Saturday, August 30, 2008

reality and illusion

You would think after living with someone with schizophrenia for seven years, I'd be good at recognizing what is reality and what is just an illusion.

But sometimes it's still hard for me...

There are a bunch of thoughts tumbling around in my brain that I'm going to try and make some sense of here. Have patience with me, I'm not sure how successful I'm going to be with this...

M had an appointment with his pdoc on Friday. She hasn't seen him in months, and this was his first appointment at her office at the new Children's Hospital.

I have to confess, after the appointment I felt like crap.

No, worse than crap... I felt like crawling into a hole somewhere and pulling a rock over myself.
I felt an overwhelming sense of heaviness...  hopelessness... settle over me.

The feeling lasted all the way home, and for hours afterwards. It finally drifted away as I sat outside watching Blaze, Tilly and Tucker grazing out in the big pasture. As I watched them I realized that what I was seeing, feeling and hearing... the earth, the birds darting about, the dogs sniffing around through the long prairie grass, the steady chewing of the horse and donkeys, the swishing of their tails as the flies buzzed and bothered them... all that is real.


But the shiny new behavioral sciences building at Children's (TCH), the place we'd just returned home from, isn't...


It was with that realization that the heaviness lifted and I started to feel like myself again...

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I'm going to try and explain this, if I can, because it feels like these thoughts need to come out, but first I have a disclaimer. For the families of children with serious physical illness, TCH may be a lifesaver... it may be real to them, a place full of support and healing. Maybe it's even real to some families of kids with mental illness... I don't know. I can only write about my experiences with TCH, and this post will undoubtedly reflect the rather unique path we've followed in terms of M's treatment...

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In looking back I realize that the heaviness began settling over me even before the appointment, when I was just walking into the building, and it got worse as we waited for the pdoc. I could see her behind the locked doors of the day treatment unit, chatting with another parent, an acquaintance of mine, while the kids and I waited.

I have to admit, for those few minutes I felt jealous, and angry... For more than a few months, and through some really difficult med changes, I've waited for the pdoc to have a few spare moments to focus on M. Unfortunately, he seems to have dropped completely off her radar screen. So it was hard to watch her chatting (late for M's appointment), so leisurely with another parent.

At that same time I was feeling angry with myself too, because even though I've resisted putting M into day treatment, in a strange way I wanted to be part of that little group... But although I should have felt a connection to both women, because of the choices we have made in terms of M's treatment, I felt both literally and figuratively, locked out.

During the appointment I didn't say much to the pdoc, when she asked me questions I answered her, but that was it. Thankfully, M was talking more than enough to fill up the quiet spaces.

The appointment was a short one, but by the time we walked out to the car, I'd somehow picked up, along with my purse, and my keys, the full heaviness of hopelessness and isolation.

It was only later, when I realized that none of this...


... is real.

 That it's an artificial world.

And I don't have to be a part of it, to do the right thing for M.

That this is my real life...


... that this safe, sheltering, comforting place is real, not artificial... it was only then that I began to feel better.

No, this isn't real.


Yes, it exists in brick and mortar, glass and concrete...

The building is impressive, expensive, and tastefully decorated.


But this beautiful building, and the promise of help and support it brings with it, is... much like our whole system of mental health care...  just an illusion.

Is there any real and lasting help or support to be found there?

No, I don't think so... at least not for M. He has severe, treatment resistant, schizophrenia... he also has FASD... two disorders that are not generally amenable to treatment. And we've tried virtually all the medications available (only missing some of the older antipsychotics) to treat the sz, in varying combinations and strengths, some several times, so it's not like there is anything left to do in terms of meds.

From what I've seen, any support we might find there would be transient, and paid for by putting M into an environment that includes poorly fitting interventions, and plenty of negative influences.


But still... it's so seductive somehow... to imagine that someone in this bright and beautiful building could make things better, maybe even "fix" things.

And the awareness that they don't have the answers (and sometimes they don't even understand the questions), can be such a heavy burden.

But what helps lift that burden for me is the realization that Woodstone Prairie is real.
THIS is real...


...and yes, so is this.


And M IS learning, growing and thriving in a safe and protected, yet challenging environment. He's surrounded by people who love and respect him, and are committed to walking this walk with him for as long as humanly possible.

We are so blessed that we ARE able to do this... That we don't have to place our trust in systems that are full of promises and good intentions, but where real help and support is just an illusion.

Note: All TCH photos in this post are actual (probably staged) pictures of the new Behavioral Sciences Building, and all Woodstone photos are actual (totally unstaged) pictures of our home (and one of M's favorite restaurant)!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

My friend Lynn asked how things are going with M's job, and with Tucker's training...

The job still seems to be a go. I talked to the people at our CCB (Community Centered Board - the organization that distributes the federal and state funds earmarked for the support of people with developmental disabilities), and they said that M is too young for their regular job support program, and we couldn't use any of their funds to "pay" M for his work.

 This wasn't surprising to me, the CCB really isn't much support at all... that's why I set this program up independent of them! I only checked into it because the owner of the restaurant M will be working at wanted to go through the regular job support program (so M could be paid by the CCB). I have a meeting with  our support coordinators (from the CCB) tomorrow and will find out the bottom line then. After that, I'll call the owner and make sure he's still willing to hire M, given that it won't be part of the county's established job support program.

Anyway... things still look good for M starting his job soon. We just need to tie up all the loose ends first.
It feels like I'm rambling... hopefully that made sense. I woke up this morning with a cold and my head feels fuzzy... time for some vitamin C, I suppose.

In terms of my OTHER wild man, Tucker, things are much simpler...

I'm working with him 3-5 days a week, and he's making pretty steady progress... I can now work with him in the pasture, instead of having to lock him up in the small pen to get anything done. It's pretty easy to get the halter on and off, to brush him, and touch him all over (except his legs). I'm still working on him accepting touch on his legs, once he does that I'll work on picking up his legs and cleaning his hooves. Hopefully we'll reach that point soon so he can get his hooves trimmed.

We're also working on leading, which is slow going. He'll follow along with me for awhile, and then suddenly get spooked by something, and take off. Chuck (donkey trainer) told me to tie Tucker up at our tie up post, and just leave him for an hour or so... that that would help him learn that pulling on the lead rope doesn't work. (Unfortunately... the message of that whole lesson is just an illusion. Pulling on the lead rope, when it's attached to the tie up post, doesn't work.... but if he pulls hard when I'm on the other end of the lead rope, there is no way I can hold him.)

Anyway, I followed Chuck's suggestion and tied Tucker to the post. It turned out to be an excellent lesson for me into the donkey thought process.

At first Tucker just pulled a little at the rope, testing to see if he could pull free... Next he put some real muscle into it, putting his head down and digging in his hooves while pulling backwards. There was never any panic, he just seemed to be moving from one idea to the next... He pretty quickly figured out that that pulling wouldn't work. Next he tried unwrapping the rope... trying to walk around the pole to loosen the rope. Needless to say, that didn't work either, and he ended up VERY close to the pole and had to walk backwards to "unwrap" himself.

Then he just stood there... I thought he'd resigned himself to standing there until I untied him. But no... he was just thinking. After standing there for several minutes (my donkeys seem to be very slow... but deep... thinkers), he walked back around the pole to the knot and started trying to untie it with his teeth! He got the end free (thankfully I tied him very securely), and spent the next 10-15 minutes pulling on the end, and working at the knot, trying to get it loose. I've been told that donkeys are smart, but I was pretty amazed that he'd figure out to pull on the end of the rope.

Eventually I rescued him, untying the lead rope then unhooking it from his halter. Surprisingly he didn't dart away, but just stood there for awhile before slowly walking away.

Here are some pictures...

Tucker, tied to the post (he's not really tied to the post as tightly as it looks, if he backs up a little he has about 2' of rope).

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Working on the knot...


Pulling at the end of the rope (I couldn't get in close for this one, he'd stop pulling when I got close to him.)

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Taking a face scratching break...

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"Would you please come let me go?!"


I love working with Tucker, in a funny way it reminds me a little of martial arts... 

I LOVED martial arts when I studied it, it was the only sport I've loved enough to stick with for an extended period of time. I think the reason I liked it so much is because it's such a combination of mental and physical skills. Working with Tucker is like that... I have to concentrate when I work with him, paying very close attention to what he's telling me (with his body language). Even something as subtle as him turning his head away, or tightening his leg muscles, requires me to adapt my behavior in some way. But working with him is also very physical... quickly backing (jumping) out of the way when he swings around in a mini-panic over something, holding onto the lead rope when he starts darting away, keeping up with him when he takes off up the hill. I'm starting to trust him not to kick me (unless I do something he REALLY doesn't like) but he could still hurt me accidentally. He's about 600 lbs of panic sometimes, and I don't want to get in the way of that!  

Oh gosh, I think I'm rambling again...

So anyway Lynn, there you have it... things are still going well in terms of M's job and Tucker...thanks for asking. :)

Monday, August 25, 2008

The summer is officially over!

I know there's still a whole week until Labor Day, but... for us... summer is OVER.

I don't care what the calendar says, or that the days are hot and the grass is green... I'm going to call these last few weeks of warm weather "pre-Fall".

Summer was fun but after four major family events (and several smaller occasions) in three months, I'm ready to be done. I wouldn't even mind being snowed in for a few days by a freak blizzard... but I'm guessing the chances of that happening in August are pretty slim.

We did have some wild weather yesterday though, and spent an hour or so in the basement after I saw this...


... coming out of the clouds. 

See the little tornado trying to form?


The kids handled it remarkably well (both are VERY afraid of tornadoes), they sat glued to the TV, yelling updates to me while I cleaned the basement. Yeah, it was probably a weird time to clean, but there was no way I could sit still. DD#1 had just called, letting me know she was stuck on the highway with all three kids in the car, watching a tornado touching down just a mile or so away! Luckily it was a weak one, only touched down in open fields, and went back into the clouds without doing any damage (except to my daughter's nerves!).

Unfortunately, being stuck in a basement, waiting for tornadoes to pass isn't nearly as much fun as being snowed in by a blizzard.

It's not even close...

The really big news though, isn't the weather...

... it's M's 16th birthday.


It's hard to believe he's 16 already... He's such a funny mixture of teenager and little boy. He's just an awesome kid.

His party was Saturday, and it was wonderful... I think everyone had a good time.

M enjoyed himself tremendously... dancing, eating, and hanging out with his friends. He loved all of his gifts, and was excited to get some money and several gift cards too. The only thing that marred the day was that his "girlfriend" couldn't make it...

In case you're wondering, "Rose", my difficult neighbor, didn't come. The morning of the party she emailed saying they couldn't make it. Her reason for not coming was obviously an excuse (one of those "I have to wash my hair..." kinds of reasons) but the email was friendly, so I'm pretty happy with the way that situation turned out.

Here are some pictures of the party... 

I set the party up out front because one of M's friends who uses a wheelchair was coming, and because we needed a big flat space for the dancing. (But then the friend, the girlfriend's brother, didn't make it after all!)

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I saw several sweet little cowpokes...

J, my grandson...


...granddaughter, R...


...and little friend G.

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Time to start the dancing!
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Grandma and Grandpa even danced (they are so amazing... Grandpa is 80, and Grandma is getting very close, but nothing seems to slow them down!). E and B, my oldest girls, are next to them...in the black shirts.

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We also did some line dancing...

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It was so much fun....

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I'm a really bad dancer, but I danced too. You can tell from the look on my face that it was taking all my concentration, AND watching K (dd#3), to figure out what I was supposed to be doing!

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 M cracked me up, dancing in his mud boots!

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There was even a dance you could do sitting down!

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 I'm not sure what kind of a dance this was... They all seem to be following the caller, but doing something different...


R and S even composed a song for M's birthday. Then they got up in front of all those people and sang to him. Without a single giggle. 

It was about the sweetest thing I've ever seen...

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I think the party was a success...


... it was a great way to end the summer.

Monday, August 18, 2008

lot of thanks and a request

Thank you to everyone who offered suggestions for dealing with my neighbor. I valued and thought carefully about each suggestion before deciding what to do...

 Loren... I don't think I'm brave enough to speak so openly to Rose, although, if things thaw out a little I'd be very comfortable talking to her about getting some support for herself, and how it might help get her through the rough spells.

Steve, Leslie and everyone else who thought I should get M's input about whether or not he wants them at his party... He isn't good friends with these kids, so he wouldn't care if they were there or not. He does seem to feel unsettled and a little anxious about how Rose is acting though, and would probably feel better if he could see that she was acting more normally towards me.

Theresa, your verse helped put the situation in perspective for me... thank you so much.

And Granny... I loved your verse too... the part about feeding your hungry enemy spoke to me... since M's parties are all about food! You'll be happy to know (and luckily for Rose) there will be no burning coals available at the party, our grill is gas. :)

 Andrea, and everyone who said I should invite Rose and her family... that's what I did.  I took the invitation over to the house but didn't talk to Rose, her husband came to the door and was marginally friendly. He didn't say if they would be coming to the party or not... I guess I'll be surprised.
Here's the invitation, I thought it turned out cute...

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Ahhhhhh!!!!!!


Where did the years go?!

How did we go from this...


...to this...


...so quickly?!

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Well, regardless of how we got there, it's time to celebrate

MICHAEL'S 16th BIRTHDAY!

(and then it goes on with all the details, directions, etc)

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Ok, shifting gears, (this is going to be a very disjointed post...)

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And  could you please keep M in your prayers today?

He developed some stiffness last night which could be just more of the neurological side effects he always struggles with, but could also be a different, potentially dangerous side effect (NMS, you can read about it here...) NMS is very serious, would necessitate taking him off his antipsychotics, and could even be life threatening.

He's still asleep so I'm not sure how he is doing this morning, but the pdoc has given me things to watch for, and wants me to check in with her later today.

Thanks...

 Evening update: M seems to be ok.  He's still complaining of stiffness at times, but he doesn't seem to have any other the other symptoms of NMS, so I think what he's experiencing must somehow be connected to the tardive dyskinesia, not anything more serious. (It just goes to show how tough the past year has been that I've begun lumping TD with the "not serious" stuff!) Anyway, I talked to the pdoc, and she asked lots of questions, but didn't insist on seeing him right away, which was reassuring...  Thanks for the good thoughts and prayers.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

the neighbor from the *very hot, very bad place*

Anybody feel like giving me some free advice? I've got a neighbor problem that I'm not sure how to handle...

This is kind of a long story, so you might want to make a cup of tea, and hit the bathroom before you settle in for the drama.

We love where we live, but it's probably a very good thing the houses are far apart, because my across the road neighbor is a little unstable (and yes, I mean that in a clinical sense).

Until about a year ago we'd been acquaintances, and then became friends. Rose (not her real name, but I get tired of using initials, and she kind of reminds me of our goat Rose... prone to crankiness) and her husband have two kids, a little boy and a girl just a few years younger than R. R and the girl (maybe I'll call her Betty, after our good natured goat) used to visit sometimes when they were both up on the road getting the mail, and they got to be friends. Rose started asking me to watch for Betty's school bus and keep her here on the days that she wasn't able to get home in time to meet the bus. I didn't mind helping her out, and the girls enjoyed playing together.

Rose and her family went out of town last spring and she asked me to water her flowers while she was gone (their yard is like a park, absolutely perfect, with at least an acre of blue grass!), which I did...and they brought back some little gifts for the kids in return.

They invited us over for the 4th of July last year, buying hundred of dollars of (illegal) fireworks and setting them off (while I prayed that our animals weren't panicking too badly with all the noise and smoke, and that no stray sparks would end up in my pasture!).

I knitted her some dishcloths, and taught her how to sew. Last summer, when Rose decided to make poodle skirts for all 15 girls invited to Betty's birthday party, I pulled out my sewing machine and she came over after the kids went to bed and we sewed.

I thought we were friends...

She was always kind of a difficult person though, with an abrasive way of talking to people. She said she had worked with people with developmental disabilities before, and wanted to do respite for me. But I wasn't comfortable with the patronizing, slightly disrespectful, way she talked about, and to, people with DD, so I never asked her to do any respite. Fortunately, at the time she was asking to do the respite, our funding hadn't come through yet and I could honestly tell her I didn't have the funds to pay for respite yet... and by the time the funding came through, she was no longer speaking to me.

It all started with a little stray dog her husband brought home one day. Pie was a puppy, about 8 months old, and had been running loose for ages. Rose wouldn't put up a fence or dog run, (she told me it would make her yard look "trashy"... Ouch! We have lots of fencing... but I told myself not to take it personally) and she would just train the dog to stay on their land.

But the little dog wasn't easily trained... It would run down to our place each morning when I went to the barn, and jump on me. If I wasn't careful it would dart into the stalls and our little pasture, and bark and nip at Grant and the goats.

Rose got a shock collar for Pie and if Pie would run down to the road, she would "shock her into coming back".

It didn't work. Pie learned that my house was out of range of the shocking device.

Pie dug into my backyard and jumped on Quin, often leaving Quin (with his deformed hips and legs) in pain for days. She'd jump on the kids when they were outside, and run into my house when they tried to come in.

I called Rose several times asking her nicely to come get her dog... I tried to talk to her about dog training, keeping Pie on a leash until she understood where she lived, or putting up a temporary dog run. Rose told me she'd been around animals all her life and knew what she was doing.

Sometimes I'd feel sorry for Pie (she was getting nothing but screamed at by Rose) and let her hang out in my backyard.

Once when Pie was up on the road, some people stopped... thinking she was a stray... and put her in their car, going to take her to a shelter (or home... who knows), but I went out and explained that she was my neighbor's dog, and kept her in my house until Rose got home again. Rose wasn't happy with me, saying she didn't think she wanted the dog and I should have just let those people take her.

After several months of this dog, things were starting to get strained. I was seriously tired of working around this wild, ill-mannered dog, and Rose seemed to think I was somehow encouraging Pie to come down here.

Finally last fall, things came to a head. The farrier was here trimming Grant's hooves, and some neighbors had ridden their horses down for a visit. One of the neighbors, a little friend of R's, was on her new horse... a feisty Arabian mare. Pie kept barking and nipping at the mare's heels and the girl's mother was getting very upset, yelling up at Rose's house to "come get your dog". Rose sent her kids down, but they couldn't catch Pie, so finally the farrier stopped his work and caught the dog for them.

Winter came and we still saw Pie, but not nearly as often. During a bitter cold spell I found her on my backporch, shivering, and called Rose asking her to come get her. By that time Rose was obviously angry, and barely speaking to me.

Each time our cars passed each other on the road, I continued to smile or wave, but she just looked away. (Yeah, I'll admit it... after a while I waved and smiled just to bug her.)

As winter went on, we stopped seeing Pie as often, although I still found her out at the barn sometimes in the mornings, waiting to jump on me. Once when coming in from the barn, she tried to run in the house with me... I reached out to grab her collar to keep her out and she nipped my hand (well... she nipped my work glove), I had stopped calling Rose to come get her dog (since it seemed to just make her angrier) but I called that time and told her what happened. I thought it was ridiculous that their dog was trying to bite me on my own front porch!

In the spring I had to go around to survey all my neighbors about a paving project that was being proposed. I hated the thought of going to Rose's,  she'd been extremely rude to me at Christmas... barely speaking to me when I took a gift of Christmas cookies and treats to them, angrily telling me that she'd be down to talk to me soon because she had "things we needed to hash out" and, when I told her that we'd lost Grant the day before to colic, she coldly said that she'd seen he was sick and he looked so bad it was probably good he had died.

But I agreed to survey each neighbor, so I had to go...

I had to climb over the fence to get into their place (their acreage is gated) and I found Rose working in the backyard. She greeted me coldly, asking me what I wanted. I said I was representing the community board, and had this survey, and started to explain. She said she wouldn't talk about the survey until we'd "hashed things out".

Then... and this is the strange part... she collapsed, sobbing, into my arms. She cried that she just knew we were going to sue them because Pie had tried to bite me, and that she knew I was the one who called the sheriff because her dog was out (I wasn't, although I had considered it), she could tell I was leaving my porch light on at night to "lure" Pie down to our house to get them in more trouble. (what?!) She sobbed that they couldn't risk everything they had, risk losing it all to us in a lawsuit, over this dog.

By now, the theme song from "The Twilight Zone" was running through my head... I tried to reassure Rose that we'd never called the sheriff, weren't planning on suing them, and the porch light was left on some nights only because I'd forgotten to turn it off.

She said she'd taken Pie to the shelter earlier that week, but now she couldn't eat, couldn't sleep, couldn't stop crying, and was spending hours each day at the computer,  looking at Pie's picture in the "adoptable dogs" part of the shelter's website, trying to determine if she looked well fed and happy.

She was truly falling apart. I told her that if not having the dog was that upsetting to her, she should just go get it back. She said they wouldn't give it back to her. I offered to go adopt the dog myself and give it to her. (Yeah, I know... I'm such a chump!)

She cried on, and at, me for over an hour, and I started thinking that maybe she was finally starting to believe that I hadn't done any of the things she thought I'd done. It sounded like she might be headed down to the shelter the next day to try and get her dog back. As we left, M, six months early, invited her to his birthday party (Oh M, I wish you would have not said that!) and she said yes, "unless your mom is mad at me and doesn't want me to come". I said no, of course not, and let the matter drop.

Guess what happened next? During the time Rose was falling apart, crying to me in her backyard, someone adopted Pie. By the time she got back in the house to check the website, Pie was gone.

I check the website too, and knew what had happened, and I wasn't sure what that bad timing might do to our newly mended friendship...

It didn't take long for me to figure out that she had stopped speaking to me again. If I corner her at the mailbox, she'll be civil to me... but nothing more. Even during last month's heat wave, it was frosty between the two houses...

So... here's my dilemma (Are you still reading? If so thank you... you deserve an award!) Michael's birthday is coming up. We're having a square dance out in front of the house (the only spot big and flat enough), do I invite Rose and her family? I'm inviting our other close neighbors, and she'll see we're having a big party. If I don't invite her she will probably assume I'm angry at her (which I'm not). On the other hand, after inviting R and M to Betty's party last year (the year of the poodle skirts!), she did not invite the kids this year.

So....do I invite Rose and her family? She's made it very clear that she's upset with me. Is it stupid to invite her? Or would not inviting her just reinforce for her that I'm a terrible person. (Honestly though, her thinking was so confused the night she fell apart, that I'm not sure she's able to think rationally about me and the whole situation anyway.) She's unstable enough that, even if she were talking to me, I'd prefer to keep my distance from her...

Thoughts? Opinions?  Tell me what to do please!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Brrr....

It's a taste-of-fall kind of day. It's about 1:00 now and the temperature seems to have topped out at about 48 degrees. It's been raining off and on all day and the pasture and driveway are slippery mud pits. I don't mind too much though, we definitely need the rain and the coolness feels good. I think it's time to break out the hot chocolate mix... iced tea just doesn't sound good today.

 We had some exciting news today... It looks like M will be starting work at our local Chick-Fil-A very soon. Remember my "internship" idea? The one that got put on hold for almost a year because M developed tardive dyskinesia and I ended up spending the past 9 months adjusting meds? Well... M still isn't as stable as I would like him to be for this (we are STILL adjusting meds!) but I decided not to wait any longer and just move ahead with the idea anyway.

So a week or so ago I approached an acquaintance I know who works for Chick-Fil-A (she also volunteers at the same library we do) and told her about my idea. At first she seemed hesitant... She said she knew of other Chick-Fil-A restaurants that had hired people with developmental disabilities (in a supported work type situation), but our local restaurant never had. She said she'd talk to the owner about it and get back to me. I ran into her again today and she said that the owner said yes, and was very excited about Michael working there. She said the owner had been wanting to start working with the DD system in terms of hiring kids, he just hadn't taken the first step. So M will be that first step.... cool, huh? M is so excited, he can hardly stand himself. We have the application here and we'll fill it out together and get it back to them ASAP.

 Not much else is going on here. I got most of the things on my agenda done the other day... it was an awesome day. We've been getting school done regularly again, and life just feels like it's getting back to "normal" (or what passes for normal around here) again after our extremely busy summer.

Have I mentioned the little twin fawns that live up on the hill behind our barn? We've had so much fun watching them grow from tiny things (twice I've had to stop the car on the road in front of the house because the babies decided they needed to nurse, immediately, and mama deer stopped right in the road to nurse them! The other day I watched them playing on the hill that goes down to the gully... It was so much to watch them jumping around (and on!) each other.

 Here are a few pictures I've taken lately of mama and her babies...

 Here's mama, her babies are close, so she's watching me very carefully.



The twins, heading across the driveway...



...and the whole family down by the neighbor's barn.





Can you see the twins? It's not a great picture, but I just loved the way they were eating side by side... (my new "deer-proof" garden fence is working beautifully, so far no deer have been in the garden since we put it up although, as you can see, they are grazing as close to the garden as they can possibly get...

 Better go, quiet time is over and I should get moving.
I'm happy to say that Blaze is doing fine after his scary run-in with the cattle panels. His leg still looks terrible, but it doesn't seem to be infected and hopefully it will start looking better soon.

We've spent the past two days taking the cattle panels down and replacing them with regular horse panels. It's something I've thought about doing for months (since getting Blaze, really... he has such huge hooves I've always worried about him getting one of them stuck in the fence), I just didn't have the motivation to get done until now.

Here's the new look:


We still need to get the gates up... the pen will have a double gate set up where the old gate is now. It will be much larger than the old gate...we're hanging two 4' gates that will meet at about where that green t-post is now. We still have to remove the old green posts, and put a wooden post in for one side of the gate to attach to, but it's nice to have it almost done.

We took a little time yesterday morning for a little civics lesson/rabble rousing. We went downtown (Denver) to the state capitol for a rally to try to stop any further cuts in the state budget for mental health services. I met several people who will probably be good to know in the future, and Michael and Rhianna could understand and support why we were there, so they really got into it.


I thought this sign, made out of an old box, was especially poignant...


There was some media coverage of the rally. Here's a link to one station's article about it...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I have an extremely busy day planned for today...

In fact, I'm going to be so busy I decided I should make myself up a schedule, just to make sure everything gets done...

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My Agenda - August 13, 2008

1. Stay home

2. Enjoy children

       a. get school done

       b. watch a little of the Olympics

       c. play some bingo

       d. watch R ride Blaze

3. Enjoy animals

      a. sit on porch and watch the funny interactions between Blaze, Tilly and Tucker

      b. work with Tucker

      c. spoil Tucker with sunflower seeds after working with him

      d. spoil Blaze and Tilly with treats too, as long as I'm at it

      e. sit under the big tree and brush out Quin and Emma, remind R to brush out Sweetpea

4. Enjoy being home

    a. knit when I feel like it

    b. nap a little when the kids are in quiet time

    c. sit outside and watch the mama deer and fawns that have been grazing out front lately, notice the bunnies and hawks that are always around but I often get to busy to notice... also watch for hummingbirds, maybe try and get a picture of one.

Ok, I think that's it. It will be a grueling day, but if I stick with my schedule I think I can get it all done.

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Seriously though, I'm so looking forward to a quiet day at home. The past few weeks have been just TOO busy for me!

There has been good stuff going on...

We went to the big family reception for dd#1's wedding on Saturday and had a great time. (They had a reception in Las Vegas right after the wedding, but since most of the family couldn't make it out there, they had another reception here.) Unfortunately, I have no pictures of the reception to share... I forgot my camera at home that day, and was having such a good time I probably would have forgotten to take any pictures anyway!

Then on Sunday we went to a wonderful Special Olympics party... The kids swam (there was both a swimming lake and a pool there), paddled canoes around the lake, played volleyball in the sand, and just had a great time hanging out with their friends.

R and her friend in a two person canoe...



M loved paddling around... it made me wish we had a lake or pond close enough for him to get to do this regularly.





The kids are still working on their money/attitude program. They have slowed down some with all the work, but are still excited about the program and have been learning how to do some new, more grown up chores around the house... and earning money and good attitude "tokens" (for lack of a better word!). R was the first to earn the fun of  choosing a dessert and making it for the family. She make a triple chocolate cake, following the directions with just a minimum of help... It's been fun having cake when it isn't even anyone's birthday!



We've had our little friend S here off and on the past few weeks too. I love having her here, but it's also difficult... having three developmentally delayed adolescents in the house is complicated and not much gets done... but she is so sweet (when she's not having an attitude) and loving that it makes up for the extra work and supervision she brings with her.

The Three Musketeers (M looks a little scary, I think...hope... he was just making a face!)



The serious....



...and not so serious work of bingo.



Note: Since she is still in foster care, I've (reluctantly) edited these photos so S's face can't be seen.

I also have spent more than a few hours lately agonizing over whether there is any way we could take her if her current foster care placement disrupts. (Which has been looking imminent) It's been very tough trying to sort through the complexities of the situation... to think with my head as well as my heart. I've been spending a lot of time on my knees over this... Fortunately it's looking less likely that the placement will disrupt, and I'm thrilled that things are looking up for S and her foster family.

So that's what we've been up to, and today we are staying home... just me and two (not three!) kids. I'm so excited...

Well, it's getting late, I'd better get busy, my agenda is waiting...