Saturday, December 30, 2006

digging out

I'm sure everyone is tired of pictures of the snow, but I have to post these last few... then I'll stop. I promise. 

Since the first big snow last week, we get around the yard and pasture with a series of trails we have cut through the drifts. This is a picture of R shoveling out a trail that we dug last week, but was buried by yesterday's storm. 

That's Dh in the background, plowing the driveway yet again...  

Our nicely plowed out driveway...

 

The trail to the barn...

 

and poor Rose, trying to make her way through the snow. She was hoping I had a treat for her... but it was just the camera!

 

The trail from the pasture to the house...

 

And the last picture (at the bottom)... R all worn out from shoveling, resting on the snow. (Brrr... cold bum!)














Thursday, December 21, 2006

shiver, shiver day 2

It's still snowing hard here, but I think the blizzard is over (the wind isn't as fierce). I thought my warm climate friends might enjoy a picture post... (You can either wish you were here, or count your blessings that you're not!) 

This is first thing this morning, in the barn. The barn doors were closed, but this is the drift left by the wind blowing the snow under the door and then up.... that's Stormy's halters and lead ropes hanging snow covered on her stall door. 

 

The next couple of pictures look a little blue... the sun was just coming up when I took them. 

 

 

Here's dh's car... he made it down the driveway, but there's no way it was going any further! 

 

The barn... you can see how the wind swept some spots clean. 

 

 

The backyard... (that's a 5' fence)

   

The back door again... showing the drift (that even has the imprint of the door panel in it!) and the opening the dogs made to get in and out of the house... 

 

Looking out R's window. 

 

Stay warm!!!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

shiver, shiver

It's been blizzarding here since this morning, and the wind is still howling down the chimney and sending the frozen snowflakes into the side of the house with such force that it sounds like sand hitting the house. The last time I checked the weather it said to expect the storm to hang around through tomorrow morning at least, so I'll be interested to see what the morning looks like. 

Dh and dd went to work today (they work at the same place) and were sent home around noon because of the storm. The 1 hour drive home took them 7 hours. Four of those hours were spent sitting, barely moving, on a major road about 20 minutes from home. It turned out that four semi's and a half dozen cars had totally blocked the road trying (unsuccessfully!) to make it up a small hill. It took 4 hours to clear the road enough to get traffic moving again. 

The snow was a foot or so deep in town, but as Dh got closer to home the snow got much deeper. It was drifted as high as the hood of his SUV in places and he had to plow his way through. As he got closer to home the snow got much deeper, he had a hard time seeing (and staying on) the road, and almost drove into a drift alongside the road that was almost 6' tall. 

Thankfully he made it home ok, and his car didn't really get stuck until he was in our own driveway... 

Here on the home front I was sitting around making cookies, drinking hot chocolate, playing educational games, reading meaningful books, and making warm memories with my perfectly behaved children. 

Ok... maybe not. Maybe I was really trying to think of things to do to keep M and R busy and happy, while trudging out to the barn every few hours to check the animals, and trying not to worry about my oldest daughter (who is 8 months pregnant) who was stuck in traffic with dh and having contractions... which she assured me were just braxton-hicks contractions. ("Don't worry Mom, I'm not in labor...") She didn't tell me until later that she was also freezing because the heater in her van only heats well when she's driving... not idling. Everyone made it home ok though... and won't be going anywhere tomorrow! 

We did have some fun today... We played one game of Sequence, and worked on our unit study...we also finished wrapping the last of the Christmas presents! 

Unfortunately M was so unsettled by the storm that he spend hours just restlessly wandering around the house... while I followed behind him keeping him out of trouble. 

I love blizzards, but this has been a difficult one... the wind has howled all day, driving the stinging snow sidewise... none of the nice, soft, gently-falling-to the-ground kind of snow. I went out to the barn every few hours, and each time I went out the footsteps from my previous trip were already completely filled in. The snow ranges from about a foot deep (where the wind has swept it away) to a little over 3 feet, and the last couple of times I went out I had to use the fence to pull myself through the deepest drifts. (I think Granny was right when she suggested I run a rope from the house to the barn... we needed it today!) The animals are all snug and dry though... we have plenty of hay, so they'll be fine. 

Here's a couple of pictures... R, this morning, after helping me outside at the barn. 

That's snow frozen into the hair that wasn't covered by her hat!  

Here's my back door... The wind has been coming from the north (the other side of the house) but also from the east at times... right into this door (which is under a porch roof). It's blowing so hard it's stuck to the door, and we have a little mini-drift (about 12-18" tall) piled up against it.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

goats in coats

This post is for my dear sister, who asked to see pictures of the marvelous goat coats I made for Betty and Rose. 

It's pretty cold here (in the teens last night) so my "girls" got to try out their new winter wear...

  Here's Rose, I think she's a pretty good model...



  Here's Betty who was too cold to bother to get up from her warm little curled up spot.



  She looks so strange in this picture... like a cross between a seal and a goat.

And just for fun... here's Stormy, the only one who has a store bought coat. (which she hates and has been trying to get off since R and I put it on...)


Saturday, December 16, 2006

random bits and pieces (and a short rant)

Things here have been moving along pretty well, and despite the holiday excitement the kids are getting school done each day. We are going to take a week off though, I can't decide whether we should take next week off (giving me extra time to get the last few things done before Christmas) or take the week of the 26th off (which would be more like a regular Christmas break...). Maybe we'll just keep a light schedule both weeks... doing a couple of days of school each week. Hopefully that will give M and R the structure and routine they need, and I'll get the extra time I need to get things done.

We started our Nativity Story unit study and I think it's going to be a good one... It will be different, in that it's not academically oriented... but I think it will really help them understand what we are really celebrating at Christmas time. 

I'll make a page for it once it's finished...

***********************************************

 Stormy is calmer and getting more settled in each day. She is a very sweet and gentle mare, although she and the goats still haven't made their peace with each other, so I'm having to keep them separate. It didn't help that the first time I put them out in the pasture together, the first thing Betty did was start eating Stormy's hay. Betty had a whole feeder full of hay in her pen... she'd been eating all morning... so why she had to eat Stormy's I don't know. But she did, and it didn't make a good first impression with Stormy!

R has ridden Stormy a couple of times and I've been happy to see what a well-trained, patient horse she is. 

R is so happy while she's riding, I love just sitting out in the pasture watching her...

Here are a few pictures...

  In this picture you can see that R has already braided Stormy's tail!



Stormy seems to love being ridden... She's calmed down a lot since the horse-y panic we saw when they first dropped her off, although sometimes she stills seems a little stressed out and skittish from the move. But after R rides her she is much calmer and happier. It is obvious that she loves having something to do.

  ******************************************

 M is doing ok right now. He's about as stable right now as he gets, and this calm spell has been such a relief after the past six months or so when he's been so unstable. Special times like birthdays, Christmas, etc always give me a renewed appreciation of the gift of being able to raise M at home. Many of the children with serious mental illness that I know spend their childhood bouncing in and out of the hospital, day treatment programs, and residential treatment centers. 

I understand that many of these places offer children important treatment...but I also feel sad that mental illness steals so much of those children's childhood. They are robbed of holidays, birthdays, and just ordinary days spent at home with their families... Sometimes I think they are seen (by the mental health system) as diagnoses first.. and children second. At least that's been the case with M, maybe because childhood schizophrenia is so rare. 

Anyway... I'm so glad that M is here at home, and we all have the blessing of being together. Well, the kids are up and I need to get moving... It's a cold windy day here so we'll probably stay close to home and warm today.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Stormy

R has been in heaven since yesterday morning when they delivered Stormy to our house. 

Stormy wasn't quite as excited about being left here (and had a couple of hours of horse-y panic... running back and forth along the fence and watching for them to come back and get her!) but she's calmed down now and seems to enjoy all the treats she's getting. 

R hasn't ridden yet, I want to give Stormy a few days to get used to being here first, but she is spending lots of time with her, and can't wait to for that first ride!

 

  I took some pictures the other night of an especially pretty sunset... A photo can't really do justice to the colors shimmering in the sky that night, but I still think it's a pretty picture.

Friday, December 8, 2006

I feel like my posts lately have focused mainly on the problems the kids have had... So I thought it was time to write about some of the good things that have been going on around here.

After hearing that a friend from the homeschool group is volunteering at our local library, M took the initiative and asked one of the librarians if he could also volunteer. He and R each filled out applications (with help) and spoke to the volunteer coordinator. We are now working at the library every other Friday morning for one hour. I think this will be a great way for M to work on social skills, and even some early job skills, as the library is a strong motivator for him. Both kids are very excited and proud to be volunteering (M's especially proud to have his own name tag!) and I'm hoping it's something that keeps being workable for M.

Both kids are doing well with their schoolwork. R has been doing better at transitioning from ___ (whatever she was doing when I told her it was school time) to school, and not getting angry about having to stop for school. Academics are still a real struggle for her, but she's making progress. I've been pleased that M also seems to be making progress, despite his recent instability. We've been working on double and triple digit multiplication and yesterday he did really well with some "mental math"....doing simple problems in his head (like 106 x 4) with just a little help. The problems were easy for him but his memory is so impaired that remembering one part of the problem (100 x 4 = 400) while manipulating the other two numbers (6 x 4) and then adding the answers together (400 + 24) is a major accomplishment for him. (I did sometimes have to write one of the numbers down to help him remember it) He did 20 or so problems like that yesterday and did better than I expected him to with them.

We've added a Jesse Tree to our Christmas preparations this year. It's something I've always wanted to do, but never took the time to pull together. The kids painted a large tree on butcher paper, and each night we read a story from the Bible and they take turns coloring the paper ornament that's connected to the story and gluing it on the tree. By the time Christmas gets here we will have read many of the major stories from the Bible and each ornament (should) be a good visual reminder to them of what we've read.

We've finished our Civil War unit study... I've made a page for it, but haven't gotten the pictures posted yet. I'll keep working on it...

And finally... It looks as though we'll be getting a horse soon, at least temporarily. We've offered to provide "foster care" for a horse from a therapeutic riding program that's lost it's lease. She's Arabian/Quarter Horse and is supposed to be delivered Sunday morning. We'll have her for a couple of months, maybe longer. She's older, very calm ("bomb proof" is how they described her) and the kids have permission to ride her. We're trading hay and grain for tack, so we'll have an English saddle/bridle etc for R. (I'll probably get a bareback pad for M if he wants to ride, and R or I will headwalk for him. But maybe, with a horse here at the house, he'll learn to ride independently!) I haven't said anything to the kids yet, in case it falls through, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it all goes as planned. (I'll post pictures when she gets here...)

Well.. that's all for now... the kitchen is calling! ;)

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Banishing the ghosts of Christmas' past...

Warning: This is a long and depressing post...read at your own risk!

 We put up the tree today... (we did go to a Christmas Tree Farm to cut it, which was fun... but I forgot the camera at home so they'll be no pictures). Anyway, as we put it up I found myself slipping into a funk. Generally I'm a pretty upbeat person, but as we hung the lights and ornaments I felt a heaviness settle over me, almost completely burying the Christmas spirit I've been happily wearing around for days.

I was a little surprised by this, but as I thought about it I realized that December has been a pretty tough month for me for the past several years and it would probably be surprising if I didn't have a negative reaction to it.

Three years ago, on December 9th my mother passed away after her health quickly seemed to slip away over the course of about six months. As she became weaker and more ill, it seemed as though our roles reversed, and I spent much of that Fall trying to take care of her... rushed trips to the ER (and hours spent waiting for them to decide whether or not to admit her), trips to the store to get her medications and groceries, countless hours spent with her at the hospital when she was to sick to be home. I wasn't able to do as much for her as I wish I could have (M was already struggling terribly with schizophrenia at that time, and I was being pulled in two very different directions) but I'm so glad I was able to do as much as I did. It was an incredibly difficult time and although I know she was miserable then, and is happier now, I still miss her... Each December since then has been a reminder of that time and losing her.

Two years ago in December we were making plans to sell our home of 18 years and take a giant leap of faith, to a new life away from the city. That last Christmas in the old house was bittersweet... As I prepared for the holiday I remember thinking... this is the last time I'll hang the stockings here... the last Christmas tree ... the last holiday dinner in this house. Yes, I suppose I was being melancholy... but I'm Irish, and we can be very good at melancholy. The minute the tree came down that year (on the 26th!) I began getting the house ready to sell, and it went on the market the first week of January. 

Last December was as difficult as the December my mom died, although in a different way. (I'll ask apologies in advance from any family members who missed this story. While it was happening it was too painful to talk about, once it was over it was something I only wanted to put behind me.) Last December M was very unstable. He was so unstable that his pdoc didn't think I could continue to manage him (and R) safely at home. So she called our county social service agency and filed a report detailing her concerns. Before she called them she let me know what she was going to do, and I begged her not to, but she called anyway. (She said she didn't want them to remove M, but she hoped her call might open up some doors to services through DCSS) Not knowing exactly what she had told them, or when they might arrive on my doorstep, I called a friend who is a children's attorney (she works as a GAL for a legal center that serves those who often have no legal voice... children, the homeless, people with disabilities) and asked what I should do. She said I needed to prepare (asap!) for them to come and investigate us. She said that if they felt that M was too unstable to be safe here (or for the rest of us to be safe here), they would remove him from our home. She told me I needed to take every precaution right away, before social services came, to be able to prove to them that I could manage him at home. So I installed alarms on each outside door and his bedroom door. I went through his room inch by inch to make sure there was nothing in there that could hurt him. I carefully went through the rest of the house as well, making sure it was as safe as I could make it. I did everything my friend suggested that was possible for me to do... and then I waited. My memory of last December is waiting for a caseworker to show up at my door, of being afraid to answer to phone in case it was them calling. They never investigated... but it took months before I stopped holding my breath each time an unfamiliar car came down the driveway.

Maybe I overreacted... but M is so incredibly vulnerable. He's both developmentally delayed and seriously mentally ill, he's not a child who could manage a quick removal from our home (and I'm not a mom who could manage his quick removal from our home!). It didn't help that I know a family in a similar situation who had a 13 year old son removed from their home by social services. It took that family almost a year to get him back.

 I don't want to start a discussion/argument about social service agencies... I've spent lots more time working with/for them, then being afraid of them. But this is the reality of what was happening here one year ago. It was a nightmare. The nightmare was probably made worse because I trusted the pdoc... I never dreamed she would take that step. (Yes, it's the same pdoc we have now... I've forgiven her, but will probably never trust her completely again)

Anyway... back to putting up the tree today, and feeling the dark clouds rolling over me. I think it's going to take at least one good December for me to shake the feeling of uneasiness (dread?) that this month brings. So, I'm going to work on just enjoying the season... I'm not stressing about shopping because, after all, Christmas shopping is so much easier when you aren't watching over your shoulder for caseworkers, or packing 18 years worth of stuff at the same time! 

I'm going to enjoy my kids (big and little) and focus on them and the people in our lives that are so special to us... rather then spend time worrying about problems that come into the family from outside. The unit study M and R (and I) will be starting this week is on the Nativity. We'll read, and draw, and wonder our way through the story of Jesus' birth. I can't think of a nicer way to spend our unit study time for the next few weeks...

Understanding the "why" of my December funk, should make it easier to move past it... and lose (find?) myself in the wonder and beauty of this season.

Here's a good start... Remember this ornament Steve? It's gone on our tree every year since ??? I wonder what the lifespan of Shrinky Dinks is?! And the second picture is R, reaching for that empty spot up near the top of the tree!

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I was visiting...

.. a friend's blog this morning and read her entry "you know it's cold when..." and decided that given we (here in Colorado) are still in the deep freeze, I would start my own list.

You know it's cold when:
  1. Literally everything that's outside is covered with frost.
  2. The inside of your nose freezes just on the short walk to the barn.
  3. The dogs who normally love to go to the barn with you each morning... chasing bunnies, running and playing the whole way...decide they would rather huddle together on the front porch, waiting for you to return.
  4. After being outside, your normally cool house (thermostat set on 62 f), feels toasty warm.
  5. Running out of hot chocolate would be a family emergency.

  Anybody else living in the deep freeze?! Care to add to my list??

  Here's some pics I took this morning... 11-6-002.jpg 11-6-005.jpg 11-6-007.jpg ********************************************************
 Dh's parents took us out to dinner last night... without kids! (what a treat!!) Our oldest dd came and stayed with M and R, while we went out for a steak dinner. Mmmm... 

On the way home we had fun stopping and picking out a Christmas tree to surprise E (dd#1) with. She'd been planning on putting up her tree yesterday, but babysat for us instead. So...we decided we'd get her a tree, and Dh followed her home last night and got the tree set up in it's stand for her so it's all ready to decorate today. 

If it warms up enough (at this point 30 f would feel absolutely balmy!) we're going to go cut our tree today. Dh can't manage the walk to cut a tree at one of the Forest Service cutting areas, but there is a Christmas tree farm about 10 miles away that we're planning on going to to pick and cut our tree. I'll post pics when we get back.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

It's a gorgeous day here... It started snowing last night and the snow is still softly falling. 

We seem to get a lot of pretty wild snow storms, where the wind blows the snow sideways, and by the time the storm is over there are places where the wind has swept the ground completely clean, and places where the snow is drifted up to our knees (thighs, and sometimes even hips!). 

This isn't one of those snows though. The wind isn't howling down the chimney... the flakes are fine and gently falling, covering everything with that wonderful snow-muffled kind of quiet.

The kids were outside playing earlier... It was very cold (maybe 10 degrees?) but they bundled up well and by the time they came in they were cold, happy, tired, and ready for some hot chocolate.

It was nice to see M playing outside with R... He isn't always well enough to play. (In fact, it's pretty rare for him to be able to really play for any length of time. Until his schizophrenia I didn't realize what a wonderful blessing just being able to play is...) We've been making some medication adjustments and for awhile seemed to be seeing some good coming from them. He'd been calmer and having more good days than bad (which is a switch!), but he's been struggling more to manage any change in routine. Something as simple as having someone visit has been enough to throw him off. Thanksgiving was very difficult for him. Having everyone home ended up being more than he could manage... 

It's always so sad for me when his illness prevents him from enjoying a holiday, or even just connecting with his siblings. Schizophrenia is a cruel disease in so many ways.

M's been having more physical side effects lately, so some of the med adjustments are trying to balance what he has to take to be fairly stable, with lowering the medication enough to hopefully decrease the side effects. His speech is already permanently impaired as a result of side effects to lithium (which he no longer takes), and in the past he had swallowing problems that were (probably) connected to the haldol he takes. The swallowing problems went away for awhile, but they seem to be back again now. Sometimes he feels like he can't breathe, he coughs a lot, and he's having a lot of trouble swallowing (on Thanksgiving it was bad enough that he ended up just eating soft food for dinner... ). The pdoc says it might be TD (tardive dyskinesia) symptoms and we need to lower the haldol, if possible. The past couple of days I've tried to lower it... but he's destabilized. So.... this is starting to look like one of those problems with no good solution. 

For now we've increased his side effect medication, hopefully it will take care of things until we figure out what to do...

I'll close with a couple of deer pictures... R saw these two bucks from her bedroom window. They were acting very strange, so we stopped to watch them for awhile (and take pictures, of course!). They are two mature bucks, and seemed to be following each other around a large patch of scrub oak. There didn't seem to be any aggression between them... they just followed each other around and around that bush. The buck in front periodically pulled his lips back and made this strange hissing kind of noise. (In the first picture you can see him doing it.). 

Eventually they stopped circling... moved up the hill, over the fence and were gone...

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Friday, November 24, 2006

family pics (Thanksgiving 2006)

It can be very hard to get our whole family (all 5 kids and grandkids) together, so we don't have any recent pictures of all of us together. I decided that Thanksgiving was the perfect time for a family picture (and I wouldn't let them eat until the picture was taken... good motivator!) So here's the whole family...

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Back row is dh, B, K (both in college) M and I, front row is E holding the grandkids (both were sick yesterday, and not in the mood for a smile) and R. ~ 

And we couldn't take a family picture without getting silly, of course... ~ 

LOL, no sibling rivalry in THIS family!!

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Monday, November 20, 2006

thankfulness...

This is an old favorite of mine, and I thought Thanksgiving week was a good time to post it (again) on my blog...
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I Am Thankful
By Nancy H.
~
For the husband who is on the sofa being a couch potato.
Because he's home with me and not out in bars.
~
For the dog barking to come in because it means
I can hear, and that I have a faithful friend.
~
For the cat leaving hair in my lap, because it means
I have another faithful friend.
~
For the mess to clean after a party,
because it means I have been surrounded by friends.
~
For the clothes that fit a little too snug,
because it means I have enough to eat.
~
For my shadow that watches me work,
because it means I'm out in the sunshine.
~
For a yard that needs tending, windows that need cleaning
and gutters that need fixing, because it means I have a home.
~
For all the complaining I hear about the government,
because it means we have freedom of speech.
~
For the parking spot I find at the far end of the parking lot,
because it means I'm capable of walking and I've been
blessed with transportation.
~
For my heating bill, because it means I'm warm.
~
For the pile of laundry, because it means I have clothes to wear.
~
For weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day,
because it means I have been capable of working hard.
~
For the dog waking me up in the early morning hours to go out
to wee, because it means that I am alive.
~
And finally- for too much email,
because it means I have friends who are thinking of me!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

quiet weekend

...at least so far. (I kind of hate to even say things like that because I know how quickly the situation can change!)

M seems to be settling down again, after some really difficult weeks. He's had a couple of good days in a row and the lack of tension in the house has been wonderful! He's still unsettled and difficult during the late afternoon/evening but that's a small price to pay for calm hours during the middle of the day.

He and R went out exploring (in the back pasture) yesterday afternoon. This is the first time in a couple of weeks that M has been well enough to actually play... They outfitted themselves with water bottles, baggies of trail mix, hiking boots (M) and a metal detector. (Yes, we only have 5 acres... but they believe in being prepared!) They came home about 30 minutes later with their "treasures"... several pieces of tangled up rusted wire, one white plastic cap (from an electric fence) and a golf ball. They seemed pretty happy with their finds and happily shared the wire with dh. LOL, they are just sure he will need it for something.

With M doing well enough to enjoy being outside, I'm looking forward to starting our nature journaling again. We put it aside a couple of months ago when M was so ill (psychiatrically) that it was very difficult to get him to go outside (except to walk to the car, luckily he doesn't often refuse to go places in the car). R has journaled once or twice since then, but it will be very nice if we can add that part of our homeschooling back in, I've really missed it.
~
Our Civil War unit study is going slow... 


We lost a week or so because M was just too unstable to do anything, but we've gotten started again now and it seems to be coming together pretty well. We did an "overview" of the war, when and where it took place, what it was about, etc. Now we are focusing on several historical figures from that time, and learning more in-depth information about them. Our lap books seem to be taking the form of "satchels" (carpet bags?)... I didn't plan this, it's just kind of the way the information is organizing itself. They are pretty cool... When we're done I'll make a page here showing them, and listing the materials we used for this unit study (like I did for our solar system unit study).

For those people who have commented asking about a certain family member's nudist tendencies... she seems to be in recovery. There was only one incident while she was here, but our "landscape" of sharp, dry, prairie grasses, yucca, and cactus kept it relatively short-lived. (She did take the precaution of wearing mudboots, but they seriously hampered her dancing ability) Thankfully our neighbors are far enough away that I was able to get her back inside before the police were called...

Thursday, November 16, 2006

We're still here, but it's been a roller coaster of a couple of weeks... 

My ds was here for a very short, but nice, visit earlier this week. She only stayed a couple of days but it was so nice to have her here. She has spent enough time with us over the years that she just jumps in with the kids, helping when it's needed and not waiting to be asked, and understanding that M needs the kind of help you would normally give a much younger child (cutting his food for example, and holding his hand crossing the street). I was sad she couldn't stay longer but SOMEDAY, when M is stable enough for the drive, we'll head east to visit her. 

I've been missing the road trips the kids and I used to take, visiting her in her big old house (with the sparkling new kitchen... that I've never seen!) and heading over to the Emma Chase on Wednesday nights for burgers. 

It doesn't look like we'll be heading east for a visit any time soon though... M is still very unstable and just getting the hour into Denver to see his pdoc is difficult these days. I spent most of last weekend "talking" (via email) with her about the situation. She's still making suggestions for medication changes that MIGHT help (but it's very unlikely). I've been feeling like enough is enough, we've come as far as we're going to with the meds, let's just accept that and figure out how to live with the situation as it is. She doesn't agree. She has agreed to let me start tapering his mood stabilizer (that may be doing a little, or nothing, or making things worse!). So we'll see if that helps. 

I've agreed to meet with the pdoc in town that does ECT, to get his feedback. M's pdoc is going to set the appointment up. I'd like her to come too, but I'm guessing it's unlikely...

School is getting done most days... This latest rough spell has set M back cognitively, but he's still cooperative and trying which is nice. R is also still plugging away at schoolwork (although she'd really rather be outside!) Our school time is a nice "organizing" part of what often seems to be pretty chaotic days. 

As part of the homeschool Halloween party, they kids paraded in costume through a nursing home nearby. The residents had cards for the kids, and the cards included the name of a resident and their address, so the kids could write to them. M and R wrote right away, sending letters and pictures they drew. We may not hear back from their "penpals" (this nursing home has an alzheimer's unit, so many of the residents aren't likely to write back) but we're going to keep sending cards, letters and pictures. The kids love the idea of sending them, and it's nice to think of sending a little surprise to someone who may not have young kids in their life.

  We've been keeping busy around the house as well. I finished the last little bit of painting on the exterior of the house and barn, and got things cleaned up a little. We were running very low on firewood so we called and had a cord of wood delivered last Saturday. The man who delivered it knew the house immediately. Rather than an address, I could have just told him to go to Ann and Carl's house! (Ann and Carl built the house) 

Well... the sun's coming up so I need to get moving.

Thursday, November 2, 2006

thank you

....for the prayers and good thoughts, I think the situation has turned around now and it looks like M will be fine.

We spent yesterday checking and rechecking M's white count... His pdoc had talked to the people at the National Registry (because clozaril has the potentially fatal side effect of dropping the white count, it is carefully monitored by this agency and can only be prescribed in certain situations and under certain conditions). She was told that if we had a normal CBC within 48 hours of stopping the medication we could start it again with lots of follow up CBC's. 

So I drew M's blood twice yesterday and around dinnertime we got the good news that his white count is back up in the normal range, and since it had not been 48 hours since we stopped it, I could restart it again. (Had it been more than 48 hours we would have had to very slowly increase the medication as we did when he first started taking it. It's a months long process to get it to a therapeutic level.) 

We don't know why his white count was apparently so low on Monday... I had a hematology doc check the specimen I sent in and he said it was fine... no clots, and there were none of the other possible reasons for it to drop. There is also no clear (medical) reason why it would have popped back up so quickly... I'm taking it as another miracle in this child's life. 

He had a rough day off and on yesterday, I could already see a change in him without his medication. The pdoc was talking about ways to keep him sedated during the time he was without the clozaril, and things were looking pretty grim. Getting the news last night that his white count was back up was an incredible relief... 

It's funny how good "normal" looks (even a normal as strange as ours!) after coming so close to it being gone. M should be back to normal within a few days to a week... He'll need more frequent (every few days) CBCs for awhile, but that's not a problem. Our children's hospital has very generously provided us with a courier service to the hospital. So I just have to draw the blood, call the courier, and it's picked up at the house and taken into Denver. They've made it very easy for us...

  THANK YOU again for all the prayers, good thoughts and supportive comments.... They mean so much to me.

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

prayers

We've had a crisis with M, and I would really appreciate it if you could keep M in your prayers...

 Here is what is happening... 

The main medication M takes for his schizophrenia (clozaril) can have the side effect of dropping his white count dramatically. This side effect doesn't happen often, but can be fatal... this is why I have to draw M's blood every week or two for a CBC. In the three + years he's been taking this med, his white count has been fine... but I found out yesterday evening that the blood draw I did on Monday showed it had dropped seriously. 

His pdoc called last night and said I had to stop the medication...

You're probably wondering why I would give him such a potentially dangerous drug. It's because it's the only one that seems to work with treatment resistant schizophrenia. It's referred to as the "gold standard" in terms of meds for treatment resistant schizophrenia.

  So I've had to stop it, abruptly, and who knows how much M is going to disconnect as a result. In the past when I've decreased that med too much he loses touch with reality (not immediately, it's a gradual process) which is incredibly painful for him. I'll have to draw his blood at least twice a week for awhile, so his doc can watch for his white count to (hopefully) rise again. Legally she can't start the medication again until it's reached a certain point for a certain period of time. (That's if we decide to use it again...)

 That's the situation... I'll keep you posted if anything changes, but until it does we'd really appreciate your prayers.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

frustrations

M's pdoc just called... She's full of ideas for helping him to be more stable AND not be buried under side effects. I think she's wonderful, and I'm glad that she wants so much for M to be better. But I'm also so frustrated trying to communicate with her... 

Sometimes I think we aren't speaking the same language. She's been seeing the kids every week for a while now, and usually she tells me how good M looks. It doesn't matter if he's tearing the house apart at home, and I can't take him out in public because he's so unpredictable... He looks good to her. 

After feeling frustrated that she didn't seem to be seeing what I see, I finally decided maybe she is right. For someone who is developmentally delayed and has severe schizophrenia which hasn't been responsive to treatment, he's doing fine. I decided that maybe my expectations are just too high... that this is "normal" for someone with his unique challenges. 

So I told the pdoc that. I said M was fine, I'm glad he looks good to her, and I'm going to work on adjusting my expectations to more manageable levels. 

Her response? 

He really doesn't look that good. She's concerned about him and thinks we need to make major med changes, ones that would require him to be hospitalized (in the psych unit of course) for an extended period of time. Sometimes I just can't win for losing... 

She wanted to talk tonight about hospitalizing him to make these major med changes. We would be slowly reducing the only medication that is known to be helpful with treatment resistant schizophrenia and replacing it with another antipsychotic (one that he's taken several times in the past with only marginal success). 

Why would she think this is a reasonable option? While tapering his clozaril the hallucinations would increase, he would lose insight into them and start believing that what he was seeing and hearing was real. He would become very frightened of the scary ones, and possibly panic and try to run away from them. He might also get aggressive and volatile if the voices told him to do something and in his compromised state of mind, he did it. (They often threaten to kill him if he doesn't do what they say... that's why insight is so important!) He would be in terrible mental pain, possibly banging his head or wanting to die to quiet the voices. I know this is what it would be like because we've tapered that med before and this is what happened. 

I think, as a physician, his pdoc is focused on "fixing" (curing?) M. That's what doctors do... they make people better. But some people with schizophrenia don't get better... their illness is not responsive to meds, or only partially responsive. M is one of those people. 

Rather than put him through hell trying a medication that we've already tried, one that hasn't done enough... Why not accept him as he is, and try to help us all live with the reality of life with schizophrenia?! 

I know she means well. I know she cares about him and is doing the best she can. I just wish she could forget she's a doctor for a little while, and think about things from M's point of view.

Friday, October 27, 2006

after the storm

Be patient with me...these will be the last snow pics for awhile. I promise. It's just too pretty outside not to share! I love the way the wind sculpted the snow, leaving bare patches mixed in with almost gravity defying waves of snow.

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  We are still snowed in, dh only got enough of the driveway plowed for him to get out to work this morning. He did get the heat back on last night, so I won't need to spend the day feeding the fire. 

The goats were very stressed out yesterday (especially Betty, who was born in March and probably doesn't remember snow). They cried, tried to follow us into the house (bounding over the drifts... they are surprising good in the snow!) and just generally let us know they weren't happy about all the snow. We went out several times to check on them and bring them treats, and they are back to normal today. 

M enjoyed being snowed in yesterday, but woke up this morning in a panic about not being able to get out (to go to town). After a very rough half hour or so he calmed down, napped a little and seems better now. 

R has already been out to play a couple of times... nothing slows her down, she loves it outside whatever the weather! 

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Wish you were here...

We're snowed in today... 

It started snowing during the night, and it's been snowing hard since then. The wind is blowing the snow sideways, and the drifts are up to my knees. 

I don't mind being snowed in, although I think more than a day or two at a time would set me over the edge... 

This post for for my family and friends who would probably enjoy the experience of being snowed in.. the smell of the woodsmoke, and the silence of the snow falling... silence broken only by the wind as it comes down the chimney. 

There is stew bubbling in the crockpot and later this afternoon I'll make some bread to go with it. 

~ I love storms like this... I'm not sure if it's technically a blizzard, but I can't see past the end of the driveway and it sure looks like a blizzard to me! 

The pilot light on the boiler went out last night (we have hot water heat, no furnace) and until dh can replace the thermocoupling we're heating the house with wood. He'll probably be able to get the hot water heat going again this evening, but until then I'm feeding the fire. 

It's such a blessing to be able to keep the house warm, even during a major storm, with wood. It's kind of a secure feeling somehow... 

Here are some pics I took today... enjoy! (or count your blessings!) ~ 10-06-003.jpg

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Friday, October 20, 2006

this week

The house is quiet right now... M's asleep and R's playing outside... so I thought I'd try to steal enough time to write. 

Nothing exciting is going on here, but that in itself is a blessing! M has settled down again and most days things are pretty manageable. The pdoc hasn't mentioned ECT for a couple of weeks, since things have gotten better it's looking like we may not have to make the decision after all... 

I got a phone call the other evening from the man we bought our goat Rose from. He has a little 12 acre farm a few miles from us and keeps every kind of farm animal you can imagine. He had sheep, goats, llamas, donkeys, chickens, ducks, pheasants, miniature horses and more! We've visited him several times since we bought Rose and the kids always enjoy wandering around his pasture, looking at all the animals. 

So Al called the other evening to invite us over to see the newborn llama and goats he had. The baby llama is just beautiful... he's black and white, and has the sweetest face... The goats were only a few hours old and R would have spent all evening in the barn just holding one of the newborn kids... The little buckling she was holding still had his cord attached and M and R were a little surprised... They had never thought about animals having belly buttons! I think we'll probably go back this weekend so R can play with the babies before they get too big! 

 The kids have almost finished up their solar system unit and their lapbooks. We have had so much fun doing this, as soon as the finish the books up I'll take some pictures and show you what we did. M has picked the next topic we're going to do a unit study on... the Civil War. I love history so this should also be a fun and interesting unit study. I've been amazed at how working on the lapbooks has kept the kids interested and engaged, and how much fun we've had putting them together! 

Better go get something done....

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Catchin' up

This past couple of weeks has been a blur of running errands, trying to keep up with the kids, and fitting everything else (like dinner, laundry, school, etc.) in spare minutes here and there...

In addition we celebrated two birthdays this past week. DD#3 turned 19, and R is turning 10 today!

Unfortunately, M has continued to be very unstable and has been having hours and hours each day of needing constant, hand's on attention. Most of the time it feels a little like I have a really big toddler in the house. He's moving constantly, getting into things, and the only time I can relax is when he's asleep.

I'm still waiting for information from the pdoc about what she found out from the other pdocs about ECT. The longer this current unstable spell continues, the more "normal" it seems, and less of an emergency... and I'm feeling less and less open to the idea of ECT.

 I had my grandkids for the day both yesterday and Thursday, and although things got a little crazy, I really enjoyed having them here.

DGD is almost 4 now and just a sweet and smart little girl. She and R play beautifully together and seem to have so much fun with each other... it's wonderful to see how close they are.

DGS is just 2 and is still pretty happy just to hang out with grandma most of the time. He has been diagnosed with aphasia (he isn't able to speak... he understands what is said to him, but isn't able to form intelligible words, at least not yet) and speaks in sign language. I understand most of his signs and we do fine most of the time, but once in a while he comes up with a sign I don't know...

Yesterday he had just finished a piece of my homemade bread with a little honey on it, when he started making a sign I didn't know. His pointer and little fingers were up, and his thumb was sticking out. I didn't know what he wanted, but he seemed pretty insistent, so I asked DGD what he was saying. She thought he was telling me he loved me (it looked almost like the sign for "I love you") so I told him I loved him too, but he was still very insistent about what he was trying to say. Finally the light bulb clicked on in my head and I asked him if his fingers were sticky. With relief he nodded his head yes and I washed his sticky fingers (his pointer finger, thumb and pinkie)

Sigh... poor baby, talk about grandma missing the obvious!

We celebrated R's birthday yesterday and she had a wonderful time. We invited a bunch of her friends for a swimming party at the town (indoor) pool and then came to the house afterwards for pizza, presents and cake.

It was a beautiful day, and R was so excited about her birthday and having her friends over. M was calm through the whole party and I think everyone had a great time. (R said later that it was her best birthday ever!)

We didn't get much school done this week... I'm SO looking forward to getting back into our regular routine next week. It's funny how good sitting down to do school sounds, after all the running we've been doing lately!

Friday, October 6, 2006

mental health break

I got up yesterday morning and decided that we needed a change of scene. 

In the old days when would I get that feeling, I'd pack the kids in the car, grab the credit card, and take a "field trip". 

We used to take the most awesome field trips... Mesa Verde, Four Corners, the Great Sand Dunes, Mt. Rushmore, the Badlands...we traveled all over the Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska area and had so much fun. 

Twice we drove over to Chimney Rock in Nebraska and followed the Oregon Trail west... 

It's been a couple of years since we've taken one of those wonderful field trips... it's been that long since M has been stable enough to take that far from home. 

So... since I couldn't load the kids in the car for a road trip, we decided to head down to Colorado Springs. There is a lot of cool stuff to do down there... there are cliff dwellings, lots of museums, Pikes Peak, and a lot of really beautiful places in the mountains just west of town. 

This wasn't an "educational" trip though, we just wanted to have some (cheap) fun. We ended up at Focus on the Family's children's area. I don't agree with Focus on the Family's political views, but they have a nice children's area and it's free... 

The kids played for an hour or so, then we had lunch at the little malt shop they have there. The kids had a great time, and it was nice to be able to forget about M's mental illness for awhile. 

Here are some pics... Here's M and his buddy after putting on a puppet show for me...

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and R and M doing a show in the stage (they could watch themselves on moniters mounted just above the stage!)

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R coming out of their huge slide (it's three stories tall!), she was a little afraid to try the slide at first but ended up going down over and over again!! (for some reason this picture was deleted... sorry) 

 We finished up with lunch in the malt shop (and a shake to eat on the way home) *********************************************

 I spoke to M's pdoc the other night and asked her to talk about M's situation with the only pdoc in the area who does ECT with children. I also asked her to talk to one of her colleagues, who specializes in childhood psychotic disorders, about the advisability of trying ECT. We haven't decided that it's something we want to try, but I think it's something it's time to learn more about. 

My understanding is that the biggest problem with ECT is that it can wipe out memory... (sometimes the memories come back over time, sometimes they don't...) The testing we recently had done with M showed that he has virtually no working memory at all any more, which makes the memory loss from ECT seem like less of a problem it might be for someone who doesn't already have that problem... 

 Lots to think about.

Thursday, October 5, 2006

Hard Decision (ECT)

Over the past few days M has gotten much worse. He is fairly calm and connected at times, but at other times he very volatile and difficult to manage. The pdoc has suggested ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) again, and I am considering it this time.

Please keep M in your prayers...

Monday, October 2, 2006

I haven't been blogging much lately... I've been busy with other writing kinds of projects, and have had little time left to write just for fun!

Now that the painters are finished with the house, the last of the exterior work on the house is done. (except for a little painting that I need to do) It's a very good feeling, but it's also made me think more about how we ended up spending so much time and money fixing up a house that wasn't supposed to need any fixing up.

I have to confess I've been feeling pretty angry about it, and as though the people who lied to us (the seller) and didn't do their job (the inspection company) should be held accountable in some way.

So I've been working on a letter to the owner of the inspection company, letting him know that I'm prepared to "go public" about his company... and that I'm prepared to inform other potential home buyers about (his) unscrupulous home inspection companies. I need to let my FIL (who's also our attorney) read the letter and make there is nothing in it that can get me in trouble and then I'll send it out today.

I've also been working on the reams of paperwork that is required to even start the process of getting M qualified for developmental disability services. I hate this kind of paperwork, trying to figure out how to answer the questions (on just a few narrow little lines!) giving them a sense of just how disabled M is, without feeling completely disloyal for sharing things with others that really feel like private family issues.

The kids and I have been having so much fun with our Solar System unit study. I'll post some pictures soon so you can see what we've been doing... We've loved making the lapbooks, what a wonderful way to organize information, reinforce learning, and get creative at the same time! I think we'll probably finish up this unit study this week or the early part of next week, and I'm already planning the next one!

In my "spare time" (hahahaha) I've been working on writing the story of our experiences over the past couple of years. Since deciding to move, finding this house (and discovering all it's problems!) our lives have been full of one miracle after another. Just when we would think a situation is impossible, a door would open up and things would work out. I am humbled when I think of all the people who worked to help us put this house back together again... and I've decided I need to get it all down on paper, before I start to forget all the miracles that brought us to this point.

So that's our quick update... see you soon!