Sunday, May 17, 2020

The Best Cheesecake

This recipe is time consuming, but well worth it! The texture and flavor are perfect. Make it with or without the topping. (Picture above is without the topping.)


40 single graham crackers, finely crushed or 11oz. of graham cracker crumbs
8 Tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup butter, melted

Mix all ingredients. Press and pat into bottom and two inches up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan. (A measuring cup works well to press mixture into springform pan.) Refrigerate.


3 - 8 ounce packages cream cheese at room temperature (very important or your cheesecake will be lumpy!)
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 Tablespoon vanilla

Cream sugar and cream cheese until light. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat at low speed in an electric mixer for 30 minutes. If beating time is shortened and sped up, the cheesecake will not be smooth. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. (Tip: Use a cookie sheet or foil underneath to prevent melted butter from dripping onto bottom of oven.) If no topping, bake an additional 15 minutes. If topping, remove from oven and cool for 20 minutes.


1 1/2 cups sour cream (3/4 pint)
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla

Mix ingredients thoroughly and spread on cake. Bake at 300 degrees for 10 minutes. Cool and refrigerate for at least 12 hours.

Serve with your favorite fruit topping or plain. It is delicious either way!

Friday, January 24, 2020

IEP: How-to's and Organizing a Binder

Well if having six children on IEPs (Individual Education Plans) doesn't make you go insane, it makes you get organized.  It was much easier to store it all in my brain when we only had 3 kiddos on IEPs. I want to share with you some tips I have embraced to make my life easier.

The first thing, and most important, is to have an IEP binder for each child. I use a 3-ring binder, size according to the amount of records, and personalize it with the child's name. This is where you will keep everything IEP related: IEP requests, assessment plans, assessment reports, meeting notices, progress on goals, behavior notices, and report cards.

Then I found it extremely helpful to have a Table of Contents which lists the dates of each IEP, notes, services, etc. at the front of the IEP binder. I am providing a copy for you to download FREE.

I also scan each IEP and components (assessment reports, etc.) into my computer and save on an external hard drive. Each child has a folder on my external hard drive. I save the documents first by year, then by name and date. This way I have easy access to the records if i am looking for a specific documents. I also have them available to e-mail or make copies as needed for their Alta worker or medical providers.

In case you are wondering if your child qualifies for an IEP, here are the 13 categories in which your child may qualify. These specific categories also must be adversely affecting their educational performance.  For instance, if your child has ADHD they might qualify under Other Health Impaired, but only if it is adversely affecting their educational performance.

If you would like to have your child assessed for special education services, you MUST put your request in writing and give it to the school. It has been my experience that it is best to also give specific examples of why you think your child needs to be assessed. The school district has 15 school days to respond to your request. They will provide you with an assessment plan which states the areas they would like to assess your child and are asking your permission. Please sign this form and return to the school district as soon as possible. 

The school district then has 60 school days to assess your child. During this time frame they will also schedule the IEP meeting. Most school districts are accommodating to your schedule, within reason. They will provide you a Meeting Notice, which you then sign stating whether or not you are able to attend.

Here is an example of the IEP Process from CAHELP (specific to California).

I also have a video IEP How-to's: A Parent's Perspective on our YouTube channel: DivergingLives. Feel free to check it out!

Monday, April 1, 2019

James' Cleft Lip Surgery

James came into our home days after his first birthday. He was scheduled to have his cleft lip surgery 3 weeks later. The doctors would also be performing surgery on his nose (rhinoplasty) to help make it more even, as babies with cleft lips have flattened nares on the the side of the cleft. And they would be inserting ear tubes to help prevent the multiple ear infections that cleft babies are susceptible to having. We didn't have any experience with having a baby with a cleft lip (& palate) so we learned as we went. We asked many questions! Some questions we asked, the doctors couldn't answer.

One thing is certain, we quickly came to love that toothy grin James would flash us. Since James also was experiencing developmental delays, we had weekly physical therapy, occupational therapy, feeding therapy, and other early intervention services. Even though he was 12 months old, we were still working on him sitting up independently.


We discovered a special bottle, called the Haberman feeder, that is a must for cleft babies. The nipple is elongated and has a special one-way valve to regulate the amount of formula/breastmilk released. We also used PediaSure for extra calories and added infant cereal to thicken it. James quickly went to pureed baby food, but he had quite a bit of nasal regurgitation. Since he was already a year old, we also let him finger feed very soft foods, like Cheerios.
The surgery is mostly a blur in my memory. I was really anxious and didn't know what to expect. This was our first rodeo, as far as surgery with a foster child. (As a foster parent, you cannot give consent for surgery so there needs to be a court order, which is a process in itself.) Prior to his surgery, I remember the surgeons telling us the cleft lip surgery tends to be harder on the parents than the palate surgery because the sutures are all external. 

On the day of surgery, we had to arrive at the hospital very early in the morning. James was a little grumpy because he couldn't eat anything. The surgery was relatively short (in comparison to some of his later palate surgeries). I remember James having difficulty waking up from anesthesia and fighting it. He had to stay in the hospital overnight to make sure his breathing was fine. I stayed at the hospital with him while Daniel took care of everyone else at home. I remember meeting several of the nurses who cared for him while he was in the hospital after he had been placed in CPS custody. They couldn't believe how great he looked and how much weight he had gained.  

This picture shows James with all his sutures and wearing "no-no's" to prevent him from grabbing at the sutures. He was still happy overall.

This next picture is immediately following the suture removal. James is still smiling.

And then as the incision starts to heal.

We would have to wait about 6 months for the first surgery to repair his palate. Mind you, all of James' surgeries were performed behind schedule as he didn't come into our home until he was 12 months old.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Our Adoption Journey: Meet Johnathan


Alex and James came to us on April 29th. At our first visitation for Alex & James we discovered their biological mom was pregnant and due in 2 weeks, but by the next visitation she had already had the baby. Johnathan was born on May 5th, 2005. He was placed in another foster home straight from the hospital. Daniel and I had some discussion on what we would do if we were asked to have Johnathan join his brothers. Ultimately we decided that if the county allowed us to have both James & Johnathan in our room (in cribs) that we were willing to take him. After all, our family grew from 2 to 4 children overnight. What's 1 more?

Our room with 2 cribs.

Once it was decided that Johnathan would move to our home, things moved rather quickly. James was already scheduled for his cleft lip repair so we all decided it would be best to wait until after that was done.  Johnathan was 5 weeks old when he joined our family.

He had already been diagnosed with allergic colitis due to a milk allergy and was on prescription formula. We were able to have this formula shipped directly to our house. He continued to have difficulty with vomiting and diarrhea, as well as being very fussy. 

Johnathan-3 months, James-15 months

In many aspects, having James and Johnathan was a lot like having twins. Even though they were 12 months apart in age, James was behind in development and growth. James had multiple in-home early intervention therapies: occupational therapy, physical therapy, developmental therapy, feeding therapy, and eventually speech therapy too. Johnathan was able to benefit from these services as well.

Johnathan-1 year, James-2 years

The boys had weekly visitation with their biological parents until the end of the year. The family court case continued, with the plan eventually going from reunification to adoption. We were identified as prospective adoptive parents since we had filed for defacto parents early-on. Alex & James were on a different timeline than Johnathan, since he came into care after they did. The boys also have Indian heritage so that required extra steps (tribe notification of court dates, possibility of tribe taking jurisdiction or placing the children with an Indian heritage family). 
And we began looking for a BIGGER house!

Monday, October 15, 2018

Sensory Processing Disorder

Since I have several posts about the various areas involved in Sensory Processing Disorder, I decided to make a "home" page where you can find all of the links to the posts. Have fun searching!

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Our Adoption Journey: Meet Alex & James

The county social worker had described the boys as: Alex is a very quiet 2 year old with curly red hair and big blue eyes and James is 12 months old and was born with a cleft lip and palate. 

We arrived at the other agency and waited until the other foster mom came in with Alex and James.  Alex was really quiet and just walked around the room, trying to avoid making eye contact with anyone.  The foster mom handed James to my husband and there was an instant bond.  She spoke mainly Spanish and since Daniel was also fluent in Spanish she gave him the instructions.  James ate from a special bottle and could only eat pureed foods.  She also gave us the file that she had on the boys with the upcoming medical appointments and any information she had collected.  

I ended up driving home because the moment Daniel met the boys, it became "real" to him and he was overloaded with emotions. During the car ride home, the only word Alex said was "car" as he was pointing to the other cars passing by. James was completely silent and I kept checking on him because I had never been around a baby (or 1 year old) who didn't make any sounds. 

We came home and met with our social worker in the afternoon to go over the paperwork and the folders, which was all new to us.  We had to log whatever items came with the boys (mostly clothing), but I remember it wasn't much. We would have to schedule the boys for physicals within 30 days and have the physician fill out the necessary paperwork. We were given the information on visitation, which was ordered for 2 hours a week.  The social worker would contact us to schedule it once he was in contact with the biological parents. 

Since it was our son's (DJ) 13th birthday we enjoyed a small family celebration that evening.  DJ commented, “They’re not leaving us.  We’re going to keep them forever.”  I reminded him that although we were hoping for that, nothing is certain with foster care and we needed to keep an open mind.  Boy was he insightful! Looking back, I remember it being a very emotionally draining day.  I can only imagine what it must have been like for the boys.  

Within the first few days, the boys started bonding with us.  Alex became more comfortable, and even began calling us “mommy” and “daddy”, probably because he heard our older children call us that.  We were getting accustomed to James’ feeding and sleeping schedule, which reminded me more of a 6 month old than a 12 month old.  James began physical therapy and the therapist gave us exercises to start at home.  We also had an appointment with UC Davis’ Cleft Palate Panel and James was scheduled for his first surgery to repair his lip and insert tubes in his ears.  We were given information on several resources as well.

We went to the first visitation and, to my surprise, found out that their biological mom was pregnant and due within 2 weeks.  However, by the second visitation a week later, she had delivered another boy, Johnathan, who had also been placed in foster care.  My husband and I had several discussions regarding whether or not we could take Johnathan if one of the social workers asked.  The only way it would work for us was if we could have the 2 babies in our room.  We decided that if we were allowed to have them both in our room, that we would agree to take him.  No one contacted us so I decided to bring up the question with our social worker.  It took several weeks, but it was agreed that we could have Johnathan join his brothers in our home (after James' cleft lip surgery).  By that time, he was 5 weeks old.  Overall, he was healthy, although we were told that he had allergic colitis due to lactose intolerance.