Thursday, July 31, 2014

He's Too Concrete

The other day, Super Hero and I were driving home from errands.  It's always a risk to have any sort of conversation in a moving vehicle with a deaf person.  Not only can they miss very important signs, they can veer off the road. ;-)  Have you ever seen that Seinfeld episode with Kramer as he's "interpreting" what Marlee Matlin signs?  Marlee's character can lipread and signs what she sees this couple across the room saying.  Her character gets the information correct, but Kramer totally screws up the "interpreting" part.  The hilarious part is, although "sweep together" and "sleep together" look similar when spoken, the signs look nothing alike.  So only a person that knows both languages understands how stupid it is that Kramer gets it all messed up.

That's kinda what a conversation with a deaf engineer looks like.  I want to give you context for our conversation, but it really ruins the true beauty of how illogically concrete our conversation was.

Me:  What's your interview for?
Him: A job.
Me: I Know that.  But where?
Him:  At home.
Me: No.  I know it's a PHONE interview.  Where is the JOB?
Him:  I have no idea.
Me:  You have no idea?  You're interviewing for a job and you have no idea where the job is?
Him:  Yes.  I'm tired of interviewing.  So I figure when I finally get a job, then I'll worry about where it is.

This conversation happens  in bursts of two or three words because he has to watch the road.  Which becomes even more frustrating because then I'm not sure which signs he has seen.  So, do I repeat myself, or keep going?

As we're driving home (the person was supposed to call at 1 p.m., ), he keeps pointing to the clock on the dashboard.

Him: It's 12:56!

We keep driving.  I notice him looking at the clock some more.

Him: It's 12:58!  We're going to be late.

More driving.  I think the slowest person in the world is in front of us.  Super Hero points that out, too.

Him:  (Pointing to the clock, in case I wasn't paying attention before) It's 12:59!
Me: Yes, it is.

Drive.  Drive.  Drive.  We haven't pulled into our house quite yet, and....

Him:  (pointing to the clock) It's 1:00!  We're late!  I KNEW it.  I KNEW we'd be late.
Me:  I doubt this guy's waiting by his phone to dial it at 1 p.m.  We're fine.

He runs into the house to where the video phone is set up.  Phew.  No missed calls.  He sits there for the next 20 minutes waiting for the phone to ring so he can answer his TV.  Nothing.  He decides to get up and make lunch.  I'm sitting in the living room, looking at my phone.  He's making himself lunch and all of a sudden yells "shoot!" and runs into the schoolroom.

Him:  Why didn't you TELL ME that the phone was ringing?!!
Me:  Because I didn't HEAR the phone ringing.

See that wonderful logic happening here?  I'm the hearing person.  I'm supposed to hear everything.
So, like most problems in the house, the wife/mother gets blamed and she doesn't even have to be in the same room.   It's all good.  He got his phone interview.  He got his lunch.  And he might get an in person interview.  He finds that out next week.

Oh - and the job is in Vancouver.  So.  Now you know.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Things Fall Apart

A little over a week ago I got a call from Holland's residential placement.  His team was on "shut down", which meant that all the boys in his group (about 8) had been put on a status that required the strictest supervision.  The staff had determined that the boys had not been following the peer feedback and accountability.  There were also boys that were teasing Holland, causing him to react inappropriately and then they would call him out on his behavior.  He would not accept their feedback and the cycle would repeat.  The team had to go through three stages in order to rebuild their accountability to each other and be able to work together again.  They lost a lot of privileges and were not able to make any phone calls until Stage Three.  They had to make amends with each other and each boy had to call his parents and explain his role in the breakdown of the group - "take accountability" for his part in the group's behavior.

I was so excited when I heard the boys had made it to Stage Three.  It sounded like they had pulled it together and were a team again.  On Thursday night I got a call from Holland.  He started his call with, "I'm taking accountability for my part in a member of my team running away."  I was all confused.  I thought we were past Stage One and here he was apologizing for something.  I asked what he was talking about.  His phone calls are limited to five minutes, so I knew I wasn't going to get much information out of him.  He said that he and another boy had planned on running away from the program.  He didn't do it, but the other boy had.  He made it into Portland and was caught (I later found out the boy had turned himself in), and was back in detention.  I asked if Holland would have to go back in detention.  He said he didn't know.  I had a million questions.  I had zero time to ask them.  I wanted to talk to a staff person.  I couldn't - the other boys needed to make their phone calls. 

The next day I was able to get hold of his former PO and find out more of what happened.  She was going out to visit him and discuss the seriousness of his situation.  With Holland's recent diagnosis of autism, I wonder if he has to go in front of a judge again, that his medical diagnosis will be taken into account.  I'm afraid of what will become of him if he is incarcerated.  He will not get the kind of therapy he needs.  If you are reading this, please pray that he does not get removed from his current placement.

I got another call last night and I'm afraid that his time may be over.  He barricaded himself in an upstairs room with a foosball table.  He threw something out a window and when he finally did come out, he ran outside the house.  He said he never left the property, but he still had staff chase him outside.  They discussed his options and I'm doubting that they will want to keep him after this.  I know the program wants to work with him, but when he keeps getting physical like this, he'll be viewed as too much of a threat to the other boys and their safety.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

THE resume

I just finished writing my resume.  It's not your traditional, boring, typewritten resume.  This thing has got Class.  A friend from my church developed this online, uber-cool way of writing up a resume. It's called Sumry.  You start by answering a bunch of basic questions about yourself and the answers are plugged into a preset form that helps you develop a very unique resume.  It's not just about your skills - it's about who you are.  Why type of person are you?  Your qualifications are as important as your life story.  I love the set up - and I loved writing it.  I wanted to keep writing.  I had to stop myself from writing more.  Geez.  I need to write a book or something.

Here's a link to my Sumry resume.  I'm also working on one for Super Hero.  I figured a year and a half of no job ought to warrant a new kind of approach to job hunting.  Let's freak out all those engineers out there with this new kind of resume!

Saturday, July 12, 2014


What is it about perspective that allows us to form opinions about our situation?  If we are experiencing trauma, our perspective can be fraught with pain.  If we are looking at another person's situation, perspective can elicit feelings of empathy, or jealousy or pity.  When we arrive at the other end of that journey, our perspective has now become that of someone arriving at a destination. 

My perspective has changed.  I had a beginning - lots of beginnings.  That's my perspective now.  I look and see there were lots of beginnings.  How did we make it through those beginnings?  There were lots of very difficult places to be in.  Why was there so much trauma?  And pain?  I always think that we somehow got the short end of the stick.  People always say "he was so blessed to get parents like you.".  That's very kind.  I don't feel blessed.  I feel tortured. My perspective in those beginnings was that it was never going to end.  He was never going to get better.  He was going to beat the hell out of our house and our family unit.

I'm in the middle now.   But there are constantly new beginnings in this middle. My perspective now is that there are still beginnings in this middle.  Some are good and some not so good.  We got the dreaded call that he might be sent back to detention (that's juvenile hall for you newbies).  That's not a place you want your son to be.  He's being well taken care of right now.  There are people that understand his neurological and medical needs.  He's watched 24 hours a day and he's held accountable by his peers in the program.  No other placement will have that kind of set up. 

Super Hero and I were on our way to visit him this morning.  We get one visit a week - an hour of time.  We were about 15 minutes early, so I said we should stop at a Starbucks and get him a hot chocolate with a gift card I had.  The store I thought was there had closed, so we had to pull into the parking lot of a nearby mall.  I noticed a message on my phone.  "Your visit has been cancelled.  He's on a safety plan."  We were five minutes from the residence.  I could not get hold of anyone on a Saturday.  We started to drive back home when someone finally responded to a message I left.  Holland had "gone from zero to one hundred in a few seconds.  He responded to a peer about something and threw a glass across the kitchen and picked up other things and threw them as well."  I will not get any more information until his therapist calls me on Monday.  He was able to call and talk to me for his five minutes of allowed phone call time.  He sounded depressed.  He didn't think he was going to last another week.  Didn't see the point of it.  How do you encourage a child that sees no point of continuing such a hard path?  He made bad choices.  He is paying for those choices.

We have another new beginning.  Super Hero got a part time job.  He has been without a full time job for a year and a half.  No engineering job.  He had to take a part time job as an "inventory specialist" at a car rental place at the airport.  I feel it must be so degrading for him to have done that.  And yet I'm so proud of him for doing it.  I want him to be honored for his choice to work to support us.   And my new beginning is going to be finding a job as well.  I've applied for an interpreter job for Portland Public Schools.  With every ounce of my being I do not want to do this.  I don't want the stress of working on top of homeschooling the kids and getting them to church and sports functions.  Worrying about doctor appointments and grocery shopping and therapy appointments with Holland.  Laundry will become something that gets put in a pile, not put away.  I won't be able to work with the kids on school stuff the way I wanted to.  Dinners will be crazy with Super Hero working 3pm -11pm 3 days a week.  

To end all these beginnings, Holland had some testing done by an excellent psychologist.  She has worked with over 300 kids affected in utero by meth.  We finally got an 18 page report from her describing in detail the testing and the results.  Her conclusion was the Holland is Autistic.  The DSM has changed the language in how it diagnoses children.  His is more a social aspect of autism.  But reading this report was like reliving all the moments we had when he was growing up. 

So what is my perspective now?  How do I adjust my thinking from all those years of parenting a child that was improperly diagnosed as bipolar?  What do I think when people complain that they can't have a "normal" life?  What is normal?  Not having hole punched in your wall?  Not locking up remote controls or the pantry so your child doesn't get up at 3 in the morning to play the wii or steal food with gluten in it?  What about not being afraid of your child?  Or not having your other children afraid of that child?  What about being able to go to a store without having to leave a grocery cart in the middle of an aisle because he couldn't handle the word "no".  And he was 12 (and threatening to hit you?)  What about having to change plans - the whole family - because your "bipolar" child refuses to get in the car and go sightseeing?  He wants to stay home and wait for a friend that might call.  I have a hard time with perspective.  Our lives are definitely "easier" now that he is not living with us.  It's calmer here.  There's less tension of feeling like someone is going to get physically hurt.  But how can that perspective be good?  I have a child that doesn't get to live at home.  Other families get to eat dinner together.  Or go on trips together.  I have a hard time even taking a family picture.  My perspective is that someone is missing. 

I raised three children and now I only have two.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

I'm done

I've decided that someone else can have my job.  I'm giving my notice. I quit. No need for severance.
I'm tired of the fighting. The yelling. The name calling. The broken things. The holes in the walls.
Throwing things at me when I don't make the right thing for dinner.  The "I don't care what consequence you give me, there's nothing you can do about it."  The "I don't care if you say I can't do __________,  I'm gonna do it anyway."   The breaking into my room and taking whatever he wants.

I am no longer an effective employee.  If there's any question about this, look no further than the other two charges in my care.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


This is the text I received yesterday, "We need u to babysit a cute stray dog.  We took it to the vet.  No microchip.  She's too sweet to take to pound.  Or he.  Put out a Craigslist ad.  No reply.  If she is still at our house when we get back"  Before I even finished reading this, the phone rang.  It was my sister asking if I had read her text about the dog.  She said the dog wandered into her yard when one of the kids left their gate open.  They had just driven to Bend to pick up a rescue Border Collie and couldn't keep another animal.  So she asked if Egypt could look after him.  Just days before this, I had been scouring the internet looking for an Australian Shepherd rescue dog.  Even rescue dogs are very expensive (more so when you don't have a job to buy one in the first place!).  I had found an adorable mini Aussie in West Linn and emailed twice about him.  But no answer. 

I guess we were waiting for God to drop Jasper into our lives.  I keep telling the kids not to name him.  He's just the sweetest animal - obviously was cared for at one point.  He knows several tricks, is very friendly and doesn't bark at us and follows Egypt everywhere.  But Australian Shepherds have really thick fur and it's really easy to let it get matted.  He loves being brushed and smooshes his face into your lap wanting to be petted.

I'm praying if the owner comes forward, that it happens quickly because the kids are already attached to him.  They are convinced that this dog was meant for us - how else would  we end up with a stray
Australian Shepherd?

Monday, May 13, 2013

What If

Things just keep getting progressively worse.  How is that even possible?  I thought we had hit the lowest point in this journey when we drove down to Springfield and dropped Holland off at a residential facility?!  Now it looks like we are going to be doing the same thing again.

It doesn't seem to matter how much we love this kid.  It doesn't seem to matter that we have tried doctor after doctor; countless medicines; diet changes; behavior modification treatment plans; various forms of punishment and praising of good behavior.  His damaged brain just will not learn that we love him and his actions beget consequences like calling the police.  We are working with Catholic Community Services.  We have a mental health team in place at school.  We are working with a psychiatrist.  He has all these skills that he's supposed to have learned from his stay at the treatment center in Springfield.  And still.....

He is becoming so dangerous and violent that the only way to keep the family safe is to get him into Treatment Foster Care.  And the only way to get him in that placement is to first get him admitted into a residential facility again.  This is what we were trying to do when he first was released from Safe Center.  The recommendation was for Treatment Foster Care.  But because of all the insurance tie-ups, there was no way to get him into that.  Plus, DHS was not backing that recommendation.  So his transition from a very structured residential placement to back home took place and we are now looking at getting him into another residential placement so he can enter the Treatment Foster Care system.  Because he is considered in a "safe" placement being at home, DHS will NOT place him in a foster care home right from here.  So we have to get him into residential, and then get him placed into a Treatment Foster Home.  We are talking a MAJOR traumatic event in this child's life.

And there's nothing left to do about it.  We are out of options.

He doesn't trust me.

Every time I say we're going to a doctor's appointment, he doesn't want to get in the car.  And why would he? 

This week is shaping up to be one of the worst in the history of our family.  And to top it off, I was reminded yesterday, the Mother of all Days, that I have failed in this one job I have been given.   On the way to church, I made the boys get out of the car and walk back home.  They had been arguing all morning and I told them they had until 10:30 to get themselves ready.  I was going to leave at that time, whether or not they were ready.  I sat in the car as they ran with shoes and still yelling at me that I didn't wait.  I pulled over the car, and said "get out.  You've made me late and I don't want you with me."  So they did.  How's THAT for a mother's day treat?   Then I had Egypt crying that I wasn't buying the family a dog, because their cousins just got one.  I almost turned the car around and dropped her off at home as well.  To top off the best of all days, there was a baby dedication at church.

I saw myself fourteen years ago, standing up there with Super Hero, as we were dedicating our lives to raising our son to follow Christ and praying for protection from Evil.   We have had many prayers surround us, but Evil has not tread lightly on us.  All I could think about was how I felt those prayers had escaped us these past years.  I believed that we would be protected and I pictured raising children to follow a Godly path. 

It is incredibly hard not to feel the sadness that goes along with this kind of life.  When we were first trying to start a family, it was always the "what ifs", when we we couldn't conceive children.  Now, it's the "what ifs" that go along with raising a child with severe mental deficits and the unknown outcome of his disabilities.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Mental Health System is Broken

Ever since Holland came home from the residential treatment facility, we've had access to really good services through the Oregon Health Plan.  It's really sad that it took Super Hero losing his job to get good health care.  Everything else about him losing his job has been horrible (not enough money for food; standing in line at churches to pick up food every week; barely being able to pay monthly bills; not being able to buy nice gifts for the boys' birthdays.)  But the health care has been the one plus of this whole situation.  I don't like depending on the government to "take care" of us.  But I'm really glad that there are programs set up like this - otherwise I really don't know, or want to think about, what we'd do if we didn't have this available to us.

We have a really great therapist that comes to our house.  That's never happened before.  Anyone who has been involved with therapy knows that there are lots of doctors involved and you are constantly driving all over the place.  With this insurance the therapist comes right to our house for family therapy and also therapy with Holland.  There are also "skills trainers" that come twice weekly.  So far we've had about 6 different people come out and take Holland into the community.  They've gone to parks, the library, out to grab ice cream, walks with their dogs, Goodwill to pick up computer parts and today the guy took him to Subway to grab lunch before our meeting with the psychiatrist.  Too bad he didn't eat anything except chips.  He said he didn't like their bread - even though they have gluten free, he didn't even want to try it. 

So there's what's good about our healthcare so far.  Here's where the breakdown happens.  In Oregon, some idiotic government people decided that at age 14, children have become competant enough to make decisions regarding their mental health and whether or not they should take medications.  At age 14 you're not allowed to: vote; serve on a jury; buy property; rent property; sue; be sued; sign legal documents; open a bank account; apply for a credit card; drink; drive a vehicle; get married (in most states!).  So by comparison, my child can tell whether or not he needs medicine that will help his dopamine levels even out, but not that Barack Obama will screw up this country for another 4 years.  Thanks for clearing that up.

When we went in for our first appointment with the psychiatrist since getting our new insurance, I had no idea that Holland would be signing for his own prescriptions.  In my mind, as the mother you go to the doctor, discuss the problems that are happening and decide on a treatment and get whatever medicine you decide together are appropriate.  What happens when he has pneumonia and refuses treatment for that?  This is just totally screwed up in my mind.  When the doctor was explaining what the medications were for (to help him be more calm and to sleep better), he said "no, I don't want you to give me medicine that will make me not like the computer.  And I also don't want to sleep in, in the morning."  He gets up at 3:30 in the morning and roams around the house doing the wii and the computer.  He doesn't want to sleep anymore because he'll miss time on the computer.  Yep.  That sounds like a totally competant person to me.  One that can appropriately judge how he may or may not need to take medication to regulate his mood and sleeping habits.  I now understand why his residental stay ended at age 14.  Because the state can no longer give him medication after age 14 without his consent.  And guess what?  NO ONE told me that!  Not ONE person on staff there mentioned that when we got home, Holland would be able to refuse treatment.  If they would have done that, I would have pulled him out of there before he turned 14, and gotten him on this insurance.  Then we would have at least been able to get him started on medication that would be regulating his mood and helping him sleep.

This is how the mentally ill in the country are getting swept under the rug.  The government is making it impossible for families to help their own children get treatment.  They declare children competant at age 14 (and in Washington state it's 13!) so they can refuse treatment without even understanding what a drug's benefit can actually be.  This is pure insanity.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Basketball Camp

A couple weeks ago, I jokingly posted on my Facebook wall, asking if anyone wanted to contribute money to help get Egypt to a basketball camp this summer.  I only did it because we don't have $200 to get her there and the camp is hosted by the former coach of Oregon City High School, Brad Smith.  He led the Pioneers to numerous State and National Championships, which date back to when I was in high school, over 20 years ago!

Two things happened:  people commented that there was actually a website for starting your own fund raisers; and I set one up!  I've posted several updates and included photos of Egypt playing in her second season of basketball.  She even has a nickname from the other parents:  "The Intimidator".  I love that she doesn't back down.  Even when they've played all-boys teams.  Her age group is currently set up for co-ed, but she's been playing soccer for several years with three other girls and we wanted them to continue to play together.  Then Egypt subbed on another soccer team last fall and I got to know that coach as well.  So we formed an all-girls team and we love it.  Last year when she played with boys, they never passed the ball to her, but expected her to pass the ball to them.  She's a very aggressive player and is the best defensive player on her team. 

Last week a friend from Egypt's arthritis camp shared her goal to get to basketball camp on her own Facebook wall.  And by morning we had two donations!  It was so exciting to know that people wanted to help her get to camp.  I've sent in a deposit to reserve her a spot - so I'm hoping that we can get all the money raised to send her to this two-week camp.  I've set up the widget on the side of my blog.  Check out the updates and even a couple bucks would help us get toward our goal!

Egypt - #6

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Life With Pepper

I'm finally getting around to posting about Egypt's new pet rabbit - Pepper.  Such an adorable little guy.  So friendly and curious.  Loves to be held and have his forehead rubbed.  She's done an awesome job taking care of him.  I've added "taking care of Pepper" to her list of chores, but it isn't really a chore!  She would do it whether I wrote it down or not.  She feeds him first thing in the morning and exercises him twice a day.  We finally got a play area set up for him on the patio under the deck where he can hop around among hay bales without roaming too far.  Our yard is too big and he'd get lost or squeeze under the fence and be gone forever.

Here are some pictures of the newest member of the family in all his sweetness.