Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Things I wish I could say to new widows...

Here's my list of things that I think widows should know about this new chapter in their lives:

1. You didn't die with your spouse. I know that it feels that way some days, but really, you are here and still breathing, so work on living. Go grocery shopping. Buy healthy food. Bathe (please). Wear decent clothes (if you have to fight too hard to stay out of the sweat pants, all day, every day, donate the sweats and buy yourself something comfy that looks decent). It's okay to have a couch/bed day every so often, just don't do it every day. Go outside. You aren't a mushroom. You need sunlight. It's important.

2. Other people's lives continue in a fairly normal manner. Even though it feels like your universe just imploded, other people might be sad for a moment, but on Monday morning they are going to work. They are making dinner for their families. They are attending scout meetings. They are caring for family members, and going out with friends. No one will be able to devote the same amount of time to caring for you that your spouse did... and to expect them to is to set yourself up for major disappointment.

3. This really sucks. That is the nicest, most socially acceptable word that I can come up with to describe a situation that you keep wishing is a nightmare, but instead is your new reality. There is no silver lining, no magical "positive" compensation to balance the suckiness of this time. It doesn't matter that somewhere in the world are people who actually have it worse than you do (have you seen the starving children in Africa?). Your experience, and your emotions matter. Don't let anyone marginalize what you are going through, because this isn't made less painful by comparing it to what other people are going through.

4. Misery and loss aren't a competition. We all lost someone we love. No one is unique in their love, and more tragically touched than any other widow/widower who ever existed. When those who have had this experience before you tell you that life eventually improves- believe them. They aren't just offering a trite phrase to make themselves feel better. The widows and widowers reaching out to tell you that the intense, horrible, all consuming feelings are going to become manageable, and eventually taper off enough for you to feel joy and pleasure again- we're reaching out because someone reached out to us and offered us hope. We saw others who experienced this journey who have happy lives now. Once we are in a positive place in our life, we want to offer you the same hope that got us through. It's hard to believe this in the beginning, but I PROMISE your future does hold joy.

5. It's not a silver lining, but do remember that now that your future plans have all changed, you have the ability to completely change the course of your life. Take some time, while learning this "new normal," and think about the things that make you happy and bring meaning to your life. Do you want to go back to school? Have you always wanted to volunteer? Do you enjoy traveling? It's so hard to come to terms with the knowledge that very little is the same as it was before you lost your spouse, and for me this was the denial phase of grief. I knew that my spouse was gone, but I didn't believe that my life wasn't going to continue exactly like it had... just minus my husband. It didn't. It couldn't. That was SO HARD, but once I quit raging at the universe and more time passed, I discovered that it was pretty nice planning new things for my future. This is a fork in the road, and you are now going down a different path. What kinds of things are you going to make sure are along this path? You get to chart a new map for your future. That might seem scary, but it's not bad, and you can make sure to include a lot of new experiences that will feed your soul.

You are still here, and you still matter. To quote Dr. Suess, "You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own, and you know what you know, and YOU are the one who'll decide where you go..."













Tuesday, July 16, 2013

4-H 2013

We just finished putting together Chris and Sam's portfolios with all of their project records for this year. They go in on Thursday for their Interview Evaluations (no clue why I capitalized that, but somehow it looks wrong in lower case). I dread this week, every year. We COULD do a better job at keeping up the record books throughout the year... but... every year we scramble, pull out our baggie of receipts, and go through my phone to find all of our project meetings/events.

This is Sam's first year as a regular 4-H member (instead of a Cloverbud). He completed an Electricity project, Cavy project, and Breeding Sheep project. It's just a few years since Sam first became verbal, and so I've worried about how he's going to get through interview evaluations and showmanship, but so far he's doing a great job!

Sam was enrolled in Market Sheep, and weighed in a lamb, but a few days later we went out and it was gasping for air, and died about fifteen minutes later. I still think that he somehow collapsed his lungs... but I have no idea how/what happened. Luckily the lambs are insured through the market livestock sale committee  and so he will get back $80 after the sale. The lamb cost $90, and we only fed it for about a week, so it's not a huge financial loss. He has had a hard time learning to handle sheep, so it might have been a blessing in disguise. When the lamb died, we quickly enrolled him in the breeding project and put him in charge of the ewe that I bought him two years ago. Sam has never been interested in the ewe, and so Chris had sort of absorbed her into his flock of ewes. Sam now goes out and throws hay twice a day and is always in charge of water. Luckily his ewe is incredibly gentle. We've lambed her, and handled her for two years now... so hopefully... Sam won't lose her during showmanship at the fair.

This Chris's fourth year as a regular 4-Her. He also spent four years as a Cloverbud. No wonder I feel as if we've been doing this forever! He completed Breeding Sheep, Market Sheep, and Cavy projects. He also did all the work for the Electricity project, but for some reason isn't wanting to complete the project and do an interview evaluation for it. We are still in negotiations about electricity.

This was Chris's first year lambing. He had three ewes bred (four if you count Sam's Brisca- who Chris was caring for throughout that time). Some very nice friends of ours volunteered to let us breed to their rams, and helped with all of the pre-breeding things like vaccinations. The ewes returned about three months later, fat and happy. We started really watching for lambs about the 11th of February. In the evening on the 17th Brisca's lambs had dropped (which means that there were hollows in her flanks and her belly was lower). Otherwise she looked normal at feeding time. I went out at 9:30, right before the kids went to bed, and found her at the feeding grounds with one lamb up and nursing. Chris and I moved her into a lambing jug inside the shop, and then evaluated her. She turned around and had a lamb head trying to come out. This is worrisome- because lambs present with their legs stretched forward and their heads tucked between them. Before we even had a chance to become alarmed- she delivered the second lamb, head first, legs back, no problems. I think if it had been one of the black face ewes we might have lost a lamb in that position, but Brisca pushed it out like nothing was unusual. She immediately cleaned that lamb and got it up and feeding. Wahoo! Successful lambing. Everyone else looked normal.

So... I woke up at about 4:30 (after checking sheep at 11:30, 1:30, and 3:30am). No one was scheduled to go look at sheep until 5:30... but I couldn't sleep because I was thinking about lambs, so I decided to go check anyway. Tulip was at the feeding ground with a HUGE ewe lamb on the ground. The lamb was mostly cleaned off, but still wet, and hadn't stood to eat yet. I moved her into the lambing jug and Tulip nicely followed along. Her jug didn't have water in it, or hay, so at that point I remembered that I have children for a reason and went inside to wake up Chris and send him to get her hay and water. I didn't tell him about the lamb, just that he needed to take water to the lambing jug (pen if you haven't figured that out yet). He went outside, half asleep.

A few minutes later he came in and said, "Mom, there's a lamb..." I told him that I had wanted to surprise him and so didn't tell him, and then asked if he'd given her water. He shook his head and repeated, "there's a lamb...on the feeding grounds. Is it Tulip's?" At that point I jumped up and we went back outside. As we left the house we heard a lamb on the west side of the shop. I asked him if there was a new lamb. He said he didn't know, but that the lamb he was talking about  was on the feeding grounds. So... we stopped on the west side first, because, clearly, there was an unhappy lamb over there. We found a ewe lamb, still in the amniotic sac, covered in dirt. She was very... vocal, and kind of cold. I picked her up and we proceeded to the east side of the shop (and the feeding grounds). I could hear/see a lamb on that side, but all of the ewes were eating hay and ignoring it. We dropped the poor, dirty, cold lamb in the shop door and then went out to pick up the other and bring her and her mom inside so that we could set up a lambing jug for them.

When we returned to the feeding grounds Chris picked up the other lamb, I tracked down Rose (his Hampshire ewe) who still had membranes hanging behind her. Rose wanted nothing to do with being caught OR her lamb. It took us three hours to get her into the shop. I finally had to call my mother for help. After about an hour I was worried about the poor wet, cold lambs in the shop and went in and offered them to Tulip. It isn't unusual for a ewe to have triplets, but sometimes one of them needs a supplemental bottle. Tulip- who had delivered within half an hour of Rose, immediately took the lambs, cleaned them, and got them nursing. Whew! Everyone had colostrum! We went back to trying to catch Rose.

Mom came, we finally got her cornered by smashing her into the fence with another fence panel (Hamps are so very... Hampy). I dragged her into the shop. She still hadn't delivered the placenta (because she was running around like a crazy sheep instead of nursing her baby). On the feeding grounds my mother noticed an older placenta (Tulip delivered hers in the lambing pen, while we were trying to pin down Rose). So... we tracked down the big commercial black face ewe and discovered that she did have a tiny amount of discharge, but was was basically clean. We determined that she must be the mother of one of that morning's lambs. We led her into the shop (she's mostly Suffolk- much more cooperative than Hamps).

When shown the lambs, Sheepy (big black face ewe) tried to kill both of them. We tried to get her to nurse, but even cornered and not allowed to attack the lamb, she didn't have any milk letdown... and whenever the opportunity presented... she tried to kill her lamb (we decided that hers must be the one left in it's sac on the west side).

Rose didn't try to hurt the lambs, but wasn't even mildly interested in hers. She just wanted back outside. Eventually we put Rose and Sheepy into a large, makeshift pen inside the shop... about the size of two lambing jugs. Tulip still had the care of all three lambs, but we did get Rose to nurse one of them when we smooshed her into the corner and held one of her feet up so that she couldn't kick. We decided to leave the two ewes together (because we were confused about which lamb went to which ewe- we called their area, "The Pen of Shame") and then we left all three lambs with Tulip. Every few hours we would go back outside and try to get the other two ewes to nurse their lambs. By the next morning we turned Sheepy outside and declared her a "cull," meaning that she was destined for the sale. She still attacked lambs who tried to nurse on her. Rose would nurse when cornered and forced, so we kept her as a supplemental milk source and planned to continue letting Tulip care for all three lambs. I threw hay into Tulip's pen and knocked over one of the four lambs who were clustered around her. Feeling bad for the poor thing I reached in to help it up, realized it was wet... and well... there were FOUR lambs!

Apparently Tulip had another lamb, inside another placenta, and delivered it almost a whole day after she delivered the first lamb. He was healthy and perfect, and had already nursed. So... Tulip was raising four lambs, which is quite a lot, even for a really good ewe.

We returned to the shop every two hours to force Rose to nurse two of the lambs. We didn't care which lambs, just picked up whichever two looked hungriest. After about five days Rose would see us coming and stick her own head in the corner. A couple days later she would stand there with her head in the corner and her foot lifted. The day after that we tried her with the lambs without our assistance. She still wasn't interested in them... but she let them nurse and didn't hurt them. For another day we went out every two hours and put the smallest two lambs in with Rose (Tulip's lambs were much larger than the lambs of the other two ewes).

FINALLY, we opened the lambing pens and made a large pen (the size of four lambing pens) where we left Rose and Tulip for another three days, mixing them and their lambs, and making sure that everyone got enough to eat. At that point- we decided to risk letting them outside with the rest of the ewes and the yearling lambs we had kept from last year (for eating).

Things went smoothly with all of the lambs from that point forward. Tulip mothered all four black face lambs. Rose would let anything nurse on her that tried. Brisca easily, and quietly, raised her twins... with no interference from us (I kind of love Dorsets).

Early this summer Chris had the opportunity to purchase a Navajo Churro ewe and her lamb. They are a three purpose breed, used for food, fiber, and milk. They are also horned, and have a very unique wool. Chris has been enthralled with them for five or six years now. He's really excited to try raising some of his own.

Each of the boys, including Jake will be showing cavies at the fair. Sam and Jake have had crossbred pet sows for a couple of years now. Chris acquired a pair of Peruvians from some friends in our homeschool co-op. The kids have had fun taking care of their own pigs, and it's been interesting seeing how they interact with each other. Cavies are pretty neat critters.

Brisca's lambs. Good Brisca.

Tulip, on the morning I noticed she had FOUR babies. Tulip earned her home here for life.

Sheepy and Rose in the Pen Of Shame. Bad Sheep. BAD sheep.

Treasure and Prisey, the Navajo Churro additions to our family.

Treasure, looking beautiful.

Chris with Nasturtium. She was born in May of 2012, so we thought she was too young to breed last fall. She looks good now, though!

Sam with his Dorset ewe, Brisca. She is Nasturtium's aunt. She's been a great sheep for Sam.

Jake, examining fiber from the Navajo Churro

RC and Kiera



Wednesday, February 27, 2013

We have been part of a homeschool co-op for several years now. Anyone who still reads my blog might remember that I've mentioned the co-op before. :-) We think of it as our homeschool family. My kids love going, and I have learned more from the other moms than my children have learned in their classes (and they've had some really good classes). We love it there. It is "home" to us.

Today, in my email messages, I found an email from one of our directors.
Dear Families, 
Thank you for a great 5 years. I have enjoyed working with you and getting to know you and your children. We have had some great classes and opportunities. At this time, I have decided I am no longer willing to be a director for this program after the current term ends. I would like to find someone to help Patty, at least to finish out spring term. At this point, I don't know if we would be willing to attend spring term as regular participants or not or if I am just completely done with it. But I do know that I am no longer enjoying all of the behind the scenes work that goes into making co-op successful. Co-op is no longer an enjoyable day that I come home from refreshed and ready to tackle the rest of my homeschool week. It has become draining and exhausting, which tells me it is time to pass the reigns to someone else. I know we have many wonderful talented women in this group and hopefully one or more of you are willing to step up and help. I will bring my notes for spring classes on Thursday to pass on to someone to use or not use as you see fit. In addition the figuring out classes and schedules and classrooms, you will need to update the website each term, orient new families, stay to help clean up, and handle any "issues" each week. It can be and has been an enjoyable and rewarding way to serve the homeschool community and meet new people.

If you have questions about what the role entails, feel free to contact me. If you want to volunteer, you can contact me or email Patty directly. 

Thank you for all you have taught me and my kids. Hopefully the friendships we have made can continue.
Sincerely, 
I understand where she's coming from. This is, and has been, such an integral part of our year (and our social life), but it HAS become exhausting and draining. It seems as if there is more work than joy a lot of weeks. This term I'm in a classroom for three out of four hours and don't see much of the other moms at all. BECAUSE I'm in a classroom for most of the day (and setting up a classroom during most of the lunch hour), I don't know how the rest of the moms feel or what they're dealing with this term.  Is everyone feeling overwhelmed with work and lacking in fellowship?

It feels like there. are. so. MANY. complaints. I feel like I'm always whining about something. Nothing "feels" the same anymore. We had to find a new facility- and it feels different. We have a few more kids- and that feels different. We've had a change of leadership- and that feels different. We've added more electives- and that feels different. We're cold all the time- and, well, that is familiar. We were cold at the other church too.

Are we really complaining more than we ever have before? Are there more problems than we've dealt with any other term? As a whole, are we unhappier than we have been other years?

Let me go out on limb here and guess that the answer is no. Personally, I am more tired and overwhelmed with life in general. Every person in our group has a life outside of co-op. It's easy to forget that, especially when we are having a hard time keeping our own heads above water and meeting the needs of our families. Some of our members have lost family members this year. Others have had very full work schedules that they juggle on top of caring for families and homeschooling. Some of us struggle with health issues.

In past years I have felt that co-op is something that I do for me, as well as for my family. We started coming because I felt it was good for the kids... but we stayed because I fell in love with the moms. :-) We have some awesome and amazing moms. When my husband died, it was our co-op family who supported us and provided community, allowing us to be pretty darned strange while we were healing. Visiting and laughing with the other moms saved my sanity on more than one occasion.

This term I don't have that. It makes me wonder how many other moms are missing the same thing. It doesn't feel like we are one big family. Because of my schedule it seems like most of my interactions with a lot of the moms involve expressing complaints, or accepting suggestions for improving my teaching skills. It's really easy to get prickly about those complaints/suggestions because... that's all I'm hearing. It's easy to think that everyone is unhappy... because unhappiness is what I'm hearing. In reality, I don't think that there are proportionately more complaints this year. I THINK that what is really missing is the positive interactions that refill my cup. We aren't all giggling the corner somewhere at some point during the day. I don't know what's going on with the other moms, even the ones I'm close to, unless one of us calls on the phone... and how many of us spend much time talking on the phone? I realize that we are supposed to be doing this for our kids... and we are... but, the moms need to come away from the day with something other than a tension headache and a list of things that they need to do better next week.

Maybe I am isolated in feeling this way. I over committed my time and that's my own fault. But... what if I'm not the only one FEELING isolated? What if we're all a little on edge because we aren't connecting like we used to? What if everyone feels a little judged because the only interaction they get with the majority of our members is to discuss what is wrong, instead of what is right?

If I feel this way... how do our directors feel? You know when you're young... that seems like a prestigious job. It seems like there should be some glamour, or glory, or at least power to be had by filling that position. Yeah, there isn't. It's hard work. It requires someone who is capable of balancing all of the strong personalities within our group. It's not a good thing when one of our most competent and diplomatic moms ends her resignation letter by saying that she hopes the friendships she and her family have made can continue.

As individuals we are doing something wrong and we need to do better. The difficult question is: WHAT can we do differently?

Monday, October 01, 2012

Friday, August 31, 2012

Illness, Loss, and Inconvenience

Recently we welcomed into our home an ancient dog who had to be re-homed when her family moved. Technically she is a "long term guest," and will return to her family if/when they find a house with a yard where she can be healthy and happy. She's adorable and really not any trouble (because- did I mention she's ancient?). Today she is much more her normal self and we've discovered that she talks (woo woo woo... very softly, like she's having a conversation with you). She is mostly deaf, but responds if she can see your hands and she is socializing well with the other two dogs who were already part of our family.

Watching the dogs interact today reminded me that it wasn't long ago that I debated the wisdom of keeping the puppy, Aztec. He got very sick when he was a young puppy (along with two others in his litter) and now he continues to puke all over the place and wheezes when he's stressed (either physically or mentally). The last time I took him to the vet we discovered that he was completely healthy (which I'd expected)... so we did some chest x-rays. It turns out that he most likely has a para-myocardial arch (blood vessels from the heart wrap around the esophagus and cause restriction in the esophagus). He also has a mega-esophagus as a result of the arch. The mega-esophagus means that his esophagus (the tube that carries food from the mouth to stomach) doesn't work the way it should (muscle movements that carry the food downward) and it has created a wider place where food tends to settle (instead of emptying into the stomach).

When I heard what the vet was thinking my first thought was, "I wonder if we should just put him down right now?" Closely following that first thought was, "Oh my goodness, I can't stand any more puke all over the place! My back hurts from cleaning the carpet as it is!" Then... I looked at him. He was sitting on the exam table, completely happy. Happy puppy with a strange rattling sound in his throat, but totally trusting, totally happy... and healthy (just not perfect). Of course, right then and there I committed to doing my best to seeing that he remains happy and healthy (and imperfect).

One of the traits I like least about myself since Dave died is that I'm scared that I'm not strong enough to handle severe illness or loss of anyone else that I love. Even the thought of losing someone close to me makes my body feel the same shocky way that it did when I found Dave the night that he died. I really question whether I'm strong enough to go through that (or anything even similar to it) again.

Right now I have more than one friend fighting life threatening battles. Even THINKING about it makes that anxiety rise (not slowly like bread, or leisurely like air bubbles in water... but rapidly and violently, like a bullet out of a gun) to the surface. It creates ripples that invade every corner of my brain. My first thought was that maybe I should just distance myself.. save some pain. Certainly I have already lived through enough pain in my life and no one would blame me if I just "forgot" what was happening.

Then... I look at Sierra and Aztec. They are strong. I don't have to be. They're the ones in our house who are ill or old. I love them. I help them in whatever ways I can. I feed them, clean up after them, and enjoy every bit of companionship they offer. If one of them dies, or leaves (since Sierra very well could return to her family) I will be ok. It would be much more painful to live in this moment, fearing that loss, and denying the love and companionship we can share RIGHT NOW.

I know that they're "only" dogs, but I think that the timing with both of them is perhaps meant to be a message and a lesson for me. It's ok that I don't like illness and death affecting my loved ones. Those things will happen whether I'm ok with it or not. It's ok that I question whether I'm strong enough to deal with new situation.

Dave was not the only person in his family to die young of a heart attack, in fact there have been way too many of his cousins who share the same fate. One of his cousins was visiting with me not too long ago. He expressed how much he valued his time with his wife and kids and then he said something like this: My family don't live a long time, but we have FULL lives. We have rich lives because we know that they may not be LONG lives.

Make your days count, every day. Don't run (or even walk slowly, careful not to make eye contact and draw notice) away from situations that might not (or definitely won't) end well. Avoiding pain, because it will hurt (duh) will decrease the fullness of life. It will spend part of the richness in a way that gains you nothing... and so... old dogs, and chronically ill dogs will remain in my home and I will love them... because what is today about, if not loving those who mean something to me? We will let tomorrow take care of itself when it gets here.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

June

:-) It's been another month and time for another update.

Life at our house is settling into a more livable rhythm. Our homeschool co-op is out until next September. 4-H is gearing up for fair (only about six weeks away, yikes!). The kids appointments have now become more streamlined so that I can get everything out of the way within an hour instead of spending most of a day in town.

The sheep are looking fabulous. This year Chris bought lambs from a family who we've known forever. They're gorgeous little lambs and the whole experience of going out to choose them was something that the kids really enjoyed. The family set up viewing times for each potential customer. After we got our time we got another call from them inviting us to join them for lunch. The kids in their family helped Chris select his lambs... and I'm pretty sure he listened better to them about what he's looking for than he ever has to me. It was a very enjoyable afternoon.

We still have one market lamb from last year who hasn't been butchered. This week we have some friends coming out to help us butcher him ourselves. I'm still not entirely convinced that I'm going to love this... but it is MUCH less expensive than sending him to a packing plant and the people who volunteered to help have a lot of experience. Hmm... I wonder if I should invite my 4-H kids over for that event.

Our puppies have all gone to their new families. I miss having them all here. We did keep Aztec, who was the largest puppy in the litter. He was the kids' favorite. Aztec is going to be a new adventure for us. The plan is to get him a vest and train him as a service dog. My hope is that if I can get him working with Chris it will help Chris be able to go to camps and leadership retreats without me. So far the puppy has been exactly what we want... except... he barks. His mother never barks without a very good reason. Aztec is chatty. He likes to talk to us. When he's bored and wants someone to play... he barks. If he's outside and wants in... he barks. If he needs to pee... well, that's a good time to bark. I think I'm about to get him some harness bells to hang on the inside and outside doors and see if we can train him to use tools rather than barking for some things. He is incredibly smart, and incredibly mellow. The puppy's favorite people (other than our family) seem to be toddler boys. He likes when they pull his ears and use him for balance. He likes the screaming joy they exhibit (which probably is a lot like his chatty barking thing, in his eyes). All in all, I am VERY pleased with the dog and his behavior.

The boys are getting a little adventurous now that we have less school oriented things going on. I should spend some time putting together lessons and activities for them... because they keep inventing their own and that sometimes doesn't end well. Yesterday they made salt dough. They've made it before... somehow they decided they didn't need the recipe this time... and they didn't ask for help. Yeah, so... I should get off the computer and go continue scraping stuff off the kitchen floor.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

May

It's been a month since my last post, so it must be time to write something new!

The past couple of months have been really hard, really long months. My kids have had some issues with sleep, sickness, and general well being. Our sheep lambed and we lost one ewe lamb, then a month later had a yearling ewe (with twins) prolapse, and then go down with pneumonia and die. It has been many, many years since I have had so little sleep and things got a bit scary around here. Sleep is not to be overrated.

During the hardest parts of the last month I did realize that part of the reason things hit me so hard when I wasn't able (not allowed, emergency disrupted, solo parenting) to sleep was because in a lot of ways I still have a public face and a private face- and when I'm exhausted I can't maintain the division between the two. I also spend a lot of time meeting other people expectations (yes, believe it or not- I'm kind of sucky at it, but I DO work to meet other people's expectations).

I don't ask for help meeting my own needs until I am so overwhelmed that everything comes out as rage. That's not a good way to get your needs met. That's a great way to lose relationships. On the positive side- it does show you who your real friends are, because they just blink at you and tell you to go take a nap. It's a great way to sort out the people who are only nice because they're polite.

Monday, April 09, 2012

He wants to be normal.

We survived another holiday. It was rocky, and at times unpleasant, but we survived.

Chris can't eat artificial food coloring. Let me repeat that. Chris can't eat artificial food coloring. Well, to be truthful, he CAN eat it. It only requires opening his mouth, putting the food in, chewing, and swallowing. He CAN eat slugs or sheep poop too, and they'd be healthier for him. There are times when temptation overwhelms him and he DOES eat a piece of candy that's colored. We all pay for it when that happens.

Allergies cause histamine responses. That's how you define something as an allergy. Chris isn't allergic to food dye. It doesn't make him swell up. It doesn't affect his breathing. It doesn't cause hives. I wish he was allergic to dye, because that would be easier to deal with. Instead, Chris has a neurological response to food dye. He doesn't have a hard time breathing. He does wake up screaming. He does sit and rock. He does pick at his skin, his clothing, his nails, and his hair. He does get very anxious and worry incessantly about things outside his control. He does feel unreasonable fear. He does go days without sleeping. He does voice the opinion that he would rather be dead than feel like this. He does strike out physically when overwhelmed by the physical sensations caused by dye... but he's not allergic. He's also not faking or trying to get attention. Food dye makes him miserable, and it makes him miserable every time.

Chris is ten years old. He still gets excited about holidays and treats. Sweets are exciting to him. Surprises still hold the power to captivate and delight him... except... almost every surprise someone has put together for him is FULL of food dye. Chris is his father's son. He LOVES candy and goodies. He reminds me so much of Dave in that way.

He's ten. I know that he needs to learn to be graceful and not resentful when he can't participate when his brothers and cousins get candy. I know that he needs to be graceful and not resentful when he can't eat dessert. I know that he needs to be graceful and not resentful and not even mention that he CAN'T eat something- because good manners are about making other people feel comfortable, and reminding everyone that you can't eat what they are trying to give you makes them uncomfortable. He's ten. He wants to participate. He wants to get treats when the other kids get treats. He wants to be normal.

Wait. He wants to be normal. Did you hear that? He wants to be normal. He isn't making up a problem in order to get attention. He wants to be normal. He isn't being snobbish or rude when he can't eat treats that other people bring. He wants to be normal. He isn't being difficult. He wants to be normal. He is trying his hardest to be fun, and cooperative, and polite. More than anything in the world- he WANTS to be normal.

As much as I try to shield Chris from the more unpleasant sides of human behavior, the message he is hearing is that there is something wrong with who he is. As hard as he tries, he behaves differently than other kids. He tries SO hard to act like other kids. If you don't live in his house, you have no idea how hard he tries to not be autistic. He wants to be, and do, and think like other kids. He wants to eat candy with other kids. Making him MORE aware of how different he can be does NOT help. Food color is a simple thing to avoid... if you watch for it. But it's one more thing about Chris that is different. This is a battle that he can't win. He'll try to eat what everyone else is eating- in order to not be different. He pays for it later. I pay for it later. Our whole house pays for it later, because the dye causes real problems... if anyone is skeptical, they are welcome to spend the night after he's decided it's more important to be "normal" than it is to avoid dye.

I'm starting to hate holidays because the message society sends is that everyone is supposed to be happy. Every activity seems to be centered around food. The food in our house is safe for Chris to eat, but anywhere else we go (with the exception of our homeschool group) Chris winds up sitting out while every other kid gets excited about candy. Games, have candy as rewards. Easter eggs, are filled with candy. Desserts... usually filled with artificial color. Sure, the company is excellent! We have awesome family and friends who are fun to hang out with... but... Chris is ten. He's still maturing. It is NOT fun for him to watch the other kids having fun while he can't participate.... and he sees no point in participating when the reward is something that he can't have.




Saturday, February 11, 2012


This is the most recent addition to our family. It's a Shopsmith from the 1950's. I wanted to cut 2 feet off of about six boards... and I hate running the circular saw (yeah, it's a quirk). The motor of our table saw died a couple years ago and my little cutting projects have just been piling up (because for some reason I won't get out the circular saw and get them done). When I wanted to go shopping for a table saw a friend suggested that I check the pawn shops first. I checked. They had nothing I wanted... then... I looked on craigslist. This shopsmith showed up in my search for "table saw." My grandfather always wanted a shopsmith. That was my first thought. My second thought was, "wow, that's about $100 less than buying the table saw I like, if I buy a new table saw." Yeah, you know I had to purchase it. This one came with all the accessories to use it as a table saw, drill press, lathe, and shaper/router. I need to buy an attachment to use it as a disc sander (I'm currently shopping for the attachment).

My entire house and shop is full of projects. There are things I've started and not finished. There are projects I've purchased materials for and not started. There are many things in need of repair... and then there are the sewing projects which also share shop space with the tools. It's not like I NEED more to do here. Something about this tool called me. It feels right, as if it's going to be important somehow. I ordered a new owner's manual for the Shopsmith V (the V being because it is five tools in one), a series of 10 self directed woodworking lessons, and a book about woodworking in general. This is MY homeschooling for the spring. I WILL learn how to work this machine and get it up and running. My goal: to build a bar for use out in the shop. Everyone should have a multi-use workshop/sewing room/party space, right?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Update

I haven't written here in a long time. Sometimes I wonder if I still want to. Facebook may be to blame for my apathy about blogging. I can type out a quick status update and be done with it.

This has been an interesting fall/winter. Hard to believe that Dave died more than 2 years ago. We just had our third Christmas without him. That still sucks beyond belief. I think that Christmas Eve night is my own little hell on Earth. Other than that- things have been pretty good.

Chris is ten years old now. He's getting tall and his feet are WAY bigger than mine. They're only half a size smaller than his dad's feet were. He's so helpful around the house. Because of his size and strength he can move and fix things that I wouldn't have been able to tackle by myself. It's hard to remember sometimes that I don't have to do everything alone anymore. He likes to help and has a knack for "tinkering" that reminds me of his dad. Chris's sheep flock is doing well. He has three ewes who were marked when we took them to breed. We're hoping that translates into six spring lambs... but, lambs, like chickens, should not be counted before they're on the ground.

Sam turned seven last summer. He's tall and strong and still climbs everything in sight. His speech is finally more intelligible and the boy has interesting things to say. He also has a love of the television and all things electronic. He is the boy I have to drag kicking and screaming into the sunlight. Zowie got bred last week so we are expecting spring puppies. I think I may turn that responsibility over to Sam. He needs some encouragement to work hard and working with animals seems to be one of his biggest talents. Sam's other real talent is cooking. He loves to help in the kitchen and I have to sneak in baking time when he's asleep if I don't want company in the kitchen.

Jake is now six. He's funny, and amazing, and a pain in the rear- all at the same time. He's the kid who is most like me. That's not always a good thing. His wry observations make me laugh. The boy's sense of humor is twisted and wrong (which just makes us laugh harder). He's hard to discipline because it's so hard not to laugh at him. He was a spontaneous reader, but it's hard to get him to buckle down and practice. He loves getting together with friends and has never met a stranger. He is eager to help with anything and everything. Jake also loves to sing and has been trying to teach himself to play guitar. That's a sight to see, since the guitar is larger than he is.

I'm still doing the same old stuff. We still homeschool. We still have some deficits and excel in other areas. Grandma is amazing and active at 90 years of age. She is great company and offers wise advice (when I'm patient and wise enough to listen). For the most part I love my life and realize how blessed I am to get to be with the people I love, doing what I like, almost every day of my life.

Jake camping in the living room

Jake camping in the living room