Monday, November 5, 2007
Yes, 5 going on 15!
His Kindergarten teacher is amazed at how smart he is, but because he talks incessently and likes to be the class clown, he comes home every day with a Red Face. We told him that when he came home with a Green Face for behaving well, we would celebrate. Last week he got 2 green faces!!
After months of trying every form of punishment we could think of, Charlie's counselor gave us a few hints on Time Out. There had been weekends at our house when he was in Time Out more than not, but the new methods seem to be working better.
Last night I sat in the yard swing with Annie and Charlie came along with a worm to tease Annie with. I asked Charlie if that was a nice thing or a mean thing, and he agreed that it was mean. I didn't have the timer handy for Time Out, so I let him go back to his play.
About 10 minutes later, Charlie came back and handed me the timer.
"What is this for?" I asked him.
"Because I teased Annie with the worm," he replied.
"So you think you need Time Out?" I asked him.
"Yes" he said, quite seriously.
"OK then, sit on that bench" I told him as I set the timer.
He sat there quietly until the timer rang, and as I sat there continuing my conversation with Annie, I couldn't believe what had just transpired.
Prior to the new Time Out techniques, we would send Charlie to a place in the hall, where he would sit until we let him up. We did not have a set amount of time, and when he got up we would talk to him about what he had done wrong. When we asked "what did you do wrong", he would tell us. When we asked "what should you have done", he would tell us. He knew what was right, he just couldn't make himself do it. Then we would give hugs and send him off to apologize and give hugs to whomever he had offended.
The counselor suggested that we send him to Time Out without talking about what he did wrong - he knew exactly what he had done wrong. Then we set timer - one of those old fashioned kind that you can hear ticking - for 5 minutes (one minute of each year of age).
If he fusses or messes around, we say "because you are not sitting quietly, I have to start the time over", and we set the timer back to 5 minutes. When the timer rings, he knows he can get up and go again.
Now, the counselor warned us that at first he would resist the new procedures, and boy was she right! Such simple little changes threw a wrench into his plan. He knew he would no longer get the hugs and extended attention that discussing what he had done wrong would bring. For the first couple of weeks he fussed and messed around, something he had not done previously.
After a couple of weeks he adjusted to the new routine, although he occasionally finds something to play with and suffers the consequences of having the timer re-started.
We really appreciate Charlie's Kindergarten teacher. She is patiently working with him and with us as we work on Charlie's behavior. All his little life has been nothing but trauma, but with the help of his teachers and counselors, a stable home environment and the love and affection of so many people, Charlie is coming around.
A couple of weeks ago, when Charlie came home with yet another Red Face, Randy asked him what he had done.
"They were doing numbers, and I already know my numbers," Charlie said. Yes, there may be times that he is a little ahead of the other kids in his class. But, he has to learn to control himself. If he does not learn now, it will be harder to learn as he grows older.
Charlie is so smart that he will be able to do anything he sets his mind to. If he can learn self-control now, he will have a much brighter future.
Thank you, Miss Catherine, for being another Angel to Charlie!
Monday, October 29, 2007
Listening to the politicians and news commentators has stirred some emotions in me, and I am sure in others as well. Our close association with a family from New Orleans has given us an insight into what really happened in New Orleans and the politicians and politics involved.
How can anyone in any possible way, draw parallels with the San Diego and other California fires, with what happened in New Orleans and the response by local, state and federal entities?
Here are some of my thoughts:
Will the insurance companies rule that the homes in California were destroyed by something other than fire? Following Katrina, it was wind damage vs. water damage - whichever one the insurance company conveniently did not cover.
Did California offer evacuation methods to those who could not get out by themselves? At last count there are 8 people from 2 immigrant worker camps who died in California. Were these people offered a way out? Or were they "overlooked"? Sure is ironic how quickly they discovered the bodies after not knowing they were there (or did they?).
The Republicans say that Governor Blanco did not ask for help. I remember clearly seeing and hearing her on TV in the days following Katrina, in tears begging for help.
Even if the Governor Blanco had not asked for assistance, does the Federal Government have no heart? There was no possible way for them to override the state and get help to people stranded in New Orleans? Let's be real!
Did California, FEMA, and the Bush administration learn lessons from Katrina? Or is there simply a different attitude towards people who live in mansions in Malibu vs. working class black people who lived in New Orleans?
How much did politics play in these two disasters? Did a Republican governor use the disaster as an opportunity as a photo op with the President? While a Republican administration balked at looking like they might be cooperating with a Democrat in Louisiana?
Who paid for all the massages, acupuncture, TV's, internet availability, etc, etc, etc, in San Diego? Where have all those people been disbursed to? Who is paying for their boarding until the insurance companies annie up?
The people in the Superdome in New Orleans only wanted water, food, a bathroom, and a way out through the floodwaters. They had no desire for acupuncture and no expectations of anything more than survival.
While we may not be privy to all the details and all the plays of politics, the end results are very clear. When we have a disaster of any magnitude there is no room for politics.
This country must come together. We cannot afford to be "Red" or "Blue". Who cares what "political colored party" I belong to - this is a country of human beings, and no one human being is more important than another.
Just yesterday someone commented to us that "all those people in the 9th Ward of New Orleans were on welfare". So, does that include Fats Domino? His home is in the 9th Ward. Who owned all those 350,000 or so homes that were under water? Why don't people want to take the time to learn the facts?
There is a major man-hunt to find the culprits who set the fires in California. Who is being held responsible for the levies that had not been maintained?
Who is propagating all the mis-information and prejudice? Is it all those idiots on the radio who spew hatred over the airwaves? Or the naive people listening who think these radio show hosts are really telling them the truth? Or the politicians who say one thing and do another (as if we aren't watching!)? Or is it that we really aren't watching and paying attention and seeking out the truth. Are we so hypnotized by the media and the government that we believe everything we hear?
Just some things to think about - - and another blog you might like to read: http://organizedrage.blogspot.com/2007/10/tale-of-two-cities-and-vicious-class.html
Friday, October 19, 2007
Check back for pictures from this year's festivities!
What else has been happening recently?
Chip is starting to talk really well. Sometimes he surprises himself by getting the words out clearly. After 2 years of carefull study and observation of his brother and sisters, he is ready to roll!
Charlie's Kindergarten teacher is amazed at how smart he is. Even when it seems he is not paying attention, he can repeat what she just said (one of those survival techniques we have noticed with all 3 of the older kids). He talks incessently and has a hard time sitting still, but slowly we see progress as he calms down and learns to control himself.
Annie loves to learn. She has a stack of 2nd grade workbooks that she works on constantly. First thing in the morning she gets them out, and I have to take them away from her at night so she will go to sleep. She would rather do that than watch Disney Channel, and if she is punished by not being able to play on the computer, the books are her next favorite thing.
Marquel is really catching up fast on her studies. She is a little behind in reading and reading comprehension, but we had another Angel come to our aid! A neighbor is an English teacher and offered to tutor Marquel. Thank you, Margaret, we will take you up on this offer!
Turk turned 70 on October 2nd (although he really doesn't want everyone to know that!!) He took the 7 and 0 candles off his cake and replaced them with 3 regular candles. The 3 candles represent Past, Present and Future. We think this is a nice tradition!
Every Friday I drive across town to take them to their counseling. It makes for a long day, but I feel it is very worth it. The Post Traumatic Stress is a very serious thing, and we cannot assume that they will get better on their own. If we want to give them the best future possible, it has to be confronted and overcome (as much as possible) now. These kids will never forget what they have seen and lived through, but hopefully by giving them some coping mechanisms, they can learn to live with the sights and sounds that replay in their minds. Turk says that Marquel in particular will say "Dad, remember . . ." and recount a memory that she has. I encouraged Turk to talk it over with her, to reassure the kids and to help them all talk through the grief and loss that they have experienced.
Until next time . . .
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
A huge thank-you to Miseal Gomez from San Antonio's KSAT 12, the local ABC affiliate. We met Miseal on the first anniversary of Katrina, when Family Services arranged an interview for the evening news. Over the past year, Miseal has kept in touch with Mr. Thornton, and we have had the pleasure of meeting his wife and two beautiful girls.
We were honored that Miseal came out again this year to do a follow up story, and very pleased with the way the story was presented. It was featured on the 5:00 news, immediately following Oprah's Katrina anniversary show.
I feel we were given a great gift with this publicity, and know that good things will come from it!
See both interviews by clicking here: http://eagleswingspublications.com/01a_video.html (if you have a dial-up connection, it will take a very long time for the videos to download)
Monday, August 27, 2007
The school allowed me to register the kids without their Father's signature on the paperwork. Last Friday Turk took the kids to school for "Meet Your Teacher" time. This was an excellent idea, as Marquel had heard that her teacher was "mean". Meeting her and getting to know her put Marquel at ease. She understands now that there is a difference between being "firm" and being "mean".
Last night, Anthonyione ("Annie") told her Father that she couldn't wait until bedtime, because she knew when she woke up she would be able to go to school! What a huge success story for these kids. But let me explain why:
Last year as I helped Marquel study for her 3rd grade achievement tests, I asked her about going to school in New Orleans. She looked at me blankly and said "I didn't go to school in New Orleans". The other night as the kids sat around our table eating dinner, Charlie talked excitedly about going to Kindergarten.
"I wish I could have gone to Kindergarten," Annie said rather wistfully.
With Turk there, we asked him about Annie and Marquel's comments. "What do you mean, you didn't go to school?" he asked them, rather incredulously. "Don't you remember I picked you up every day. Remember I took you to my office where I had the back room made into a playroom for you?"
The girls sat looking blankely at him. Once again we are reminded of the effects of generational poverty. In the matiorchal family, Mom doesn't care if her kids are educated. In fact, it is a threat to her. Couple this with the probable lack of resources in the New Orleans public schools, and school was at the very best "unmemorable" for these kids.
What a great milestone we have seen them achieve. They know their Father will come to school to check on them. He will help them with their homework. He will be there when they get off the bus. They are learning that school is important as they begin to think about "what they want to be when they grow up."
Until next time!
Thursday, August 16, 2007
When we volunteered to help out for a week at a shelter, it was explained to us that as families were selected and brought to the shelter, there would be “Sponsors” ready and waiting to help the family relocate. As the days went by it seemed to us that this may have been the plan, but it had not materialized. During that week we developed a relationship with the Thornton family and when we were approached to “Sponsor” them, we felt that we were in the best position and willing to accept the challenge. We had no idea where to begin or how to go about helping them in the most effective way. There were many times we stumbled along with no one to turn to for advice, feeling very inadequate and not knowing if what we were doing was the right or best thing to do.
The book began as a diary. When I let a friend read it, she came back with many good questions along the lines of “how did we know what to do?” The answer was that we didn’t know, but in the process we had learned many valuable lessons. We had to confront head-on many things that we had chosen to ignore, not wanting to know about or deal with.
As we discussed the idea of publishing a book, we knew that there would be those who would have strong reactions on various issues that the book and the Katrina story presented overall. Our hope is that in telling this story, including the good, the bad, and the ugly, that it would encourage others to think about the issues in a different light and hopefully learn from our experiences, mistakes and all.
The intent of this book was not to pat ourselves on the back for what we did or attempted to do – we know we could have done far more, and been far more effective in many situations. If it were the case that we were/are “doing charitable deeds before men” then we would have omitted all the bungled missteps and embarrassing moments. It was very difficult to hand over the first copy of the book, to put our life out there for others to read about. Our initial reaction was “what have we done?” Even our closest friends have said, “I had no idea. . . ” The intent of this book is solely to pass along an experience in dealing with a generation poverty situation, and hopefully spur another line of thought for people who feel that victims should “do more for themselves.”
The Thornton family has humbled us in so many ways. Our friends, family, and church have been extremely supportive of our efforts; they are the true heroes in this story. Along with us, they have fallen in love with these little kids, doting on them and making sure that they have what they need. If anyone deserves a pat on the back, it is all the “Angels” who gave us support in many different ways. Whether they realize it or not, they are helping us break the cycle of poverty in our society.
As the search began for a publisher, it quickly became apparent that this was an exercise in futility. If you are fortunate enough to get the attention of a publisher, it may take years to get a book in print. When we were approached with the idea that the book could be used as a tool to help us solve the long-term housing dilemma for this family, I chose the self-publishing route. I knew that I would not have the benefit of a publisher to “polish” the story. The book is not intended to be a great work of literature; it is a story that I tried to present it in a straightforward, easy to read way. Successful marketing and promotion of a book requires the author be in the spotlight, even when they prefer otherwise.
If this book encourages the readers to look within themselves, and to begin to think about what they can do to educate themselves on how to help those around them more effectively, then I feel my goal has been met. If it evokes a strong emotion or reaction, whether positive or seems to be negative, that is good, because it has made the reader think.
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
Not long ago she called and asked to talk to her 10 year old daughter Marquel. She evidently asked Marquel if she had any money she could send, because Turk heard her say "No, I'm saving my money for college!" and she slammed down the phone.
We give the kids a dollar now and then, when they do their little chores without prompting, or when they behave well. They each have a bank and Marquel is particularly proud of her little savings. She wants to be a teacher when she grows up, so we have talked about saving for college.
Anthonyione used to fold a dollar into a little square and carry it around, sometimes for days until it disappeared. Even she is now giving me her folded up dollars to put in her bank.
While driving by a drive-up bank, Charlie asked me what that was. I explained that is was a bank and that was where you put your money. "So they can spend it?" he asked. I said no, they would keep it safe for him. At 5 years of age, he is learning too that his money goes in his bank.
Sometimes progress comes with little baby steps, and sometimes we see the GIANT steps!
Until next time - -
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
When we get a new CD, by the second time through, the kids know all the words, which CD it is and the number of their favorite song. One CD has some Christmas songs that Randy was practicing and following them he added some other songs. Immediately following the 3 songs that the kids like to sing along to is an organ version of "O Come All Ye Faithful". The other day Charlie surprised us by singing along to this music - after all it has been 7 months since we sang it at Christmas time. Then we had to burst out laughing when he continued at the top of his lungs "oh come let us ignore Him, oh come let us ignore Him"!
This last weekend, Randy sang a song titled "There is a Friend". After listening to it over and over while the kids sang along, I asked the kids who the "Friend" was that the song talked about. "You and Mr. Randy" said Marquel. When we were able to compose ourselves we explained that it really meant Jesus.
You can listen to the song at http://www.stjohnlutheran.com/02a_worship_listen.htm - click on the title at the right hand side of the screen. You might want to listen to Christy's "Amazing Grace" also - - that is Annie's favorite!
We like to think that through the songs, they are learning lessons that will stick with them throughout their lives.
Until next time . . .
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Following Katrina we heard that FEMA had purchased truckloads of ice, trucked it all to the Gulf Coast, and then (partly because it was several months following the storm) they did not use it. The news story at the time caught our attention because they were sending it to Fremont, Nebraska, a small town that we are quite familiar with as Randy's sister and nieces and nephews live there. The ice would be stored at a facility in Fremont.
FEMA had bought 224.3 million pounds of ice at a cost of $24 million (that is over $9 per pound!). The ice has sat around for almost 2 years at a cost of $12.5 million. Now the ice has been disposed of at a cost of $3.4 million. TOTAL COST: $39.9 MILLION!!!
Add this to the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on mobile homes that are rotting away in a field, the Billions of dollars that have simply disappeared, etc. etc. etc, and all we can do is shake our heads.
In the meantime, we continue to depend on the generosity of friends to help the Thornton family survive. The lawyer at Legal Aid is still working to get Turk the benefits that FEMA promised. It is so frustrating to hear these things while Turk struggles to provide the basic needs of life for the kids; simple things like soap and toilet paper (not to mention paying the rent!)
Now you may be thinking, "why doesn't Turk get a job". Here is the answer: Turk is 69 years old, he is living on Social Security and Social Security Disability (SSI) due to a serious injury that he sustained. The SSI prevents him from having a job, but it does give him the added benefit of qualifying for Medicaid. In New Orleans, his share of rent (which he split with 2 grown children) was $200. He had a lifelong collection of belongings - everything he could possiblly need and more. He was able to do his Paralegal work and earn enough to live comfortably.
Because the kid's mother chose to go back to New Orleans and leave her kids with Turk, she is not available to contribute to their support. Due to her alcoholism and mental illness, we prefer that she NOT be involved with the kids!
Now Turk is without any income except the SS and SSI. If he chose to give up the SSI, he would also give up Medicaid for himself, Medicaid and Food Stamps for the kids, and he would have the added cost of child care while he worked. When you stop to put these figures on paper, it becomes clear that he would have to have a VERY good paying job with insurance benefits in order to even offset what he would lose (and, oh yes, he would still have his disability to deal with).
In our opinion, it is much better that Turk can be at home with these kids who require much more time, attention, love and guidance than "normal" kids. Unfortunately, he falls into a crack in our system. All he needs is a way to survive - and that is all he desires. As long as he has the kids with him, he is happy.
Why aren't we all screaming about the injustice of all of this? What can we do? I want your ideas!
Check out the news stories mentioned at:
FEMA website: http://www.fema.gov/news/newsrelease.fema?id=37842
CNN website: http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0707/18/acd.02.html (scroll down about half way on the page)
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
For now, they are only available at http://www.eagleswingspublications.com/ (click on the "Buy the Book" link at the top of the page). They should be on Amazon.com any day.
I will be sending them out immediately! Thank you for your patience - I hope it will be worth the wait.
FIRST SCHEDULED BOOK SIGNING
St. John Lutheran Church
Sunday, August 12th
Following both services
If you would like specific service times or address - go to http://www.stjohnlutheran.com/
See ya there!
If you would like to schedule a book signing and presentation to a club, group or organization, contact me at email@example.com
One day as it poured down rain, the sun was shining at the same time. "Look at that Charlie!" Deb said, pointing out the window.
"Wow!" Charlie exclaimed. "I'm going to have to tell the people at church about this!"
His comment made us smile to ourselves. The people at church have been so open, warm, welcoming and loving to these kids. They say hello, they give high-fives, they give hugs and smiles, and they have been generous with gifts of clothing, toys, household items and money. If a five year old boy (and his sisters) understands anything, it is that "church" is a place where they feel loved and comforted. They may not know or remember all the names, but they know they are in the company of loving, caring friends. If for some reason we do not have the kids at our house for the weekend, they are most disappointed that they will not be able to go to church with us.
So, if you think there is nothing that you can do to be an "Angel" - well think again!
After the fiasco on Wednesday, I went home and got on the phone. After several phone calls, I found an eye doctor's office where the man who answered seemed very knoweldgeable, assuring me that they would accept the Medicare and Medicaid, no problem. Crossing my fingers, I took Turk to an appointment on Friday afternoon.
The office was pleasant, they turned on a movie for the kids and had stacks of books for them. I was pleasantly surprised when they called Turk back to see the Dr. after waiting only a few minutes. Looking at Turk's blue eyes, the doctor asked Turk what his nationality was. Turk explained his Creole heritage. When Turk re-emerged, he was grinning from ear to ear. Can you believe it, the Doctor was from New Orleans! The Doctor came out a few minutes later with Mardi Gras beads for each of the kids.
Turk sure will be glad to have his glasses - - and I sure was glad to find another "Angel"!
I have a page on the website dedicated to "Our Angels" - be sure to check back often for updates. (to get there - click on the http://www.eagleswingspublications.com/ link - then click on the "Our Angels" button at the top of the page)
Until next time - -
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Wednesday we went to the Thornton's and I showed Turk the book. He immediately sat down and began reading. "This is the part that brings water to my eyes" he said, and read aloud:
"Our journey over the following months has changed our lives forever. . . We will never be the same. We have learned so much about other people, about compassion and respect, how others think and live, trust and not being too quick to judge those around us."
Turk went on to elaborate on how he felt as though everyone assumed that he was a criminal. From the police officers at the large shelter who hung over them as they tried to sleep, to the church sponsored shelter where they were instructed to "hand over all your weapons right now!"
The hurt and trauma that was inflicted after being evacuated seems more raw than what they had to endure at the convention center in New Orleans. It came from those who made assumptions and from those who tried to help in a misguided way.
Since we were in town yesterday anyway, Randy took Turk to get his eyes checked and new glasses ordered, while I stayed at their house with the kids. Five hours later, Randy and Turk came back, looking very tired and frustrated. After going to 4 different places, they had accomplished nothing. They had heard different reasons for rejection at each optical place.
For us to navigate the Medicare and Medicaid issues is impossible, and it seems to be almost as impossible for the medical community. One place went so far as to tell him that he would have to pay his $100 deductible. I guess they figured in this way they would get paid the going rate instead of settling for what Medicare and Medicaid would pay. I suppose most people fall for it and pay out of their pocket.
So today I made some phone calls until I found an optical place that seemed to know what they were doing. He explained that they would submit the claim to Medicare and then Medicaid would cover the difference. I was glad to find someone who knew what he was doing, and so we will try again tomorrow to get Turk some glasses!
Turk has commented many times that he could not imagine where he would be now if we had not come along. And in all honesty, we can't imagine what they would have done either, except that we believe God was watching out for him and his family.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
His graduation ceremony was so cute! Charlie's teacher was very good and worked very patiently with him. At times we wondered if Charlie was a little bored in Pre-K, as he is quite smart. But his hyper-activity got him into some trouble. I read an article by a Pediatrician who had found that large doses of Calcium and Magnesium could help with this problem, so we have been doing that for the last couple of weeks. We think we can see some improvement, he seems to be a bit calmer. We have found a wonderful new therapist for the kids, and we hope that Charlie can work through his emotional trauma.
Following Hurricane Katrina, the girls missed a lot of school. First due to the hurricane, then due to moving from one shelter to the next, then due to their mom being too hung over to make sure that they went to school! Both girls were held back this year, which was good. Marquel did not miss one day of school, and Annie missed only 2 days when she was sick with a virus. They are very proud of their Perfect Attendance certificates!
Annie excelled in her 1st grade class, learning to read very well. Marquel worked very hard to catch up. Marquel started the year very behind her 3rd grade level. As I studied with her for her achievement tests, I could tell how hard she had worked and how much she had progressed during the year. We were all ecstatic when she passed her tests with flying colors!
Now with school out for the summer, we have fun outings planned - such as church camp for the girls, and afternoons spent at the river swimming - - stay tuned!
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
The book is in the printing phase. After a year of writing, rewriting, revising and editing, it is finally becoming a reality. It is written in diary format, as you live the story with us, never sure what the next day might bring. The style is more "conversational" in nature, in order to make the book easy to read and understand.
As the story evolved, it became clear that there were two purposes for the book: 1) to tell this unbelieveable story - and 2) a way to learn to help others without hurting them more in the process.
Over time, I will be posting little stories and photos of the Thornton kids, what they are doing and experiencing. Feel free to leave a message here or on our guestbook.
If you send me your email address you will be the first to know when the books arrive!
Thanks for looking and check back often.