Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Lighter Side of Autism

When people first learn that you have an autistic child, you hear a lot
of "I'm so sorry" and "the poor kid" among many other expressions of
concern and condolences. While we appreciate the thought behind the
expressions, I am finding that Micah's autism has a great blessing
attached to it. It has given us the message to "lighten up" in our lives.

Joe and I both laugh a lot and easily. It is something that we enjoy
about each other. Add to that 2 young children who are giggly and you
have a family that laughs daily. We can find the humor in most
situations. Abigail is such a "big little person" as Joe calls her. At
4 years of age, she can say things that take you by surprise. Such as
when she is telling you about her phone conversations on her play phone
with her imaginary friend "boo-boo head". She talks like she is a much
older person than her age and her facial expressions are very serious.
It is hard not to laugh as she goes on about the latest antics of
boo-boo head.

Micah has been a blessed surprise. I have seen autistic children who
show no facial expressions of any kind. Their faces are very blank in
that regard. Micah does not share that trait. One thing that the
doctor and others comment on the most is how happy and expressive he
is. Yes, he sometimes gets frustrated or angry, but most of the time he
is a very happy little boy. We work with him daily in helping him to
interact and develop social skills. The work has been paying off in a
very big way.

As I have mentioned before, when Micah was first diagnosed last
September, he was not maintaining eye contact or interacting with
others. It was as if he often had no idea there was anyone else in the
room with him. Then, I found the Christian-based organization
NATHHAN.org. They have been giving me advice and guidance as well as
the support to show me how to work with Micah and draw out his
personality. Micah is a very cheerful kid most of the time and is now
interacting with us. Today is a good example of his newly acquired
sense of silliness.

Throughout the day today, I have been the target of Micah's teasing.
One note to remember is that he never has teased anyone before. Things
have changed. Micah has learned how to tickle. He doesn't tickle with
his fingers as a person normally would, but it is more of a quick
rolling of his hands that still has the same results. Off and on during
the day, he has come up behind me and tickled me. Whether it is when I
was standing at the stove cooking, sitting at the desk, or doing some
other activity. If I was standing/sitting still long enough for him to
get to me, he was tickling me, giggling as he did so. What a change
from the way he was just a few months ago. It would seem that my little
one has an ornery side to him. LOL This evening, Joe got to see
Micah in action. As I sat here trying to answer emails, Micah kept
coming up and tickling my stomach or legs.

Now, as cute/funny as that is, here is where we really started laughing
- like many with autism, Micah has the obsessive/compulsive trait. This
means that once he finds something that he enjoys, he stays with it.
You can't easily distract him from the activity. So, the tickling went
on for a while. He would giggle and tickle me. I would say "You tickle
Momma, Momma tickle you" and tickle him back. He enjoyed the game and
you could really see the true joy he was getting from playing with
Momma. Now, I could start thinking about how this game could become a
problem if done at the wrong time (say during a church service) or for
too long. We will deal with that when it comes up. Today, we simply
enjoyed the game.

If this is a peek into the personality our little one will have, we are
truly blessed with a son who is as joyful and happy as his sister. The
doctor has pointed out twice now to me that she believes that Micah and
Abigail's happy natures come from Joe and I being quick to laugh and
have fun. I see it simply as a gift from our Lord. It is God's Spirit
working through us that brings out the joy. I feel blessed to have these
little ones who remind me daily of the joy the Lord brings to us.

May the Lord's blessings be with thee,

Monday, March 15, 2010

Homestead Update

Around the Barnyard: Sheep are funny. A few days ago, Beloved went out
to the sheep pen with a shotgun. Our older ram had been acting as
though he were going lame. Beloved thought to put him out of his
misery. Well, Midas (the ram) took one look at Beloved and that shotgun
and got up on his feet and started running around as if showing Beloved
just how energetic he was. Needless to say, Midas is still around. The
younger ram, Dodger, is finally meeting his match. Abbie's dog, Hot
Dog, is becoming quite a good working dog. When the young ram gets out
and is getting close to the yard & house, Hot Dog is let loose and she
chases Dodger back into woods behind the house. There is green
vegetation there that he can graze on, yet he is away from the yard.

Beloved began working on the bathroom this weekend. Small task first -
repairing the toilet. Well, the small task became a much larger one
when he found that the screws that hold the tank in place were rusted
and difficult to remove. We ended up having to make a trip to the store
to buy a tool set that will hopefully make the task easier. It was an
interesting day. All I can say is that goodness that we have an outdoor
privy! On day 2 of the toilet repair, the rusted bolt seemed to have won
the challenge. Joe declared the toilet fixed as he carried it outside.
Sigh. So, we are now greatly blessed to have that outdoor privy as it
is our only toilet now. On a side note, our 4 yr old daughter has been
a bit reluctant to become fully potty trained. Since we are using the
outhouse, she has become fascinated with it and has been using it quite
often without being prompted to do so. An outdoor privy may not be the
answer to toilet training for all children, but it is sure making it
easier with her.

Speaking of the outdoor privy - Beloved has decided to build a new one.
This one is very small though functional. He wants to build one a bit
bigger. We need enough room for a small trash can & a place to hold the
toilet paper. He is also wanting to add on another little room to use
as a shower house. We'll likely use a camp shower bag for the actual
shower. The main idea though is that we will have a outdoor privy &
shower to use over the summer while we remodel the indoor bathroom. If
there is no indoor plumbing in the bathroom over the summer, we will
still have a toilet & shower available. It is funny that we have the
outdoor privy. It has been many years since I used one when I was a
kid. Our neighbor had one and we used it when visiting her home. I
wonder - with all the new strides being made in solar powered
conveniences, is there a solar powered outdoor privy seat warmer to keep
frost off the seat in the cold winter? LOL

I am going to be working on the house again beginning this week. We
seem to still have too much stuff. Amazing after the big purge we did
last year. As I look around the house, I see things we still have, but
had no need to use for several months. I have already packed up several
boxes of things, including clothing the little ones have outgrown. We
want to turn the living room into more of a study area. With Abbie
homeschooling now full-time Beloved is wanting to set up an area just
for her homeschooling. For now, she is working at the kitchen table.
That is fine for now, but I look forward to getting the clutter off the
table during the day so I can use the table for other things. It will
make a nice area for all of us to utilize.

We had 16 ricks of firewood delivered. This was wood that we had
ordered earlier in the season. Now that winter is nearly gone, this
firewood is going to have the summer spring and summer to dry out for
next season. This firewood, added to what Beloved has been cutting,
will be more than we will need for next winter. What a blessing! We
are also getting a large amount of firewood that is small enough to use
in my cookstove. I love using the cookstove whenever possible. It may
take longer to cook a meal on it, but it sure provides a lot of warmth
in the kitchen area. The winter storms have provided us with a large
portion of the wood. Many families in town (10 miles away) have fallen
limbs and trees that need to be cleared. Beloved is clearing the wood
for some of the families at no cost in exchange for us being able to
keep the wood. It works well for all involved. They get free yard
clean up and we get free firewood.

Over the past year, we have learned to barter more effectively. It is
surprising at times just what people are willing to barter. Joe is
great at this. At his work place, they get some of their shipments sent
to them in the wooden shipping crates. The company has always burned
them since they don't have any use for them. Joe was able to work out
an arrangement with the owner that instead of getting a burn permit and
burning the crates, Joe brings the crates and wood pallets home. We are
able to re-purpose them here at the homestead. He's been able to
barter/trade with others for other items we have needed. The propane
stove & refrigerator were two of the larger items bartered for. Getting
free firewood in exchange for being willing to cut the wood & clean it
out of other families' yards has been a very good barter also. If you
look around, you can usually find someone who is willing to trade items
or a service. In today's economy, bartering can be a useful tool for
those who are on a limited income.

I have been reading gardening books over the winter. One that I really
enjoyed was, "Getting More From the Garden". It was very informative.
One part in particular that I loved was a chart on page 21 that is a
Garden Planning Chart. Based on the average harvest yields for the
various types of garden seeds, the chart tells you how much seed to
plant to provide food for each person for a year. The chart uses a 50'
long row as the garden width. It gives the amount of seeds or plants
per row, distance between rows, amount per person, and spacing between
plants. In example, the chart shows that you can plant 12-15 tomato
plants per 50' row. You need 5 plants per person in your family. So, a
50' row would give you enough tomato harvest for about 3 people. It
also states that the rows should be 30" apart and plants should be
spaced 12-24" apart, depending on the plant size when full grown. From
this, I know that I will need 20 plants for a family of 4 which will
take about 1 1/2 rows. Another example shows that you need 1 hill of
summer squash for each person, yet you'll need 3-5 hills of winter
squash per person. The difference between the two is that typically,
you don't home can summer squash like you are able to do the winter
squash. There are 35 of the most popular vegetable garden plants
listed. Definitely worth a look if you are planning to can or freeze
the harvest for feeding your family all winter. After looking the chart
over, you may have to make small adjustments to meet your own family's
tastes and your growing season. For example, zucchini grows like a weed
here. I would only need 3 hills as 1 would produce enough zucchini for
the 2 young children. If there is a particular vegetable that your
family really loves (for us it is butternut squash) you may want to
plant a few extra plants. It is really a blessing to have the chart to
give you a good start in your planning. I especially like the fact that
the chart lists the amount of seeds by weight. Now, when I go to buy
the seeds, I will know how many ounces of seed I will need for our
garden. It really takes the guess work out of the process.

Well, it is getting late. The frogs and other nighttime sounds are
telling me that it is time for this homesteader to be getting some sleep.

May the Lord's blessings be with thee,

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Homesteading with Chronic Pain, part 2

Thank you for the comments and replies to my recent blogs. I wanted to add more to the topic of homesteading with chronic pain.

I have had chronic pain issues since 1992. At first, it was just my shoulders, but as the years went by it affected my entire body. I find that some days I feel much older than my age! LOL I see it as a way to keep me humble. There is no way that I can accomplish each day's tasks without the grace and blessing of the Lord. He gives me strength and endurance each day to take care of that day's needs.

When you have a very physical lifestyle, you need to balance the workload through the week. Think of this: how does a man eat an elephant? Answer: one bite at a time. Our tasks need to be treated the same way. Instead of trying to do everything all at once, portion the work out over the week. Doing laundry by hand is easily my most labor intensive job. We don't have running hot water in our home, so I have to heat it in buckets on the stove. I have tried - once - to do a week's worth of laundry in one day. What a mistake that was! I was in so much pain by the time it was done that I was unable to do much for 3 days afterwards. I have learned to do laundry 5 days a week. Wednesday and Sunday are the only 2 days I don't wash laundry. The little ones are visiting their Grandparents each Wednesday, so that is my one day a week to run errands and go to the library. Sunday is the Sabbath, so I try to refrain from any unnecessary work that day. By doing the laundry so often, it is very easy to deal with. I don't over work myself yet the task is dealt with.

Gardening season is fast approaching. This is another very labor intensive task on the homestead. To make the job easier, Joe has set up large growing boxes for part of the garden. I am planning to use them for salad greens and garlic to prevent rabbits from enjoying the buffet. The rest of the plants will be planted in raised rows. After the garden is tilled, we mound up the soil about 8-10 inches tall in rows. Due to the heavy rains we have each spring, we face the rows so that the water channels downhill between the rows. To cut down on weeding, we will lay a thick layer of mulch down in between the rows and up the sides of the mounds. We got our mulch from a tree trimming service for free. They were trimming the trees around the power lines along our road and offered to drop off the chipped wood mulch at our home. In all, they emptied 3 large trailer loads.

Firewood can be a challenge but again, it is manageable. I am blessed in that Joe brings in enough to last a few days and stacks it indoors near the stove so I don't have to carry it. In the past, when he was a truck driver and gone 6+ weeks at a time, he would stack a large amount on the front porch. This made it much easier for me. I never had to go out to the woodpiles to gather wood. The woodstove is located about 11 feet from the front door, so I didn't have to carry the wood very far.

There are many things that I would love to do, but have had to get realistic. I would love to have more time to sew and crochet, but the reality is that I just don't have much time to do it. I have to do those things little by little. I always have a small project at hand that I can work on if I have a few minutes, but I don't plan out large projects that have to be done by a deadline. I find myself being more particular in my pattern choices. I choose things that can be made quickly. One example is that I am wanting to make Abbie some new dresses since she has been sprouting up over the summer. Instead of making the kinds that have lots of parts to them, I am going very simple. I plan to make her simple t-shirt dresses. A purchased t-shirt slightly larger than her actual size with a length of fabric sewn to the bottom to make the skirt portion will make a cute dress for her. She had one before that she loved, so this will make a good option. I can always make a few coordinating pinafores to wear over the dresses to add to the overall look of the dresses.

There was a time when I would not have thought I would have the ability to homestead and live a non-electric lifestyle. If I let my thoughts rule me, I would never have tried. Instead, I had to look towards the Lord's leading in my life. He would not have led us to do this unless He planned to give me the physical ability to do it. It comes down to a few things. First, having faith in the Lord to help you go where He is leading you. Second, you have to put aside you preconceived ideas of how things should be done and be realistic, working within your abilities. Third, declutter your life. Just as we declutter our homes, we need to declutter our lives. Take a prayerful look at your life and purge those things that are a hinderance to your life.

If you keep going along the path that the Lord has set before you, leaning on Him for guidance and strength, you will be able to acheive anything He places before you.