We left off at Paul, so next in line is Ben.
Ben graduated a year and a half ago from highschool. In our school system, developmentally delayed kids stay in school til they're 21. It was a wonderful accomplishment for Ben, and he was very pleased. During his last year in school Ben did a co op position at the local drug store...near the end of the term they offered him a paid part time position. We were very proud that he had done well enough to receive that kind of offer!
He also did a bus training course and now he has the confidence to go anywhere in the city, by bus, on his own! This has been a great boost for Ben and we share in this accomplishment with him!
When Ben's comprehension leveled out at around 8-9 years old we were quite saddened by this development. When he was very little they couldn't tell us just when this would happen....we kept hoping it would go higher, but it hasn't.
Ben is a lovely young man...quiet, polite and very caring. Yes, he does have some faults ...like his stubbornness when he thinks he's right about something but on the whole he's turned out to be a pleasant young man.
Ben would love to have a girlfriend but so far that hasn't happened.
Ben can make simple food choices for himself, using the microwave. He knows how to make a sandwich and can fry an egg. He looks after his personal hygiene with prompting, and does his chores. His chores are mainly looking after the dogs needs, helping his dad put out the garbage and cutting the lawns along with Maya. In the winter he's the main snow shoveler in the house...he doesn't always do a good job but he tries.
We are pleased how Ben has grown into a young man, caring, kind and usually considerate.
Maya is our third daughter. Things went well for Maya as she grew. She was always involved in sports, there wasn't anything that she wasn't good at but her main interest was basketball. She played competitively on a rep teem throughout elementary and highschool. In highschool , she also played baseball, volleyball and basketball. She also played several musical instruments....tuba, guitar and piano. She was always outgoing and energetic.
When she graduated highschool, she found it very difficult. She wasn't qualified academically to go further but she was too immature to enter the work force. That summer a position was offered in an intern program at two Christian camps, one of which we camped at every summer. Maya applied and was accepted. She was away from September to the following April, only coming home periodically. For the month of January , of that year away, the team she was on went on a missions trip to Costa Rica. She had a wonderful time and would love to return. At the end of her intern time, she was accepted in the summer camp to work in the kitchen. Finally in September she came home. Reality set in and she had to find a job. Just around the corner from where we lived, is a Tim Hortons coffee shop. She applied for and got a job there, starting in the October. It was a very difficult job and because of her disabilities was treated unfairly and taken advantage of by her co workers. it caused her a lot of stress and unhappiness. By the following spring, she was hoping to further her education and started a training course to become a Personal Support Worker. Unfortunately , the course became too difficult for her and she had to leave the program. She tried to go back to the summer camp the following summer but was turned down for that also. There were a few disappointments at church, one being that she had hoped to be part of the praise and worship team, but was turned down for that also.
Combine that with my father passing away ( that impacted Maya tremendously, he was the first person close to her that she had experienced this with), Don became ill with what we later found out was Crohn's Disease and I fell and broke my wrist...and her sister Emma had a difficult miscarriage...all these things combined together set Maya up for a terrible fall...a fall that nobody saw coming until Christmas Eve day of last year.
Maya woke up in a complete stress breakdown. At first, we didn't realize it, we thought she was confused because she was overtired.....but as the day wore on, we began to realize that there was something seriously wrong. The next morning, Christmas Day, we took her to the hospital. They admitted her to a psych ward for three weeks. Gradually she seemed to come back to us, but she's never quite been the same. She had two relapses...one in February, and one in March. Everyday we are grateful that she seems to be doing okay...we are very careful to keep certain stressors away from her...anything to do with people who are close to her who are ill. We minimize that, which is difficult right now because both my brothers in law are seriously ill. We make sure she gets plenty of rest, proper food and takes the correct supplements. She also sees a wholistic chiropractor who has been amazing in helping her and keeping her balanced .
It was one of the worst times in our lives as parents. It's one thing for your child to make their own choices to destroy their lives with drugs and alcohol...but Maya didn't make this choice, and we could only stand by, helpless as this terrible thing was happening to her. Don and I spent many times in tears and much prayer. We continue to pray that God will protect her brain, and that this will not happen again.
Maya had to quit her job and have a complete break from that kind of stress, and now , six months later, she has finally felt strong enough to try and get a small part time job. She's been getting involved with activities with other kids with disabilities...like a cooking class, and she was recommended by the teacher to audit a university class...and she was so excited! Her and her brother Ben have also started a fitness class run at the university by the kinesiology students. All this interaction in her life has been very good for her.
She also got her drivers license in June and has been enjoying the freedom of driving on her own when her dad's car is available for her to use!
We are cautiously optimistic but we are also very careful and observe her closely.
We pray that she will make a full recovery and be able to lead a productive life. She is thrilled that she has a boyfriend and we are pleased that he genuinely seems to care for her.
Maya is a young woman, with a sensitive heart and a smile that lights up a room. Anybody that has Maya for a friend is fortunate. On her last birthday, in April, Maya turned 21.
Emma is our fourth daughter and for a few years was our youngest.....as I wrote about before, Emma was diagnosed with a rare benign tumour when she was almost ten years old. After her surgery she made a steady and positive improvement. The next few years were uneventful, she had regular check ups with her respirologist to control her asthma ...check ups that were useless because she refused to do as the doctor instructed. She also had annual check ups and lung exray with her surgeon. He felt that since they didn't know why the tumour came in the first place that he wanted annual check ups til she was eighteen to make sure it wasn't coming back.
The year that she was fifteen we were shocked to find out that Emma was cutting herself, the following year she started piercing herself. Emma had always had an extremely high tolerance for pain. In the spring after her seventeenth birthday, she was caught off campus with a small pipe that they use for smoking weed. She also was suspended for physically fighting with another girl at school. We were also called because she was cutting herself at school, they were concerned that she was trying to commit suicide. We took Emma for counseling to two different counselors and a psychiatrist. It became clear in the last sessions with the psychiatrist that it was all a game with Emma....she wasn't trying to kill herself, as people thought but she wanted to control her life...something not uncommon amongst adopted children. She started stealing clothes from stores and trying to say that she got them from her friend. She started losing weight, not eating very much food and sometimes I was sure she was forcing herself to vomit after meals. One of the reasons that she was losing weight was to escape out her tiny bedroom window during the night. She would go and meet friends to smoke cigarettes and do weed. One night, I awoke in the night and felt the urge to go and check her room. Her bed was empty....I sat down in her room and waited. When she came in, crawling through the window, she was not surprised to see me. We sat her down and talked to her, told her that it had to stop. It was about three in the morning when we all went to bed. Emma made a big fuss of getting a drink of water in the kitchen....when Don went to check he found her holding Megan's prescription bottle for ADHD medication....the script was recently filled..I knew how many should be in it....she had taken 17. I immediately called TeleHealth...they advised me to get her to the hospital immediately. I went to our local hospital, close by...told them what she had done but they told her to have a seat...frustrated , I put her back in the van and raced out to McMaster Hospital. Upon arrival, they immediately sprang into action , took her vitals and started an IV. We spent the night and part of the day there and then , they transferred her to the psych ward at another hospital for an evaluation. The evaluation showed that Emma was just trying to once again,to control the situation and not commit suicide. Things quickly went down hill after that. One night she stayed out all night, we had no idea where she was or if she was okay. The next day I called the school and she had showed up there . I met with her and told her that I was done, that I would pack her stuff and she could leave.
Don and I were stressed to the max and could no longer take Emma's actions. The three kids at home couldnt take what was going on either....there were fights where she would be physically abusive towards Don and I when we tried to prevent her from leaving. She did damage to the walls in her bedroom. She tried to come home that evening and we told her no. Approximately, 2:30am, we received a call from the police. They wanted to know if they could bring Emma home, and of course, we had to let her. She had gone to them to report us and thought we'd get in trouble. We were surprised when the police suggested that we put her under a curfew and if she kept the curfew for four nights in a row that we could let her stay out somewhat later on the fifth night. It sounds simple, but Emma couldn't keep her curfew. We told her that if she wasn't that she'd have to go to the youth shelter. We could no longer have her here. In the weeks leading up to this we had already done a tour of the shelter...I guess to try and scare her somewhat....well, it didn't work....she didn't keep her curfew, she packed her things and Don took her into the shelter the next morning. She was two weeks shy of her eighteenth birthday.
For the last two years Emma has been on her own, making her own choices....and she's done a pretty bad job of it. She immediately started doing drugs all the time and drinking. She became very promiscuous . The people in charge of the shelter spoke to her about her choice of clothing. Apparently it was very revealing. We still maintained contact with her, a few weeks later, for her eighteenth birthday, I manage to arrange to pick her up and take her for supper. Don was working and couldn't attend. At Christmas, I went and picked her up and she spent the day. A few months later she called me from Toronto, her and some friends decided , on a whim, to go there. They just went to another shelter. The friends stayed a few weeks but Emma met some guy there and moved in with him.
There were pictures posted regularly on Facebook , showing her doing drugs and wearing suggestive clothing....she was enjoying herself. She was finally living the life that we had tried to stop her from doing. A month later she was saying that she was pregnant...I didn't believe her....and I was correct...time told the truth that she was just stringing everyone along...she thought she would get more welfare.
The fall of that year was difficult. As I mentioned, Don had been unwell for a year and a half...in the April of this year he became much sicker ...the doctors upped the testing they were doing but still didn't have a diagnosis until the September...Crohn's Disease....a debilitating disease that he will have the rest of his life, the effects hitting whenever it chose to....parts of his bowel were diseased.....three days after he was diagnosed, it was Sunday evening, the dogs got loose and Don and I and Ben went out to try to corral them and get them back in the house...it was dark, I tripped and went down and broke my wrist....the next six weeks were difficult for me and for the family....my hands are handicapped and they don't work very well separately...I need both of them together to manage simple tasks......the family was impacted dramatically...I couldn't make meals, or even do the simplest chore....so, there were Don and I, 'limping' along , trying to keep things pulled together.
Thanksgiving came and the older kids decided that we couldn't possible host the meal, so eldest daughter volunteered. We all went to her house...including Emma and the new boyfriend. Don picked them up at the bus terminal and Emma was sick...I figured that she was just hungover from the previous night.....she went to bed and stayed there for the visit.
A few weeks later, we found out that , this time, she was indeed pregnant.
I travelled over to Toronto a few times to take her to a clinic for check ups...she was scared to go on her own, and she had one of the worst cases of morning sickness I have ever seen.
December 11th came and I received a phone call from Emma...she was having some spotting...at this point she was just past the three month mark....I told her to go to the clinic...she didn't. Early that evening, I received a phone call from a stranger....Emma was at the bus station in the town where she lived...an area of Toronto, the stranger said that she was having a miscarriage. There wasn't anything I could do to immediately help...she was an hour drive away, and insisted on trying to get home on her own......the stranger called back a half hour later and said the bus transit had called for an ambulance and the police were there. I spoke with the police and they told me that she'd be taken to the hospital. Once again, Don was teaching and I was on my own to figure out what to do....plus, Don wasn't well having just been released himself from the hospital after requiring a drainage tube to be inserted in an abscess that had developed because of the Crohn's.
A short time later , the police called again, Emma had refused transport to the hospital, they were calling to say she was at home but definitely miscarrying. I asked where the closest hospital was and googled the location before I left home.
When I arrived at the apartment, I could barely get in due to all the clothing and garbage littered on the floor...Emma was hysterical in the bathroom, blood was everywhere....she had delivered the tiny baby, on her own and was now bleeding...a lot.....I got the boyfriend to get her into the van and we drove to the hospital. Don arrived about an hour later. The hospital said they needed the baby, so we drive back to the apartment to get it....the boyfriend took off!
They kept Emma overnight, I knew Don couldn't stay ...he was still not as strong as he should be...we left her cab money to get home, and we left.
The next day she messaged me, asking for help to get to a shelter in Hamilton...where we lived. I made the arrangements , then picked Don up at work, we went back to Toronto, packed up her stuff and brought her back. After we got her settled in the shelter she insisted on walking downtown to get some weed...I tried to convince her otherwise since it had only been 24 hours since the miscarriage but she insisted that she had to...Don and I were exhausted and went home ...the statements on Facebook the next day revealed that she had smoked a lot if weed that night...a lot.
The next day she found her old friends that she had met at the first shelter , Jenn and Justin and mostly stayed with them ...by the weekend, she was back in Toronto for a pre Christmas visit with the boyfriend....coming back to Hamilton for Christmas. That day, of course we spent at the hospital with Maya, someone else got Emma and brought her to our house, where they were all having Christmas dinner. When I saw her briefly, that evening, she seemed very disturbed...I think she thought everyone would make a fuss over her, but everyone was concerned about Maya and the unknown at that point.
She did move back to Toronto , her lifestyle plummeted, worse than it had ever been....working as a 'massage therapist', then running her own escort service...she was quite proud of her entrepreneurial skills with that one......you see, her and I still communicated...I was careful not to pass judgement and voice it, just to keep the lines open.
In the spring she was arrested on assault charges...the boyfriend brought a new girl home, who expected to stay. Emma was not in agreement. A few months later, she left the boyfriend and moved in with an older man she met while bumming a cigarette....he used her to 'favor his friends'...he was also feeding her cocaine and she became extremely paranoid . She called us one Sunday night asking for help...we drove over there and she was a mess...she is now nineteen but looked thirty, she was so skinny that her bones were showing.....we brought her home for the night....big mistake.....it had a very negative affect on Maya. Emma insisted that she return to this man...she was convinced that she'd be killed if she didn't. We took her back the next day.
The next few days were tense, she had a court date for the assault charges coming up. When the day came I drove there and met her at the court house. She was a mess, had neglected to bring the court papers and didn't have any legal representation lined up. The judge remanded it for two weeks....I helped her get more papers ordered and legal aid set up...then , brought her to Hamilton, to her friends, Jenn and Justin's place , where she stayed for a few days. When she went back to Toronto she tried to get me to drive her, I refused, she finally asked for a ride to the GoTransit station...I agreed.....she said she had funds but when we arrived home , I ended up going all the way back because she didn't have train fare. We paid for the train...again. The following week, she called again, desperate to leave her situation, so I caved and went back, got her and her stuff and took her to her friends. A few days later, was court again...this time Don went too..we brought Emma to our home the night before( after making arrangements for Maya to sleep at Leslie's on another pretext....we couldn't let Emma have contact with her)....and early the next morning , we all went back to Toronto for court...again....this time they gave her 25 hours of community service and an anger management course to be completed by the next court date, the beginning of December.
Emma has been staying with her friends the last month , but has caused many problems for these friends, has taken advantage of them and they want her out. She's been looking for her own place but it's been difficult to find anything she can afford on her meager welfare allowance. She's also trying to get her school credits to get her highschool diploma....the only right thing I've seen her do in all this mess.
I've been trying to give some help, but I'm careful just how much...she does take advantage and use people. She did ask to come home for awhile...for a few days or maybe longer...her words...we said no...I was scared of the affect on Maya.
That's where Emma is at this time....her life is totally messed up, I know and accept that this is totally her own doing...Don and I have done our best....like Corey, we will help, when we can but she is the author of her own misery....these are the consequences from the choices that she made when she thought we were denying her 'the good life'.
We do hope she gets things straightened out , that her life will become decent again....I'm not sure at this point whether that will ever happen....we can only keep praying....but, honestly....when I think of what she had, all the benefits she had, when she lived at home....what she gave up to be with her friends and the drugs, well I just shake my head and wonder why.
It's very sad.
Now a short bit about Megan since I just wrote about her at length before....Megan is in her fourth year of a special class in highschool ...she is eighteen and will be going until she's 21. Out of the three kids at home, she is the most exasperating and the most work. She has decided that the house rules are no longer for her and she's going to do what she wants. She's constantly suffering the consequences if her actions but doesn't seem to learn anything from it. Of course, it's nothing like Emma, but it's the simple things....taking electronics to school when told not to, going from boy to boy, just to have a boyfriend, fighting with Ben and Maya constantly , taking things she's told she can't have, just because she wanted it.....and so on. Everyday it is the same...kind of like that Groundhog Day movie where the main character wakes up each morning to the same day...it drive him crazy and this does for Don and I. The older Megan gets, the harder it is...she has a four year old brain in an eighteen year old body, with the teenage hormones....you figure it out!
Whether Megan lives a long life, we have no idea...if she'll ever have or need a heart transplant, we have no idea.....will there ever be a placement in an assisted living place for her, we have no idea...will she still be living with us if we live to be eighty, we have no idea....we certainly hope not, but we have no control over it.
It's hard living with all the unknowns.
Final chapter is next...yes, for sure this time....must wrap it up properly....