Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Our Little Miracle

Life has been beyond busy and I've not had two minutes to myself in so long I forget what such a thing would be like. But I had to snatch a few minutes tonight to share my excitement.

Baby Boy came over Saturday evening to play and the most phenomenal thing happened. We had a conversation.

Now that may not seem like any big deal to most people. After all, he's two and a half years old. What's the big deal about having a conversation?

The big deal is that I've never actually had a conversation with Baby Boy before. He'll say things, sure, but mostly it's just pointing at things and exclaiming their names over and over. He usually ignores any questions directed his way, or if he answers, we have no idea what he said.

But Saturday, we had a conversation. About bubbles. He requested a bottle of bubbles, took them outside, and was playing with them, but then made the mistake of setting them on the step while running off to play with something else. In the meantime, Little Girl took over the bubbles.

I didn't even realize what had happened until it was over. Baby Boy informed me that Little Girl had his bubbles, I told him I would get him another bottle and asked him what color he wanted, and he said green. I went in to get the bubbles, and he changed his mind and said he wanted pink. I returned with the pink bubbles, and that's when it hit me -- he just conversed with me.

He talked a lot, all afternoon, in full sentences even. Not lengthy sentences, but consistently 3-4 word sentences. And I could understand him. That was the most amazing part. He's been saying longer things lately but we all, his parents included, just look at each other blankly because without context, we have no clue what he's telling us.

But Saturday was different. After a couple of hours of listening to this, I could resist no longer. I yanked out the language test I use for toddlers and tested him. Chronologically, he is 32 months of age. His receptive language tested out at 34 months, which was no surprise as he's never had a problem receptively. But his expressive language? 31 months! How we rejoiced!! I drew big circles around it and gave it to Baby Boy and told him to take it home and show his mommy -- his first A paper! :)

I have no idea how this happened. It really came out of the blue. I was thinking about the Easter video I took of him, where he says what we thought was a lot then, but came to about three utterances that were apparently unintelligible to everyone who watched the video until they heard me repeating back to him what he said. "Open present." "Ope this up." "Skittles." That was the full extent of several minutes of video while we prompted him to say numerous things, just a couple of weeks ago.

And now the child is CAUGHT UP.

Miracles do still happen.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Just a rant, mostly...

I don't go to doctors. I hate doctor visits. First, there's the lengthy wait because they never take you at your appointment time, of course. Then there's all that exposure to germs in the waiting room. Then you finally get called back and a nurse or assistant or someone does some things, and then you have to wait all over again before you actually get to see a doctor. You have to self-diagnose, he's in and out of there in a minute or less, and finally you're good to go.

What was the point of that? I can self-diagnose at home, and self-treat too. I don't want to take antibiotics unless it's critical that I do so because I think in most instances they do more harm than good anyway. And with no health insurance, it costs an absolute fortune to go to the doctor. So I don't.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know what you're thinking -- but what about preventative health care? What about it? I personally believe that the food I eat, exercise I get, and supplements I take go much farther toward preventing future health problems than doctor visits. So that's where my time and money goes -- toward actually preventing disease, not just testing periodically to see if I have any.

I know you can live a healthful life and still get sick. It can happen to anyone. But if it happens, it happens. I can't waste all my time and money on doctor visits checking to see if it's going to happen all the time. It's just not how I want to live my life.

However, there is one doctor that I can't avoid. The eye doctor. I'm blind as a bat (without correction), and unfortunately there's that little "prescription only lasts a year" issue when it comes to vision correction. Oh, I find ways to get around that too. You simply buy enough contact lenses during the year your prescription is valid to last you several years. :) But alas, I'm on my last pair of contacts and I can't put it off any longer. I must have an eye exam.

So being in a new location, I needed a new optometrist. I scouted around and found one a mile from my house. Can't beat the location, so I scheduled an appointment. It was difficult to do as my work schedule, thanks to all the driving, has become insane lately, but I scheduled for 8 am, figuring I could still work most of the day that way. After all, to avoid the lengthy wait due to backed up appointments, you make sure you're the first patient of the day, right? You get right in and then back out again.

My first work appointment today was at 10. I really thought two hours was enough time. Especially when I got the eye history and HIPAA forms in the mail to fill out ahead of time, "to expedite your visit." Well, great -- these people are all about efficiency. Perfect.

So I show up at 8, hand them my papers, and am told to have a seat and someone will be with me shortly. I was a bit surprised to see five other people already there, since the office had just opened its doors, and there's only one doctor. But maybe they have a lot of staff members doing the bulk of the exams, I thought.

About ten minutes later, a couple more people came in. And about ten minutes after that, some more. Some of the people who were there when I arrived were called back, but it was about one person per fifteen minutes.

At 9:00, having waited now for a full hour, one man went up to the desk and said, "My appointment was supposed to be at 8:30, can you tell me how much longer it's going to be?"

"Oh," says the receptionist. "About another thirty minutes."

(At this point, I'm thinking to myself, okay, my appointment was at 8 so that must mean they're going to call me any minute now, right?)

The man was displeased, and informed her that he is not able to sit for long periods of time and he can't wait that much longer. She said, "Oh, well if you're not able to sit and wait long, what you need to do is get an 8 am appointment, and be the first patient of the day, then you won't have to wait very long at all." She rescheduled him for another day at 8 am.

I kept my mouth shut. I shouldn't have, the man needed to be warned, but I did.

I waited another ten minutes. Might I add that at this point, NONE of the people who have been called back have emerged yet. I really didn't think a vision exam took that long! It worried me even more, seeing as how I was supposed to be at work at 10, and it was already ten minutes after 9 and they'd not even called me back yet.

I went up to the receptionist and asked how much longer it would be. "About thirty minutes," she smiles.

I wasn't smiling.

I don't even think it was a valid answer. Funny how the man with the 8:30 appointment had a thirty minute wait ahead of him and ten of it had already passed... I think she must just say thirty minutes to everyone.

I said, "Well, I'm going to have to cancel then." "Oh, okay," she smiles ever-so-sweetly. "Would you like to go ahead and reschedule now?"

What, so I can waste another day sitting in their office? You have to be kidding me.

I said, mostly because I wanted all the other people sitting there to know just how ridiculously long their wait was going to be, "No... if an 8:00 appointment doesn't get you in until 9:40, I don't want to reschedule. I can't take that much time off work, I'll have to find somewhere else," and I left. That's very unlike me, I'm usually pretty patient, but this was truly ridiculous.

I called another eye doctor. I made an appointment and I asked about how much time I needed to allot for the appointment, as I needed to schedule work around it. "Oh, from the time you walk in the door until the time you leave, you'll need to allow for about an hour," she said cautiously, as if she expected that to be too lengthy of a time for me to be able to manage it.

An hour? For the wait time plus the exam?? Good grief, after waiting an hour and ten minutes and being told there'd be another thirty minute wait before they even got started, and not a soul had finished their exam yet, an hour is NOTHING. (An hour is actually what I had thought it would take this morning, all total.)

It really makes me wonder just how many patients this eye doctor loses due to massive overbooking, and why they continue to do it. After all, two of us walked out in the first hour they were open today. How many must they be losing by the time they're into the afternoon hours and how far behind are they by that time?

If anyone is a receptionist for a doctor who handles the scheduling, could you please tell me just what is the thought process behind this!?

And how do those of you who visit doctors frequently stand it? I have families all the time that tell me, "Well, little Joey woke up with a runny nose, I'm going to take him to the doctor." WHY? Little Joey's runny nose will get better without a doctor; why put you and little Joey through the torture of the doctor's visit?

Help me understand...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

It's Not Fair

We hear that line all the time from Little Girl. Usually about the most ridiculous things. "It's not fair -- THAT little boy got a Tinkerbell wand and Tinkerbell is MY favorite." (Heard at Disney on Ice show...) "It's not fair, I want another Webkinz!" (How many Webkinz do you have?? "Only 8 or 9!") The best one was when Baby Boy was allowed to eat bread for the first time at a restaurant (milk allergy he's finally outgrown) -- Little Girl scarfed down seven slices of bread and then was stopped because, 1) other people wanted bread too, and 2) she still had a meal coming to her! "It's not fair -- HE gets bread." As he sat there with his ONE piece of bread, first ever in his two years of life. Yes, it's not fair indeed.

She knows about children who have nothing. She even writes occasionally to my Compassion kids. She fills shoeboxes at Christmas. She does get it. But that all goes out the window when she doesn't get what she wants, and suddenly everything is unfair.

This morning, I felt like saying it. The nursery worker in Baby Boy's class has been bringing the toddlers out into church and seating them on the front row during the singing. From where we sit, we have the perfect view of Baby Boy, and we love watching him. This morning, however, we saw the little boy next to him start poking him. Baby Boy shrugged away at first, then as the child continued to poke and then hit at him, Baby Boy tried to block him and push his hands away. He then scooted as far down the pew as he could and the other boy followed him, still hitting. Meanwhile, the nursery worker was singing and completely oblivious to the entire situation. The moment Baby Boy had finally had enough and reached out to hit the other child back is of course the moment that the nursery worker finally looked down. "Now HE'S going to get in trouble!" gasped my mother in a whisper, next to me, and sure enough, the worker started shaking her finger at Baby Boy and scolding him.

Not fair. Not fair at all.

I'm getting ready to bring children in my home to whom "it's not fair" has such a different meaning. The people they were supposed to be able to trust have hurt them. It's not fair. Through no fault of their own, they've been taken away from everyone and everything they loved: their parents, their grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, neighbors, teachers, classmates, pets, favorite toys, their house. Everything.

I hadn't really thought before of how significant their losses are. It's hard to lose someone close to you. It's even harder to have two or three losses back to back. But to lose everything, all at once? Devastating.

It's not fair. I hope that once these children enter my life, and our lives, that Little Girl begins to realize what we try to tell her now, but it goes in one ear and out the other. Life isn't fair. You can bemoan the unfairness of it and wallow in your misery for the rest of your life, or you can accept that life isn't fair, accept your challenges, and move on.

That's what I hope to impress upon my own children. And that's what I hope Little Girl can learn from them.

Kindergarten vs. Preschool Revisited...

Okay, since I've already bored my readership (all ten of you...) with all the sensory stuff, I'll go ahead and hit on this topic before returning to our regular programming.

I've been meaning to write about it for almost a couple years now, because when I wrote about Little Girl's terrible kindergarten experience, and how it compared to how things were done in her preschool, I titled it "Kindergarten vs. Preschool". Well that (and hillbilly weddings, oddly enough...) is by far the search string that brings the most people in... so I recognized that there must be a lot of parents out there trying to decide whether their little one should go ahead and start kindergarten or go to preschool first.

So, as an early interventionist who works with children to prepare them to enter preschool now, with six years of experience working in the elementary school system (which included both a preschool and a Head Start classroom) with most of my students being in preschool and kindergarten prior to this, I offer you my educated opinion:

If you have a "young kindergartener" -- which in most states these days is a child who will turn five over the summer -- you have a decision to make. Many (I would even venture to say most) parents are now holding their young kindergarteners out of kindergarten until the following year. And with good reason. Kindergarten isn't what it used to be. A lot is expected of kindergarteners these days. They're expected to be reading before the school year is out.

What I know about reading from my special ed background: Children are developmentally ready to learn to read at the age of 6. (That means when they are at an intellectual age of 6. Some children are certainly able to learn to read younger than 6, but those children are intellectually ahead of their chronological age. In other words, their brain is functioning like a six year old's brain at the age of four or five.)

So what does this mean for our young kindergarteners? Our children who won't turn six until the very end of kindergarten or the summer after their kindergarten year? It's bad news. If the child is developmentally on track, meaning they learn typically and appropriately for their age, they actually aren't really ready to learn to read until AFTER they finish kindergarten -- and yet, they are expected to be reading nonetheless before they finish. That isn't fair to the child, and fortunately, many parents are recognizing this and this is why so many summer five-year-olds are being put in preschool for their five year old year. This works out great for these children, because they can still experience the structured routine of school and gain the social skills appropriate for five-year-olds from classmates, but they won't start kindergarten and be expected to learn to read until they are six -- and developmentally ready to do so.

That said, I don't necessarily advocate holding all children back a year just because their birthday falls during the summer. Some children are developmentally ahead of schedule and it would be in their best interest to start kindergarten. This was our decision for Little Girl, who was a summer five. She's one of the youngest in her class (maybe the youngest), but that's okay. She's emotionally mature enough that she's keeping up socially without difficulty, and we knew it would be doing her a disservice to hold her back because she was already reading some on her own before she even started kindergarten, without having been formally taught. To keep her back would have made her intellectually so far above the other kids by the time she was six that she would have been bored to death, and wouldn't have learned anything at all from school. So despite her young age, Little Girl went to kindergarten at just-turned-five.

Baby Boy on the other hand just missed the cutoff by a couple of days, and I'm thrilled about that because it takes the decision out of our hands. I think Baby Boy will benefit greatly from the extra year of preschool, and not turning six until kindergarten starts, because he simply does not have the social and emotional maturity that Little Girl had at his age, even if he does have the intellectual capacity, which I think he will based on the cognitive skills he can do even now.

So that brings me to my next point. Even if you feel your child is intellectually ahead of schedule and will not struggle academically if put in kindergarten as a young five-year-old, the other aspect you need to look at is emotional and social skills. Watch your child with other children slightly older than him or her. See how they interact with other children, how they play, how they respond to difficult situations. Is your child mature enough to relate on equal terms with children several months to a year older, or is he or she going to stick out like a sore thumb on the playground because they just haven't developed the social skills of a slightly older child yet. And remember, this doesn't mean there's anything wrong with your child's maturity or social skills -- the other children are older. I'm just pointing out that just because a child is ahead of his/her age level intellectually does not mean they will also be ahead of their age level socially and emotionally. And all three areas are required if you want a successful school career for your child. Issues with delayed social skills may not become apparent in kindergarten, but let your child get to 3rd grade and see them as the kid everybody picks on because they're immature, and you'll regret that decision to push them ahead of what they were capable of.

So, my advice to you as a parent of a young five-year-old of kindergarten entry age, is to look carefully at your child's skills academically, socially, and emotionally. If your child has consistently demonstrated skills AHEAD of their chronological age level, going ahead with kindergarten may be your best option. But if you see that your child is only AT age level (and if your child is below level, keep reading as I address this separately) in ANY of these three areas, you should strongly consider a good solid preschool for their five-year-old year.

Now if you have a "special needs" child, my advice is different. If you have a child that you know learns slowly, has already had a lot of intervention, maybe has attended a special needs preschool for two years, and you know that learning to read is going to be a big task for your little one, you might want to consider putting your child in kindergarten with the plan to do either kindergarten or first grade twice.

Why? Because your child has already had a full preschool experience. And you already know your child is going to need a lot of repetition to learn the foundations of reading. Kindergarten and first grade are very foundational years, and I personally would rather have a child repeat kindergarten or first grade than any other year. And if you have a young kindergartener, that age is on your side -- your child then has the opportunity to do kindergarten for two years and get all those basics drilled into them (or if your child does pretty well with kindergarten but falls apart in first grade, that would be the year to repeat) and still come out being about the same age as the other children in their classroom, even AFTER the retention.

If the child's learning problems are mild enough, that double kindergarten or first grade just might be enough to prevent them from having to be put in special education classes; and even if the child's problems are more significant than that, the extra year in regular education will do them good even if they still end up having to be put in special education afterward. Give them a good beginning school experience to start off with, and build their foundation as solidly as possible. So children with known learning problems, that's my advice... put them in as young kindergarteners and then let them repeat a year. (I almost never would advise repeating any year later than first grade. If your child struggles in a later grade because they missed important blocks in their foundation, repeating a later grade will not fill in those blocks because those skills simply aren't taught in later grades. Getting that solid K-1st foundation is CRITICAL. THOSE are the years to repeat, if retention is going to be necessary.)

My two cents, for what it's worth. :)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Sensory Stuff and Brain Balance...

Okay, I've finally got a few minutes to piece together the information I started to explain a few weeks ago, about Baby Boy and his quirkiness and Little Girl and her medication problems.

Let me start with sensory integration. It's quite an interesting animal, and there is so much information -- and misinformation -- out there that it can be quite overwhelming to a parent who is told their child has sensory integration dysfunction. It's being used by a lot of people as a catch-all phrase, and there are a few familiar symptoms that will make these people say, "Oh, he's a sensory kid... so let's do some sensory stuff and hope it works." And sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't... depending on if they got lucky enough to have actually applied the correct treatment for that particular child.

What is lacking in so many cases is an understanding of what is really going on in the child's neurological system that causes the symptoms we're seeing. What is also lacking is an understanding that sensory integration dysfunction can result in very different symptoms in different children, and that treatment options vary widely. It's not a one-size-fits-all therapy approach by any means. It's one of the most complicated disorders there is, in my opinion.

Let me try to put the very basics in laymen's terms. Sensory input is the information that comes into the brain from our senses -- we see with our eyes, we hear with our eyes, we taste with our tongues, we smell with our noses, we touch with our skin. Right? But the brain has to do something with that information... the input first has to get to the brain and then the brain has to react to the input that it gets in some way. And if the input doesn't make it to the brain in-tact, the brain isn't going to respond correctly, and that doesn't mean you have a bad brain, though it may look that way, as it usually results in developmental delays. A child isn't learning properly, the brain must not be working right, is the thinking -- but that's not always true. With sensory kids, the brain is fine! The only reason it isn't reacting properly is because the input it was sent didn't make it there in one piece! It maybe didn't make it there at all, and if it did, it made it there in scrambled fashion.

There are many different places along the neurological pathway for the information to become garbled, and this is why sensory kids can look so different. A child who has a breakdown at the level of the brainstem is going to look very different from a child who has a breakdown at the midbrain or the cerebellum.

Picture an interstate highway with several exits. If there is a traffic jam at ANY of those exits, your car isn't going to make it to its destination on time. Same with sensory input. If there is a glitch at any point along the neurological pathway (and some children have glitches at every "exit"!), your information is getting held up and is not going to make it to the cortex "on time", if at all.

There's not a visible cause for these problems. It's largely due to imbalances in the neurochemicals. And a good occupational therapist can look at a child's symptoms and tell where the glitch is occurring, and then know how to address it to start clearing up the traffic jam.

Many medications for ADHD, anxiety and depression, and other mental illnesses are trying to accomplish the same result that occupational therapy for sensory integration is trying to accomplish -- to balance the neurochemicals. You've heard the words tossed about. Serotonin. Dopamine. Histamine. These are the neurochemicals that regulate brain function. Your serotonin levels are too low, you're depressed. You're given meds to increase the serotonin. But did you know that proprioceptive input, when given in large amounts, will also increase the serotonin levels in your brain? Proprioceptive tasks activate the muscles and joints of your body and stimulate your brain to produce more serotonin -- so heavy work activities, pushing and pulling, jumping, etc. are all activities you can engage in to stimulate serotonin production.

Kids' brains know what they need and will seek it. You have a "wild child" who crashes into things, throws themselves on the ground, jumps constantly, gives huge bear hugs? You may have a sensory child whose brain recognizes the need for more serotonin and it's trying its best to get it.

This is just one example. Touch will stimulate dopamine production. You're looking here at a child that seems to crave touch, especially from people. They're affectionate and are always cuddling up against you. Vestibular activities will stimulate histamine production. Movement. These are your kids that are always moving, they're running, they're rolling, they're spinning, they're hanging upside down to watch tv, they're doing somersaults round and round the room and never seem to get dizzy.

I could go on and on with examples of symptoms and treatment, but I won't. I advise you, if your child is "hyper", "wild", "out of control" and not due to lack of discipline or to some kind of trauma they've experienced, "ADD or ADHD", autistic, or just "weird" (these are the kids you say, "There's just something DIFFERENT about that kid but I can't put my finger on what it is...) -- find a good occupational therapist as soon as possible. The younger treatment begins, the better the prognosis.

Now, for Little Girl and Baby Boy, the book I mentioned that I was referred to by an occupational therapist is called Disconnected Kids, by Dr. Robert Melillo. It's a fabulous book and I was quite ready to recommend it to any parent of a kid diagnosed with ADHD, autism, OCD, or any other neurological disorder, but now I have to take it back. It looks at the balance between the left brain and the right brain, and how they must communicate with each other to function the way the brain is intended to function, and if one side is much stronger than the other, there is a breakdown in the communication between the two halves of the brain. It ties in neatly with sensory integration dysfunction -- remember I mentioned all the different places there could be a "traffic jam" along the interstate? Here's another...

I've conducted the assessment on Little Girl and discovered she has a mild right brain weakness. But while the program looks to be quite excellent and I'm very hopeful that it will be the answer for Little Girl's issues, I'm afraid I can't recommend it for most parents. What I do recommend is that parents read the first half of the book at least, see if it sounds like their child, and if so, tell the child's therapists to read the book, if they aren't already familiar with it.

I say this because the evaluation and the treatment are very complicated and I honestly don't know that the average parent could take this book and evaluate and treat their child by following it. A very well educated parent with a background in education or therapies, yes; otherwise, probably not.

Then again, maybe I underestimate people and their capabilities. After all, while checking for Little Girl's PRN (post-rotational nystagmus), I gave her the instructions that I was going to spin her around in the chair and when I stopped, she was to look at the wall, not at me. I spun her, I stopped her, and I watched her eyes and counted the seconds until the nystagmus stopped while she stared at the wall.

And then she said, "Did you know that when you spin around and around like that, your eyes keep moving even after you stop because your brain thinks you're still moving?"

Floored me. I said, "Uhhhhh... that's exactly what I was looking at -- how did you KNOW that?"

"I learned it on PBS Kids," she replied matter-of-factly.

Yep. She's a left-brained kid all right. ;) But we're going to fix that and make her well-rounded. :)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I Hate Zenobia

Yes, Zenobia. My GPS. I will admit she's gotten me out of a few scrapes, but I have consistently had trouble with her since the day I got her.

Today was one of the worst.

I traveled an hour north to see a child. My next appointment would have been about a half hour northeast of my home, which means it would have taken me an hour and a half had I come all the way back and then gone out to the next child's home. But I was certain there were connector roads that would get me there faster, and after consulting with google maps, I discovered I could get there in a mere 50 minutes instead of an hour and a half. Great.

Unfortunately, I did not print off or write down the google directions, but rather trusted that Zenobia would get me there. After all, she is advertised to be programmed with google maps. So shouldn't she follow the same route?


I remembered the first two turns from google, and Zenobia did indeed tell me to take those same turns, so I was comforted that all was well. I took her next turn and was driving down a very narrow road that twisted and turned and went uphill and down, with a creek running alongside it the whole way. But it was paved. I wasn't real keen on the choice of roads. But at least it was paved, I kept telling myself. Things could be worse.

They could indeed. Zenobia told me to take a right, and the road was gravel. I hesitated, but by this time I had no idea anymore where I was or where to go, so I figured I had no choice but to obey. So I took the turn. Go 2.1 miles and then turn right, she ordered. Okay, it's only two miles, then surely I'll be out on a paved road again, I thought. And Zenobia was showing my arrival time as being only ten minutes further, and the child I was going to see lived on a paved road, so I knew it couldn't be gravel for too long.

I drove and I drove and I drove. It said 2.1 miles and I know it wasn't any longer than that, but wow, 2.1 miles on a highway and 2.1 miles on a hilly twisty turny gravel road with washed out places all along it and barely room for only the one car (thank goodness I didn't meet anyone!) are two very different things.

I watched my arrival time creep up minute by minute as I drove. Apparently Zenobia expected me to drive faster on this road than I was able...

And then I came around a corner where there was a driveway up to a beautiful house, and I thought to myself as I often do when seeing nice houses in places like this, "Why would anyone who has enough money to buy or build a beautiful house like that live way out in the middle of nowhere and have to drive roads like this forEVER to get ANYWHERE?"

Just past this house, I suddenly came to a halt. Because in front of me, running across the road, was a swiftly flowing creek.

I had just read the chapter "Spring Freshet" from On the Banks of Plum Creek earlier this morning. You know, the story of the raging whirling creek that in the next chapter pulls Laura into it and nearly drowns her with its strength? No way was I driving across that creek! Owning an SUV is not a license for stupidity, and while maybe I could have made it, it wasn't worth the risk! Especially since I had no way of knowing how deep this creek was. And did I mention the swiftly flowing part? I was nearly at the end of my 2.1 miles of this road and there was no possible way to finish it. I had no choice but to go back.

And there was no possible way to turn around. I was trapped. The road was so narrow that only my vehicle could fit on it, and the road was a complete dropoff on one side, and a steep cliff right up against the roadside on the other. And in front of me, in case you've forgotten, is a swiftly flowing creek.

Thank goodness for that house. And for all the backing practice I got at this little girl's house that I saw last summer, who lived out a two mile long driveway, again with cliff on one side and dropoff on the other, with no place to turn around at the end of it. I hate backing up, but I sure got my practice every week at that place where imminent death awaited any imprecise steering, and it came in handy now. I carefully backed up and around the curve and into the driveway of the house and turned around and drove all the way back.

One of my chief complaints about Zenobia is her stubborness. If I decide I don't like her route, or if something like a closed road or a swiftly flowing creek prevents me from taking her route, she won't give up. She will continue to try to route me back to it even if I drive miles upon miles away from it.

This was the problem I ran into today. I had no idea where to go to get to my child's house, and I couldn't just pick a road and drive it and trust Zenobia to reroute me there, because all Zenobia kept wanting to do was take me back to that daggone gravel road!!

I tried zooming out on her to look at the map and find my own route but she wouldn't show me anything but hers. Finally I gave up on her and just drove. Randomly picked roads that looked more paved than others... and at last came out on a road that was actually wide enough for two cars and paved, and by looking at Zenobia (at least she was good for something at last!) I could tell what road it was -- and I knew where that road would take me!! It'd take me twenty minutes longer to get there than by taking a direct route, and I was already ten minutes late for the appointment that I originally thought I was going to get to 15 minutes early... but at least I knew where I was going, and Zenobia would not chart me a direct route any way except by that impassable gravel road, so I went for it. It took Zenobia ten minutes of arguing and telling me, "A better route is available" before she finally caved and took me the rest of the way there.

Actually she did try to send me down another gravel road but I refused. Who knows what dangers that one would have led me into.

So I was very late to that appointment and every other appointment after that one, but at least I'm not drowned in a swiftly flowing creek. No thanks to Zenobia.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


If a fellow Hebrew, a man or a woman, sells himself to you and serves you six years, in the seventh year you must let him go free.... But if your servant says to you, “I do not want to leave you,” because he loves you and your family and is well off with you, then take an awl and push it through his ear lobe into the door, and he will become your servant for life. Do the same for your maidservant. (Deuteronomy 15:12, 16, 17)

Several weeks ago, out of nowhere, Little Girl announced that she wanted to be baptized on Easter Sunday. She asked Jesus into her heart about a year ago, but has never been interested in baptism before, and we're not sure where this came from all of a sudden. But she remained consistent regarding this decision over a period of two or three weeks, so arrangements were made for an Easter baptism.

Thursday night, my sister called and said that Little Girl wanted to get her ears pierced, and did I think she should let her? (Yes, I find it ironic that she calls to get my opinion on something like this, but won't listen to me regarding important things like diet and medication...) I simply responded that if she (my sister) didn't care, and that if she (Little Girl) really wanted it, I didn't see any reason why not to let her. And so Friday Little Girl went and had her ears pierced.

I've been thinking this over since then and couldn't help but see the symbolism.

In Old Testament times (as indicated by the passage above), fellow Hebrew slaves were to be released during the Year of Jubilee, which occurred every seventh year. However, if the slave willingly chose to stay with his master, he could do so -- and his (or her) ear was pierced to show his willing servanthood.

I no longer wear earrings as anytime I try, my ears get infected, but when I did, I most often wore cross earrings. It was symbolic to me of my willingness to "enslave" myself to my Master, Jesus. And this is why I find Little Girl's ear piercing decision coming on the heels of her baptism decision so meaningful.

And that it just happened that she had her ears pierced on Good Friday, the day that represents Jesus' own piercing on our behalf, and she was baptized, which is a picture of the burial and resurrection of Christ, on Easter Sunday -- well, that has to be more than coincidence.

God is so clever at drawing pictures for us in His Word -- the Old Testament is just full of pictures that were intended to show His people the plan of salvation that He was creating for them. But the concept that God would still be drawing pictures today, drawing them in the life of a little six-year-old girl, well, that's a novel idea to me. But I love it.

I know that Little Girl had nothing of the kind in her head when she decided she wanted to get her ears pierced... I know she was probably only thinking it would be pretty. She intended no symbolism. But the people in Old Testament days didn't realize the things they were doing were pictures either; surely Moses didn't understand that when he was told to speak to the rock and water would come out that this was a picture, and Abraham surely could not have understood when God asked him to sacrifice his promised son that God was painting a picture of His own sacrifice of His own Son. Nonetheless, God was busy drawing pictures through the lives of men and women throughout history. And apparently He's still drawing pictures through the lives of men and women today. And little girls too.

Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare. Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced. Psalm 40:5-6a.

Every Sunday afternoon, Little Girl draws a picture, and it nearly always is a "spiritual" picture of some sort -- such as the picture she drew of heaven a couple weeks ago.

I just love that this week God drew a picture for her.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

Monday, April 6, 2009

Decisions, Decisions

It probably started with Punky Brewster. Adorable little girl, spunky personality, abandoned by her mother. Who would do such a thing? I was just a child myself at the time, but even then the wheels started turning. Then there was the episode where Henry was in the hospital and Punky was staying at the Johnsons, and was removed by the system because she and her friend weren't allowed to share a room or some such ridiculous thing. I still remember nodding my head vigorously in agreement with Mrs. Johnson when she said to the social worker, "You're telling me that she can't share a room with her best friend, so you're going to take her and put her in an orphanage where she's sharing a room with 7 strangers?"

It just doesn't make sense, does it?

Then there were all the Little House orphans... (on tv, not the books!) and then there was Anne of Green Gables. I guess books and tv combined really pushed the needs of orphaned and abandoned children high in my mind even from an early age. But it was books and tv. It wasn't real life.

And then I met Hope. I always called her Hope-who-has-no-hope. I was teaching at an elementary school about ten years ago or so, and this little girl was brought in for a preschool evaluation. She was the lowest-functioning child I'd ever seen at that time. I used to bring her in for therapy with a small group of her classmates. The other children sat at the table and we played simple games or worked on art projects or listened to stories while targeting their goals. Not Hope. We had to move therapy to the floor because if I didn't hold her on my lap, nobody was getting anything done. It was like having an infant in a child-sized body. She literally had no skills.

I felt so sorry for little Hope. It wasn't her fault she had no skills. She, along with her two baby sisters, had been abandoned in a trailer, found by the landlord who heard them crying incessantly and investigated. They were filthy, laying in piles of their own feces, with rats scampering all over them. Now they were in foster care with a relative whose home truly wasn't much better.

I can't even express how angry I was with the system when the social worker attended a meeting for little Hope at school, just before the adoption was finalized with this relative, and said after the meeting, "Could I go back to the classroom and see Hope? I'd love to meet her."

MEET her? She is the social worker assigned to her case, she's been in foster care for almost a year at this point, and the adoption is almost final, and she's never even met the child??? There is something very wrong with this picture.

Poor little Hope never got much better. I wanted to take her home with me. Clean her up, feed her right so she'd be healthy, work with her, teach her to talk and play. But I couldn't.

The last I saw of Hope, she was in the first grade and still couldn't do much of anything. It was the saddest thing I've ever seen. But little Hope instilled in me those first desires to take in a needy child and love it as my own. To give some other little one the hope that Hope never had.

The years went by and there have been other children in need of a good home that I've met along the way. Each time, I longed to take the children and give them what they needed, but I just never felt that I was in a position to do that. After all, I wasn't yet married; I had to work full-time; I didn't make enough money to support kids on my own. It just never seemed the right time.

Now it's the right time.

On February 7, I went and signed up to become a foster parent. It was the most special way I could think of to celebrate the birthday of my beloved Laura Ingalls Wilder. :) Since then, I've been jumping through the hoops to become certified. I'm going through the extensive training now, and when that's done, all that will be left is to pass the home study, which shouldn't be an issue at all.

But you see, my plan was pretty settled in my mind. I would only take infants or toddlers, preferably girls. And I would only take children who were on track to have parental rights terminated, not children for whom the plan was to reunify with their families. Because I didn't want to take in foster kids for a few weeks or a few months and then send them back! No, I wanted a child or children to keep, to adopt as my very own. I had wonderful ideas about how this was going to work. They would be so young that any learning and emotional problems they might have from their experiences could be worked out in time. I would turn them into happy, healthy, well-adjusted children with minimal problems.

That was my lovely plan.

But now I'm beginning to wonder if that was God's lovely plan. Because I'm beginning to feel like maybe He has other plans. He's equipped me with a love for children, a compassionate heart, experience with overcoming learning problems, and experience with overcoming emotional hurts. Maybe He equipped me with all of that for a reason, and maybe it wasn't to take babies that have few or no problems at all and raise them to be perfect little children. Maybe His plan is to give me hurting and needy children. Children I may not be able to keep. Children He may be sending to me for a season to help prepare them for the remainder of their life without me.

I don't really like the idea, I'll be honest. I don't like the idea of taking in a child and having to let them go again. Especially if they're returning to a place that I don't really feel is safe for them -- and I have enough experience with the system to know that that happens all the time. I don't like the idea of taking in older children who have significant behavioral issues. I don't like the idea of missing out on their formative years in the first place, and then to know their formative years were filled with abuse and neglect and have brought them to a point where now all of the bad things they learned have to be untrained out of them? That's a huge job, and I don't think I'm capable of it.

But He is. If it's what He wants me to do, He'll give me everything I need to do it. And I know that. But I'm still resisting. Like I said, this wasn't my plan.

But it's not about me. It's about Him, and it's about them. And if opening my home to foster children who may be older, who may be very needy, who may have significant issues to deal with, and who I may have to give up after a time is His plan, I know that I have to say yes to that.

So that's where I am right now. Trying to figure that out. Trying to decide what His plan really is, and trying to make myself obey it whether I really want to or not.

So Much to Say, So Little Time...

I have so many different posts I need to write, and just haven't had the time to do squat. My long lazy days of winter are over. With all these lengthy drives to work several times a week, and "local" kids (local meaning the closest kid lives a half hour away...) on the off-days, and trainings filling up even my Saturdays, it seems all I ever do is work and drive. I didn't need to buy a house, because I live in the car. :)

A couple more months of this and I can stop making the long overnight stay at least, and that should help tremendously. Until then, life is more than slightly crazy.

But I've just so much to say. So... posts are coming...