Tuesday, 30 December 2014

12 days of Christmas...Christmas lights galore!

Our Christmas festivities are still ongoing, making sure we have down days in between so everyone can regroup.  Most recently we went to tour the Christmas lights, done up as the 12 days of Christmas,  at a local garden.  The weather all day had been iffy and we weren't sure if we would go or not; fortunately the rain held off.  An added bonus of the wet weather all day was it was extremely quiet there as others must have changed their plans.

The kids are in awe of any and all Christmas lights however these ones were spectacular.

 Enjoying the lights and getting out for a walk was a welcome treat from all the sitting and eating that has been happening over the last couple days.  The  favorite part of the night, for most of the kids, was riding the carousel.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

T'was the (Grinch) Night Before Christmas!

I hope that everyone had a very Merry Christmas.  On Christmas Eve we had our annual Grinch night, an evening that has grown over the years.  In the beginning it was us watching a movie the night before Christmas and snacking on appetizers and now according to the children it is a family tradition that also includes costumes.  Many of the girls wore festive (and maybe slightly tacky) looking tutu's and styled their hair like the "Who's from Whoville" Some of the boys wore tacky Christmas sweaters or red and/or green shirts.  We even had the "grinch" which changed multiple times as many wanted to try out the costume.

We watched the movie "How the Grinch stole Christmas" and snacked on appetizers for dinner.  We also enjoyed "Grinch punch" a combination of ice cream, sprite and green Kool aid.  The evening is done as a relaxed fun family night with the hopes of everyone enjoying themselves and not stressing about the next day.....Christmas.

Christmas day was spent at home with adult children, their families and grandparents joining us throughout the day.  Each Christmas Eve when the kids go to bed we remind them that Christmas doesn't start before 9:00 am with the hope that they will sleep at least until 7:00 am.  Our new living room was functional for Christmas which was a huge relief as we actually had space to sit and didn't need to sit on one another's laps.  Everyone was spoiled and happy with the gifts that they received.  We all enjoyed a turkey dinner, plenty of snacks and were thoroughly exhausted by the end of the evening.

Having our festivities at home is beneficial for the children/young adults that struggle with excitement and change as they were able to keep fairly much to the same schedule with meal times, sleep and going off to another room for some quiet time/play.  We did have a couple small meltdowns that were quickly redirected.  Boxing day (December 26) was spent as a complete down day giving everyone time to re group before any more festivities.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Another diagnosis for our family :-(

I have always tried to limit how personal my posts have been for my children's privacy.  I also try to post pictures that aren't identifying as some of my children have safety issues with people from their past.  Today I am going against those ideas in the hope of bringing awareness to a health issue my youngest granddaughter was born with.  On Oct 30 my son and daughter in law gave birth to a beautiful daughter, Naomi.  Shortly after birth, like many infants she became jaundice however her jaundice did not go away with conventional treatments.  Quickly she was referred to liver specialists and many tests were done resulting in her being diagnosed with Billiary Atresia.  All of the testing and treatment is done at Children's hospital which requires a day of travelling to get there.

There is a temporary treatment for Billiary Atresia that can be done if the disease is caught before the child is 9 weeks old.  Fortunately for Naomi this was caught in time and she was able to have a surgery called the Kasai procedure.

Kasai Procedure

The Kasai procedure involves removing the blocked bile ducts and gallbladder and replacing them with a segment of your child's own small intestine. This segment of intestine is sewn to the liver and functions as a new extrahepatic bile duct system.
The operation is performed by a Pediatric Surgeon who has had special training in the management of surgically correctable problems in children. The surgeon may be able to operate through many small incisions (laparoscopic surgery) instead of one large (open surgery) incision. The surgeon will determine the safest method of operating and will discuss this with you before the procedure takes place. The operation will take approximately 4 hours to complete.

Naomi was not able to have a small incision and had an incision from one side of her little body to the other side, also her surgery took much longer to complete being in surgery for 6 hours.  After the surgery Naomi was in the hospital for 10 days and just recently returned home to continue healing.  Naomi will require being on medication for the rest of her life to reduce the risk of infection and help with the removal of the bile in her tiny body.  Unfortunately just 2 days ago Naomi broke out in a terrible rash which is felt to be an allergic reaction to the strong antibiotics she will require throughout her life.  Currently the physicians are looking at what options they now have.  It will not be know how successful the surgery was for 3 months, however the surgery, no matter how successful is not the end of the treatment.  This surgery just buys time before a liver transplant is required.

Naomi is the first child for my son Curtis and his wife Meredith.  This diagnosis has been extremely hard on both of them both emotionally and financially.  Meredith is currently on maternity leave however it appears she will need to become a stay at home Mom to support Naomi with her tremendous needs.  Curtis has had to take extensive time off work during the critical times of Naomi's life.  The costs of travelling and staying near children's hospital are adding up and it appears they will be spending a lot of Naomi's life going back and forth.  When in comes time for a liver transplant they will need to relocate for months to another province where the transplant is performed.  Recently we were informed if they can not financially afford to relocate and survive, their daughter will not be put on a transplant list.  
As a family we are looking for all the support anyone is able to offer, we have started fund raising including an online crowd funding option (on the side bar of this blog).  I am asking anyone that is able to please share our crowd funding page or make a donation if you are able.  All prayers for my granddaughter, son and daughter in law are also greatly appreciated.  

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

And the Best Gingerbread House of the Year is....

Gingerbread houses galore around here.  When the years have come and gone, the moments that make your Christmas memories special are the Christmas traditions.  Quickly forgotten are the bright colored toys and the latest electronic gadgets.  What remains is the special times created through traditions.  Our family has many family traditions that we do at home together each year.  Some of our family traditions take into consideration our limitations as a family limiting the stresses that can be put on people at this time of year.

Each year as a family we have a gingerbread house building competition.  Who ever is available, including adult children and grandchildren, attends and we pair off for a friendly competition.  This year, one daughter participated via Skype as she wasn't finished college for Christmas break yet.  Some of our more creative family members modify the original gingerbread house creating unique master pieces.  The younger less able children have the option of pairing off with an older member of the family or they can decorate and eat gingerbread men.  This year 5 decorated gingerbread men with Mom while the others paired off making houses.

After all the houses are complete we have the judging.  Dad inspects all the houses coming up with a unique description/category that each house wins for.

Best rendition of a house fire

Trailer park house, with truck on blocks and gingerbread man drinking from his red solo cup

Best architectural design

Most traditional gingerbread house

Best candy train

Most realistic Santa and house

House that has traveled the most via Skype
and finally 
the house using the most candy

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Crafting away our stresses

Life has been extremely hectic around here with the never ending renovations, Christmas preparations, power outages, flooding basement and the arrival of our adorable but very sick grand daughter.  So the kids and I decided to step away from the stress and spend the day baking, crafting and watching Christmas movies.

Christmas trees and stars made out of popsicle sticks and then decorated with glitter glue and sequins.

Sugar cookies galore, mixing colors of icing seemed like a good idea to some resulting in some unique colors.
Beading on pipe cleaners to make snowflakes and candy canes.  This was excellent for practicing our fine motor skills.
We also used coffee filters to make angels.  The heads were made from cotton balls cover with the coffee filter.
These reindeer were a huge success with hours of imaginative play after they were created.  I don't know if they will survive long enough to make it on the Christmas tree.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Meaningful Employment For People With Disabilities

Recently I attended a workshop called "Employment 101" this workshop discussed the importance of meaningful employment for people with disabilities.  Having a few children in this category that struggle finding and keeping employment I am looking for all the ideas that I can get.

First the Facts
52% of people with disabilities are unemployed while the Canadian unemployment rate is 7.6%

87% of people with intellectual disabilities are unemployed

56% of people with disabilities yearly income is less than $10,000 with women the hardest hit earning 50% receiving less than $5000 per year

People with disabilities can work, if they have the appropriate supports

Why employment is important to people with disabilities?
Work has a central role in most people's lives, offering rewards beyond that of an income.  Employment provides not only a monetary compensation but also social identity and status: social contacts and support; a means of structuring and occupying time; activity and involvement; and a sense of personal achievement.  Work is linked to social inclusion, and gives people with disabilities opportunities to participate in society as active citizens.  The barriers to work are linked to stigma, prejudice and discrimination.

One of my sons works with a landscape company and it has taken years finding the right balance for him.  If he works full time it is too much and everyone suffers from the crazies he presents when overwhelmed, however 2-3 days a week is great.  He puts in his time, comes home feeling he has achieved something, earns some cash and has stories to tell when others are talking about their work.  He recently had his work Christmas lunch and came home with a Christmas bonus, this part of his life feels normal to's similar to his adult siblings and society.

What are the benefits to the employer hiring people with disabilities?
Employees with disabilities tend to be loyal, reliable and hardworking.  Studies show that people with disabilities have low absenteeism rates and long tenures.  Hiring people with disabilities adds to diversification in the work setting, something that leads to an overall positive work environment.

We have a close relationship with the person that employs our son so we get feedback on his work.  Over the years she has commented on our sons reliability and consistency, saying he might not work fast but he is extremely consistent.  She also never had to worry about whether or not he would show up on time and ready to work.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Santa Photos.... Christmas traditions or nightmares?

The Christmas season is upon us and soon families will be taking their darling children to get a great photo with Santa.  Every parent feels the same way, they HOPE it will go well, but can never be quite sure. We had those same feelings when we adopted the last 3 of our sibling group of 7 and their birth Mom had one special request "a picture of the 7 with Santa".  It must have been that new adoption excitement because when I look back a photo with 7 young children aged 1-7 all with high special needs, what was I thinking.   Anyway, I naively agreed thinking that doesn't sound too bad and if that's what is important too her we can do it.  

We spent hours making sure they look perfect! Dressing the kids up in their holiday best, making sure their hair was groomed and they were excited, not nervous, about meeting the big man.  We made sure that each child knew what they wanted to ask Santa for, rehearsed it several times.  Then we were off to meet the big man in hopes of capturing the perfect shot.  Maybe, even one for this year’s family Christmas card! Then it was game time….the kids had rehearsed it a million times in their heads, they knew what they want to ask Santa for and were ready for the big meeting, but something snapped, something went wrong and boom – full all out meltdown.  It took us 4 separate visits with multiple pictures each time to get a picture that looked 1/2 way presentable.  All our various attempts gave close families and friends a good laugh with all the photographic evidence, we may even a photo or two to show at the kids future weddings.  

If you try braving your own Santa photo and your child has special needs, I have some suggestions:

Find the right Santa for the job
Not everyone is comfortable with people with special needs and this includes Santa's so talk with your Santa ahead of time.  Children can sense if someone is not comfortable with them and their behaviors can escalate as a result.  Some malls have a special time for people with special needs to visit Santa and some Santa's will come to your home. Ask questions of your Santa:  Are they in a handicap accessible location? Is their a better time to come? Do they have experience with the type of special need your child has?  Another option is purchasing your own Santa suit which is more economical now with the cost of these suits coming down in price.  

Calming Santa fears
Many children are fearful of Santa, so if a Santa picture is important to you work with your child ahead of time.  Read stories, watch Santa from afar, watch videos, play dress up - putting on a beard so your child gets experience with beards and make a social story telling what to expect on their visit. 

What to wear
Have your child wear something they feel comfortable in.  If your child has sensory issues this isn't the time to put them in the frilly dress and/or shirts and ties.  Sitting with Santa is a challenge don't add to it by dressing them in clothing they are uncomfortable with.  

Sunday, 30 November 2014

"Don't take them! It's not going to go well"

We have been making our yearly rounds at the optometrist and most recently it was our youngest 2 children's turns.  The boys are 3 and 4 years old and unfortunately, are very complex with their multiple diagnosis, including extreme sensory issues.  There was a huge voice in my head saying "don't take them!!!! It's not going to go well!!!" But there was also another voice saying "what if there is a vision problem that's causing some of the issues".  So I listened to the second voice and made an appointment warning the receptionist about my "Monsters"and she assured me that they could handle them and they would test them as best as they could.

Both boys have been into the office on a few occasions when siblings have been tested which was a great help at getting them into the office.  Both boys walked nicely into the waiting room and played nicely with the toys...hmm maybe this will be okay.  We brought their adult brother with us too help in the waiting room while I was in the office with the other child.

The assistant came and asked "who would like to be first looking into her machine for a tree".  The youngest and most willing eagerly went and lasted 30 seconds before he had enough of that.  The assistant then asked for the next child, (and he was having none of that) that's when the screaming and head banging started.  She quickly said that they don't have to do that test and he was able to calm down.

Next it was time for the actual eye exam with the optometrist and I do have to say she tried.  The first child was patient for exactly 3 minutes but her flashing lights in his eyes HURTS him and he doesn't have the vocabulary to explain this so he cries, screams, kicks and hits.  Not being able to finish the exam and seeing an astigmatism in the one eye he is being referred to an ophthalmologist.  It was then time for the 2nd child who really did not want to even enter the exam room after his brother had more than warned him with all the screaming.  I had him in my arms, just inside the exam room door, trying to help him get comfortable with the surroundings and he was holding a small toy train when the optometrist comes at him, without warning, with her light that upset his brother so much.  Hurt and upset he throws the very small train and it breaks her specialty eye exam mirror as he continues screaming and wailing.  The optometrist then says she doesn't think she should do anymore and the ophthalmologist might be a better option.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Medicines That Create Monsters

Almost 3 weeks ago our youngest started a new medicine that was supposed to help with his unique behaviors.  The medicine "trial" has been plagued with severe behavioral side effects that gradually snuck up on us since this medicine takes time to get up to full strength.  Which in reality meant after a couple weeks the behaviors got more and more extreme and you could easily be left questioning why, as the medicine started 3 weeks ago and could easily be overlooked as a cause.

We have had non-stop extremely fast talking, going a mile a minute, but, when added to the speech challenges you can not understand a word of what is being said.  Incredible risk taking as he has been climbing on and getting into everything he feels possible, and putting himself at huge risk of injury, not to mention giving me grey hairs.  He has been bouncing from one activity to the next, can't focus and can't slow down.  The moods are off the wall and rapidly bounce from our loving boy to a crazed tantruming monster, with more tantruming monster than loving boy.  All this added to non stop energy that just has him buzzing.

As our children have very complex challenges it is important to document any changes in medications and routines so we can review what has changed when presented with challenging behaviors or health issues.  When giving medicine it is important to know what side effects are possible including the more severe or unique ones as they could explain a lot.  With our children it is a non stop juggling act trying to find solutions for one challenge without setting off another issue so all the information we have available is necessary.

Fortunately after talking to the physician that prescribed this medication we found out that he can come off of it immediately and doesn't need to be weaned off of it.  It will however take about 3 weeks to leave his system before our boy is back.  We were also able to get an emergency appointment to go over the issues and come up with the next plan of attack.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Dog Food, A Balanced Meal For 11 Children???

Today, after our weekly therapy appointments, I needed to make a quick stop at Costco for dog food. Let me start by saying I really try not to take the kids grocery shopping as herding them through the store is a challenge when you have a couple in wheelchairs, 3 sitting in the shopping cart and others so distracted and overwhelmed that they aren't functioning well.  Added to today's feat was the fact that they were all tired from 5 1/2 hours of therapy and it seemed that almost every person needed to make a comment about the size of our family today.

So for the people of Costco today....

Yes there was 11 kids with me and that did not change no matter how many times they were counted by various shoppers (I was personally relieved that I had the same number going into the store as coming out of the store.  It always makes for a more successful day when you don't loose anyone.)

Yes they are all mine

No they don't have the same birth father....but they do have the same adoptive father

Yes I know what causes extensive amount of adoption paperwork (probably not what some were thinking)

Yes my hands are full and I prefer it that way as I couldn't imagine them being empty.

For the person who stated "rather you than me", my children and I agree

And a special thought for the gentleman that followed me through the store making comments to himself in every isle and then feeling it necessary to comment on my dog food purchase.  First, I must say that your comments won for most creativity and something I hadn't heard yet.  Second, although dog food may provide a balanced meal (for dogs), be cheaper than human food, and require less preparation I will not be taking you up on your suggestion of feeding it to my children.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Sea lions, roller coasters and water slides

I recently got away BY MYSELF too visit 2 of my daughters who have moved away for college/university.  Anyone who knows me knows that I rarely get away without the family however things change as the age gap and circumstances change within our family.  With our children getting older our relationships have been changing from a parenting one to a more adult friendship relationship.

While away my amazing husband not only looked after the family he continued working on our ongoing renovation project.  I do have to say when I arrived home and heard the tales of the current project I was glad I was away.  Our home continues to be turned upside down with these reno's and I am hoping the living room will be done in time for the Christmas season.

It was great spending an extended weekend with 2 of the girls.  We spent a few days at an extremely large mall.  While there between getting lost we went to the aquarium and watched a show with sea lions and penguins.  My daughters had their picture taken with the sea lion which kissed one of the girls on the head, dripping salt water into her mouth.

On the second day between shopping we went to the amusement park and rode a variety of rides and went into the haunted house.  Being the chicken that I am I did not ride the scariest roller coaster as I know it would have resulted in me having a headache for days.  One daughter landed up blacking out part way through the ride and then had a headache for the next 48 hours.

The final day at the mall brought more shopping and a trip to the "water park".  The slides at the water park seem to be getting more and more extreme but it was a fun time.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Questionable labour practices and special needs

Raising multiple children with FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) and other special needs, we have had on going challenges when it comes to employment.  Living in a small town our teens/young adults are often asked to do small jobs in the neighborhood.  This is both a blessing and a challenge, for example yesterday our 18 year old comes running home from walking the dog saying "some guy up the hill wants me to come work right now".  When asked who the "guy" was and what he would be doing our son had no clue.  If our son had good judgement and common sense we would let him go and determine if this job was something he was capable of doing, if he would be safe doing it and if it was a legal activity however this isn't a skill our son with FASD has.

Added to this issue we have a couple children that have an inflated vision of what they are capable of doing which also causes an issue when it comes to employment as they frequently feel they have the skills/experience necessary for a variety of jobs. For example one son was asked if he could use a chainsaw and cut down some trees - he thought this sounded fun however we felt it would end like a horror movie and needed too step in for everyone's safety.

We have also come across people preying on people with challenges, to get a task that should be done by a professional, as a way of getting something done extremely inexpensively.  Our children/young adults have been asked to do jobs in condemned buildings that weren't safe for entry, they have been asked to deal with rat infested buildings, climb high up into trees to limb them, etc.

As a family we have come up with a checklist for our children when considering a job and require a couple of our children to complete it and present it too us before taking on any odd jobs.  Our hopes are that these questions will eventually run through their heads when considering a job.  Who is hiring you? Contact phone number? Will that person be present when you are working/who will you be working with? What will you be doing? Do you have the skills for this job?  What safety gear and/or equipment is required?  Do you have the safety gear/equipment required? What day and time will you be working?

Our rules have caused some short term upset when we have said no to certain jobs especially if that is on a day when the child in question is low on cash.  I do feel that overall it has saved our children from some unsafe situations far more times than they have been upset.  Having used this system for multiple years I can say that our 25 year old son is now starting to think through these questions prior to taking on a job.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Junk in the trunk + Wrecking ball=FUN

This past weekend was Halloween, how we spend the day has changed over the years depending on our family's needs.  In the past we have attended community bon fires along with firework displays put on by the local fire station and then there were years we would go swimming and back to Gran and Grampa's too make pizza.  Since the adoption of our youngest 7 children a lot has changed because their abilities are very limiting.

It is important to us that the kids have memories of having fun on the various special days even if that "fun" isn't the same as their peers.  This weekend's  "family fun evening" started with a special "kid" dinner - nacho's.  After dinner we had a games night, with multiple ages and abilities our games were tailored for everyone.

Musical chairs with songs like the Monster Mash.  Instead of using chairs we use small mats as getting up and down to a sitting position can be challenging.  Other game ideas came from the television show "Minute to win it" and "Pinterest".  Junk in the trunk brought out hysterical laughter and crazy dance moves from everyone - a small box filled with ping pong balls attached to a belt and worn around their waist.  Each participant had to dance, jump and shake to be the first to empty their box.  Defying Gravity - keeping an inflated balloon in the air was another game that we modified depending on the ability some kept 1 balloon in the air other had 2-3 balloons.  Cookie Face was well received, a cookie was placed on the participants forehead and each person had to wiggle and move their face trying to get the cookie to their mouth without hands.

 Say aaah - holding a popsicle stick in their mouth the children were challenged to balance as many sugar cubes as possible on it.  For the children that found this game to challenging we had a variation of the egg and spoon race using a sugar cube and a spoon.  Wrecking ball was harder than it looked, a tennis ball in the foot of pantyhose and then pantyhose worn on the participants head.  The participant then swung the ball with their head trying to knock down 8 bottles of water.

After the games the younger children went to bed and the remainder of the family watch a movie.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Tactile Defensive Children & Fall Crafts

School for our younger, less able children and preschoolers has been focused around the fall theme.  Having children with differing abilities we work with them at the level they are functioning at, encouraging and challenging them with the hope of advancement.

 I found these fall themed play dough mats, alphabet  mats and more, that we have been working on.  I laminated the play dough mats and we use play dough, dry erase markers or wiki sticks with them.  As fine motor skills are a challenge we have found this is another way to learn skills and build up hand strength while developing our pre-printing skills.

Being pumpkin season, we have been including them in our play.  Hammering golf tee's into anything is always a hit - this week we have been hammering them into our pumpkins, building our hand eye coordination and strength.  To extend the life our our pumpkin play, we later bring out the Mr. Potato Head parts and decorate our pumpkin over and over.


I found these sewing cards which have been a welcome challenge, building our skills.

 While outside exploring and looking for signs of fall, we found apples that had fallen from the tree, not suitable for eating, so we brought them in for craft time.  Dipping the apples in paint and stamping them was fun for some, the tactile defensive children liked this project as they were able to stay relatively clean.  We have also been stamping with bingo dabbers making a variety of pictures which helps our less willing participants expand their limits.

The weather has been extremely wet the last few days so we set up an obstacle course for burning off the excess energy.  After our energy has been expelled we have been curling up with a stack of fall themed books from from the library.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

The messy wonderful life of adoption

A friend recently posted this article and I think it speaks of the realities and ongoing costs of special needs adoption, especially but not limited to FASD, RAD, ODD, etc., that aren't always spoken of.

"We've had the house we dreamed of with the white picket fence.  We've had the kids we imagined and some we didn't.  We've lived and loved more than most.  The past few years have brought us unimaginable pain but in even greater volume, love and blessings that we appreciate all the more for all our losses.  We are embarking on yet another stage of our lives and we know not yet where it leads.  Middle aged (OK, at 56 that  means we plan to live until 112), we no longer own a home.  Renting is not a problem but the instability of it is especially hard on our younger kids.  We also see ourselves continuing to host back at least one of our adult kids with disabilities (as we do now) at any given time.  So we are looking to have more reliable housing (about to have to move a second time in a year).  If you are the praying kind, keep us in mind as we figure out where the path less traveled will lead us next.  We've kind of lived our lives like this line from a Trooper song "Don't let fear and good judgement hold you back".  I think that's what got us into this messy, wonderful life in the first place so we'll try not to let common sense interfere with our next move.  

One thing that is often overlooked is that the child's issues could be so extreme (behavior or health) that 1 or more parents are required at home to manage the child.  Over the years raising our children we have had times were both my husband and I worked outside of the home and other times that one or both of us have needed to be home.  During the time that we both needed to be home we still had to pay our bills so this would come out of our savings or line of credit.  Having to stop working to focus on raising children with extreme issues seriously effects your career and retirement savings over the years.  Leaving your job for a few years or more and then trying to re-establish yourself at an older age can be near impossible.  For example at one time my husband was a career firefighter but leaving that profession and then trying to get back into it in your late 40's to early 50's is near impossible when you are competing with 20 year old's.  

Many starting out with adoption have a family home and are adopting to add to or start their family, it may be the proverbial house with the white picket fence or something more modern.  Your child may arrive with behaviors that you expect will be outgrown quickly but over time the child grows, their behaviors/strength increase and your home begins getting more damaged.  In anger, walls are punched and kicked and things are thrown, windows broken, doors ripped off the hinges, the wear and tear on the house is hard to keep up with.  Maybe your child has issues with toileting and does this wherever they please or they enjoy smearing it.  Your child may also be a hoarder which quite often involves hiding food and other things that rot and smell.  Over the years we have had children that rage, had issues with toileting, are generally klutzy, wheelchairs/walkers that can damage the walls while the occupant is learning to use it, etc.  all which can take its toll on the house.  Your once beautiful home now looks like it belongs in the slums.  

Having adopted kids with special behavioral needs there can be issues with safety and security over the years.  I know of families that have had to pack up and move their families because of safety issues either from birth families or the child's behaviors as they became teens or young adults.  

All these issues can compile and you find yourself not able to afford the home you started out with and your financial future can be looking pretty bleak.  There isn't assistance available to look after the child that you so willingly adopted years ago it is up to you and your family to make things work.  Mental health supports for youth are extremely limited and you might just have to ride the wave making things work anyway you know how.  

So, I really understand when my friend says she has a "messy, wonderful life".  If we had known what we were going to go through over the years I don't know if we would have jumped into adoption like we did, but looking back would we change a thing......probably not. Oh, and yes all of us in the adoption community need your prayers.  

Monday, 13 October 2014

Our Picasso

This morning we awoke to our mischievous 3 year old opening his bedroom door, so very proud of himself for climbing out of his crib for the first time.  Upon walking into his room it was evident that he enjoyed his new found freedom, all the clothing was removed from his dresser and strewn everywhere and toys were dumped.

In the last few weeks our son has also mastered undressing himself and has Houdini like skills at this.  As we want him to stay warm and his dressing skills are no where near his undressing skills we have been trying to keep a step ahead of him, first it was pjs with fasteners, then putting them on backwards, and right about the time he mastered removing backwards pjs he took up artwork with the contents of his diaper.  So then we applied duct tape to the fasteners of the pjs he was wearing backwards and secured the diaper with duct tape, all to no avail.  It is seeming that we have run out of options on the Houdini/Picasso front so hopefully this stage passes soon.

As much as it is a challenge keeping up to the newly acquired skills of our three year old we are also very thankful that he is making these progressions.  And although he has some special needs he has surpassed his 5 siblings closest in age to him on many accounts.  Not all of his newly acquired skills have been negative, he has mastered using the potty, he can climb in and out of his car seat, and he is helpful to his older, less able siblings.  His creative skills will be tamed into more functional and appropriate skills hopefully sooner than later.

When raising children with special needs you can get stuck thinking of all the functional things that they aren't able to do and you forget along with mastering these skills come some negative skills.  So we will focus on the positives as we are sending him back to bed for the umpteenth time and cleaning the walls from the latest artistic creation.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Can't be put off any longer

I have been putting off  "fall closet/dresser cleaning" as the temperatures outside have been unusually warm.  Having a large family this is a daunting task but I have come up with a few methods that help.

I start with the largest child's dresser/closet - I work my way through all of one gender of children from largest to smallest so anything that can be passed down, is during the process.  Picking what looks good, coordinates, the child is able to manage and ensuring what we keep fits comfortably in their dresser.  Some of our children have difficulty dressing so they only have clothing that they can dress themselves independently with.  Others in the family have difficulty coordinating an outfit so we reduce the frustration and clown like combinations by having only matching options in their dressers.  For these children we pick a color theme and ensure all combinations coordinate and any special occasion clothing are stored elsewhere.

The seasonal clothing change is also a great time for a deep clean so when all the clothing has been removed I wash down the dresser/closet and vacuum under and around.

When removing the out going seasons clothing from the dresser/closet we store any that is in good condition, we think will fit next year, or can be handed down to a sibling.  I will store clothing for the next season in similar size groupings for children close in age/gender.  With the summer clothing we tend to keep a little more than we would for winter as we like to pack a separate set of clothing for camping (makes getting away easier for us by only having to pack once each season).  I also use the clothing season change as a time to change our emergency change of clothing stored in each vehicle.  We keep a change of clothing in the vehicle for younger kids in case of toileting issues etc.

Any clothing that doesn't make the cut is then divided between the re homing box and the beyond repair might make it as rags box.  Where possible we pass clothing on to family, friends or a thrift store.  These boxes are taken immediately to the vehicle so they can be dropped off on the next outing so nobody gets into them feeling they need to save a certain item.

Last but not least any clothing that is hiding in the dirty laundry is retrieved when the laundry is done and stored as required.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Myth Busting Large Family Style

While in line at the grocery store yesterday my husband hears "there's that moron with 19 kids", not recognizing the voice and feeling extremely defensive he turns around slowly and realized that this stranger was holding a tabloid magazine, and referring to Jim Bob Duggar, not him.  This lady kept on spewing all kinds of negative comments to her adult daughter who was definetly trying to get her mother to stop.  My husband shockingly did not join the conversation as he was in a hurry.

We regularly get compared to the "Duggar" family and years ago when the "Cheaper by the Dozen" movies were popular we would be compared to them.  If you have watched either you would realize that these shows are polar opposites.  It seems when people don't have first hand experience with large families they quite often make a lot of assumptions about what it must be like based on whatever is current on television.

It is time for some myth busting

Our children are individuals - it is a common misconception that our children are all clones of one another and they don't have their own likes, opinions and interests.  Yes some of our children are involved in the same activities as their siblings but they each bring their own strengths to the activity.

No the older children aren't responsible for raising the younger children.  Everyone in our home is expected to contribute to the running of the home, each child has to maintain their personal space and has one 20 minute chore daily.  The children are also expected to be part of each other's lives as we are a family not a boarding house.  We laugh, cry, play and work together....striving for more laughing and playing.

Yes we know about birth control and don't need strangers to tell us the merits of it.  Technically we adopted most of our children so us using or not using birth control isn't the issue.

Our children regularly get lots of one on one attention from us.  As parents we make a point of ensuring everyone gets plenty of attention.  We do have never ending love for each of our children.  In fact our children also benefit from the love of their siblings and there are a lot of them.

Our home is not chaotic and yes Christmas is fun but it was fun when we only had one child also.

No we do not want our own television show and we aren't competing with the Duggar's.  I think it is wonderful that the Duggar's are putting there lives out there for people to see but it's not something we would be interested in doing.

My children aren't missing out on life experiences because they have so many siblings.  I actually think the opposite is true for this statement as there are many activities that the kids wouldn't have tried if it wasn't for a siblings interest or support.  Our eldest daughter recently commented that when she has been speaking with various people in her life they are shocked at the numerous and varied activities she has participated in.

Our children's special needs are NOT because we have so many children and we are NOT child hoarders.  We specifically adopted children with special needs because the child welfare agencies have a harder time finding them a forever home.  We have only adopted when we have felt confident that we had the ability to parent the new child and the existing children well.

We are educated and education is important to us.  With all the special needs that are present in our family we would not survive if we weren't educated when dealing with the sheer number of medical professionals alone.  Currently 3 of our children are in university, one in college and another has graduated from college.

We are not wealthy and we are not poor.  We work very hard for everything we have, sometimes it has been more of a struggle than other times.  Sometimes both my husband and I have had to work outside the home and other times just one of us.  Sometimes my husband has taken on multiple jobs.  As circumstances/family needs have changed we have had to change with it.

What comments do you get most often about your family?

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Already lying about her age

The latest birthday brought us bowling which was a fun activity enjoyed by all.  We are fortunate to have a very small bowling alley near us which you are able to rent at an affordable rate.

We went with only the members living at home as the birthday girl isn't generally very social.  Having just her siblings at the party she was able to focus on having fun bowling rather than the challenging social stuff.  She did venture over and tell the bowling alley employee that "it was her birthday and she was 10".  We were so impressed that she spoke that it didn't matter that she was wrong about her age, she just turned 6.

For our bowling party we had access to the bowling alley plus the attached gymnasium however the children were so excited about bowling that they never ventured into the gymnasium.  Not being regular bowlers our abilities definetly proved that fact but we made up for it in enthusiasm.  If you heard the cheering from the children you would have thought we were all pros - at the beginning of the game they were so excited if the ball made it to the other end of the lane and as they progressed and someone knocked down a pin the sheer excitement was over the top.  The older kids were extremely helpful teaching the younger ones how to "roll the ball" instead of lobbing it down the lane.  As the skills progressed the ones capable of throwing the ball with one hand added to the challenge by using the opposite hand, facing backwards or closing their eyes.  None of these tactics seemed to improve their abilities but did add to the entertainment.

After the bowling we had hotdogs, chips and juice followed by birthday cake at the bowling alley - 2 bonuses to this, dinner was taken care of for the evening and they cleaned up after us.  The kids thoroughly enjoyed this dinner as it isn't something they would normally have so everyone was happy.

Another successful birthday celebration and a very nice comment from the employee at the bowling alley  "your children are so well behaved and polite, I always dreamed of having a large family like yours but it just wasn't in the cards for me".

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Sunday, Monday Happy Days, Tuesday, Wednesday Happy Days.......What our schooling looks like

A lot of learning and fun has been happening with "homeschool" back in session.  We have had to get creative with how we squeeze schooling in along with all the therapy and medical appointments but have managed to make it work over the last couple years.

Mondays we are typically home doing our learning  - mornings consist of the basics reading, writing and math.  For us getting this done first thing ensures it gets done before anything else might disrupt the day.  Having multiple children with varying abilities we have had to be creative with how we do our learning.  We have found the Lexia program that is available as an app (and on computer) very helpful for our children that have challenges with their motor and articulation skills.  This program has really helped them progress and given them a way of demonstrating their learning.  We also use other preschool rated apps for our lower functioning children.
After lunch we have time for a walk or play outside before it is nap time for the youngest 2.  While they are getting settled the others practice their sign language - the younger functioning children really enjoy the "Signing Time" dvd series.  Adding sign language to their struggling speech abilities has been a benefit as it gives us one more clue as to what they are saying.  We then focus on science, social studies, therapy homework and art for the remainder of the day.  Some of the teens are using the See the light dvd series for art lessons.

 Tuesdays we school on the road - the majority of the day is therapy appointments in a neighboring (100km away) community.  We average 20-30 appointments every Tuesday but the one saving grace is that they are all at the same location.  Arriving first thing in the morning we sit in the vehicle or at the park down the road alternating the children, depending who has an appointment at which time.  In between appointments we do our schooling, play at the playground or walk on the nearby trails.

Wednesdays the teens meet up with their EA (educational assistant) for schooling done in the community.  They will work on social studies, english at the library in the morning and then in the afternoon they focus on life skills and social skills. It is important to us that our children learn how to access resources in the community and know how to relate to people, with their special needs this takes more work than your typical child so we practice these skills regularly.  A couple of our children have extreme anxiety and are scared of people, by schooling in the community once a week this is helping to reduce this anxiety.  The other 6 children participate in therapeutic horse back riding in the morning and then we go home for afternoon schooling.

Thursdays is a home day for most of us with schooling similar to Mondays.  The one exception is that 2 of the teens are taking a Car Maintenance course that is instructed by Dad so they are away for 1/2 the day.   This course is open to anyone who home schools in the community and has been a huge success with many teens enrolled in it and gives the teens an opportunity to school with their peers.  During the afternoon we have also been doing some sewing and/or cooking which is always fun.

Fridays is also a home day for some of us similar to Mondays and Thursdays.  Some Fridays the school we home school with has field trips planned for the high school kids.  In the last month they have participated in an internet/social media safety course and gone for a hike up a mountain to the cross.  The field trips are a great supplement to their learning.   3 of the younger children also have their vision therapy appointments each Friday.

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