Wednesday, June 27, 2012

And Then Things Got Scary...

I have so many wonderful things about the kids to blog... So many great developments and big celebrations... But it's all overshadowed by the massive, horrible catastrophe that is currently overwhelming my beloved home.

Most of you have probably seen, already, that Colorado Springs is experiencing a wildfire of epic proportions. The Waldo Canyon Fire started on Saturday in a popular hiking area not far from where we live. The first day, when it started, it was not large and I was thinking "oh, they'll get this under control. It's pretty small."

I was wrong. On Sunday it had grown and the city of Manitou Springs was evacuated as a precaution. That scared me, because our part of town is right next to Manitou, and if Manitou was in danger then we were next.  It grew through day one and into day two, surging north and west (away from us) up to about 6,500 acres in size at the start of day 4. Then, that afternoon, all hell broke loose. A dry thunderstorm hit as the fire crested a ridge, creating huge gusts of wind and driving the fire west and down into the city. The fire hit the northwest edge of the city around 5:30pm and structure fires broke out.

I've NEVER seen anything like this. Homes were bursting into flames, fire leaping from one roof to the next. Of course, I was watching this unfold on the news in a sort of numb horror. Evacuations were hastily made, evacuation notices started coming out like crazy as the firefighters tried to get a handle on a fire that had hit homes and was spreading through the northwest portion of the city. We anxiously packed for a possible evacuation, feeling maybe a bit paranoid but not wanting to be caught unaware. We got very little sleep last night, I assure you.

Today was a blessedly calm day in terms of wind and weather. We won't know until morning what growth or containment we are looking at. The northwest edge is seeing spot fires and they are fighting growth. So far, our area seems to be safe. We are south and west of the bulk of the fire, due south of the structure fire areas, and the fire hasn't been pushing in this direction at all since the second day.

Still, I feel like I just can't calm down and feel comfortable. Yesterday, the fire went from 6,500 acres to 15,300 acres in just a few hours. There is a hungry monster just four miles north of us. It headed south in its infancy... will it turn south again?? No one can predict its behavior, even the experts.

I'm finding it really hard to act natural in this situation. We're not directly affected at this time, so there's no reason to stop life... but it's hard not to be glued to the news. It's hard not to feel totally unsettled by living out of bags in my own home. I find myself wanting to just unpack because we are safe right now. But then, I think of how quickly it turned on the northwest part of town and how close it still is to our neighborhood and I'm too scared to touch a thing. Having to dig through a bag to find my shampoo or my phone charger is sad and irritating. I want to think we're safe, I want to think that we'll be fine, I know they are fighting the fire and doing a great job. Then I think "all those firefighters are up north... if it breaks out down here, will there be enough guys to fight it???"

Do I sound neurotic as hell? Well, you'll have to forgive me... the weatherman on the news just said "Woodland Park is 3.1 miles away, so you would think it's safe, but the northwest part of town was the same distance from the fire on Tuesday and look what happened last night." Well, shoot, WE'RE 4 miles away in another direction. Where is safety??? 5 miles? 10 miles? Kansas?!?

sigh. Please say a prayer for our city. I love this place. I love Colorado Springs, and I particularly love the west side. I don't want to see anymore of it burn. Friends of mine are waiting to see if they still have a home. Some know they don't. This is terrible, it's awful, 32,000 people are evacuated and waiting and  hundreds have lost their homes. This is a tragedy, but God has us in His hands. Not a single life has been lost because He is so good. That's a bright spot in this horror. Not one single death or injury reported at this time.

Still, this is horrible and sad and we need a lot of protection and healing over here.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Keeping People Poor

I've been terribly remiss in blogging lately, sorry everyone. I have a whole bunch of update type stuff to share, but I had to get this little blip out first. Please forgive me for a rant, but here it comes. 

Today I was at the Department of Human Services building to submit our Medicare application for Geri. I haven't been really trumpeting about this one, but we are getting pretty stretched financially so I finally bit the bullet and asked for help. Really, all we need is assistance with the medical bills because they are eating us alive... even with insurance. I have felt a bit strange about this, because I never ever thought I would be on any type of public assistance in my life, but here we are. Geri is beautiful and amazing and making such great progress and it would be an absolute crime to have it interrupted by such a petty thing as money and pride... but that's not what I wanted to write about. I have to reel it back in... I'm so scared of being judged for asking for an "entitlement" that I get a bit defensive. 

On our way out of the building we were walking in front of two women and their kids. One mom seemed to have three of them, the other two. As they were walking, I could hear them talking about applying for assistance. I wasn't trying to eavesdrop (I swear) but from what I overhead I could tell that the mom of 3 was new to "the system" and had applied for some sort of housing assistance. The other mom was telling her that she had to make sure she worked as little as possible this month in order to get in. 

Mom of 3 was objecting, saying that she needs to work to pay her bills. Mom of 2 was explaining to her that if she earned too much money this month she would be ineligible for assistance and not get into an apartment. They were going back and forth over how to work this whole thing, with Mom of 3 talking about how she only wanted the assistance for a little while, until she could figure it out on her own. 

Here's the part that kills me. People want, very often, to paint those on public assistance as lazy and shiftless and sucking off the teat of society. Here, though, was a woman who clearly wanted to work. She wanted to make her own money and support her kids as best she could. She didn't want to lay back and collect, she wanted to get out and provide. But she was stuck between a rock and a hard place. To get the assistance that she desperately needed, she had to look "poor enough." 

I don't know all the ins and outs of the welfare/assistance system, but I know that if it spawns conversations like what I heard today, then it's not right. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Lots Going On

So much has been going on and I haven't been able to get on the blog and update. Sorry, my bad.

Geri's glasses are definitely improving her vision, but the adjustment is hard. They seem to give her headaches and eye strain. It sucks because the only way to get her over it is to make her keep wearing them so she adjusts. She has also discovered how fun it is to lean forward and shake her head so they fall on the ground. But she has also figured out how to put them on without help, so that's fun.

We're back to the Wilbarger brushing protocol to try and help her integrate this new sensory info. It does truly seem to help, but man is it hard to keep up with. Stopping life every two hours is tough to remember. We are working hard at it, though, and it's only for two weeks.

She made HUGE progress in her feeding therapy this week. Due to a couple of no-shows, there was some room in a group feeding session that meets at the same time as Geri's one-on-one session, so we decided to try it out. She did so well, even though I wasn't with her. Honestly, the separation was the part I was most worried about but she did fine. She was brave enough to try hummus and take a bite of barbecue straw and put a chicken nugget to her lips. These small things are a big deal for her. We are now moving her to a group session, since it went so well this time.

Separation in general, though, is still hard for her. We are actually working on it now, and it's not a pleasure cruise.

So, the whole big story... Our neighbor was supposed to help us work on this by watching her, but she approached me a few weeks ago to say that she didn't think she could handle Geri. I was a bit bummed, but not hurt or angry. Our neighbor is in her 70's and Geri is a handful... a heavy handful who likes to be picked up a lot. So when she told me that she didn't feel like she could watch Geri, I wasn't totally surprised and I wasn't upset by it at all. I decided to call our agency to ask for respite care information so we could start finding a sitter for Geri.

Yeah, that proved more difficult than I thought it would be. I like our agency, they were pretty good, but in this particular area they have really fallen flat. It took several calls to even find out who is our new caseworker (our caseworker just left a month ago) and it was extremely tough to get anyone on the line at all. I finally got someone, told them I needed respite care information, talked a bit about the situation and then left contact info. I was reassured that our new caseworker would call. That was about two weeks ago and I have yet to hear anything. It's been about a month total that I've been calling and leaving messages and getting no info.

In my opinion, this is a big failure. Adoption is tough... wait, I spelled that wrong... it's TOUGH. Respite is an important part of helping families stay strong and functional through the stresses. If a family calls and requests respite, I think that should be a high priority. Adoption isn't just about placing kids, it's about integrating them and supporting the family to make a healthy environment for the child to adapt to their new life. If a parent is crying out for assistance or relief, the agency really ought to respond.

Thankfully, I was able to find another option. The in-home daycare that watches Mera during Geri's therapy is very good. I asked Renee (daughter of the mother-daughter team who make up this daycare) if the would be willing to watch Geri and she said they would try it. Twice now, I have left Geri with them for about five minutes when we come to pick up Mera. I bring Geri in, hand her off to Renee, then go out to the car and twiddle away five minutes and head back in.

It has not been easy for Geri. She gets VERY upset when I am not there. The good news is that she does not ignore my departures or returns (which would indicate a lack of attachment to me). She cries when I leave, is unable to play while I am gone, and then requires comfort when I return. She accepts my comforting, though, and soothes fairly well when I come back and hold her. This is just one of many stages of development in this area, and I'm glad to see that we have this starting point to build from. I'm most glad we have the opportunity to work on it, because I was getting a bit nervous.

I should point out, though, that we had NONE of these problems when she went with Jeanine into the group feeding session. She toddled off holding Jeanine's hand, participated fine in the session, and was a bit upset but not terribly so when I returned. That's great, because it shows her ability to determine who is a trusted adult. Jeanine, with whom she plays every week and who she likes, is trusted. Mommy is trusted more so. Renee, who is not a big part of Geri's life at this point, is trusted far less. She's showing normal discernment in this area, and I'm stoked to see it.

Hopefully, we can build up her ability to separate over the next couple of months in preparation for preschool in the fall. :) Call me Pip, 'cause I have Great Expectations!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Insurance Shuffle

It's a new dance craze that's sweeping our location! Where you try to get something medically necessary covered by your insurance and they shuffle around not being able to figure out what the hell you want or how to cover it!

It's so cute when she can see!!!
Geri got her new glasses today, which is awesome news. Yet, it's the backstory to this moment that illustrates a point in my mind. Just over one week ago (previous Wednesday) I brought Geri up to Denver for another EUA, and at this appointment Dr. B got her prescription. Seriously, I felt like he handed me a golden ticket. I was so excited. On the way home, I called my insurance company to ask if they would cover the glasses. I seemed to recall reading something in their booklet about how they covered glasses if they were due to glaucoma, cataracts, or traumatic eye injury.

The first person I spoke to assured me that, yes, glasses due to glaucoma would be covered. Cool, is there a limit to the glasses we can get? Any restrictions? "Oh, ummm... it says standard frames only..." OK, what's the definition of a standard frame? "Oh, ummm.... it doesn't say... your optometrist will know." At this point the call got cut off because I was driving through an I-25 dead zone.

I was not having warm fuzzies about this analysis, so I called back. I got a different operator, so I asked her - what's the definition of "standard frames"? "Oh, gee... it doesn't say... I don't know." Well, could you ask a supervisor or something? I go on hold for five minutes. Then she comes back on the line. "Your optometrist will know what that means." Really? Any optometrist will be familiar with this term? "Oh yeah, they all know what are standard frames!" Okay, fine.

The little blue butterflies come standard...
Fast forward to the next day. I walk into the optometrist's office. "Where are your standard frames?" I ask. "Standard frames??" She looks at me like I have just asked her for a blubberliquicklat or something similarly made up. "What's a standard frame?" she asks me. *palm slap to forehead* "I don't know," I tell her. "The insurance company said they cover 'standard frames' and that you would know what that meant." "I have no idea what that means," she said. "Did they give you a dollar limit?" *I go bang my head against a wall*

Speed forward to Tuesday of this week. I get a call from the receptionist/billing person in the optometrist's office. She has called my insurance and they told her that yes, they would cover glasses for glaucoma.... if the patient has already had surgery for the condition. Has the patient had surgery?

You know, since they PAID for the TWO surgeries, you would think they would know about them.

*I go bang my head against the wall, send insurance a bill for head trauma*
Nick thinks she looks like a Hollywood producer type, so here goes...
"Here's an idea, Nick-baby. You can set it in Canada, but we film in Michigan."

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Mumo Shots...

Our mission : to take pictures of our family with Nick's grandma, Mumo.

Went well, right? haha Never work with kids or animals, folks.

A decent picture of Geri and Mumo

Aside from the stink-eye, this was a good pic of Mera and Mumo...