Friday, November 30, 2007

Foster and Adoptive Parents Legal Plan

I belong to a legal plan that is specifically designed to help adoptive and foster families in time of need. I called them today and talked with my plan attorneys, who live in the next city over. They are going to place the problem with a local attorney that specializes in Social Security issues. I was told we can make an appeal. I just hope we can get this worked out before the end of the month.

This is the second time in two months that I've used the legal plan. I stupidly got my very first speeding ticket in my 42 years of driving. They assigned an attorney locally who specializes in traffic cases, and I don't even have to go to court. He is going for me and thinks he can get me off on a technicality, or at the very least get a lower fine.

We signed up for the plan because in the past when we have had rounds with CPS we've had to rely on court appointed attorneys, and while they are nice people, they do not have the time to build a case for you. You could end up losing, or even having your child taken from you. The legal plan covers hearings, trials and even criminal cases. It pays for all that stuff.

Imagine having a problem concerning one of your children and not being able to afford an attorney to help him. The legal plan solves that and so much more. It brings you up to the level of a wealthy family who can afford a good attorney.

They don't cover anything that happened prior to your signing up for the legal plan, or anything that has to do with drugs or drinking. It covers you and your children who still live at home.

The cost is incredibly reasonable for what it provides. It's just $15 a month.

If you are an adoptive or foster family and have teens or special needs kids, or a super sized family like we do, you can't say, Well, if I ever get into trouble with CPS then I'll get the legal plan. Of if my kid ever gets arrested, then I'll get it. Then it's too late.

And if you have a very large adoptive family, say 10 or more kids, then the question is not IF I ever have a problem with CPS, it's WHEN...because they are after every family that doesn't look like the average one.

No, they don't cover adoption or guardianship costs. That's not their goal.

My advice is to visit The Foster and Adoptive Parents Legal Plan Site and GET IT. Go to the contact page and phone up Marilyn or David and give them a call.

Anyone who works with children or the disabled NEEDS this plan.

$15 a month gives you a real secure feeling that if a problem arises, you can have all the legal help you will need.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Merry Christmas From the Government-NOT!

Here we are, waiting for Dec 1st to come around so all the kids' SSI payments are in the bank, so we can do some Christmas shopping. Now, I'm not talking about big shopping, as we only spend an average of $25 per kid each year.

Like most large adoptive families of children with special needs, we operate on a low amount of income. Ours is dependent upon the children's SSI payments, my husband's meager retirement benefits and what he makes as a bagger at a grocery store.

The checks are deposited on the 30th of the month directly into our bank account. We just got a call from SSI, with no warning, that they have stopped the payments for FIVE out of our nine kids.

That's more than half our total income. Merry Christmas. Instead of trying to eek out enough money for Christmas gifts, this year we're going to be trying to eek out money to feed our family, not to mention paying the mortgage, health insurance, van payment and electric bills.

All this is because of a mistake on THEIR part. They will not, however, sit down and discuss the matter with us. It's been decided. It will take months to get it back.

Merry Christmas to you, too, SSI.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Last Summer

Ella had worked for us as a morning get ready for school aide for five years. She helped them bathe and get ready for school in the mornings. (the ones who need help...)

This photo was taken last summer on her last day at our home. Ella had asked for a photo with the kids. She was very sad to be leaving as she was very attached to the kids. And you can tell that some of the kids are very sad as well.

On the floor are Matthew, Robin, Jeremy, Ross and Will.
Back row: Jenny, Ella, Emily, Danielle, Jon and Jay

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Even the Simple Life Can Be Complicated

I'm a simple person. Relatively low maintenance. I don't need lots of clothes. I might buy a 3 for $10 pack of T-shirts at the local drug store every couple years. I buy my sneakers used on ebay for about $7 plus shipping. I get my hair cut every three months or more. I don't mind that I drive minivan-hey it works fine. The library keeps me in books. My husband is the same way.

Sometimes I wonder how we would live if we suddenly inherited a bazillion dollars. Not that we are related to anyone with any significant amount of money. We've talked about it, and yes, we'd probably fix the toilet in the playroom bathroom, put down nicer flooring in the family room, buy sod for the yard, put a big deck on the back of the house with a wheelchair ramp back there...

... But I don't think we'd move away from our little acre on a dead end dirt road. Or buy a bunch of new STUFF. There is so much good that we'd be able to do with the money. We don't need much to be happy. Just each other and the kids.

But even with our simple lifestyle, it is sometimes hard to make ends meet. Especially when SSI cuts off the monthly payments for three children who are at full rate, because of incorrect information. When you live a simple life, and are just getting by, that really hurts. And it will take a long time to correct, and we have no reserves.

The simple life comes with its own crappy complications.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Happy Birthday, My Sweet Love!

Today is the 61st birthday of the man who has been my husband for 39 years and counting. Words cannot do justice to what I feel for him. He is the most remarkable man.

He reads my blog once in a blue moon, so someday six months from now when he reads this I want to tell him:

I am devoted to you. You are my heart. Just hearing your name says HOME to me.

I know you won't forget that. I won't let you.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Will Anyone Remember Me?

This photo is of Anna Mary Long Sell Thompson. She was my great great great grandmother. Born to German immigrants in what was then York County, PA on 12 Nov 1793, she was married to one Daniel Sell and had three daughters by him, Eliza, Hannah and Mary Jane.
Daniel died in 1822, right before Mary Jane was born.

She then married Joshua Frederick Thompson of Littlestown, Adams Co, PA and gave birth to James Thompson, Elias, Catherine, Isabella and Susannah Thompson. I can't figure out why she married Joshua, as he was a bit younger than she was and seems to have been a habitual drunkard, as she had him declared so in court in 1841. He's gone after that.

She was an active abolitionist, Her home just outside of Gettysburg, PA was used as an overflow house for runaway slaves when the other Underground RR homes were full. She was a good friend of the statesman Thaddeus Stevens, who was also an abolitionist.

On July 1 1863, General Robert E. Lee rode up the street to her home and decided it was a great place to make his headquarters for the coming battle. She cooked for the soldiers, baked pies that they took out of the oven before they were done. She had good things to say about Lee, that he was a gentleman who sat in a chair near the window reading his Bible. He gave Mary and her daughter a note for safe passage through the city, and they left to stay at her daughter's house in town.

The soldiers took the door off the house to use as a map table outside. Lee slept outside in a tent, but apparently had the runs, as he was seen going to the outhouse many times.

Mary and her daughter had been staying in the basement, due to the possibility of cannon balls and bullets entering through the windows. In fact, Mary, had just the night before, had delivered a grandson in that basement. After the war her home was used as a hospital, and everything in it and outside it was destroyed. Mary worked at the various hospitals in town, too, along with her adult daughters. She died in 1873 of consumption and is buried in the famous Evergreen Cemetery of Gettysburg, where Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address.

My genealogical research has uncovered many stories about this strong woman who raised eight children. I feel like I know her, just a little bit. Many of her descendants remember her for who she was and what she did.

I sometimes wonder if any of my own descendants will remember me, or what I accomplished on this earth. If they will have a record of my life 134 years after I have moved on to heaven. I've tried hard to be a good woman, wife and mother. But the only parts of my life that ended up in the newspaper, I'd just as soon were forgotten.

Will I just be an entry into someone's genealogical software? Born, married, raised 17kids who lived, had four children die in childhood, and died in such and such a year. My life has been so much more than that. I bet I'm forgotten in about two generations.

Do you ever wonder the same thing?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Will Said A Five Word Sentence!

This is Will, who is 20 and has Down Syndrome. Not one of my higher functioning kids, he rarely says anything that is understandable, and then only one or two words connected.

Today he said "Turn that down RIGHT NOW!" He was pointing toward Jeremy's room, so I guess it was the tv in there he was complaining about. Now nobody else would have understood him but me or my husband, and then there would be a good chance neither of us would either, so this was unprecedented. Our lack of understanding what he says is so frustrating for him, and he only know a few signs.

I'm sure that's a sentence that he's heard around here a LOT.

The pic shows Will geared up for watching the movie Finding Nemo. The only thing that interests Will is his movies. And the only thing that satisfies him as a gift is something related to one of his movies. So that makes him relatively easy to buy for.

Will was born early at 5 pounds by C-section, because his stomach wasn't connected to his intestines, causing extreme fluid buildup in his birth mom's uterus. He had surgery to correct that the day after he was born, but that went horribly wrong and he ended up with necrotic intestines that mostly had to be removed (all but about 6 inches.)

Three months later, after two more hospitals and several operations and near death experiences, Will came home. Not long after that his airway closed up due to scarring from all the intubations, and he had to have a tacheotomy. Four years after about 50 surgical procedures and attempts at three different hospitals, Will finally got rid of the trache.

He's a neat guy, but because he is a man sized three year old, he is sometimes hard to handle.

But he said a five word sentence today!

Friday, November 16, 2007

? Sex Ed in School for MR Kids??

The Special Ed dept at the high school had a meeting about the sex education classes that were going to be taught to our trainable mentally handicapped kids. I didn't go, but my friend who is a parent of another child in the class did go.

We have a chance to opt out of the program, thankfully. These kids mostly function at about a3-6 year old level. Kids with Down Syndrome and FASD and other disabilities.

Subjects to be taught? Sexual relations, masturbation, contraception including condoms and pills, AIDS and how you get it, the symptoms, Other STDs, Sex and dating, pregnancy, childbirth, etc...

But these kids, well at least some of them, are likely to want to try out this sexual relations part. And they lack the control or reasoning capacity to stop themselves.

Yes I know masturbation is universal, and I've covered it at home with all of them. But these things, in my opinion, are things that a parent should teach a mentally handicapped child/teen. I mean if a teacher outside of a sex ed class were to discuss sexual relations or masturbation with a child, wouldn't he/she get in trouble?

If I were to go to a neighbor's house and have a conversation with their children about sexual relations or masturbation or contraception, wouldn't I get in trouble?

Why then is it OK within a curriculum setting?

Yes, I know that some of them will learn these things anyway. But for kids with problems with impulsivity, lack of understanding of boundaries no matter how often it's taught...this is like handing them a loaded gun.

Seems like the male parents of the kids in the class (including my husband) are all for sex ed (and there are over a dozen lessons to be taught.) Probably because non of the male parents ever get asked those questions anyway. The moms are the ones who talk about sex with the kids in most families. The moms, who generally will have to deal with the repercussions, are not in favor of the classes.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

We Can Do It All

This photo was taken at one of the middle school dances last year when Jay was in 8th grade. His girlfriend was a sweetheart in another class who has CP and uses an electric wheelchair. Shortly before the final dance of the year Jay got a "Dear Jay" letter from her. She was turning down his date plans for the dance and had dictated a letter stating that she was sorry, and she really liked him a lot but she was going to go to the dance with a guy who was more handicapped than Jay. He was hurt for a little while, but not for long.

Just like normal teens, right? And that's the whole thing in raising special needs kids. They are more normal than not. They may have low IQs and not be able to walk or read or write their names, or go to the bathroom themselves, but they have normal emotions.

And, more than that, they can DO just about anything others can do. They go to parties, participate in sports, ride horses and compete, do chores, play computer games, listen to their ipods and generally just run around with their brothers and sisters and friends.

People who have not adopted mentally and physically limited kids don't realize how very normal they really are. Or what a JOY they can be. I'll take 5 kids with Down Syndrome or Spina Bifida before I'd take one more RAD kid. More power to you if you an do RAD. BTDT.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Appliance Virus

So, Saturday the dryer caught this mechanical virus that's going around and died. Then yesterday while we were on our way to a meeting at the Habilitation Center the car overheated, due probably to a water pump going bad...still waiting to hear from the garage ICU on that one...

Then in the afternoon my daughter says "The washer is leaking." It appears that the washer had caught the appliance virus from it's partner, the dryer, and it died as well. What a shame, they loved each other so much and they were only three years old.

The hall bathroom faucet also has the virus...and I'm watching the toaster closely for symptoms.

How come it can never be just ONE major thing that breaks down? And why do they all break down right before Christmas?

Answer: Appliances are a sentient evil beings who take great pleasure in our angst.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Who Does This??? Really...

This AM our dryer stopped working. We go through washers and dryers faster than the average family with 2.5 kids. WAY faster. Washing clothes and sheets for 11 people tends to do that to a machine.

If I had a nickle for every dryer we've had to buy over the past 39 years...well I'd have about 60 cents...

Faced with calling a repairman, who would probably charge $70 to even get in his car and come here, and then charge us another $100 for parts, my husband started looking at Lowes and Home Depot. Well even the cheapest new dryer runs $300. So I suggested he look on

He found a one year old Hotpoint dryer for $165. It's still under warranty. And I'm sure it's been used once a week for that past year.

Reason for the owner selling it? She finally found a dryer to MATCH her washer. I wasn't aware that a dryer had decorative value. Like, "Welcome to my home! Would you like to see my matching washer and dryer?"

I can't complain, though. If there were not people out there who would give away perfectly good clothing and furniture, my kids would have far fewer clothes, and I would have no playroom furniture, and the kids wouldn't all have their own TVs.

This lady offered to bring the dryer to us for an extra $25..but like any self respecting large adoptive family, we have a 15 passenger van, and a 23 year old son with Down Syndrome who just loves to help his father do stuff like this.

Life is good.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Christmas Already?

This pic is of the Brazilian Pepper Tree that is "non native" to this area, and homeowners are supposed to cut it down. Because of this, no self respecting suburban tract home would ever have one in their yard.

Living where we do, on an acre of land on a dead end street, though, we have that option. They do run rampant, and we cut some down, but I simply love this tree. InOctober the tiny yellow blossoms turn into white berries, and now in early November they are taking on a pretty pearly blush color.

Around Christmas time there will be multitudes of bright red berries , which with their cool green leaves look pretty much like regular Christmas holly.

The berries do have a pepper taste to them, but in large quantities they are poisonous, so I don't bring bowers of them into the house at Christmas. You'd have to eat a lot to get sick, but with my kids, I just don't trust it. They've been known to eat weirder things.

It's one of the only ways we know that the seasons are changing, as we don't get snow or very bad cold snaps. Winter here is a joy.

My husband and I have spent over 40 Christmas seasons together. Our first holiday together was back in 1968 when we were teaching in a little rural town called Ridgway, PA. Now they got SNOW!. It was kind of like living in a Currier and Ives illustration. The old buildings and store. The Victorian homes. No fast food restaurants, no big chain stores. We had to bundle up to go Christmas shopping in a snow storm that first year.

Best photo I could find of Ridgway

We went from family run store to family run store to find gifts for our combined families. The city had colorful lights strung, and everyone was happy and friendly.

We actually went out to a farm and picked out a cut tree that year, and it cost us all of about $5. We sat in our third floor apartment in the old Bogert Hotel (which was mostly for hunters) and created our own ornaments from styrofoam balls, ribbon and pins and sequins. And on Christmas ever we made the long trek down to Freeport, PA, where his folks were from, and then to my parent's home in Penn Hills, a suburb of Pittsburgh.

I wish it could all be that simple again. I'm thinking when the kids are all grown in a few years, and we have our own normal sized little house, maybe it can be that simple again.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Bubbles Bubbles and More Bubbles

This photo is of Jennifer, Danielle and a friend's baby. Jennifer is 22 and enjoys being a responsible adult now. That includes going to work at the Hab Center and bringing home a paycheck every two weeks. And, of course putting the paycheck in the bank and buying things for herself.

Last night, quite a while after dinner, Jen decided on her own to run a second load of dishes for the day. Neither of us noticed this. Apparently she discovered that we were out of dishwasher detergent, so, priding herself on her independence, she improvised and used dishwashing liquid.

A while later my husband went into the kitchen and was faced with a wall of soap suds. This kind of stuff doesn't faze us or get us upset. It's such a minor thing in the scale of problems we face every day. He got out the wet-dry vacuum, but it, too overflowed with bubbles.

Anyway, this AM we can put the dishwasher back together again and everything is dry.

My Little Destructo Twins, Matt and Jenny

When Matt and Jen were little we called them "the destructo twins." Everything they touched they broke.Up until they were about 8 or so, that was very true. And, having parented nine kids with DS from birth, I think that attribute runs across the board. They delight in pulling up vinyl flooring, taking a loose thread from a carpet and pulling it down to the backing. Banging holes in the wall, and then proceeding to enlarge them bit by bit. Mangling toys.

But when they hit middle school age, all that is usually over. I say usually, because there is always an exception.

My Jeremy, who is 14, is STILL a destructo kid. For three years he's gotten a new cd player/radio for Christmas, and within a month each time the thing has been broken. I told him he wasn't getting a new one this year. (But that's OK, as he really really wants one of those spiderman gloves that shoots silly string webs.)

He also recently kicked holes in his hollow core bedroom door, and then took it apart piece by piece, until there was nothing left. Somehow I don't think things are going to change with this young'un. He's also my only real runner. Gotta watch him 24/7.

Gotta love them all...

Saturday, November 3, 2007


My friend, Helen, sent this to me this AM. Love it, because it's so true!

Friday, November 2, 2007

If only they were all this easy to solve

Had to laugh this AM when I got a phone call from the Habilitation Center, where Matt and Jen work. Both have down syndrome, and Matt (seen here at last year's special olympics equestrian event) is 23 and Jennifer is 22. I hate to get calls from schools, so when even the Hab Center calls, although it's not a school, I have to steel myself for what is to come.

The supervisor says,"We have a big problem." But she's laughing. I say, OK, What is it?

She says, "Matt is in here all worried and thinking that he needs to come home...because he has a hole in his underwear."

After we both stopped laughing, she said, "I told him I'd call you and let you know, so he'd go back to work."

She said, "If only all the problems we had here were that easy to solve."

Ain't that the truth!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Glorious Morning

Got up this AM to take Jack outside on his never ending search for the perfect place to drop his poop. Summer is finally winding down here. The overgrown back yard was quiet for once. No air conditioners running anywhere- it's about 74 degrees this morning.

The tree frogs are buzzing happily, bird are chirping, the black and yellow butterflies are floating about. The only noise is the dull drone of traffic from the highway about three miles away. Sound travels too well here because everything is flat.

But what's really glorious about the morning is that it rained last night and everything is washed clean. The trees are still dripping down on Jack and I. I so love the rain. It feels like God is washing everything clean for a fresh start. Not just outside, but in my heart as well.

When you start a day with joy, the rest of the day will be joyful. I wish it would rain here every morning.