Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I've been living in the barn....

... since yesterday.

It's a good thing the weather hasn't been too bad.

Blaze seemed fine on Sunday, but when I went out to feed yesterday morning he was lame in a back leg. He couldn't bear any weight on it, and shuddered in pain when I touched him anywhere (from the hip down) on that leg.

After 30 minutes or so of total panic... imagining he'd somehow broken his leg and would have to be put down, and wandering all over the pasture (in a snowstorm!) looking to see if I could see any sign of how he'd injured himself... I shut him in his stall, fed him, and headed to the house to call the vet.

It took the vet 6 (yes, SIX) hours to get here, and he pretty quickly decided that Blaze has an abscess in his hoof. It looks like he stepped on something sharp at some point (probably out in the big pasture) and it's become infected. So... the vet gave Blaze three shots, and gave me a list of instructions. Soak the hoof for 30 minutes at a time, 3-4 times a day, in as hot a water as Blaze can stand. Oh, and throw a handful of epson salts into the water. When it's done soaking, slather some gooey poultice stuff on it and wrap it up. He can have bute if he really needs it. Call if he's not better in 2 days.

I've soaked his hoof every few hours (during the day) since the vet left yesterday... I've spent more time with Blaze lately then with my dh! 

It's actually been pretty relaxing out there though, once I figured out the easiest way to get the soaking, etc. done. (One of the hardest parts was keeping the water hot all the way from the house to the barn, when it's only 20 degrees outside... like it was this morning!)

I've spent hours looking at this...

 Poor Blaze... he was so sore yesterday... but he's doing better today, and is such a good sport about standing with his hoof in a bucket of water.

I'm getting pretty good at wrapping his hoof... it almost looks like I know what I'm doing.

Adding to the mayhem, Tilly was down this morning when I went out to feed... I went early, so I'd have time to soak Blaze's hoof, and was very surprised to find only Tucker and Blaze waiting for me at the fence. No Tilly. That is highly unusual... All three animals are usually waiting (Tilly braying) for me by 6:00. In (another!) panic I ran to the barn (as fast as I could carrying buckets of boiling water!), 
knowing something was the matter with Tilly, or she would have been at the fence.

Sure enough, she was down, wouldn't eat, obviously sick... I thought she'd colicked again. But after watching her for awhile, and talking to my favorite donkey lady (at Longhopes), it became clear that although she was in pain... probably from her joints... she wasn't colicking. (Her hips and back legs are bad, we don't know why... possibly past injury, past abuse, we'll probably never know.) We decided that the weeks of warm weather, followed by the cold and storms was probably just too much for her. So I started dosing her up with an anti-inflammatory, and I put her coat on for extra warmth, and she was herself again by afternoon.

Unfortunately, we have more snow coming tomorrow and the possibility of another big storm on Saturday. Poor Tilly... it looks like it will be awhile before she feels much spring sun warmth on those achy old bones.

Monday, March 30, 2009


The kids got to participate in a Young Eagles program through our homeschool group this weekend, and they had a blast!

Here's their experience... in pictures.

Friday night, ground school. It was tough but they both managed to sit and (mostly) attend for almost 2 hours!

Early the next morning we were up and on our way out to the airport.

After getting the paperwork taken care of, each of the kids was paired with a pilot and headed out to the planes.

R listening as her pilot tells her about the plane...

... then learning what the stick does.

 Here's M, getting ready to take off.

And R's plane, ready to head out...

 M, back on the ground after his flight and feeling pretty proud of himself!

Both kids got to take the control of "their" planes during flight. R's pilot let her fly during most of the time they were in the air. M's just let him fly for about 10 minutes of his flight...  but they were both thrilled to get to "drive".

The kids with their pilots and certificates!

The Young Eagles program is incredible, what an opportunity for the kids. They both can't wait to go again!

Friday, March 27, 2009

still snowing...

The animals are hunkered down in the barn...

 And the kids did school in front of the fire yesterday....

Sweet Pea found the perfect place to wait out the blizzard...

... in the corner of the living room, with her back pressed up tight to the warm radiator.

The snow is supposed to stop sometime today... then we'll start the digging out.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

It's about time...

...for some snow!
Elbert/Central And East Douglas Counties Above 6000 Feet
Blizzard Warning:
Issued at: 7:43 AM MDT 3/26/09, expires at: 10:45 AM MDT 3/26/09
Blizzard warning remains in effect until 6 am mdt Friday.
A blizzard warning remains in effect until 6 am mdt Friday.
Snow will become widespread over the entire area by midday, and become heavy at times, especially this afternoon and evening. North to northeast winds of 20 to 30 mph with gusts to around 45 mph will produce blizzard conditions and considerable drifting snow on the plains by afternoon. The worst conditions are expected to be in areas south of a line from boulder to akron.
Total snow accumulations by late Thursday night will range from 6 to 12 inches across the northeast plains, with 8 to 16 inches of snow from the denver metro area to limon, and one to two feet in douglas and western elbert counties (edited to add: that's where we are). The snow and prolonged winds will also produce considerable drifting of snow.
Precautionary/preparedness actions,
A blizzard warning means severe winter weather conditions are occurring or imminent. Sustained wind and/or frequent wind gusts of 35 mph or higher will combine with considerable falling and blowing snow to produce widespread visibilities below one quarter of a mile. Travel will be extremely dangerous and is discouraged in these whiteout conditions. If you must travel, have a winter survival kit with you. If you get stranded, stay with your vehicle and wait for help to arrive.
Time to send the kids out for kindling and firewood (just in case..).

Hmmm.... I wonder if I can talk dh into leaving work early.

Here's a "before" picture... we'll see what "after" looks like.

Update... three hours later and it's getting pretty snowy out there!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Our school day...

After the holidays, when I was doing all that decluttering and reorganizing, one of the things I reorganized was our homeschool schedule. Both kids do best with plenty of very predictable structure, and for a long time I'd been working from a "plan" of sorts in my head, of what we needed to get done each day. I decided though, that it was time to write the plan down and tweak it a bit to make sure everything got covered fairly regularly.

I ended up with a schedule (that doesn't seem like the right word, but I can't think of a better one) that we use each day. I slid it into a plastic sleeve so I could mark things off with a dry erase marker as we get them done.

 Here's the schedule:

We usually start the week with lots of energy, so I bunch up a lot of academics on Monday and Tuesday. When I reorganized our school time, I gave a lot of thought to how much I'd like the kids to consistently get done in each subject each week (and how much they are, realistically, capable of), then broke the week's work into 3-4 lessons in each subject. So by Wednesday, if we've worked hard, they are starting to finish up the week's lessons, or close to that point. Our school day on Thursday is lighter, often just finishing things up (unless we've taken a day off during the week for a field trip or something). I try not to plan much for Friday, because if the kids have worked hard all week, they are tired by then... so I try to save that day for field trips, working at the library, art or cooking projects, etc.

We use Saxon for math (R is in book 3 and uses TouchMath techniques with her regular Saxon, M is in 6/5), Write SourceExplode the Code, and Spellwell for language arts, Evan-Moor (and unit studies) for geography, Story of the World (and unit studies, and living books) for history, the Italic series for handwriting (I'm still hoping they'll learn cursive!), the EdCon Classic series for literature and reading comprehension, and for science we kind of use a mish-mash of unit studies, real life learning (nature studies, etc) Science Wizkits, and anything else I can find to supplement with. We also have a read aloud time every evening (we're reading, again, through all the Little House books right now... ) and also play games every evening. I consider both those things part of our school time too...

 I'm going to add a geography unit study soon (maybe even this week)... I thought it would be fun to do more in-depth learning about some individual countries. It will be pretty basic, we'll read about the country, find it on the world map (and hopefully they'll be able to find it again without me!), read from the "Children Just Like Me" book about children from that country, learn a little about the art and culture of that country, do some map work, and end the unit study by going out to eat at a restaurant serving food from that country. I think we'll notebook our work... 

 The first country we're going to study is Japan. Here are some of the books and materials I've gathered for it...

I think it will be a lot of fun...

It's been good to have things organized... With M being 16 1/2 already, I feel like the end of his homeschooling is just around the corner, and feel a little panicky thinking about all the things I still want/need to teach him. Thankfully we won't be held to some arbitrary "end of school" date... I'm hoping he continues to "do school" for a few more years, but I do feel a little like we are heading down the home stretch right now... and I'd better make our school time as productive as possible.  

Our classroom...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

... it's been a rough few days.

One of dh's brothers (T)  has been diagnosed with cancer. We won't know how bad it is (if it has spread, etc.) until after he has surgery. We are broken hearted for T... Even if the cancer hasn't spread, the surgery alone is life-changing. T is such an amazing person, and life has already thrown him what seems like more than his fair share of challenges... He is a strong person though, and we are all hoping for the best.

I also got word that M's pdoc is closing her outpatient practice, and letting all her patients go. She sent out letters to let parents know that they need to find a new pdoc for their kids within the next few weeks.
I haven't gotten the letter yet, but think that's probably more connected to our poor mail service than it is to us not being included in the mass mailing.

It's hard to think about dealing with M's illness with this doctor... she's been his pdoc for more than 7 years, and diagnosed his schizophrenia. For the past few years, she's been my only (mostly) consistent support as I've dealt with the ups and downs of treatment resistant sz. We haven't always agreed about M's treatment, and there were times I didn't even know if I could continue to work with her... but even through those times there has been affection between us, and a strong and mutual respect for each other. It's hard to think about doing this without her...

Edited to add: I just got off the phone with the pdoc. Her superiors are insisting that she dramatically decrease her outpatient load, she is able though, to keep a few patients. M is one of five outpatients that she'll be able to treat.

It feels good to take a deep breath again...

Please keep T in your prayers... Thanks.

Thankfully M is doing pretty well right now. When he's unstable he's not able to focus, and purposeful activity is rare... sometimes he seems to not even be able to think. But when he's fairly stable he can be incredibly creative.

He worked the other day making a game. First he decided how the game was going to be played, and made a game board and cards for the game. Then he went through our bins of Playmobile toys and chose characters that matched the cards he'd made.

Here are some of the card and characters...

... and the finished game.

It turned out to be a lot of fun to play... it's fast moving, interesting, and easy to understand... he did a great job. I love to see him doing well enough to be creative like this...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St Patrick's Day

We are of primarily Irish heritage, and have always worked to instill in our children a strong sense of the dignity and richness of their Celtic ancestry.

We are NOT the kind of Irish who put on green tinsel wigs, or color our food green on St Patrick's Day...

We are so far above that.

We take St Patrick's Day very seriously...

We received a surprise the other day in the mail. It was from my brother who lives in Ireland... It was a wonderful St Patrick's Day package, and inside we found a book about Granuaile (the pirate queen of Clare Island) for the kids, and some lovely and very tasteful Irish keepsakes to accessorize our St Patrick's Day wardrobe.

I thought he'd enjoy seeing us arrayed in all our finery...
For you Steve.

(M slept through the picture taking... but we took his picture anyway)

R expressing disgust, indignation and outrage (or something like that) at the orange on her hat.

I'm ready for a formal evening out...

Even the animals insisted on celebrating this momentous occasion...

Happy St Pat's Steve!

You can tell the bloggers...

...on a field trip, because they are the ones taking all the pictures.

I recently blogged about the Sushiology class the kids and I went to with some people from our homeschool group. I took plenty of pictures during the class (figuring it would be a good thing to blog about), and so did several of the other moms.

Quite a few members of our homeschool group have blogs, so I was going around to those blogs this morning, reading and catching up... and I found a couple other posts about the sushiology class. Heather at Life As We Know It wrote about it, and so did Kelly at Caution: Family in Progress.
I'm trying to remember if anyone at the class.... who doesn't have a blog... took pictures.
I can't think of anyone... :)

In other news.... saw our first robin of the spring the other day.

I hope they nest in the tree outside the classroom window again... (this picture is from a few years ago)

And we've got pigeons nesting in the barn, and the red tail hawks are building their nest in the huge evergreens on the hill behind the barn. It won't be long before we have lots of feathered babies!

(This is a picture I took in 2005 of a red tail hawk fledgling who was fussing at me from the tree outside our dining room window.)

Monday, March 16, 2009

a short pause...

...before another busy week.

The past few weeks we've been doing and running a lot, and this week is going to be no different. It's good that M is in a place now (mentally) that he can manage being out and about more... but I'm such a homebody that I really prefer just spending time at home puttering around.

But instead of staying home, we've been busy with classes, field trips, appointments, etc.

One very cool thing we did last week was to take a "Sushiology" class with our homeschool group. The class was very generously offered (for free!) by the Mikuni Restaurant in Denver, and was the perfect mix of being fun enough to keep the kid's attention but interesting enough that the adults also enjoyed it!
Here's Taro, our teacher (also owner of Mikuni and the Master Chef) teaching us about the ingredients needed to make sushi...

and then making some (which we all got to sample when he was done!).

M, and the rest of the kids, even got to go up and make sushi rolls of their own.

Mmmmm..... R loved hers.

M was not so sure, and decided to "bring his home for Dad" (another way of saying there's no way I'm going to eat this!)


It was truly an awesome class!

B (dd#2) is on spring break this week, and she and K (dd#3) came down yesterday. M and R like to take their big sisters for walks out in the big pasture... Here's M showing B something (she said later that he gave her the "bone tour" showing her all the places he and R have found evidence of coyote dining)...

... and R and K (with a friend) taking their walk.

They all ended up playing in the dogwood thicket down in the corner of the big pasture (it's a great place to crawl into to make hide-outs, tease your big sisters, etc), so I went down and took a picture.
B and M are in the back, sitting down are K, her friend, and R.

B will stay through St Patrick's Day, and then she'll head back home for the rest of her break.

So....this week is looking like another busy one.  The kids are swimming with the Special Olympics swim team, so they'll have swim practice. We also have a birthday party to go to, and M has an appointment with the cardiologist (his tachycardia scares me sometimes!), R has her CYT class, and we're having some people from our homeschool group over for a "Celebrate Spring" class on Friday. Tomorrow we'll have our big St Patrick's Day dinner (and maybe a little dancing afterwards!).

I can see we're going to have to be creative about getting school done this week...

Thursday, March 12, 2009


My brother Steve left a comment asking what time I get up...

I get up at 4:45, Steve.

Yeah, that probably sounds a bit extreme but there are reasons for it.

So (just 'cause I've got nothing better to do) I thought I'd give you a peek at what my mornings look like:
 The alarm goes off at 4:45 and I turn it off knowing I can steal a few more minutes of sleep before having to get dh up at 5:00. I really like being able to "steal" those minutes... it kind of makes me feel like I'm getting away with something (even though all I'm getting away with is getting up 15 minutes earlier than I need to!)

Dh likes it when I keep him company in the early morning, so instead of going back to bed (which is so very tempting some days) I make his coffee and start his breakfast. Then I sit glassy eyed at the computer, checking email, reading the news, or blogging (which might help explain the unique spelling and use of words you'll sometimes find in my writing), while he stumbles around the kitchen in a half-awake daze. (Neither of us are at our best at 5:00 in the morning...)

After he leaves for work around 5:30, I usually straighten the kitchen and get some laundry started.  Because our laundry area is in the basement, I can't do laundry when M is having a rough day. I just can't leave him alone in the main part of the house for long enough to get anything done. So... since I never know which days are going to be rough ones, I try to get a little laundry done each morning before he gets up... just in case that's all I can get done. I also grab a quick piece of toast for breakfast sometime before bundling up to go out and do the barn work.

 Barn work is another thing that is virtually impossible to get done on M's rough days but, unlike laundry, it can't just wait for another day... so I need to get it done early in the morning.

I usually head out to the barn by 6 - 6:15. I feed the animals, break the ice on the water and refill whichever troughs need it, and clean their stalls and the paddock. If I've bought any grain or other barn supplies, I haul them out to the barn then too. When there is enough time I might do some extra straightening, it's so quiet and peaceful in the early morning barn... I usually stretch that time out as much as I can.

 Sometimes I also walk during this time... just laps around the big pasture (my lame excuse for an exercise program). It really is a lovely time to be outside... and I never get tired of watching the sun rise.
I have to be back in the house by 6:30-6:40 so I can get a quick shower before M gets up (usually at 7). He needs such close supervision that if I don't get my shower while he's asleep, I just don't get it... (and after the barn work I really NEED it!).

Once M is up, my day is more limited... When he's having a hard day, he needs almost constant line of sight supervision and frequent "managing" to get through the day. When he's having a good day, I can do more normal things... like laundry, or working outside, or reading.

So Steve, there's the very long answer to your very short question. I do get up early, but there are reasons for it and I really don't mind too much...

 And before I forget, I should answer the question my sister left in a comment... Yes, an Appendix is a cross between a Quarterhorse and a Thoroughbred.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

It was cold (only 14 degrees!) and snowing this morning when I went out to the barn to feed... It was still dark then, but as soon as the sun came up I headed back out to take some pictures...

 It took awhile for the sun to work it's way through the clouds...

But eventually the blue sky started peeking through...

Emma and Quin playing in the snow....