Monday, April 28, 2008

graduation confusion

Oops, I think I confused people with my last post. We actually have two family members who are graduating this month... 

 My niece's husband is graduating on Saturday with his MBA. (Way to go P!!) His is the graduation I referred to in my last post... Then just a couple of weeks later K, (our dd#3) is graduating with a Bachelors degree in Psychology. Here's her graduation picture...


 K is the youngest of our three birth kids, and the first to graduate college (her older sister is just a few months behind her and should graduate at the end of Fall semester). 

K's only 20 (she skipped a year of school when she was little, then squeezed a four year degree into three years.), but she's pretty sure about the direction she wants to go with her life and her career. She's hoping to start graduate school in the Fall, and will continue working as an advocate at a women's safehouse. We will be at K's graduation (don't ask me how I'm going to get M through it because I have no idea!). We're having a party later in the month to celebrate K's big day, and the plans we've made should be very workable for M (and lots of fun for the rest of us too! :). 

 Does that clear things up a little?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

goat pen wisdom (or semi-coherent ramblings)

I've got this post rattling around in my head, but I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to get the ideas and thoughts organized into words and sentences... I guess I'll just do what I can and hope for the best. (And if it turns out sounding like nothing more than semi-coherent rambling, I'll just chalk it up to lack of sleep and post some pictures instead!) 

 I have a really great family... I feel very blessed that my family is a close one. We really like each other and enjoy spending time together. Unfortunately we are scattered all over the western United States (and Ireland), so I don't get to see my side of the family very often. (Dh's family is mostly in town, so we see them all the time!) 

 So... my sister and her family (kids, spouses and grandkids) will all be in town next weekend for a graduation. I've been looking forward to seeing everyone, and was sad when I realized that most of the graduation plans wouldn't be manageable for M.  (I'm not going to go into detail about why the plans aren't workable for M, those of you who have children with significant disabilities will understand without being told, and it's too time consuming to explain it to everyone else.) 

Anyway, I was feeling pretty down about it... ...until yesterday. I was out in the goat pen shoveling manure when I realized that I don't have time for a pity party. The party is over. (I do some of my best thinking working at the barn, it's second only to the garden for being a good thoughtful spot!) 

 Yeah, we can't go to the graduation or reception... Yeah, I wish I could. But this is not a crisis! As I thought about it I realized that I'm ok with not being able to go.... because I recognize that sometimes I have to pay a price for doing what I believe is really important for M.  The course we've chosen to take, that of caring for M at home, through all the good times AND through all the crises, isn't an option that comes without cost. I'm thinking there are probably few things in life that are really worthwhile, even life changing, that are free... or easy. 

 Caring for M at home isn't free or easy, but it's one of the most worthwhile things I've  done... and the blessings of being his parent far outweigh the price I've had to pay. Right now the "cost" of caring for him is very high.  It's been months since I've been able to leave him for a couple of hours (unless he's asleep!), and we've had to let go of most of our homeschool group activities because he's been too unstable.  

But the other little bit of wisdom I found (remembered) out at the goat pen yesterday is that nothing is forever. This chapter in my life... with each page telling the story of the intensive care M needs, and my attempts to balance that intensive care with maintaining some kind of a normal life for R and I... this chapter, like all chapters, will eventually come to an end. 

 The day will (probably) come when M is no longer living here. Caring for him isn't my whole life. Yes, it's virtually my whole life right now, but not forever. And the time and energy I'm investing in seeing him through these ups and downs, and the accommodations I'm having to make to keep him home, are investments in his future, in his well-being. And if those things sometimes come with a high price tag, so be it...  It's a price I'm willing to pay. 

 I'm guessing that when I reach the end of this chapter and the next chapter starts, I'll miss these days. It's a blessing to be needed so concretely, to be loved so abundantly, and to feel as though the work I'm doing (even though it may not be valued by our society) is vitally important. 

 So I'll be home next weekend... and it's ok. I'll be thinking about the new graduate and wishing him well, and looking forward to possibly sharing a quiet dinner with my family before they all head back to their homes.

Hmmm... can't tell if that made sense or it's semi-coherent rambling. Better post a few pictures.  

 The deer are back, we've been overrun with them the past few days. They're hungry... they are nibbling on the tender new leaves of my perennials that are just starting to peek up above the ground (think spring mix salad for deer!), but they are also happy with last year's dry prairie grass... I took this picture yesterday in our back pasture


 This is roughly the same place one year ago...


 We need rain badly, it's time for spring. (I actually woke up to snow again yesterday!) 

 Here they are grazing right outside the back fence (see the corner of my kitchen garden in the bottom of the picture?). That chain link fence is ugly but it does keep them out of my garden!


 Maybe it's time to clean out the barn and throw the scraps of hay out for the deer to find...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Have you ever noticed that mental illness seems to be one of the last "differences" that it's still ok to make fun of or discriminate against? 

 There is a Saturday morning cartoon called "Lunatics Unleashed", and the mentally ill are regularly portrayed as murderers, stalkers, criminals, and just generally "creepy" people in TV shows and movies. I often see kids wearing t-shirts that say things like "powered by the voices in my head" and "some days it's not even worth chewing through the restraints", and "are you dancing or is that a side effect of the shock therapy?" 

 Even our language reflects our comfort with making fun of the mentally ill. We use the words crazy, lunatic, manic, psycho, psychotic, schizo, etc. as put downs or to describe situations or experiences that are bad, stupid, dangerous, and/or out of control. 

 I guess if you don't have a loved one with a serious mental illness (or have a mental illness yourself!) you probably don't see the hurt that is caused by this kind of attitude... 

 It's extremely hard to be the parent of a child who struggles every day of his life with schizophrenia, and not react when someone jokingly puts down a friend by calling them a "schizo". 

 It makes me angry... very angry. 

 It makes me want to stop people and ask how they can laugh about such a horrible, painful illness. It makes me want to tell them that, but for the grace of God, they could be the "schizo"...  

 Yes, it could have been you...or me. And heaven forbid, it could have been YOUR child. 

 Unfortunately, getting angry won't do anything to change the way our society looks at mental illness... Instead I will have to let M's actions speak for themselves, and do the best I can to educate people about the realities of mental illness, with the hope that someday our society will "grow up" to the point of no longer needing to put others down to feel good about ourselves. A couple of years ago I wrote this post.  M's pdoc read it and thought I should clean it up and look into having it published. I haven't yet, but maybe I should.... 

 I highly recommend the book The Center Cannot Hold by Elyn Saks, an Oxford and Yale educated lawyer, professor, and psychotherapist. She also has schizophrenia.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Been too busy...

... to blog. I've been running several different directions at once lately, but hopefully things will settle down this week and get back to normal. 

 I spent Friday and Saturday working on this:


 ... a five square yard pile of wood mulch. 

It was a gift from Josh... the landscaper.  I don't know if it's where we live, or maybe it's M's intense friendliness, but guys I hire to do work around the place often end up feeling like extended family. I found Josh's ad on Craigslist about a month ago, and hired him to do some of the landscaping work that was too heavy for me to do. I had a pretty strict budget, so I kept playing around with what I wanted to pay him to do, and what I'd do myself (because I couldn't afford to pay him to do everything!). He ended up pulling up a huge bush from the backyard to give my kitchen garden better light,  hauling 4 yards of cobblestone to make a border on the front/side of the house, cutting the steps in the hill for me, and installing edging around the area that will (eventually) be the hedgerow. 

I couldn't afford mulch for the hedgerow area right now so I told him to just edge it and I would figure out the mulch later.... When the kids and I came home from working at the library on Friday, Josh was here working. He was so excited to tell me that he'd gone ahead and ordered the mulch for me, it would be delivered in a couple of hours, AND he'd just include the cost (mulch and delivery!) in the estimate we'd already agreed on. 

What a nice thing to do! 

 So I got busy preparing the hedgerow area for the mulch and then spent two full days hauling and spreading it. (5 square yards is a LOT of mulch!) Dh used the little tractor to help haul (once he got the belt fixed) and all the mulch is now around back. There are still some piles that need to be spread around, but the hard part is done. (There is no way to get to the backyard without going up a hill, and there is no way to drive a full sized vehicle back there... So anything I want in the backyard has to be hauled, up hill, to get there!) 

 Here's the edging Josh put down around the hedgerow area, and if you look closely you can see the little bit of mulch that had been moved at that time, back in the corner.


 Here are the new steps... 

I think I'm going to ask Josh to come back out and cut one more step at the top. Dh does great now with the hill right up to the top of the steps, but he really struggles with the slope from the last step to my flagstone path.


 So... that was Friday and Saturday. 

 We spent all day yesterday at the Special Olympics soccer tournament...


 It was a lot of fun, but absolutely exhausting! The weather was gorgeous, mid-70's and sunny, but I think we all felt a little toasted by the end of the day. 

 Here are the kids and their good friend S, enjoying lunch while watching the adults play: 


 After lunch, they played their two games. M was goalie most of the time, and R ran... I'm sure there's a name for her position but it mostly just seemed to consist of running up and down the field. Luckily, she's good at that! 

 Here's M in his goalie position, while R (in the middle of the picture) tries to get the ball away from the other team.


 M's heart rate got way too high during the first game, so I made him rest and made sure he got lots of fluids and thankfully it settled back down again. 

Despite that little emergency it was a very fun day... one of those days that makes me wish these kids would stay this age forever.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Everyday cookies...

It's been snowing off and on since about mid-afternoon, so it seemed like a very good time to do a little baking.  Since our cookie jar has been empty for a few days I decided to make a quick batch of our "everyday" cookies... the ones you are most likely to find in my cookie jar. 

They are called Cowboy Cookies, here's the recipe (just in case it's snowing at your house too!) 

Cowboy Cookies
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup applesauce (you can substitute 1 cup butter for applesauce) 
2 tsp. vanilla 
2 eggs 
2 cups whole wheat flour 
1/2 tsp. baking soda 
1/2 tsp salt 
2 cups oatmeal 
3/4 cup of chocolate chips (or more if you'd like them more chocolatey!) 

Combine sugars and applesauce (or butter). Beat in eggs, add vanilla. Mix in flour, baking soda, and salt, then add oatmeal. Stir in chocolate chips. Bake at 350 for 9-11 minutes. Makes about 4 dozen cookies. 

We love these cookies because they are fairly healthy, but still leave you feeling like you've really had a treat. If you make them with applesauce they are just 1.5 points per cookie (using weight watchers point system, a system we kind of roughly use as a guideline for M's diet), they are definitely a no guilt treat!


 Well.. the house smells wonderful, the cookie jar is full, and I'm going to go curl up with a cookie and some hot chocolate...

Monday, April 14, 2008

Make him run....

I was talking to my friend L (momtodandt) today, while R was out trying to catch Blaze to ride him. I was watching R as I talked and Blaze was being ornery... He wouldn't let her catch him, but just kept walking/trotting away from her each time she tried to get the lead rope around his neck.  

I told L what was going on, and she said we needed to make Blaze run... We needed to teach him who is in charge, and if he wants to keep moving away from R and the lead rope, then we need to KEEP him moving. If I'm understanding correctly, it puts us in charge of his movement... not him. 

 L said she wanted to see pictures of how exhausted we were when Blaze was finally done running and let us catch him. 

 So... L, this post is for you. 

 As soon as I was off the phone we went out to catch Blaze again. Sure enough, he trotted away from us... So I started swinging the lead rope around and made him run. He ran and ran (and so did we!), he kicked up his heels, ran up and down the hill and around the pasture. The goats had no idea what was going on but they were so excited they ran too (also kicking up their heels), until poor Betty started coughing and I told R to put them away before I tripped over one of them. 

 And Blaze just kept on running. We stopped every once in a while to see if he would let us walk to him and put the lead rope around his neck, but each time he moved away and I swung the lead rope and he was off again. Finally Blaze stopped running and let us put his halter and lead rope on. All three of us were tired and sweaty. 

 The whole experience almost finished R off...


 ...but she had just enough strength left for this victory photograph. (imagine the Rocky theme playing right now)

Thanks L for the help, we're going to go back out this afternoon to catch him again... we'll see how he does. (R thought taking the "almost dead" picture was too funny... it's a miracle she kept her giggles in long enough to take it!)


 Please excuse me while I go take a nap...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Whew! Busy day yesterday.... I'm glad it's over. 

 The kids signed up to work a shift during the tip-a-cop fundraiser for Special Olympics. They were working the 12-2 shift, so we went early and ate at Red Robin before they started working. It was a great fundraiser, and raised a great deal of money... (could you turn down a cop in an apron and a developmentally delayed child (wearing their medals, of course) standing next to your table asking for a small donation for a good cause? I couldn't!) 

The kids were each paired with one of the cops who were working, and they just walked around talking to people about Special Olympics, refilling water glasses, and trying to keep out of the way of the real servers. 

 A few pictures...


 Here are all the cops who worked that shift, with the manager of Red Robin, showing a caricature someone made of the fundraiser.


 A close-up of the caricature, it was pretty cool. The writing on the mat is best wishes to Special Olympics, the Special Olympics motto ( “Let me win but if I can not win let me be brave in the attempt” ) and other inspirational messages.


 The kids had a great time and ended up working almost 3 hours! 

We came home for a quick quiet time, then it was off to church and the St. Joseph Coffee House dinner and get-together afterwards. The kids always enjoy the St Joseph meeting, but they were both so tired by then that we left early... we were all ready for bed! We're home most of today, thank goodness... although the kids have swimming tonight, and soccer tomorrow night. 

I love Special Olympics but it's sure taking a lot of time right now!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

This is our forecast for today:

"Douglas and Elbert Counties will likely see 6 to 12 inches of snow along with very gusty winds. The combination of falling and blowing snow will reduce visibility to less than a quarter mile. In other words, blizzard conditions are possible along the Palmer Divide, especially during the morning on Thursday." 

Yeah, I'm loving it... 

 Spring is nice of course... the warmth of the sun, working in the garden, playing outside with the animals... but I was really hoping for one more good snow storm before winter cleared out completely.  It looks like I'm going to get it. 

 I'm glad I planned ahead and filled the bird feeder last night...


 Our little black Sweet Pea was looking more like salt and pepper this morning...


 And Quin was enjoying his regular snowy day activity of digging his face down into the snow.


 Blaze and the goats are staying in their stalls (if you look closely you can just see Blaze in the door of his stall)


 Although Blaze did come out to say hello to me...


 I love the way the place looks when it's covered with snow.


 We'll probably stay in the rest of the day... The wind out there really is fierce. I'm going to have to think of something to keep the kids occupied, after the spring we've enjoyed the past few weeks, they are pretty cranky about all this snow.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

village inn meeting

Well, I finally met with M's pdoc last night. We've been talking about getting together to talk for at least a month, and last night it finally came together. We met at a Village Inn not too far from us, and talked for a long time...

Nothing has really been decided but at least I feel more confident that we are on the same page, and moving in roughly the same direction.

I said ok to day treatment, as long as M could do a slightly shortened day (so we wouldn't have to drive through rush hour each morning). Surprisingly, she said she'd like to wait with taking that step... She said that she knows that day treatment would interfere with the daily structure I have put in place here at home, and she doesn't want to do that unless it's absolutely necessary. It's funny, after me turning her down for years when she's suggested day treatment, when I finally say yes, she says maybe not...

 She's going to talk to the people in the neurology department about treating the tardive dyskinesia. She would still like M off the haldol, but neither of us can see a way to do that without further sacrificing stability.

She's going to order a bunch of blood work, and we're going to try again to get the swallowing study done. 

The last thing we talked about was trying to get a meeting set up with us, herself and Dr G (the ECT pdoc, a person with decades of experience with the most difficult to treat patients). If we aren't able to get together in person, she'll at least touch base by phone with him about what's going on and I've given her permission to give him access to my schizophrenia blog (the one where I keep daily notes about symptoms, side effects, meds, etc.). We'll see if Dr G has any ideas we haven't already tried. I guess there are some new antipsychotic medications coming out, so there might be some possibilities there. (Although I can't imagine one that would be strong enough to replace haldol!)

 I think that's it. I feel so much better after talking to her, now we'll just wait and see what happens next.

Monday, April 7, 2008

This is my granddaughter, she is 5 years old. She's the oldest in her family, the big sister to two wild little brothers, and tends to be a bit precocious (if I do say so myself).


 Yesterday her mama bought her a pet... one of those colorful, flowing finned, beta fish. My granddaughter was so excited that she just had to get on the phone to tell me all about her new pet. After telling me her fish's name (Felicity) and that it looks just like Rainbow Fish (from the book of that name) she told me, with all the honesty and sincerity of a 5 year old, "Fishes are hard to keep in the bowl because they look really cool, and it's hard to let them stay where they are because you want them to be someplace else.".

Gosh, I hope Felicity makes it...


Sunday, April 6, 2008

I've been meaning to sit down and post for a couple of days now, but we've been so busy I just haven't had a minute... 

 We've been to Boulder, touring Celestial Seasonings (coming home with several boxes of tea!) and the University of Colorado Natural History Museum. We worked at the library on Friday, then ran down to Larkspur to pick up some bags of evergreen needles I needed for a yard project I'm working on. The rest of the time we've stayed home, getting school done and working (and playing) outside. R has started riding Blaze, which makes her VERY happy... 


She's using just a bareback pad and reins attached to his halter (we will probably need to get new tack, the bridle, etc. we had for Grant won't work for Blaze). I'm leaving his lead rope on just in case I need to get hold of him quickly. So far he's done beautifully, listening to her, doing what he's supposed to do, and not even trying to walk away just as she's starting to get on (which was Grant's favorite trick!). Blaze does have a cool trick of stretching his front legs out when you tell him to "stretch", which lowers him down a little... He's so tall though, that even when he's stretching R needs to stand on a bucket AND get a leg up to get on him.


 Neither of them were very happy with me when I had them stop for a close-up...


 The project I've been working on outside is cleaning up the north side of the backyard, up by the house. There was still a ton of broken concrete, giant staples, etc. left over from when the chimneys were rebuilt and the house was stucco-ed (is that a word?). 

 Here's what it looked like as I was just getting started raking and getting it cleaned up...


 It was an eyesore... After raking, spraying the little bit of grass and weeds that were coming up with weed killer, and laying down a weed barrier of newspaper, I started spreading pine needles. After 7 1/2 bags of needles the area looked like this:


Better, I think! Today I'll clean up the last pile of concrete scraps, then drive down to town and buy some flagstone to continue this path (that I put in last summer) the rest of the way around the corner of the house.


 I think my next project will be cutting some steps into the hill on the north side of the house to make it easier for dh to get up and down.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Things still feel very up in the air over here... 

 The pdoc is still out of town, so there has been no resolution to any of the issues that we were planning on talking about; day treatment, treating the tardive dyskinesia, meeting with Dr G, etc. I hate it when things feel so uncertain....


 I've got some P.A. (physician assistant) students coming out today for a visit. It's part of a program through the U of C Med School and Children's Hospital... Parents of children with significant disabilities can volunteer to open their homes to P.A. students and/or med. students and residents to help "enhance" their training. The program gives these students a chance to visit in a relaxed setting with parents and kids with disabilities, and see just what goes into the day to day care of a disabled child. 

 Since we moved we've only had a few groups of students come out, but I keep my name on the volunteer list... it seems like a good program to be involved in. 

 I was thinking this morning about what information I'd like to pass on to these students... We'll talk about FASD of course, and mental illness in children. But after the frustration and emotional upheaval of the past year I feel like there is another message I'd like to make sure they get... I think it's important for them to understand that while caring for a severely disabled child can be very difficult, sometimes the most difficult part is (unintentionally) brought into the family by the medical community. A lack of communication and follow through by even very caring medical professionals adds so much to the burden of caregiving. I hope they come away with the message that compassionate health care providers can make a tremendous difference in the lives of children with disabilities and their families, but that thoughtless and inconsistent communication and lack of follow-through can add a great deal to the already challenging job of caregiver.


 We went to a neighborhood meeting last night. A handful of neighbors want to pave the roads in our little subdivision. It would cost us (lots!) and most of us seem to be in a agreement that we don't want the roads paved. In fairness though, we've decided to survey each person in our neighborhood about paving before making a final decision. 

I volunteered to survey the neighbors on my street... It seems like a good way to meet the neighbors we haven't met yet. The meeting got a little heated at one point, I think it will be very good to get this survey done and have this paving issue put to rest for a few years. (This is the third time it's come up in less than three years!) 

 Yesterday I woke up to a lovely, foggy morning and had to take some pictures.. Here's the last one (and my favorite).

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

the trauma of the floating teeth

You know, we've lived out in the country for about three years now... and sometimes it seems like a long time. 

But sometimes I can tell it hasn't been nearly long enough for me to be anything but clueless about many commonplace living-in-the-country-having-animals kinds of things. 

 Like having your horse's teeth floated. 

 I went to bed Friday night I feeling like I had just paid someone $90. to torture our new horse for an hour. 

 We had Murphy's teeth floated. It was awful... I'm thinking maybe it's better to just let Murphy's teeth have points, rather than ever do THAT again. 

 If you've never seen it done, here's how it works. The farrier (or vet) brings a bucket full of nasty looking equipment. He also brings a helper. He gives your horse a shot of tranquilizer ("just a little because he's thin" - our farrier is from Argentina so this is said with a very heavy, but musical, Spanish accent) and then puts what appears to be the bridle from h*ll on him. 

Instead of a bit, the bfh has metal plates that fit over the horse's upper and lower front teeth. These plates racket open until the horse's mouth is held open and a big file is used to file down the points on the horse's teeth. 

 Nobody told Murphy what the plan was... So Raul got all set up with his bucket full of stuff, gave Murphy the shot, and put the bfh on him. He cranked it open, start filing, and Murphy decided this was a good time to move his head up and down violently, forcing Raul to stop filing to prevent his helper from being slammed into the wall. Another shot ("a little more medicine to calm him") and head Murphy's is hanging, the bfh still cranked open and his tongue is hanging out...and he's drooling. He looks pretty sedated to me... 

 So Raul picks up the file, Murphy picks up his head, and the fight resumes. The helper still isn't able to keep Murphy still, so Raul puts the file down again which makes me extremely happy because I'm worried Murphy is going to knock the stall door off (with the helper!) and send both flying across the barn. Raul gives Murphy another shot ("just a little more medicine and he'll be fine").

 Unfortunately Raul made the tactical error of removing the bfh while waiting for the 3rd shot of tranquilizer to work. He was able to get it back on without too much trouble, but when he tried to crank it open again the fight took on a new twist... It's amazing what strong jaws horses have! Even with Raul on one side and his helper on the other, they weren't able to pry Murphy's mouth open again. 

 I like Raul, he's a very nice guy and a great farrier. It was his corrective shoeing that enabled Grant to walk without pain... But by this point I was rooting for Murphy . 

 They finally got his jaws open again (but just a little!) and it was looking like Murphy was running out of patience. It was all Raul and the helper could do to hold him, and I had started asking Raul "how much longer?" in my very best artificial casual voice, not letting on that my heart was probably beating as fast as Murphy's, and my teeth were aching. 

 Raul finally finished and took the bfh off and put it away. I wrote him a check, thanked him, and walked him to his truck before heading back to the barn.... to apologize to Murphy . 

 Murphy has since recovered from his ordeal... 

The first day he was still a little loopy and mostly just stood in his stall drooling. But thankfully, by yesterday he was back to himself again and happily enjoying the new spring grass that is starting to come up.  

 Ahhh..... the joys of horse ownership.