Tuesday, May 30, 2006

End of the day musings....

It's been such a long day... It's been one of those days that leaves me feeling like a worn out, threadbare old rag. M (13 yo, schizophrenia, dd) has gotten more unstable again. I feel like I spent the whole day today chasing after him... keeping him from hurting himself or someone else. Yes, he got a little school done and it wasn't even a terrible struggle! I'll never understand how he can pull himself together to sit down and learn on days like today. (Honestly... whether or not he's learning is questionable... but at least he stops moving for a few minutes and makes an attempt to learn.)

Unfortunately R (9 yo, OCD, anxiety, mood disorder. dd) is not doing well either. She's so anxious she follows me around constantly. She won't play outside (without me) or even play in her room unless I force her too. (which makes me feel like a terrible mom!) And her OCD is so bad right now that while she is shadowing my every step, she is needing constant reassurance about the things (thoughts, etc) that she's obsessing on.

Sigh.... I was so happy when bedtime came and the house got quiet again. (Although not too quiet... R listens to music at night and, true to form, she listens to the same song over and over andoverandoverandover.... until I can't stand it another minute and turn the CD player off. Tonight I'm listening to vintage Celine Dion overandoverandover... I'm guessing I won't be able to stand it for much longer.

Even after days like today though, I'm happy to be doing what I'm doing. I love having my kids home all the time, and homeschooling them. Tonight we read another chapter from the Burgess Book of Birds for Children. We've been reading one chapter almost every day, picking a chapter that talks about a bird we've seen recently. Tonight we read the chapter about orioles, and then went into our "classroom" and compared the two bird nests that we have found blown down in the yard. One is probably a robin's nest... made with twigs, grass and mud. The other is an oriole's pocket nest that the wind blew down just the other night. It's a wonderful creation... it's soft and beautifully woven together of horse hair, grass and even little bits of shredded plastic. Watching the kids comparing the nests, and showing them things they might otherwise miss (how the oriole's nest is loosely woven at the top... to let air in) was a reminder to me of why I'm doing what I'm doing. There is really nothing more important for me to be doing at this time in my life than caring for these kids... teaching them, nurturing them, caring for their special needs.. both medical and psychiatric... and most importantly, loving and enjoying them.

So although tomorrow is likely to be another crazy day at my house, I know it will be ok. I will prepare for it by praying for the wisdom, patience and strength to be the mom these unique children need, and I'll know that the day will be full of blessings, mixed in with the challenges, and all I need to do is keep my eye on the blessings...
and God will take care of the challenges.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

baby birds update...

Well... I'm back and starting to feel a little more like a human being again.

The kids and I worked outside all morning today... The weather was cool and overcast and just right for getting some work done. The first thing I did was to finally finish planting the kitchen garden. I planted four jalapeno plants and one sweet pepper...hopefully they will keep dh and M supplied with peppers this summer!

I also mulched around all the plants and did some weeding. M and I are putting up a fence around the other garden (in the little pasture). It's not fancy, but I'm hoping it keeps the deer out of the garden. (I'm resigned to sharing with the bunnies... there is no way to keep them out... hopefully I planted enough that we can all share!)

We've had a lot of wind here lately, but the baby robins are fine... the nest hasn't blow out of the tree. They are getting very big, and I'm wondering how long it will be before they try their wings.

 Here's a picture I took today of mama (I think... we're still having a hard time telling mama from papa) bringing a tasty little tidbit back to the nest.

Sadly, the pocket nest the orioles made blew down either last night or early this morning. Luckily it had no eggs or babies in it... R brought it in the house this afternoon, and it is about the most amazing nest I've ever seen. You can see how the birds actually wove the nest using horse hair, bits of grass and even some thin shreds of some kind of plastic. It is very soft (unlike the hard, muddy robin's nest) and really is just beautiful.

The kids are doing ok. M has been very edgy lately, and we've had a couple of very "tense" car rides over the past day or so. (those of you who've ridden with us when M is edgy and volatile will know what I mean...) I'm not sure what we're going to do with his meds. We were in the middle of adding a new medication when he got worse, so we stopped and decreased that med a bit.. in case it was making things worse instead of better. So now we have to make the decision to try increasing it again... hoping that it will work... or just stop it. I'm guessing we'll start doing something with it over the next week or so.

The pdoc feels strongly that we need to treat R's OCD, and I have to say that I agree. I was really hoping medication wouldn't be necessary... but she's not settling down and she's miserable most of the time. We are still waiting on the results from the blood work the pdoc wanted (checking for strep) but as soon as it's back (hopefully tomorrow) the pdoc and I will talk and decide what medication is likely to work the best, and cause the least amount of problems.

Friday, May 26, 2006

LOL... It looks like there is nothing like posting a few pictures of a snake to get people's attention!Unfortunately (or fortunately... I'm not sure which) the snake saga continues. The snake (now named Ferdinand after the peace-loving bull in one of the kid's favorite books) seems to have made himself at home here and I never know when we are going to stumble upon him.

Day before yesterday we found him out in the little pasture, curled up next to the kid's play structure. Emma (our golden retriever) was outside with us when we spotted him, so we decided to see what she would think of him. We tried to point him out to her, but she got so excited... trying to figure out what we were trying to show her... that she didn't see him. (Emma is a beautiful dog, with a very big heart...but got seriously short changed when God was handing out brains!) She happily jumped around, while we tried to point the snake out to her until finally she got so excited that she couldn't hold it in a minute longer.... she took off running around the play structure and on her way back around to us, she ran right over the top of Ferdinand. Talk about an angry snake! She came at him from behind (he was busy watching us....) and took him by surprise... but he still managed to spring at her and we got a very good demonstration of what a large bull snake looks like when it's hissing and trying to strike!

Emma didn't even notice that she'd run over anything, and was still bouncing around....but finally calmed down enough to notice the snake. She is such a trusting, (uhh... stupid?) dog.... that she walked right over to this hissing angry snake to give him a sniff. As soon as she got close enough he sprang at her. Her reaction was instantaneous and amazing! All 90+ pounds of her went right straight up into the air. All four paws were off the ground, and she was trying to scramble backwards before her feet even hit the ground. It ended as a stand off, with Ferdinand hissing at her, and Emma... standing safely behind me... barking back.  (Emma's actually a great watch dog and very brave and protective of us... but apparently she just doesn't like snakes!)

Yesterday's surgery went well for dh, and he seemed to be in better spirits than the day before. He has an epidural again, so his pain level is back down and he's feeling much better as a result. He's still spending a couple of hours every day in the hyperbaric chamber and it looks like the next surgery is scheduled for Tuesday...
We had some good news yesterday from the hospital that does our lab work for us. The supervisor of the lab called to let me know that she had talked to the head of the department and they agreed that they would like to offer to start sending a courier out to our house for pick ups. Until now, I've been drawing the kids blood, and then driving it to the nearest hospital to be picked up by a courier and driven to the hospital for children that's about an hour away. Now, I'll just have to call the courier company and they will come to the house, pick up the specimen and drop it off at the children's hospital. This is an incredibly nice thing for them to do for us... and a good reminder to me of all the really good people that M's illness has brought into our lives.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

update and a "snake-y" visitor

It feels like we've spent the past two days doing nothing but running around... We'll be home most of the day tomorrow, and I'm really looking forward to a stay-at-home day. The kids and I went to a very cool tour through our homeschool group co-op yesterday. We toured several ancient cliff dwellings located an hour or so away from where we live. It was a nice tour, and unusual in that the kids (and adults) are able to walk through most of the cliff dwellings. Here is a picture of the cliff dwellings and some information about the site.

 Preserved under a protective red sandstone overhang, authentic Anasazi cliff dwellings, built more than 700 years ago, await you here. There are no "Do Not Touch" signs. You are free to touch and even go inside these fascinating architectural remnants of an American Indian culture that roamed the Four Corners area of the Southwest from 1200 B.C. to A.D. 1300. 

Unfortunately, Dh is still in the hospital... It looks like it might be another week or so before he's released. He's spending a couple of hours every day in the hyperbaric chamber, but it's hard to say if it's helping much yet. He has another surgical procedure scheduled for Thursday and possibly another one on Monday as well.... We drove up today to visit him. He wanted us there by noon so we could go with him down to the hyperbaric chamber and see what it's like. It sounded like a good plan, but then I got word from the kid's pdoc, that I needed to draw R's blood for labs again... and the quicker I could do it the better. Since I had to draw M's blood this week anyway, I decided I should draw both kid's blood and drop it off at the hospital (in our little town, to be couriered up to the Children's Hospital) on the way to visit dh in a different hospital. 

So the morning ended up being a busy time of trying to get the kids ready to go, fix some food to take to dh (yes they feed him at the hospital... but he likes my cooking better! ) and then draw blood from both kids and get it ready to be dropped off. I was so glad to get it all done and get on the road... 

This afternoon we spent planting the rest of the garden and watching a bullsnake we found in the front yard. It was a huge snake, and I first saw it because a scrub jay was squawking at something in the grass so much that I had to go over to see what was going on. The snake (and the jay) were in the grass right off the front porch, and it looked like the scrub jay was trying to scare the snake away (we read later that bullsnakes can climb trees to get to bird's nests). It was very cool to watch the male and female scrub jays taking turns running that snake out of their territory. I'm guessing they have a nest nearby, but I haven't found it yet.... Here is the bullsnake... He doesn't look big here, but he was huge. That post he's wrapped around is a 4x4.
And here is the victorious scrub jay carefully watching the snake's retreat... still ready to flap his wings and peck at the snake's tail again if he doesn't keep moving!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Oriole nest building "instructions"

Since spotting an oriole and finding it's nest last night, I've been intrigued by them and trying to learn more about their nest building skills. I found these "instructions" for a young oriole building it's first nest...

A. You will carry one fiber at a time to the nest. Hang onto the nest twig with your feet as you wind the first long strand around the twig loosely with one or more turns. Bring the next fiber to the branch and wind it around the twig weaving it around the first fiber. Keep adding fibers and weave and tie knots in them until in 2 or 3 days you have a tangled mass of fibers hanging from three or four places on the twig. This snarl of fibers will become one side of the nest. B. Now, while clinging to the side of the tangle that you want to serve as the inside wall of the nest, start weaving in fibers and twigs to form the nest's skeleton, and weave in more and more fibers to fill it out. As it starts to get round, sit inside it and shake your tummy on the bottom and sides to shape it. If you happen to have a human-being-sized tummy, you can use a tennis ball. Keep weaving and knotting fibers in until the nest feels very secure. It must safely hold you (you weigh about 30-40 grams) and 4 or 5 eggs (sometimes as many as 7!) which hatch into nestlings that start out weighing 2 grams . . .but balloon up to 34 grams by the time they fledge in 11 -14 days. C. All those babies wiggling about in one purse-shaped nest can make an interesting sight. Make sure you weave the nest tight enough that none of the babies fall out! And then line it with the softest, downiest fibers you can find to make it a snuggly baby crib.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

baby robins have hatched!

Our baby robins have hatched!There are at least two babies in the nest, maybe three. Here is one of the hungry little ones waiting for mom or dad to come back with a tasty worm... 
Edited to add this close-up....
Sure enough, it didn't take long before mama robin was busy feeding her babies... again! 
The babies seem to be fed constantly throughout the day... We read in our Handbook of Nature Study that a baby robin can eat 68 worms a day!!I've been watering the yard a lot... in part because it's been so warm, but also to make sure there is a steady supply of worms for the babies. 

 We were also excited to hear an oriole singing yesterday evening from from one of our old cottonwood trees. As I looked closer I could see it's "pocket nest" way up towards the top of the tree. The kids and I had fun looking at the nest through binoculars, and marveling at how such an intricate bit of architecture had been woven together so perfectly by just a small bird!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

on our own...

Well, it's been a crazy few days, but I guess I should probably take a few minutes to update my blog...

Dh is still in the hospital and they haven't talked yet about a discharge date. He was doing pretty well for the first few days, but then they had to change his pain meds and the new ones aren't working nearly as well. They also found that he has a antibiotic resistant infection and he's on a super heavy duty antibiotic to try and get rid of it. So far he's tolerating the antibiotic pretty well... I just hope it doesn't start causing him stomach problems on top of everything else. He had his first session in the hyperbaric chamber today, and we are really hoping that it turns out to be helpful to him.

The kids and I are doing fine "on our own"... Dh has been sick enough for long enough that this isn't really anything new for us. Both kids were pretty stressed when he first went into the hospital, but they are doing better now (well... relatively speaking) and we've settled into a fairly predictable (boring) routine. (keep in mind that at my house, boring is good!)

I've been surprised at how much I get done with dh gone... He must take more time and attention than I thought! I got the bills paid, and all but one of the checkbooks balanced... The house is kinda, sorta clean... (it's not cluttery at least) and the laundry is caught up. 

Hmmm... and all this time I thought it was the kids that were so time consuming!

We planted our little kitchen garden today. It's right up next to the house, and I'm hoping that it's close enough (and the house is busy enough) that the deer will leave it alone. We planted carrots, lettuce, and tomatoes today. I also planted a row of sunflowers up by the house... and put out some herbs (cilantro, chives) that had been growing in the house all winter. I still need to pick up some pepper plants to put out there...

Hopefully we'll plant the 'big" garden tomorrow... It will have pumpkins, zucchini and a few rows of corn.
Last week I planted a lilac just off my back porch. I love lilacs and had planted a whole row of them across the back fence at our old house. I've really been trying to plant only sensible plants out here... This is a prairie after all, and it doesn't make sense to plant a lot of stuff that would have to be babied (and then would still probably die). I just had to plant that lilac though... I use my "gray water" from washing dishes etc to water outside plants, and I've been watering my lilac every day with whatever left-over dishwater I have in the dishpan. Evidentially lilacs love soapy water, because I was rewarded two beautiful blooms...

I've told the kids they aren't allowed to pick them, these blooms are all I'm going to get until next year... so they need to leave them alone. Each time I go out the back door, I have to stop, close my eyes, bury my face in the tiny purple blossoms and just breath in (absorb... memorize...) the heavenly scent of those flowers. Hopefully next year I'll have enough blooms to pick some and bring in the house so it can smell heavenly too!

Friday, May 12, 2006

homeschool update

I guess it's time to really write something here... instead of just posting pictures.

I'm still reading the Charlotte Mason Companion, and it has really inspired me to make some changes in our homeschool... I have found myself agreeing with many of her ideas, and am excited about implementing some of them.

Because R and I love the outdoors so much the first change I've made is taking regular nature walks. (M doesn't love the outdoors as much as R and I do, but majority rules at my house and we have him outnumbered!). We have plenty of nature right here in our own backyard, so our walks up to this point, have just been on our acreage. I liked the idea of each of us keeping a nature journal, but didn't think the kids would buy into it... I started one myself though, and was surprised when both M and R wanted their own. So now we each have a journal that we take on our walks... We write down the date, and a little about the weather, and jot some notes about what we are seeing on our walk. Then we take a few minutes (15-20) to draw. The kids have drawn trees, birds, horses, flowers etc. and have really put a lot of work into their drawings...

Today we had just gone out the back door and started across the backyard when we saw three mule deer right on the other side of the fence... We all stopped and sat down where we were and started sketching them. It was a good exercise in observation, and each of us ended up with a picture of something resembling a deer. (Mine looks a little like a cross between a deer and one of those big headed aliens!)
The kids are loving our nature walks (even M!) and seem to think it's cheating somehow to count them as "school".

I also ordered some books that are often used with a Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling.. I ordered, The Burgess Book of Birds for Children, The Burgess Book of Animals for Children, and the Handbook of Nature Study. I can't wait for them to come in!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Angry robin!

So, this is what I do when I really don't want to do laundry
(or housework at all!). 

I spend my time outside taking
pictures of a cold little mama robin sitting on her nest,
until eventually....

....she gets really cranky with me.
Hmmm... if looks could kill, I think I'd be toast!

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

R - a "wretched" time with school...

R's absolute favorite story is Black Beauty. She started out reading an abridged version of the book... kind of an easy reader... and watching the movie (there seem to be countless versions of it out there, and she wants to see them all!).

Over the past six months or so she's graduated into more challenging versions of the book. She probably owns four or five different Black Beauty books but her favorite is an old (1930's) copy of the original story. It's unabridged which makes it a pretty challenging read for her... but she reads portions of at almost every day (and sometimes many times a day).

I have to smile at the impact her reading is having on her vocabulary... The other day she told me that she was feeling "vexed" (Huh? that's not exactly a word I use every day.... or ever!), and then last night at the dinner table she complained of having had a "wretched" time with school that day.

LOL, I wonder what's going to come out of her mouth today?!

We're off today to Granny's house... the kids are hugely excited to spend some time with her (I, on the other hand, am feeling a bit vexed at having no excuse to cancel my doctor's appointment! )

Monday, May 8, 2006

Even MORE homeschool wisdom!

Here are a few more gems of wisdom...

Here is U_Steve's contribution to the list (I'm guessing this might be a "been there, done that" kind of thing!)
36. When tadpoles get arms and legs they jump out of the tank
37. Frogs sometime climb into coat pockets to die (As a boy, I did not put a dead frog in L's pocket!)

From Reneen:
38.If you leave something that a little one should not touch in their view, they will get to it.
39. It's not a good idea to hang a mixed media piece of art at eye level to a toddler...especially if that piece of art has a string with a balloon attached to it.
40. If you want the kids to stay off of the stage, do not leave the stairs there.
41. Don't leave your toddler unattended for even a second if there is an unprotected tape in your VCR...or they will hit the record button and record a basket ball game over their absolute favorite taped show.  We are now the proud owners of a tape of Beatrix Potter with basket ball!  Darly started making unhappy noises as soon as she had done it, but I couldn't fix it until I was finished in the bathroom.
42. You can not catch a crayfish that is down a hole by putting a bread bag over your hand and putting your arm down the hole...no matter how hard you try.  If a crayfish is actually in the hole, it will make sure to be far away from your bread bag covered arm.
43. If you catch a wild snake, 1.) it can not live on leaves & twigs  2.) it will try to get out of every container you put it in and 3.) some old lady who doesn't know anything about snakes will scare you into thinking it is a poisionous snake and make you get rid of it anyway.
44. If you're at a coop class on bugs and catch a butterfly...don't tell anyone until you have the butterfly safely in your bug container...or some other kid could come over and steal your butterfly.  But luckily the butterfly will escape from his jar!
And from Andrea:

45. Chickens don't like to slide. Even if they do let you pick them up.

Any more?!

More homeschool wisdom

Momtodandt offered another item for the "Homeschooling Boys" list, and after thinking about it I realized that I can add at least a few of my own.

So.... I'm adding to the original list and would like anyone who is so inclined to help me. Just leave your contributions to the list in my comments, and I'll post them here!

25. Once the Fire Pull in a public building has been activated it is impossible to correctly identify it as a false alarm!
From Sal
26. The snake who is placed in a container with a locking lid will escape,
27. Said snake will not be found even though the house is cleaned from top-to-bottom.
28. Said snake will be found just after 20 HS’ing moms leave our home.
From me (and why the name of this list needed to be changed  )
29. After learning that 911 is the correct number to call if there is an emergency, it's not good to practice that new skill using a pay phone.
30. It is possible to call 911 from a pay phone at a park without putting any money into the phone.
31. Even when you hang up the phone really quickly after dialing 911, the police still come to check on you.
32. The Greenwood Village response time is less then 5 minutes to 911 hang up calls placed from parks.
33. The Greenwood Village Police Force is well staffed enough to be able to send three police cars to check on a 911 hang up call placed from a park.
34. Police officers responding to false alarms called in from parks tend to be cranky, and not at all friendly like they are when you are touring the police department with your homeschool group.
35. Calling 911 from a pay phone during your homeschool group Park Day is a sure fire way to liven things up and make a memorable first impression with the group (but don't really do it, of course!).

Saturday, May 6, 2006

Homeschooling Boys (this makes me laugh!)

The following came from an anonymous Mother in Austin, Texas...

Things I've learned from my boys (honest and not kidding):
  1. A king size waterbed holds enough water to fill a 2000 sq. ft. house 4 inches deep.
  2. If you spray hair spray on dust bunnies and run over them with roller blades, they can ignite.
  3. A 3-year old Boy's voice is louder than 200 adults in a crowded restaurant.
  4. If you hook a dog leash over a ceiling fan, the motor is not strong enough to rotate a 42 pound Boy wearing Batman underwear and a Superman cape. It is strong enough, however, if tied to a paint can, to
    spread paint on all four walls of a 20 x 20 ft. room.
  5. You should not throw baseballs up when the ceiling fan is on. When using a ceiling fan as a bat, you have to throw the ball up a few times before you get a hit. A ceiling fan can hit a baseball a long way.
  6. The glass in windows (even double-pane) doesn't stop a baseball hit by a ceiling fan.
  7. When you hear the toilet flush and the words "uh oh", it's already too late.
  8. Brake fluid mixed with Clorox makes smoke, and lots of it.
  9. A six-year old Boy can start a fire with a flint rock even though a 36-year old man says they can only do it in the movies.
  10. Certain Lego's will pass through the digestive tract of a 4-year old Boy.
  11. Play dough and microwave should not be used in the same sentence.
  12. Super glue is forever.
  13. No matter how much Jell-O you put in a swimming pool you still can't walk on water.
  14. Pool filters do not like Jell-O.
  15. VCR's do not eject "PB &J" sandwiches even though TV commercials show they do.
  16. Garbage bags do not make good parachutes.
  17. Marbles in gas tanks make lots of noise when driving.
  18. You probably DO NOT want to know what that odor is.
  19. Always look in the oven before you turn it on; plastic toys do not like ovens.
  20. The fire department in Austin, TX has a 5-minute response time.
  21. The spin cycle on the washing machine does not make earthworms dizzy.
  22. It will, however, make cats dizzy.
  23. Cats throw up twice their body weight when dizzy.
  24. 80% of Men who read this will try mixing the Clorox and brake fluid.