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.  


 

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Preauricular (Ear) Pit



If you're anything like me, you read the title and thought, "What is an ear pit?".  I had never heard of it either, until Amada. When we went to the hospital to pick her up, I noticed a small hole next to where the ear attaches to the face. It almosts looks like a piercing. I asked the nurse about it and she explained it was an "ear pit".  I did some research, then asked the Pediatrician at her 2 week check up. I was reassured that most of the time they don't cause any problems.


Sorry this picture is a little blurry, but if you look closely you can see the pinpoint hole.  Amada did have some issues with ear infections, and eventually had to have tubes inserted around 2 years old,  but that was unrelated to the ear pit.

Around that same time, we also discovered that she had an abnormality with her bladder/kidney, called vesicoureteral reflux. Basically what happens is when the person urinates, urine flows back up the ureter to the kidney. This can cause frequent bladder/kidney infections. Amada was prescribed a low dose of antibiotics to be taken daily. She eventually went on to have surgery in 2013 to repair this defect.

A couple of years after this, we began noticing pus leaking from her ear pit. It was only a very small amount so we continued to monitor it. This continued on an almost daily basis. We made an appointment with her ENT doctor. She recommended surgery to excise the sinus tract of the ear pit that is under the skin. This would close the hole and prevent further infection. We proceeded with the surgery, but had some issues with infection afterwards. She had to be on a couple different types of antibiotics but her incision ended up healing.

Incision site as it was healing (2016).

Fast forward to July 2018, more than 2 years after this surgery. One day Amada wakes up complaining of ear pain, except it's not inside the ear canal. It is at the site where her ear pit had been removed. I was shocked! I didn't think we would ever have to worry about an infection coming back to that site. I immediately took her in to urgent care where they confirmed it was an abscess. They recommended making a small incision to allow the infection to drain out. Amada was not about to let that happen. I asked if we could start antibiotics and let me try to get a hold of ENT. In the mean time, we were also giving her Motrin for the pain and doing warm compresses.


In the middle of the night she was unable to sleep because the pain was worsening so we took her to the Emergency Room. Once again they recommended opening it up to let it drain. Amada kept saying she wanted to be asleep for the procedure. The ER doctor recommended intranasal Versed to sedate her. Unfortunately she didn't like the idea of that either. It took 4 of us holding her to get the medication in her. She was able to rest for a while. When the ER doctor came back in she decided to do a needle aspiration instead. Even with the pre-medication in her, Amada became extremely combative.  Again it took 4 of us holding her in order for the doctor to perform the needle aspiration. We didn't want her or anyone else to get hurt, but she was NOT going to hold still at all. She ended up pulling away from the needle, but the doctor was able to extract some pus which she was able to send for a culture. 

After the needle aspiration.
For the next 24 hours she had some reprieve from the pain. Then it seemed the infection was spreading, as the pain was radiating down into her jaw. Thankfully I was able to get her an appointment with ENT. Again they recommended making an incision to drain it. Amada was NOT going to let them touch her in the office. They were able to add her on to the surgery schedule for the next morning however. 

Amada cuddling Marty, the therapy dog, at the Surgery Center

Her ear was healing up nicely after the procedure until she finished her antibiotics. The swelling and pain returned. The ENT gave her a refill of antibiotics so she could remain on them through the weekend. She had another follow up appointment on Tuesday and found out the infection remained and she would need to have surgery again the following day. Wednesday was supposed to have been her first day of school. Not just her first day of school, but her first day of public school.

This surgery did not go as smoothly as the last one. There was no therapy dog available and Amada's anxiety was over the top. The anesthesiologist ended up having to give her an injection of Ketamine and Versed to get her back to the operating room. The actual surgery itself went well. The doctor reported there was still quite a bit of infection present and some scar tissue from the original surgery. She gave Amada a different antibiotic again. The recovery from this surgery took much longer due to the extra medication that had to be given prior to surgery.

Amada was to follow up with her doctor in 2 days to change her bandage, but the doctor was concerned with the amount of anxiety Amada was having. We were able to consult with her Pediatrician who gave us a prescription of Ativan for Amada to take before her appointment. Even still, she was a fighter.

We continued to go to the doctor daily for wound packing and dressing change for 10 days. We even had to learn to pack her wound with gauze at home. Amada definitely tolerated it better as time went on. Of course rewarding her for cooperating (aka bribery) helped also!



The wound is finally closed. The doctor has ordered an MRI to check for any cyst remnants. We are hoping that Amada will not need any future surgery on this, but if she does, we will manage.

You can also watch the video I created Amada's Journey: Preauricular Ear Pit on our YouTube channel.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Our Homeschooling Journey





As most of you know, we have been homeschooling for the past 16 years, in some form or another.  We began our homeschooling journey when our oldest children, DJ and Adriana, were entering 5th and 3rd grade respectively. We chose to homeschool through a local charter school and it was a good fit for us. In 8th grade, Adriana decided she wanted to go to public school and we agreed. Our neighborhood was opening a brand new high school the following school year and our schedule was getting increasingly busier with the addition of our three boys. Adriana attended public high school and went on to graduate from there, while DJ graduated from the charter school. Both were the right fit for each of them.


DJ graduation 2010
Adriana graduation 2012


Since our younger boys all had special needs and required a lot of therapy, they were all enrolled in public school for preschool and their early elementary years. We went on to adopt again in 2008, this time a baby girl. In 2010-2011, we were having a lot of IEP meetings with the school district to communicate the needs of our boys. There just seemed to be a lack of understanding from the administrators and the particular teachers that year, as well as denial that any of what we were saying as parents could be true. The boys would come home from school so overstimulated that we would end up dealing with behaviors until bedtime. For one of our boys, we were finally able to get more supports by the end of the school year, but we were told those supports would be scaled back the following school year. We had enough and decided to homeschool the boys the following school year. We felt that it was important to let the boys finish out the current school year, as they only had a couple of weeks left.

In the Fall of 2011, we began a new journey of homeschooling. We decided to homeschool our boys independent of a charter school and filed an affidavit with the Board of Education. In our state (California) we were required to keep attendance. Of course I kept all of their school work too in case there was any question of if we were really “doing school”. We began by exploring themes and creating projects as we were learning. Lots of hands-on fun! You can check out our posts on the ladybug life cycle, the solar system, ocean diorama, fun with flubber, ocean diorama, killer whale costumes, and much more! We also did a lot of practicing our social skills, from learning how to order meals at a restaurant to exploring local museums. We concentrated on toileting skills as none of the boys were toilet trained yet. Yes, even in grades 1st, 2nd and 4th. We also found a great program called Autism Center for Excellence (ACE) for children who are on the autism spectrum. It was at Sacramento State University which was only 30 minutes away from our house and Alex began attending 3 days a week. Since James still had an open cleft palate despite 3 surgical repairs, he required intensive speech therapy. We had him attend the Maryjane Rees Language, Speech and Hearing Center at Sacramento State University for a semester. Unfortunately he was also diagnosed with selective mutism and anxiety, so he would not speak outside our home or to unfamiliar people. It's incredibly difficult to do speech therapy with a student who refuses to speak!

Early days of homeschooling.

During that first year of homeschooling independently, we happened to move. Since our boys still required additional therapy, we sought help from the new school district. We went through the IEP process and were granted services under an ISP (Individual Service Plan), since we elected not to enroll the boys in school. We found this to be very helpful and I accompanied the boys to speech and OT at the local elementary school. That only lasted a year as we moved again.

Then came the educational experience of a lifetime...a cross country trip during the summer of 2013. We were on the road for 2 months and were able to visit locations such as Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, the arch in St. Louis, Niagara Falls, Statue of LibertyWashington D.C., Myrtle Beach, Disney World in Florida, the Riverwalk and Alamo in San Antonio, TX, and the Grand Canyon. During the school year prior to this trip, we studied US History so the kids would have some background information. We even took part in a postcard swap where we sent 49 post cards from our state (California) and received post cards from a family who had been assigned to each of the other 49 states. As each post card was received we colored in the state it was from on a map of the United States. The kids looked forward to checking the mail everyday for a new postcard.



We continued homeschooling for the next 2 years as our family expanded again. This time with a girl and a boy! Social worker visits, doctor appointments, family visitation, and more therapy for the youngest 2 did not leave much room for homeschooling.
Rissa working with PT.

Then Joey received a diagnosis of autism and ABA (Applied Behavioral Therapy) sessions were added multiple times a week, in addition to speech, OT and feeding therapy.

Joey working with ABA therapist.


James began receiving services for speech and OT through our local school district (different school district). Alex and James attended a social group once a week (separately). Before Rissa turned 3 we had several meetings with our school district about her transitioning to preschool and we decided to also enroll the boys in public school. We worked with our new school district to assess all three boys and conduct IEP meetings. Alex was now in high school, James in junior high and John was in his last year of elementary school.


     


We decided to continue homeschooling Amada due to her anxiety, but with the support of a charter school. We soon found out that the grade level curriculum, especially for reading and writing, was too difficult. We requested that Amada be tested for an IEP. Right before Christmas break it was determined that she qualified for an IEP and would begin receiving speech and resource support. We began using curriculum more geared towards her level and needs. Because school was much more challenging now, it became increasingly difficult for Amada to focus and actually complete her school work. We debated having her attend public school the following year, but she was adamant that she did not want to. 

The boys were adjusting well to public school for the most part, with the exception of Johnathan's behaviors.  More IEP's and the addition of a mental health counselor who came to our home were necessary. Despite being turned down for Alta California Regional Center at least 3 times, we persisted and had Johnathan tested by a Neuropsychologist. This testing revealed that Johnathan had an intellectual disability, just like Alex and James, and was eventually deemed a client of the Regional Center.  

The following Fall, Rissa began attending Center Preschool, a full inclusion preschool. After several months it was apparent that her anxiety was worsening, so we decided to keep her home until after the Winter Break. Then when she returned, I attended with her to give her some security and share clues about her with the instructors. We also began seeking treatment from The Attach Place in the form of neurofeedback.  Her anxiety began improving!





In the Spring, when Joey turned 3 and also began attending Center Preschool. I was no longer able to attend with Rissa because of Joey's behaviors, but he became her security person. It was also decided that he needed to have an aide that would work him 1:1. This worked out nicely and I was able to dedicate more time to working 1:1 with Amada at home.  We decided to continue with the charter school another year. 




Fast forward through an entire school year which brings us to the present. With Rissa entering Kindergarten in a couple of months and Amada needing much more support than I can give her, we decided to enroll them both in our local elementary school. This will be the first time in over 15 years that I am not homeschooling in any capacity! And can I say that I am looking forward to it. I realized this summer that there is no need to scour curriculum, get my ordering done early in order to be on top of the planning, etc. and it is marvelous! I will however be attending a lot of IEP meetings throughout the year since all 6 children (currently at home) require them.

Please let me know if you have any questions and I will gladly answer them.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

DIY: Lavender Bath Bombs




Do you love to use bath bombs, but don't want the expense of buying them? (I can't be the only one who thinks they are crazy expensive?!?) I can make my own with all natural ingredients for a fraction of the cost. Plus my kids love them too! When I make them for the kids, it's fun to hide a small toy inside for a fun bath time surprise. Or make really small bath bombs for a relaxing foot soak.

Ingredients
1 cup baking soda
1/2 cup citric acid
1/2 cup epsom salt
3/4 cup corn starch
2 Tbsp + 1 tsp oil of choice (I use sweet almond oil)
2 Tbsp water
40 drops of Lavender Essential Oil (I use Young Living oils)
Liquid coloring if desired
Dried Lavender flowers if desired

Instructions
1. Combine the dry ingredients (baking soda, citric acid, epsom salt, & corn starch) in a bowl and mix.

2. In a small bowl, combine the oil, water, essential oil, and liquid coloring. Mix well.

3. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients a few drops at a time. Mix well with hands. Add dried flowers if desired.

4. Mixture should hold together when squeezed without crumbling. You may need to add a small amount of additional water to achieve this.

5. Quickly push the mixture into molds. Press in firmly and let sit for at least 24 hours or until hardened.

6. When dry, remove and store in air tight container or bag. Use within 2 weeks.


These also make great gifts! When I am giving them as gifts, I like to include a card with the ingredients just in case someone has allergies. I am including a FREE download of this to you. Just click on the picture below.



Sunday, April 22, 2018

Recipe: Potato Salad




This is the only potato salad I've ever made. It's that good! Sorry guys, no exact measurements. I eyeball everything, then add what's needed to taste.

Ingredients:
5 pound bag of potatoes
1 stalk of celery (I use ~ 4 pieces off the stalk)
4-5 Kosher dill pickles
6 eggs
2 heaping serving spoon size scoops (probably ~1 cup) Best Foods mayonnaise
Drizzle over the top (~2 Tablespoons) French's mustard
Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions:
Peel potatoes and cut into cubes. Boil until soft enough to poke with a fork. Rinse with cold water. Boil 6 eggs until done, about 10 minutes. Rinse with cold water. While potatoes and eggs are boiling, chop celery and pickles. Place in a large mixing bowl. Add mayonnaise and mustard. Stir. Once eggs are cool enough, peel and chop. Mix with celery and pickles. Once potatoes are done, add to mixing bowl. Stir all ingredients and add salt & pepper to taste.

You can make this ahead of time and store in refrigerator. I usually make mine several hours before I want to serve it so it has time to cool off. Enjoy!

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 had our fingerprints and background checks done. Attended CPR/First Aid class. We began getting the house ready: installing baby locks, hanging fire extinguishers, locking up medications and cleaning supplies, and completing all the paperwork.  We readily passed 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 writing our certification report.  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.}  

We were ready and willing to take a sibling group, and knew that would be most likely. Our only parameters were that the children be under 3 years old. Since we were homeschooling, we didn't want to deal with school enrollment, etc.  We had scoured garage sales and bought tons of baby/toddler clothes for boys and girls. We bought convertible car seats, a crib, playpen, swing, and lots of toys. 

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.