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...

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 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.

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 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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11-6-012.jpg

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.