Thursday, July 20, 2017

Working towards automatic

My piano is now tuned. Even better, my new piano tuner was able to find and fix the squeak in the damper pedal. It had been annoying me for months. In theory, I could begin teaching again... if I had students. I have been diligent in passing out business cards and putting them on any bulletin boards I come across. It has been so long since I have been brand new in an area, I forget how many things we take for granted are dependent upon social capital. It just takes time. The piano tuner was one little step forward.

Another little step was getting P. riding again. She liked the trainer she rode with today, and the trainer was impressed with her skills, and had her jumping fences by the end of the lesson. (She has been jumping for quite some time, but I wasn't sure a new trainer would be having her do that right away.) It seems as though this could be a good fit.

But there are still so many other things that we realize we have to actually stop and figure out. Where do you take bags of donations? Where do you get your hair cut? Where is the nearest Secretary of State's office so we can get our driver's licenses and car registrations changed?

Life inside our house is feeling a little more automatic. Automatic meaning that we know where things are, we know which way to turn at the bottom or top of the stairs to get to the room we want, we don't have to think about which drawer the toothpaste is in. That kind of thing. It is life outside the house, and that would include the yard, which still feels not quite so hand-in-glove. We have to think about them. It can feel a little tiring.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Tree climbers

Today L. and K. discovered that we have trees they can climb. There are dozens of trees in our yard, yet it has taken them nearly four weeks to feel comfortable enough to really start to explore. It's as if they didn't quite believe that all this land was really and truly ours, and that they could explore and play at will. 

So as I sipped coffee and ate my breakfast on the side porch, I had a little show of watching these two monkeys discover trees they could climb.

L. is in red at the top, and K. is in yellow coming up behind. They both went up and down multiple times. They are a little difficult to see, so here is a close-up.

I worked more in the room with no name, but am now at a point where I need more shelves before I can continue. J. stopped and got some shelves which can be mounted on the wall, so perhaps I will be back in business tomorrow. Tomorrow is also a big day, because I finally talked to a live person at one of the stables near us, and P. has a trial riding lesson tomorrow. It feels a bit like a riding audition. There are stables everywhere out here, but it seems finding a spot for lessons is trickier than I imagined it to be.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Big Wean... plus some marshmallows

We spent the day travelling to and from the neurologist. If you are wondering why I would continue to go to a neurologist that take nearly two hours to get to, I'll tell you. I love having a doctor who listens to me and takes me seriously. I told her about my hypothosis that R.'s seizures were not true seizures, but were psychogenic. Psychogenic being a fancy word for seizures brought on by mental stress and anxiety, not by a physical cause. As a result, we are going to continue to work on making R. feel safe, and at the same time, begin the wean off all the medicine she is currently taking. I am really, really hoping that being off so much seizure medicine will help her to function better cognitively. Really hoping.

The neurologist continues to be amazed by H. and R. Based on their EEG's and MRI's, they should be be having at minimum, daily seizures, and little strength or facility on their right sides. This is not the case for either of them. H. has such good function on her right side now that the neurologist couldn't even really discern a difference.

We'll start the wean tomorrow.

But let's talk about something a little more fun. Yesterday, the masses decided that they needed to collect firewood, in order to make s'mores. This meant that I needed to add s'more making supplies to my grocery list, but it was a beautiful evening...



Y., with K. in the background

K., L., and G.

The sun was setting as we were finishing up.

There are a lot of wildflowers around the fire pit.




Monday, July 17, 2017

Workable photos

Evidently, I didn't have the whole 'share pictures from my phone' thing down, because it didn't work. I have now tried something different, and seem to have solved the problem. You should be able to see the pictures on the previous post. My apologies.

Other then endless unpacking, I don't have a whole lot else to report. We've emptied a lot more boxes, and decided on which other boxes have to live in the storage locker for the time being. As a result, the house is looking a little more finished. Maybe some day I can feel as though I don't have to spend every waking moment dealing with boxes. That would be good.

I did find two new places this weekend where I am probably going to be spending quite a bit of time. The first is a very large grocery store near me which seems to have just about everything I have been looking for. I didn't try it at first because I have a pretty strong bias against giant stores, but this one seems to have both good prices and a great selection. And it is just 10 minutes from our house. I feel as though I can make menus and go grocery shopping again. This feels like a huge victory.

The second is the cutest little tea shop. P. had her first guitar lesson this past weekend. Because she can't walk anymore, like she did in Evanston, I drove her. I had taken a book hoping that I could find some sort of coffee shop nearby where I could sit and read. Boy, did I hit the jackpot! Just next door from the music shop where her lessons are, is The Tea Tree. It has a huge selection of teas, vinegars, oils, and whatnot. Plus, the owner will brew you a cup of tea, all you have to do wander about and decide which of the many teas to try. I had a lovely half hour, sipping some really delicious tea and reading my book. I kind of wish P.'s lessons were an hour long. If you are in the area (though I don't think any of you are... because you would have contacted me and told me, and then we could meet, and I could know someone out here), you should stop by.

Finally, I need a favor from you. D. is taking a class at Aurora University this summer about inventing and innovation. Each group has to come up with an invention and go through the process of what it would look like to bring that invention to market. His group has chosen a sort of phone texting lock-out system, to disable texting while driving. Part of the process is market research. Would you all be willing to take a quick survey for him? Like today? Here's the link: Key Lock Invention Survey Thank you. D. really appreciates it!

And one bonus picture, now that I know how to do it. Here is Nefertiti who discovered that she could climb back behind the books in the room that still doesn't have a workable name.

Tomorrow we drive two hours one way for neurologist appointments. I'm sure that will generate good blog fodder. It always does.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Friday Bullets, July 14, 2017

And it's Friday again. Days certainly do blend in with one another when all you do is spend every hour unpacking boxes.
  • Our bed continues to be really comfortable. I had gotten used to waking up in the middle of the night (even before we were sleeping on the floor) feeling vaguely uncomfortable, and then having to take a bit to go back to sleep. With this new mattress, I haven't woken up in the middle of the night at all, all week. It is wonderful.
  • Did I tell you about the screeching cat? That would be Nefertiti in the middle of the night a few nights back. J. and I were woken up by the most awful, and loud, screeching. It was definitely animal-like, but we couldn't really identify it. So, we go downstairs, with a little trepidation. What we see is Nefertiti looking out one of the sliding doors at one of the barn cats from next door. We wait a moment, and we here the sound again. Yes, indeed, it was coming from Nefertiti. I didn't even know a cat could make such a sound. Lower it by several octaves, and you would have thought that  lion was in our dining room. Evidently, Nefertiti was totally outraged by the other cat's presence. The other cat seemed completely unconcerned by Nefertiti's roarings. We finally had to carry Nefertiti upstairs and shut her in our room, because it was obvious that she was not going to be quiet if left downstairs.
  • D. is currently taking a class at Aurora University on inventions. He is enjoying it, and loves the fact that he receives both high school and college credit for it. 
  • If posting is still spotty over the next weeks and months, it is because we don't have our internet situation totally sorted out. Currently, we are using phones and hot spots. The phones work fine, but are not great of writing on. The 10 gigs of hot spot get used up extremely quickly, which then makes it hard to use my computer. It is an imperfect situation, but it is certainly better than nothing.
  • We seem to have landed in library heaven. We have not one, but two very nice libraries equidistant from our house. And, outside of the Chicago are, it seems that library cards work everywhere. D. and I discovered the new library yesterday. It's sort of like having two different branches I can use, depending on which direction I'm driving. 
  • 36 boxes later, we have this.

And this.

But we also have this.

Yes, I'm working on the school/sewing/craft room, and have been for the past two days, with no end in sight. The room needs an official name. I think we will settle for 'library, but that doesn't really seem to encompass all that it will be used for. I thought perhaps 'atelier' would work, but that may be too pretentious to stick. Thoughts or suggestions? 

To show my progress, though, the toy loft was completely filled with boxes when I began. (TM and I had to move all the boxes out of the SS and C room in order to rearrange the bookcases. You can see there are only a few left to deal with.

  • As you can also see, there has been a lot of block play happening. I think the smaller people are thrilled to have toys to play with again. Usually I will make them clean up their creations at the end of the day, but I let K. keep this up a little longer, because it was so cool. Can you tell what it is? It's a theater. See the rows of seats, the stage (complete with backdrop... the red blocks), and wings for the actors to wait in to go on.
  • You might start seeing more pictures on the blog, since TM helped me figure out how to get pictures of my phone and onto here.
  • Speaking of my phone, I'm willing to eat crow. I do like it, and it does make life a bit easier. Go ahead and say, "I told you so."
  • I'm very excited. A piano student gave me a book gift certificate as a going away gift, and my order arrived today. I have The Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World by Iain McGilchrist, Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind by Scott Barry Kaufman & Carolyn Gregoire, and Arne& Carlos' Field Guide to Knitted Birds. You have to see the cute birds on the cover of the last one.

Aren't they adorable? I can't wait to finish sorting and organizing (and finding) my knitting supplies and knit some birds. I'm also excited to read the other books. I need to finish the unpacking so that I feel as though I have more reading time.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Cooking vaguely Vietnamese food

Last night we had a 'make your own spring roll' dinner, based loosely on a meal we had at a Vietnamese restaurant. I have no idea what the real name of the dish was called, but essentially they provided things to go into rice paper wrappers and you rolled them up. It's a little bit of prep work at the beginning, and a little tricky to sort out how to serve it, but everyone enjoyed it. Here's what I did.

Make your own spring rolls (there is no way I can give you amounts... you're just going to have to guess based on how many people you have and what you think they'll eat)

Sliced beef (I found some great pre-sliced stir-fry meat at H Mart the other day.... meat sliced for Bulgogi would work, too.)

Marinate this for a while in a mixture of equal parts soy sauce and oyster sauce. Then while it is marinating, slice some green onions and chop some garlic. Set these aside.

Before you cook the beef, you will want to prepare the other toppings. I shredded some carrots, washed some leaf lettuce, cut some cucumbers into sticks, put some bean sprouts in a bowl, and made some dipping sauce (nuoc cham). If you have access to spicy basil and mint, put some of that out, too, Oh, and cook some rice noodles, the skinny vermicelli kind. (The trick to these is to cook them for only 3 minutes, then drain in a colander with a small bowl turned upside down inside, and run cold water over the them. I don't know why the bowl keeps them from sticking, but it does. Let them cool in the sink until you are ready to serve.)

Now you are ready to cook your beef. Heat a pan and put in some sesame oil. When it is hot, add the green onions, and stir them for a minute or two. Add the beef and cook until you are comfortable eating it. (We like things medium rare around here.)

The last thing you need is to boil some hot water so the people eating can soften their rice paper wrappers. I put shallow bowls on the table for people to share, and then put the hot water in them.

To serve, you set everything on the table. Take a rice paper wrapper, and dip it into the hot water. I like to put just a portion of it in, and turn it until it is all wet. This is the key part. You don't want it too soggy, or it becomes impossible to work with, but too hard and it won't fold. It takes a little practice. Then put the softened sheet on your plate, and fill with whatever you want inside. Wrap it like an eggroll (or burrito, if that is more familiar), dip it the dipping sauce, and enjoy.

Monday, July 10, 2017

The gift of frustration

This whole move has been hard on some of the children. We have seen some pretty significant regression in several of them, as they sort out what has happened. You will probably not be surprised to hear that R. is experiencing the most significant regression. Because I think that so much of her functioning is encoded in the part of her brain which stores chunks of habits, we are now back at square one in terms of how to go about one's day. I'm sure she finds this upsetting, but if you were just to go by presenting behavior, the casual onlooker would never know there was anything wrong. Aimlessly happy... actually it's in reality vaguely disassociated.... is pretty much how she moves through her day unless I am actively making her think or do something other than sit and stare (or play with one of her three favorite activities for hours on end.)

I know a bit or two about frustration. As a highly competitive, recovering perfectionist, I have a fairly low frustration point. (You can ask my mother about my chemistry text book being thrown across the kitchen more than once.) It shouldn't surprise me, therefore, that some of my children also have fairly low frustration thresholds. I have never seen any of this as a positive trait; instead I tend to view it as something to be managed at best and avoided at worst.

While being so frustrated that it makes you throw a book is not desirable, I have come to the conclusion that, as long as you can step away from your frustration before the books start to fly, frustration is actually a good thing. Feeling frustrated is an indication that you can perceive greater possibilities. It means that you are aware when you do not understand something, and can spur you on to harder study. Frustration can mean that you have big ideas in your head, even if you don't always have the means to carry them out at that very moment. (Hmmm... that wouldn't describe anyone we know whose name starts with an 'L', would it?)

There are many moments throughout my day when I long for R. to feel frustrated. I would be thrilled if, out of frustration, if she threw something across the room. I great big noisy, limb flailing fit at the injustice of not being able to do something that is beyond her capability would truly be a joyful noise to my ear.

Instead, R. tries something (half-heartedly) once. Then when she doesn't succeed, she stops and stares at whichever adult happens to be in the room, and grins. It takes a lot of prodding (oh, I cannot tell you how much prodding) to get her to try again. It is the grin that causes me to physically bit my tongue... inside my head (which is exploding), I am having the great big noisy, frustration induced fit. I want to scream, "Look around you! See what everyone else is doing and enjoying. Want to do that, too! Try! Be a part of your own life!"

Now, before you jump to the comment section, I know this is trauma-induced behavior. I know R. has been so damaged by abuse and neglect that she is past frustration. She has ceased to think she can even try, no doubt as a result of being thwarted too many times when she was younger. It is now too scary to try. We are left with a shell of a child who is only comfortable inside her own head, though I'm pretty sure, based on my reading, that in her disassociated state, there is little to no brain function going on. R. finds it preferable to essentially to be unconscious, even when awake.

To see her experience frustration would mean that she is slowly coming awake, and feels safe enough to do the developmental work of a toddler of trying to do things for herself, even at the risk of frustration.

I do not know how to bring her to this point.

So the next time you or a loved one is frustrated, appreciate it, because I can tell you that the other possibility is truly not desirable.

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