Friday, January 31, 2014

Serial Casting Week #3

Daddy reading Betsy-Tacy while her casts dry.

Look who came along this week!  The up side of the casting is that we got lots of quality time with this sweet girl.  The PTs feel that she is making good progress- the angles of her legs are improving- so we keep on keeping on.  This week she is sporting pink and purple casts.  We are waiting to have a Monday that is not either snowing or 16 below zero.  I am not wishing away the Winter quite yet, but I will be happy to see Spring when it arrives!

Friday, January 24, 2014

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Puzzle Museum

Stuck inside with all this cold weather? We hit upon a fun activity the other day...we made a puzzle museum.  We are puzzle fans and have a lot of floor puzzles.  We spent a couple of hours putting them all together and laying them out around the Living Room.  When Daddy got home, he got a tour of our museum.  The kids thought it was great fun, and I had a lot of fun putting it together with them.  Next up: we are going to take all the books off our bookshelves and make a Lego museum.  Stay warm everyone!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Serial Casting- #2

As promised in my first post about Flower's casts, I will write a bit about her second week, and especially getting her casts off.

First you must understand that I was rather traumatized getting a cast off my leg at age 4...totally convinced that they were going to saw my leg off.  I tried very hard not to pass this fear down to my child, so we didn't really talk about getting the casts off.  These people casts kids legs all the time and get them off one way or another, so I figured they probably knew how to do it without scaring the daylights out of them.

And that turned out to be true!  They brought in the (incredibly magical Stryker saw), explained to her that it would sound like a vacuum- because it is part vacuum- and that it would probably tickle so much she would giggle.  They gave her noise-canceling headphones and cut those babies right off.  She giggled the whole time.  I attempted to maintain an even heart rate and convince myself that they were not going to saw my child's legs off.  I guess I am the one with issues!

We had a VERY long appointment- over three hours in a small room with a four year old.  The first hour are two are a nice bonding time.  Hour three is a lot less fun...but the good news is that in the first week she made some good progress with the angles of her feet.  The PT was proud that she had worn a hole in the heel of her cast- said that means she's been doing lots of heel walking and exercises...which she has!

I forgot to get a picture of her casts this week, but one is blue and the other purple.  We are having a hard time keeping her cast boots on this week- she has some foam lifts in them that are popping her feet right out.  That has been tricky...we have attempted to modify them with duct tape (they make CUTE duct tape these days!), but we are still putting them on and back on many times a day.  Will have to ask them about that at the next appointment.  But overall, its going well.  

Saturday, January 11, 2014

McKinney Vento

This is just a little "did you know" type post...because 4 months ago, I didn't know.

There is a piece of legislature called the McKinney-Vento Act that pertains to people experiencing homelessness, and in particular, to the education of homeless children.  It has a rather broad definition of homeless:

That Act uses the Illinois statute in defining homeless children as “individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.” The Act then goes on to give examples of children who would fall under this definition:
  • (a) Children sharing housing due to economic hardship or loss of housing;
  • (b) Children living in “motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camp grounds due to lack of alternative accommodations”
  • (c) Children living in “emergency or transitional shelters”
  • (d) Children “awaiting foster care placement”
  • (e) Children whose primary nighttime residence is not ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation (e.g. park benches, etc.)
  • (f) Children living in “cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations…”
Here is a bit of what it ensures:

Following the Illinois statute, the McKinney-Vento Act also ensures homeless children transportation to and from school free of charge, allowing children to attend their school of origin (last school enrolled or the school they attended when they first become homeless) regardless of what district the family resides in. It further requires schools to register homeless children even if they lack normally required documents, such as immunization records or proof of residence. To implement the Act, States must designate a statewide homeless coordinator to review policies and create procedures, including dispute resolution procedures, to ensure that homeless children are able to attend school. Local school districts must appoint Local Education Liaisons to ensure that school staff are aware of these rights, to provide public notice to homeless families (at shelters and at school) and to facilitate access to school and transportation services.[11]

Here are some ways that it helped us, and our Safe Families child, "B":
  • Our SF child was considered "homeless" and because he was spending nights in our district, was allowed to enroll in our local school.
  • Our local public school had to enroll him with nothing more than one paper showing that we were his temporary guardians.  This was different than enrolling our son, who required a birth certificate, proof of residency, medical, dental and vision checks and an immunization record.
  • The impetus to collect all the needed documents once he was enrolled fell on the SCHOOL- they referred us to providers who would see him immediately and free of charge (rather than having to wait at a public health clinic or find doctors who take State provided insurance).
  • It allowed the school nurse to look up the child's records on the state immunization site to determine what immunizations he had been given.
  • He was considered "at risk" and received special instruction from the learning specialist both during and after school.  
  • It allowed the school to waive lunch, PTO and school fees.

In short...IT WORKED.  My faith in the government was strengthened by this little worked just as it was intended to for our "B."  Enroll him immediately, get him IN school, and then worry about all the paperwork junk later.  I have to give a round of applause to the spirit with which our local school took this on.  They did it because they had to, but they acted like they wanted to.  Every person, from the registrar to the principal, the receptionists, the nurse, his teachers and even his bus driver, welcomed him with open arms and bent over backwards to give him their very best.  There were days where he asked a LOT of them...throwing a child who has never been to school, doesn't know his alphabet, is separated from his family and is used to rough interpersonal relationships into a cozy little suburban school in the middle of October is a bit crazy.  I am sure that I only heard a fraction of his antics (and I heard quite a few...did you know that buses have cameras these days?!)  I am sure there were at least a few glasses of wine consumed in his honor by some of those staff members (there certainly were at our house!).  But they made him feel loved and special, they helped him make HUGE strides in reading, and helped him learn how to be a student.  Come what may in his school career, this kid was given a GREAT first school experience, and the district should be proud.

So here's to you McKinney and Vento...thanks for a great act!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Oh yeah...

Okay, according to a bunch of comments I've gotten, in the flurry of Christmas, I don't think I mentioned on this blog that our latest Safe Families child, "B," returned home.  He went back to his family (a LOT of family...all living in a very small home) a few days before Christmas.  He was with us for over two months, during which we had a lot of ups and some downs.  He learned to read, write his name, make believe, ride a bike, eat dinner at a table and play with siblings.  We loved him up the best we could.  Sending him home was hard.  I guess I could say a lot more, but the words aren't really coming, so I will just stick with the quote above- it sums it up pretty well.  Glad we got to know the little guy!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Miracle at the...DMV?!

This morning, the little ladies and I had the most unpleasant task ahead of us- a trip to the DMV to pick up our handicapped parking placard.  Ugh...I hate going there on the best of days without two kids in tow.  We drove the 30 minutes over there, and when we pulled up the front was boarded up and there were yellow poster boards announcing "CLOSED DUE TO INCIDENT."  NOOoooooooooo!!!!

I sat in the car, looking up how long it would take to get to the next closest office (an hour), when a man walked up to the door.  Another man came out of the building to tell him that yes, it was really closed at least until tomorrow.  Turns out a car had driven through the front of the building (guess that person didn't pass their driving test?!)  I rolled down the window to ask if I HAD to go to a DMV to get my pass, or if there was anywhere else I could get one.  He looked around and then asked quietly if I had all the paperwork filled out.  I did and handed it to him.  He looked it over, looked around again, and then told me to park and come in.  I lugged the girls in (demonstrating clearly why I need this pass when Flower fell off my piggy back and bonked her head), he typed a few things in the computer and handed me my pass.  The place was full of workers sweeping up glass, tearing down a broken wall...what a mess!  But they were kind enough to help me out.  Hallelujah!  

Guess I can't complain about the DMV anymore.  Didn't even have to wait in a line.  Boo Yah!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Serial Casting- #1

Yesterday we slipped and slid our way downtown for Flower's first appointment in her serial casting program.  She is a toe-walker, and for a variety of reasons, it is time to get it corrected.  Her achilles tendon and the surrounding muscles are too short for her to walk flat-footed right now, so each week she will have her feet casted in a progressively more flexed position, allowing those muscles to grow and stretch.  After she has gained the length and range of motion needed, she will then have AFOs (ankle foot orthotics...aka braces) for the next few years- starting off 24 hours a day and eventually weaning down to just at night until she stops growing.  It is going to be a l.o.n.g. road, but we are determined to see it through.

I could go into detail, but instead, if you are curious about serial casting you can read about it here.  Those are her orthotist, tech and physical therapist in the picture and everything.  We are lucky to live so close to a hospital with a great program (serial casting techniques have really been pioneered here for the last 20 years or so).  Getting the casts on was pretty easy.  They watched her walk and measured her foot angles, and then they put on the cotton sock and wrapping and casted her legs while she laid on her tummy and colored pictures.  She has cast boots she wears over the casts so that she doesn't slip too much when she walks.  It is very much like walking in ski boots.  The trick is that they must stay dry.  I made some cute waterproof covers to wear in the snow, but most likely I will be carrying her in and out of places until the snow and slush disappear.  This is why we will be getting our handicapped parking placard tomorrow- between carrying her and Little Bee, who is still not too good at walking in the snow, I quite literally now have my hands full!

We have been warned over and over that it is not the casting that is the hard part, but the 60 minutes of physical therapy we are responsible for doing with her every single day until she is weaned off the daytime AFOs.  If I count up how many minutes that comes out to in a year my eyes cross...convincing a four year old to spend an hour (split into three smaller sessions) doing exercises that are difficult for her is requiring a lot of patience and creativity.  The exercises are basic- lifting her left leg up and down, taking baby steps, passing things between her knees like a football we are trying to find ways to make them fun.  We put puzzle pieces on one side of the room and the puzzle on the other and she baby steps back and forth to complete the puzzle.  We exercise to princess music.  We let her walk back and forth to get markers from me to color a picture.  There is a sticker chart and rewards.  But at the end of the day, fun or not, it has to get done.  I will be gratefully accepting any and all creative ideas for how to keep this fun for her!!

Anyways, thought this might be interesting to some of you.  I have gleaned a bunch of advice from the few blog friends I have who have been through casting and AFOs with their kids, so I feel like I should share the love a bit and write about our experience.  I'll add a few pictures below.  Next week I'll let you know how it goes getting the first casts cut off.  I broke my leg as a four year old and to this day I remember screaming my head off absolutely CONVINCED they were about to cut off my leg with the saw.  The casting tech told Flower that next week he promised her would make her I am guessing they are used to dealing with this fear and have ways to make it fun for the kids.  This week they sent her home with her own rolls of cotton and moleskin and cast socks so she could put casts on her dolls or siblings.  There is a reason these angels work at a children's hospital!

Snoozing on her "casty bear" who also has pink casts that Great Gramma made for her!

Monday, January 6, 2014

New Year's Eve

New Year's Eve this year saw a bunch of sick kids, so we had to cancel our original plans, and instead hung out with our also-germ-infested friends to ring in 2014.  Despite the last minute change of plans, there was good food, good drinks, game playing and of course good company.  Not too shabby!

Yeah, we have a lot of kids...we know...

Pavlova...a tradition from New Zealand that our friends are getting us hooked on! (upon which our friends are getting us hooked?)

Countdown to the 7pm New Year...

What we look like to a 6 year old.

Isn't this what your table is supposed to look like on New Year's Eve?!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Twas the Night Before Christmas

I realize that Christmas was like, so...last month.  But since this is a bit of a family scrapbook, as well as the best way to share photos with my sister in Singapore, I'm going to post a few Christmas pictures!

Early Christmas with my grandparents.

Christmas Eve church with Grandma and Papa

Family shot

Some SUPER excited kiddos
The stockings were hung by the...door to the living room...with care (no fireplace in our new house!)
Reading The Night Before Christmas with Daddy, as always

Thursday, January 2, 2014

End of Year Giving?

We talk a lot about "year end giving."  If you are anything like me, my inbox was flooded with last-minute opportunities to give.  Don't get me wrong, this is a good thing.  But what about some


Instead of waiting to see what we have leftover to give, let's give some off the top...bring out those first fruits and offer them up to some great causes.  There are a million ways to share what you have been giving...pick one close to your heart.  Here are two that are close to mine today:

I've had a lot of wonderful snuggle time with my sweet children over the holidays, which has put my mind on those who don't have their children in their arms...yet.  Let me introduce you to two sweet families whose biggest goal of the year is to bring their little ones home from orphanages across the world.  If you can spare a few dollars for these kids, it would mean a lot to their families, and just might start your year off right.

They both have wonderful blogs where you can get to know them a bit, so I won't share too much...just that these are both special, awesome families who could really use a bit of a boost in their adoption bank accounts.  These kids both have parents and siblings waiting to snuggle them, play with them, get them the food and medical care they need and put them right where they belong- in a family.

The Novit Family, adopting Gage, a 3 yr old from E. Europe: Their Blog and Their Fundraising Page

The Williams Family- Kristen and recently-adopted and overly-adorable Munni who will be returning to get a little sister, Baby R- Their Blog with fundraising link.

Have a wonderful 2014.  If you live near me, enjoy all the beautiful snow that just keeps falling.  There are few things prettier than a fresh layer of fluffy snow!  And please, if you can spare even a small donation, start the year off by blessing these families!