Monday, April 24, 2006

a quick update to the day...

So.... maybe the day didn't turn out too badly after all. We had plenty of time to get school done, dinner has been bubbling in the crock pot (and making the house smell good) for hours, and the fire has warmed the house enough to almost make me forget how dreary and icy it is outside.

I got a call today from the woman who (with her late husband) built our house almost 30 years ago. She is moving out of the area and would like us to have some lamps that they bought for this house when it was first built. She's coming by tomorrow for a visit and will bring the lamps then.

I'm touched that she wants us to have the lamps... I'll have to find just the right spot for them. (which might be a challenge for 30 year old lamps!

That terrible noise you hear is the sound of my gears...

... unsuccessfully shifting... trust me it's not a very pretty sound.

The kids and I have all been looking forward to today (them more than me for reasons that will become clear in a moment). We were looking forward to heading back to our old neighborhood, the one we moved from a year ago. The kids were crazy excited about getting to stay with Granny (their adopted grandma... one of their most favorite people in the world) for awhile, and I was slightly less excited about finally keeping an appointment with my doctor for a yearly physical. (I'm about two years late on the "yearly" part...)

 The big storm that blew threw last night missed us, so I thought we were looking good this morning and I was all ready to get school done quickly so we could leave for the hour drive into the city. Then I looked outside. Yeah, the big storm...the thunder, hail and snow... had missed us, but we ended up with freezing rain instead. The horizonal surfaces of my porch looked as though they were covered with a thin sheet of glass and I knew I didn't want to try driving the 25-30 miles into the city and the doctor's office.

Sigh... so I called and canceled the appointment (feeling a little guilty about being so happy to have an excuse to cancel it) and called Granny to ask if we could come up another day. That part was really disappointing...we were all really looking forward to seeing her. But I just don't want to take a chance driving when conditions are bad. We live about five miles from the nearest town and for part of those miles I don't have any cell phone reception. I wrecked my car last year, trying to drive through a storm out here... and I'd be very happy to never repeat that experience again.

 So we are home for the day. The good news is that we won't miss a day of school, and this was a good excuse to build a nice fire in the fireplace. There may not be many (any?) more days cold enough for a fire until next fall, so I guess I need to appreciate this last taste of winter.

Sunday, April 23, 2006


Well my menagerie has decreased in size again, and things are getting back to "normal" at our house again. (haha--those of you who know me, know I use that term very loosely when describing our family )

Yesterday was a really nice day... First thing in the morning R and I grabbed the wire cutters, the pliers and some wire and went out and fixed the fence. I think it will keep the horses on their own side now... It was just a beautiful morning and so nice to spend time outside with R... just the two of us. There was a hole in a fence large enough to drive a small car through, but since it was down in the gully I hadn't seen it before. We repaired the wire and added new wire and it's probably good enough. I really should put a new fence post or two down there one of these days and really fix it right, but that is going to have to wait until I have more time. We left M at home, which I really shouldn't do... but he was dozing and I was pretty sure he would be all right.

After the fence was fixed I took R over to the neighbor who lives just north of us. R was invited over to help her with her horse. They wormed him and groomed him, and then I think D worked him in the round pen while R watched. Then D brought R home again and stayed to visit for a while and see what we've done with the house...

In the afternoon R's friend L came over to play. L lives about a mile and a half east of us (it was her pony that R was following the evening that we lost her!). L's mom brought her over and we ended up talking for so long that it was time for L to go by the time we were done. It's the first time I've met L's mom... she is a very interesting person, and fun to talk to... and I really enjoyed having company twice in one day!

In between visitors, I worked on the house. I finished caulking around the new wood outside, and started painting around the doors and windows. I didn't get much painting done, but there's no hurry... I'm just doing the painting on the first floor of the house, we're going to have to hire someone to paint the high stuff.

M is doing a little better again., although I hate to even say that... each time I do he seems to fall apart again. I guess that's just the nature of schizophrenia...(and something you think I'd be used to by now!) It has been so good lately to see him calm and connected enough to enjoy his days.

Not much point to this post, I guess... mostly just rambling.

Friday, April 21, 2006


Cranky, crabby update to the day... or how this day ended up going totally to the dogs (and horses).

The huskies have gone home (hurray!!!!!). Their owner and I found each other through the county animal services dept (or whatever it's called... it's been a long day). Unfortunately, before that happened they made the mistake of surprising a skunk in the little pasture and got sprayed... both of them. It was even more unfortunate that they surprised the skunk close enough to the house to also fill the house with the overpowering scent of skunk aromatherapy!

The house aired out by afternoon, but it was a really stinky morning around here.We ended up taking Chance the wandering horse home twice today... I wouldn't even bother taking him home any more, except I'm pretty sure he does think (as one of my commentors pointed out) that we are living in his pasture, and just keeping it watered for him. He was in both the front yard and the back yard today (I opened the back gate to let the dogs in and Chance thought it was an invitation ), and I'm feeling a little cranky right now about all the muddy hoof prints on my front sidewalk. (grumble, grumble, grumble)

No, I didn't get the fence fixed yet but it's on the top of my list for tomorrow...

I am starting to feel like I am running a small animal shelter..and I'm quite sure how it happened.Two days ago we had one golden retriever, two guinea pigs and a garter snake.

Today we have (at least temporarily) one golden retriever, two huskies, two guinea pigs, a garter snake, a shetland pony, and a full size horse.

How did this happen?

Kind of like this....It started Wednesday afternoon when I saw a couple of huskies running loose in the back pasture. I didn't think too much of it, dogs get loose a lot out here, and by dinner time they were gone. We thought. The next morning as dh was walking out the door for work he called me come look. There were the two huskies, they'd been sleeping on our front porch, and were so happy to see us! They seemed to think they were home and couldn't wait to come in the house and get comfy. Instead of letting them in the house (and starting an all out war with the golden retriever) I put them in the little pasture, got them some food and water and hung up some "found dog" signs. I was pretty sure they'd be picked up right away... I knew they'd been gone from home overnight at least and surely someone would be looking for them by morning!When I came back in the house from getting the dogs settled, I looked out my back window and found the pony in the back pasture. sigh.... (thinking)...I really should put her in the front pasture until I can take her home again... but the front pasture was full of dogs! So I let her stay where she was, and later in the day R walked her home again...

Fast forward to this morning... The huskies are still in the little pasture, no one has claimed them and I'm starting to wonder if they were dumped. The kids have already named them (of course) and our golden retriever is getting pretty cranky about the lack of attention. (well... as cranky as a golden retriever ever gets... which means joyously jumping around smiling and sneezing on everybody without quite as much abandon as usual. And I do think she's feeling pretty smug about being the only dog allowed in the house!)

The shetland pony is back in the big pasture again, which means I'm going to have to go out today to fix the fence (since it appears our neighbor isn't going to do it), and Chance the wandering horse is in my front yard. NOT the front pasture, mind you... the front yard, my tiny little (sacred) square of kentucky blue grass in the midst of all this prairie. sigh.... I guess I should count my blessings, at least he isn't up in the flower bed!

Here's the view from my front walk...

I do love animals... but right now my cup runneth over!


M had a better day today. He's been so unstable lately, that the days have been hard to get him through. But he was calmer, more settled, today... and it was a nice break for me. R got school done this morning... hurrying through so we could make it to park day. M struggled through school this afternoon. I can't complaing though...there have been more than a few days lately when he's refused to do school at all!

It was so nice to go to park day again. Because of the problem of A making fun of M, it's been at least a year since we went and played in the park with the rest of the group. It felt so good to talk to the other moms, and watch the kids play.

I even connected with a mom from our group who seems willing to do M and R's evaluation for this year. That would be such a relief... we are already a couple of years late (when we moved, we changed districts and they kind of lost track of us :o) and I will be happy to be up to date with that again.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Thursday (TCH cardio visit)

Well, we made it through our trek to Children's s Hospital yesterday, but I think we're all feeling a little battle scarred and weary today. We left here about 10:45, and stopped for a quick burger (and a chance for the little ones to play) at McD's on the way to the hospital. We got to the hospital about 12:30 and had enough time to stop in the lab first to pick up more blood draw supplies. M has had his blood drawn for so long (3+ years of weekly or bi-weekly blood draws) that we are almost "family" at that lab. M headed straight into the back of the lab to say hello to his friends, and fill them in on what he's been up to lately. They all commented on how much he's grown, and how deep his voice is becoming and then (after hugs all around) we headed up to cardiology.

Part of the reason I began drawing M's blood at home is because about six months ago, R started becoming very anxious about going into the hospital. She became very worried about picking up germs, or seeing vomit... and it got so bad that she was refusing to walk into our small local hospital for M's blood draws. At that point she still seemed ok with the bigger children's hospital though. Unfortunately, R's fear of hospitals seems to have generalized to the children's hospital now too... and she was very anxious and unhappy about being there (and made sure she had plenty of hand sanitizer on her hands at all times!).

Anyway... R was very uncomfortable in the cardiology waiting area, and between M's "normal" instability and R's anxiety they spent the half hour or so that we were waiting, picking at each other. Luckily the grandkids were pretty happy just playing with the toys there...

The appointment itself took about two hours... They did another EKG and an echocardiogram and everything looks fine. M will still need to wear the holter (24 hour) monitor once a year or so, but his heart seems to be doing fine with his rapid heart rate. By the end of the two hours, M was extremely unsettled (tearing the exam table paper into little shreds and tossing it around the room, restlessly wandering the halls) and J (youngest grandchild) was practicing his new shriek...(while I was trying to mentally figure out how much it might cost to charter a helicopter to get us home again... I was pretty sure I wasn't up for the drive!)

The drive home was very long... all the kids were tired and M was extremely unstable, volatile, and edgy. Thankfully we made it home (5 1/2 hours after leaving the house that morning!) with no major problems...

It's good to know that M's heart is doing so well with the rapid heart rate, and it's a relief to have that appointment over with. Thank you everyone for the prayers...

What's in a name?

When I first began blogging, I wanted to think of a name for my blog which captured our home. For me, as a stay at home, homeschooling mom... home is the hub that the rest of life revolves around. Home is my workplace, my vacation and relaxation spot, my recreation area, and my refuge.

 Home is important to me.

So I choose the name Woodstone Prairie for that first blog (and my other blogs since then). The word woodstone comes from the petrified wood that is so easily found on our land. We have found dozens of pieces of it since moving here about a year ago. We have a fireplace in our house made entirely of petrified wood that was found when they dug the foundation for our house (back in 1977). 

Woodstone also represents the house itself. It's a log home that we are working to repair and restore after it was sadly neglected for many years.

The second part of the name Woodstone Prairie is easy. We live on five acres of never-worked prairie in Colorado. Except for being drier, this land looks much the same as it did 100, 200, even 500 years ago. Deer, coyote and foxes are frequent visitors as are eagles, hawks, and many other smaller creatures.


 So that's what's in the name...

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Wednesday (albino deer, holter monitoring)

We have a busy day planned for today, I'm tired just thinking about it...  M sees his cardiologist today, so we'll be heading up to the children's hospital near us (about an hour away) for that. M has tachycardia from his schizophrenia meds, and it's bad enough that he takes another medication to slow his heart back down again. I keep track of his vital signs at home, and periodically the cardiology unit mails me out a holter monitor which records his heart rate for the time he has it on (usually 24 hours). When the 24 hours are up, I disconnect the leads and mail it back and they check the results to make sure his heart is ok. Back around the first of the year, his heart rate was way too fast for a while... so I requested the monitor and called for an appointment. They sent the monitor out right away, but this was the first appointment they had available. Sigh.... it's a good thing M didn't need to be seen very quickly!! His (pediatric) cardiologist is very good though, and always shows up on the lists of the "top docs", so I guess he's worth waiting four months for. (maybe...) 

 It's tempting to reschedule the appointment though... M's heart rate settled back down again a couple of months ago, but unfortunately he hasn't settled down from the holiday yet. He's still really unstable and has been very volatile and difficult to manage for the past couple of days. I'm not looking forward to the long trip into town (or the wait to see the doc, or the wait for the EKG...). I'll also have my grandkids with me today, which makes things a little more complicated (haha.. slight understatement!) They are 3 yo and 1 yo and extremely wonderful (but VERY busy) kids. So I'll have four kids to shepherd through that huge hospital...two tiny ones, one very unstable one, and poor R who is going to have to be the "big kid" today and help with the grandkids. Luckily she's wonderful with little kids, and loves to be my helper...

 While we're at the hospital, I'll need to stop in the outpatient lab and pick up more blood draw supplies. Drawing M's blood at home has been one of the best things I've done... It's made life so much easier in many ways. I'm almost out of the little tubes though, so I need to stop and pick some more up.

 Yesterday evening was fun... It was cold here yesterday, and we see deer more frequently when it's cool or rainy outside. We had just sat down to dinner when I saw a herd of deer in the neighbor's pasture. I was excited because it wasn't the herd that usually hangs around our land, it was the herd with the albino deer that I first saw several months ago.

I was happy to see the that little white deer had survived... with no camouflage he has no way to hide from the coyotes. I took a few pictures of him, and then dh spotted one of the eagles (?) we've been seeing off and on. It's a beautiful bird, and through my binoculars it looks like an eagle, but I'm not sure... and I can't get close enough for my camera to get a good picture of him. (I even trudged out through the back pasture last night, binoculars and camera in hand, wondering how to sneak up on a huge bird sitting on top of a telephone pole! I think it's impossible...)

 Anyway... here's the little albino deer, with his herd, and grazing
 with a buddy...


Saturday, April 15, 2006

Saturday (Easter prep and Dr B visit)

Whew... it's been a long day. 

I should be getting Easter basket stuff together, but I'm tired and sitting here at the computer is about all I have the energy for right now. 

I hate holidays sometimes... the excitement and anticipation are hard for the kids to handle and that ends up making holidays really difficult for everyone. M's mood has been up and down for days, and he's hallucinating more again too. He's been so frightened the past two nights that he's been afraid to sleep alone, although eventually he does drift off to sleep and sleeps through almost until morning (bad dreams tend to wake him up around 4:00, but I can usually get him back to sleep pretty easily). 

R is struggling a lot more with OCD issues, which makes her pretty unhappy too. I read once that OCD is an especially difficult disorder to have because, even while you feel compelled to do certain things over and over or are having the same thoughts over and over, you know that what you are doing makes no sense and would like very much to be able to stop doing it. 

That is certainly the case with R. She tries very hard to ignore (or make sense of) the intrusive thoughts and repetitive actions... it's almost impossible for her right now though. I'm hoping that once the Easter excitement is over, both kids will settle down again. 

The kid's pdoc came for a visit yesterday. This isn't usually something she does... normally I take the kids to her office for their appointments, just like any other doc. But she asked if she could make a "home visit", and I said that would be fine. She said it would be helpful to her to see the places the kids talk to her about, and to see the kids in their own home. I wasn't sure what to expect... I was guessing she'd spend 20 minutes or so with each of the kids, and then leave again. 

I was surprised when she stayed for over two hours, and even had lunch with us! She was an incredibly good sport... she followed R across the back pasture, down into the gully, and even squeezed through the barbed wire with her to visit the horses. She played basketball with M, and answered his 101 questions about her favorite types of food. It was really a lovely morning and I was so glad she came. 

Hopefully her time here gave her some new insights into the kids, and ways she can help them. When she was leaving we stood by her car for a minute talking, and I pointed out some deer up by the road. She watched them for a while and then said that we live very close to nature here, and how soothing that can be to people. I do love living here, and could probably even call it soothing, but I'd never really thought of it in those terms before. I think she's probably right though...we do live close to nature. The only windows in our house that have curtains are those that have to... I like to see outside as much as possible. And we spend lots of time observing, and sometimes interacting with, the wildlife here. 

Last fall I "played" with the mule deer, trying out horse whisperer techniques on them (which really seemed to work!). Several times during the winter we went out after a snow, and looked for (and usually followed) the different kinds of animals tracks we could see in the snow. This spring we've been spending a lot of time watching the birds, especially trying to identify the different types of woodpeckers (who are still tapping lovesongs, but thankfully... on someone else's chimney cap) and watching for what looks like a pair of golden eagles that we've been seeing off and on in the trees behind our barn. They are huge birds, and have a very distinctive call... Unfortunately it's been hard to get a close look at them, much less a picture. 

This is the best picture I've gotten so far... my camera was zoomed in as far as it would go, and he's still just a tiny speck. I'm going to keep watching for them though, and trying to catch them with the camera. I'm hoping they are a nesting pair. I'll have to go out soon and see if I can find their nest. There is so much to see out here, we are very fortunate to be able to live "close to nature". 

Well, that's enough rambling... I hope you all have a wonderful, blessed Easter.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


I believe in being thankful for everything... so today's list will be a little different.
 I am thankful for...

 1. ....stupidly letting the @#&%# drill slip into the side of my finger yesterday. I'm sure my finger will heal more quickly then I'll forget the importance of being very careful around power tools.

 2. ...the seller of this house NOT disclosing that the house needed tens of thousands of dollars worth of repairs. We never would have bought it had we known, and would have missed living in a house that suits us well, on land that we love.

 3. ...the nasty pink carpet that this house came with. (and would have been torn out a year ago, except all our money has gone into more necessary repairs) I've discovered the joys of having carpet that you don't care about ("Muddy shoes? No problem... come on in!" ) and have found that pink carpet hides dirt really well.

 4. ...the kid in our homeschool group who picks on M. Without the latest incident, I wouldn't have received the private emails of support and encouragement from other group members, and wouldn't have written "tightrope walking" which was good therapy for me. I also wouldn't have been motivated to look for other resources and might have missed learning that a new homeschool group is starting in the town closest to us.

 5. ...sigh, this is a hard one. I would give anything for M's schizophrenia to be gone (or even just a little better!) but I am thankful for the lessons it's taught me, like patience, acceptance, and the value of each person... regardless of whether they "fit" into society as smoothly as many of us do. It has taught me that the brain is a wonderful, amazing, and sometimes terrible thing and that the human spirit is more powerful than the most severe psychiatric illness. It has taught me to appreciate the little things, and has brought many wonderful people into our lives... people we wouldn't have known otherwise. It motivated us to move to the country...a move that has been wonderful for all of us. And finally, it's taught me to trust God to take care of us... even when the situation looks hopeless.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


It's been an especially nice week so far... The weather has been beautiful and we've been spending lots of time outside each day. I've been raking up the last of the construction garbage... little bits of rotten wood, insulation, screws, pieces of lathe, and lots of cigarette butts! (blech!) R has been riding her bike or playing with the neighbors horses while I work, and M has been enjoying just sitting and reading in the far back part of our minivan. He opens the hatch, and settles himself in and seems very happy there. He says he feels "safe" tucked back in there. I'm noticing more times when he seems anxious and almost a little paranoid... I hope it's just a temporary thing and not a sign of things to come. 

 R and I took a break from raking (me) and pretending to be a horse (R) and went searching for owl pellets yesterday. We went to a wonderful class about owls a few weeks ago, and part of the class was getting to dissect owl pellets.

R and I were both fascinated by all the tiny bones we found in the barn owl pellets that we dissected. Since we have plenty of owls around here, we thought it would be fun to see if we could find where they perch and maybe even find some pellets. After wandering around both pastures looking underneath utility poles and trees, we finally found some pellets up on the hill under one of our big evergreen trees. The pellets are much smaller than the barn owl pellets, and we don't know what kind of owl they came from. We aren't dissecting these (they went straight into our little "natural history museum" in the classroom), because we have no way of sterilizing them...the ones we dissected during the owl talk had been autoclaved. I understand you can bake them in the oven to sterilize them, but it tends to fill your house with a really disgusting stench... so I think we'll pass. I can just see dh coming home from work, wrinkling his nose as he walks in the house and asking "did you burn dinner?" and having to tell him our house is full of the tempting aroma of owl vomit baking in the oven! R also found an arrowhead on our walk, which was cool. M found one last summer, so I'm glad that R has one of her own now too.

 Although it feels like gardening weather, I'm holding myself back for a few more weeks. (I'm sure we'll have more snow before spring is really here...) I've got plans for a small kitchen garden just off the back porch...hoping that the deer will be less likely to think of our garden as a buffet, if it's right next to the back door. I think I'll use the garden area in the little pasture for pumpkins, zucchini, etc.

Friday, April 7, 2006

One year ago... (our moving in story)

One year ago today we moved into this house... I wasn't thinking much about the anniversary of that move until I woke up this morning to the slap of the snow hitting the windows, and the howl of the wind down the chimney. We're in the middle of a storm here today, and under a blizzard watch... the snow is blowing sideways and our back pasture is hidden by a curtain of white.  It looks (and sounds) exactly like it did one year ago, when we moved in.

 So in honor of that anniversary, and all this tumbledown house has put us through since then, I thought I'd celebrate by sharing the story of that move.

 After many years of living in the same house in the city, we decided it was time for a drastic change... a move to the country. After a crazy few months of looking at houses, and getting our old house sold, we ended up with a fairly narrow window of time to actually get ourselves moved. We had to give possession of our old house to the new owners just three days after getting possession of the new house. (That seems like plenty of time now, but remember we were moving 18 years and 5 kids worth of stuff!) As the date for the move got closer, the weather reports were forecasting a snow storm for day two of our three moving days. As the day got closer the forecast got more ominous... it was supposed to be a huge storm, and dump lots of snow. Hmmm... what to do? We decided to really push to  get everything to the new house on day one... just in case the weatherman was right. We didn't want to have to deal with getting moving trucks through deep snow...

 April 6th of 2005 was a beautiful day... We had lots of help coming, and I had the old house completely packed and ready for our "movers" (friends and family). The entire house was empty and all our things loaded into trucks by mid-afternoon. We filled two 24' moving trucks and a long horse trailer (with stuff from the garage). The new house is about 25-30 miles away from the old house and by the time we got there it was late afternoon and still warm, but the wind was starting to pick up. We quickly unloaded the house stuff into the garage, and the outside stuff into the barn. As we unloaded the temperature was dropping by the minute... When we finished, the garage was absolutely stuffed full of boxes and furniture...there was just a narrow path through the garage to the door into the house.. As soon as we unloaded, M, R and I went to a motel about 20 minutes away (so we could have beds!) and dh and older daughter K went back to the old house (because they didn't mind sleeping on the floor).

 The storm started during the night sometime and when I woke up the next morning I could hear the wind outside the motel room window. I pulled back the heavy drapes but couldn't seem to get ahold of the white sheers that still covered the window. It took a minute to realize that the sheers were already pulled back, but the air outside was so thick with fine flakes of snow that it was like trying to see through sheer white curtains.

 It was still very early, hadn't been snowing too long, and there wasn't much snow on the roads yet. So, rather than risk getting snowed in at the motel (at $100. a night!), I decided to head to the new house. It wasn't that far, and most of the way was on main roads... so I thought we'd be fine.

 The kids and I checked out, and headed east. The roads were slippery, but the snow wasn't deep and the visibility was ok. I crept along (I hate driving on ice) and was about a third of the way there when the back end of the car just started moving sideways (seemingly on it's own). It was the strangest feeling... the back end of the car was moving sideways, gathering speed as it moved in a circle, and eventually the front end just followed it around. It felt as though neither the brake nor the steering wheel were attached to anything... I couldn't stop the slide. We went up and over the median (mowing over a bunch of evergreen bushes in the process) onto the wrong side of the four lane road, then... still spinning, up and over the median again ending up back where we started (even facing the right direction!). We sat for a minute, while I calmed the kids (and myself) and then I tentatively put the car back into gear to see if it was still drivable. It WAS! It drove funny though, so I stopped and quickly checked it... no flat tires, no obvious damage... so we kept on going.

 It was such a strange drive... the farther east we drove the worst the blizzard got. I could see nothing but white at times, and we were almost the only ones on the road. We made it through the little town closest to the new house, and started up the hills leading to the house. The car still felt funny, but it just kept moving (and I just kept praying). We were about 2 miles from the new house when the car stopped. It was still running but would no longer move forward. We were out in the country by now, and I was pretty worried. It was just the kids and I... in a broken car, in a  howling blizzard... and my cell phone didn't have any reception. Within just a few minutes though, I saw a big SUV heading towards us (from the direction we were going) and flagged them down. The woman driving said she'd turn around and come back for us. While she was gone I backed the car off the road (it would still go backwards!). The kids grabbed their overnight bags, and I grabbed M's meds, and we jumped in the SUV.

 As it turned out, the woman who stopped lives in our new neighborhood. She had left to go to town, but had decided to turn around and go back home when she saw how bad the snow was. Had my car stopped any sooner, she would have already turned around and missed us...

 By the time she dropped us at the new house, it was more than four hours after we'd left the motel for the 20 minute drive to the house, and the snow was about a foot deep. We ran down the driveway and into the garage, then found the light switch and wound our way, through the boxes and things, upstairs and into the house. The house was cold, but I turned up the heat and we finally warmed up. I tried to make a fire in the fireplace, but the wind was blowing so hard that it was blowing down the chimney and I couldn't get a fire started.

 That first morning we had a "breakfast" of sprite and chips that had been leftover snacks from the day before. Then I started digging around and found a box of pantry food, a tiny TV set, a radio, and an old plug in telephone. That gave us food, a way to check on the weather, entertainment for the kids (kind of... the TV had no antenna) and I was able to call dh and let him know that we were ok.

 We were snowed in for 2 days before dh and K could make it to the house. During that time I unpacked some boxes, and moved some of the smaller furniture into the house. We ate a lot of instant oatmeal and canned soup during those days, and slept together on the floor. The kids still enjoy talking about "camping out" here at the house...

 When I finally got my car dug out and towed to a repair shop, we were told that I had a broken axle from the accident, and it had also caused other major problems in the rear end. They were surprised that I was able to drive it at all after the axle broke, and were really surprised to hear it had gone another 10 miles or so. They said the rear wheel really should have fallen off... (I'm thinking it took several "every day" miracles to get us home through that storm!)

 Well... the wind is still blowing sideways here so I'll end this with a couple of pictures I took earlier today...

 Looking out through the ice covered window...



Can you by looking at this tree, which direction is north? 

Thursday, April 6, 2006


Oh yesterday was a long day.... I had it in my head that I was going to get the wood preservative on the new wood trim on the house. At first I didn't think it would take too long (maybe I could get most of it done during quiet time). There is heavy, rough-cut lodge pole pine trim around the front and back doors, the patio door (out to the deck),  five windows, and a couple of trim pieces. There are also bigger timbers, of the same wood, above the garage doors.

 As soon as I started working I could see this was going to be a bigger job than I thought. Because the wood is rough, it was hard to get the oil into it... and I had to really load up the brush and go over it several times (splattering myself with wood oil in the process). The trim looked so nice with the oil though, that I was really motivated to keep working. I did the back door, then stopped and we did school, then I started working again.

 I don't like heights, and this job involved going up and down the ladder (over and over again) to get the high spots...and leaning over the second floor deck railing to get spots that were too high for the ladder. (M just about fell apart when he saw me out there, he was in such a panic I had to stop quickly before he hurt himself!)

 The kids turned into total couch potatos, while I kept working (R had checked out the whole set of the Black Beauty series, on DVD... and they watched hours of it yesterday while I worked) I was still working at dinnertime (and the kids kept anxious asking what I was making for dinner) so I called dh on his way home from work and had him pick up McD's so I could keep going. By the time the burgers got here, I only had one window left... the one in R's room. It's on the second floor, but the porch roof is right below it and I thought I could just sit on the roof to reach it. Despite contorting myself in countless different ways, trying to reach all the trum without falling off the (very steep) porch roof, I was never really able to get the wood soaked with oil. Unfortunately, during my contortions the pail of oil fell over and rolled down the roof (luckily it was almost empty) so I had to stop anyway.

 I should go to town today and get another gallon of oil, so I can finish up R's window... I'm just not sure I'm up for crawling out on the roof again...

Sunday, April 2, 2006


Since moving to the country, I've sometimes gotten the feeling that, if I'm not very careful, the wildlife around here are going to take over, and push us right out of the house. 

I've felt that way several times this past week. 

First we've been having fairly regular blackbird visitors... There seems to be a hopelessly clumsy pair of blackbirds trying to build a nest on the top of our chimney. One or the other of them (and sometimes both!) keep slipping down inside the chimney.  Eventually, after fluttering around in there for awhile they hit the damper hard enough to open it and they drop into the fireplace. I've tried several different clean ways of getting a bird from a fireplace to the outside without spreading a lot of ashes around... but it seems impossible. 

As soon as I open the fireplace doors even a crack, they come darting out... swooping through the house, crashing into windows, while the kids and I run around opening doors and trying to herd the bird towards the open door and freedom. 

\I can tell you it's really an exciting way to start the day! 

We also have woodpeckers... lots of them.... and they all seem to be looking for love, right here at my house. Prime courting time seems to be about 5 in the morning, when they start happily tapping out their love songs on our metal chimney caps. Their tapping for love sounds a lot like someone has placed a large generator on my roof... turned it on... and the throttle is stuck on high (taptaptaptaptaptap). 

Keep in mind that we have two chimneys, one on each end of the house, so we sometimes even get that woodpecker rap in stereo! 

Hopefully they will all find mates soon... although their tapping does work well as an alarm clock (if you want to get up at 5:00!) 

 This morning it wasn't the birds or other wild creatures that were keeping life interesting... it was Chance the wandering horse. He lives next door, but seems to be a literal believer in the grass being greener on the other side of the fence... so he often finds his way through the barbed wire into our big pasture. He was out there this morning when I woke up, and I decided I should get him out of the big pasture, and into the little one before R woke up. I knew she would be excited that he'd come to visit, but he needed to be in our little pasture if she was going to play with him. Chance is very easy going, so I thought it would be easy to just run out and get him and put him in the little pasture. 

It was sunny out, and didn't look too cold, so as soon as I was out of the shower, I threw on my coat and headed out outside. I couldn't find our lead rope so I grabbed a heavy duty dog leash (yeah, kind of stupid of me... but Chance is pretty easy going, and I couldn't find the lead rope... R had actually put it away!

As soon as I rounded the corner of the house, I knew it was colder than it looked...  The wind was blowing and suddenly the far end of our big pasture looked really far away. I took Emma our golden retriever with me for company though, and started out. 

 We walked across the flat part of the pasture, and then down and across the gully, and as I walked I was mentally planning how I was going to get Chance (who was on the far side of the gully) back across again. In most places the sides of the gully are very steep, so I was watching for deer trails that I could lead him down one side and back up the other. By the time I got to Chance my hair was frozen, but I'd found a good way across the gully and figured it would only take a few more minutes to get him to the little pasture. He really didn't want to leave all the new grass he'd found, but I was able to sweet talk him and keep him moving... down the deer trail, into the bottom of the gully, through the gully (almost there!). 

Emma was so excited by our "walk" that she kept jumping around barking... and I could tell that Chance wasn't too happy about being down in the gully, the sides are close in places and I'm sure he felt closed in... but he kept on moving. We were slipping a little on the frozen grass, but were just starting up the deer trail on the other side, when Chance decided he'd had enough of Emma's barking and the smell of coyote (they love to hunt down in our gully). He jerked away from me, darted sideways, and galloped right up the side of the gully and back to where we had started.  

 Sooo... not one to be easily outmaneuvered by a horse, I went back to the house, thawed out my hair, found the lead rope and loaded up my pockets with horse cookies. Back out I went and within 10 minutes Chance was happily munching the new spring grass in our little pasture and I was wiped out and ready to just go back to bed (but  didn't because it was still early enough that the woodpeckers were looking for love on the top of my chimney... taptaptaptaptap). 

Update to the day... R was thrilled to find Chance out in the pasture and spent the morning grooming him and lunging him (which she really doesn't know how to do, but Chance is a patient horse and went along with her anyway...). Then she spent the afternoon begging dh for a horse of her own, and asking me for ways that she might convince dh to let her get one.  I feel a little sorry for dh... there aren't many people who can be as persistent as R... I'm thinking it was probably a looooooong afternoon for him.

Saturday, April 1, 2006

Why I Homeschool

Why I Homeschool

My niece vgarr was asked (on her xanga), why she homeschools, and others were invited to share their experiences as well.

My other niece, elevenies, did a beautiful job of explaining the reasons why she homeschools and has inspired me to try and answer that question as well.

 My reasons for homeschooling initially centered around my youngest children's disabilities. When the youngest of our "older" kids was 5 we adopted a son, and several years later a daughter. Both of these children have significant disabilities in several areas. By the time our son, M, was 5 he had been diagnosed with FAS (fetal alcohol syndrome), ADHD, and sensory integration dysfunction. During his first few years he needed occupational, speech and physical therapy. Once a child turns 3, those services are most often provided through the schools (unless you have insurance that will help pay for a therapist in private practice, and even then it's still very expensive). 

During those early years, we were lucky to find a small, private therapeutic school where I was offered a job in the classroom and could stay with M (I worked in exchange for his tuition). By the time he turned 6 however, he'd outgrown that program and needed to be "transitioned" into public school. The next year was a nightmare. He was bright and able to learn fairly easily, but couldn't cope with the sensory overload of the classroom, and was just different enough for the kids to pick on him. He had no friends, and was terrified of school. He understood enough to realize that he wasn't able to cope with the classroom environment... but he didn't know how to "fix" the problem (which, of course,  was unfixable). He couldn't keep up with the teaching, couldn't manage the noise and commotion of a busy classroom and because his disability is "invisible" the school thought he just needed to "try harder", totally ignoring his three... very real... diagnoses. He was in special ed, and even had an aide assigned to him to help him through each day, but by spring of 1st grade he was so unhappy that he started talking about wanting to die, rather than go back to school. So I made the decision I should have made at least a year earlier, and I took him out of school.

 Our youngest daughter also has multiple disabilities and has been homeschooled almost since the beginning (she did spend one year in a therapeutic pre-k program through the schools, and had lots of early intervention services).

 The longer we homeschool, the more strongly I believe it is, without question, the very best option for my children. Not only is public school a difficult and often painful and damaging experience for children with special needs, it is also only occasionally about what is best for the child... most often it just boils down to dollars and cents.

The reality seems to be school districts, working with administration-heavy budgets, looking to cut expenses any way they can... and teachers who are trying to teach too full classrooms and struggling with burn out because they are so overloaded and get so little support.

My son was obviously not welcome at our neighborhood school... they refused to take the time to understand his disability, and didn't want to spend the money to meet his needs.

That school's failure to educate my son, however, was the best thing that could have happened... because it led me to homeschooling, which opened up a world of possibilities for all of us.

 Some people see homeschooling as being isolating... the most "self-contained" of special ed environments. But I've found that homeschooling is really the only "fully inclusive" educational environment available to my children. They are fully included in our homeschool group and in the community... which is almost never the case for a child with special needs in public school. They feel good about themselves, and they are learning how to function in the world. They have not spent years comparing themselves with a classroom full of peers, which would only serve to highlight their "differences". M and R are learning to be good, caring, moral people... rather than learning problem behaviors from other kids in schools. (children with FAS are extremely vulnerable to peer influences... and often pick the most disruptive child in the classroom to emulate)

Among the many things homeschooling has given my kids is the benefit of one on one instruction, and lots of time to practice "daily living skills".... a very different scenario from what they would be receiving in a traditional school setting.

 M was diagnosed with schizophrenia 4 years ago... Because of the severity of his illness, if we weren't homeschooling he would surely be in some type of long term day treatment program. It's likely that the doors to his "classroom" would have locks, he would witness "take downs" on a regular basis, and the order of the day would be "behavior management" and not working to help him hold on to the wonder of learning new things.

 Homeschooling has been a gift to our family, and one that I appreciate more as each year passes...