Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Many Thanks!

Thank you for all the ideas and comments from my last post. I am grateful to all of you.

One question that came up was why I would homeschool a little one Micah's age. Typically, with a special needs child you would enroll them into a headstart type of program once they reach age 3 and no longer a part of the early intervention program. With autism, I am quickly learning that the more helpo you give them at a very young age, the better they make progress. You don't want that gap between early intervention and school age to be left without some type of therapy or work.

We have chosen to begin working with Micah on the preschool-type activities, but incorporate the fine motor skills and such that he lacks. We are doing it in a relaxed setting, but it must be done daily to help him retain the information and skills learned. He quickly "forgets" new skills if not practiced daily.

Thank you again for the ideas. I am gleaning through them and working at coming up with more. We recently were notified that Micah is approved to receive SSI/disability funds and plan to use it exclusively towards his therapy & education. What a blessing it will be.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Reaching Out For Ideas

Today, I am reaching out to you all for ideas and suggestions concerning Micah.

Micah will be 3 yrs. old in April. As the regular blog readers already know, Micah has Autism. As of April 4th, he will no longer be in the Early Intervention program. We plan to homeschool him along with Abigail and my grandson, David. The local headstart program is not going to be a good fit for him. They will do things for him & not help teach him to become independent.

I have been looking into educational materials for him. Toys and items that will help him to develop fine motor skills, cause & effect toys that make him have to work out how to operate them, etc. In the catalogs from companies that specialize in special education/therapy related products, these things can be horribly expensive. I am looking for ideas of affordable alternatives to the more pricey versions.

I would love to hear from others who have experience homeschooling autistic children also. How did you get started? I know that once Micah is grade school age, we can use lower level materials (i.e. preschool level in place of kindergarten or grade 1) if needed. But where do you start if you are at the very beginning with a preschool age child? Any suggestions of what worked well for you?

I want to give Micah the best start that I am able. Having autism can be a stumbling block if allowed. Our goal is to raise Micah to become as independent as possible. We have already been advised by teachers and others in the public education system to avoid putting him in the schools in our rural area as they will not benefit him.

The thought of homeschooling Micah doesn't intimidate me. I am just needing a starting point to work from. I bought the book, "Slow and Steady, Get me Ready" by June R. Oberlander. It has a lot of great ideas for teaching the developmental skills that Micah is needing. I am searching now for ideas on how to teach him the preschool level academics-type things. Any ideas?

Thank you for the support and comments you have offered in the past. They are much appreciated.

May the Lord's blessings be with you.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Prairie Boot-Camp

Well, it has begun. Grandma Boot Camp is in progress. My oldest daughter, her husband, and their son (who is the same age as Abigail) have been living with us for a couple of weeks now. I've been loving it. Abigail now has someone her age to play with and Micah is thriving in the changes.

Christy & JR (my daughter & son-in-law) are wonderful with Micah. He has accepted the changes very well and is bonding to them beautifully. JR is Micah's buddy and Micah seeks him out quite often. Christy is planning to do daycare in their home when they get their own place. She wants to specialize in tending special needs children - something that is much needed in our area.

After the novelty of having a new child to play with wore off for Abigail & David (my grandson), they began taking on each other's bad habits as well as developing an attitude of entitlement. Well, that doesn't fly in our home. Time for Prairie Boot Camp to commence!

The first lesson was the kids being told that they now will have daily chores. They were not too keen on this, but we are moving forward. The next topic was that the phrases "I want..." and "I don't want to..." are no longer in their vocabulary. Their new favorite phrases will be "What can I do to help?" and "What do you need done?"

We are not asking too much from the kids. Their chores are age appropriate and well within their ability. They are working along side of us. If they choose to not do their chores, then there are direct and immediate consequences. No excuses are permitted.

Gradually, they are learning that the amount of playtime that they have is increased if they work quickly. "Wool-gathering" instead of doing their chores results in less playtime. It has been great to see them realising that the work goes faster when they work together. They are also becoming more respectful in their attitudes.

Now, before I get the obnoxious comments about harming kids by having them actually do chores, let me state this. We are trying to get a small family farm going. These kids are being raised as farm kids. Learning from a young age that good work ethics is NOT harmful to a child. There are too many people already in our society who are lazy and think that they should be handed things the easy way. Howe often have you seen people do the bare minimum to earn their pay while others work hard to make sure things are done & done right? We have all complained at one time or another about it. By raising the kids to have a strong work ethic, they will become contributors and not slackers.

Are the kids thrilled at having to do chores? Not always. They are learning however, some very valuable lessons that will benefit them later on in life.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Winter Storm Preparations

I am amazed each year as winter comes along that so many do not take the time to prepare. Here in Oklahoma, it is common to have at least one ice storm that brings power outages that can last anywhere from a couple of days to several weeks. Yet, each year there are reports of families who are caught unprepared for this yearly occurrance.

The greatest concerns during winter is shelter, warm, food, water, and sanitation. These concerns are not just limited to winter, but for the purpose of this blog I am restricting it to winter storm preps. There are numerous things that can be done to get your family ready for power outages. Below are some of the things that we have done.

Shelter: This is a simple one. Keep it simple by staying home when weather is turning bad. Pay attention to radio/tv reports and if possible have a weather radio. Watch the sky. If you see that it looks like a storm is coming, avoid going out on the road. If you can't avoid it, then have an emergency supply kit in your vehicle. Include things like blankets, granola bars or other food that doesn't require cooking, bottled water, a change of clothing in case yours gets wet. Ladies, if you are like me and wear a dress/skirt most of the time, consider having a pair of flannel sleep pants or other warm pant that you can put on under your dress/skirt to keep your legs warm. One thing that I find to be essential is a emergency blanket that can be used both as a source of warmth and a way to help you be seen easier if there is a need for search & rescue.

Staying warm: If you have only one heat source, such as electric heaters, have an alternate source available. Kerosene heaters are reasonably priced and put out a lot of heat. If you use them, be sure to include a couple of containers of kerosene in your storage so that you are not caught without fuel for the heater. I know that seems like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how many people have the heat source but no fuel for it. I prefer the kerosene heaters as a back-up heat source due to it's efficiency. In our home, we heat with firewood. There is a large woodstove in the livingroom and a wood cookstove in the kitchen. Using these requires that we have a good supply of wood cut and stored in a dry area. On our porch, Joe stacks a large supply of split firewood for the larger stove and has 2 crates where the smaller pieces used in the cookstove are stored. This makes it easy for me to be able to bring in wood as needed, without having to go out in the weather. We always have a supply of kerosene due to using the oil lamps for lighting, but in winter I am storing an extra 5 gallons which will allow us to use the kerosene heater is needed.

Food & Water: Build up your pantry! Whenever you go to the store, buy a few extra items to be put into the pantry. Watch the sales & pay attention to which stores have the best prices. Recently, I went grocery shopping and bought 11 cases (12 cans each) of various vegetables for $5.20 per case. For under $65 I was able to add a 2-3 month supply of vegetables to the pantry. If you garden or have access to a Farmer's Market, home can your harvest. You can do this also through watching the sales at the grocery store. Last year, we found sweet potatoes at the store for 15 cents per pound. Opportunities like that are excellent for home canning! One note about food - have a plastic tote available in winter for food storage. If the power goes out you can take the food from the refrigerator, put it in the tote, and store it in a garage or other area protected from animals if the weather is cold. The outside temperature is likely cold enough to prevent food from spoiling. Consider having a few cases or gallon containers of water stored in your pantry. If water pipes get frozen, the water will be available for drinking or cooking.

Sanitation: If your water pipes freeze, there is also a chance that the water line to the toilet can freeze. It is a good idea to have a back-up in place in case this should happen. It also makes it nice to have in case the toilet needs a repair. Camp toilets are one good option. If you are in a real emergency, double line a bucket with trash bags and you have a make-shift toilet. A small metal trash can with a good fitting lid is excellent for this! The lid prevents keeps odors down and the metal won't absorb any odors like plastic can tend to do.

There are many more ideas for winter preps. I just wanted to get the topic started in hopes that it will spur others into thinking about these things now before the bad winter weather becomes a problem. Being limited on time at the library computer, I can't write as many ideas as I would have liked. I would love to see your ideas for how you prepare.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Topic for my next post - if a severe storm took out your power for an extended time, would you be prepared?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Family news

I wanted to post a quick note as it seems to be harder and harder to get around to updating the blog. I am working on saving up for a netbook to use at the library or wherever I can get the free Wi-Fi access. Until that time, I will not be updating the blog very often. I am estimating that it will take until early December for me to make that happen.

Joe is doing great with the trucking job. Tomorrow, he goes to a training class to become a trainer. He will then take newly hired drivers out with him to run as a team while he evaluates their abilities and helps to teach them how the paperless logs and such are worked.

The kids are doing well. Abigail is nearly a year ahead in math and is beginning to learn to read. She has been doing unit studies, the most recent being on the topioc of the "Little House in the Big Woods" book. She enjoyed it so much that I am going to look for thematic studies for the other Little House books.

Micah's therapy is beginning to have positive results. He is beginning to understand sign language. We are finding that there is a negative side to drawing him out of himself. The more he help him to not go inward, as autistic children like to do, the more he is aware fo the stimuli around him. This increase of awareness is causing him to have more meltdowns when in public or in the situations that trigger him to be over stimulated. He has also begun to wander off and I have to watch over him like a hawk. I am making little Jingle Bell bands to attach to his ankles. Basically sewing the bells onto small scrunchies. With his shoes on, these won't easily be removed. The sound of the bells doesn't bother him.

We are contacting dog trainers to find a companion dog for Micah. We feel strongly that if he has a trained dog with him, he will handle the stimuli better. It has been a proven method and autistic kids seem to have fewer meltdowns if they have their dog with them. The dog goes with them just as a service dog would do.

There is much more going on, but time is short this library trip. I am looking forward to not having timed sessions on the computer again.

May the Lord's blessings be with you.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Finding Our Way


It seems so long since the last posting. So many changes have been taking place. Nearly all are good, so we are feeling blessed. The biggest change was Joe's returning to over-the-road truck driving. It was a tough decision to make. It had been 2 1/2 yrs. since Joe was truck driving and we had become used to having him home. The choice had to be made though and the Lord showed us that it was the right decision at the right time.

Abigail and Micah have adjusted to the job change. At first it was odd to them to not have Daddy coming home each night. They have done very well though. Daily talks on the phone with Daddy helps a great deal. Joe also sends post cards in the mail.

Abigail has been homeschooling at the Pre-K level. She is learning to read and seems excited to do more each day. Currently we are doing 2 lapbooks. the first is a lapbook for the book, "Little House in the Big Woods" and the second is a lapbook on the theme "Autumn". We do a few activities each day for each lapbook. The "Little House" lapbook is a month long project that I found on the Lapbook Lessons website. They, along with Homeschool Share have many free lapbooking projects available. The Autumn lapbook is one that I have been designing that focuses on the season and the changes it brings.

Micah has been getting therapy at home. He had a set back when the therapy became too difficult and frustrating, but he is back to himself again. They are returning the focus to more of a Floor Time approach, which is what I had great results with when I did his therapy myself. He is making eye contact and interacting more often than previously. Last Monday, he even waved goodbye for the first time to someone as they left the house.

We were give 3 roosters recently to keep our hen company. My in-laws had a surplus of roosters, so it was a blessing for them to be rid of a few. Unfortunately, not that we have chickens again, the cougar is back. Last night it caught one of the roosters. What an awful noise they make when they are vocalizing! It had taken the rooster into woods near the house.

My life is beginning to calm down now that autumn is upon us. Joe and I talked about the garden and I decided that with 2 young children, one being special needs, I cannot manage a large family garden alone. Next spring I will be planting a much smaller garden with mainly the vegetables we eat fresh and an herb garden. We have access to very good Farmer's Markets where I can buy vegetables in bulk amounts to home can. We will utilize those more next year. I would love to have the large garden, but I have to be realistic about my time and ability to do so. The garden that I do plant next spring will have the weed barrier plastic to help cut down on the weeding. This will give me the ability to grow many things, but still limit the amount of work involved.

My laptop computer is in need of repair, so I am back to having only the library computer access on Wednesdays. I will try to post as often as I am able. We are looking into either repairing the laptop or buying a netbook or other low price laptop. Once we do, I will be able to post more.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Adjusting to changes

What a time it has been these past weeks while Joe has been gone. We are adjusting alright, some days are certainly better than others though. We are settling into a routine that is working well. I homeschool both of the children in the mornings. For Micah, that is time used for therapy. I set him in the high chair and work with him as Abbie works on her Pre-K schoolwork. Some days, Micah is not cooperative, but we work it out.

I had to take Micah to the ER last weekend. He had a fever of 101.9F and turned out to be sick with strep throat and was dehydrated. They gave him fliuds through an IV and he is now taking Ibuprofen and Amoxicillin. On Aug. 30th, he has to go to a surgery center in Edmond, OK, so the dentist can do his dental work. Being very young and not cooperative about opening his mouth for them, they hae to sedate him. Nice part is that all his dental wok will be done at one time. Now, I have to find a way to get him to allow me to use a toothbrush instead of the infant one that goes on my finger.

Abbie caught a "leaf hopper" in jar today to take to Grandma's. Being Wednesday, the kids are having their visit with Me-maw and Pop-Pop. Abbie was so tickled to have the leaf hopper to show them. For some reason, Me-maw didn't look quie as excited about taking it home.

I made out a list of canning recipes yesterday, along with the shopping list for them. I decided that this year I am doing holiday canning to use as gifts. I am looking forward to it. Autumn canning is always my favorite. I start making more soups and stews for our dinners and then can up the extras. I went out and bought the newest Ball Blue Book and chose recipes out of there to do up. Now, I am looking at the pantry an wondering how to best expand the shelf space in that small area. I am sure that I will get it figured out. Just a matter of being creative in where to place the shelving.

Micah's physical therapist came by on Tuesday to see what his needs are. On Friday, she will be back to start the actual therapy with him. I am looking forward to getting her help with it. She seems very easy going and Micah took to her really well.

Thank you for the letters I have been receiving lately. I am getting them answered by and by. With our days beginning to calm more and the weather not being so excessively hot, I am finding more time to sit and answer the letters.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


I wanted to apologise for not posting the comments sooner. I was unable to get to the library last week, so they had to wait until today to be posted. I moderate all comments due to having problems in the past with both AD-type ones and vicious verbal attacks that are not appropriate for the blog. So, just as a reminder, I usually am able to spend time online at a library on Wednesdays only.

We have a lot going on. Micah is now enrolled in the Early Intervention program, but we are going into it with little hope for any benefit for Micah. Being rural as we are, the options available are not as plentiful as to those in a city. I am taking steps to change this for Micah. I will post more as we go along.

Joe is now truck driving again. Today was his first day in the trainer's truck. I am looking forward to seeing how it went for him.


Sunday, August 8, 2010

"Frugal Food Bible" review

I wanted to share with you a really awesome book that I found at the library today.  It is called, "Frugal Food Bible - Practical Advice for Feeding your Family During Hard Economic Times" by Better Days Books (ISBN 978-0-6152-1899-1).  If you can get this book through your library or book store, it is well worth time and effort!  I don't often recommend books, but this is one that I am planning to add to our home's personal library.
The front cover intrigued me when I saw it.  Pictures of ads from the days of the Depression and World War 2 were evident.  I was equally curious as I read on the cover that it contained advice "From Americans who survived and thrived in tougher times than these" and that the book contained "over 400 pages of classic frugal food recipes, household hints, money saving tips, backyard gardening guidance and more."
In scanning the table of contents, I learned that this gem of a book is actually 4 books combined into 1 publication.  The first section is the book, "The American Frugal Housewife" by Mrs. Lydia M. Child.  This publication was originally published in 1832.  The writings and values are ones common of that time, but are very important to us today.  Simple recipes using the basic larder stock are a blessing during times when grocery money is running low.  By incorporating many of these recipes to our regular meal routine, we can cut our food costs greatly.  Mrs. Childs includes information on topics such as simple remedies, how to make soap using wood ash lye, and how to clean/maintain your home in a more simple manner.
Section two contains, "Foods that Will Win the War and How to Cook Them" by C. Houston Goudiss.  First published in 1918, this publication contains great information on how to conserve your food resources.  It was written at a time when the nation was dealing with war and basic supplies were limited.  The frugality of these ideas and recipes can benefit us today as well as it did our Grandparents' generation.  There are recipes that show you how to make breads and other foods without wheat, sugarless recipes, and meatless meals.  One item that may interest you as well as maybe your children are the butcher charts that show where each cut of meat comes from.  For example, did you know that bacon comes from the belly area of a pig?  One feature in this section that caught my attention were the dinner menus.  These menus are hearty in their content but are a nice way to plan out your meals.  I will be trying some of these in the near future to see what ones we like.  It will be nice to have new meal ideas to add to our repertoire.
Section three is "Home Vegetable Gardening" by F.F. Rockwell, originally published in 1911.  It touts itself to be "a complete and practical guide to the planting and care of all vegetables, fruits, and berries worth growing for home use."  In the 1st part, a good basic instruction is given, complete with a planning chart to show how far apart to plant the rows of vegetables.  The 2nd portion teaches about vegetables, how to start from seed, when to plant, etc up to the harvest and storing of the vegetables.  Part 3 is about fruits and berries.  Much like the previous part on vegetables, this one gives great ideas on the planting, tending and harvesting of the fruits and berries.  There is also a calendar showing what to do each month to maintain and grow the fruits & berries.
The fourth and final section is "Cassell's Vegetarian Cookery - A Manual of Cheap and Wholesome Diet" by A.G. Payne, B.A., originally published in 1891 in England.  One of the purposes of this particular publication was to provide information and recipes not only for those who were vegetarian by choice, but the vast number of those who adopted the vegetarian diet out of necessity. This section is nearly all recipes sectioned similar to any good cookbook. 
Overall, the book is one of the best resources I have found recently to teach how to use basic ingredients found in most home larders and turn them into meals the family will enjoy.  The recipes are not as detailed as today's cookbooks are, but they are easy to understand.  There are some recipes with call for ingredients such as corn syrup, which today we may not choose to use.  There are substitutes today that can be used in the corn syrup's place.  The basic recipe would stay the same though, which is a great resource.
As I mentioned, I don't recommend many books, but this one is a keeper.  I will definitely be looking for it to purchase. 
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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Need "Sneaky" recipes

Problem:  Micah is a very picky eater.  He loves cookies and such, but refuses to eat vegetables and even meat.  
Solution:  I want to collect some creative ideas that will allow me to sneak good things into bar cookies or other foods that I know he will eat.  One example is a bundt cake recipe that I saw on a vegetarian website that has about 8 different shredded veggies in it. 
Preferences on the recipes:  As some of these may be the only way that I get Micah to eat healthier things, I am especially wanting things that are low sugar or use natural sugars such as honey sparingly.  I am also hoping for healthy preparations, such as recipes that are not fried. 
If you have a good recipe to share, please submit it as a comment to the blog so that I can have it posted with your name to give you credit. 
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Friday, August 6, 2010

A New Start

Friday, August 6, 2010
It is hard to believe that Joe's no longer working locally.  Thursday was his last day at his janitorial/grounds keeping job at a business 10 miles from home.  In 2 days, he will begin his new job with an OTR (over the road) trucking company.  He will be gone 6 weeks at a time.  What a change that will be making.  We've done this before.  Abbie was an infant then.  Joe left trucking when she was 2 yrs. old when still expecting Micah.  Micah has never known his Daddy to be gone for periods of time longer than a regular work day.  The adjustment will take a bit for both of the kids.
I am preparing myself for the time apart also. I am going to be getting us on a more set routine/schedule.  Not only will it help me get things done, but Micah thrives in the structured setting of a consistent routine.  I will be starting Abbie's Pre-K homeschooling on Monday.  That morning, the Sooner Start coordinator will be arriving to see what Micah's therapies needs are, along with our immediate goals for him. 
I chose to do the Charlotte Mason approach to homeschooling with the kids.  We will be reading a lot of books and working on projects as a basis of the curriculum.  I am including lap books and file folder games into the curriculum.  For the first week, we are going to be doing 2 lapbooks.  The first is a devotional lapbook for the Creation story.  The second one is on the topic of Ants.  I ordered at the library the Aesop's Fables book containing the story of the "Ant and the Grasshopper" to read to Abbie.  The lapbook I found online didn't have any math related projects, so I am making my own.  I am drawing my own math worksheet.  On the sheet will be a series of ant hills.  In each I will draw or use ant stickers to add between 1-10 ants on the hills.  There will be a line drawn under the hill where Abbie will write the number of ants on that hill.  Later, that same idea can be used by having 2 sets of ants and one hill. Abbie will add the 2 sets of ants and write the answer in the hill.  Pretty basic, but will add the math to the lapbook.
I am finding that planning the lapbooks to be a lot of fun.  One thing that I am realizing though is that I need to start early to plan them.  Not having a printer, I have to take the jump drive with the files on it to a office supply to make the copies.  The other option is to use the items found online as a guide, then hand draw and make my own.  With this in mind, I am carefully choosing which items to print out.  Mainly the very involved ones.  The easier ones, I am simply making my own.  I bought a box of file folders from the office supply store to use for the lapbooks.  As I get components made, I will start adding them to a file folder.  When it is time to make the lapbook, I am hoping that the items will be ready for Abbie to use.  My goal is to make the lapbooks a minimum of about 2-3 weeks in advance.  Come winter, I hope to have a ready supply of them so that I won't have to go out and make copies in the winter weather.  I will likely work on the lapbooks and file folder games after Sunday.  It will give me something to do in the evenings after the kids go to bed and help pass the time until I am tired enough to sleep. 
I am looking forward to the therapies starting for Micah.  The way Sooner Start works is to teach the parents what to do and guide them in how to teach their own children.  This is exactly what we were wanting.  I am going to request from the speech therapist that if possible, she bring me as much PECS information as possible so that I can study ahead on it.  We have only 8 months to help Micah learn to pay attention long enough for us to teach him the PECS communication system as well as teaching him how to use PECS.  I feel a bit like we are under pressure here.  There is no guarantee that once he is no longer eligible for the Sooner Start program at age 3 (in April, 2011), the Head-Start therapists will teach it to him.  It all depends on what amount of time & resources they have available to him.  He won't be enrolled in the program, but would be going for therapies only.  That is the main reason why I am wanting to learn as much as I can so that I can use it to teach him.  He will be homeschooled along with Abbie and the information for PECS will be a blessing.
Overall, the upcoming change is being planned out as best as possible.  I have ideas for helping the kids to know when Daddy is coming home.  One is to use the PECS idea and have a picture of Joe to place on the calendar on the day he is due to be home.  We are going to put up a map of the USA on the wall and use push pins to show where Daddy has gone each day.  Joe plans to text us each day to say where he is so that Abbie can see on the map.  Once she is older, we will turn it into a project for homeschooling.  For now though, it is simply a way for her to know where Daddy is and when he will be coming home.
For myself, I plan to stay busy as best as I can.  Once we are on a steady routine, it will be easier to get more sewing and such done. I have been wanting to sew, but by evening it is too hot to use the treadle or I am too tired from the day's activities.  Typically, I sew more in the cooler weather. I really want to get back to having a set time to do it.  This will be a chance for me to do so.  Another source of comfort for me is writing letters.  I have a few pen friends that I write to and have others wanting to exchange letters with me.  I love it!  On days/nights when I feel lonely, I am able to pull out the letters and read them.  They uplift me and are such a blessing. I never feel so lonely after reading a few of them.  Thank you to those who have already been writing to me.  I am getting the letters answered as quickly as I can.
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Saturday, July 31, 2010

This and That

First, I want to thank everyone who has contacted me via comments and email to express their encouragements and support regarding my last post.  I know that the post was one that is not my usual style.  I have been considering having a journal of the Autism experience from a Momma's point of view.  Then, it was put on my heart to share it here in hopes that as our family walks the path given to us, the posts may become an encouragement to others.  I have been finding that one of the setbacks for the parent of a special needs child is the sense of being alone.  Friends and family can offer some amount of emotional support, but there are times when you really NEed to connect with someone who is going through it and knows first hand what you are experiencing.  I am still thinking about the idea of doing a journal/blog specific to Micah and our family's journey with Autism, if I do choose that route later on, I will certainly have it linked to this blog.
Recipes - In the past week or so, I have been receiving email asking for me to share my canning recipes.  Thank you for the interest!  I will gather them up and start posting them to my recipe blog.  I have been wanting to get that blog going again and it seems this is a good time to do so.
Now, for a big piece of news. After about 2 years without electricity, Joe and I have made a decision to make a few changes.  With his new job, we are planning to rewire the house.  The wiring was in bad need of replacing at the time when we had the electricity shut off.  So, we are taking the opportunity as we fix up the home to get the wiring taken care of.  We have been taking stock of the realities of our lifestyle, taking into account Joe's new job, Micah's needs, homeschooling Abigail, and my age/health.  We agreed that the 2 largest challenges that I have is the laundry and the heat.  We are going to wire the house so that we can get a washer & dryer.  Though I will still be using the clothesline as often as possible, the dryer will be a blessing in winter and in the rainy season.  The washer will be a blessing in that it will free up time and be less taxing on my body.  I have been noticing that on hot days or in the cold, my fibromyalgia flares up much more.  I have been having chronic pain more often again which is frustrating when I have been medication-free for over 3 years now.  Joe is wanting us to have the ability to use fans in the summer and if needed, an a/c for the bedrooms so we sleep better at night.  It will also make a cool room available in case the heat is too much for anyone.  The other 2 things we will do with the wiring is have a couple of outlets available.  One will be for the laptop so that I will have more access to it both for contact and for homeschooling.  The outlet will also give me the ability to keep the cell phone in the house while charging it instead of having it in the van.  The second outlet will be for the radio.  Joe is wanting to put in a ceiling light in the living room and kitchen/dining room.  On overcast days, these rooms do not get much light due to being on the north & northeast sides of the house.  In winter especially, we end up having to use oil lamps much more often.
We don't see this move as a step back.  We are still going to be living much as we do now.  The electricity is only going to be for a very few things.  No TV or buying of a lot of electrical things.  We are simply getting things set to where we can be more efficient in our lives.  The only new things that are planned to be added are the washer & dryer, possibly a printer for the computer, fans, and only if truly necessary, an a/c for the bedrooms.  One luxury that we are definitely looking into is Internet access at home.
One thing that we are looking at is the monthly expense for batteries, fuel to drive to a library to use the Internet, and the time factor.  Yes, it is a matter of convenience.  Taking care of family needs, homeschooling, and therapy for Micah takes up Most of my day.  Having the ability to research in the evenings after they go to bed will be a blessing. 
We are looking at options for alternative energy that is affordable, but if nothing is found by spring we will go back on grid.  We prefer to stay off-grid, but we are being realistic.  Joe is determined that the kids and I do not go through another hot summer without some form of relief.  So, the search if on to find an alternative energy source that is not going to cost us 10's of thousands of dollars to set up.
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Friday, July 30, 2010

Is the Lord STILL Sovereign?

Some time ago, Joe and I were able to hear a sermon given by our Oklahoma City pastor, Pastor Mike Rasmussen, of the Crosswalk Community Church.  In the sermon, the main theme was one of whether or not the Lord is still sovereign in our lives in spite of what trials we go through.  At the time that we first heard this sermon, I loved the message it brought.  I would never have known though just how deeply it touched me until this past week.
As you already know from my previous posting, Micah had his assessment evaluation the past Tuesday, July 27th.  Though we were prepared to hear that he had Asperger's, we were caught way off guard with the diagnosis of the actual Autism.  In his scored on the standard tests for his age, they found that his understanding of what is said to him is that of a 6 month old, he speaks as a 10 month old, and has the cognitive reasoning/thinking of a 5 month old.  Another words, at 27 months of age, he is about 22 months delayed in his cognitive reasoning and his understanding of what is said to him.  This news devastated me.  I knew that he had experienced a setback recently, but I had no idea that he was so delayed. 
In the conference with the doctors after the assessment, I kept thinking to myself "please don't say he has retardation" over and over in my mind.  I was relieved when they never said the words.  I thanked the Lord for it, but..... What about Micah?  The challenges he will face just seemed to double or triple in my eyes.  All of the "what if's" began coming into my mind.  I felt like I had just been tackled by "Refrigerator" Perry at a flat out run while I was standing still.  I felt like I was in shock in some respects.
I never got angry with the Lord, but I wasn't involving Him at that moment either.  I felt mute in the idea of praying or communicating my heart to the Lord.  I have always known that the Lord had created Micah and allowed him to be Autistic for a special reason.  But this is my baby!  Children with Asperger's Syndrome are able to integrate into society fairly well if given the proper tools to do so.  Joe and I have watched YouTube videos of people with Asperger's describing what their lives are like.  They took the "scary" out of it for us.  Yes, Micah would have had to face challenges to Learn to communicate with others, but it was "do-able" to me.  The only reference that I have ever had with the actual Autism was the movie, "Rain Man."  My son is NOT the rain man!  The Lord wouldn't do that to my precious baby boy! 
Diagnosis: Autism.  There, they said it.  Were they saying that Micah will become the rain man?  It can't be that!  My little "Pookie" laughs and is mischievous.  He tries to play with us.  We blow bubbles and he gets excited, dancing his little awkward dance, giggling as he watches the bubbles and breaks them. He becomes excited when he knows that Daddy is home.  When I walk in to get him up in the morning, his face lights up.  Surely, this is not the rain man! 
Diagnosis:  He has the understanding of speech of a 6 month old & the cognitive reasoning of a 5 month old.
Recommendation: Micah needs to be taught PECS or sign language to communicate, but first he must be taught how to pay attention so that he is able to learn to the communication skills.  Dear Lord!  What are they saying?  We have to teach Micah how to learn before we can teach him the communication skills that he needs?  My heart is dropping the more they talk.  My mind is screaming, "You are talking about the wrong kid!  You have another mixed up with my son!"  As they kept going on, I went through the acceptable motions.  I asked questions and such.  My mind seemed detached however.  It was as if I was working on 2 different levels at the same time.  Part of me was taking it all in and the other was screaming in denial inside.
In my past, I have been through more than a person should ever have to deal with.  Never did I question that the Lord was with me.  I knew the Lord was there and guiding me.  Then, we get this diagnosis about Micah.  It did what living for a time on the streets had not even managed to do.  I was broken.  When I thought about all of the challenges and struggles ahead for Micah, my heart broke to the point beyond pain but one of numbness.  My emotions swung back and forth like a pendulum from numb to sobbing. I called Pastor Brian, our pastor at St. Paul's United Methodist Church, located much closer to home.  He was awesome in his compassion and council.
The next day, I still was weepy and felt distress over what we had been told.  Though I didn't blame the Lord for it, I still couldn't bring myself to pray either.  I went through periods of functioning well, then crying over it all.  Why this?  Why to Micah?  Did my being 45 years of age when I had Micah have something to do with it?  Did I do this to him?  How can I say that I love my son when I did something like this to him?  On the heels of that thought, I stopped myself.  No!  I adore Micah.  He is my precious son.  I went through a rough time just carrying him, having to have labor stopped 3 times, then put on bed rest until his birth at full term. If I had known prior to becoming pregnant with him that he would have a special needs issue, I still would have felt blessed to have him.  I refused to allow myself to feel guilt for being an older Momma.
By mid-day one thought started hounding me.  I could almost hear Pastor Mike asking during his sermon, "Is the Lord STILL Sovereign?"  I tried to ignore it, but just as compassionately persistent as Pastor Mike is, the thought kept coming to me.  I refused to answer that one, even to myself.  How should I know?  The Lord had just stood by while someone ripped out my heart, stomped on it, then shoved it back in sideways.  No, I wasn't bitter over it.  I was too numb to feel bitterness.  Too angry at autism.  And too angry at myself from not being able to make it all better for Micah.
Today is Friday.  It was 3 days ago that we learned Micah's diagnosis.  I still feel numb at times.  It is hard to wrap the mind around what the tests indicated.  I'm not crying as much, though the tears are there in my heart.  I am choosing to focus on a couple of things. 1. Micah is still the same little boy he was before we walked into that assessment.  2. I know in my heart that Micah is more intelligent than a 5 month old.  I have watched him reason things out and come up with the accurate answer.  3. I am being proactive and getting the resources lined up to give Micah the best chance possible.  4. I am determined to learn the skills needed to homeschool Micah as planned.  5. I am redirecting my feelings about his diagnosis into a more constructive way of expressing it - I am becoming Micah's advocate even more than previously. 
As for the opening question, "Is the Lord still Sovereign?", I am acknowledging that He is the one in control.  I know that He has a purpose in creating Micah to be exactly as he is.  I know that one day Micah may very well be a testimony of the Lord's grace to others.  I am accepting these things.  In my human-ness, I have to admit that I am not happy about it.  At this time, I only see the struggles and challenges that Micah will face in the future.  As a Momma, I have a hard time with the idea that my child may have to struggle harder than anyone else just to be "socially acceptable" in the world's eyes.  But is the Lord still Sovereign?  I have to say that yes, He is.  It made been in a resigned tone that I say it right now, but I have to admit that He is Sovereign.  I have to believe that He is or there is no hope for Micah's future.  The Lord must be Sovereign or none of this makes any sense.  This doesn't make me any happier about the diagnosis.  It doesn't take away the pain in this Momma's heart.  But the Lord being Sovereign does give me that glimmer of hope.
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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Micah's Diagnosis

Tuesday, July 27th, we took Micah for his long awaited Autism Assessment evaluation appointment in Oklahoma City.  What a day it turned out to be.  Up until the appointment, we had been given belief that he's high functioning or another words, has Asperger's.  How wrong we were.
The team at the Oklahoma University Child Study Center were great.  We were made to feel very welcome and at ease with the entire process.  Micah wasn't so sure about it at first but once I took off his shoes so he could go bare foot, he calmed down quite a bit.  Micah only wears shoes outdoors.  Indoors, he will fuss and cry if you make him wear them.  Seems that he enjoys being able to feel the floor with his feet.  We were welcomed by a gentleman who is the parent of 3 special needs children.  I believe that he said they are all autistic.  He took us into a room where Micah could play and get settled in.  We were brought up to speed on what would be taking place that day.  Next, we began meeting the rest of the team of doctors who would be observing and evaluating Micah.  The team spoke to us about our concerns and what we would like from their evaluation.  Our primary concerns were: 1. A diagnosis as to what Micah's exact issues are,  2. Recommendations to help us in providing therapy he needs, and 3. We wanted to have information about resources & support available.
I was impressed on how easily they were able to take various forms of play and use them to test Micah's understanding.  One game was showing him a little car then hiding it under one of two washcloths.  He was then asked to find the car.  Sadly, Micah just sat on my lap and did nothing in response.  All the while, the 2 doctors testing him would take turns trying new little games with him.  At one point, Micah got stressed and had to get off my lap to walk in circles while finger flapping.  He then was brought back on my lap to finish this part of the testing.
Next, the same 2 doctors took us back into the larger play room and observed him with toys on the floor.  Micah simply walked in circles around them and never tried to play with any of them.  They were simply an obstacle to walk around.  The toys were picked up and 1 of the doctors then tried to engage Micah in playing with her.  One thing that she did that got his attention was blowing bubbles.  He loves bubbles!  He would watch her do so but had no way to ask her to continue when she would stop for a moment.  After this, Micah was given a very thorough physical exam.  This part he did very well.
After a brief time of the doctors consulting each other, they prepared the report for us.  Here is the core of the issue.  Micah doesn't have the more mild form of autism known as Asperger's Syndrome as was believed.  Micah has the more intensive version known simply as Autism.  The worst part is that at age 27 months, he is speaking as a 10 month old and has a 6 month old's understanding of what is said to him.
This diagnosis was a blow to us.  We knew that Micah would have obstacles and challenges ahead of him, but this diagnosis just increased them.  Personally, I feel heartbroken when I think of how hard he will have to struggle to overcome his challenges.  We were given some resources to give us both support from other families with autistic children and therapy resources that will work with us and coach us in how to do therapy with Micah.
This diagnosis wasn't want he hoped to hear, but now we know what we are dealing with and how to help.
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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Homeschool Preparations

Hard to believe that the new school term is nearly upon us.  Abbie will be starting Pre-K (called K4 at the local schools) in a few weeks.   With all of the preparations for Beloved to start his new job in August, I am waiting until after he has left to begin homeschooling Abbie.  We have been talking a lot about the homeschooling and decided to choose a method that would benefit both Abbie and Micah.
A highly recommended method for special needs children, that also works great with typical children, is the Charlotte Mason approach.  It is a literature-based curriculum.  We are adapting that method to suit both of the children.  Charlotte Mason believed in encouraging young children to explore the nature around them.  She also encouraged parents to utilize a child's natural curiosity as a learning tool.  Classic literature and living, whole books are used as the basis for learning about history and science.  Living books, as I understand it, are non-fiction.  Whole books are simply the unabridged versions.  Classic literature for Abbie's age would be books like Beatrix Potter's Tales of Peter Rabbit, Aesop's Fables, and the like.  The books are chosen for their wholesome qualities. 
I am incorporating into the curriculum, the use of file folder games and lapbooks.  Hands-on activities are an important method to use when teaching autistic children.  It is also a great way to reinforce to children the lessons they are learning.  In some states where a portfolio is required of homeschooling families, lapbooks also can provide documentation of lessons learned.  With Beloved going to be away from home so much with his new job, the lapbooks will be a way that the children can share with Daddy what they have learned while he has been away.
I found Ambleside Online, a website where you can access book lists and curriculum information using the Charlotte Mason approach.  Their detailed explanation of the Charlotte Mason approach is one of the best that I have found.  On the site, you can find curriculum suggestions such as schedules, year by year guidelines of what to teach, a suggested book list for each grade level, and more. Whether you use the Charlotte Mason approach or not, the book lists are a great resource.
Lapbook Lessons is a site that has free lapbooks complete with the printable components.  There is also a members forum where you can share lapbook ideas with others.  The lapbooks on the site are very helpful.  The photos of a completed lapbook are detailed enough to give even a novice the idea of how they are put together.  The printables give you the option of black & white or full color on many of the sheets.  You can find a wide array of ideas and templates to use in creating your own lapbooks.
If you are interested in learning about Charlotte Mason's approach to learning, you can do so at Heart of Wisdom's website.  They are a business, but there is a good selection of free materials and information.  They have free downloads available of their Heart of Wisdom book.  I found the excerpts to be quite helpful.  Two of my favorites were the one on Bible Study and the one on Notebooking.  Notebooking utilizes scrapbooking in a similar way as lapbooks do.  The student makes a scrapbook page that illustrates a lesson learned.  There is also a wonderful explanation of using a Timeline notebook to help a child learn how each event, discovery, and historic moment in history relates to others happening at that same time period.  Instead of learning the events as being separate, the student sees a bigger picture of what was happening worldwide.
A free homeschool record keeping software that I found is called Homeschool Tracker.  The basic version is a fully functioning program available for free download.  They have a premium version that is available for sale.  In reviewing the program, I found that the basic version will serve our needs very well.  The program allows you to keep record of assignments, grades, attendance, curriculum resources, field trips, and more.  A great feature is that you can print out quarterly reports if your state requires you to provide them. 
Positively Autism is a blessing to have found.  If you are homeschooling a special needs child, this site may be of help.  There are ideas and free teaching helps available on this site.  One of the freebies that they offer is printable file folder games.  Though they are designed for special needs children, I find that Abbie has been enjoying and learning from them as a preschooler.  One file folder game that Abbie enjoys is the addition game with 1's and 2's.  The game board has pieces attached to the inside of a file folder with the equation answers on them.  The game pieces are the actual equations.  To play, the child matches the equation with it's answer. 
There are many free resources available.  These are just a few of the ones I am utilizing with Abbie and Micah.  Though Micah is young, I include him as often as possible.  I read to him as well as Abbie and give him the opportunity to finger paint and do other crafts that are at his ability level.  Though he is not ready to homeschool, I am trying to fill his mind with books and as many experiences as he enjoys.  I am convinced that this is essential to him.  By reading to him, he hears more words that one day he will remember and use.  Already, we have heard him in the past say things that we had no idea he knew.  This comes in large part to reading stories to him and talking to him as though he were a typical child.  Offering him the chance to do tactile activities with Abbie expands his knowledge and experiences also.  I work with him in a low-key fashion at this point.  I want to expose him to these things without overwhelming him.
It still amazes me that we are preparing to take this journey.  I would never have thought that at 47 years of age, I would be starting to homeschool a pre-K age and a toddler.  The Lord always has His surprises that we are blessed with in life.  Thankfully, life here is never dull.  There is always a new opportunity to bless and be blessed around the bend.
May the Lord's blessings be with thee,
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Monday, July 12, 2010

A Setback for Micah

For the past few days, Micah has been struggling.  He got out of routine and became over stimulated.  Last Wednesday, he and Abigail spent the day at their Grandparents' home as they do each Wednesday.  On Thursday, we took the kids to Shawnee to run a few errands.  By evening, Micah was showing signs of over-stimulation.  Normally, the day after he has been out of routine, Micah will withdraw and need his "Micah time" to decompress from the over-stimulation.  This time, it went much deeper.  He was very stressed and fussy.  Towards evening, instead of being back to his usual happy self, he was crying and screaming as though in pain.  It was a bit like having a colic baby that screams & cries and cannot be comforted.  He stopped trying to feed himself a bottle, no longer made eye contact or interacted as he used to, and he was zoning out nearly constantly.  It was heart breaking!  In such a short amount of time he had turned back the clock to a year ago when he was first diagnosed.  It was as though all that work he had done to progress and learn to interact was gone.  I looked at Micah and wondered, "Where is my happy little boy?"  It was as though a switch in his mind had been flipped and shut him down.
We took Micah to his doctor on Monday.  We wanted to eliminate the possibility that there could be something physical bringing on the changes. Thankfully, there were none.  He is very healthy and is doing well physically.  She did note that he has really sprouted up in height since his last visit in March.  She believes that he may be experiencing some growing pains in his legs that are causing him to be uncomfortable.
We talked about the changes that our family is going through. Joe has been home on vacation for the past week, which is a change in Micah's routine.  In early August, Joe will be changing jobs and start truck driving.  He will be away from home 4-6 weeks at a time.  Another routine change Micah will be facing with us all.  The doctor believes that Micah hit a wall and regressed to a more comfortable place so that he can deal with the changes.  This is common among autistic children.
Micah will gradually work his way through the changes and get back to where he was.  It is a process that involves taking a few steps forward, then a step or two back before making further progress.  Autistic children process their growth and routine changes differently than a typical child.  All children hit that wall from time to time.  They get overwhelmed and stop progressing.  Often, you don't notice this because a typical child will simply focus on something else.  It will be easier to notice with Micah and children like him.  When they hit a wall, it will become readily apparent in their behavior.
So, where is Micah right now?  He has definitely lost ground.  It is not as bad as we thought though.  The doctor noticed improvements that Micah had made since his last visit and which were still evident.  He took her hand for the first time and allowed her to examine him while sitting on her lap.  Neither of these were things that he did previously.  Yes, he has taken some steps back, but she thinks he will regain them quickly and move forward.  She advised us to let him have the "Micah time" that he needs then gradually start working with him again.
We are now anticipating that Micah will likely regress again when Joe leaves out on the truck for the first time.  It may take several times before Micah begins to see it as a routine.  Now that we know this is likely to happen, we will be prepared.  We are leaving the situation in the Lord's hands.  We are praying for His guidance in how best to help Micah through the necessary changes that our family is facing. 
This experience is showing me even more that our plans to homeschool Micah using the Charlotte Mason methods will be the ideal for him, as well as Abigail.  He needs something that will be a gentle method of teaching and not give him cause to stress out and shut down due to the pressures of getting through the textbook on time.  I will write more about our homeschooling plans in the next blog entry.
May the Lord's blessings be with thee,
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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Preparing for the Changes

I want to first thank everyone who has contacted me about staying in touch while Joe is out on the truck. What a blessing you all are! It is very sweet to see the support and outpouring of friendship that you are extending.

I am making a few minor changes to the way I will be doing the computer. Until now, Joe has brought the laptop to town with him several times a week to send/receive emails. Once he is truck driving, I will only be in town twice a week. On Sunday when we go to church and on Wednesday when I run errands while the children are at their Grandparents' home. I will have the ability to type up blogs and emails in between those times, but they will only be posted or emailed on those two days. I am able to check my email through the cell phone, but an very limited on replying. I have thought about resetting the comments to be posted without having to be moderated, but I cannot do that at this time. I have had very mean spirited things sent as a comment as well as blatant ads for businesses. Neither of which do I allow in the comments.

We are spending a lot of time together as a family. Mostly have been working to prepare the homestead for Joe's job change. He's wanting to make it as easy as possible for me to maintain while he's on the truck. We have been playing games and having fun together also.

We have a large grocery shopping trip planned the end of tihs week. I'll be canning more meals and such for Joe. In addition to his pint jars, I'll be canning up some quart jars for the kids & I to have on hand at home. Then, there is the packaging up servings of homemade muesli and making a gallon of granola for Joe to take along with him.

There is a surreal quality to the upcoming job change. I know it is going to happen, but it doesn't seem real yet. I am just taking each day as it comes and preparing as best as I can to make it easier on all of us.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

New Season of Change

Well, here we go again!  It would seem that we are going to be having another season of change.  Joe and I have talked over our family's financial situation and come to the realization that we need to make changes.  They won't be easy, but are necessary.  Joe has been working a job for 2 years now at very low pay so that he can be home with the family more.  Well, it isn't working out anymore.  Prices are going up and the income isn't keeping up with the increases in the costs.  We have looked at it from every possible angle to find a different answer that would keep Joe home but there is only one option.....Joe is going back to truck driving.
Joe has 6 years of experience as a truck driver and loves the work.  It is the only professional training that he has for employment.  Over the past two years, he has enjoyed being home, but also has felt like a fish out of water.  In rural areas, there are not very many options for making a good income.  You have to commute to where the jobs are.  A common problem is that the fuel costs for commuting can be high enough to become yet another financial burden to the family.  You are left having to make tough decisions to take care of family needs.
We have done the truck driving jobs before and so we know what to expect.  My father and most of my uncles were truck drivers, as was Joe's Dad.  Joe and I used to team drive for a trucking company years ago until I was nearly 6 months pregnant with Abigail.  Then Joe went out on a truck without me for another 2 years.  We are both used to Joe being home each night.  The kids certainly are used to Daddy being home.  Abigail was 2 years old when he left truck driving and Micah has never experienced Daddy being gone for a long period.  This will make it a tough adjustment for the kids especially.
This time around, Joe is planning to work as a solo driver.  He won't be training new drivers as he did before.  Finding a co-driver to team up with is also a challenge.  Team driving is similar to a marriage.  You have 2 people living for an extended period of time in very close quarters.  If there is a personality conflict or you have a co-driver who is lazy about his driving, it can be just a stressful as an unhappy marriage.  It is difficult to find a co-driver that shares your work ethics and also has a personality that matches well with your own.
It will be hard at first for me to get used to Joe being gone again.  Over the next couple of weeks, I am going to be canning up some meals for him to take along.  Then, once he is on the truck, I will continue to get meals stocked up in the pantry.  When I first did this a few years ago, we found that Joe's food bill for the month dropped to $150 per month with his taking home canned soups, stews, and other meals in the canning jars.  He would heat the food up in a small "lunchbox" cooker.  It is called a lunchbox cooker due to it looking exactly like a black lunch box with an electrical cord that plugs into the 12 volt (cigarette lighter) outlet in the truck.  Joe would buy small foil bread pans that fit inside the cooker to heat the food in.  The pans then became the dish he would eat out of.  Even with the cost of the foil pans, the overall cost was far less than Joe having to eat at the truck stops.  Not to mention the home canned was much healthier too!  On average, he took 48 pint jars of food with him each month.  He also had a gallon size plastic jar of homemade granola and plenty of dried fruit trail mixes.  For his first few days out, I always sent along some fresh baked cookies and some homemade flat bread.  He loved it!
It is going to be very different this time when Joe leaves out on a truck.  Not only will I have Abigail, but now there is Micah.  We have the blessing of having sold our sheep, so I won't have to worry about tending them & being attacked again like before.  The only animals that we currently have is our dog and a few chickens that were given to us to free range.  The chickens simply eat the bugs that they find while scratching the soil and roost in the trees near the house.  The only somewhat difficult part of Joe's being gone will be changing out the propane tanks & taking them to be filled.  One 26 gallon tank lasts about a month.  We are looking at the option of setting up 2 filled tanks with a regulator in between so that when one tank gets low, I can switch to the second tank without having to disconnect anything.  This should give me plenty of propane to last until Joe gets home again. We can't have home delivery as our tanks hold far less than what the 100 gallon delivery minimum.  This other method should work just fine.
The kids and I have been in a routine now that will continue to work well after Joe goes out on the truck.  I think the hardest part will be the loneliness that will be felt.  While I do know more people than I did when he drove before, it isn't the same as having him here.  One person referred to a trucker's wife as being a stay-at-home single parent that gets a paycheck twice a month.  I have to admit that in many ways it can feel like that.   One way that I helped to combat the loneliness was to have lots of pen pals.  Having those letters to read & to write to others were great.  When I felt lonely, I could go back and read them again.  Joe was always great about surprising me with postcards or other mail while he was gone.  Of course there is also his text messages & phone calls.  Another way that I found peace was to spend more time in the Bible and also listening to recorded sermons.  Whether the sermons came from the church we attended at that time or through another sermon tape ministry, they were a wonderful uplift to my heart.  One of my favorite resources for recorded sermons are the ones from Charity Ministries.  They are an Anabaptist (Mennonite) organization that provides the sermons for free.  You can either download an MP3 recording or you can order a free tape/CD to be mailed to you.
It will be interesting to see where the Lord leads us this time.  He never takes us to a place that is boring.  He does however always takes the road with us and never leaves us to flounder on our own.
May the Lord's blessings be with thee,
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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Preschooling With Micah

Wow! I hadn't thought about doing this so soon, but I am so glad that I have chosen to do so. This past week, I have been incorporating Micah's therapy into Abbie's preschooling time. Abbie is on such a routine with her preschooling that it is not hard to add Micah into it. I set Micah up at the kitchen table across from Abbie and as she works on her file folder game or other project, I help Micah. What a huge blessing this is. Prior to now, Abbie would get a bit jealous of my therapy time with Micah. Now, I am able to help them both at the same time without any negative responses from either of them.

On one day, we got out the finger paints and I let the kids have fun. For Micah, I taped the paper to the table so it wouldn't get knocked off and frustrate him. Keeping in mind that Micah has issues with his hands getting sticky or dirty, I knew this was possibly a big mistake. I wanted to start working to help him understand that it is okay to get dirty hands. I put a dallop of yellow, red, and blue finger paints on his paper. Then I took his hands and smeared them just a little in the paint. At first, Micah simply looked at the paint on his hands as though he was not sure what to think about it. He must have decided that it was harmless because he started wiping his hands back and forth across the paper. The painted design looked like a rainbow by the time he was done. His time painting only lasted a few minutes, but for that brief moment in time, he was enjoying it.

Another issue that I am beginning to take charge of is his inability to feed himself finger foods. He seems to not have the desire to feed himself. I can let him sit in front of some fruit loops (his current favorite cereal) and even though he is hungry & crying, he won't even attempt to feed himself. I got him up in his high chair at the table and put a 2-sectioned dish in front of him. It is a small plastic container with 2 compartments. I put a handful of fruit loops in one section. While I had his attention, I slowly picked up the cereal one piece at a time and placed them in the other section. Once I had them all moved over, I repeated the process to place them all back in the other section again. All this time, I was quietly explaining to Micah what I was doing. It is surprising just how attentive he can be at times! If you can capture his interest, he really pays close attention to what you are doing. After I finished, I stepped aside asking Micah if he could do it. The first day didn't work out so well. He grabbed handfuls of the cereal and threw it to the floor. On the second day, after watching very closely, he carefully moved all the cereal to the other section one piece at a time. What a blessing! He saw what I wanted him to do and responded correctly! He only did it once all the way through, moving all the cereal pieces, but it was a big step up from simply throwing the cereal onto the floor. I left him to play with the cereal and noticed that he tried to grab a small handful and bring it to his mouth. He forgot to open up his hand, thus the cereal never made it into his mouth. Micah got very frustrated and threw the cereal down. I fed him the remaining cereal and he was quite happy again. I know from watching him that it is only a matter of time before he figures out how to get that cereal into his mouth.

The Lord is blessing us so much. Each week, we are seeing Micah learn a new skill or make a small step of progress. I am grateful to the Lord for allowing me to watch and take notice of the changes. It fortifies me during the hard days when Micah has trouble coping with changes to his routine. I thank the Lord for Micah and all of his personality quirks! Through Micah, I am learning to be a better Momma to both him and Abigail. I am learning patience and am finding the beauty in the smallest of things.

I realize that Micah is not handicapped at all. I have been. I have been handicapped with my preceptions of what a happy child looks like, with my ideas of what is acceptable in the world's eyes, and in my attitude towards the old saying that children are a reflection of their parents. In raising & working with Micah, I find that he is working with me much more than I with him. He is teaching me lessons about the Lord's loving acceptance of each of us for who we are. Micah shows me every day that the things that the world finds to be critical for our lives may have absolutely nothing to do with what the Lord finds to be important. The Lord doesn't care if Micah can feed himself fruit loops. He does care about whether or not Micah is loved and accepted as he is. He cares about whether or not we teach Micah about the Lord. To the world, Micah has a lot of areas to be taught and corrected in to become "socially acceptable", but it means nothing! Yes, we want Micah to grow into as independent of a young man as possible so that he will not have to be completely rliant on others. More importantly though, he needs to be taught that he was created by the Lord just as he is. The Lord has a purpose in mind for Micah. Through Micah, the Lord can be praised when Micah can declare to others "I may have autism, but look wat I am able to accomplish through the Lord's grace and blessing!"

Preschooling Micah is definitely going to be teaching him skills and information that will prepare him for homeschooling. It is also blessing me as I watch him grow and gain skills through the Lord's help. I'm learning to not set in my mind any limits on Micah. The only limits that he will have are the ones he sets upon himself. Through the Lord, we all are able to achieve the highest reaches of our potential. We only have to remember that it is through the Lord that we are able to do all things.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Attitude of Gratitude

Each of us, at one time or another, has a day when we just have trouble finding the bright spots or blessings in our lives.  Whether we are going through financial struggles, health issues, family difficulties of any kind, we all are susceptible to feeling a bit down.  I was reading a dear friend's Facebook page and she reminded me of an idea that helps to refocus our outlook in life.  It is called a Gratitude Journal.
Gratitude Journals are simply a little book where you take a moment each and every day to write down one thing you are grateful for.  The entry can be as long or short as you feel like writing.  The blessing or item you are grateful for may be as simple as not losing your temper during a child's tantrum. Some days, you may find a much larger blessing to record.  The journal doesn't have to be fancy.  A spiral notebook or a blank book/journal from a dollar store will work just as well as a fancier one.  You could leave the book plain or dress it up to suit your own style. 
The purpose of the journal is to help us to refocus and see the blessings of the Lord in our daily life.  It is so easy to allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the worldly things and our own situations.  By taking a few minutes to ponder on how the Lord blesses us each and every day, we stop looking at the trials in our life, but start realizing the joys and blessings.  Even on the worst day of your life, there are blessings from the Lord.  We only have to look for them.
During the times when we feel alone or very worn down from our trials, we can take out the journal to read and remember how the Lord blesses us each day.  Over time, we develop an attitude of gratitude towards the Lord that strengthens our relationship with Him.  How can a person feel lost or separated from the Lord when they acknowledge daily the ways that the Lord has blessed them?
I am thinking about starting one for both Abigail and I.  Each night before we do bedtime prayers with with her, Joe asks Abbie about her day and is teaching her to thank the Lord in prayer for all that she enjoyed that day.  It will make a nice little book to give her when she is much older.  When she is old enough to write on her own, she could do it in her own writing.  By teaching Abbie from a young age to look for the Lord's blessings, I hope to help her in developing her own relationship with the Lord.  It has been a long time since I have kept a journal.  It is long passed time for me to do so again.  This journal will be a good start. 
May the Lord's blessings be with thee,
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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Ol' Time Homemaking Skills - a Lost Art?

In earlier generations, our ancestors had to be resourceful to survive.  In many cases, our ancestors had to make due without the benefit of having a store nearby to purchase their supplies from.  As the people moved westward into less populated areas, a trip to the store could literally take days to get there and back.  Our ancestors had to find ways to manage without the convenience of being able to buy everything they needed.  The homemaking skills utilized back then are very different that they are today.  Now, many of the basic skills that were taught to the daughters are now becoming lost or are relegated to the status of being a hobby.
Young girls learned many skills by the time they were of marrying age.  They were taught to garden, preserve the harvest, tend livestock, soap making, candle making, sewing from patterns that they learned to draft themselves, tend the home, cooking & baking over a fire, knit and/or crochet, butcher their livestock and any animal that was brought home after a hunting trip, and how to preserve the meat through various methods such as salting, pickling, smoking, and drying.  Many young girls also learned to do needlework such as embroidery and quilting.  It was common especially in the pioneer era for the women to make a bed mattress filled with straw.  Bed pillows were often made from the chicken and other bird feathers that had been carefully cleaned and stored after butchering.  It took a long time to save up enough feathers to make a pillow.  I have heard stories of pillows also being made from straw.  Women helped their husbands in the field if there was no son to aid him.  They learned how to handle draft horses to pull the plow.  All in all, their workload was enough to make most women of today feel spoiled.  What of those homemaking skills?  How many of them would be a blessing and benefit to us today?  For those who are trying to become self-reliant, nearly if not all of those skills would be valuable. 
There is a resurgence of people wanting to learn these skills.  That is the good news.  The problem is that there are less people with the knowledge who can teach the next generation.  Some of the skills, such as knitting & crochet, are hobbies that are easily learned.  You can find books, websites, and even videos that teach these skills.  Soap making and candle making have become both hobbies and for many women, a way to earn an Income.  Food preservation is nearly becoming a lost skill.  Though the supplies and information for doing it is still available, less people are willing to take the time necessary to learn and to home can or otherwise preserve food for their pantry.  To my dismay, I know families who only store enough food for about a week in their home.  I wonder what they would do if an emergency came up or weather was bad in the winter, making them unable to go to a store.  
I will admit, there are a few of the old homemaking skills that I look at today as being in the "nice to know" category.  Learning how to butcher various animals is one skill that would be nice to know, but knowing I get queasy just from cleaning a fish, I doubt that I personally would use it unless I absolutely had to.  For me, the crocheting is simply for my enjoyment.  I make items for the home and family that have more function than just being decorative.  Knitting is a skill that I would like to learn. 
One of the benefits that the skills have for us today is that with some of them, you can earn a little extra money for your family.  Baking bread is something that I have done in the past to earn a little.  If you are able to crochet, knit, make soap or candles, sew or quilt, you can make items to sell at craft shows or sell from home.  If you are good at any of the skills, you can also make money through teaching them to others.  Community Centers and community colleges often have classes for adults to learn various skills and handcrafts. 
Whether you live in the city or in a rural setting, many of these skills can benefit and bless you & your family.  You can utilize the skills to bless others also.  Numerous charities would welcome handmade items for their clients.  You can find them by doing a web search online.  Many children's hospitals, women's shelters, and homeless shelters would welcome things like blankets, afghans, knitted or crocheted socks, hats, mittens, or slippers.  If you enjoy sewing baby diapers, there are organizations that may be interested in donations of those for new moms who cannot afford to buy cloth diapers.  A hospital can often use donations of baby blankets or baby buntings.  It is amazing how many young women forget or do not have one for taking baby home in cool or cold weather! 
The main point is to find the skills that you are able to do and learn them well.  You may never "need" that skill, but the knowledge will be there in case of an emergency.  If you find a skill that can be used for charitable purposes, consider making a few items to donate for those who are in need.  The Lord blesses each of us with talents.  Find yours and then prayerfully consider where you may best be able to use that talent to bless others.
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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Dealing with Summer Heat

Summer heat has begun to settle in here.  Lots of muggy days recently.  This has brought to the forefront thoughts of ways I have to adjust my choring and even meal preparation.
Choring without electricity is generally a more physical endeavor.  When summer's heat is upon you, the most physical tasks can become very difficult.  We don't have fans or air conditioning to keep cool and comfortable while doing our tasks.  We depend on a breeze coming in the windows to cool the house.  I find that the most labor intensive tasks have to be done in the early morning.  Tending the garden becomes the first task once breakfast is dealt with.  By 10:00am, the day can become too hot to work in the garden without risking heat exhaustion. 
The next task is laundry.  In the summer months, I prefer to do laundry outdoors.  I am able to set up a laundry table with the wash tubs & wringer near the clothesline.  I wash in somewhat cool water, so the heat doesn't affect me as much as it would if I were gardening.  The little ones are usually outside with me and playing.  I try to have a little pool set up for them to play in nearby in a shady area.  They are able to have fun outdoors while I work close by. 
Baking bread and such is likely the most difficult for me in summer.  My mornings are filled, so bread gets baked late at night. One idea that I have spoken to Joe about is the possibility of moving our gas (propane) stove from the kitchen to the porch.  We could use a portable propane tank to provide the fuel for it.  This would allow me to be able to use the oven without heating the house up.  We have one area of the porch that is always shaded. The set-up would be as safe as a propane grill.  The main preparation we will need to do is to add a inline shut-off valve to the propane line in the house.  Another option is to build an outdoor oven.  In some styles, such as the type used by some of the Native American people in the desert area, you build a fire in the oven to heat it up.  When the fire burns down, the ashes are removed.  Your bread is placed into the oven and a removable wood door is set in place to hold in the heat.  I found the plans for one in a back issue of Grit magazine.  You can also find plans and instructions online for the adobe or brick bread ovens.
I am looking into plans for homemade solar ovens.  That will be good for things like breads or cookies.  For baking casseroles or roasting meat, I do not know if a solar oven is safe.  There may be food safety issues is using a solar oven for things containing meat, sauces, or cheese.  It will make a good research topic to check out online though.
One way that we avoid heating the house when cooking it to eat lots of salads or cold foods.  Instead of baking bread often in the summer, we use tortillas and make wraps.  I keep salads like potato salad, cucumber salad, and the makings for a lettuce salad in the refrigerator.  Pickled beets. Hard boiled eggs and similar items are a welcome addition.  Made your own sandwich spreads and have lunch meats on hand.  In the mid-day meal, these types of foods are a very nice break from a cooked meal.
The most important part of dealing with the heat is to stay hydrated.  Drink lots of water, lemonade, or kool-aid type drinks.  Take breaks as often as needed to avoid heat exhaustion or heat stroke.  Do the heaviest work early and the lighter tasks in later hours of the day.  If possible, spend as much time outdoors in a shady area as possible if your home does not stay cool enough.  Often I will roll up a dish towel that has been dampened in cool (not cold) water and drape it around my neck.  This will help give relief in the hottest times.  Just be sure to not use cold water as it could bring on shock.
Hope this gives a few ideas.
May the Lord's blessings be with thee,
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