Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Going to Wisc. tomorrow

I am leaving tomorrow to drive to Wisconsin to see Akila.  I will be staying in a hotel tomorrow night and Akila will stay with me.  Then on Friday morning, we will drive back to the Residential Treatment Center (RTC) for her 6 month staffing (mtg).  After the meeting, she will come home with me for a visit until Monday at noon.

I am really looking forward to seeing her.  Her August visit was the first weekend of August and this September is the last weekend of September so it has been a long stretch.  Her attitude has been increasing at the RTC.  She had a few weeks of whining and crying on the phone, but then school started and she has been really happy again.

We have had a very busy start to the school year.  Imani is playing on the freshmen volleyball team at our high school which is 5 or 6 days a week depending on if there is a Saturday tournament.  Zeke is doing football which is four nights a week practice and games every Saturday.  Kind of glad there is nothing Hezekiah is interested in taking in the fall.  :)

There is a ton of other stuff going on that I am going to write about soon, some really cool stuff.  But something really sad, is that Akila's county Placement Worker passed away suddenly last night.  I know he was married and had a 14 year old son.  Very sad.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Montana vacation

The first day of our road trip, we drove to the Rapid City, South Dakota area.  It was our first time, and we loved it.  The Badlands were particularly amazing.  We got out and did some climbing, I believe it is called bouldering.  That was a great way to start the trip out.  I really had no idea how beautiful and amazing the Badlands were, and they were my favorite part of South Dakota.  We saw Mt. Rushmore, and some of the touristy things, but nothing that compared to the Badlands.

We stayed the first night in Rapid City, and then drove to Red Lodge, Montana.  My friend, Lynne, is a Montana groupie and gave us a route that she recommended, along with recommendations of where to stay.  And boys does she know her stuff, thanks for the tips Lynne!!!  We stayed at the Rock Creek Resort in Red Lodge, and it was awesome.  It is right on the beautiful Rock Creek.  We had a balcony that overlooked the creek, and it was simply beautiful.

On the first morning, I got up early and hiked up the mountain behind the resort, and it was gorgeous.  After I returned, Michael had met Bill, the head of maintenance who was telling him about a trail across the highway that would run into an old shack, some old mines and a cellar.  We went on a hike with the kids and found all of the markers he told us about.  That also was fun.  We went into the cute little town of Red Lodge for some great lunch, and then stopped at the Beartooth Nature Center.  When we got home from that, I rented one of the resorts bikes and went for a bike ride.

The resort is 5 miles outside of town so I rode into town.  There is a town 6 miles from Red Lodge called Bear Creek which Lynne owns property in and had told me about.  The town also is the home of Montana’s largest mine disaster, the Smith Mine disaster, which killed 73 or 74 men.  I decided to ride there, thinking that would be about a 22 mile ride, which is about the length I have been doing home.  I knew this would be harder though, as there are mountains and hills EVERYWHERE.  I got into Red Lodge just fine, and took the turn to Bear Creek.  Immediately, I had to ride up a huge hill.  Over half way up the hill, I was thinking to myself, I sure hope there are not a lot of hills like this or I may turn around.  I got to the top of the hill, and came around a corner, and saw a beautiful landscape in front me that was all down hill.

Immediately, I knew I would have to ride back up it, and thought better of taking this ride.  Then I told myself, this is what you have been riding for all summer.  I went for it.  It was a gorgeous ride, complete with switch backs and everything.  When I was getting close to Bear Creek, I could see the old Smith Mine and there was a roadside sign with info which I stopped and read.  I got into Bear Creek, turned around, and rode up the hills.  It was hard, but amazing. 

When I was in Bear Creek, I had tried to call Lynne to see if I could find her property but had to leave a message.  She called me back just as I came into Red Lodge so I pulled over and we talked for about 10 minutes.  At this point, I have been biking for 2 hours.  I got back on the bike for the final 5 miles back to the resort.   Immediately, I knew it was not going to be fun.  I shouldn’t have stopped, the break gave my legs time to realize how hard they had been working and they were like jelly.  I forgot to mention that it had been in the mid 80’s.

These last 5 miles, were the longest 5 miles ever.  It reminded me of some childhood bike rides I had with my best friend Teresa.  We grew up on a lake about 7 miles outside of Willmar.  When we were in 5th grade, we started riding our bikes into town for softball practice, or to just ding around.  I remember a couple of times riding home, and hitting some crazy winds, and wishing someone would come by and give us a ride.  This is how I felt in Montana.  The wind was picking up,, and even though I wasn’t having to ride up the steep crazy hills I had just tackled, I was not doing a lot of inclines and even on the declines, I was having to peddle full force because of the wind.

Obviously I made it back, and was totally fine.  I did have a water bottle with me which I finished.  The ride was 22.69 miles total and took nearly 3 hours, with a couple of breaks in it.  I had on my heart rate monitor and I burned 1500 calories.  Wahoo.  The next several days, I have to tell you, my butt was killing me!  Made me realize I need to work more hills into my bike rides, very good for the backside!

The next day we did something I was nervous to do.  We rode on the Beartooth Pass.  If you don’t know what this is, you should.  It is an amazing scenic drive through the mountains.  It starts right in Red Lodge and ends pretty much as you enter Yellowstone Park.  Charles Kuralt called it the most scenic drive in America, and it is by far the most beautiful drive I have been on.  A few years ago, Michael and I had a vacation in California, and we drove from San Diego to Palm Springs for a few days.  We took some back rodes to get there, and ended up driving on some roads that were winding through the mountains, and were freaking us both out.  Me especially as I was driving.  It was beautiful, but terrifying.  Due to this memory, we were both nervous for the Beartooth Pass.

I am a natural born roadtrip driver.  My dad was a travelling salesman (sold veterinary meds to farmers).  He could drive forever and was good with directions and knew his way around.  I inherited these talents from him.  Michael is not a great long distance driver.  He gets the highway hypnosis thing and has a hard time staying awake, past two hours.  So needless to say, I do most of the driving, and we are both cool with this.
Well, the Beartooth Pass was lovely.  It was not freaky at all, as they have guard rails almost the entire time when needed (the mountains we drove in California did not have guard rails).  There are tons of turnouts and spots to pull over to let someone pass you, or to look and take pictures.  We stopped at 80% of them to take pictures and enjoy the scenery.  You can get through this route in 1.5-2 hours, but it took us 4 hours.  We did stop to eat our lunch at one point.

When we came through the Beartooth Pass, we entered into Yellowstone National Park.  We were able to see bison, but that was about the only wildlife we ran into.  We saw the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, and this was truly awesome.  It was gorgeous.

After Yellowstone, we stayed at a place called Chico Hot Springs.  It is on the national historic registry and it is cool.  It has two pools that are fed by a hot spring, 96 and 102 degrees I think.  We went horseback riding and white water rafting one day.  I also got to get a massage at the spa and Michael and I had a late night dinner at their renowned fine eating restaurant.  One day, horseback riding, white water rafting, massage and a fabulous meal.  Totally spoiled.  It was an awesome day.  The trip was relaxing and fun.  I fell in love with Montana and the mountains!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

August update

I haven’t blogged in awhile, I haven’t blogged much this summer.  As I wrote earlier, I have kind of been on vacation this summer, in many ways.  I have been riding bike, going for runs and hanging out with the 3 kids.  Akila has been coming home once a month for a home visit, they have gone well.  It is much easier than driving 4 hours to visit her and being stuck we have in a small town with little to do.  Plus, the RTC drives her to the cities and back, so it saves us money.

When she has been home, the visits have gone smoothly.  It is obvious that we are still dealing with the same behaviors, even though we have not had any major explosions.  The first two visits were two nights, and the 2nd night, she was starting to get sassy and mad about little things.  When Imani wouldn’t play with her, she stomped on my feet and pushed me as she raged about what a horrible mother I am.  But all the rest of the time, she was lovely.  Her August visit, she was here for 3 nights, but it was her birthday weekend so she was very happy with all the attention.

Her behaviors just in the past few weeks have started to accelerate at the RTC.  She punched a staff in the stomach and has been starting to show a lot more attitude.  It took her 5 months to get to this point, and she is still a mellow version.  At first, I was not excited about the RTC option.  But I have learned something through this experience.  The RTC offers the exact level of structure she needs.  More than a group home can offer, and certainly more than our home can offer.  She has been thriving there.  I know I wrote about this in July, but I just have to say it again.  I also know that many people who have children with with FASD or other issues, have not had good experiences with RTC’s.  For some reason, it has been great for Akila.  I am so grateful for this.

We have been doing things this summer which have been harder to do or impossible when Akila is home.  One thing we did, for the first time, was go on a family vacation/road trip.  Travelling with Akila has always been hard.  She is difficult in the car, and tries to dominate and dictate activities.  We always have to work around her, and it is hard on the other 3 kids.  I remember several years ago, on spring break we were going to the Mall of America to go to Nickelodeon Universe.  Now, you have to know, that we only live 25 minutes from the MOA.  As we were driving there, Akila got mad at Zeke over something piddle, and she smacked him.  She smacked him hard enough that he got a mammoth bloody nose and I had to pull off of the highway and clean up blood, and it took forever for it to stop.  He was really freaked out (I think he was 5 or so).  The kids didn’t even want to go anymore, as Hezekiah and Imani were also freaked out.  We did go, and it went fine.

But when we go to Willmar for the 4th of July at our friends, it is always tense and the other 3 kids don’t really get to do what they really want to do because of Akila’s behaviors.  So, this summer, we decided after much prayer and deliberation, that we would take a road trip without Akila.  That might sound like an easy decision, or it may sound like a hard one.  It was both.  It was a no brainer, yet, it was hard.  Just like her current placement, it feels right and wrong all at the same time. 
So, we went to Montana for 5 days and stopped in South Dakota in the Black Hills for a night on the way.  It was a totally awesome trip, I am writing as we drive home through North Dakota.  I will do another post with pictures from the trip.  I was not sure what Akila’s response would be when I told her, but it was a good one. 

When she was at the crisis home last fall, she cried and begged to come home the entire 3 months.  On the phone, when she heard about something we were doing, she would get mad and whine about it or cry.  We stopped telling her what we were doing.  I was using the same approach when she first went to the RTC.  Then I tried telling her about some things we were doing, and she was genuinely happy for us.  Even when I told her in July that we were in Willmar for our annual lake stay, she was happy.  This is another sign to me of how well she is doing at the RTC, and what an appropriate placement it is for her.

But I wasn’t sure if this trip would be something that would make her mad or sad.  I told her, and she was truly happy.  I have called her almost every night, and she has not whined or cried about it.  She did one night say, “Next time you go on a trip, can I come with?” That stung right through the heart, as there have been a million times on this trip that I have wished she were with as I knew she would like something we were doing.  She has spoken with the kids on the phone, listened to what they did each day, and had really appropriate responses to them.

I am very grateful for this opportunity to travel with the three kids and Michael.  I am sad that Akila was not with us, but I am also aware that it needed to be this way.