Saturday, February 24, 2007

another blizzard (yawn...)

I woke up this morning to another blizzard (they're starting to get almost routine!). The wind was howling, the snow was slapping the windows, and the house was COLD! 

Sometime during the night the pilot light on the boiler went out... So I got up, got a fire going in the fireplace and fought my way out to the barn (against the wind) to feed Grant and the goats. 

When I tried to look out the kitchen window this morning... all I saw was snow plastered to the screen. The windows on two sides of the house were almost completely covered with snow! The wind was blowing very hard with gusts that shook the whole house.

 

The view out the back window...

 

One very cold little bird. (I wonder why they aren't blow about by the wind... the wind knocked me off my feet this morning, why doesn't it blow them around?!)

 

The fireplace got the house warmed up pretty quickly. It doesn't seem like you could heat a whole house with just a fireplace... but the living room is now a toasty 72 F, and the kitchen and bedroom (farthest from the fire) are about 60... that's livable!

 

By lunchtime the snow had stopped and the wind had calmed down considerably. The sun came out and R and I headed outside. She went out to play with Grant, I went out to shovel out the path to the barn... (again!) 

 One hour later... I can walk to the barn again without getting snow in my boots!

 

Here's the whole path from the front yard to the barn, you can see how some areas are swept clean by the wind, and other areas ended up buried under another foot or so of snow! 

 

What a difference a few hours makes! From howling blizzard to sunny and starting to melt. 

I love Colorado!!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Picture post..

The weather has been beautiful the past few days so we've been spending lots of time outside. 

R has been riding Grant (bareback... I still need to get her a saddle!) and she wanted me to take pictures and share them with (LOL) all my faithful readers...

Best friends... 

 

With no saddle, tacking up is easy... brushing, boots, and bridle and he's ready to go!

 

Warming him up...

 

Oh, that girl loves to ride!



 I couldn't resist.... aren't they cute?!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

There isn't much going on here, but it seems like a good time to write anyway... (it just may not be very interesting! ;) 

M has been struggling more lately... He's having spells of being very disconnected and the hallucinations are worse. It's been bad enough that I've had to increase his haldol... which is really discouraging because I've been hoping that we could taper the haldol and replace it with something else. Unfortunately it looks like that's not a realistic plan... at least for now. 

Things are moving ahead slowly with the Intercept Center... the program I mentioned in this post. A couple of weeks ago, when we visited, the director sounded ready to have M in the program. He even introduced M to some of the staff, telling them that M would be in their groups. When we left he said he just needed to decide which staff would be working with M and talk to them then he would get back to us. It took him a week to call back (he said it would be just a day or two) and the "vibes" I got were a little weird. He started by telling me that their senior clinician would be happy to meet with me on a short term basis, for consultation, without M actually being part of the program. (Huh? not something we had talked about at all!) I said thanks, but I really wanted M to be part of the program so he could access all the supports and services they provide. He said that was fine, that he would pass M's intake information onto the clinician (a psychologist) who would be calling me (but there was no mention of the group that he told me M could start as early as last week!) 

 Well... it's been almost another week and no call. I'm wondering if they are hesitant to have a client as "involved" as M.... they seem to really be dragging their feet on this. 

On a brighter note, the vet was out to look at Grant and he's in good shape (Grant... not the vet... although the vet looked to be in pretty good shape too, if you like very tall, rugged, cowboys!) He said I need to fatten Grant up (and had the nerve to imply that my goats are a little "chunky") but otherwise he looks healthy. He said appaloosas tend to be hardy animals, but even so... Grant is an old horse and who knows how long he'll live. I know a horse who is 40 (but that's almost a miracle!) and quite a few in their 20's so hopefully, with lots of good care, Grant will be around for years. 

Well.... I'd better run. M is up already (or still... he's been up and down all night... it might be an extremely long day!) and I need to get out to the barn before R wakes up.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

I've decided...

....that one of my favorite feelings is coming back into the warm house after spending time outside in the cold. That rush of warmth as you walk in the door... peeling coat, gloves, scarf, boots off... slipping cold toes into fuzzy lamb's wool lined slippers, and then finishing the warming up process with a cup of hot tea (and maybe a piece of chocolate if it's the day after Valentine's Day!). 

So now you know what I've been doing this morning... It's cold here (11 degrees right now) but I've spent a happy hour out at the barn. M is sleeping so I slipped out to clean up the barn a bit and spend some time with the animals. I had a farrier here last night and he trimmed Grant's hooves (he's now 1/2-3/4 of an inch shorter than he was before!). The farrier is from Argentina and a very colorful character. I don't think I've ever seen anyone as patient with an animal as he was with Grant. Grant's hooves needed a lot of work, and Grant doesn't like his back legs messed with too much. Several times Grant started kicking, trying to get his back leg free... and each time Raul just stopped, held Grant's hoof against his thigh (well-covered with heavy chaps) and waited until Grant calmed down. He wasn't able to trim as much as Grant really needed, it would be too much to do at one time... so he's coming back in about 6 weeks to trim them again. 

The vet is coming this morning to take a quick look at Grant. I think he's healthy... just thin... but I'll feel better once the vet looks him over. It's been fun to watch Grant and the goats (Betty and Rose) get to be friends. Betty is crazy about Grant and spends most of her time with him, even laying at his feet to sleep. He seems to really like them too. Stormy left on Sunday night (more about that later) and so Monday morning I tried letting Grant into the main pasture... the one he hadn't been in before because Stormy was there. He got really stressed out by the big empty pasture... running around (through the deep snow, over the ice!!) until I got worried that he would hurt himself. I put him back in with the goats and he calmed down again within just a few minutes. 

Last night, when the farrier was here, Grant wouldn't even walk into the dark barn at first... but once Betty went in he followed her with no problem. Thankfully Stormy is gone but the whole experience has left me feeling pretty cranky and out of sorts. I agreed to keep Stormy for two months, possibly longer. I kept her for almost 7 weeks, during the worst winter we've had here in years. I spent hundreds of dollars of my own money on hay and grain, and she looked good when she left. She wasn't thin, she was in very good condition (in much better shape then Grant is in!). I only asked for her to be moved because we got Grant. When her owner came to pick her up she was angry that I wouldn't continue to keep Stormy, expected me to give her hay and grain (that I bought and need for Grant and the goats) and never even said thank you. In fact she questioned whether Stormy had been so cranky while she was here because we'd mistreated her. I fumed for awhile over this and then decided this is a good opportunity to practice forgiveness. So that's what I've been working on... letting go of my anger and trying to forgive. 

It has been very nice NOT to have cranky Stormy in the barn the past few days... to be able to trust the animals that are out there, both with each other, and with the kids. 

 We have a good mix of animals now... and R is still in heaven about having Grant. (We are going to to friend's house for dinner tonight, and R was wishing we had a horse trailer so we didn't have to leave Grant at home!)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Well I think my girl is really on the mend. She fussing about keeping her arm in the sling, fussing about taking the ibuprofen, and fussing about not being able to ride. 

 She was very happy though, spending time with Chance this morning. She says she's afraid of other horses but not Chance... I'm thinking about seeing if Chance's owner will sell him to us. It's a long shot, but I won't know unless I ask. 

R took advantage of the beautiful day today and groomed him (he was looking pretty rough). It was very good therapy for her.

 

 It was so good to see her out there doing what she loves...

 

 Thank you Lord for the miracle of this child. 

 Edited to add: I talked to the neighbor, he won't sell us Chance. :(

Monday, February 12, 2007

Update on R

R looked worse yesterday, but overall I can tell she's starting to mend. Here's her poor beat up face.... it was a lot more swollen yesterday.

 

 But at least she had her smile back! She was having a lot of pain in her shoulder, so I got her into the pediatrician right away (at the ER they just said she should be seen sometime this week).

The pediatrician was very thorough, and said R had a "severe concussion" and that we needed to follow concussion precautions for two weeks. That means no sports... no activity of any kind that might lead to her hitting her head.

She also thinks R sprained her shoulder, and has her taking large amounts of ibuprofen and keeping her arm in a sling. If the soreness doesn't go away soon, she'll x-ray it.

 R's memory is slowing returning, and by last night she was starting to remember riding Willy. She still has no memory of being bucked off. She told me yesterday morning that right after she flew off Willy, when I was on the ground with her talking to her and trying to gauge how hurt she was, she really didn't know who I was. She said my face was familiar, but it took awhile for her to remember that I was "mama". At one point in the ER, she said "Are you my mama?" but in all the confusion it didn't register that she was talking to me, and really wasn't sure who I was...

 True to form though, R is incredibly resilient. She woke up yesterday moving like a very old woman, but saying she wanted to ride. NOT Willy, of course... but Chance, the next-door neighbor horse that "visits" us a lot. (He's not taken care of by his owner, isn't fed regularly, no vet care, he roams the neighborhood grazing in people's front yards. R loves him though, and has ridden him a lot... probably more than his owner!) Chance was in our pasture yesterday, so she did get to spend time with him and I think it was good for her to connect with a horse that she loves and trusts.

 R goes back to the pediatrician in two weeks for a follow-up, depending on how she's doing she may be released then for normal activity.

 To answer Steve's comment... Helen (riding instructor) doesn't know why Willy bucked her off. He'd been antsy, but calmed down by the time R started riding, he'd been doing beautifully for her (we'd decided to take him!), and I saw nothing that would have spooked him. After he bucked her off he ran around the arena bucking and going crazy until Helen caught him again. He's been used for lessons (beginner lessons!) since May with no problems... I guess we'll never know just what happened.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Grant

Well R's horse was delivered on Thursday... and she's a very happy girl. 

 I had been planning on waiting to get him after Stormy left (giving me time to organize the barn better, and put down stall mats) but we ended up changing the plans. R was feeling sad on Thursday about Stormy leaving (which is puzzling because she doesn't even like Stormy!) so I called the riding instructor who offered us Grant just to make sure she was really going to give him to us before I let Stormy go. She said yes, she wanted us to have Grant and she happened to be loading up a horse trailer right then with some horses for a presentation she was giving... did I want her to just bring Grant over? 

 R was sad, crying about Stormy and asking me to promise to let her visit Grant, when the truck and horse trailer pulled up. We walked up the driveway as Grant was being unloaded, and when I looked at R, she seemed to be in shock. There was absolutely no expression on her face, it like she was in a trance. She was given the ownership papers for Grant and handed the lead rope and never said a word. 

Still looking dazed, she turned around and led him back down the driveway. Once R realized this was really happening it was like Christmas... only better. She's been beaming for days and has spent hours out at the barn with Grant. Unfortunately, he looks like he's been pretty neglected this winter... he's very thin, his hooves look terrible, and he's actually missing hair in places from wearing an ill-fitting coat (probably 24/7 for the past three months!! ). He remembers R though, and is so affectionate with her. He nuzzles her, follows her everywhere, and stands patiently while she brushes him or just gives him hugs. 

 Here are a couple of pictures of R and Grant....

 

 

I'm feeding him lots of hay, and giving him grain too, to get some weight on him. I called a farrier to come trim his hooves and today I'm making changes in his coat, so he can wear it through the snow and cold weather that's on it's way, without it rubbing more hair off. I'll probably also get a vet out to take a look at him and make sure there isn't anything else I should be doing to get him back into shape. 

Stormy is still here... (unfortunately).... and cranky as heck about Grant being here. She tried to go after him when we first brought him into the pasture, so he's in with the goats now... where she can't get to him. The goats are crazy about Grant, especially our little one... Betty. He lets both goats share his hay and Betty sleeps at his feet. 

 So all in all, things are good. R is happy, and it feels so good to have Grant in our own pasture and know that he's R's and will be taken good care of from now on...

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Counting my blessings

I've been trying to think of a good title for this post, something that kind of sums up the day, but I'm coming up empty. So this will have to do... 

 We spent another day in the ER today, and I'm counting my blessing this evening that my youngest "chick" is home, safe and sound, and sleeping her own bed. 

PLEASE, if your children ride horses, NEVER let them ride without helmets!!! 

R's helmet probably saved her life today... 

 We'd gone to look at a horse we were thinking about getting for R. It's a horse that's been used for therapeutic riding for almost a year now at the stable where R and M have ridden off and on for several years. (The same place we got Grant.) We were looking at a 7 yo quarterhorse gelding, a younger and bigger horse than Grant was. R was taking him for a test ride and doing beautifully... The instructor stayed very close for awhile, but Willy (the horse) was listening to R, following her commands, and R was having a great time. She was relaxed, confident... they were riding in the indoor arena, no ice or snow, no wind or other "spooky" events... everything looked perfect. 

I had reminded R to put a helmet on almost as an afterthought. Habit more than anything else. 

 R had been transitioning Willy from a walk to a trot (beautifully I might add) when suddenly, in the middle of a trot, he went down on his front legs, brought his rear up into the air, kicked with his back legs and bucked her off! 

She came down on the top of her head, then onto her face. I ran to her, and she couldn't get up... She wasn't unconscious, but completely dazed... She didn't know where she was, that she'd been riding, or recognize her riding instructor. Her nose was bleeding, and she had road rash up one side of her face. She could walk a little (with help) so I quickly loaded her into the car and rushed to the ER. (Yeah, maybe I should have called 911, I don't know... I wasn't thinking very clearly myself, and we were WAY out in the country.) 

It was a horrible drive back to town... R was either crying and confused about what had happened, or dozing off. (Which I knew I couldn't let her do...) Luckily the roads were clear and I got to the hospital pretty quickly. They did several CT scans (head, face and neck) and an x-ray (torso) at the hospital and everything checked out ok. It took several hours for her to start thinking clearly though, and her memory of this morning is still very spotty. 

 They sent her home this afternoon, and although she's pretty beat-up right now she should heal just fine. At this point our plans for replacing Grant are on indefinite hold. Even if R were ready to get right back on a horse, I'm not sure I could let her... Maybe later but not right now. Here's a picture of my poor beat-up baby...

 

 Please keep her in your prayers, she's already feeling very sore and it's only likely to get worse over the next day or so....

Friday, February 9, 2007

school stuff

Well, I guess it's time to start posting again... I'm feeling recharged again, and less like I just don't have time for one more thing! (like blogging) 

 In an effort to pull some order out of the chaos we've had around here lately, and using some DD funding I stumbled upon, I've been busily revamping our homeschool program and restructuring our day a little. 

Restructuring the day was tough at first, M just doesn't do well with changes in routine... I stuck with it though (I was just cranky enough not to care if he threw fits all day about it, in fact I was feeling close to throwing one myself!) and he eventually adjusted and now the new schedule seems to be working beautifully! 

Here's our schedule... but first please remember that my kids thrive on structure. They need to do about the same things at about the same time each day. So this schedule might look extreme to someone with typical kids, but it's just what my alcohol affected kids need. 

 7-10 a.m. M watches TV or dozes, free time (I tried... again... to get some school done during this time but he just can't manage it) 

10:00 - TV off, snack 

10-11:30ish -R school time, M still dozing or playing Gameboy etc. If M falls apart during this time (which has happened a few times lately), he just has to stay in his room until he's calm, and R and I move school to the dining room table (where we can't hear him as well). I'm really done with R's school time being disrupted or shortchanged because M is falling apart. 

11:30 lunch 

noon-1:30 quiet time 

1:30-3:00ish M school time 

3-4:00 snack, "together" school time (science), free time if science doesn't take too long 

 4-5:00 free time, TV 

5:00 TV off 

5-6:00 reading time (in the dining room while I make dinner... they listen to books on CD (mostly classics) while coloring or drawing, sometimes M just reads. 
The educational consultant and I put this idea together as a way of getting M through the rough late afternoon time. They each have special art supplies, portable CD players and books on CD just for this time. 

 6:00 dinner, then games, read alouds, family time 

8:00 bedtime 

There is some flexibility to the schedule, school sometimes takes longer or shorter amounts of time, but overall the day is organizing itself well around the three short blocks of school time. 

I've been working on getting the kids used to this schedule for a few weeks (adding bits and pieces of it at a time, not all at once) and just this week M seems to finally be settling into the routine and doing pretty well with it. 

 We're still plugging away with Saxon Math (3-4 days a week) and I'm trying to focus more on writing so they are writing a little each day (I'm getting ready to start the "Write Source" program, it looks really wonderful). They are doing Daily Language and Daily Geography using the Edmark series of books, and their regular Building Spelling Skills. 

I made a bunch of "science center" folders on a variety of topics (animal adaptations, life cycles, simple machines, etc) and each day they choose a folder, do one of the activities in it, then sign the folder so I can keep track of what they are doing. (So no one does the same favorite activities over and over!) 

I'm putting together a unit study on insects, which we'll start soon. I bought one of those cool "Ant Works" ant habitats to go with the unit study. It should be very cool. (They won't do the science center folders while we are doing the unit study, we'll pull them out again when we're done...) 

 Getting things more organized has made me feel better about things. I can't do anything about M and the medication issues, but I CAN reorganize our homeschool and try to structure the day a little better. And that feels good. 

 We're leaving for church so I'll have to write more later... We have horse news and "love" news that I need to post about. I'll be back...

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Exciting week!

This past week has been an exciting one for us. 

The biggest news of course, is the birth of our new grandson last Sunday. My daughter is doing well, and seems to be getting her strength back quickly... and little "K" is doing well. 

It also looks like we'll be getting a new horse soon... I got a phone call last week from R and M's former riding instructor at the therapeutic riding program where they used to take lessons. They haven't taken riding lessons since last summer so I was surprised to hear from her. She was calling to let me know that they are "retiring" the horse R used to lease, Grant. Grant is an ornery appaloosa gelding that R has loved since the first time she saw him. She rode him in a couple of horse shows and he is incredibly special to her. 

The situation at the riding stable that owns him had deteriorated dramatically since the kids first started riding there, and I kept them in lessons much longer than I was comfortable with because of R's bond to Grant. As things went downhill at the stable I tried to talk the instructor (also the owner) into giving or selling me Grant. But she wouldn't. Finally it became clear that I just couldn't continue taking the kids there and we stopped going. When we left I told the instructor that if she was ever going to get rid of Grant, we wanted him. 

Well.... she's ready to get rid of him, and she wants to give him to us! I haven't told R yet because I want to make sure he's really ours before I say anything. 

I'm so excited though, I can't wait to see the look on her face when we unload him from the trailer and she knows he's really hers! Here's a picture of R and Grant a little over a year ago...

 

Unfortunately, we won't be able to keep Stormy though... I just don't have room for two horses, and don't want to have to buy all the extra hay to keep her. I called the people who own her and they will be coming to get her next Saturday. In a way I hate to see her go.... but two horses and two goats is too many for me! 

Our other exciting news is that I have found a program that provides services for kids like Michael, who are developmentally delayed and mentally ill. It's taken dozens of phone calls, and countless dead ends.... but this program really sounds promising. I spoke to the director of the program at length on Friday and he really seems to "get it" in terms of the difference between someone who is "just" mentally ill and someone who is developmentally delayed as well. They have a day treatment program, which I'm not interested in (which is good because it's only open to ps students), but they also offer a lot of other services and supports for families, AND our insurance will pay for it!! On Thursday we'll go visit the facility, meet the staff and observe some of what they are doing. I'm really hoping it turns out to be something that will be really helpful for M and all of us... 

We spent today cleaning and working outside. We still have huge drifts of snow in the most inconvenient places, so I keep going out and shoveling paths through them. (which the wind promptly fills full of snow again!) We have a 6' chain link fence between our big and little pastures, and this evening as I was walking through the trail that runs along the fence from the barn to the house I realized that the icy winds of the past couple of days have left the snow with a crust solid enough for me to walk on. As I softly walked across the top of the snow (trying to walk "lightly" enough to keep from suddenly breaking through the crust and finding myself buried in snow!) I saw that the snow is so deep that the 6' fence only comes up to my knees. I love the snow... but I really don't think it's ever going to melt!

Friday, February 2, 2007

getting crafty

With all the snow and cold the past couple of months, we've been spending LOTS of time inside... 

In an attempt to avoid a serious case of cabin fever...(picture The Shining with a very young Jack Nicholson and a log home instead of a hotel!)...we've been getting crafty. 

R got a toy pottery wheel from grandma for Christmas and I've been surprised that she can really throw a pot on it! She was a little hesitant at first because it's so messy... LOL, there is no way to throw a pot and keep your hands clean! But once she got past that little problem she's had a great time with it.





~

I've also been teaching the kids to knit... Both kids have the knit stitch down, although R likes knitting more than M does and practices more, so she's a little better at it. R made a scarf for her sister and is working on a headband next. M made a potholder (what we are calling that first knitting project... you know, the one with the extra stitches and funny loops here and there) but has yet to decide on his next project.

 

It snowed another 6" or so last night and it's bitter cold here. It looks like another good day to stay snug and warm in the house and work on our knitting...