Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I think my stress level might be a little high...

....yesterday I threatened to sue both our CCB (community centered board - the agency that administers federally mandated developmental disability services) and the Medicaid contractor who was making the modifications to M's room.

I'm not normally prone to fits of anger, but I had one yesterday...

The contractor came, as scheduled, on Monday. He hung the door he was supposed to, had an electrician install the lighting, and left his guys to finish up the drywall work. The most important part of the job... replacing the glass in M's windows with plexiglass... was supposed to be done yesterday.

When the guys were finished (using the word loosely) with the drywall work, the last job of the day, they asked me to come look at it. Unfortunately the texture was a mess... They'd used some canned texture they picked up at Home Depot or someplace and there were places they missed entirely, and places they'd smoothed it so it looked like no texture at all... The patch was supposed to blend into the wall around it, but it wasn't even close.  They asked if I wanted it done again, and I said yes. I was on the phone with the pediatrician when they finished the second time... It looked better, but still not good... but I just let it go (rather than cut the phone call short). I asked if they were going to prime the door... they said no.

Ok... I thought to myself after they'd left... so maybe my expectations were too high. I'd expected them to come in do the work, and all I would have to do is put the room back together when they were done. But now I'm left with priming and painting the new door, changing the door knob around (they put it on backwards) and priming and painting the new, poorly textured, drywall. Oh... and they didn't install a dimmer switch either... something I'd wanted done. But again, it's not the end of the world... M can survive very nicely without a dimmer switch.

The straw that broke this camel's back (or, more accurately, triggered threats of lawsuits) came yesterday morning, with the glass guy. He came and looked at the windows and the job order of what he was supposed to do, and said he wouldn't do it. That he wouldn't do a poor job, and that's what it would be if he did the job as ordered. The material ordered was not right, he said, was way too flimsy, and to do the job right would take more money... which would mean rewriting the work order, and going back to the state to get it approved.

Getting it approved through the state could take months... (it's taken more than six months to get the approval for the work we're currently doing!)

Leaving the windows the way they are is a huge safety risk to M.

That's when I got angry...

I called the contractor and the CCB and complained about the poor workmanship on the drywall, and how everything seemed only half finished. I also complained about how the most important part of the job couldn't even be started because the contractor screwed up the work order. I finished by letting them know that if M was hurt as a result of that work not being done, I would take legal action.
I really am not someone who throws anger around like a weapon... using it to get what they want. In fact, I have a pretty low boiling point most of the time.

But don't mess with my kids... that sets me off every time.

So... the contractor is sending his guys back out to prime the door. A supervisor from the CCB is coming out this morning to look at the drywall. And (most importantly!) the CCB has approved the change in the job order for the glass work (somehow absorbing the increased cost). As soon as the guy can come back out, the glass work will get done.

I do feel a little bad about getting angry and making threats...

... but if that's what it takes to get the job done, I guess that's what it takes.
I am SO finished with having guys in to work on this house.

Monday, December 28, 2009



December 28, 2009

Outside my window... there's still about 8" of snow on the ground, the sun isn't up yet and it's cold.

I am thinking... how tired I am of this bitter cold, and how I wish I could skip the barn work this morning.

I am thankful... that the weekend with S went as well as it did... it could have been a train wreck.

From the learning rooms... it's time to get back to a regular school schedule again.

From the kitchen... I'm not sure what's for dinner, but I can guarantee it won't be ham. We had ham for Christmas dinner, and ham leftovers all weekend, and we are not eating ham again today.

I am wearing... same old thing, blue jeans, long sleeve t-shirt with a demin shirt over the top.

I am creating...  a crocheted winter hat. While K (dd#3) was here at Christmas she taught me to make them. I'm mostly a knitter, but am halfway through the hat I started with K, so I'll finish it up before starting anything else.

I am going... nowhere, the driveway is too snowy and slippery for my car to make it up, so we're staying home today. It's supposed to be above freezing the next couple of days, so it should melt off soon and we'll be on the road again.

I am reading... 100 Questions & Answers About Your Child's Schizophrenia by Josiane Colbert M.D. It's a new book, and so far I think it's very good. The question and answer format is quick and easy to read and it has an especially good section on the genetics of sz.

I am hoping... the workmen show up today, and the work gets done quickly and with a minimum of mess.

I am hearing... the boiler bubbling, and Quin eating the ice cube Joe gave him as he left for work. (Quin thinks they are a special treat!)

Around the house... it's nice to have the Christmas decorations put away, but the basement is still a mess of boxes, leftover wrapping paper and gift bags, and anything else that was dumped there recently. I should probably find some time soon to clean it up again.

One of my favorite things... the quiet of the early morning, before the day's work starts.

A few plans for the rest of the week... not much going on, the workmen should surely be done by Tuesday afternoon, S is supposed to come back on Wednesday but that will depend on M. He was edgy enough with her here over the weekend that I'm not sure he'll be able to manage another visit so soon.

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Christmas marathon is officially over and it feels good...

I do love Christmas, but after all the planning, budgeting, shopping, decorating, more shopping, wrapping, mailing, etc... it's a relief to be on the other side of it all.

Our Christmas was quiet, but nice... two of the three older girls were here (we celebrated with our oldest daughter several days earlier because her family was headed out of town for the holiday), and both girls spent Christmas Eve night with us, even driving through some nasty weather to get here. It was so nice to have most of my "chicks" back in the nest on that special night...

We spent the day at home, visiting, playing games, sledding... and K and I even stole a little time to play guitar together. It was a very nice Christmas... it looked like a Christmas card outside, and we had nowhere to go and nothing to do but enjoy the day.

S wasn't here for Christmas, but came on the 26th and spent the weekend with us. All the kids (M, R and S) were a little unsettled, but (whew!) made it through the weekend without any major problems.

I took the big tree down today, and packed almost all of the Christmas decorations back away again.  I did leave the little "fishing" Christmas tree up though, it's so small and cheery... I think I'll just leave it up for awhile.

The "accessibility specialist" workmen are coming tomorrow to (finally!!) start on the modifications to M's room. Since he's identified as being severely disabled and in need of long term care, he's on a special Medicaid plan that will pay for some home modifications. I'm excited to get the work done... but kind of hate to have the house torn up again so soon after putting it back together after the recent countertop debacle. (Something I still need to blog about...) It will be so worth it to get the job done though.

I'll close with a few photos of the "fishing tree"... (a tree dedicated to Joe's love of fishing)

Most of the ornaments are fishing related...

... although I just couldn't resist this little Santa on a tractor!


Thursday, December 24, 2009 back in the deep freeze, but it doesn't look like it's supposed to last as long as the cold spell we had a couple of weeks ago.

It snowed yesterday and the roads we're terrible, but we still managed to keep M's appointment with the orthopedist. The ortho practices out of Children's Hospital, a place M has been followed for practically his whole life (just except for the 7 months before we got him) and I was impressed with with him. Dr S is the "hip doctor" there, and unfortunately was on call yesterday so we ended up having to wait awhile to see him, as he was in the middle of an emergency surgery when we got there. He had already looked over M's x-rays though, and had told his PA that he wanted to see M himself, not just have the PA do the appointment... I thought that was good.

It looks almost certain M will need hip surgery. We'll have an MRI done, and then go in and talk to Dr S again about the options. From the x-rays it's appears the hip is malformed, it doesn't look like an injury of any kind. (I'm blaming it on the FASD, prenatal alcohol exposure can cause skeletal abnormalities... but... in all fairness, it could also be genetic.) Dr S will do the MRI to rule out anything else that might be going on, and then we'll have to decide what's the best plan for getting M moving again. The concern, of course, is keeping M (relatively) stable psychiatrically, through a major surgery and recovery.  Dr S said he might be able to do the surgery arthroscopic-ly,  but it sounded like that was not his first choice... that arthroscopic surgery would be a compromise and only done to try to keep M stable (less time in the hospital, shorter recovery time, etc) not because he believes it's the best way to fix his hip(s).

So... we'll see what the next few weeks bring.

We're snowed in today, and the kids aren't going to be happy... We're supposed to go to Grandma and Grandpa's today for the big family Christmas get-together and gift exchange. The snow is just too deep though, to get up the driveway... There is no way my car can make it. Joe is supposed to work a half day today, but he's not even sure the SUV will make it out of the neighborhood!

It looks like a good day to enjoy a nice fire, bake and decorate some Christmas cookies, and maybe watch a Christmas movie. I wish we had the Polar Express movie, that's one of my favorites...

Merry Christmas... I hope your holiday is filled with family, fun, warmth, and the wonder of Christmas

Monday, December 21, 2009



December 21, 2009

Outside my window... it's still dark.

I am thinking... about M's appointment with the orthopedist.

I am thankful for... Christmas almost being here, and beauty and joy of the holiday, the chance for us all to be together.

From the learning rooms... I think we're going to have to keep up with at least a modified school schedule during the next couple of weeks, I don't think M can manage too many unstructured days.

From the kitchen... I tried a recipe I've had sitting around here for years and never actually tried.. I made little mini-cheesecakes (cupcake sized) for the neighbors for Christmas. They turned out good... I shouldn't have waited so long to try that recipe.

I am wearing... my pj's... plaid flannel pants, and a big sweatshirt (worn inside out).

I am creating... I'm almost done with the work in the kitchen (just one more coat of paint finishes it) and the Christmas crafts are done... I guess what I'll be trying to create the rest of the week is a happy and meaningful holiday celebration for my family.

I am reading... nothing right now.

I am hoping...the appointment on Weds. goes well... that the orthopedist is sensitive to M's developmental delays and sz, and he doesn't recommend a treatment that is going to further complicate an already too complicated situation.

I am hearing... the hum of the dishwasher.

Around the house... the kitchen is finally almost done. After having it either a mess or torn apart since last June, it's a good feeling to have the end so close!

One of my favorite things... the fuzzy feel of the donkey's winter coats.

A few plans for the rest of the week... let's see... today R is going to a friend's house to hang out and M and I are cleaning up the barn and paddock, tomorrow we are celebrating Christmas with E (dd#1) and her family because they are heading out of town the next day, Weds. is the orthopedic appointment, Thursday we'll be up at Grandma and Grandpa's for the big family Christmas get-together, and by Friday both B and K will be here (dd's #2 and 3) and we'll spend a quiet Christmas day at home. S comes back on Sat. for the weekend (and a little more Christmas celebrating!).

A picture I am sharing...

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

log home joys

Since moving from the city to the country almost 5 years ago, I've learned many new things.

For example... I've learned how to get a good fire going in the fireplace, even when the only logs we have to burn have to be dug out of the snow (pine cones are my secret... the kids and I gather them in the summer... they burn so hot they'll get anything burning!).

I can also milk a donkey, a skill that has absolutely no practical value, but it is definitely something I didn't know how to do five years ago.

Interestingly, I've never milked a goat... only a donkey... despite owning dairy goats a couple of years ago.

I can give a goat an subcutaneous injection though... when it's absolutely necessary... although I'd really rather not. (I can't tell you how much goats hate getting shots, and how hard they will work to avoid them!)

I can look at the tracks in my snowy front yard and tell you what kind of animal has been wandering through... and I can recognize the sound of a baby mule deer crying for it's mother.

Honestly though... none of those newly acquired skills is worth much.

But I can also chink logs... a skill I was taught by Ken (our log home guy) and one I'm pretty good at it. If you have a log home you must find a good log home guy... Ken is the person responsible for putting our newly purchased log home back together again five years ago when we naively trusted the home inspection guy who assured us that the house was sound (when in fact it was in danger of falling down!). Ken taught me to chink, and I re-chinked the inside of the house while he put the outside back together.

Since I have nothing better to blog about, I thought I'd write a short chinking tutorial for those of you who always wanted to know how to chink logs. (I thought it would be more useful than a tutorial on milking donkeys!)

First you drive down to the lumber yard and, trying not to gawk at all the mysterious things on the shelves, find and buy the chinking your log home guy told you to buy.

If you are like me, you wait until the children go to bed to work on a small chinking project like the one I just finished in my kitchen, because you know that small projects don't take much time, and you'll whip it out quickly and go to bed happy... knowing that's one more job you can cross off your to-do list.

Start by cutting a small hole in the tip of the tube of chinking stuff, load the tube into the caulking gun, and run a small, even bead of chinking between the logs. Have a bowl of water handy and wet your finger and run your wet finger down the bead you just made... making it nice and straight and smooth. Then use a wet rag to clean any chinking that got on the face of the logs, and move on to the next section.

Easy, huh??

As you wipe your wet finger along the bead of chinking, you'll end up with extra... wipe it on the back of your other hand. Don't ask me why, that's how log guys do it... so I do too.

When you need a little extra chinking to fill a low spot... take it off the back of your hand... again, don't ask, that's how log guys do it.

Keep running beads, wiping them, and cleaning logs.

Look back and what you've done and notice the line isn't as crisp and straight as you would like it. Go back with the wet rag and scrub the logs, trying to straighten the line.

Curse the rough sawn logs (but not the smooth ones if, like us, you have a mix of both kinds) because they hold onto the chinking you are trying to clean off.

Stick your hair together with chinking when you lean down to look at your work and accidentally get too close to the back of your left hand.

Try to remember if chinking washes out of hair.

Forget to release the pressure lever on the caulking gun after your last section, and end up with a little pile of brown chinking on the countertop... Wonder how hard it is to clean chinking off granite. Wipe up pile with your fingers and put it on the back of your hand.

Stuff foam tubing into the deeper cracks and chink over it (otherwise the crack between logs can easily eat a whole tube of chinking!).

Run more beads, wipe them, scrub more logs.

Stand back to admire your work... Notice another line that isn't as straight as it should be.

Get the wet rag and start scrubbing... trying to straighten the line.

Curse whatever ancestor you inherited these perfectionistic tendencies from.

Look at the clock,  how could it be so late?!

Yearn to go to bed.

Scrub some more to straighten another line.

Finally reach the point you think it looks ok... not great... but passable if you don't look too close.

Replace the switchplate covers, using a kitchen knife to screw in the screws... that's how log guys do it. (Ok... not really, but that's how I do it when I'm too tired to go find a screwdriver.)

Wash the chinking off the countertop, floor, your hands, and your hair...

Find another spot of chinking on a log, wash it off.

Go to bed and hope you don't have to dig the chinking out tomorrow and redo it.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

When M was little one of my favorite books was Changed By A Child: Companion Notes for Parents of a Child With a Disability by Barbara Gill. It's one of those daily reading kinds of books, each page having a short quote and a bit of discussion connecting the quote to the experience of parenting a child with special needs.

One of the quotes I read again and again, both because it seemed to apply so well to M, and because it came from Louise Erdrich...  a bestselling author, married at one point to Michael Dorris who wrote The Broken Cord, and the adoptive parent of several children with FASD.

Here's that quote:

"Some people, lightening struck twice. Some people attracted accidents. Fate bunched up and gathered like a blanket. Some people were born on the smooth parts and some got folded into the pucker."

                                                                                                ~Louise Erdrich

M definitely got folded into the pucker. Born into a neglectful and abusive home (you can read about his early life here if you want), developmentally delayed - brain damaged- from his birthmother's alcohol abuse, then schizophrenia on top of it all... and with such an early onset and severe course.

I'm not a person who sits around asking why me, or why my child? I know life isn't perfect (despite what I wholeheartedly believed as a teenager!) and stuff happens. Everyone has things they struggle with... I know that no one is immune to life's challenges, and I don't expect my family to be.

But I'm kind of feeling like enough is enough for M.

He's been having hip pain for awhile. It was bad enough to interfere with his life... making sports painful, limiting his ability to walk any distance, sometimes even keeping him up at night. Last spring we saw the pediatrician and she said his hip probably had some combination of strain, sprain, and tendonitis and recommended physical therapy. M's been doing physical therapy of one sort or another since then...

At first the PT seemed to help a little, but the pain came back and had been getting severe lately. So back to the pediatrician we went. She ordered an x-ray and called later that day to say the radiologist had noted "Bi-Lateral Superior Acetabular Retroversion", something the pediatrician had never heard of before. We talked about what it might be, and after hanging up with the doc I called M's PT, who also had never heard of it...

So I googled it (of course... where else do people find medical information?).

It seems to be some kind of a malformation of the hip joint (one article described it as "dysplasia"). There seems to be no easy fix to it... the first step is PT, from there it gets more complicated with steroid shots into the joint and even joint replacement.

 Without treatment the joint deteriorates...

So, here we are... my developmentally delayed son, who is already living with constant hallucinations, and the miserable side effects of the medications he must take to keep the schizophrenia symptoms even somewhat under control...and now, sports...specifically Special Olympics... one of the few things that brings him joy, and helps to quiet his voices, is in danger of being taken from him and replaced with yet another diagnosis, pain, and the possibility of major joint replacement surgery in the future.

Maybe it's not as bad as all that... Maybe the articles I read online were overly pessimistic, or MAYBE the radiologist read the x-ray wrong and he doesn't have it at all. (Wouldn't that be awesome?!)

M has an appointment next week up at Children's Hospital with the orthopedist there who specializes in hips. We'll see what he  says...

Unfortunately, it's looking like we might starting down a new path in this journey with M...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Last Friday, December 11th, was a day that we'd looked forward to for a loooooooong time.

It was the day the first Disney animated movie to feature an African-American princess was released.

For years there was nothing but a string of white Disney princesses (Snow White, Cinderella, Ariel), although more recently there were a few "ethnic" princesses too (Mulan, Pocahantas, Jasmin). But we thought the lack of an African American princess was inexcusable... Why overlook such a large percentage of the population?

We thought it was so unfair that we boycotted Disney for awhile (not that I suppose they noticed...), and R has written letters to them... sometimes nice ones, and sometimes not so nice ones... pointing out to them their HUGE oversight.

Now finally, we got what we wanted...The Princess and the Frog has been released and there is an African American Disney princess...Tiana.

We went to the first showing of the movie on the day it opened in our town. R had been counting down the days...

She was in heaven.

(R waiting for the movie to start)

I had a few gripes with the movie (I didn't like all the "voodoo" stuff and thought the movie probably perpetuated some negative stereotypes), but R didn't notice the problems with it, and I didn't point them out to her... I didn't want anything to mar her happiness at finally seeing a princess that looks like her...

We stopped and bought the soundtrack on the way home, and R has been listening to "Almost There" ever since...

The rest of the weekend was busy...  We had S here, and had several things planned for her visit, including going to a dinner and karaoke night at our church, and going to town to watch the annual Christmas Carriage Parade.

I didn't get any pictures of this year's parade, but this is a photo from another year...

After the parade we talked up and down Mainstreet. We especially enjoyed the ice sculptures...


By the end of the weekend, we were completely worn out... but in a good way. We won't see S again until after Christmas so I'm glad we were able to do some fun things with her while she was here...

Monday, December 14, 2009



December 14, 2009

Outside my window... the sun has just come up and the sky is the palest of blues, with a pink haze lingering just above the horizon.

I am thinking...  but barely... it's a stretch. I'm tired today.

I am thankful...  that the Christmas shopping is done!

From the kitchen... we had our traditional before-Christmas tamale dinner last night. The menu: tamales, green chili, spanish rice and corn. Mmmm... I can't wait to eat the leftovers for lunch.

I am creating... I finished stripping the newly exposed logs in the kitchen. The next step is chinking, once that's done I'll treat the wood and that job will be done. Christmas crafts are almost finished...

I am going... to stay home today and get the stuff done that I wasn't able to do over the weekend.

I am reading... The Yarn Harlot, and the kids and I are reading The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (a yearly tradition) for our read-aloud.

I am hoping... for some resolution to an on-going problem.

I am hearing... the hum of the dishwasher, and some kid's show that M is watching on TV.

Around the house... I should take advantage of the warmth today and start cleaning up the barn and pasture. We are finally thawing out of the deep freeze we've been in, and there is plenty to do out there before the next snow...

One of my favorite things... clean, folded laundry, warm from the dryer (as opposed to towering piles of smelly, dirty laundry covering the basement floor!), Can you tell what I've been doing this morning?

A few plans for the rest of the week... a quiet week except for Wednesday when we are supposed to be two places at once. I'm not sure how I'm going to pull that one off...

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Simple Pleasures

Until yesterday this was our only TV.

Okay, to be perfectly accurate, this was our only TV in the house... Joe has a TV in the garage that he likes to watch while he putters.

But this was our main television. If we watched a movie together, this was the TV we watched it on. When we watched a favorite show, or M just zoned out in front of PBS, this was the only option available.

It's a small TV, but I didn't mind... I kind of planned it that way, not wanting a TELEVISION to be a main furnishing of house, and knowing that the larger that screen was, the more time we were likely to spend in front of it.

So I kept our little 15" TV and we were happy...

I didn't realize it but change started brewing on Thanksgiving when our son-in-law was here and sat down to watch a football game on our little TV. He seemed a little incredulous at first that the screen was so small. He mentioned that it was like watching a football game on a computer, and pulled his chair up to within about 2' of the TV.

As I peaked out from the kitchen I could see him leaning forward in the chair, intently watching... I wasn't sure if it was just a very exciting game (had him on the edge of his seat, you know...) or he was having trouble seeing the action.

Whatever... I had no plans to replace our TV. It worked fine, and we were satisfied.

Yesterday afternoon we were in the middle of school, when I saw my son-in-law's big black truck heading down the driveway.

Hmm... I wasn't expecting him. I wondered what's up?

I met him at the door and he came in carrying a flat screen TV... not a huge TV... but one with a screen bigger than our old TV.

He was up the stairs into the family room, disconnecting our little TV's cords within a minute, and when he left five minutes later we were the proud owners of a new TV.  (He and our daughter own several rental properties, including a furnished "ski condo" up in the mountains... They had just replaced all the TV's in the condo, and this was an "old" one... and no longer needed.)

Wow, you would not have believed the excitement in my house.You'd have thought M and R had never seen television before the way they sat glued to the screen watching some who-knows-what kid's show that was on.

I couldn't help but smile at how much they enjoy little things like this. We don't have a Wii, or any kind of fancy game system... we don't have cable, or a big screen TV, or TV's in every room.  (Those things just aren't important to us...)  The new TV really isn't that big, but the kids thought it was just amazing!

As I headed into the kitchen to start dinner, I heard R...

"It's just like IMAX in here! Let's turn off all the lights!!"

Simple pleasures are good...

E (dd#1) and son-in-law J on Thanksgiving

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I've got my finger's crossed that today is the day we can get out to town...

We've been snowed and iced in (mostly iced) since Saturday. We did make a quick trip to town on Sunday to get the Christmas tree and some odds and ends Joe needed to put the plumbing back together in the kitchen. Joe's SUV had no trouble making it, the roads were slippery but  he's very good at driving on ice... Unfortunately my car is NOT a car that gets around well (or even adequately!) in snow and ice, so we've been home since then.

It hasn't been too bad being home so much... We put the tree up and decorated the house on Sunday, and Monday and yesterday we got a lot of school done (a whole week's worth!) and I worked on my project with the logs in the kitchen..

We've also been out at the barn more than usual. When it's really cold I feed the animals an extra meal at midday to help them keep their temperature up, so we've been out there feeding and just taking care of the extra stuff that needs to be done when it's this cold.

 When I went out to feed yesterday evening, I found Tilly had terrible "snowballs" stuck to her hooves from walking around on the snow. The poor thing looked like she was walking around on high heels... her hooves were about 2" off the ground and she was walking on nothing but ice and snow that was packed into the center of her hoof. This is bad, of course, because the middle of her hoof isn't made to carry her weight... it's the soft part. I tried to clean the ice out with the hoof pick, but it was frozen solid and not moving. So I finished my other work, and went back to the house and thought for awhile, knowing Tilly was probably in pain and I needed to do something... but what?

I finally had an idea and went back out after the kids went to bed, armed with a big candle. After giving the animals more hay (it was 12 below by that point) I pulled Tilly into the barn and started working on her hooves... heating the hoof pick in the candle flame then picking at the ice, then heating the hoof pick... well,  you get the idea. Twenty minutes later my hands were aching with the cold and no longer moving properly, but Tilly was standing on her hooves, so I let her go and came back in the house.

Hopefully she'll be ok this morning. She looked so miserable last night... This has been a very long string of bitter cold temperatures for a little donkey that came from the dry heat of the Death Valley (the area  she ranged when she was living wild).

I too am so looking forward to it warming up... It can snow all it wants, I don't mind... but this bitter cold is hard. I'm ready for a little sun and thawing...

Monday, December 7, 2009



December 7, 2009

Outside my window...the sky is white, the ground is covered with snow, I see cold little finches  perched deep in the branches of the big ponderosa pine outside the dining room window... their tiny bodies are puffed up like little round balls as they try to stay warm.

I am thinking... about M's care (or lack thereof). The more I learn about the public mental health care system, the more I wonder how this is ever going to work..

I am thankful for... the beauty outside my window, and that Murphy and the donkeys are managing the extreme cold without any problems.

From the learning rooms... after working from a consumer math type curriculum for several months, I pulled the Saxon Math back out and gave each of the kids an assessment (covering material they worked on before doing consumer math). They BOTH did well on the assessment... They'd held onto the material, despite not seeing it for a while! It was a huge accomplishment for them both...

From the kitchen... After having it torn apart for almost a week, I once again have a kitchen that is fully functional!!

I am creating... I'm still working on Christmas crafts, and am going to start trying to restore some newly exposed logs in the kitchen.

I am going... nowhere. We are snowed and iced in. (The snow isn't that deep, but it's too icy to chance the 5 miles into town... my car is terrible on snow and ice!)

I am hoping... my plan for restoring the logs in the kitchen works.

I am hearing... R's footsteps up in the loft, some kids show on TV that M is watching, and Quin growling, playing with his toy fish, while M mimics the sounds he's making.

Around the house...the old new countertops are gone, and the new new countertops are installed and look great. (I've got pictures of the work... as soon as I get them uploaded I'll post)

One of my favorite things...the way the house smells so fresh and "piney" after putting the Christmas tree up.

A few plans for the rest of the week... the rest of the week wil depend on the weather. Hopefully it will start to warm up soon.

Words I've been pondering...

"It is never any good dwelling on goodbyes. It is not the being together that it prolongs, it is the parting."

Elizabeth Charlotte Lucy Bibescu

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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Zucchini Bread

Yesterday's sun is gone and it's been snowing off and on all day... It's too cold outside to go out and enjoy the snow, so we've been staying inside... looking for things to do.

Since I have enough zucchini (run through the blender and frozen) to last until approximately 2015, I thought it might be a good day to make zucchini bread.

Here's the recipe, just in case anyone else is wondering what to do with a freezer full of zucchini...
(Mostly) Healthy Zucchini Oatmeal Bread

3 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup applesauce

1 tbsp maple flavoring (I buy "Mapleline" brand, Wal-Mart usually has it)

2 cups blended zucchini

2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp salt

1/2 cup regular oatmeal (not flavored or instant) plus a little extra to sprinkle on top of loaves

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

Mix first 5 ingredients, then add remaining ingredients and mix well. Pour into greased and floured 9 x5" loaf pans (recipe makes two loaves), sprinkle top with extra oatmeal if desired. Bake at 350 for 1 hour or until done.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Brrr... It's still plenty cold here, but the sun is out so at least it doesn't look as cold!

We are off today to the Children's Hospital to donate blood. I've been donating every couple of months for a while now, and really love being able to do it. Someday I'd like to be able to donate platelets... you can donate those every month instead of having to wait two months, but the donation process for platelets takes a couple of hours and I don't think M and R would sit and wait that long. (Donating whole blood is very quick and easy... we're probably in and out in 20 minutes!)

(the donor center at TCH)

M has decided he wants to start donating blood too. I asked about it the last time we were there, but because of his developmental disability, they said they didn't think he could manage it. I let it go... (temporarily)... even though I know M would be fine giving blood. He had his blood drawn weekly, and now every other week, for 6-7 years now. Getting stuck is no big deal to him.

When I made my appointment the other day, I asked again about M, asking if someone taking meds for schizophrenia could donate, and they said yes. So... we'll see.

If you don't already, think about going in regularly to donate blood... It's easy, (almost) painless, and costs nothing but your time. It's a great way to give a gift to someone who really needs it... a gift that can't be bought at the store.

Edited to add:

M was not allowed to donate blood. I wasn't allowed to stay with him, and help him, when they asked all the questions... (have you lived outside the U.S., have you had a transfusion, etc.) and he didn't understand one of the questions and answered it incorrectly... and that incorrect answer excluded him from donating blood. I explained that he hadn't understood the question and answered it incorrectly, but it didn't matter... He was very disappointed.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Dang, it's cold outside!

It's been snowing all morning, and we've warmed up to a toasty 10 degrees.  Needless to say we'll be staying home today... I'll make a fire later to take the chill off the house, and after dinner I'll let the kids talk me into making s'mores. 

I'd make a fire now except I'm still so chilled from going out to the barn earlier to feed the animals that I can't face the cold walk out to the wood pile to bring in more wood.

It seemed to take forever at the barn this morning... which is probably why I got so cold. I had to clean out the stalls, then clean the snow out of the feeders and move them inside so Murphy and the donkeys didn't have to stand outside to eat (when the weather is dry they'd rather be outside, but I feed them inside when it's snowing or raining). 

Once that was done I fed them, and broke the ice on the little feeder before filling it again with buckets of water brought from the barn (too cold to use the hose). Then I put Tilly's coat on her and filled more water buckets to put in the stalls (it's important that they drink enough when it's cold, but they don't always want to).

It's actually kind of fun working out in the barn when it's this cold... I like the way the hammer I use to break the ice... wet with water from the trough... becomes glazed with ice before I even have a chance to put it away.

I love the warm fuzziness of Murphy and the donkeys, and the way their breath steams in front of their nostrils.

I even love the walk through the dark to the barn... the way the frozen snow crunches under my foot with each step... and how wonderfully warm and welcoming the house feels after being outside when it's really cold.

I guess I'm easily entertained...

All in all I was only out there about 30 minutes, and was bundled up (flannel lined jeans...

...sweatshirt, thick "hunting" socks inside my mud boots, heavy coat, scarf, hat, and two pair of gloves...

...snowmobile gloves inside work gloves. But even with all that, I was COLD when I got back inside again and still haven't warmed up.

I think multiple cups of hot chocolate is probably the only cure for my chills...

Mmm... I'd better get started.

Monday, November 30, 2009




November 30, 2009

Outside my window... it's still dark, and the stars are absolutely brilliant. I went to the barn early this morning to feed, and the stars were so bright and shimmery against the velvety blackness of the sky that I just had to stop for a few minutes to look at them.  There are so many little miracles all around us, and yet they are so easy to miss..

I am thinking... about the same old thing, I wonder if the time will come when these thoughts don't always intrude upon my quiet moments

I am thankful for... so many things, too many to mention, but especially that Thanksgiving was a good day, and for the blessing of all of us being here together to celebrate.

From the learning rooms... R is doing better with her Market Math, she finally seems to be getting it, and M is breezing through his math book. They both finished their "Wordly Wise" books... I should make a run up to Denver and pick up the next book in the series.  And I'm excited to see both of them actually beginning to use the cursive writing we've been working on for so long...

From the kitchen... I made  (whole grain) pizza and breadsticks for last night for dinner. Mmm... homemade pizza is good.

I am wearing... blue jean, black henley, denim "Longhopes" shirt

I am creating... still working on Christmas crafts

I am going... to try to keep an open mind about M's care

I am reading... Let Me Hear Your Voice: A Family's Triumph Over Autism, by Catherine Marshall. It's a book that has  caused a good friend of mine a lot of pain, I told her I'd read it and tell her what I thought of it.

I am hoping... that we have an uneventful December... no crises or catastrophes, please.

I am hearing... the clock ticking and Emma snoring... the house is very quiet (kids are asleep).

Around the house... hopefully the countertop guy will start ripping out our countertops today. I can't wait! (This will be our second set of new countertops in 6 months, but that's a whole other blog post...)

One of my favorite things... putting up the Christmas decorations, this house was just made for reds and greens. I haven't started decorating yet, we'll probably get the tree next weekend.

A few plans for the rest of the week... it's a busy week.  Lunch with S and her former foster mom today, tomorrow - pdoc appointment, Wednesday - horseback riding, Thursday - STAY HOME, and Friday - go to TCH and donate blood.

Here is picture I am sharing... it's the wise men from my favorite Nativity set.

Visit Peggy's blog for more about The Simple Woman's Daybook

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving morning musings...

The pies (one pumpkin, one peach, one apple) are finished.

The rolls and bread have been mixed, kneaded, raised, shaped, raised and finally baked. They are just waiting to be warmed...

There are still potatoes to peel, cook and mash, casseroles to put together, salads to assemble... and of course the turkey to cook.

One grown daughter is home, the rest of the family will be here in a few hours. The house will be full of children, laughing, delicious smells, the joy of all being together... as well as memories of past Thanksgivings and a bit of sadness... missing loved ones who can't be here.

I got up early this morning to grab a few quiet minutes before the noise and busy-ness of the holiday begins. I wanted to post a Happy Thanksgiving message here, and also to take note of at least a few of the many things I have to be thankful for.

It's been a very difficult year in many ways, but I've been so blessed in the things that are really important.

Family ~ Joe, the man who for almost 33 years has put up with me (for those of you who know me, nothing else needs to be said!), and five amazing children, each of them people I really like, enjoy spending time with, and am proud to know (and could say that even if they weren't my children!). My grandchildren... miracles all... and a son-in-law who is a good man, and makes my daughter happy. I've also been so blessed with "family" that aren't related to us... Granny, and S, for example... people who are part of our family, part of our lives, and have a place in our hearts... even though there was a time when we were strangers to each other.

Health ~ what an incredible blessing.

Woodstone Prairie ~ I do love where we live. The fields, wildlife, and quiet of it nurture me. It allows me to have Murphy, Tilly and Tucker (who I sometimes think of as my "therapists"... they are very good listeners), and gives M and R the freedom to just be themselves. To go outside and play without the dangers that being developmentally delayed and living in the city would bring. R can have her horse, and M has space to just be himself... to howl, or run around banging sticks around on things, or even sometimes to just sit glassy eyed up by the road, watching the occasional car go by. Somehow his illness doesn't seem as BIG out here...

I could go on and on but if I took the time to type out all my blessings the turkey would never get cooked (and we'd have nothing but rolls and pie for Thanksgiving dinner!). So I should stop now and head out to the barn to feed.
Happy Thanksgiving!!!!!!

Have a wonderful day...

Monday, November 23, 2009



November 23, 2009

Outside my window... the sky is gray and it's snowing lightly.

I am thinking...about the same old same old problem and what to do about it. I think what I'm doing is probably the mental equivalent of having a sore tooth and not being able to leave it alone. Too bad there isn't some way to get a quick shot of novocaine and  have the problem "extracted"...

I am thankful... we made it through another weekend with S, I feel like we're pushing the envelope with this, but (so far) M is handling having her here amazingly well.

From the learning rooms... a friend gave us an American History course on DVD that ties in beautifully with the history curriculum we're doing. Each lesson is 30 minutes, and it's a high school course but the instructor is engaging enough that I think M and R will still be able to get a lot out of it.

From the kitchen.. getting ready for the big meal on Thursday. I need to remember to start thawing the turkey!

I am creating... some Christmas gifts, nothing fancy... just some little things I thought would be fun.

I am going... to stay home most of today I think, tomorrow we're heading north to help B (dd#2) move, then we'll probably stay close to home for the rest of the week (no black Friday shopping for us!)
I am reading.. nothing, I've had too much on my mind to read much lately.

I am hoping... (yes, I am always hoping)

I am hearing... the house is silent, Joe's left for work, the dogs are settled, Tilly isn't even insisting on her breakfast yet.

Around the house... I'm not getting much done.

One of my favorite things... the sweetness of the children (and young adults) I know who are developmentally disabled, including M, R and S.

A few plans for the rest of the and hassle the insurance guy, call and hassle the countertop guy, call (but don't hassle) Social Security about M, help daughter move, make Thanksgiving dinner for 15  (or 18, depending on if some friends come or not).

A picture I'm sharing...

These are favorites of mine from Thanksgiving of 2005.
My grandson J...

..playing peek a boo with Emma.

Visit Peggy's blog for more about The Simple Woman's Daybook

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Yesterday was another beautiful day, so we spent most of the afternoon outside. I took a bunch of pictures, thinking it might be a good time for a picture post.

The first thing we did was let Tilly and Tucker out into the big pasture to graze.
M getting Tilly's halter on...

R getting Tucker's.

R kept Murphy in the pen and groomed him and got him ready to ride...

It looks like she's giving him a talking to about something... and check out his ear turned towards her, he's definitely paying attention to whatever discussion they are having!

While R was doing that, I was showing S how to drive the little lawn tractor so she could harrow the pasture. (The kids love any excuse to drive that little tractor!)

I love this picture... the body language says it all. S was harrowing and the tractor got stuck in the mud, then one thing led to another and it ended up rolling backwards over the homemade harrow. (Notice the wood post just in front of the back tires? It's part of the harrow... We couldn't go forward, but we couldn't go backwards either... the tractor was really stuck.)

We ended up having to lift the tractor off the harrow to get it going again...
S back at work, looking much happier this time!

R rode out in the front pasture...

... then went up and got the mail.

 It's cool, she doesn't even have to dismount to get the mail... She just eases Murphy over very close to the mailbox, leans all the way down (he's a tall horse!) and grabs the mail out of the box.

S rode too, all by herself... which she hasn't done for awhile. Murphy did fine, although I couldn't tell if he was listening to her and doing what she wanted or just meandering around the pasture while she held on.

We finished up with a quick walk up the road... I'm looking back down the hill, towards the house, at R on Murphy, and S.

M was still harrowing (it's a good job for people who can be a little obsessive!), as we walked up the road and just as I took that last picture I could hear him screeching and howling as he drove the tractor around the already harrowed field.

So I swung around and took this picture... "The Mad Harrower"

He said he was making crop circles. :)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

craftiness part 2

The other craft we've been working on lately is making cinnamon/applesauce ornaments. We'll probably use some to make garlands (also using dried fruit) and some just alone as ornaments or gift tags.

They're super easy to make... just mix equal parts of applesauce (store bought works best because it's not as chunky) and cinnamon. I used about 1 cup of each, and it made about 25 ornaments.  (Yeah, you need a lot of cinnamon, but if you buy the giant size of cinnamon at Sam's club it's not too expensive...)

Mix the applesauce and cinnamon together..

(M gave up on the spoon and just used his hands)

You can add a little Elmer's glue to the mixture if you want, but ours held together just fine without it.

Once it's mixed,  roll it out between two pieces of waxed paper... not too thin, or the ornaments will be brittle.

(M getting ready to roll his out...)

Then use cookie cutters to cut your ornaments out.  Remember to make a hole in the top of each ornament, before they dry, for your ribbon or cord to go through.

I just dried ours in a sunny window, on waxed paper. It took about 36 hours for them to completely dry... Once they were dry enough to turn, I turned them over from time to time so they would dry a little faster. Mmm... they smell so good!

And here they are, all dry and ready to be made into Christmas decorations...

We are going to string them up in a real garland (with dried fruit, etc) later... but this gives you the general idea. :)

Friday, November 20, 2009

It's not all snow storms, wind, and ice in Colorado, at 6,300', in November.

Here's the flip side...

It's about 60 degrees outside this afternoon and sunny, the last snow is almost completely melted away and I spent "quiet time" on the front porch, watching the animals graze (periodically chasing Murphy out of the front yard!)...

...and serenading the rabbits, deer and any other animals that might be close enough to hear.

 (Thankfully the neighbors live far enough away NOT to hear ;) )

The past couple of days have been rough, but that hour outside left me sun-warmed and feeling good.
I hope tomorrow is warm too, it might be a good day to start fixing up the dog house/chicken coop!