Wednesday, November 16, 2011

How in the world?!

...I've been wondering... did a city girl like me end up .... well.... where I ended up yesterday?

Please note: this blog post is rated PG-13

Murphy, our Appendix gelding has been looking been looking, from certain angles, a bit "stallion-like" the past couple of days.  He's had some swelling... um... down there, if you know what I mean.

R noticed it first, and when I looked it was obvious that something was going on down there. But what?

Hmm... what to do?

Call the vet, of course... then, when he doesn't call me back, look online for advice. (I've heard that there is a definite shortage of large animal vets these days and I can believe it... our equine vet is ALWAYS impossibly busy!) The vet finally called me back and confirmed what I'd read online... a horse's sheath can become swollen if he's just standing around (like Murphy was doing during the cold snap we recently had) or when the sheath needs cleaning.

I was hoping, of course, that a little exercise was all it would take to set him to rights... So R and I lunged him, and took him for walks, and turned him out into the big pasture for a nice meander around to look for some grass that might still be green.

Sadly, it wasn't enough... even with all that exercise he was still looking as if someone had hung a couple of baseballs from his belly.

Which meant it was time to clean his sheath... and as I prepared for the journey "inside" I found myself wondering just HOW I'd gone from a civilized one dog owning person with a nice tidy life in the suburbs, to someone who was actually considering putting my hand where Murphy apparently needed a bit of help with his hygiene.

How come no one ever talks about sheath cleaning when they talk about the joys of horse ownership?

It seems like this is something everyone even remotely considering buying a male horse should be educated about so they can make an informed decision about whether or not they really want to take that step (and maybe decide to buy a mare instead... or even just settle for a hamster).

Anyway... Murphy's sheath is now clean. He wasn't crazy about the process, but only kicked me once... (and he didn't really mean it, and I saw it coming anyway ;) ).

If you have never experienced the joy of cleaning your gelding's sheath, and have no idea what I'm talking about, I am posting what is supposed to be the classic list of instructions for your enjoyment and education.

Read through and count your blessings that you weren't here to help!

Step 1) Check to make sure there are no prospective boyfriends, elderly neighbors, or Brownie troops with a line of sight to the proceedings. Though of course they’re probably going to show up unexpectedly ANYWAY once you’re in the middle of things. Prepare a good explanation.

2) Trim your fingernails short. Assemble horse, hose, and your sense of humor (plus, ideally, Excalibur cleanser and perhaps thin rubber gloves).
Note: ALWAYS wear gloves!!! ALWAYS!!!

3) Use hose (or damp sponge) to get the sheath and its inhabitant wet. Uh, that is, do this in a *civilized* fashion with due warning to the horse; he is apt to take offense if an icy-cold hose blasts unexpectedly into his personal regions.

4) Now introduce your horse to Mr Hand (grin). What I find safest is to stand facing the horse’s head, with my shoulder and hip snugly against the horse’s thigh and hip so that if he makes any suspicious move such as raising his leg, I can feel it right away and am in any case pressed so close that all he can do is shove, not really kick. The horse should be held by an assistant or by your free hand, NOT tied fast to a post or to crossties. He may shift around a good bit if he’s not happy with Mr Hand’s antics, but don’t be put off by that; as long as you are patient and gradual, and stick close to his side, he’ll get over it.

Remember that it would be most unladylike of you to simply make a direct grab for your horse’s Part. Give the horse a clue about what’s on the program. Rest your hand against his belly, and then slide it back til you are entering The Home of the Actual Private Part. When you reach this first region of your destination, lube him up good with Excalibur or whatever you’re using.

If the outer part of his sheath is really grungy you will feel little clods and nubblies of smegma peeling off as you grope around in there. Patiently and gently expedite their removal.

5) Thus far, you have probably only been in the outer part of the sheath. The Part Itself, you’ll have noticed, is strangely absent. That’s because it has retired shyly to its inner chambers. Roll up them thar sleeves and follow in after it.

6) As you and Mr Hand wend your way deeper into the sheath, you will encounter what feels like a small portal that opens up into a chamber beyond. Being attentive to your horse’s reaction, invite yourself in. You are now in the inner sanctum of The Actual Private Part. It’s hiding in there towards the back, trying to pretend it isn’t there. Say hi and wave to it . No, really, work your finger back and forth around the sides of it. If the horse won’t drop, this is your only shot at removing whatever dried smegma is clinging to the surface of the Part itself. So, gently explore around it, pulling out whatever crusty topsoil you find there. Use more water and more Excalibur if necessary to loosen attached gunk.

7) When Mr Hand and the Actual Private Part have gotten to know each other pretty well, and the Part feels squeaky clean all around, there remains only one task: checking for, and removing, the bean. The bean is a pale, kidney-shaped accumulation of smegma in a small pouch just inside the urethra. Not all horses accumulate a bean, but IME the majority do, even if they have no visible external smegma.

So: the equine urethra is fairly large diameter, and indeed will permit you to very gently insinuate one of your slimmer fingers inside the urethral opening. Do so, and explore upwards for what will feel like a lump or “pea” buried no more than, I dunno, perhaps 3/4″ in from the opening. If you do encounter a bean, gently and sympathetically persuade it out with your finger. This may require a little patience from BOTH Mr Hand AND the horse, but the horse will be happier and healthier once it’s accomplished. In the rare event that the bean is too enormous for your finger to coax out, you might try what I did (in desperation) last month on my orange horse: Wrap thumb and index finger around the end of the Part and squeeze firmly to extrude the bean. Much to my surprise it worked and orange horse did NOT kill me for doing it and he does not seem to have suffered any permanent damage as a result ;-> I have never in my life seen another bean that enormous, though.

Now all that’s left to do is make a graceful exit and rinse the area very thoroughly in apology for the liberties you’ve taken . A hose will be MUCH easier to use here than just a sponge and bucket, IME. Make sure to direct the water into the Part’s inner retreat too, not merely the outer part of the sheath. This may require you to enfold the end of the hose in your hand and guide it up there personally.

9) Ta-da, you are done! Say, “Good horsie” and feed him lots of carrots. Watch him make funny faces at the way your hands smell. Hmm. Well, perhaps there is ONE more step…

10) Figure out how to explain all this to your mother (or the kid from next door, or the meter reader, or whoever else you’ve just realized has been standing in the barn doorway speechlessly watching the entire process.

Now, go thou forth and clean that Part!

By Patricia Harris Copyright 1998

Since cleaning his sheath Murphy's swelling is going down, thank goodness, and I think we've managed to avoid the vet needing to make a trip out. :)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Cody takes a stand...

Our little sheltie, Quin, has allergies.

Except for heartworm, he's completely unvaccinated... because he's highly allergic to the vaccinations he should have... like rabies, etc. They make him blow up like a balloon and it takes lots of benadryl to keep him breathing.

Luckily he's not a wanderer and isn't sociable with other dogs so his likelihood of getting some dread disease (that other dogs are vaccinated against) is low.

Quin also apparently has food allergies... but after a LOT of experimenting I think I've finally found a commercial dog food that he can tolerate. It's made from sweet potatoes and salmon (yuck!) and has no corn. After being sick off and on for months (years?) Quin is able to eat again without getting sick. I'm so excited to have found something he can eat...

Emma (our 13 year old Golden Retriever) and Cody (our "Small But Fearless" Zu-chon) are not as excited.

They hate the new food...

Even Emma, usually so laid back refuses to eat it.

And Cody, even without words, speaks volumes to me if I dare to put the new food into his dog bowl. Here's what it looks like...

Emma quietly refusing her food in the background, while Cody's body language says it all...

Checking the bowl out... but being careful not to get too close (it must even smell nasty to him!)


Looking up at me expectantly... his eyes saying "surely this must be a joke?"


Waiting for me to take whatever-this-stuff-is out of his bowl and give him some real food.


The realization sinks in... this is dinner.


One last pleading look... (he'd make a good "Oliver" in a canine production of Charles Dicken's classic, don't you think?)

I gave in of course... He and Emma now have their own food while poor Quin still eats the nasty sweet potato dog food. The good thing is that Quin is so busy making sure he's the top dog that he gobbles his food down quickly and doesn't seem to care what it tastes (or smells) like!

Friday, November 4, 2011

I just couldn't resist...

... a whole post of pictures of the new baby.

(With an update edit below)

E (dd#1) and the kids, including the new baby, came by this morning. E looks amazing, you would never have thought she'd just had a baby. And the baby is so sweet... I had so much fun just holding her and watching her funny newborn faces.







I love this one of her looking up at her mom...




No more time to play with photos... I need to get busy cooking before the kids mutiny!

edited to add: Just last night they made the official announcement, the baby's name is Emily Jo (so thankfully, Granny, she won't have to go by the name "Blank"!), and she looks very much like her big sister did as a newborn.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

It's 3:00 in the morning...

...and it's blizzarding (is that a word?) outside. I'd take a picture of the kitchen window, completely plastered with wind driven snow... but my camera is out in the car and I'm not going out there in my pj's again.

Yes, I said "again"... I was out there 30 minutes ago scraping Joe's truck windows so he could head over to E's (dd#1) house. Her baby, due back on the 24th of October, has decided it's time to make her appearance. (I'm thinking she likes to go with a dramatic entrance!)

The storm is so bad the only things moving are four wheel drives (and visibility is down to nothing!), so Joe is making his way through the storm to their house in his little 4xx4 truck so they can get to the hospital. My van would never have made it...

Gotta go... time to start cleaning compulsively.

Updated to add: Baby arrived at 6:20 this morning... 8 lbs 4 oz, 21" long. Here's a peak at our newest grandchild...

No name yet... I'll post it as soon as they decide.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

early morning out the window musings...

Icicles are hanging from the gutter just outside the window, and the sky and ground are white.

The snow isn't terribly deep yet and the pastures still have islands of last summer's golden grass standing tall in the midst of the sea of snow.

The ponderosas on the north hill look like sentries - their silhouettes strong and stark against the white sky.

The pastures seem uncharacteristically empty... the horses I usually can see are staying in their stalls or sheds during this first blast of winter cold.

From my window view of the earth it seems frozen, both in temperature and movement. Only an occasional bird flies by to remind me that the land still teems with life... but that life, like me, is staying close and warm in their nest, burrow, bush, tunnel, barn, or den.

The snow has started again now... it's a white day.

(Bucks wandering through the front yard a little later in the morning...)

Update to my "dilemma" post: Thank you so much for all the feedback and good suggestions. The girl who cleaned denied ever seeing the jar of money and it appears the agency that hired her is standing behind her in that. I've filed a report with the sheriff's office and a complaint with the county agency that provides M's SLS services. Now there is nothing else to be done except find a new service provider...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

a dilemma... looking for advice

It's been awhile since I've posted... I'd like to say I've been too busy doing something incredibly worthwhile to be spending time on the computer... but the reality is I've been kind of flitting from project to project and haven't had much energy for any of them.

We did have our pumpkin give-away this past week, and gave away probably 25 pumpkins... I still have a few left so if you know me IRL and would like a pumpkin (or another pumpkin!) let me know!

I mostly posting now because I have a dilemma, a situation has come up that I've never had to deal with before...

Here's the background:

M receives SLS (supported living services) through our county CCB (community center board). He's very lucky to get it... because of huge funding issues, when people become eligible for SLS (upon turning 18) they generally go on a VERY long wait list. It is years, decades, before they reach the top of the list and start receiving services. Because of the severity of M's disabilities though, he was moved to the top of the list when he turned 18. SLS doesn't really get us a whole lot, we don't use the day program they'd pay for, for example... we're pretty used to doing things ourselves. It's an important safety net though for M... if something happened to me, SLS is already in place to provide some of the support I would no longer be able to provide.

To keep M's SLS we have to use at least one SLS service each month. M's plan includes hippotherapy, respite, and even a few hours of housecleaning (of the areas M uses) each month. M hasn't been able to do hippotherapy lately because of his hip, and he's been having trouble with the respite provider, so to keep his SLS I've been having a local agency (that works with the CCB) do a cleaning each month.

Honestly, I hate having someone in to clean... but I can't chance losing M's SLS. Once it was gone it could be years before he'd get it back.

So... on Tuesday a girl from RT (the agency that contracts with the CCB to provide this service) came to clean. I told and showed her what I needed done and let her go. R was gone shopping with E (dd#1), and M and I did school up in the classroom while the cleaner worked in the main part of the house. She was in the kitchen dusting up high at one point when I came out, and her big cleaning supply bin was sitting on the kitchen counter under the east window. I went back into the classroom and shortly after she came in and said she was done. She still had 90 minutes left of the time she was contracted to be here, but she insisted that she's "a fast cleaner" and everything was done. So I thanked her and she left.

I came out later and found that some of the things I'd asked her to do, hadn't been done... but I didn't think much of it because the last girl who had cleaned had also "missed" a lot.

The next day (yesterday) I was doing laundry and found some change in the washer... I brought it upstairs and went out to the kitchen to put it in the change jar the kids and I keep on the kitchen counter. It's a cool little thing I got to be a learning tool with the kids (especially R). It's a plastic jar with an electronic slotted lid that keeps track of how much change is in the jar, and each time you put a coin in a readout on the lid tells the value of the coin and the current total for the entire jar. Anyway... I went to put the coin in and the jar was gone.

I asked Joe if he'd moved the jar (something that's hugely unlikely because it's been just the kids and my little project) and he said of course not. It always sat on the kitchen countertop in the corner under the east window... but I looked in the kitchen cabinets, on the frig, IN the frig, anywhere in the kitchen I thought the girl who cleaned might have put it.

It's not here, and nothing else on the counter was moved or put away.

And the only non-family person who has been in the house was the girl who cleaned.

I called the agency who sent her and said the jar was missing and if she put it someplace she needed to let me know where it was. They finally called me back at 9:15 last night and said they hadn't been able to reach her yet but would keep trying. I told them if the jar was not somewhere in my home, if there wasn't a reasonable explanation for where it ended up, I would be calling the police this morning. There wasn't a lot of money in the jar ($60.+) but I'm wondering now, if she took the jar what else she might have taken? (Luckily, we don't have much that worth anything! ;)

Another worry is that a paper I'd received in the mail that day, about M's benefits, was laying on the kitchen table and it had both his social security number and full name on it. Had she written down that information down and taken them too? M's legally an adult now, now much trouble could someone cause misusing his SS#?

On the other hand though... it doesn't make sense. Why steal a jar of change... It's sure to be missed. Why jeopardize your job and your life for a plastic jar of change?

But there is no where else it could be. It sat on the counter because it was just a little too tall to fit anywhere else... And I wouldn't have moved it anywhere without thinking because it had gotten SO heavy, and I got a nasty cut on the back of my hand on Monday and was primarily one-handed for the early part of the week. I couldn't physically have moved it one-handed. I know M and R didn't take it... they don't steal. I know stealing often seems to go with FASD, but neither M and R EVER steal. (If M wants something that's not his, he just asks for it! :) And because of M's need for close supervision, we spend most of our time in the main part of the house... so even if one of them did suddenly try something completely out of character... there just wasn't the opportunity.

We've been gone to town a couple of times this week, but the dogs have been in the house and I can't imagine anyone going past three wildly barking dogs (with Emmaon top of them "smiling" and sneezing), through the house to the kitchen, and taking only a jar of change.

None of this makes sense.

It's almost morning and I'm trying to decide what to do... Call the police? Let it go? (The agency has already said they would repay anything missing) The girl who cleaned was young, probably early 20's and has a young child... If she took it, how much must she need the money? If she took it she must need it more than we do...

Maybe I should skip calling the police and let the only consequence to her be the problems she will have at work... Sixty dollars isn't enough to possibly mess up some one's life for...

But if there are problems later in terms of M's SS#, maybe I need to have the documentation of a police report that his personal information might have been compromised?

Aghhhhh! What to do...

I'd welcome opinions... What would you do?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A nice surprise and a big thank you!

I got a nice surprise in my mailbox this afternoon... mixed in with the bills and ads was the October/November issue of Mary Janes Farm Magazine. At first I assumed the mailman had, once again, left someone else's mail in my mailbox (and left my mail who-knows-where!) but no... it's addressed to me.

What a nice surprise! Thank you to whoever subscribed me... I can already tell it's going to be a favorite.

R and I looked through the magazine quickly (while she was doing school) and have already found a recipe for Spicy Pumpkin Warm-Up that sounded so good I've got a pumpkin already on the stove cooking so we can give it a try now and, if it's as good as it sounds, add it to our Thanksgiving menu.

Here's the recipe (so you don't have to strain your eyes trying to read it from the photo!)...

Spicy Pumpkin Warm-Up

2 pints whipping cream

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup canned pumpkin (we'll use our own pumpkin, not canned)

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/2 tsp vanilla

Garnish: whipped cream, additional pumpkin pie spice

Combine cream and sugar in saucepan over medium heat; stir until sugar is dissolved. Whisk in pumpkin until well blended; add pumpkin pie spice and vanilla. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until mixture is warm. Pouor into mugs and serve with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of spice. Serves 4-6.


No more time to write...gotta go finish dinner now. :)

Saturday, October 8, 2011


... today...

You gotta love Colorado weather. :)

Friday, October 7, 2011

easy raised beds

I do love the little kitchen garden I put in the first year we lived here. It's just off the back porch and it's small, but it does hold lots of good things. This year I grew tomatoes, peppers, carrots, lettuce (three kinds), onions, scallions, green beans, rhubarb and garlic. I also have a few herbs that grow out there too (mint, cilantro, chives, rosemary). This little garden runs into the "remembrance" garden I put in last spring on the south end of the kitchen. The gardens are "L" shaped, with the kitchen garden taking up the smaller side of the L, and the remembrance garden on the larger side.

  (Here's the garden plan I worked from last spring when I put in the remembrance garden.)

Anyway... I was out on the back porch the other day pondering the kitchen garden and thinking how nice it would be to grow some strawberries. I have seven fruit trees planted on the east hill in the back yard, and raspberries and blackberries growing down the hill on the north... but no strawberries. The dogs have free run of the back yard so planting strawberries has seemed like a pointless project... since as soon as the berries ripened, the dogs would eat them. Planting them outside of the back yard would be even more pointless, as the deer would eat them the minute they discovered the tasty treat I'd planted for them!

So I started thinking about raised beds... It would be nice to have some lovely wooden raised beds, maybe on the east side of the kitchen garden... where I've been meaning all summer to put in a nice garden fence but have never gotten around to it. It would be hard for me to make a raised bed from wood though... I never use the table saw, and there is no other good way to cut the wood. Hmm... what to do? As I pondered I looked absentmindedly out across the land to the east and my eyes fell on the old metal horse trough down by my neighbor's barn. Suddenly I saw that beat-up old trough in a different way... an old metal trough would make a lovely, and easy, raised bed!

It only took a couple of days searching on Craigslist to find a couple of old metal troughs.

They are each 8' long and approximately 2' high and wide. The kids and I drove up north to get them and then I wrestled them off the truck through the yard and into place. It was a bit of work to get the one I put by the back porch level, but it's done now and they are ready now for some rock in the bottom (for drainage and so they don't need as much dirt to fill them), soil, and planting in the spring.

(This is the view from the east looking back towards the house... I just took this picture, isn't the sky a brilliant blue?)

I'm pretty happy with my new raised beds... and can hardly wait to see them filled with strawberry plants!

M's hip is healing well (thank you so much to those who've sent cards!!) and little by little we are making progress back towards "normal". First we put away the big ice pack machine, then the walker went back out to the barn, and a few days later the raised toilet seat made the same trip. He's down to one crutch now and should be walking with no crutches next week. His hip has made an incredibly fast recovery! Unfortunately, his GI system is still pretty shut down. The days are hard... trying to figure out what he can eat (and all of us being so tired of the few things that don't make him sick!) and dealing with his anger and upset over his limited diet. He's destabilized a bit too, which isn't helping things any. I've registered a formal complaint with the Patient Reps. at Children's Hospital over the GI department not doing the consult M's surgeon requested, and the Behavioral Sciences department also not following through on the support he was supposed to receive while inpatient. We'll see where it goes...

Monday, October 3, 2011

A woman's got to do...

... what a woman's got to do.

(And aren't I full of cliche's lately?)

M is still struggling with GI motility issues. He hasn't vomited in about 48 hours, which is good, wonderful... but I hesitate to assume it's because his GI tract is getting back to normal. It would be fantastic if that were the case, but I'm thinking it might also (instead?) have to do with how carefully I'm managing what, how and when he's eating. He's still getting only small portion sizes of super easy to digest foods... no red meat, very little dairy (except for yogurt), but heavy on fruit, veggies and pasta... everything fairly bland and no or very low fat. I'm harping at him to eat slowly, and chew each tiny bite many times (rather than his normal chew twice and gulp it down routine). I've moved dinner time a couple hours earlier than usual, to give his belly time to settle after eating and before laying down for bed... and dinner itself is especially small. M's getting his bigger meal (which is still pretty small) at midday now. I'm also making sure he gets in as much walking (with his crutch) as possible each afternoon. Needless to say M isn't thrilled with the changes I've made. He wants to eat BIG, to go out to eat, to have a hamburger or a burrito, to gulp down a soda.

Poor kid... he's hungry!

And so am I. When M is on a restricted diet, my diet is restricted too. He would NOT go for me eating a regular meal while he gets a dish of yogurt... and honestly, it's easier not to eat than deal with him watching every morsel of food that goes into my mouth, adding to his constant anger about food and eating. I noticed the other day that I've lost a few pounds since M's surgery, so I've decided it's time to take action. You know, a woman's got to do...

So as soon as M was asleep tonight, I pulled this out of the freezer and did a quick defrost in the microwave.

It's a Krispy Kreme donut, leftover from my grandson's birthday party last week.

It's going to practically melt in my mouth.

It's not low fat. ;)

And it is not on M's get-your-gut-moving-avoid-impaction diet so I'm going to eat it quickly and quietly and immediately load the plate into the dishwasher to hide any evidence of what I've done.

Mmmm.... I do love Krispy Kreme donuts.

I could make a habit of this...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

When the going gets tough...

-the tough get painting.

-or the painting gets tough.

-or the tough paint compulsively.

...or something like that.

We are hanging in there... M's gut is still checked out to who-knows-where, but he felt a bit better yesterday which was good. We had a stomach/bowel x-ray done on Tuesday and there doesn't seem to be an impaction... his gut is just sleeping. It's stopped moving (mostly) as though there is a blockage, but there isn't one. So, thankfully, he's not in the hospital... we're managing things at home and hoping his gut stops being so lazy very soon and starts working again!

But back to painting :)

My "barn art" is finished and wasn't nearly as difficult as I thought it would be.  I had my design sketched out on a (roughly) scale drawing of the barn I did on graph paper. That gave me a good idea of size, spacing, etc. I took my drawing, the tape measure, and some chalk out to the barn and since it was a simple design it was easy to draw up on the barn doors.  I did the painting freehand, except for the little pupils in the eyes... I made a stencil for those. The painting didn't take long at all, despite it needing three coats of white to cover the red.

Honestly the hardest parts were the first brush stroke of white on those huge, still pristine, red barn doors... and keeping the secret from Joe until it was done. (Luckily Joe isn't very observant and apparently looks at the barn only rarely... so he had no clue what I was doing until he saw the finished product.)

Here's how it turned out...

I may go back out and make the eye pupils a little bigger, but overall I'm happy with my work. It cost nothing but time, and it was wonderful to be working outside... feeling the sun and the soft breeze against my skin, smelling the good barn smells of hay, animals and manure, watching the hawks circle lazily above the pasture... after spending so much time lately taking care of M. I don't mind all the care he needs... keeping a schedule for pain meds, hooking him up to the CPM and then unhooking him, keeping the little ice pack machine filled with ice and on his hip, helping with bathing, getting things for him, helping him work on moving around safely on crutches... I really don't mind any of that. But it was a lovely refreshing change to get outside and have the focus of my thoughts switch from caregiving to the simplicity of cutting a sharp line with the paintbrush, and making sure the eyes I'm painting are roughly symmetrical.

I'm a bit sad my little barn painting is done now... but maybe I'll start planning a bit of barn art for the other side of the barn. :)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What now?

It's been one week since M's surgery.  (And it's been one week since I had more than a couple hours of sleep in a row, so please excuse any whininess on my part...)

I'm worried about his recovery...

His GI system is NOT right... it's not even close. It seems that his belly can hold about 48 hours worth of food before deciding it's time to violently get rid of it. The lower part of his GI system seems to have checked out completely... working only when I load M up with super sized amounts of GI meds. (And even then not working much...)

M was very sick again last night, so as soon as offices start to open, I'll need to start calling docs... probably starting with the pediatrician. I'm hoping we can go in for an x-ray (to check for blockages in his bowel) and then come back home again. I really REALLY don't want him readmitted.

Poor R... this is totally feeding into all the fears she had before the surgery. She has phobias connected to both vomit and hospitals... She was so afraid that this surgery would turn out like last time... with in and out hospitalizations, and M vomiting for months. It's about 45 degress outside right now, but R is sitting out on the back porch to eat her breakfast... that's how stressed she is about being in the house after M was so sick last night and this morning.

And poor M! He too was worried about this surgery... he's the one who lost 20 lbs after the last surgery and suffered through months of stomach pain, medication induced diarrhea, and the indignity of (seemingly) the whole world talking about his bowel habits.

He fell last night on the tile floor... his newly repaired hip was VERY unhappy about the fall and has been terribly sore since. Even just getting an x-ray done is going to be so hard on him... painful.

I know (I believe) the surgery had to be done. Knowing that the surgeon found the labrum still intact and in good shape reinforces for me that getting the hip fixed (before there was damage done) was a good thing.

But I wish we didn't have to go through the same misery we had last time with M's GI system. It's hard for me to think about finding the energy again for the kind of long drawn out recovery M had after his last hip surgery.

I'll do what I have to do though... and count this as a learning experience... apparently M's gut can't manage any surgery... it must not have been the narcotic pain killers, or the complete lack of activity after the last surgery that triggered those problems... since neither of those were issues this time.

When I'm tired my mind travels a path I usually carefully avoid... wondering about M's future. People with schizophrenia typically don't live as long as people without sz... and FASD has it's own set of life shortening problems. M has both... and a bunch of other medical/physical problems. And he, apparently, can't tolerate any surgery without severe consequences.

I can't think about his future right now... I need to think about today. Which doctor to call first... should we have him readmitted, or try to handle things at home? (with lots of physician support, of course...)

And my younger two daughters each have birthdays during the next few weeks... (K will be 24, R will be 15!) and I'll need to get some shopping done, and plan the celebrations! (Hmm... celebrations that might be tricky if M still can't eat... :( )

But in my spare time, because painting is one of my favorite therapies (and I've already painted everything inside the house that needs painting and I can reach!), I've started working on a long-thought-about project...

..decorating my barn with a little "barn art". Yesterday, I got about half the face drawn on the barn with chalk... hopefully I'll finish the chalk part today and start painting.

It took me awhile to figure out how to take care of M and work out in the pasture on a ladder, but necessity is the mother of invention you know... and finally I just loaded M into the minivan and drove him out into the pasture to the barn. He was able to sit or recline on the lovely soft leather seats, while I worked up on the ladder just a few feet away.

Tucker was the only one who thought this was a terrible idea... I wish I had a picture of the shock on his face as I drove the minivan through the gate and into the pasture. He looked absolutely incredulous that I would do such a thing! At first he took a defiant stand just inside the pasture gate... sure I would never move that huge red thing past him and into his territory. But as the minivan kept moving towards him he rethought the wisdom of taking a stand against the intruder, and settled for snorting out a warning and tossing his head around as he ran away.

Ah Tucker... you make me smile... you are such a brave little donkey.

So, between phone calls to doctors today, I'll be out at the barn on the ladder... and maybe part of the good that will come from where we are right now is a funny little bit of barn art smiling over my pasture!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

We're not quite on the "other side"...

... of M's surgery drama yet, but I think we are getting close... so I thought it might be a good time to post an update.

Surgery was Tuesday morning (the 20th) and went very well. Back in February of 2010, when he had his first hip surgery, the surgeon found more damage to the joint than he'd anticipated. The surgeon had gone in expecting the need to repair the labrum and found instead that it was completely worn away in places... nothing left to repair. (As a result, M has degenerative joint disease and the expectation of lifelong pain, to some degree, in that hip.)

During this latest surgery, the surgeon again expected to have to repair the labrum... but found instead that it was in good shape! No repairs were needed. So all he needed to do was reshape the head of M's femur.  Because the surgery was much less invasive than last time (and because M's schizophrenia interferes with how he processes pain), M didn't need any narcotic pain meds after surgery... which gave us hope for avoiding the kinds of problems that led to the bowel impaction he ended up with after his previous hip surgery. (Narcotic pain meds slow GI motility, something M already has problems with.) He was discharged on Thursday with my only major concern being that neither GI, nor Behavioral Sciences, had provided the support they were supposed to while M was in the hospital. That support had been part of the "package" the surgeon and I had put together to support M and help get him through surgery and recovery as easily as possible.

I'd had high hopes for both the GI and Behavioral Sciences people... the surgeon had formally requested consults from both departments during M's stay in the hospital. But no one from GI ever showed and after waiting hours for them to come give us some direction in terms of restarting M on solid food, the nurses and I just let him eat (the very  modified low fat diet we thought he could digest). M was discharged without ever seeing anyone from GI. Behavioral Sciences did a bit better... they did show up and immediately made sure I knew they wouldn't change any meds (What? Had I asked them to? No!) then asked what I did need... I said I needed to "borrow" a therapist to help with M's PT. The crutches were a huge challenge, triggering a lot of anxiety... and the PT working with him didn't have a great rapport with him. (Her way of trying to motivate him was telling him he couldn't go home 'til he could get it figured out... nothing like a little pressure to trigger more anxiety!) Anyway, the behavioral sciences doc left to go find me a therapist I could borrow for an hour or so and never returned.


M seemed fine at discharge... his gut seemed to be working, and his pain level was minimal.  He was having trouble remembering which hip had been fixed (the right one this time) and kept putting full weight on that leg (which he wasn't supposed to do for two weeks) but otherwise he seemed to be doing great. They sent us home with the CPM (continuous passive motion) machine again, a neat little plug in ice pack, and a set of crutches. I climbed up into the hay loft of the barn as soon as we got home and got out his walker and raised toilet seat, and I thought we were home free.

My optimism came back to bite me though... M began having severe stomach pain Friday night, and the terrible vomiting he had after his last surgery returned too. (He threw up so hard that night that he broke blood vessels in both eyes! :(

Despite giving him LOTS of miralax and carefully monitoring his diet both before and after surgery, his gut had shut down again.

So... I called Children's Hospital and threw a smallish fit (over the lack of the GI support that the surgeon had requested), panicked just a little (I can't tell you how much M and I don't want a repeat of the impaction he had last time!) then hunkered down to try and get things back on track.

Now... almost 48 hours later... I'm thinking I might have caught it early enough  to avoid another trip to the hospital. (If he isn't MUCH better today, he has to be readmitted. :( ) He seemed better by last night, but yesterday was rough...  He was back on a clear liquid diet, and was HUNGRY (he's always hungry, his GI problems rarely take away his ravenous hunger), but nothing was moving through his GI system. He was getting edgier and more (psychiatrically) symptomatic by the second over his clear liquid diet. At one point he was starting to disconnect over Ramen noodles...insisting that he had to have them... NOW!... and WHY are they solid food??!! So I offered to call the pediatrician to ask if he could have them. Luckily our regular pediatrician was on call yesterday, because it was a very strange conversation... me asking if Ramen noodles are solid food and her trying to figure out just how bad things had gotten over here for me to be asking that question. She finally said it was better for M to just eat some Ramen noodles, even if it meant they might come right back up or make the GI problems worse... than to lose his mind over a packet of Ramens.

I agreed, and he got his Ramens. ;)

So that's where we're at... M slept through the night last night for the first time since his surgery and is still asleep. We're going to have to keep his "bowel regimen" going for who knows how long... but that's ok. As long as his gut keeps working I don't mind loading him up with stuff to keep his GI system functional.

M just woke up so I've got to run, but before I forget... M LOVES to get cards, so if you have a minute to send him a card or short note, it would make his day. (If you don't have our address, just leave a comment with your email address, and I'll get it to you.) Thanks :)

Monday, September 19, 2011

See ya...

No, I'm not going anywhere.

Well, kind of I am... I'll be spending the middle of this week at Children's Hospital with M. His second hip surgery is tomorrow...

His last surgery was SO bad, and his recovery SOOO scary, that I'm preparing for another rough road... and will pleasantly surprised and incredibly grateful if this surgery goes well and he has an uneventful recovery.

Please keep him in your prayers tomorrow... Surgery is scheduled for 10:15 and should last about 3 hours. If everything goes as planned we should be home on Weds. or Thurs.

We are all pretty stressed about this... (Have I mentioned how BAD things went after his last hip surgery?!)... but his pain level is so high that we can't just let things go. Every step is causing more damage to the joint, and the pain is so severe that it limits, terribly, what he can do.

So... tomorrow is it.

I'll post again when it's all over.

Friday, September 16, 2011


Individualized Education Program (IEP):

An IEP describes an individualized educational program that has been designed to meet a child's unique needs.  Each child who receives special education and related services must have an IEP.  Each IEP must be designed for one student and must be a truly individualized document.  The IEP creates an opportunity for teachers, parents, school administrators, related services personnel, and students (when age appropriate) to work together to improve educational results for children with disabilities. The IEP is the cornerstone of a quality education for each child with a disability.

The Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a legally binding document.



For the first time in 11 years M is enrolled as a student in a public school district.

For the first time in 11 years he has an IEP.

I'm not sure if this is a good thing or not.

I had high hopes for the school to work transition program offered by our county. It is for 18-21 year olds who have disabilities, and focuses on teaching life and employment skills. I thought it would be a good next step for M... learning from someone other than me, and being pushed... stretched... a little in terms of work skills. Statistically, it's very unlikely he'll be able to work, even part time, as an adult. The schizophrenia makes working very difficult... the FASD and his physical problems only add another layer of challenge to keeping a job.


... he's already shown that he's capable of things you wouldn't expect from someone with his diagnoses. So my thought was, lets see what he can do... (Always monitoring, of course, that he's not pushed too much... risking destabilization and other problems.) I had high hopes for the program...

Now, one month (and one IEP) into M's new schooling experience, I'm realizing that it's not all I'd hoped. His time on work sites is severely limited by his need for line of sight supervision and his hip problems.  During his time at "the center" (really just a single temporary classroom sitting in a parking lot in town) he's working on things that we've already done at home. When they aren't at job sites or working at the center, they work on community assess... being out and about in town, shopping, eating out, etc. That might be a valuable thing to work on for kids who have spent Monday through Friday for the past 12 years in a school or in a day care setting... but M has spent the past 12 years out in the community. Homeschooling has already given him many (most?) of the skills they are working on in this transition program...

Sometimes, when they tell me what they are doing for the day, I feel like they're just babysitting.

We don't need babysitting.

And while M is there playing Uno and putting crayons into baggies for IHOP to hand out with their kid's menus...

... he's losing academic skills.

Skills we worked hard for many years for him to learn. This isn't just my fear or a guess... I'm seeing it happen.

I just can't let those skills go without trying to help him hold onto them.

They do no academics at his transition program.

So I've got to make sure we have time to do enough school at home to help him hold onto what he's already learned, and hopefully continue learning.

This probably means limiting his time at the transition program.

I'm going to have to spend some time thinking about what this might look like, then we'll need to have another meeting to make the changes to his IEP. (Right now it's written for him to be there full time...)

Right now though, my mind is full of worries about his upcoming hip surgery (scheduled for Tuesday) and my concerns about his transition program are like the miserable flies out in the pasture... buzzing through my thoughts, never holding still long enough for me to do anything about them, but never going away either.

Maybe when M's in the hospital, and I have those quiet hours with nothing to do but sit by his bed while he sleeps, I'll be able to get my thoughts organized and figure out a plan that will help M stretch and grow in living skills, while still leaving time (and energy) for his academic skills.

I should also follow up on my last post while I'm here. No, Liese, I'm not 72... I guess the horizontal candle on my birthday cake doesn't look as much like a minus sign as I thought it did. The candles say 63 - 9. :)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

No way...

... it can't have been a week since I last blogged!

Ok... so maybe it has.

The week zoomed by at warp speed... here are a few highlights:

1 blown truck motor

2 full days looking for a new truck for Joe

3 days (so far) of dd#2 visiting from Chicago... It's been so good to see her, it's been 9 months since she was here... the longest time she's ever been away from home.

4 hours that I had to fast this morning before a stress test... but it ended up being a 10 hour fast instead because the test was scheduled for 9:00 a.m. and there is no way I was going to get up at 4:45 a.m. to eat!

5 emails (yes FIVE!) back and forth this afternoon with the transition program M is going to, about finalizing his IEP. I'm so ready to throw in the towel... this is NO fun. I want my uncomplicated fulltime homeschooling days back!!

6 (or was it 60?) trucks we looked at trying to find one that Joe liked and we could afford

7 days until M's hip surgery... and we're all starting to stress and worry about how his gut will handle another surgery.

8 hours is the time I have, from right this minute, to completely organize my records from the past five years of M's homeschooling and create a "transcript" that matches their graduation requirements, for the transition program he's in. They say I really need to have it ready for the IEP meeting tomorrow morning. Let's see... sleep... or make a transcript...what should I do? Ha... sleep wins by a mile. They are just going to have to wait for their "transcript"!

We also celebrated a birthday this week (mine :) )... Can you tell how old I am? (I see no reason to constantly buy new birthday candles... reusing works well for me and if we don't have the right numerals, a little math will take care of it!)

... I had a wonderful time at my lovely granddaughter's grandparent's day at school...

... and found this cool Periodic Table of Elements game at the Goodwill store.

Life has to slow down soon. If nothing else, M's surgery will slow us all down...

If you have sent me an email or left me a message (which would be virtually everyone I know!), thank you... I'll call (reply) soon! :)

No way...

... it can't have been a week since I last blogged!

Ok... so maybe it has.

The week zoomed by at warp speed... here are a few highlights:

1 blown truck motor

2 full days looking for a new truck for Joe

3 days (so far) of dd#2 visiting from Chicago... It's been so good to see her, it's been 9 months since she was here... the longest time she's ever been away from home.

4 hours that I had to fast this morning before a stress test... but it ended up being a 10 hour fast instead because the test was scheduled for 9:00 a.m. and there is no way I was going to get up at 4:45 a.m. to eat!

5 emails (yes FIVE!) back and forth this afternoon with the transition program M is going to, about finalizing his IEP. I'm so ready to throw in the towel... this is NO fun. I want my uncomplicated fulltime homeschooling days back!!

6 (or was it 60?) trucks we looked at trying to find one that Joe liked and we could afford

7 days until M's hip surgery... and we're all starting to stress and worry about how his gut will handle another surgery.

8 hours is the time I have, from right this minute, to completely organize my records from the past five years of M's homeschooling and create a "transcript" that matches their graduation requirements, for the transition program he's in. They say I really need to have it ready for the IEP meeting tomorrow morning. Let's see... sleep... or make a transcript...what should I do? Ha... sleep wins by a mile. They are just going to have to wait for their "transcript"!

We also celebrated a birthday this week (mine :) )... Can you tell how old I am? (I see no reason to constantly buy new birthday candles... reusing works well for me and if we don't have the right numerals, a little math will take care of it!)

... I had a wonderful time at my lovely granddaughter's grandparent's day at school...

... and found this cool Periodic Table of Elements game at the Goodwill store.

Life has to slow down soon. If nothing else, M's surgery will slow us all down...

If you have sent me an email or left me a message (which would be virtually everyone I know!), thank you... I'll call (reply) soon! :)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Catchin' up

I haven't had much time to blog lately...  I've been working outside every spare moment, trying to get a bunch of outside work done before the weather changes. We hired a "handyman" last weekend to do the work that's too high or too heavy for me, and he and I worked on the house virtually all weekend. Mostly we're painting.... the main part of the house is stucco which doesn't need paint, but the trim on both house and barn badly needed paint this year.

So.... I've been painting (and painting, and PAINTING...) and letting most everything else go.

The end is in sight though, the barn trim is almost done and I've only got four house windows left.  I wish I could find someone to repaint the exterior of the barn... It needs to be sprayed and I just haven't been able to find anyone to do it. :(

I still want to decorate the north side of our barn with a bit of "barn art"... I wish I had a taller ladder. Designing and painting the "art" would be fun... if I had some way to get up high enough to paint it. (This barn isn't ours of course, but I love it's barn art. I wouldn't put quite that much on my barn... I'm thinking just eyes and a smile, and smaller in proportion to the side of our little barn...)

Sigh... that might have to wait for another year.

Anyway... all is well here... just very busy... be back soon. :)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

a little toadiness


... so close and yet so far away.

Happy September! I'm not going to post about it being my favorite month, because I already did that here... but know that we are all very happy to see the beginning of the end of all the hot weather we've had lately.

Come on Fall.... the barn is full of hay and we're ready for you!

The vet will be out later to look at Murphy (who looks better, yay! :) ) later today, and we're helping dd#1 move a table, but other than that the day is open.

Might be a good day to putter around in the garden...

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cody's Lament Part II

... in which the deer don't take him seriously.

Despite planting his feet in his most ferocious stance, and pulling his deep, most threatening bark from the depths of his powerful chest...

... the deer just stands there, watching him and chewing grass. For a moment it's a stand off, Cody aka SBFD (Small But Fearless Defender) watching her and wondering how it's possible that she shows no fear. Is there something the matter with this deer? How else could she possibly fail to recognize the danger in the terrible canine predator that stands before her?

Finally she turns and wanders away. SBFD is glad she's finally realized whose territory she's trespassing on but wonders why she isn't bounding away in panic...


Later, after thinking about it, he decides to blame the groomer.


It's very hard to be taken seriously when the groomer insists on giving you a "puppy cut".


Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Poor Murphy is just miserable. The lameness he had last week seemed to go away so I just wrote it off as some minor soreness from him stepping or twisting in a weird way.

Yesterday though he was seriously lame when I went out in the morning to feed...  putting almost no weight on his right front leg. I gave him more bute but this time it seemed to make no difference at all.

The vet finally made it out this afternoon and says Murphy has another hoof abcess.

So... $137.00 later Murphy has a special water filled "boot" to wear and special apple flavored bute to take... because he has started refusing to take the regular bute (and threw such a fit about the bute this morning that I was afraid he was going to hurt himself!).

And one trip to town later I have a brand new bag of grain in the barn (to try to hide the apple flavored bute in) and cherry jello (to add yet another layer of deliciousness to the grain in the hopes Murphy won't notice the bute). Luckily I already had applesauce (to further disguise the taste).

 I also have one hand that is dyed red from hand feeding samples of the grain/jello mixture (no bute yet) to Murphy and Tucker. Tucker has added cherry jello to his list of foods he loves... it seems to be right up there with bananas, his favorite treat. (R and I say he's a tropical donkey!)

As the vet was leaving, after telling me to make sure to pick up some cherry jello and to remember to start with just a tiny bit of bute in a good sized measure of grain/jello mixture, he finished by saying, "If you had a regular horse you could just dump the apple flavored bute onto the grain and he'd eat it right up... ".

Silly old horse... He's  a pain but we do love him.

And we love Tucker too of course, who had to get right in the middle of things when I was out taking pictures of Murphy.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

medical stuff update

Sigh... I'm kind of bummed that I can actually write a whole update just on medical stuff.

I'd really love to write a whole update about interesting places we've gone, or famous people we've met.

But, alas, we aren't getting far from home these days and famous people never seem to stop by to visit...

.. so you're stuck with an update on medical stuff.


I really will try to think of something more interesting next time.

So... Joe is ok, and is back at work (the wonders of modern medicine!). They have adjusted his meds and added an additional medication he can take when he needs it. (Sorry if this sounds somewhat cryptic... if you know us well enough IRL to know what I'm talking about it will make sense, if you don't know us IRL... well... never mind.) I'm cautiously hopeful that he'll continue to do well. It's been a difficult, somewhat traumatic, summer with his health problems and we both could really use a smooth spell... even just a few months when he's consistently doing well enough would be wonderful.

As followup to a CT scan of his hips that was done last week (or maybe two weeks ago) M saw his new orthopedist again today. The orthopedist showed us what he was seeing on the CT scan (M also had an MRI done about a month ago) and between what the MRI and the CT scans showed it's looking like M needs another surgery on his hips. This surgery should be much easier than last time, it can be done arthroscopically and will not involve dislocating the hip. They will repair the labrum, if possible, remove any calcification and reshape the head of the femur. M will only be in the hospital for a couple of days, then on crutches for 2-3 weeks. Full recovery will probably take 4-6 months. Surgery is scheduled for Sept. 20th.

R is also looking at surgery in the not too distant future. She has suddenly developed a bunch of problems with her right foot. She had what we thought was a cyst on the top of her foot about a year ago. The pediatrician wasn't worried, said some people just get cysts, it will probably go away on it's own. It didn't go away though, and a few months ago another one showed up on the outside bottom of the same foot. The pediatrician sent us to a podiatrist who found all kind of odd things. Bunions for one thing. (I didn't even really know what they were until he explained it to me!) and old, healing stress fractures in two of her metatarsal bones. We have no idea where those came from... the podiatrist guessed them to be six months or so old, but we still can't think of how she did it! R had CT and MRI scans of her foot and it looks like the "old" lump is a soft tissue mass and needs to come out and be biopsied. The "new" lump might also be a soft tissue mass, but doesn't seem to be as worrisome as the old lump. R sees the podiatrist again next week and we'll see what he says in terms of scheduling surgery to remove one or both lumps.

Are you tired of medical stuff yet? I am... but here's a little more just in case you aren't.

Murphy came up lame yesterday morning and in true Murphy style absolutely refused to take the bute I tried to give him. spitting it out, throwing his head up, stamping his feet, trying to walk away, even just letting it lay on his tongue while I held his mouth closed and as soon as I let go... dropping the pill back out again. I crushed it and mixed it with applesauce, I broke it in half and stuffed it into his cheek with a mouthful of grass... but he was one step ahead of me the whole way. Luckily he seems better today so I'm hoping he just slipped or stepped funny and the little bit of bute I managed to get in him helped set things right again.

And finally... I'm sick. I have no voice. Don't try to call me because it's unlikely my voice will hold up long enough to talk to you.  When I was a little girl and got sick I frequently got a "sick present"... something to cheer me up or entertain me while I wasn't feeling good. I decided that being an adult is no reason to give up a wonderful tradition like getting a sick present when you are feeling bad.. So I bought myself "A Dog's Purpose" for my Nook, and have been happily losing myself in doggie adventures.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Jumping on the bandwagon....

I read a few blogs that fairly regularly post writings from the book Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. After reading bits and pieces from the book here and there for several months, but not buying it or even being very interested in it, I finally broke down and bought it last spring. Since then, it's become a regular part of my early morning reading/prayer time...  (I think I resisted buying the book for so long because of the title... I think they could have come up with a much better title, for sure.)

Anyway... I thought I'd share some bits and pieces from the August 22 entry in the Jesus Calling book because it just seemed so pertinent to me, right now, today.

"Trust me and don't be afraid. I want you to view trials as exercises to develop your trust muscles."

Joe was back in the ER yesterday... I won't go into details (for the whole internet world!) but it was more of the same problems he had back in May.

"Refresh yourself in my Holy Presence, speak or sing praises to Me..."

At the hospital yesterday evening I prayed one of my favorite psalms (or parts of psalms), Psalm 59:16b-17 as I waited for all the tests to get done and results to get back... I do love those verses, I start my day with them each morning.

"...and my face will shine radiantly upon you."

Joe's home now, and this week is shaping up in involve a LOT of doctor appointments. (I've already got three on the calendar for M and R, and Joe is likely to have at least one or two as well!)

"Trust me and do not be afraid, for I am your strength, song and salvation."

I'm not sure how it's all going to get done this week, but it always does... It will be interesting to see how He pulls it off this time. (My "trust muscles" are going to be body builder buff by the end of this... ;) )

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A quote....

... I recently found, and love:
"Sometimes courage doesn't roar;

sometimes it's a quiet voice at the end of the day that says

I will try again tomorrow."

I would like to make this into a plaque or something for M's room. He has so many struggles... the FASD, the schizophrenia, his malformed, painful, hips and his poorly working GI system... but he shows so much strength and spirit in not letting those things weigh him down to the point that he loses hope. He shows great courage each day...

This quote also makes me think of my friend D who has autism. He, with his family, is right now dealing with a community that doesn't understand him, and so is afraid of him. They are cruelly trying make him move from his neighborhood... I see so much courage in D and his family and they try to work through this situation.

And it makes me think of an older woman I recently met, who despite suffering a stroke five years ago, and having a left side that doesn't always work the way she'd like it to... is still brash and sassy... an upbeat person who cleans houses and does respite care for the developmentally disabled to support herself and her barn full of horses.

I think this quote is a good reminder that courage is not seen just in the BIG dramatic events, but is found every day in the quiet (sometimes sassy!) courage that is all around us.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

This is not my new hobby....

I will not, any time soon, be weaving rush seats for fun and profit.

But... I've found it is do-able. It's not the easiest thing I've ever done, but it's not impossible.

About a year ago I ended up with the set of ladder back chairs that my folks bought back in the early 60's. They are good strong chairs, but very dirty and the rush seats were in rough shape... some not even usable. I couldn't keep them all just for sentimental reasons... six ladder back chairs is kind of a LARGE momento... but I couldn't just give them to Goodwill either.

So after pondering for a while I decided it was either redo the chairs and use them or let Goodwill have them. I don't keep things, especially big things, that we don't use. Part of my personal philosophy is not collecting things... not having more than we need and can use. Living sparely...

I started by removing the worn out rush and cleaning the chairs. Unfortunately the dirt was so old and so thick that cleaning off the dirt cleaned off the finish as well.

(this chair is half cleaned, the right side of the ladder back is still dirty, the left side is clean but missing parts of it's finish)

Hmm... what do to?

Paint them.

That's better!

Then I found a library book that showed how to weave rush seats and virtually memorized the eight pages of instructions...


...and ordered what seemed like an impossible amount of fiber rush.

Here's what the seat weaving process looks like. It's actually pretty cool, I think, to watch the seat come together.

It doesn't take much in the way of tools...


Since the chair seats aren't exactly square, the first thing I do is square them up with short pieces of weaving on the sides of the front.


Then I start weaving around the whole seat, tying new pieces of rush to the rush I'm working with as it starts to get too short.

After getting the rush tangled a few times I learned to keep it carefully wrapped up and held with a wire tie or rubber band at all times... so this doesn't happen.


As the weaving progress, I add triangular shaped pieces of cardboard into the pockets created by the weave. They are supposed to give the seat extra form and cushioning.


Here's one of the almost finished chairs... it still needs a coat or two of "stuff" before it's used. (I can't think of a good word for the stuff it needs... it's not a stain, but more a water/stain proofing mixture of polyurethane, linseed oil, and something else I'm forgetting right now.)

There are six chair in the set and I'm about half done. I can't wait to have them all done and start using them. (I'll have a bunch of pressed back chairs to get rid of then... anyone interested? ;) )