Friday, September 28, 2007

September is my favorite month...

....not just because it's my birthday month (although that's probably how my preference started! :) but because it's so beautiful... so rich. Leaves crunching underfoot, the warmth of the sun playing tag with the crisp fall breeze, the brilliant, gaudy colors taking the place of the normally subdued and dignified green of the trees. Feeling the thick, almost kitten-y softness of the animal's winter coats, as they lose their sleek summer look. 

 When I went out to the barn this morning, I lingered... straightening up, cleaning the stalls, raking the run. 

It was just too beautiful outside to come back in... 

 With the cooler weather, the deer have been hanging around more. The past few mornings I've surprised them as I've walked out to feed the animals. (Once even getting within about 8' of a preoccupied doe before noticing her, surprising both of us!) I saw this "nursery" the other morning, out by the garden...


 We had our first (light) freeze the other night, so the big garden is finished for the year. 

It was a good garden, giving us enough zucchini for the next, oh... three or four years. We also got green beans (note to self: plant more beans next year!), carrots, lettuce, cucumbers (Mmmm.. I have plenty of pickles) and pumpkins (only slightly deer nibbled). 

 This is M with "Goliath" our biggest (at 66 lbs!) pumpkin.


 Moving Goliath up the front steps...  

 I'm bringing some plants inside to grow in the sunroom/classroom (and now greenhouse!), to make sure I get my garden "fix" through the winter. I'll be growing peppers and tomatoes (started from slips off the overgrown tomato plants in my kitchen garden ). I'm also bringing in my big geranium, the begonias, and the poor little rose I rescued from the prairie grass. (It was planted who-knows-when and, over the years, totally swallowed up by prairie grass... I found it and dug it up this past summer and have been nursing it along ever since!) 

 We've been watching our chrysalises change from pearly green to transparent, and two of our monarch butterflies have emerged so far. (We still have two chrysalises left and one caterpillar.) As soon as the butterflies emerge and their wings dry off and get strong we let them go... their journey to Mexico is a long one and they need to get started. 

 Here's their story... in pictures. It starts with R searching through the milkweed for caterpillars...


 Good luck Romeo and Juliet, on your long migration. We hope to see your children (or grandchildren) next year!

two cups of coffee

My SIL sent this to me... I've seen it before and liked it, so I thought I'd post it here...

The Mayonnaise Jar and Two Cups of Coffee

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the 2 cups of coffee.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with an unanimous "yes."

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

"Now," said the professor as the laughter subsided, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things---GOD, your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions---and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car.

The sand is everything else---the small stuff. "If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

"Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse (or good friend) out to dinner. There will always be time to do a load of wash and fix the squeaky door. Take care of the golf balls first---the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented The professor smiled and said, "I'm glad you asked."

The coffee just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend."

Saturday, September 22, 2007

picture post

This has been a wild week... M has gotten more unstable again, which makes everything more difficult, and for some reason R has had insomnia the past few nights and been up to (and AT) all hours! 

Last night I just crashed... R was still awake (but quietly staying in her room) and I fell into bed and didn't wake up until 6:00 this morning. Eight hours sleep in a row.... I can't remember the last time I got that much sleep! 

It feels very good to feel rested... 

 Anyway, I think it's time for a picture post. We worked at the library yesterday and after our shift I checked out the sale room and found a bunch of American Girl books. I was so excited, and had to buy them all! R is loving having so many new books to read, and I keep finding her curled up here or there, totally immersed in Addy or Felicity's life. 

 I've loved raising daughters.... I hope R doesn't grow up too fast. (I'm not ready to be done yet!)


 This picture was taken at Girl Scout camp last summer, and I love it. R, still smiling, after spending an entire day, in the heat, dust and bugs of camp! (During GS camp week it was in the 90's every day but one!)


 M got a digital camera for his birthday and has been taking LOTS of pictures... Many of them are very cool, in a weird sort of way. (The date on his pictures is wrong.... I need to reset that for him!)


 He also takes some nice, "regular" photos too. I really like this one he took of me after my surprise birthday dinner. I'm wearing the scarf my sister made for me on her loom... Isn't it amazing? I can't wait for the weather to get cold enough to wear it! I'm also wearing (if you look closely!) the St Brigid's cross my brother sent me from Ireland. It is absolutely beautiful, and I haven't taken it off since it got here...


 (For anyone with eagle eyes. No I don't usually keep a trash can in my living room, LOL... That evening was so cool we started a fire and that black trash can is full of kindling) 

Here are some pictures I took... 

I took this one a couple of weeks ago (sorry it's a little blurry, I had to zoom in from far away). The deer are grooming each other. We haven't seen this very often, so I thought it was cool and had to try and get a picture of them... 

 (You can also see the neighbor's horse, Chance, in the background. He'd gotten himself stuck in the fence, trying to sneak into my pasture...)


 Remember when I talked (here) about the deer starting to get their winter coats? Here is a doe wearing half her summer (brown) coat and half her winter (gray) coat. 


 Oops... she caught me!


 Well my playtime is over... the sun is up, the animals are yelling for food, and I'd better run....

Thursday, September 20, 2007

intake, caterpillars, and other random stuff

After avoiding our county mental health organization for years (the one that provides mental health services through M's Medicaid); partly because the kid's pdoc told me to, and partly because I'd had some negative interactions with them myself, I finally broke down and contacted them again. 

 When I first called them a year ago they said that unless we were willing to use their pdoc (which I'm not) they could not provide any services to M. (It was all or nothing....) They also told me that they had no one on staff who had experience with FASD, so I gave up on them providing any support. 

 When things with M got so difficult a few weeks ago, I called the organization (BHI) who oversees ADMH (who provides the care through Medicaid) and complained that Medicaid was doing NOTHING to provide services to this very disabled child. I must have stumbled upon the right person to talk to at BHI... She not only said she'd call ADMH and talk to them for me, she even gave me her cell phone number and said to call if I had any more problems with them! I heard from ADMH within just a few hours, talking to a supervisor there who said they'd be happy to bend the rules for us (so we could keep the same pdoc) and that if they couldn't provide what we needed through their organization, they'd pay for a private therapist or program. In other words they did a 180 degree turn around and seemed willing to bend over backwards for us. 

 We did the intake a few weeks ago, and I was pleasantly surprised by the therapists who did it. One was the head of child and family services at ADMH, the other a regular intake clinician. They were both wonderful... understanding, patient with the kids, and very supportive of what we are doing (in homeschooling, keeping M out of the hospital, etc). They referred us to their "intensive in-home" team and we were assigned a case worker. The in-home therapist and the case worker came to the house yesterday to meet M and talk... Once again I was very pleasantly surprised... The case manager is VERY young, but very sweet and trying to be so helpful. She even followed M around letting him show her everything, so I could talk to the therapist without M listening in. And I even liked the therapist too! (I've been chewing up and spitting out therapists for weeks... it's amazing how many flaky people become psychologists!) 

The psychologist "J" is older, obviously experienced, and very "real". He doesn't insist on being called "Dr. ___", his conversation doesn't get completely lost in psycho-babble, and he reminds me a little of "Columbo" (remember that show?). He obviously dresses for comfort, in kind of a rumpled way, and I noticed there was a whole in the knee of his pants... which he'd carefully patched. He seemed to "get it" right away, in terms of M and even has experience with FASD! I felt like I won the lottery... He's going to call back so we can talk more, and he might send "K" (the case manager) out for a few more visits... Not to gather information, but just to spend time with M so I can have a break now and then. 

 I'm excited... and hopeful that this is the beginning of getting some support to help us through M's inevitable rough spells. On the flip side though, I got cranky and fired the kid's pdoc. It's only a temporary firing of course... sometimes I just need a break from psychiatry. She's been so busy lately that she's been promising for a month to call (because both kids are really struggling right now and we need to talk about what to do...), but never calls. It's hard when she's busy like this because she tends to pop in and out of our lives. Just when I get used to her help, she drops out of sight again. It's easier to just take a break from her and reconnect when she has time to really BE there for the kids.

 ******************************************************************** Now for the interesting part... the caterpillars! 

 R has been finding monarch caterpillars down in our gully. She was so excited that she brought some home and we've been feeding them milkweed and watching them form their chrysalis'. Our first butterfly should emerge sometime this weekend (if I figured the timing correctly). 

 Here is one of our caterpillars... (R named the first two caterpillars Romeo and Juliet, but the last few she found have gone un-named.) He is probably about ready to stop eating and form his chrysalis.


 One of the caterpillars hanging upside down "like a J" from the silk button he made, getting ready to make his chrysalis.


 His chrysalis is finished. As it closer to time for him to emerge it will darken...


 Here are Romeo and Juliet's chrysalis' with the rest of the caterpillars munching away down below.


 This generation of monarchs (this should be the fourth generation of monarchs since early spring) are the ones who will migrate to Mexico for the winter... Unlike the generations of monarchs that emerged earlier in the summer, these butterfly's reproductive systems are not fully developed, so they won't breed and die out right away. Instead they will migrate south, reaching Mexico by December. They will "hibernate" there until February when the weather warms, then they will mate and begin their journey back north. 

 I'm excited for the butterflies to emerge so we can let them go, imagining the long journey they have ahead of them.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

a sunrise gift...

Every sunrise is a gift...


 ....but this one was especially beautiful.

I'm still here...

... it's just been a very busy week! 

 The busy-ness started last Sunday when my sister surprised me by coming out for my birthday. She got here just in time for my birthday dinner on Sunday... It was a wonderful surprise, and it was so good to see her. She stayed for several days and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of her visit... 

 My real birthday was Wednesday and it was a quiet day (since we celebrated on Sunday) but I did get calls from both my siblings, which made the day very special... Phone calls are hard for me (because M gets so unpredictable when I'm on the phone) so I don't get to talk to my sibs nearly often enough. It was wonderful to talk to both L and S in one day!! (and have J here to talk to in person!!) 

 The kids and I spent Thursday and Friday mostly just getting caught up with school (since we took the first part of the week off). Friday evening we went to our homeschool group's 'NOT Back to School Party" for a little while, then headed north for a wedding reception at the Butterfly Pavilion. The reception itself was wonderful but it was especially nice to get to wander through the butterfly pavilion... R recently found some monarch caterpillars which we brought inside (along with plenty of milkweed to feed them!) and I was excited to show her all the pavilion's cool exhibits on the butterfly life cycle... 

 This morning the kids bowled with Special Olympics (and R finally got beat after winning 4 games in a row!) and this afternoon we went to church for Mass and a get-together afterwards for people with special needs and their families. It was a nice evening... both kids did well in church (a miracle! ...all the people really trigger R's anxiety AND M's restlessness and unpredictability) and we sang my all time favorite song for the closing hymn... then we headed downstairs for pizza and bingo. M started wearing out pretty quickly, but we did manage to meet some new people and play a couple of games of bingo before he just insisted on leaving. 

 So.... that's my week. It was a busy one, but so very nice.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

We've just been puttering around this weekend. I'm still trying to finish up some outside projects... It could be down in the 30's tomorrow night, so I've picked all the tomatoes that are even starting to turn red and later I'll dig up my favorite pepper plant and bring it inside. I'll cover the  geraniums, begonias, gerber daisy and rose that live in containers in the front yard. 

As much as I love fall and winter, this has been such a great gardening year that I hate to see it coming to an end. I'm hoping it doesn't get cold enough to frost anything during this cold snap, and I end up with a few more weeks before the first real freeze finishes off my gardens...

R was playing out in the big pasture this morning and came running to the house with these caterpillars!

They are monarch caterpillars and I'm so excited to watch them grow and eventually form their chrysalis' (what is the plural of that word?!). We have plenty of milkweed down in the gully, and it sounds they are only caterpillars for a couple of weeks before they make their chrysalis' and the miracle begins! (I can't wait!!!)

 After three vet visits (with two different vets), four ferrier visits and one pair of horseshoes, Grant is finally walking without lameness. He'd been favoring one of his front legs and we eventually pinned it down to soreness in his heel, most likely from an abcess within his hoof that was caused by not keeping his hooves trimmed... He is now wearing some fancy custom aluminum horseshoes and the difference is just amazing! He walks without a limb and without even any tightness in that leg. So R is happily back riding again and went out in the big pasture today for a "trail ride".  She took him around the main part of the pasture and even across the bridge a couple of times (a narrow strip of land between the (dry) lake bed and the gully). He's such a good horse... and she's such a happy girl to be riding again! 

Friday, September 7, 2007

Falls seems to be settling quickly over our little homestead... 

It's still dark when I get up now, and the nights are downright cold. (It's 51 right now!) The gardens are slowing down, the deer are getting their winter coats, and I've been working to get some outside work done before our warm days are gone...  

The kids and I moved the woodpile and kindling box to a spot a little closer to the house, and right next to the trail to the barn. During storms it will be easier to get to. It was a big job (we moved more then a cord of wood) but I "paid" the kids with lunch at McD's and they loved riding in the back of the pick-up (from the front of the house around to the side) with the wood. We filled the little pickup 3 or 4 times by the time we were done. 

I spent most of last weekend painting all the wood on the exterior of the house with wood preservative. When we were repairing and restoring the house we decided to use rough sawn log trim around the doors and windows. Since it is a log home (although the exterior is mostly stucco now) it seemed like a way to remember the house it used to be, and tie the interior and the exterior together... (Does that make sense? It's a little early and my brain is still foggy.) The only catch was that someone (me) would have to treat the wood at least once a year or the sun and weather would ruin it. So I spent most of Saturday and Sunday climbing up and down ladders, crawling out and back in windows, stretching to reach high spots and completely splattering myself with wood oil. The house looks great now though, the wood had bleached (just in one year!) so much that it blended in with the stucco and you barely even noticed it... but it looks almost new again now. 

 My project this weekend is giving the barn doors a quick coat of paint. The outside of the doors are painted, but I never got around to doing the inside (which is always outside because the doors are always open!) This should be a much easier job then treating all the wood... 

 We got a lot of school done this week too. M is working hard on percentages in math but unfortunately it's a real struggle for him. It's a new concept for him... and it's been a grim reminder of the toll his schizophrenia has taken. At the onset of the schizophrenia M was about 8, and despite his FASD his IQ was in the normal range and he was at or above grade level in almost every subject. When the schizophrenia first began he was quickly losing skills and I was scrambling to just try to help him remember what he knew before the psychosis started. But since that first dramatic loss of skills he's just stalled out... It takes forever to teach him anything new, and honestly I'm not sure that he's been able to "hold on" to any new material since the onset of the sz (he seems to learn it but isn't able to retain it) , and his IQ has dropped more than 40 points... 

 So anyway... we are working on percentages, and I've been trying to find some worksheets, etc to supplement with because (for once!) Saxon Math isn't giving enough practice with it. R is working on measurement in math and doing well. In fact she's been a joy during school time lately (after several weeks of unhappy, oppositional behavior during school). She has been really struggling with some FASD related memory and organization issues, but she is trying and not as angry about having to do school as she had been, so things are good. 

 Well... I should go, we have a busy day. We're working at the library this morning, and this afternoon R has to have some baby teeth pulled (for her braces). I hope the extraction goes quickly and easily... Triggering anxiety over the orthodontist, with 18 months (and two extractions) left to go before her braces come off, would really not be a good thing...

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

What was I thinking?!

I had a momentary lapse of sanity (or memory, or both) yesterday and decided to take a spur of the moment trip up to the university to visit my two college girls. The older of the two, dd#2 (aka B), just moved into an apartment downtown and was very excited to show it off... So, without giving it much thought, off we went.


 Now I knew that it had been a long time since M has been able to manage car drives of more than about 45 minutes. (He gets agitated and unpredictable... not a good thing to have going on in the seat next to you while you're driving 70, or 75, mph and people are passing you like you're standing still!) But I thought that I could take the toll road (and drive really fast) and probably get there in just a little over an hour.  We could manage that... As my mother used to say, those were "famous last words". 

 We did make it up to the school with no problems... There was no traffic on the toll road, and the novelty of heading out of town lasted for quite a while. We were there in just a little over an hour... The kids were calm and happy and I was patting myself on the back. We got to see B's new (very tiny, very old, but very charming) apartment...


 ... then visited B's favorite thrift store, where M was just sure I'd get him this phone for his room. (


 Finally we stopped at a little ice cream shop to cool off with waaay too much chocolate chocolate toffee.


 Then we headed home... 

 For the first mile or so home, I thought the trip had been a great success and wondered why I didn't go more often. But then, with 89 miles still to go (not that I was counting or anything), the traffic slowed and then stopped. There were not one, but two accidents on the highway up ahead. We sat there for 30 minutes or so with R anxiously speculating about what might have happened up ahead (and would the same thing happen to us!) and M becoming more and more unsettled and agitated. 

Finally traffic started moving again and I started counting down the miles to the entrance for the toll road. We made it four more miles before the traffic slowed to a crawl... again. We couldn't see why this time, so we just crept along hoping whatever it was would be fixed soon so we could start moving again. 

 M was getting very antsy by that time, and R was loudly, repeatedly (and dramatically) insisting that we would NEVER get home. Then they both obsessed (imagine perseveration in "surround sound") for awhile on the dinner they wouldn't get if they were stuck in the car on the highway all evening. The traffic continued to inch along, while I made mental lists of the things I'd need to buy if I just took the nearest exit ramp and found a motel for the night. 

 The kids complained about being thirsty (much better, I suppose, then needing the bathroom!) then worried again about dinner, and car accidents, and whether we would EVER get home, while I eyed the median and mentally tried to gauge if I could bounce across it (in my 2 WD minivan) to the other side of the highway and freedom. 

 They fought over "looks" that were being given. M, unable to sit still, started playing with the buttons on the dash, and trying to reach behind him and grab R, while R shrieked at him to stop and I tried not to remember news stories about accidents that closed the highway for hours. 

 It took us almost 3 hours to get home. By the time we got moving I was ready to drop both kids off in the nearest cornfield just to have an end to the constant movement, questions, obsessing, worrying, complaining, perseverating and fighting. 

 When we got home the kids (surprise!) wanted dinner. I made them each a PBJ, handed them a glass of milk, and told them all the ice cream they'd eaten earlier was really part of their dinner, and it was time for bed. 

 Note to family.... If you want to see me, you know where I live. I love you but cannot come to see you unless you decide to move within 45 minutes of me.