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Archive for May, 2014

Our Situation

May 28th, 2014 at 09:39 pm

This post is not meant as an opportunity to whine, although it may come appear as such. I just want to document my thoughts at this point in time, and archive them.

Raising kids with special needs is tough. I blogged a little while back about how we had started both boys at an autism clinic. The staff at the clinic use a therapy method called Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). ABA is considered the gold standard in autism therapy.

DS1 has been diagnosed with Classic Autism, and DS2 has been diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified, which is also on the Autism Spectrum, but not as severe as Classic Autism. When you look at DS1, and interact with him just a little bit, anyone would know something is off about him. DS2, on the other hand looks like a typical four year old. It takes a bit more interaction with him to realize he is not a typical four year old. Regardless, they both qualified for treatment at the clinic.

Of course, the primary reason for sending them to the clinic is for them to receive the therapy, so they can develop into the best DS1 and DS2 that they can be. A secondary, and very important reason that they attend the clinic is so that my DW can get some much needed respite. They are transported directly from the clinic to their school, about two miles away. They are gone away from my DW from 8:30 AM until about 4:30 PM four days a week.

One of us (usually DW) drives them to the clinic. The clinic is about 23 miles from our house. They started at the clinic in mid-March. The four day a week, 23 mile trip is driving us broke. There are a thousand reasons to send them to the clinic, and only one reason not to - it is expensive.

We (mostly DW) are currently exploring services that can help us defray the costs. DW did learn of a service that will transport children to clinics such as these. That service is only available in the tri-county metro Detroit area.

I'm sure we will find something that will require another social worker, more paper work, and more record keeping and more vouchers, etc.

Again, I don't want to come across as whiny, although I probably am whining. It's just that this stuff is hard, and it didn't come as part of the Foster Parent Training Manual.

End Whine!

Another Way Too in Depth Financial Calculation

May 21st, 2014 at 03:39 pm

The only non-mortgage debt we have right now is the loan on my pickup. I bought the (used) pickup a year ago December, and borrowed $12,750. I took out a 36 month loan. The current balance on the loan is $5,784.59. Most months I've made extra principal payments, especially after our CC debt was retired last August.

According to KBB.com, the value of the pickup is just slightly more than $10,000 ($10,018 to be exact). The L/V ratio is 0.577. Because I am prone to wondering such things, I calculated what I would owe, and what the L/V ratio would be if I hadn't made the extra principal payments, or if I had taken out a longer (48 month) loan.

If I had just made required minimum payments on the 36 month schedule, the current balance on the loan would be $7,271.03, and the L/V ratio would be 0.726.

As far as the hypothetical 48 month loan goes, I'm not sure what the interest rate would have been if I had asked for one. My 36 month rate was 3.99%. Maybe they would have charged more, maybe not. I'll stick with a 3.99% 48 month loan. In that scenario, making only minimum payments, I'd owe $8,723.56, and the L/V would be 0.871.

I've gone this far, I might as well figure the 60 month loan while I'm at it. I'll use the same interest rate, and assume minimum payments. At 60 months, the current loan would be $9,594.32, with an L/V of 0.958. That's not quite underwater, but close. If I hadn't have made a down payment, it would be underwater!

That's pretty convincing evidence for me to shorten the loan period, to make a down payment, and to pay ahead if and when you can.

Medical Stuff

May 20th, 2014 at 06:41 pm

DW took DS2 to his physiatrist yesterday. I didn't even know what a physiatrist was until we took him there about two years ago for his first appointment. A physiatrist is a doctor that specialized in physical medicine, rehabilitation, and pain medicine. DS2 has cerebral palsy, and is tight in the legs (and arms) and has been wearing braces on his legs for the past 11 months.

The Dr. doesn't think that the braces are doing their job, and he has recommended that DS2 get botox injections in his knees (3 shots each knee 4 times per year). He has an appointment set for June 7.

A really quick Google search tells me that this course of treatment is not without controversy. We've got about 2 1/2 weeks to do a bit more serious reading up on the subject.

Besides loosening his leg muscles, and helping him walk better, the Dr. said that a benefit will be pain reduction. Probably DS2 has had pain in his legs for so long that he literally doesn't know what it's like to be pain free. That should help with his behavior, too.

From a practical standpoint, one of us will have to drive DS2 about 85 miles to the Dr. office four times a year on a Saturday (the Dr. does this treatment only on Saturdays).

We do get mileage reimbursements from the Children's Special Health Care program through our local Health Department - again because DS2 was adopted through foster care. That helps.

The IEP Meetings

May 16th, 2014 at 02:17 pm

DW and I participated in back-to-back IEP meetings for our two boys on Wednesday. If you have special needs children, or have close friends or relatives with special needs children, you probably know that IEP stands for Individual Education Planning.

We had IEPs in March, and we asked for some special evaluations for each son. For DS2, we asked that he be evaluated for occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech therapy. He has Cerebral Palsy and hearing loss.

So, this IEP was the school's opportunity to present their findings, and discuss the changes to the IEPs that were set in March. DS2 was granted one-on-one speech therapy and consulting physical therapy, and maintains consulting occupational therapy, as he had before.

For DS1, we requested an educational diagnosis of autism. Three MDs and two psychologists have diagnosed DS1 with autism. I'll point out that a medical autism diagnosis is different than an educational diagnosis. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, children with an educational diagnosis of autism are eligible for specific educational accommodations and supports at school. That can also be read as "children with an educational diagnosis of autism are more expensive for the school."

What I think happened in the early '90s, after the ADA was passed was that (some) doctors would willy nilly hand out diagnoses of autism so that children could receive services from schools. Schools became overwhelmed, and provisions were made so that the diagnosis (for services provided by schools) had to be made by a team of education professionals. For example, the team that evaluated DS1 was made up of: the school psychologist, the school social worker, and the school speech pathologist.

I'll also add that we had DS1 evaluated by the school two years ago, just after he began attending there. At that time, he was evaluated to have "autism like tendencies", but he was one check mark away (on the sheet of autism markers used for evaluation) from having an educational diagnosis.

Interestingly, after this new evaluation was complete, he was again one check mark away from having an educational diagnosis, but the check mark was in a different spot on the sheet. That is, an item that was not checked two years ago was checked this time, and an item that was checked two years ago was not checked this time.

DW received the results of the evaluation the day before the IEP (less than 24 hours). We knew we had a challenge ahead of us, and we began brainstorming ideas. What we came up with was to invite DW’s sister to advocate for us. DW is the youngest of eight children. The sister we invited is her oldest sister, and she is about 19 years older than DW. She is very strong willed, and can be a great advocate, or a terrible adversary. And, her background is in Human Services.

I’ll leave out most of the details of the meeting. What I will say is that IEPs are typically scheduled for 45 minutes to an hour. Our second IEP lasted nearly two hours. Sister-in-law did a great job advocating for us, but DW didn’t do so bad herself. I even made an impassioned point, while slamming my fist down on the table, which is uncharacteristic for me. The education team excused themselves for five minutes, and came back, and granted us the educational diagnosis.

DS1 now has an educational diagnosis of autism. Let me also add that DS1’s classroom teacher (who was strongly advocating against an educational diagnosis) does an absolutely great job with him in the classroom. But, he will now be getting more intensive services from the school.

A secondary, but important reason for the diagnosis is that families who have children with an educational autism diagnosis are eligible for a $200 per month stipend from the state. DS1 (and DS2) both started at an autism therapy clinic in March. The clinic is about 20 miles away, and DW drives them there four times a week. That $200 per month will be helpful to offset the cost of driving them to the clinic.

DS2 also has a medical diagnosis of autism, but his diagnosis is not “classic autism” like DS1’s is. His diagnosis is “Pervasive Developmental Disorder – not otherwise specified”, which would not meet the criteria for an educational autism diagnosis, but it does meet the criteria for treatment at the autism clinic.

Bird Feeding

May 12th, 2014 at 05:05 pm

To start this post correctly, I need to go back to February, at some point just prior to DD2's birthday. It seems that my sister-in-law (DW's sister) was at a hardware store, kids in tow, and she remembered that she needed to get something for my daughter's birthday (keep in mind that from my and DW's standpoint, she didn't *need* to buy anything for our daughter) she was apparently rushed for time, or something, and chose to buy a bird feeder and premium sunflower seed at the hardware store. It ended up being a nice gift that DD2 appreciated.

Fast forward to a week ago Saturday. DD2 and I filled up her bird feeder, and put it out in the spot of her choosing (with a bit of parental guidance). DW put out a thistle feeder, and some grape jelly for the oriels. I can't name all the birds (DW is more the bird watcher than I am), but we have lots of finches, and oriels, and many others. Just last Thursday they ate down 3/4 of a full feeder in that one day. Our original package of super premium sunflower seed is empty, as of yesterday. One week plus one day from when it was opened.

The birds have been fun to watch, and the kids have really enjoyed it. We've never had so many birds like this before. DW and I have fed birds practically every year since we've been married. But, we've never bought the really expensive bird seed, always the cheap stuff with millet filler, that the birds clearly do not like. This is an obvious case of "you get what you pay for."

Which gets me to the point of my post - we could go broke feeding these birds. The first bag was (I think) 10 pounds. I'm sure we could buy a bigger bag that would last a longer time, like 40 pounds for $20. And maybe, because there isn't much other food out in nature for them right now, they will slow down a little bit, but still, this could get expensive if we want to do it right.

I guess you could say that if bird feeding is my current biggest financial concern, thing are going pretty smoothly for us right now.

The FFA Banquet

May 5th, 2014 at 01:43 pm

We went to my home-town FFA banquet yesterday afternoon - DW, DD1, DS1, and me. My folks had DD2 and DS2.

When I was in high school, there was no FFA. The agriculture teacher retired my freshman year, and the FFA chapter was on its last leg by then, and when the agriculture teacher retired, he was not replaced.

DW, on the other hand was very active in FFA, and she held a state office her freshman year of college.

The local chapter started up again three years ago. Both DW and I have been supportive of their activities. In fact, we were awarded a certificate of appreciation at the banquet yesterday.

DD1 will be in 7th grade next year. That's old enough to be an FFA member. Although our local chapter doesn't yet have 7th graders involved, only grades 9-12. But DW has talked with the chapter adviser, and she (and several of the active members) have begun a recruiting effort, and next year there will be a Jr. High chapter. So, DD1 will be an inaugural member of the local FFA Jr. chapter.

Yesterday's banquet was an opportunity for the chapter to thank (and feed) supporters and parents, award member achievement, announce new chapter officers, and raise funds. The funds are used to send student members to state and national conventions, contests throughout the school year, and other chapter activities, like the annual banquet.

DW and I contributed to the fund raising activities. We bid on three items in the silent auction - and we won two of them. One of the items we won was a chicken waterer, which we needed anyway. The value of the waterer is about $35, and we got it for $30. We also won a grilling utensil kit for $30, but honestly we had hoped that someone would out-bid us on that. That may be my dad's Father's Day gift.

There was also a live auction, including a labor auction. For the labor auction, students - in groups of two or three - offer themselves to bidders for four hours of labor.

We were interested in some laborers to help us build some fencing for DD1's herd of goats.

The three biggest, strongest boys in the chapter put themselves together as one "labor package". We also know one of the boys. He is a senior, he is from a farm, and he knows how to build fence. We bid on, and won their labor for $300.

Now all we need to do is buy the fencing materials, plan out the fencing, probably rent a post hole digger, and arrange a suitable time.

It's nice to be able to support a worthy cause that we believe in. Heck, we were going to have to pay someone to help us put up the fencing. No, we probably wouldn't have spent $25/hr. But, again, it was a worthy cause that we believe in.

I also figure that DD1 will be in the chapter next year, and at least part of those funds will go toward her activities.

Toilet Troubles

May 2nd, 2014 at 02:28 pm

I'm not the world's most handy guy. And that's putting it mildly.

Our downstairs bathroom toilet was leaking from the bottom. The wax ring needed to be replaced. I talked to a guy that I work with who I know used to do work for a plumber. He told me that changing the wax ring was really very simple. I asked him if he would be willing to come over to my place, and help me out, and he said sure.

I did some investigating on my own, and found out it really is simple. And, our toilet is only about four years old, so the bolts aren't corroded. So, this morning before work I removed the toilet, and removed the old wax ring, and went into town to buy a new one.

The directions on the wax ring say that it needs to be 70 degrees to flow, and seal properly. I left the wax ring at home, with the thermostat set at 70 degrees, and plan to replace it this afternoon when I get home. The wax ring cost $2.11.

My Parents and their House

May 1st, 2014 at 01:00 pm

My parents both retired almost two years ago. They have a fairly large house (~1,800 sq. ft.), and a fairly large lawn to maintain (~1 acre). Since retirement, they have spent Jan. and Feb. in Florida, and have had to pay to heat the fairly large house.

They decided to put their house on the market. They listed with a Realtor last December, before they left for Florida.

They agreed to an offer to buy their house last Friday. The couple that will be buying is Amish. Mr. Buyer has a bad back, and can no longer milk cows with his father. He hopes to start a furniture business at their new home. He'd also like to grow some vegetables for sale. He's in negotiations with the neighboring land owner to buy or rent some of the adjoining farm land.

My folks will be putting up a manufactured house just to the west of our maple woods. They have been living about 0.2 miles from us, and will be moving to about 0.1 miles away. I sure am glad DW gets along with my mom.

I think that by the time they get the house moved and assembled, plus new drive way, plus new septic, well, electric hook-up, lawn establishment, etc. they will be about even money, with a smaller house.

They are selling my childhood house. I guess there is some emotional attachment there for me, but I'm not feeling it yet. Maybe, when I drive buy and see other people living there. But I'm sure that will fade quickly. All in all, my folks are happy, so I am happy for them.