, is pictured in the back with her husband, Richie. He's the tallest of the bunch! My mom and Michael are on the left, behind me. Daniel, my husband, is in the center, which is very fitting. Of course there's James, John, Amada, and Alex. AND... the youngest 2 in the stroller are Joey and Rissa. Their adoption was finalized in 2016.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Advent Activity {and a FREEBIE}

Last year, prior to December, I found this really cute advent calendar at Target.


We used it last year with our Truth in the Tinsel curriculum and the kids absolutely loved it!  I set up our curriculum in a binder, then went to work gathering what we needed for each day.  By the way, Amanda has included a list of supplies as part of the curriculum.  It definitely helps as you are gathering/buying supplies.  


As part of the purchase, you receive small picture clues to hide in your advent calendar or make a paper chain.  I hid ours in our fabulous new advent calendar.  Then we did our story to go along with the picture and made our ornament.  I love how the ornament went along with the story each day.  I am always looking for "hands-on" curriculum and this definitely fit that boat.  Plus we had lots of fun!


Even though we had tons of fun last year with Truth in the Tinsel, we decided to change it up a bit this year. Since most of our kiddos are visual learners, we decided on an advent activity of Christmas symbols.  I found the Unit Study online from funschooling, but wanted little pictures to put in our advent calendar.  So I created them.  I am making them available as a FREE download {click on the picture below}.


It's not too late to start an advent activity this year!  If you are doing a different advent activity with your children, I would love to hear about it.  Just leave a comment with a link. 

Blessings,
Nicole