Category Archives: Living With Autism

Sorin’s Small House, or “Cottage” as She Calls It

It’s official! In just 12.5 years Sorin will have a mortgage-free home of her very own in North Lawrence. She will be the 6th generation of our family to live here. An offer was made yesterday on the perfect little 408 square foot house, and it was accepted right away. We have to get through an inspection and make certain nothing is seriously wrong before it’s a 100% sure thing, but I have a feeling things will go very well. It’s an immaculate house that’s been very well cared for by the previous owner. The bathroom was completely re-done last year, it has new kitchen counters and a very fresh feeling throughout. The roof is newer, and the exterior looks freshly painted with new gutters and newer windows. It’s much nicer than anything I ever imagined Sorin could afford. The utilities and maintenance will be extremely low.

Historically, the house used to be owned by the next door neighbors, so it was originally built as their guest cottage in 1950. The best feature is that she’s only .6 miles from our house.. just a 12 minute walk away, so I can easily check in with her, and she can come home easily. That will be very important in the beginning.

These pictures are horrible (from the listing agent), but it’s all we have right now. They give you a basic idea:

the front door, which actually faces the side. We'll be putting shutters and flower boxes on the two front windows, and Sorin has asked for a large metal/ceramic sun in the center (her name means "sun" after all!)

back door, which is right off her utility room

She has a large, mature Maple in the front and a really nice, yet manageable, flat back yard. It’ll be perfect for the dog she wants when we get a fence up for her. We haven’t settled on a date yet, but we’ll be closing and take possession in just 2-3 weeks. Much better pics will be posted by then. Welcome to your own little house, Sorin! We’re doing a lot of happy dances over here.

Posted by Jill

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Filed under Family Happenings, Kids, Living With Autism, Simplicity, Small House Living

Update: The Blossoming of Child #1

What a Summer! Outside of the chickens, ducks & baby ducklings, bunnies and garden duties, the kids have been home a lot. We’re trapped indoors due to extreme heat, so it’s beginning to feel like the crazy cabin fever days of Winter. Just four weeks ’til school starts back up, and believe me, I’m counting down the days!

It’s been a long time since I’ve updated about Sorin, our oldest. At 19 years old, she finished up her year at the Community Transition program, and continues her part-time job at a pizza shop. She’s mastering her favorite routes on the public transportation system, which picks her up just a few blocks from our home. I’m seeing a lot more confidence in her. She’ll soon be starting a 2-year internship program, Project Search, at the hospital where they’ll create a job tailored just for her. The purpose of that program is to help give young adults with developmental disabilities competitive job skills, and an ability to work much longer hours; ultimately reaching good, stable employment. She’s expressed wanting to work with the newborn babies, or in the children’s ward. She also wants to maintain her job at least one day a week at the pizza shop. She’ll be a very busy young woman in the Fall!

During the past year we’ve noticed how far Sorin has come in the life-skills department. She’s also needing her own space… desperately. She shares a room with 2 year old Amelie, and hasn’t complained once about that. However, I am certain it’s not the best situation, especially as Sorin gets older. Adults with developmental disabilities usually have two options for independent housing. 1) A group home. They can house 8-10 individuals in a suburban home setting, and the residents are far lower functioning than Sorin. This would require her entire SSI income. 2) State funded housing, or HUD housing. She would have two roommates, most likely strangers, in a 3-bedroom apartment, and the rent would be a percentage of her SSI income. Neither option appeals to me for several reasons. There is also option #3) Stay home with family. This includes our previous idea of building a small home in the back yard. I don’t believe that is a good option either.. probably the worst of all of them, considering Sorin leans so heavily upon me and would never reach her highest level of independence as a result.

Then there is option #4) Purchase her own home in the community. At first, this sounds crazy. A monumental undertaking for anyone, especially a 19 year old with disabilities, right? But I keet thinking if we could just find an inexpensive home in town, close to home, it would be the ideal option. I have to add that she could always own pets in a house– a definite necessity for Sorin. Sorin without animals would be insanity! I’ve been checking the real estate listings, and a tiny, immaculate home we thought was perfect for her last year has come on the market again. It’s just .6 miles from our home, which is perfect. We’ll be looking at it for the second time today, and considering the options. Payments for her would be far less than rent, and she’d probably own the home, free and clear, by her 30’s. Imagine that! Sorin, a debt-free homeowner. It’s a precious gift I’d like to help her achieve, and it gives me such peace of mind. And yes, I do believe she can handle living alone. She’ll need a lot of training in the beginning with a lot of daily check-ins, but I know beyond a doubt she can do it. She’s one of the most responsible young ladies I know. Anyway, whether it’s this house or another, I think we’re moving in the right direction.

Overall, we think Sorin is on the right track in every way. Her life is unfolding perfectly and I couldn’t be more proud of her. The internship will definitely be life changing. With the thought of her own home, she’s dreaming of owning her very own Swiffer and mini vacuum cleaner (Hee hee! She had me laughing about this yesterday because I never thought she was so domestic). She’s also wanting plum colored dishes, and really visualizing her own life, and how it will look. I’m looking forward to this next year, and watching her bloom away. Cheers to you, Sorin!

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Filed under Family Happenings, Kids, Living With Autism, Parenting

Liam’s Favorite Animal

Liam likes turtles. We found this out from his high school teacher today, and it means so much to know this. He’s non-verbal, and rarely shows any interest in pets or animals. Today, the pet store staff visited his school and brought in several animals. He didn’t show any interest in any of them, except for the turtles. This was interesting to me, considering that when he was a toddler I started surrounding him with turtle statues and stuffed animals. In Native American lore they are considered protectors of children, and associated with mother earth energy. For me, I also saw Liam as a more slow moving, slower to develop, but a very old soul, just like turtles. I even wore a soapstone carved turtle pendant all through his early childhood. They are animals that act as if they have all the time in the world.

All animals carry with them certain aspects and symbolism. In the Far East, the shell was a symbol of heaven, and the square underside was a symbol of earth. The turtle was an animal whose qualities could help you unite heaven and earth within your own life. A symbol of the turtle was an invitation for the blessings of both heaven and earth.

Whatever the meaning, for Liam they seem to be a special animal he’s drawn to. I’ve always adored them.

Posted by: Jill

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Filed under Family Happenings, Living With Autism, Thoughts & Insights

Mothering & Farmsteading: “How Do You Do It?”

This question has been asked a lot lately, so I feel compelled to write a brief post about it. First of all, I’m not sure what most people are referring to when they say “it”. Do what? I’m a mom with five kids (one of whom is 19, fairly independent, and becoming a big help to have around, not to mention my ever-helpful Prasad), I have a tiny house which isn’t much to manage, and sits on a huge, gorgeous lot, I’m fortunate to stay home full-time, and have a very loving, supportive and helpful husband. Not all that much to ‘deal with’ in my opinion. I’ve got it pretty good, comparatively speaking.

A better question would be “How could you NOT do it?” I do have major challenges in my life, but anyone who lives long enough is not immune to those. We all encounter difficulties and what we perceive to be misfortunes. I call them blessings because I see them all as God’s way of nudging me closer to him. Yes, I become overwhelmed with the trials of having special needs kids.. it can be physically laborious, and emotionally it can take its toll if I don’t keep that in check. And I can become drained by our 9 year old and his complicated psychological issues if I don’t focus on myself and my own needs. Both issues are in my life for a reason, and I certainly wouldn’t be one tenth of who I am without them. Whenever those things get the best of me, I always find a way to pull myself out of the darkness and keep going. I always find a way to embrace it all, and even find beauty in the ugly processes. The real question for me is “how on earth could I not have a life like this and grow, become, and thrive as a human being?”

A life “like this” is what? For me it’s about being guided by my heart. It’s about making sure my life is full and rich and always challenging so that I never stagnate in a pool of discontent and quiet resignation. An idle mind is fertile ground for negativity. I am busy, too busy at times, but it’s all therapy for me. Not as a diversion (trying to run away from things), but as means of processing life and improving upon myself. I garden, grow things, create, dream, and have a flock of hens and ducks because it feeds me. I’m able to be a better mom when my heart and soul are happy and fulfilled. Having a healthy selfishness as a mom helps everyone, and teaches my kids to take care of themselves. My life will never be about autism, being a mom or a wife, homemaker, etc.. Despite being a stay-at-home mom, I have always been determined to have my own sense of self, my own passions and interests; my own life. That’s how I do “it”… I take such good care of myself that it’s easier to handle the difficulties when they come along. I decide beforehand that I’m going to devour every moment of this short life, and I dive into everything with my whole self. How could I not do it that way? If I didn’t live life this way I would curl up and lose my mind. That’s how and why I do it.

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Filed under Living With Autism, Order & Balance, Peace, River Living, Simplicity, Thoughts & Insights, Urban Farmsteading

Family & Farmstead, Trials & Beauty

Lately I’ve been incognito, and can’t find the time or energy to post. It seems as if the rug has been pulled out from under us, or a better way of putting it would be a wild storm. Outside of our fun, mini farm endeavors, life with five kids always has our heads spinning. Out of those five, three have some major issues that either require a great deal of patience, tolerance, energy, or all of the above. Of those three, Sorin is the least challenging. Having PDD (a form of mild autism) she becomes irritable at the drop of a hat, and the younger kids still don’t understand how to handle or understand her outbursts. Then there’s Liam with severe autism, who at 16 years old is changing in so many ways we weren’t prepared for. He’s non-verbal, low-functioning and unable to communicate his needs effectively. His voice is changing, becoming louder, and he’s developed a physical strength that can do some (unintentional) damage. His sleep patterns are changing, and it’s effecting everyone in the home. Finally, there’s the most pressing issue with our 9 year old, Sky, who actually seems more like a 14 year old with the emotional level of a 4 year old. Let’s just say we’ve been pulling our hair out for years due to some of his confusing and volatile behaviors for years and it’s only getting worse as he gets older. Combine all three kids + six baby chicks+ a toddler + two ducks being raised indoors over Spring Break and we’ve got two completely wiped out, frazzled parents!

In the midst of all this chaos we have the beauty new life springing up all around us. Green grass is coming in, bulbs flowering, we have two flowering peach trees waiting to be planted, new herbs, blueberry bushes, we have our health, a beautiful marriage that seems to strengthen with every challenge we go through, and a home we couldn’t be more happy about. And yes, we have an incredible family… our kids are all amazing, regardless of issues or difficulties. That’s what life is, and we’re grateful for everything. We keep flipping back and forth in our psyche between the struggle and the beauty of it all, the pain and the joy. This week the pain and difficulty of everything has become overwhelming at times. Regarding problem behaviors, we’ve started focusing almost 100% on ourselves and our needs instead of trying to change or fix a kid. It’s amazing how much that works, but you have to first let go of the need to change someone else. You even have to stop clinging to hope. What a process, but in the end it’s all that really matters– our own, personal development and where we as individuals need to let go and improve. That’s the best way to love our kids.  Letting one person’s behaviors dictate whether or not you’re happy, or the whole family for that matter, is completely up to us and no one else.

I’m looking forward to ‘getting a life’ and getting back to what I love and enjoy so much with the little farmstead. Like writing, it’s my therapy, and a rather healthy one at that. No matter how dark things become around us, if we keep lighting candles the darkness will lessen or vanish as though it never was.

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Filed under Family Happenings, Kids, Living With Autism, Order & Balance, Urban Farmsteading