Adoption Interview

Adoption Bloggers Interview Project 2012

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Welcome Sally

We welcomed a new member into our household today. Her name is Sally. We adopted a sweet black lab mix from a local animal shelter. Ironically enough Sally originally came from a over crowded, high kill shelter in Indiana to keep from being euthanized. It seems we were meant to find her since we started in Indiana and moved to Rhode Island and so did Sally. Already she has become super loyal to us and wants to be right next to us at all times. She's a great big (311/2 lb) lap dog! Hannah adores her and it seems that Sally adores her right back. Right now Hannah is napping and Sally is laying patiently at my feet as I type. Our current dog, Abby, doesn't seem to be phased in the least about this new addition. They both smelled each other over and then have promptly decided to ignore each other. Last night Hannah was so pumped about the prospect of Sally getting to come live at our house (there was a 24 hour waiting period while they chose which applicant was the best fit for the dog) that she rambled on and on about all the things she and Sally were going to do together. It will be interesting to see if the two of them do develop a bond with each other or if after the initial newness wears off Hannah starts ignoring her the way she pretty much ignores Abby. I'm really looking forward to having another dog. When we moved we let my parents keep our other dog, Ella, after we saw how much happier she seemed to be as a country dog rather than a city dog, but I've been missing the hustle and bustle that comes with having a house full of pets and that feel of a warm furry body snuggled up next to you (Abby's not much of a snuggler so it's been a long time since I've had that). Sally is definitely a snuggle dog. I can't wait until we find out if she's house trained so that we can let her into the carpeted floors of the house where we spend most of our time. I'm dying to let her cuddle up on the couch with Hannah and I while we watch movies together. Wish us luck that the acclimation process goes smoothly for all concerned.

This has nothing to do with Sally, but I have a funny Hannah story to tell you all. Last night Kyle was getting Hannah ready for bed and I heard her telling him that his belly was big. He feigned indignance and then Hannah shot back with one of the greatest one liners of all time. I laughed so hard that I couldn't breathe. From the kitchen I heard her reply, "Maybe there's a baby in your tummy." :) I think Kyle will be hitting the crunches hard after that one!

It's taken me a few days to finish this post and get some pics (although not good ones-please ignore the scary pet green eyes) of Sally to put up with this post, so I have another funny Hannah story for you. Yesterday Hannah was in a foul mood for some reason and was stomping around the house and scowling. Kyle tried to cheer her up and was making her laugh, but she didn't want to be happy. At one point she barged into the dining room and proclaimed, "I'm still angry! Look at my eyes!" and had her brow furrowed in the best impression of fake anger I've ever seen. I just had to laugh and then that really made her angry!

Today was my first day alone with Sally and we were finally moving into a somewhat normal routine. She seemed to be adjusting quite nicely until Hannah and I got home from her OT appointment. It was then we got our first clue that we've adopted the world's most athletic dog! I let both dogs out into the back yard so that I wouldn't have to fight them off while helping Hannah climb the snowy steps. While I went back to the van to get Hannah I noticed movement out of the corner of my eye and looked up just in time to witness Sally soaring over our 4 ft high privacy fence. She ran to greet us and then took off down the street. I chased her all over the neighborhood before I finally caught her. She then managed to bolt out the door once more before I finally got Hannah into the house. Then later in the day Hannah and I were outside playing on the swing set and chasing the dogs around in the snow. Hannah decided she wanted to play pirates and climbed up into her clubhouse. While we were up there, Sally decided she didn't want to be alone and nimbly climbed the ladder right up to the top of the clubhouse and hung out with us. Then when we decided to get down, instead of going down the slide which would have been easier, Sally easily climbed back down the ladder to the ground. While we were out playing Sally went up and down from the clubhouse just about every time Hannah did. We can definitely tell that she does not like to be alone. She's a people dog and wants to be right by your side at all times. It really stresses her out if she has to be separated from you. At least so far though she hasn't gotten destructive or anything when we've left her alone in the house when we had to go somewhere. I was quite worried about that as we started to realize she might have some separation anxiety.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Sensory Swings

WARNING: Guest blogger (Kyle) at the helm. Cut me some slack... I don't do this very often.

I saw a comment on the blog today that referenced a question on how we set up our sensory swings, and I thought this could be my shining moment in the blogosphere (whatever that is). So I took a few pictures and thought I'd run through how I set up Hannah's swings. Here's the the warning: this might be fairly boring if you're not interested in swings, and don't worry, I won't be offended if you don't read on, even if I do think you'd be missing some pretty awesome swing pictures.

Two quick caveats: (1) I am not a structural engineer, nor do I play one on tv. Everything I'm about to describe is simply how I fit out the playroom. If you have any doubts about doing something similar in your home, apartment, treehouse, outhouse, etc., talk to someone who understands this stuff better than me; (2) If I use the wrong term, don't get too upset -- see caveat (1).

In our basement we have the ability to expose the joists from the floor above, so I simply slid three of the 2'x2' tiles out of the way to expose a 6' section of a joist in the right area. We were fortunate that the joist I wanted to use ran roughly through the middle of one of the tile rows. Note that I made sure there was plenty of room for swings from the spot I picked (i.e. the primary swing location is located away from walls, lolly (a.k.a. lally) columns, steps, etc.). Our joists are 2"x8" so I chose to use 2"x6" supports, and as you can see from the picture, I secured approx. 5' sections to either side of the primary joist. The idea is that the joist will not be torqued (i.e. twisted) nearly as badly since it has support on both sides. Using the additional boards also allowed me to move the swing mounts more towards the center of the tile row. To fasten the boards I used two wood clamps to hold them in place and then secured them with (3x) 5/8" carriage bolts. To spread the force I used washers (the fattest I could buy) on both sides. I then put 5/8" eye-bolts at three strategically placed locations along one of the newly installed boards. This allows us to use multiple kinds of swings. The eye-bolts I used had the longest shanks that I could find, just to add additional support. And that's about it -- pretty simple, huh?
When I told Natty I wanted to do this post she suggested I also show off our different swings, so I'll give a little description of each. In each of these the most important thing is to be as safe as possible, so I've tried to keep that in mind as we've slowly added more. The disk swing is actually a carryover from our house in Indiana. I attached a carabiner to the rope and then used a separate carabiner to attach to the previously mentioned eye-bolts to allow for a little extra swing. I hope to eventually replace this second carabiner with a swivel mount to improve this even more. We mount the disk swing to the center mount. Two quick learning points: (1) buying the thickest rope available (ours is 1") makes it easier for little hands to hold on, and will hopefully allow Hannah to climb up the rope when she gets a little older; (2) working with thick rope is a pain in the rear.

The second swing is our platform swing, and was both pretty easy and fun to build -- Hannah even helped. Without going into too much detail, the main component is a 2'x4'x3/4" piece of plywood that I rounded and sanded down. After all expenses the final cost was under $50 (let me know if you'd like additional detail on what I did). We hang the swing from the outer two mounts.

Next is the trapeze bar/ring assembly we pulled off our outside playset. I know these are available at home stores, but I would recommend going with the highest quality you can find as this is the swing that has the lowest weight rating for use (80 lbs.). Hannah actually just started using a similar swing at OT, except that they have it on a swivel, so whenever I find one we'll probably start doing the same thing.

The final swing (for now) is a hammock. We use a canvas hammock that used to be in Hannah's playroom in Indiana -- I wouldn't install a woven one as the thought of her getting stuck (or worse) really worries me. The current setup isn't ideal for this swing, but the various mounts allow us to spread out the hammock or fold it in half, depending on what we want Hannah to do. When we fold it up we typically put her bean bag or a pillow in it to spread out the sides just a bit. Again, this swing would work better with a swivel. The one other thing of note is that the hammock is suspended using nylon rope that is knotted a different heights to allow us to do different things -- when the hammock is spread out we use the lower loops and when it is folded we use the higher loops. As a side note, I learned all my knot tying skills from the following website:

So that's it for now. I'd be happy to try to answer additional questions if anyone has them, but it's really pretty straightforward. I should mention that I don't let adults (Natalie) do any real swinging, just in case (again, refer to caveat (1) above). However, I have tested all of the swings myself (much to Hannah's delight) and I'm about 5x her weight.

Saturday, February 06, 2010


Hannah seems to have a knack for making me look ridiculous. Right now her venue of choice is the public library. The last two times we have gone to library she has made me look like a complete fool. The first time, we were standing in the middle of the stacks and Hannah decided abruptly that she didn't want to wear her skirt or tights or undies anymore and pulled the whole kit and caboodle down. Shocked and appalled, I grabbed them and tried to yank them back up. Hannah pushed me away and started shouting, "NO!" I tried again to grab her and she threw herself to the ground and starting kicking wildly. By this time the whole children's library was staring at us in amazement. This was definitely something they don't see every day-even in the kid's section! I tried to calm her down and reason with/bribe/threaten/coerce her to pull her clothes back up, but still she refusesd. She was hitting me, screaming, and flailing around like a mad woman on the floor. Finally, at my wit's end, I scooped her up and awkwardly half carried/half drug her to the restroom (thanking God the entire time that the children's library has it's own bathroom) and deposited her on the floor in the wheelchair accessible stall and shut and locked the door and let her scream it out. After about 5 minutes she stopped screaming and I tried to talk to her and explain why it wasn't appropriate to take her clothes off in the library or any other public place for that matter. She still wasn't in the mood to listen and came at me wielding her arms like a Ninja assassin! I seriously considered ducking under the stall to safety! When she's in meltdown mode she can be seriously strong and there was a definite possibility I could have been injured or at the very least hurt. Against my first instincts, I stayed and managed to hold her at arms length by pressing my hand against her chest and praised God for that second time that library trip that my arms are longer than hers! After she wore herself out trying to get at me it was like someone flipped a switch inside of her. She visibly relaxed, stopped crying and screaming, and said "I'm done Mommy," Then she let me pull up her clothes and we discussed quite calmly and rationally why we have to wear clothes when we are out in public and that it's only ok to pull your pants down in the bathroom or your bedroom. It's times like these that simply blow my mind. I have no idea why she decided she needed to pull her pants down right that very second (she's never done anything like that before) and I have no idea why she went so crazy when I tried to pull them back up. Even more frustrating is that I have no idea what changed that made her willing to pull them back up and able to talk rationally with me when she was done with her hysterics. Here we have a huge meltdown that I have no idea what the trigger was and no idea what happened to bring her out of it. It's like I learned nothing from the experience and won't have a clue what to do to help manage a future situation like this. UGH!
The second incident happened on Thursday. We had been having a pleasant trip to the library and now it was time to leave so we could go home and eat lunch. Hannah started getting pretty squirrelly while we were checking our books out, but she mostly managed to keep it together. Then we had to walk through the long lobby area to get to the outer doors and head out to the parking lot. Right before the final set of doors there are two fake potted trees, one in each corner. When we were almost to the end of the lobby Hannah pulled her hand out of mine and bolted for the door. Frantic that she would run out into the parking lot and in front of a car I took off after her. As Hannah reached the doors she decided at the last minute to duck behind one of the trees and hide in the corner. Initially I was happy about this because it meant that she wasn't in danger, but my relief quickly turned into anger when I realized the little game she had up her sleeve. You know how on cartoons and movies there's the chase scene where the chasee is on one side of a large object such as a table or bed and the chaser is on the other and the chaser and chasee run back and forth like idiots, neither one making any progress at all at either catching the other or escaping? Then eventually the chaser grows so frustrated that he/she vaults over the large object surprising and capturing the chasee. Well, that was Hannah and I on Thursday. Each time I tried to reach around the tree and grab her (I was too big to fit behind the tree) she would scurry to the opposite side of the corner prompting me to move to the other side and reach around that way. Over and over we traded sides of the tree until we had gathered quite an audience hanging out in the lobby and lounging on the benches that line the hall. I'm sure I looked like a chump or the worst mother in the world who had absolutely no control over her child. I was FURIOUS, but trying not to loose it and scream at her. Unfortunately, unlike in the movies I couldn't just jump over the tree and capture my daughter (although once I considered knocking the tree over!). We were stuck in a vicious cycle and I for one certainly wasn't backing down. I don't even remember how it ended. Everything is one huge blur, but somehow I managed to get her and I tried to slink quietly outside, but all eyes were on us. I imagined that they were all watching to see what I was going to do. My face was hot, both with anger and embarrassment. I wanted to cry. Hannah was happily chattering away, already having forgotten the whole incident. I hustled her out the door (probably a little more roughly than I should have) and got her buckled into the van and launched into another lecture about how dangerous it is to run away from Mommy, how it's important that she obey Mommy because the rules I make are for her safety, how Jesus commands children to obey their parents, how this includes stopping or coming when Mommy calls. Hannah sat quietly and listened. She seemed contrite, but I knew it wasn't really sinking in. I knew it would happen again. I knew that even before we were done talking her brain would already be onto plans for what she wanted to do next, what we were having for lunch. Impulse control for the average 3 year old is pretty limited. Impulse control for a bright, curious 3 year old even worse. Impulse control for a bright, curious 3 year old with Asperger's still worse. Some days it seems like we ride a roller coaster careening along from one impulsive act to another. But then there are others that are focused and controlled and I have hope that we really can kick this problem. Those days just seem few and far between. Tuesday was a calm and controlled day. Today was a roller coaster day. Any advice for helping a preschooler with impulse control would be welcome or, if you don't have advice, at least a story or two to let me know others have been there too might help! :)

Speaking of Tuesday, at OT on Tuesday Hannah started a new program called Therapeutic Listening. She listens to specially designed CDs on special headphones designed to transmit frequencies outside the range of normal hearing and normal headphones. The goal is to see improvement in her sensory modulation, auditory sensitivity, and maybe just maybe improved impulse control. I really don't understand how it all works, but the research on the protocol seems promising and unlike some treatments it can't really hurt so I'm willing to give it a try. The only catch is that it's a pretty strict commitment, 2 30 minute sessions every day for 8 weeks. Tuesday, Thursday, and the weekend I have no problem fitting it in, but on school days it's been more difficult to fit them both in-especially the morning session. Hopefully the longer we do it we'll figure out a better way for how to fit everything we need to fit into our hectic morning routine without compromising our sleep or causing meltdowns from rushing Hannah to move faster in the morning (she HATES that!). Wish us luck that this will help Hannah.