Sunday, March 20, 2011

Micah's New Buddy

Today, we got Micah a 6-week old puppy. We named him Baron. Baron is half lab and half blue heeler. This is such a testiment to Micah's progress.

Last summer, we began the process of looking for a companion dog for Micah. The first obstacle was Micah had a fear of animals. Didn't matter what kind. He feared them all. The one animal that we knew of that was able to get near Micah without causing a meltdown was a chicken hen we had last year. She would find her way in the house through a window or door and lay own next to Micah if he was withdrawn or upset. She calmed him. She died last fall when a coyote got her one night.

This afternoon, we saw a couple giving away puppies. I went up to look at them. Okay, I admit it - I have a weak spot for puppies and kittens. Joe knows it is a 50/50 shot that if I hold one, it will come home with me. Over the past few months though, I was never interested in bringing any of the puppies home. Today, I felt differently about it. Baron, whom they were calling Magoo, was the quietest and most laid back of the litter just seemed to touch my heart. I talked to the couple about Micah and was blessed. They have a relative with Asperger's and so understand just what type of dog personality Micah needs. Baron is seeming to be a good fit.

My oldest daughter, Christy, came over and ended up picking out a puppy also. She chose one of Baron's siblings, a male they have named Coda. Micah is accepting both pups very well. I am so glad that we got both of them. Joe has already decided that as soon as we are able to move into the new house, we will get Abbie her own puppy. The time until then will help Micah to be fully adjusted to having a dog.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

We've Gone Solar

10 March 2010
It is nearly 9:00pm and I am typing this on a netbook that I have plugged into our new solar power system.  My son-in-law, JR, hooked it all up today and I charged up the netbook battery before sundown.  At this moment, I am still plugged into the inverter and using the netbook off the battery the solar panel had charged.  If the inverter's digital display begins to show the battery is getting low, I can unplug the netbook and still run it another 4 hours off the netbook's battery.  I put my netbook on the charger 5 hours ago and have also charged a cell phone.  Even after that usage, the battery is still showing 12.4 volts coming out of the battery.  It has held at that level since I first began using it this afternoon.  JR tells me that I could run a small inexpensive printer off the system also.  Not a large 4-in-1 machine, but a simple basic printer.  What a blessing!  It would sure save a lot of time and fuel costs to not have to go to an office supply or library to print out homeschool worksheets.
I walked to the back field today with JR to show him where we are wanting the house built.  He has a lot of construction experience and is helping with the build.  We are wanting to do as much as possible ourselves.  The trees that need to be removed have been marked and the layout noted.  Tomorrow, the field will be cut in that area to help get the ground ready for clearing the turf, compacting the soil, and framing/prepping the foundation for concrete to be poured.  It is exciting to know that the house is becoming a reality.  It will be a work in process for some time to come, but we will be moving into it before summer's end. 
The house design is very simple and basic.  The outside dimensions are 32' wide by 30' deep for a total 960 sq ft.  We are planning 3 bedrooms (10'x10' each) along one side.  The bathroom/laundry, kitchen, and pantry (10'x10' each) along the opposite side.  Down the middle will be a large 12'x30' multi-purpose room.  The multi-purpose room will have a dining area at one end with a family room/study area at the other end.  The kitchen will be open into the multi-purpose room.  I am planning to have an open doorway (no door) between the kitchen and pantry.  The bathroom/laundry and kitchen will share a wall to make the plumbing easier and all in one area.  I love the simplicity of the design.  It will be easy to build as well as cost efficient.  The design is loosely based on the layout of my Grandma's house.  I loved the idea of having bedrooms & bathroom on the sides of the house with the main family areas in the middle. 
There is a lot of thought going into the house design.  The rooms are sized for efficiency.  We believe in having a well stocked pantry.  With that in mind, we are allowing a good sized room just for that.  With the walls lined with shelving and some freestanding storage in the center of the room, we will have more than ample storage space. 
In our home, the kitchen is where everyone seems to gather throughout the day.  An open design that has only a worktable in between the kitchen and main room makes the kitchen a part of the family area.  Whether we are homeschooling, gathered as a family, or have guests, I can work in the kitchen and still be available & take part. 
The large bath/laundry is a convenience.  All plumbing is in one area.  It is also nice in the winter to have a dryer near the bath area.  With the proper venting attachment, you can have the hot air from the dryer heat the bathroom.  If we placed an outdoor entrance to that room, it would make a convenient mud room also.  Still considering whether to add that extra door or not.
The bedrooms are sized to be comfortable.  We don't spend much time in those rooms, so they don't need to be very large.  The rooms are just large enough to meet our basic needs, but still large enough to allow the kids room to play a bit. Most of our time is spent as a family outdoors, in the kitchen or family room.  With that in mind, the main room is comfortably sized, but a bit large.  The dining and family/study area is one shared space.  Only the furniture layout will define the separate functions of the space.
I am looking forward to seeing how this will all evolve and come together.  It is an exciting time.  We know that there will be challenges.  Like Rome, our house will not be built in a day.  It will take time to complete.  The fun is in the journey.  The level to which it becomes a challenge is determined by your attitude.  I think it will be most exciting for my beloved.  Once construction starts, he will be seeing big changes each time he returns home.  He can actually come home one time to a house in process and the next time to us being moved in. 
FREE Animations for your email - by IncrediMail! Click Here!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Solar Power & a "New" Washing Machine

We did it! We finally have a bit of solar power on the homestead.  It is a small test system to see how it works, but we now have solar electricity.  My son-in-law, grew up in a ranching family and learned how to set up solar powered systems on the ranch.  The method is very simple and we found everything we needed at Lowe's and Walmart.
At Lowe's we found a solar power trickle charger panel that you hook up to a 12 volt battery.  This panel is sufficient for charging up the cell phone and netbook batteries and comes with all necessary wiring.  At Walmart, I bought a 12 volt battery and a 410 watt power inverter.  This is enough to be able to charge up both the cell phone and netbook at the same time. 
Cost breakdown:
$ 46.97   5 watt solar charger
  45.00   battery (26R-5N)
  39.94   410 watt power inverter
   6.94   battery box
Total Cost: $138.85
As I mentioned, this is a small test system to get a feel for how it will work. Having lived without any type of electricity for going on 3 years, we don't have a need for a large system yet.  We have been using a small inverter plugged into the 12 volt (cigarette lighter) outlet in the car to charge up the cell phone and netbook.  This system will take over that task.  After the house is built, we will have a larger system in place to give us what we need for additional electric items such as lights, slow cooker, stereo, and a small DVD player.  This smaller system is basically to help charge the batteries of what we already have.  It also gives us the chance to test it out and see how easily we can put it together.
My son-in-law knows how to build the larger panels.  We are checking prices to see what it would cost for the solar cells needed to build the size panel we need.  I will post more on that when we reach that point.  For now though, this system will work fine for our needs. 
This is a big step for us.  We have been wanting to set a system up but never thought it would cost so little.  The trick is to be creative.  Instead of looking at the larger systems built and installed by a solar power installation company, check your farm and commercial supply sources.  Farms and ranches have used solar for years to power electric fences, pumps, and various other needs.  Limiting your electrical needs can make the smaller systems very viable option.  We have learned over the past few years that it is easy to live without electricity.  Now, we are able to prayerfully and with a lot of thought, decide what electrical items we are willing to bring back.  Each item must have a purpose that benefits the family, not just serve as an entertainment resource.  Having a portable DVD player will eliminate the need for a TV as we can rent/buy educational and wholesome DVDs for the family.  The DVD time will be strictly limited.  Our goal is to remain as unfettered by electronic "stuff" as possible.  I am looking forward to this new step.  I am seeing the solar electricity as a tool that we can use to benefit the family.
Recently, we were gifted with an old Maytag wringer washing machine.  A neighbor had it sitting on his front porch for many weeks and I asked if he was willing to sell it.  Much to my surprise, he said that he wanted to give it away to someone who can use it.  It needs minor work.  They had painted it years ago and it looks nice.  The engine is electric and is missing the belt that powers the agitation.  We have an old lawn mower engine that runs great.  My son-in-law, JR, is cleaning the mower engine to use to replace the electric engine..  This simple change will allow me to machine wash laundry at home without having to use the solar power system to power the machine.  I will have the clothesline to dry the laundry in good weather.  For next winter, we will save up for a gas dryer.  I will still have my washtubs and wringer as a backup.  Often, there may be times when I simply want to do laundry that way if I only have a small amount.  I enjoy doing laundry by hand.  There are some things that I prefer to wash that way.  For most laundry though, the wringer washer will be a wonderful blessing.
FREE Animations for your email - by IncrediMail! Click Here!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Seeing the Lord Every Day

"Your son is Autistic.  Not the Asperger's form that you hoped for, but the actual Autism.  At 27 months of age, he has the cognitive level of about a 8 month old."  I will never forget the feeling of having my heart drop into my stomach.  My precious miracle baby was Autistic.  I wanted to say, you are wrong.  You don't see him as I do.  He is just uneasy because he is in a new place with strangers.  There were so many excuses running through my mind that I had a hard time hearing what the specialists were saying.  "His cognitive ability is that of a 6-8 month old. He is non-verbal, vocalizing like a 6 month old, but may understand what you say at a 10 month old's level."  "Physical development is 2 years delayed."  The diagnosis just kept coming and I just wanted them to shut up. 
We knew something was wrong about a year earlier.  I had people asking me if Micah had Autism.  The first time I heard that I wanted to let my "momma tiger" side loose on the woman.  What nerve! To insinuate that my precious little boy had something wrong with him.  By the time a 3rd person said something a couple months later, I was looking up the characteristics of autism so I could tell them they were full of bologna.  Then I talked to a friend in California who has a daughter with Asperger's.  That was when reality started sinking in.  Not completely, but it was starting.  I forced myself to open my eyes and try to take an objective look at Micah.  Next, we took him to the doctor and voiced our concerns.  Upon observing him, she agreed that something was not right and had 2 teachers who work with special needs kids come by.  They all agreed that Micah was showing signs of autism.  Next step was to have him evaluated by the Child Study Center at Oklahoma University Medical Center in Oklahoma City.  That is where we got the official diagnosis 10 months later.  During the waiting period until the appointment, I educated myself on therapies I could do at home with him and got started right away.  Since that diagnosis 8 months ago, we have been going through the Early Intervention program with some improvement.  He is doing better than when we started, but has much yet to learn and accomplish.
Some of the greatest change and growth has been happening to me.  I have learned to be at peace in my heart about Micah's autism.  Each day, Micah shows me a glimpse of the Lord.  I see the grace and blessings of the Lord each time Micah smiles.  I hear it when Micah laughs & giggles.  When Micah snuggles up in my lap and wants a cuddle, I feel the comfort of my Lord around me.  The first time I asked Micah to show me a circle and he pointed to a circle, I saw a miracle of the Lord.  I praise the Lord for each miracle that I see every day in Micah.  His ability to play along side his sister, Abbie, or his ability to just simply sit quietly with her and stroke her hair.  Watching Abbie as she shows him how to work a more challenging puzzle, and she tells me that she is "homeschooling Micah", I see the love and compassion of the Lord.  Abbie's complete acceptance of Micah is a glimpse of the Lord's love for all, no matter what they have done or who they are.  When I see Abbie defending her brother, I am reminded of how the Lord watches over us.
Each day, I can find comfort in knowing that the Lord has Micah in His loving hands.  Micah is a testimony of the Lord.  He testifies to me every day through the simple actions and vocalizations that are just Micah being himself.  I see the testimony of the Lord's love for us through seeing Abbie interact with Micah.
I thank the Lord for giving us Micah and Abbie.  I thank the Lord for Autism and how through it, Micah is able to be such a testimony of the Lord to those around him.  I am grateful to the Lord for Abbie's example of His love and compassion for us all.  Though autism can be a devastating thing, it can become a great blessings to those who know or live with an autistic loved one.  It all comes down to your choice in whether to see your cup half empty or half full. 
For me, my cup is full and running over.
***After writing this post, I was blessed with another "seeing the Lord's hand" moment.  On Saturday, March 5th, my son hugged me and said "love you" for the first time.  We had been playing and he simply leaned against me, hugging me and the words came out.  I hugged him and told him that I love him.  I am realistic in knowing that it may be a long time before I hear those words again.  I am full of hope and joy.  I know that the day will come when Micah will be able to communicate on a daily basis and no longer be considered non-verbal.  It is only a matter of time.  The Lord is helping him and I know that the Lord will guide him through the maze of autism.  One day, he will surprise everyone and share what is on his mind and heart.
FREE Animations for your email - by IncrediMail! Click Here!