Friday, August 31, 2012

Pillage and Plunder

It's fairly late at night after a day during which I did more - much more - than I should have. I'm on tramadol, and I should realize that tramadol, combined with exhaustion, should suggest that I may not want to try to carry on a conversation, and if I do, I shouldn't expect it to be at all coherent.

I rifle through a few bags of thrift store finds, and exclaim, "Pillages!"

"What did you say?" inquires my husband?

"I said pillages, but that's not right."

"What is it, then?"

"Lots of pillows."  

"Did you come by them honestly, or did you pillage them?"

"I bought them at Savers."

"Not pillages, then - and even if you did pillage them, they'd be plunder, not pillages."

*sigh* "No pillages. Not even plunder. Not so exciting after all." *pout*

Methinks I should go to bed now.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Back to School

Summer is coming to an end. The first day of school is upon us. Wherever we go, there are back to school sales and parents stocking up on notebooks, pens, pencils and myriad other things on their school supplies lists.

Recently, while we were shopping, a cashier asked my kids if they were excited about the first day of school. Most of them grinned and shrugged. One said, "That was so long ago, I don't even remember!" Surprised, the cashier asked what she meant. She explained that we're homeschoolers and never stop learning, which meant that her first day of school was the first time someone taught her something, which was when she was just a baby.

When asked to elaborate, I hesitated, thinking carefully about what to say. The gentleman interrupted, saying, "why don't you tell me what you did on Friday"...   

On Friday we went to Old Sturbridge Village, a popular Summer destination for many families.    
My kids had fun playing with hoops and sticks, as in the days of yore - physical education with a touch of history! 

We witnessed pottery being made, learned what items were available in the general store and the difference between everyday pottery and the pottery you'd use when guests were visiting. 

The photo to the left, taken by Coren, age 6, is the inside of a kiln. If you don't know what a kiln is, I'm sure he'd be happy to explain, as he asked dozens of questions and decided it might be a good idea to build one at our house.

From raising livestock, to farming the land, to churning butter, to handcrafting necessities and playthings, the kids had a blast exploring life in the early 1800s. Perhaps the favorite was watching the blacksmith work. 

Wherever we went, we learned something. We just couldn't help it!

Perhaps the most exciting lesson of the day was learning the cure for being hot, tired, and hungry: ice cream!

That's not where the day ended. After the day's festivities, we went home for a brief rest and then were off to a potluck event at a friend's house. Many fun and interesting games ensued - all invented by the children participating in them. Costumes on, swords and other assorted weapons at the ready, the wild rumpus began. 

There was a hot air balloon festival just around the corner, so after we shared a meal with friends, we were off!

The kids were amazed to see a hot air balloon being unpacked, laid out, inflated, and then lift off. They may have learned a thing or two about the physics of hot air vs cold air in the process. 

Last, but not least, were the fireworks. After answering perhaps hundreds of questions throughout the day, I just wanted to sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. The little ones, however, had different plans. How do they make the different colors? Why do some make big booms and some make little booms? How to they make them whistle? sparkle? glitter? How do they shoot them so far up into the air? 

The cashier, amazed, commented, "If this was summer vacation - I can't imagine what a day of "school" must be like!"

I assured him that not every day was as exciting or educational as last Friday. I explained that in encouraging my children's inquisitive and adventurous natures, my husband and I are instilling in them a joy of exploring the world around them and satisfying their curiosity - or in other words, learning. 

Sure, we can learn from books, or from someone explaining something to us, or a combination of the two, but true learning comes from doing. From experiencing. From asking questions and seeking out the answers. From teaching others what you have learned. And from doing so with passion and joy. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Stay Tuned!

We interrupt your regularly scheduled program to bring you this less than satisfying episode of "Life. Chaos. Everything." Extreme emphasis on the Chaos. Tonight we'll learn that it's easy for a blog to be pushed to the back burner when Life gets in the way. Multiple medical appointments, good news, not so good news, an unexpected heart-wrenching incident, lots of phone calls, a good amount of soul-searching, and a frenzy of we-need-to-change-things-now-for-the-situation-to-improve activity consume every hour of the day and every available brain cell. End of the Summer activities provide wonderful adventures, yet add to Everything and create the extreme need for sleep and little time for reflection and putting things into perspective - and into words. Soon things will quiet down, brain cells will start to function well enough to get a grasp on the swirl of thoughts and ideas, and a brilliant coherent blog post will materialize. Until then, stay tuned for the next installment of "Life, Chaos, Everything."

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Farm Fresh

Every Wednesday from late June through September we park our car along the driveway of an organic farm, and fill bags with beautiful produce. Occasionally we plunk four dollars into a can in the fridge in exchange for farm-fresh organic eggs or six dollars in a can on the table for a container of fresh honey. Otherwise, no money leaves my wallet.

Most days we play with the dogs, the kids play on the jungle gym, and usually we're in for a nice walk up the hill to pick berries or flowers. We often see the free-range chickens that provide the eggs. Sometimes we glimpse the turkeys, marveling at how quickly they grow. In the Autumn, the kids make and jump into piles of leaves while I fill our bags with the farm's bounty. 
I love that this is part of our lives. I am delighted that my kids see where their food is coming from, including their Thanksgiving turkey - and get to talk to the farmer as well. I appreciate that I can pay for all of this earlier in the year when we usually have a little more money to spend. For approximately $12.50 a week, we get pounds upon pounds of organic produce: tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, cantaloupe, kale, collards, asian greens, lettuce, carrots, beets, onions, garlic, scallions, basil, eggplant, radishes, green beans, kohlrabi, swiss chard, blueberries, raspberries, and so much more. Some weeks offer different things that others, so we rarely get sick of eating one particular thing. 

My kids have learned to make everything from squash pickles to kale chips. They've experienced a rainbow of vegetables, and love eating them...usually. The rainbow of carrots sometimes don't  last more than a few hours. The cherry tomatoes have a similar fate. The berries rarely make it off the farm. 

The Maple View Farm CSA, and community supported agriculture everywhere, is an invaluable resource, and a cost-effective way to fill our fridge and freezer with fresh, organic produce at a fraction of what it costs at the grocery store. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Your Kid Is Defective

Why does he act like that?

Doesn't he know that's inappropriate?

Haven't you taught him any manners?

Doesn't he have any self control?

What's wrong with that kid?

There is nothing wrong with my child. There is something different about my child.

My child often lacks impulse control. My child doesn't like to be touched by anyone over age six, unless perhaps they are related to him, and even then it's iffy. My child has difficulty making eye contact with and talking to people he doesn't know. People he doesn't know includes people he's seen hundreds of time but has never spoken with. My child doesn't understand what is and is not socially appropriate without it being spelled out for him. He is well socialized, but does not pick up on social cues. They don't mean anything more to him than astrophysics means to a three year old.

It isn't that my child doesn't notice what's going on around him - it's that he notices every single thing that's going on around him and is trying to process it all at once. Imagine taking note of the ticking of the clock, the murmur of people in the other room, the color and texture of everything within your visual field, the piece of lint on the shoulder of the person you're speaking with, the feel of your clothing on your body, the temperature of your feet, the temperature of your arms, the way the seam of your pants is hitting your legs, the fact that your eyes are feeling dry, and myriad other things while trying to listen to what the person is saying to you - and while not being able to read any emotions or facial cues, therefore having no clue how that person is feeling toward you. It's not an easy task.

My child works every day of his life to learn what comes naturally to most of us. 

Kids with Aspergers and other autism spectrum disorders aren't defective. They are kids learning to navigate life with all its seemingly arbitrary and sometimes quite silly rules and customs. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


You see them on telephone poles and gas pumps ... in store windows and on bulletin boards ... by cash registers and on billboards - missing person posters. 

I used to glance at them. Look at the person's face for a second, read the vital information, and move on with my life. What are the odds that I'd see the person, anyway? And if I did, I'd probably remember what they looked like, right?

Then my pastor's neighbor, Barbara, disappeared. After hearing about her disappearance from my pastor, a friend posted on facebook and asked for prayers for Barbara and her family. I shared the post. I prayed - not just once, but throughout the day. I really looked at the poster, and joined a facebook group for the people searching for Barbara Grohs. It was there that I discovered something. 

The stories about Barbara from her family and friends touch my heart every day. Their love for her, their fear for her safety, and their prayers for her return consume their lives. Perhaps Barbara is consumed with all that is happening and is searching for something as well. 

Barbara Grohs' story hit home ... hard. I have been in a place where I felt an overwhelming need to get away from the circumstances of my life ... to just disappear, for a while or forever. Part of my need to escape from my life was not wanting those around me to see how truly broken I was - not wanting them to hurt because I hurt - not wanting to inflict myself on them. In that place, I couldn't feel their love or see the hurt I would cause if I disappeared. In that state of mind, it was easy to believe the world would be a better place for those I love if I wasn't there to cause them pain. 

When I was ready to flee from my life, a friend of mine stepped in. She got me the help I needed. It was excruciatingly difficult for me at the time, but for what she did for me, I will be forever grateful. 

Reading posts of love and support by those searching for Barbara, I discovered what it was that I could have done to those who love me, and rediscovered the part of my self that knows the pain, the utter despondency, that could drive someone to vanish.

I pray Barbara returns to her family and friends safely - and soon. I pray that those who love her and are concerned about her will welcome her back peacefully, perhaps quietly, allowing her space and time to process what she's been through and what her life is now while receiving the care she needs. It could be scary to have thousands of people looking for you, possibly judging you, and wanting to bring you back to the life from which you long to escape. 

I pray that everyone who reads this will take a closer look at every missing poster they come across. That they will really study the photo and description and keep their eyes open. And help spread the word. And pray for the person, and for the family and friends who so desperately want to see them again.

Monday, August 13, 2012

One Question

I came across the website Fifty People One Question that contains videos of fifty people who are asked the same question and the answers they give.

One of the questions is, "Where would you wish to wake up tomorrow?"

Some dreamed of tropical locations or reconnecting with family members. Some didn't care where they woke up, as long as they were with the person they love. Others, happy with where they are in life, would choose to wake up in their own beds at home.

For me, the answer was simple. Ok, maybe not simple, but it was a concrete thought as soon as I heard the question. I would want to wake up in a nice handicapped accessible house with at least two bathrooms. This house would be fully paid for and the title would be in my name.  It wouldn't need things fixed, and would have enough space for my family, but not too much space. A nice piece of land, with a place for a big garden and chickens would be nice; with woods, and a stream... in New Hampshire. And since it's a wish, it would have a library with floor to ceiling bookcases and reading nooks, a workshop for my husband, a hot tub for us all, and the exterior would be painted purple.

I want to wake up in a safe, accessible, comfortable, stress-free house.

Now the question is ... where would you wish to wake up tomorrow?

Friday, August 10, 2012


Eight kids our smallish house were going stir crazy. 
Rainy days tend to do that to children. 

Outside we went, in puddle boots, crocs, or whatever footwear we didn't mind getting wet.
Two older children went for a walk in the rain. The six and under crowd went on a mission to find the "best jumping puddles ever!" 

Unfortunately Miss M wasn't having any fun. Nope. Not a bit. Don't let that look of sheer joy fool you. (My apologies to her parents for her soaking wet sandals - but she was having such a good time!)

Suddenly, a discovery was made. The sounds of splashing erupted from a nearby driveway. There they were- 

The Best Jumping Puddles Ever!!!

All jumped out, the children retreated to the house to warm up in a bubble bath, faces beaming from the pure fun of rain play. The tomatoes in the garden appreciated the rain as well. 

What a refreshing experience it is to play in the rain! 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Please Wait

I wait. Rather impatiently, I might add. My mother can attest to the fact that I'm not good at waiting. I never have been. It seems no matter how hard I try to wait patiently, it seldom works. I need to DO something. Waiting isn't so much doing something - it's the lack of doing something, letting time pass. It's excruciating. 

I waited most of my life for my psoriatic arthritis diagnosis - to finally learn that it wasn't growing pains, or all in my head, and that I was not, in fact, imagining the pain and exhaustion.

I waited eight months after my diagnosis to finally start treatment, needing to get more diagnoses out of the way first - celiac, simple fatty liver, and pre-diabetes among them - so my doctor could figure out which medications would be safest for me to take.

Then I had to wait for months to see if the first treatment worked, then more months to see if the second treatment worked better than the first. 

Now I wait again. After blood test results indicated something's amiss with my liver, my rheumatologist took me off of Remicade and ordered new bloodwork four weeks from now. Four weeks! If nothing's changed, we'll continue Remicade. If my liver enzymes are lower, we'll assume I'm one of the few who have the side effect of liver complications from Remicade, and we'll hopefully figure something else out...which will probably require more waiting. 

As with anything that seems to become a theme, or at least an underlying current in my life, I will try to learn the lessons waiting has to teach me. 

“Waiting is a form of passive persistence.”
― Ogwo David Emenike

Passive persistence. I like that. It gives me something to think about while I passively persist. 

And so I wait.  

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Dying to Get Better

People with chronic illness often have to balance the drugs they take to treat their illness with the potential harm the same drugs can do to other parts of their body. Through blood tests and attending doctor appointments at regular intervals, it is hoped that the scales can be tipped in favor of the patient so the disease is treated without doing any damage. It is not an easy thing to accomplish.

I just received news that my liver enzymes are higher than they already were and my kidney function is worse than it was before. Having not only psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis, but also simple fatty liver and pre-diabetes, this is a scary result. To make matters worse, the medication that seems to be working for my PsA could be to blame. 

In a few days I will see my rheumatologist, armed with lots of questions about Remicade's possible role in all of this. Next month I will see my gastroenterologist with more questions and will hopefully be referred to a nutritionist to help figure out dietary changes that will promote healing in my liver and kidneys. The results of one simple blood test will require input from at least three healthcare professionals and potentially some fairly big decisions on my part. 

We're talking my life here, and in more ways than one. There may be damage to my liver and kidneys. That issue alone is frightening and stressful to think about. It could be that the dietary changes I've already made aren't enough. Considering making further changes is stressful, but I'll do what I have to. That I may have to stop treatment for PsA, at least for now, is so overwhelming to me that I can't let myself think about it. 

With all of the lifestyle and eating changes, the scary medicines, and the stress that goes along with all of it, I sometimes feel like I'm killing myself trying to get better. Perhaps that's more true that I'd like to think. 

I need to have faith that we'll figure this out and make changes for the better. Until I have more answers, I'll try to breathe deeply and occupy my mind with the next adventure of the rannygahoots. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Long Day

That is about how I feel. 

It's been a long day. Bloodwork in the morning, followed by a couple errands, then feeding a horde of children, putting Miss M down for a nap, feeding myself, housework, and a trip to the park so the kids could play and I could chat with grown-ups for a few hours. Then we went home to make dinner, hand wash dishes, load the dishwasher, clean out and organize the homeschool bookcase, shred and freeze well over a dozen yellow squash, and take basil leaves off of two dozen stems to freeze. Bathtime for Miss M followed and she should be picked up soon. 

As I type, Miss M is making the rounds to see what the kids are doing and keep herself awake. One child is playing Minecraft, one is watching a documentary on shipwrecks, one is reading, one playing some sort of game, and one is watching the end of a movie she was watching sometime last week and never finished.

Soon Miss M will go home and I will send the children to bed. Then I will curl up with the cat pictured above and watch blooper videos on YouTube until my husband gets home while icing my painful foot. The foot the doctor told me to stay off of - and as you may have guessed I haven't. 

Tomorrow is a new day. A day in which I may invade Costco with eight children, just to see the looks on people's faces.