Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Special Exposure Wednesday

I have a new obsession - like I really needed a new obsession - and it is a wonderful way to lose hours, maybe even days without even getting drunk. That obsession is

One of the many things I 'pinned' to my boards, and then decided to actually try was the tomato cage Christmas tree.

I took one of our cages, turned it upside down, used a twist tie to connect the legs into a point, and it already looked like a tree. Then I wrapped it in miniature Christmas lights, and I LOVE the result! I may even have to make a tomato cage tree forest now!

Here's a close up to prove it really is a tomato cage:

And here is the finished product:

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Market Only For Some

Ahhh, Black Friday - that time when we witness both the worst and the best in people. And sometimes, the worst and the best of accessibility. Just trying to move among the crowds with two children in wheelchairs is challenging. I really don't need retailers to do things that make it even more challenging, but it seems that is what I find every year.

In fact, two years ago, we tried to shop at a store named World Market. We couldn't get into the store. Here is why:

The ONLY curb cut anywhere near the store is just to the right of the front of the store. One might assume that you could then turn left after going up the curb cut and proceed to the front door of the store. But no....

There is a street sign between the store front column and the curb, completely blocking the sidewalk. Our second attempt to enter involved going behind the column to get to the front door. Nope...didn't work either because the store used that to contain extra merchandise boxes.

We were completely and totally excluded from the store.

After taking everyone back to our car, I went into the store to mention the problem to the store manager. To put it nicely, he didn't seem too interested at that point. Several months after the rush of Black Friday, I went back to the store and mentioned the problem to an assistant manager, an assistant manager who assured me they didn't want to exclude anyone from their store. That was well over a year ago.

So, we tried again this year. EXACT SAME PROBLEM!

You know, one of the TV news channels in my area posts pictures of people who are arrested each week. I wonder if they would be interested in posting pictures like this one of World Market and other establishments who limit access???

Monday, November 28, 2011

What About The Leftovers?

Leftovers – lots of leftovers – turkey, gravy, yams, stuffing, green beans, rolls. One of the best things about Thanksgiving dinner is having leftovers for the next few days. One of my favorites is a hot turkey sandwich – leftover turkey piled high on leftover yeast rolls and then covered in leftover gravy. After a few days, we are driven to get creative with the leftovers, but to me, they are still just as good.

Did you know that a lot of the children in foster care, children waiting for a family to call their own, feel like leftovers? They have watched their friends and sometimes their family members get adopted, but they still wait. The feel like the leftovers that everyone has grown tired of.

But just as we get creative with our Thanksgiving leftovers, we can get creative with the children who wait for a forever family. It’s certainly not going to be easy to bring a teenager into your family, a teenager who has been rejected so many times that he will try to reject you. It’s not easy to bring the group of three siblings home to your quiet, clean house, but trust me, they won’t have much to bring with them to mess up your house. Or the child with significant disabilities that is spending her life in an institutional setting – all she wants, even if she can’t verbalize it, is to wake each morning with the knowledge that she is loved and wanted.

As National Adoption Awareness Month draws to a close, I implore you to examine your lives closely and see if there is any way possible that you can bring home a child who believes he is a leftover that no one wants.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I have so many things to be thankful for today and everyday - including this cute little turkey!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Special Exposure Wednesday

This day before Thanksgiving, I am very thankful for Chip and the fact that he went out in the rain to cook me a steak on the grill!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thankful for Mr. Ralph

I'm thankful for many things during this holiday season - things both big and small. And, one of those things is that Ashley's morning school bus pickup has been changed.

For the first two years of high school, Ashley had a wonderful bus driver named Mr. Ralph. Mr. Ralph is a man of few words, but a man with eyes that reveal his inner heart of gold. He seldom smiles, but you could tell that he liked Ashley. He made many suggestions about how to make her bus ride more pleasant, and he rearranged his pickup schedule so I could make it to work on time.

But this year, even though Ashley was going to the same school, her bus driver and schedule changed, and since the start of school in September, I have been late to work every single day. I've learned though that trying to make a bus change at the start of the school year just doesn't work. The transporation office staff is stressed to the max, and can be downright rude sometimes. So, I let things go for a while.

I did finally call a few weeks back and asked if Ashley could be an earlier pickup. I didn't ask to change the bus or the driver, just that she be one of the first pickups instead of the last. This time the transportation office staff was more relaxed and worked hard to help me.

Instead of a shuffle of pickups for her original bus, they decided to change her bus, and lo and behold, it was back to Mr. Ralph's bus! Ashley and I were both so excited to see him the first day, and happy that his unsmiling face but warm eyes will be what she sees each morning.

AND....And...I made it to work on time finally! Both my boss and I are thankful for that!!

Monday, November 21, 2011

"I Don't Want Pity"

We parents of children with disabilities spend a lot of time talking and writing about the lack of accessibility and accommodations for our children. I know that at times I have gotten down right angry when, for example, non-disabled movie-goers use the handicapped seating at the theater or when I can't find a close parking spot. But compared to some people in Africa, what we experience seems like nothing more than a mild annoyance.

The subject of disability in Africa is not often discussed in the media, but a new documentary film aims to address this.

The film, Body and Soul, was shot in Mozambique's capital Maputo and follows the day-to-day lives of three young disabled people.

It reveals the challenges and discrimination they face - some children in Mozambique are not sent to school for example - but also reveals the strength and determination of each of the film's main characters.

Check out this link for the movie trailer, but be sure to have some tissues handy. Trust me, you will need them.

Friday, November 18, 2011

See What I'm Saying

I spent almost an hour reading articles from the New York Times about abuse in group homes. I had thought about sharing those with you, but decided that for Friday, I needed something more uplifting, something that wouldn't make me cry. So here is the music video for the movie See What I'm Saying. I really, really want to see the movie...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Boy Talk

Sensitive subject warning…If talk of sexuality and teenagers bothers you, stop reading now. However, if you are the parent of a boy with spina bifida, or are an adult male with spina bifida, please keep reading and offer some suggestions.

Where I could, I always approached the subject of sexuality with my children in a very open and honest fashion. I started early, used an age-appropriate technique, and tried very hard to make sure my children learned what they needed to know from me and not from less reliable sources. But when it comes to Ronnie, that has been difficult.

I don’t know what, if anything, he was taught before he joined my family. He was 14 years old when he joined us, so someone should have really approached the subject previously. But I don’t know if that happened or not. I have no problem starting from the beginning with him on the subject, but honestly, I’m not sure how to proceed given his spina bifida.

Ronnie is in a wheelchair. He uses catheters to empty his bladder and a cecostomy for bowel control. So what does that mean in the world of sexual function? Will he be able to maintain an erection? Will he ejaculate? Will he be able to father children?

I need someone who can help answer those questions and who can help me make Ronnie understand the answers. Would that person be his urologist? I can’t think of anyone else to ask, so this is where I really need your help. Please feel free to email me privately (email is on the right of the page) if you are uncomfortable leaving a comment.

Ronnie is a very caring, very loving person, and a boy who definitely is very interested in girls. He needs some answers, and eventually the life partner he chooses will need to understand the answers also.

And I need to start now to help him find those answers…

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Special Exposure Wednesday

It's amazing how big a ripple a small pebble can make...and I'm not talking about the lake...

Beautiful picture, Chip!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Everyone Has A Story

I was one of those parents who didn’t do a baby book for my son – I did a baby box! Well, actually several boxes. I think I am up to 4 boxes and he is now 20 years old. So many things were precious to me, and I had to save them. I want my son to have the mementos of the earliest moment of his life, and all the important things that have come since that beginning.

I have a recording of the first time I heard his heartbeat in utero. I have ultrasound pictures. I have all the cards from the baby shower my co-workers gave me, and I have the first stuffed animal he ever stared at. I have his first kindergarten registration form, and his awards for winning first place in the PTA Reflections photography contest. I have his first T-ball uniform, and his scrapbook from his trip to Space Camp in Florida. The list goes on and on.

I remember my dear mother-in-law presenting me with my ex-husband’s memory boxes when we were first married, and I plan to share my son’s boxes with the special person he chooses to spend his life with.

Sadly, I don’t have all those things for the children I have adopted.

Most of my children came with a few memory items – a random picture, a first outfit, maybe some early school photos. While I cannot recreate all the special moments from their birth until they joined my family, I can create a life book for them. I found this wonderful explanation about life books and what can be included in them from the Adoption Blog at Forever Parents. The information was compiled by Joanne Greco:

Your childs lifebook is their story. It’s their past, present and future. It’s a record of their life though words, photographs, memorabilia, artwork and more. There is no wrong way to do a lifebook. It’s really more of a concept. If your child is old enough to participate in helping to put together their lifebook, encourage them to do so. It is great way for open up lines of communication about how they feel about having been adopted, feelings they may have about their birthfamily, etc. Plus, it is a fun thing to do as a family.

For those of you who are starting the process, start early and plan it out. Invest in a journal or notebook where you can make notes of things you want to include in the lifebook. Be sure to include your feelings. When you actually sit down to do your lifebook pages, then your journaling information will be already put together and you can use it as a reference. Save mementos & pictures that you may want to use.

Here are some page ideas to get you started. Some may apply to your adoption, some may not.

~ Why you decided to adopt
~ Why you chose a specific country
~ The process you went thru
~ Those who helped you with the process
~ Copies of paperwork that you might want to include
~ Agency letterhead
~ The referral call & what you did when you got it
~ Referral photos & other photos you receive (be sure to write down all those emotions you felt when you saw the photos)
~ Medical exam info
~ What you did during the wait to keep busy
~ Your child’s name – who named them, significance, how decided upon, etc
~ Their room you fixed up for them
~ Preparing your home
~ Family trees (both your family tree and birthfamily info & pictures, if any is known). If you want to wait before sharing more detailed birthfamily info with your child you could put these pages in a separate private album and let your child decide if they want to add them to their album, etc or you add them once you have discussed these issues with your child. Whatever you and your child are most comfortable with.
~ Pictures of your child that you received during the process.
~ Information about their birth place during this timeframe – significant events, stats on what life was like at the time of their adoption, relevant articles, etc
~ A newspaper from the date they were born
~Picture of you ready to embark on your journey to meet or bring your child home.
~ Travel itinerary
~ Ticket stubs
~ Brochures of places you visited
~ Something from the hotels you stayed at, etc.
~ Notable events & people from your trip
~ Pictures from your trip
~ Pictures of the orphanage, caretakers, foster family, foster family home, birth location
~ adoption quotes
~ adoption poems
~ Your first family picture.
~ Your feelings on finally meeting your child.
~ Information your child’s foster family or caretakers share about your child.
~ Your court appearances or visa appointments.
~ First day in their new home.
~ Adoption timeline.
~ Copies of any adoption announcements you placed.

Again, because I have decided to save so many things, my children don't have life books, they have life boxes, and they enjoy looking through them every bit as much as my birth son likes looking through his!

Make sure your children - all your children - have access to their special stories. It will help ground them in so many positive ways, trust me!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Can't Get In

I really like that Ronnie is in an inclusive setting at school. I think all children with disabilities should be. But, an interesting dilemma arises from time to time, and it has both a positive and a negative aspect.

Many of Ronnie's non-disabled peers treat him no differently than any other friend. That is the good part. In fact, because they don't think of him as different, they often invite him to their homes to 'hang out'. The negative aspect is that they don't consider things like how he will actually get into their home, or how he can use the bathroom at their home.

Very, very few homes, at least in my area, have wheelchair ramps. Many have very steep outside steps at both the front and rear of the house. As such, Ronnie cannot get into their homes. There have been times when the parents of his peers offer to lift him in his chair and carry him into their homes. I appreciate that, but there is just something about it that bothers me.

And if he does get in the house, if his friend's bathroom doesn't have grab bars, it will be very difficult for Ronnie to use the bathroom. What that means is that we do need to schedule visits around his cathing schedule. Again, not an optimum aspect of a visit.

We usually work around this situation by inviting Ronnie's peers to our home. But I know he would really like to be able to get out and visit at someone else's home from time to time.

It's just one of those things that I wish I could make better, but I really don't know how...

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thankful for Nordstrom

I've never been a Nordstrom's shopper, but I'm changing my mind now! Take a look at this sign that is posted on all Nordstrom's stores:

As someone we has always disliked the fact that Thanksgiving gets overlooked, I truly appreciate gestures like this. Thank you, Nordstrom!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

These Faces

Just look at these faces:

All these faces want is to wake up each morning and see your smiling face there for them. Can you make the committment to parenting a child from the foster care system? Can you help turn a life around? Can you stand a little more love in your life?

If so, please consider adoption, and then you too can celebrate National Adoption Month each year!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Special Exposure Wednesday

This is one of the most beautiful pictures I think Chip has ever taken. He took a picture of the reflection of trees in Bear Creek Lake. Then he flipped the picture, and voila!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

What About You?

From a very young age, I always wanted to make a difference – to know that my time spent on this earth was worth something. As I have gotten older, those thoughts refined themselves into wanting to leave the world a better place once I am gone. And through the adoption of some very special children, I believe I am well on my way to achieving that goal.

As I mentioned last week, November is National Adoption Month. Thousands and thousands of children are waiting for families to call their own. These children often have been through hell. They have seen and experienced things that no one, and especially a child, should see and experience. Parenting them will not always be an easy job. In fact, sometimes it will seem downright impossible. But it’s not.

When I first decided to adopt as a single parent, most of my friends and family told me I was crazy and shouldn’t even consider parenting another child, especially a child with significant special needs. In fact, many of my friends have felt that way when I decided to adopt three more times, and when I mention that I may not be finished building my family, almost everyone thinks I am crazy.

Maybe I am crazy, but I am not wrong. Adopting and parenting children with special needs, both medical and emotional needs, has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my life.

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I have made the lives of four very special children better than they would have ever been. More importantly, my life has been enriched in a way that words just can’t express.

What about you? Would you consider opening your heart to a child that needs a family? I promise that if you do and it gets really tough, I will be here to help you….

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Visit To Bear Creek Lake

Just like the flowers in my garden, I believe my children need lots of sun and fresh air to be their best. Making that happen gets a little tough on these shorter Fall and Winter days. The sun is almost ready to set by the time they get home from school each afternoon!

So, on the weekends, I try to plan activities that will get everyone outside. As long as the sun is shining, even if it is cold, we try to do something that keeps us outside for several hours each weekend day. This past weekend, we visited one of our favorite places, Bear Creek Lake State Park.

The Park is only about an hour from our home, and this time of year, it's not the least bit crowded. Here are some pictures from yesterday's outing:

What do you do to make sure your children get enough outside time in the Winter?

Friday, November 4, 2011

"We're Going To Be Friends"

I've published videos before from D-PAN, the Deaf Professional Arts Network, and here is their newest one. I love it, and thought you might enjoy a positive end to your work week also!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

National Adoption Month

"A mother is likened unto a mountain spring that nourishes the tree at its root. But one who mothers another's child is likened unto a water that rises into a cloud and goes a long distance to nourish a lone tree in the desert."
The Talmud

Any of you who have been long time readers of this blog know beyond a shadow of a doubt how wonderfully adoption has touched my life. Although in my early twenties I had absolutely no vision of a house full of children, now I can't imagine my life without them, and maybe more.

November is National Adoption Month, and many of my posts this month will explore that subject. I'll take a look at the good, the not so good, the easy and the difficult. I'll explore the many facets of adoption, and I will share some amazing stories.

Even if you are not starting this month with any thought that adoption will one day touch your life, I ask that you still read my posts. Perhaps if not you, a family member, a co-worker or a close friend will consider adoption, and you will be able to understand and maybe even help them as they progress through their journey of finding a new addition to their family.

18 years ago, I was led down a path about which I had no understanding. I just knew that I needed to follow that leading. Again this month I feel led to dedicate this month to adoption. The first leading changed my life in glorious ways. Maybe, just maybe my posts this month will reveal a leading and a glorious change for your life!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Special Exposure Wednesday

Another Halloween come and gone....another pumpkin painted with a funny face...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Project Lifesaver

I wrote last week about Robbie Wood, a nine year old boy with autism who wandered away from his family. After 6 days, Robbie was found and reunited with his family and surprisingly suffered no major injuries as a result of his ordeal. I found myself wondering what I would do if I were the parent of a child that wandered away.

My mind immediately went to something I had read about and which I knew was offered by the police department in my area - Project Lifesaver. According to the Project Lifesaver website:

“Project Lifesaver International helps provide rapid response to save lives and reduce potential for serious injury for adults and children who wander due to Alzheimer’s, autism, Down syndrome, dementia and other related cognitive conditions. Project Lifesaver provides equipment, training, certification and support to law enforcement, public safety organizations and community groups throughout the country and nation. Project Lifesaver has over 1,200 participating agencies across the U.S., Canada, and Australia, and has performed 2,449 searches in the last 11 years with no serious injuries or fatalities ever reported."

If you are the parent of a child with Autism, Down Syndrome or any other disability which might mean your child will wander or run away, or if you care for someone with Alzheimer’s, I strongly urge you to visit the Project Lifesaver website, and then to find out if your community has such a program.

I don’t want to read about another Robbie spending days lost in the woods….