Thursday, March 31, 2011

mystery revealed

Liese and Renee... good guesses but you weren't even close. ;)

Jackie... you were closer... but not quite there.

Steve nailed it... it's a "bird print", left over from a bird that had managed to slip down my chimney, ended up in the fireplace (getting covered with ashes of course) then flew out of the fireplace and aimed for the first "outside" he could see... Which unfortunately is on the other side of the living room window.

Despite having chimney caps, birds frequently find their way down my chimney and end up trapped behind the glass fireplace doors.  As soon as I open the doors to free to bird, they (almost always) immediately fly into a window... leaving a lovely ash bird print... and I grab whatever towel is handy to toss over the bird so I can scoop him up and take him back outside.  If he hits the window hard enough to knock himself silly, R takes over and nurses him until he recovers enough to have a fighting chance out outside...  (She's pretty good at it, she hasn't lost one yet!)

We don't get birds down the chimney all the time, but it happens often enough during warm weather that my windows often have bird prints on them.

Here's an old picture (a year or two ago) of one of the birds that we've had to catch and toss back outside.

Good job Steve.... I wonder if it was easier for your artist's eye to see the image of the bird in the ashes on my window (or maybe you just have birds flying into your windows and leaving prints too!)

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I'll close with a few pictures I took today...

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Deer crowded around the back fence, eagerly eating last fall's dry cottonwood leaves (the bench was knocked over by the wind today... it was fierce and blew just about all day!).



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Sunset colored clouds through the trees...



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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I was thinking yesterday that I should write a little about the drought we are having... maybe post a few pictures of the ground in the pasture cracked open, or of the scorched acres from the two wildfires our county had during the past week. (One just south of town, one just west of town... thankfully none east of town where we live!)

But I woke up this morning to snow... It won't end the drought but it should stop the wildfires for awhile at least.

We'll be home today, after a lot of running around the past week or so. We've had a bunch of doctor appointments, shopped for some homeschool supplies we'd run out of, and worked at the soup kitchen.

We really  enjoy working at the soup kitchen, although it's a culture shock for us too. Going from our quiet little acreage, where we have to drive 4 miles just to get to a grocery store and the biggest crowd we are ever in is in church on Sunday... to driving into the middle of Denver, into a rough neighborhood, to spend several hours serving dinner to 300-400 homeless men and women. So it's a bit of a shock, but it's also an amazing experience... serving the men ( and a few women) food, making a little conversation, watching M "high-five" some guy he's never seen before, and act like he's his best friend.

Looking into their eyes as I serve them I see so many different things... emptiness and disconnect in some, anger and defiance in a few more, but mostly I see goodness... gratitude... intelligence... humor... friendliness... patience...kindness... dignity.  They seem more open in some ways than many people... looking me right in the eye, thanking me, cracking a joke, or trying to tease me into giving them a little extra (which I would if I could, but would mean someone at the end of the line might not get any).

Serving them serves me... does for me...fills me up... much more than that little bit of soup I dish up does for them. Each time we work there is someone I meet who seems to stick with me during the time until we work again. This time it was a woman who came to me for soup just as I was trying to scoop the last of the soup (from the very last pot...) into a bowl. She was at the end of the line, so had waited while 250+ people had been served first. She said she'd been sick in bed all day, and had only gotten out of bed to come and get soup. All I had to give her was half a ladle of the scraps from the bottom of the pot. The "soup" part of the soup was gone by then... and so she got half a cup of veggies, a few noodles and a bit of chicken. She didn't complain... just thanked me for the soup and left. I was humbled.

This next month has five Fridays so it looks like we might be working the soup kitchen two Fridays in a row. That would be stressful (I always worry about safety... there was a fight when we worked in Feb. and the kids both have to be right next to an adult the whole time we are there), but it would also be good.

School is going well... Giving M and R responsibility for some of their own school work has turned out to be a very positive thing. They have both been pretty good about getting it done before our sit down school time in the afternoon. It gives them both a little more independence, and also opens up extra time in the afternoon for the school work they need my help with.

I guess I'll close with some good news we got over the weekend... E (dd#1) and her husband are expecting again! :) They already have three children, a daughter who is 8 and sons who are 6 and 4. We are so excited about a new baby in the family... and so happy for them.

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Enjoy your day!

Monday, March 28, 2011

a mystery picture

I frequently have these marks on the inside of my windows...

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I get them so often I tend to not even notice they are there. (Which is why this one is still "decorating" my living room window a week after it was created).

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Do you know what it is?




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In case you're wondering, yes I know how this mark got there... I was there when it happened.

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Can you tell what it is?

Friday, March 25, 2011

a small success

For the past few years M has had spells of oculogyric crisis... It's something that can happen as a side effect to a couple of his meds. These "crises" are scary and painful for him, and before all the trouble with his GI system he took a medication each day to try to prevent them. It was also something I could give him, prn, when it happened, to stop the spasms in his eye muscles.

Unfortunately, since all his GI problems started he's had to stop the side effect medication and has been having oculogyric crises more frequently... lately almost every day. I talked to his pdoc but all he could recommend was trying one of two medications... neither of which M should take because they increase his GI problems.

So... what to do?

I'd been trying to work with M on things he might be able to do, non-medication things, to relax the spasms. But when these crises happen he gets a little panicky and isn't very open or flexible about trying new things.

Last night he had a mild episode of oculogyric spasms and, since he wasn't panicking, I decided to try what I'd been thinking about... I grabbed something for him to visually track and told him to try not to let his eyes roll up as they were trying to do, but to follow my movements, and I slowly, and repeatedly, moved my hand down and to both sides as his eyes tracked along. I was careful not to make any movements that might cause his eyes to go up again... and amazingly, he said he felt better.

After he went to bed the oculogyric spasms came back and I went in and did the same eye movement/exercises with him and... again... it helped... and he was able to get through the crisis without medication or a lot of pain and anxiety!  That is a first! Up until now I've had to give him one of the medications that causes a worsening of his GI problems each time this happens... then watch his GI system closely, often having to give more of one of the GI meds to counteract what I'd given him, or watch him struggle and suffer with the eye spasms.

I'm so excited... if he can learn to manage these spasms without medication it would be HUGE.

And there is other important eye news...

R started complaining a couple of weeks ago of sore eyes and headache. She hadn't been seen by the opthamologist for a while so I took her in, and guess what?



Yes, she needed glasses. She was apprehensive at first and really didn't want them...



..but started to get excited once she'd picked out her frames.

Her glasses were in yesterday... an "everyday" pair and a "good" pair (I've learned it's better to just get two pair at once and have a spare pair around... because they are going to get broken!)

Doesn't she look cute? :)

And finally, if any of you saw the news about the wildfire in our area and were wondering... we got lucky and it didn't impact us too much. The north edge of the fire didn't get closer than about 5 miles from us before the wind shifted and started blowing it the other way. We drove past the fire, and saw the flames and the helicopter making water drops, and were very happy the fire wasn't any closer to us. It was really smokey here yesterday but we were not evacuated. (whew!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Math as entertainment...

Because of the kid's disabilities, structure and predictability are the name of the game at our house...  The days we are home are very structured, we do about the same thing at about the same time each day. This is not as important for R, who can usually manage a more go-with-the-flow kind of day, but it's crucial for M who does not shift gears easily or well.

As M gets older he seems to be getting more easily "stuck" on things. Most of the things he gets stuck on are little things, when we eat lunch, when he does school (and who does school first!), but sometimes his getting stuck leaves the rest of us stuck in a mind numbing routine that's hard to find a way out of... at least without rocking M's boat to the point of causing real problems - which does break up the monotony but can lead to the kind of excitement I'd rather live without.

Late afternoon and evenings have been a rough time for awhile now. M was always tired and unsettled by late afternoon, and I needed to get dinner on and couldn't always give him much attention them. (The crockpot is great, but there are limits to how many times a week you want to eat a crock pot dinner!) After several years of working on it, and much drama and frustration (on both our parts) M has finally settled into a late afternoon "reading time" routine that is working VERY well. It's such a relief to have him settled during a time that has been rough for so long.

Because we don't watch TV in the afternoon/evenings, except very occasionally, it's been hard to figure out what to do with the evenings. I always have a read aloud going and usually read a chapter to two to the kids each evening right before bed, but there is still a lot of time to fill... especially with the longer days lately.  M is not able to just go entertain himself with something, except sometimes with Gameboy, and every evening he wanted to play board games. I really like playing board games... I do... but it was feeling like we were all trapped in some weird time warp with each evening being an exact repeat of the previous one, right down to the words M used to ask us to play a game with him.

So now I'm structuring the evenings too. Sundays, for years, have been "Mom's TV night" where we all settle in front of the TV to watch my favorite show, and the only one I'm wiling to turn the TV on in the evenings to watch (Extreme Home Makeover :) )... so I only had six evenings left to figure out. I turned Monday into "game night"... I make a fun dinner (this week I made big plates of healthy nachos) and we pull out a longish game and we play the game during dinner and sometimes straight through 'til bedtime. Lately we've been enjoying Parcheesi for our game night... R likes it and it able to play it (she often has a hard time with games) so it's our current favorite. Wednesday I turned into "soup night", and if the weather is good enough we take a walk after dinner. Friday is "movie night", we pick a movie for us all to watch together and eat dinner in the family room.

That still leaves three unstructured evenings a week, but that's a lot easier to deal with than seven!

Last night, (unstructured) Tuesday, M was at loose ends... he didn't know what to do with himself and things seemed to be heading downhill quickly... so I told him to run into the classroom and grab his math book... we'd get a lesson done. At first he said no (looking at me like I'd suddenly sprouted horns!) but then the thought of doing his math when Joe was around to watch (and be impressed!) motivated him to get his book out. R wandered in to the room (also looking for something to do, I'm sure) and I sent her for her math book also.  The kids spent 30/45 minutes or so working on the math lessons we hadn't gotten to earlier in the day. M worked happily along, much more settled again with the little bit of structure and R went along because she had no choice... but from the way she watched the clock I'm pretty sure she would have much happier to just go to bed early.

After the kids went to bed I thought briefly of turning one night a week into "math night"... we could all sit around the dining room table doing math... but honestly, that seems really weird... even for me. There is a limit to how far I'm willing to go to structure our days and I think math night might be a ways beyond that limit...

Soup night tonight... M should be more settled today knowing what we are doing this evening.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

window seat project

Our house is a older log/timber home and the main rooms of the house all have at least one large window with a heavy timber windowsill.  R was forever sitting on the family room window sill, which was ok... we use the dining room window sill for extra seating sometimes, it's big enough to hold three or four people... but she never looked very comfortable, so I decided to see how hard it would be to turn the window sill into a window seat.

(This is the only "before" picture I can find... I know I have better ones, somewhere, I just don't have the time to look through all my pictures to find one!)


It turns out it wasn't hard at all.

I ordered a timber from the lumber yard... It's a 7' long, 8x4 piece of rough cut fir... it was surprising how well it matched the existing timber window sill.



I thought I was going to have to order more wood for the "legs" under the window seat but I found this awesome piece of lodge-pole pine up in the hay loft and it turned out to be perfect to cut some legs from.

I love these old lodge-pole pine fence pieces... Originally the entire front of the acreage was fenced with these long sections of lodge-pole pine that the original owners (and builders of the house) harvested from the mountains. Most of that original fencing weathered and eventually collapsed in the 30-some years since it was built, but I've found a few salvageable pieces of it, and I found this piece up in the barn. I think it must have been stored for a loooooong time... it was in beautiful shape, hardly weathered at all!

Joe cut trimmed the length of the timber and made brackets to mount it to the existing windowsill then he used huge spikes, nailed through the timber, to attach the legs.

It sat like that for a couple of weeks while I tried to mentally plan how I wanted to make the seat cushion.

I ended up just buying some thick foam, and covering it with upholstery fabric. It's not a professional job, but it will do...

I decided it needed a few pillows too and R picked kind of an old-fashioned red and white fabric. It was only after I started sewing it that I really looked at the print.  I noticed there were farm animals all through it and wondered if they'd included any donkeys in the pattern.


They had...  but the donkeys in this print are on boats. A donkey in a boat... am I the only one who thinks that's a little odd?



I can tell you there is no way I'd try to get either of our donkeys into a boat!

As long as we had two throw pillows with donkeys on them (even though they are donkeys in boats) I decided to make a third pillow out of a tea towel I had with an old style print of a donkey.

That "after thought" pillow, that I made in 10 minutes from fabric scraps and a tea towel turned out to be the one both R and I like best!

Here's the finished project... a window seat for the family room. Plenty of extra seating when we have big family get-togethers, and a nice cozy place for R to curl up and watch TV or read.

My next project is turning a dirty and weed covered corner of the backyard into a landscaped and usable space. Usually with outside projects I just get an idea of how I might want it to look and grab a shovel and start digging... but this time I actually made a plan!

The narrow part of the L shape is already done, it's my little kitchen garden... The larger area is a mess though, it's where Lili the chicken used to live, and is nothing but weeds and hard packed dirt (and one little tree). I've got most of the soil turned that needed to be (I'm planting a tree there and putting in a little rock garden) and the bed of the pickup truck is full of the wood mulch I'll need for around the tree, garden area, bench, etc. I've got a good start but there is still a lot to do.

I hope the weather holds long enough to get it done.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

go...

here... and listen to this kid sing.

You can also find him here
and here

His family (and him) sang at M and R's birthday party last year...

He just cut his first CD...

Buy it... it's amazing. Better yet, buy two and put one away.

He is going to be famous someday and that first CD will be worth a lot of money.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

tired

I'm fighting a cold and I'm tired...

M's had a rough week psychiatrically and the week ended with a major episode last night.

It was hard to get to sleep afterwards... definitely not a good weekend to change all the clocks forward for daylight savings time.

I'm really hoping this next week is better.

I'll close with this...

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Can you tell what it is?

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It's soap bubbles in my dishpan... leftovers from washing some dishes.

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If you've read 1000 Gifts:   A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are   you'll understand the significance.

If you haven't read it, keep your eyes open for it... it's an amazing book.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

right now - today - this week

I got up this morning not in the mood to start the day. I've been up a lot the past couple of nights and was tired...and the house was cold... and about the last thing I felt like doing was bundling up and going out to the barn to feed.

A heavy fog was settled over everything and as I left the house I decided to grab my camera (my new one, which I dearly love!) and maybe take a few pictures. I was almost out to the barn before I noticed a whole herd of deer bedded down in the pasture behind the house.

I stopped and took a few pictures and when they started to move away I went into the barn and started my morning barn routine (throw hay, break ice, haul water, rake and shovel manure.. and finish with "hugs" and a little conversation with Murphy, Tucker and Brighty).


As I walked back to the house I played a mental game I play sometimes when the constant demands of caregiving start to wear on me...  It's a pretty simple game, and I thought I'd invite you to play it with me. All you do is imagine your time is entirely your own, you can do anything you'd like with it... no responsibilities, no expectations... what would you do right now, what would you do today, what would you do this week?  I try to keep my plans realistic, something that would really  be possible to do (I never imagine running out and buying a Mercedes or paying off the house!) but that's the only "rule" I follow.


Right now... this is a no-brainer... I'd turn the electric blanket on and get back into bed and sleep (in a quiet house) until I woke up naturally.

Mmmm... a nice toasty bed would feel so good right now.

Today...  I'd laze around for awhile picking a little on the banjo... I have a song I'm trying to pick out, I've got the melody down but have just started working on which runs and slides to put with it. I would eat lays potato chips, washed down by diet Dr Pepper (yeah, I still miss it!) with a little chocolate for dessert. (M is still on a fairly limited diet... can you tell?!) When I got tired of being home, I'd head into Denver and spend a couple of hours in my favorite music store, looking for any new books they might have of banjo music, and keeping my eyes open for a good beginning dulcimer book. I'd also have them pull one of the expensive banjos down off the wall and I'd sit for awhile and play it. I'd stop for dinner on the way home... nothing fancy... maybe  chipotle... a burrito sounds good, or maybe I'd stop for some Indian fry bread. I'd finish up the day with a good book and a cup of tea before going to bed whenever I was tired.

This week... Hmm, a whole week to do whatever I want with...  I think I'd grab the credit card, toss the kids in the car and take off.  We'd head north first, and revisit Mt Rushmore, Crazy Horse, and the Wild Horse Sanctuary. We would only stay in nice motels with pools, the Disney channel, and pay per view movies. M's stomach would be doing well enough that we could eat what we wanted without him getting sick. Once we were tired of So Dakota we'd head east and stop in Greeley for a visit with my cousin MJ... we'd make sure to drive out to Great-Grandpa's homestead while we were there and spend a little time exploring. Then we'd turn the car south and drive down into Kansas to visit my sister. We'd take our time, visiting all the little museums and things we'd see along the way. We'd spend a day or two in Cottonwood Falls, staying up too late talking, before heading west again towards home.




That's it... the end of the game... it's not as good as really doing those things, but it's still pretty fun to think about. :)

 So imagine... no responsibilities, deadlines, expectations... what would you do right now - today - this week?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

I didn't need it.

Could have lived my life quite well without it.

But I couldn't resist.

It seemed wrong somehow to just leave it there...

The battered old case sat on top of the thrift store display case between the basket of costume jewelry and the tacky plaster horse statue.

I didn't expect much when I opened the case, and was surprised to see the rich glow of the wood as the light hit it...


...a mix of finely sanded lights and darks.



The hourglass body was in good shape and the fret board was straight...

... and the price was right.

So I bought it.

I've loved mountain dulcimers for a long time.

Shortly before Joe and I were married he even made me one, from a kit we bought at the Capitol Hill (Denver) People's Fair.

I never learned to play it (babies and tender fingertips got in the way), but still have that old dulcimer. It's no longer playable...

...but this one is.

My babies are grown (or close) and my fingertips are callused... I think it's time. :)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

good-bye old friend

.... I'm really going to miss you.

Spending time with you made me feel younger,  more energetic... I looked forward to our time together each day.

You were always there during the rough times... you helped me stay awake during the late nights with sick children, and spending time with you put a little pep back in my step after especially draining days with M.

But all good things must come to an end.

I've learned the truth about you, and as much as it hurts to say this... I know in my heart that it's time to say good-bye.

I hope that, in time, I'll be able to forget you and move on with my life.

Diet Dr P... I'm really going to miss you.





(I've been working outside all morning, raking and cleaning up a winter's worth of yuck... I'd so love a soda right now!)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

... and the saga continues.

Well, it seems that M's medical and physical issues are on their way to having as big an impact on his life as his psychiatric and developmental issues do...

His GI system, thankfully seems to be back to what is normal for M... slow motility, but at least it's moving... and he's able to eat again (hurray!) and I'm no longer feeling like we are heading towards another GI crisis like the one we had last year. Whew!

We had our long awaited appointment with the new ortho. doc yesterday afternoon. The orthopedist who did M's surgery (Dr S)  has moved to a hip clinic in NYC, so the orthopedic clinic split his patients among the other orthopedists and we got Dr H. I don't know what I was expecting, but the two doctors couldn't be more different... Dr S was very polished, fancy suits, fancy shoes, fancy everything...  and he spent at most 5-10 minutes with us at each appointment (after a LOOOOOOONG wait in the exam room). Dr H walked into the exam room yesterday in a pair of well worn Carhart jeans and I knew immediately I was going to like him. He looked at the x-rays, and spent a good 45 minutes talking to M and I.

Unfortunately, because of the hip pain M is still having (now in both hips) it's looking like the end is nowhere in sight in terms of his hip problems. Dr H read through Dr S's notes about M and his surgery, and said that Dr S hadn't reshaped the hip socket during last years surgery (he did reshape the femur of course) to make it shallower because he was worried that with M's developmental delays and schizophrenia he would not be able to follow the post-surgical precautions and would dislocate the hip during the recovery period. Dr S never told me this, I thought he'd done all he could in there... I was disappointed to hear that the continued pain in the rebuilt hip might have been avoided had more been done during surgery. I understand why Dr S made that decision, and it might have been the right one (because M did have trouble following the post surgery precautions) but still... I wish I would have known.

So we're looking at impingement in both hips... still.

I REALLY liked that Dr H didn't seem to just offer two choices: surgery or pain... He took the time to talk to us and try to figure out what to do first... leaving surgery as the very last resort. So, the first change is no more horseback riding... hippotherapy or for fun.. all other activities will stay the same, and after a month or so we'll see how much that change helps. If M's still having hip pain (which I'm sure he will be) we'll do another MRI with contrast, of both hips this time, and he'll get a steroid injection in each hip at the same time. Depending on what the MRI shows, and the pain relief he gets from the steroid injection, Dr H thinks he'll be able to pinpoint more closely the source of the pain. With that information, we will be able to start discussing options... with surgery probably being one we'll have to consider. Dr H has already said he can't do what's likely to be needed arthroscopically, so it would be another BIG, saw-your-bones-apart-screw them back-together-differently surgery.

M was so brave during the appointment. I know he dreads the possibility of another major surgery, but when Dr H talked about it he looked right at him and said he'd be ok with it if it would help his hips.

I was not quite willing to be so agreeable, and am not thinking much beyond this next month of no horseback riding. I did feel good after the appointment though... I liked Dr H's way with M, and we immediately connected over horses (Dr H owns some and said the coolest thing he's ever done is drive a team of six Belgians!), and it felt so good to have a doc who took the time to listen to both of us and thoughtfully discuss non-surgical options as well as the possibility of a surgical intervention.

So... the saga continues... I'm glad I like Dr H because it's looking like we might see a lot of him over the next few months.

Oh and Dr H didn't keep us waiting for an hour (or two) to see him... he had x-rays done and was in the exam room within 40 minutes! Quite a nice change from what we were used to!

M handled the appointment well but crashed and burned later in the afternoon when we got word that a friend of his from Special Olympics had passed away during emergency surgery. It was a very rough evening for M... he works so hard to be brave about things, even when he isn't able to fully understand what is being said but knows it involved him, and more procedures and pain... and then to find that his friend just died during surgery... I don't blame him for falling apart. Thankfully he was calmer (and completely exhausted) by bedtime. He's still asleep now... hopefully today will be a better day for him.

(edited to add: sorry about the funky paragraphs, my spacing is being weird for some reason)