Taking Care of Mom

22 Nov

Slowly my mother has slipped into a type of dementia that is not named, but seems to be a sort of twilight of her former self. A lot of the behaviors are there, she even sounds like herself, yet much of the time the reasoning, the immediate recognition, awareness, and the short term memory is not there. She remembers the past, in fits and starts, yet often can not verbalize what she is thinking. It really doesn’t frustrate her or make her angry any more, however the anxiety she battled all her life is still present. (Warning, one ought to deal with ones ‘demons’, or they may just be what rules one in one’s old age.) When this started happening, we have no idea. Why it happened? We don’t know. It could be the chemotherapy she went through in her mid – sixties, it could be the result of diet and nutrient loss (B12 and V D are big players here), it could be the result of Anxiety Disorder, it could be the mini – strokes we suspect she may have had/ could still be having… That all can add up to an altered state. She hides things well and always has, she never liked feeling loss of control, and did not want to deal with the painful past. I can not blame her yet I feel she could have been different now had some things been different. I don’t know, and can’t know either. At this stage, I just have to take the lessons and apply them to my own life, and then, accept. Accept who she is now, and take it from there….

And so one Tuesday night she and I spent time together while my father was at a meeting. We took a walk and admired the fall flora and fauna (pictures on my Instagram account). We made and ate dinner ( I had to cajole her to eat her brussels sprouts, a true roll reversal if there ever was one.). Then we had a killer game of Connect Four, with rules revised on the spot by me. It took an hour, and lots of reminders, but it kept her busy and out of mischief, and was a fantastic idea I’m still not convinced was my own (it came to me while driving on an errand). Then to wrap it all up I offered her the choice of television or music – I had brought my violin. She chose the violin, so I played her a selection of fiddle tunes ~old time, bluegrass, Irish… and she applauded. Mistakes and tuning up were seen as lovely, so it freed me to just play without concern or worry, a small gift of an appreciative non – judgmental audience.

This has been a mighty adjustment on my part, and it still requires a lot of time spent in prayerful musings, letting go and analysis of the past. Many realizations have come to light due to my work to help them clear some of the many, many things my parents, especially my mother, collected, held on to, saved, as well as encountering some less known items. Nothing dire, yet still surprising, and it all changes the knowledge one holds, which in turn means one has to think things though, readjust the so called ‘truths’ one has held regarding one’s parents.

It’s difficult for me to sometimes go to my parents house, and being asked to stay when my father leaves town is doubly difficult. In part, it is because of who he is and how he delivers that desire (or need), but it is also the awareness that this is a fading, an ending. Really we have no control over the ending any more than we’ve ever had control, such an illusion in life that we have any semblance of control! This is how it ought to be. I’m the caretaker now, filling in where a parent might. That is the unsettling part, the bit that makes me drag my feet thought I know I must put much aside to do that, because even though my mother isn’t who she was, she is who she is, she is my mother.


In the still of the autumn…

1 Nov


Lent is upon us….

22 Mar

    It is lovely to finally make it to this time of year, a pause in the whir of days.  My Lent though usually looks like a wild ride at a fair, with a lot of falling off and getting right back on.  I used to worry about that-the falling off part. Then I figured well, I do get back on, right? That is what I’m supposed to do, get back to the Lenten tasks, or challenges, or prayers.
    There is so much to pray for this Lent-wars and disturbances in the Middle East and North Africa, Monetary crises big and small, The Massive Earthquake, Tsunami, Nuclear Issue in Japan, Abortion and all the requests I read daily.  Life is such a mess, it always has been, yet lately is seems messier than it was….Well, we just keep going-God willing with prayer, grit, determination, hope and love we will help each other and advert more crises. I’ll pray on that….

Another fall….

6 Oct

Unbelievably, almost a year has gone by since my last post! Good grief, how’d that happen? It seems Life has a way of tearing along like a river, just carrying us along as if we’re an untethered boat-gotta take control, steer, consult a map, chart a course, then follow it! I could keep on with the boat/river/sailor analogies, but I’m sure you understand.

To wrap up the last post, my challenge with the early mornings has been rocky at best, but I am doing better at the early hours. Rising with the squabble of sparrows is not my forte but it’s do~able, though by the end of the week I find it a definite challenge! Especially if we’ve gotten to bed late. There’s so much to do, so many interesting things or jobs that must be done, that it’s hard to pay attention to the time and hit the hay at a ‘reasonable’ hour. Oh well, I’m trying and that is the point, to try! Of course, while cooking for our county 4-H camp I found it quite easy to get up at 6 a.m., 5:45 even~that probably had a lot to do with the fact that it was light out, there were raucous ravens next door and my tent mate generally rises at 5 a.m. I really hoped that would carry over into everyday life, however I was so exhausted that it didn’t~as a matter of fact the whole next week was a drag yourself out of bed challenge extravaganza!

Well, in looking back over my posts I mentioned some posts to come-silly me, to promise things like that! Well, I will try to cover those ideas of mine, perhaps in the next post even (apple pie anyone?) So stay tuned! I have recipe ideas, homeschool ideas, commentary on life and nature, even observations of people and such, perhaps even about what my kids are doing, or what I’m doing (my new past time? Fiddling (or violin playing, you pick I can never decide). My goal is a post a week, if not more often.

Here’s to a lovely fall~cranberry muffins and hot coffee (or tea). Enjoy the season!

…One Week Down

6 Nov

Today I am very proud of myself, not in a prideful way mind you, but in a ‘proud of myself for doing something hard for me’ way. I have gotten up at 6 a.m. for 5 mornings in a row…I know, I know, some of you are saying, “Big Deal, I’ve done that all my life!”. Well, I’m not a morning person as my family and friends know. I don’t like getting out of that warm cozy bed, purring cat hogging my robe. Oh, I can get up early-I get up at 5 a.m. during the fair, 6 a.m. for camp-in those situations others are dependent on me as we need to get to the fairgrounds by 6 a.m. or I need to get cooking for the camp. Just don’t talk to me much the first hour, the conversation center in my brain’s not awake. (This was tried once at camp by a obtuse volunteer, it didn’t go over well at all!)

Having a busy household, one of my goals has been to get going sooner, I felt I must do this thing-roll out of bed an hour earlier. Ugh. When tried before I failed miserably…however I believe I have found the solution. It sounds really silly too-just get up when the alarm goes off. That’s all, just roll out of bed, go turn on the coffee, feed the cat and the rest of the morning routine. No thinking or analyzing allowed! Before my downfall was thinking before rolling out of bed, stopped me in my tracks, er sheets, right there…before I knew it the alarm was repeating itself for the 3rd or 4th time. I’d have to spring up and hustle to get lunches made, get myself taken care of, chores and off to work or wherever. Stressful! With no time for me or eating nicely or even cleaning up! I even tried to justify it-I‘ll pray, I’ll think about the coming day. Right, you know what happened of course, I just went back to sleep!

So, it will be interesting to see if I can keep this up-I am going to try. If I have extra time in the mornings I can work on the computer or get chores out of the way. I can bake, clean toilets, work in the garden, pray or read! The possibilities are endless…Wish me good success! 🙂

Fall, Apples and homeschooling…

9 Oct

Perusing friends posts and great fall photos got me to thinking about what I love about fall. It’s one of the richest times of the year-the trees are turning gorgeous colors, there’s a lot of activity by both animals and humans as they gather in and store foodstuffs, there’s a flurry of activity as football games are played weekly, harvest fairs and festivals take place, craft fairs spring up. The air itself becomes changeable. Now we really know the seasons have swung-some days the air is crystal with the red and yellow notes of autumn in the trees, other days it has a blue smudge along the hills from shifting air patterns and wood smoke. Smells are more pronounced-apples are abundant and if you drive by an orchard there is a winey fresh crisp scent that makes one want to run and shout. A late rose has a spice to it reminding one of cookies, dry leaves a different spicy smell and so on.

Once my children and I began to explore this world we found a ton of things to do, books to read, places to explore…really an explosion of colors, scents, tastes-the whole sensory experience!

I loved to do what we called Unit Studies, which takes a theme, say “Apples” in this case, and ties together all the disciplines and includes hands-on as well as the more formal writing reading and arithmetic. Of course, I took this farther by adding to them myself, and encouraging the children to add as well (to the extent that they’d come up with their own “unit studies”) With different age groups I tried to have activities and books for all levels so there was something for all. We often ended up rabbiting onto other topics, but that was okay-learning was actively happening!

One experience that comes to mind is the field trip to the local apple orchard. We spent the majority of the day at Gizdech Ranch which is a wonderful ranch, as it has not just apples, but all sorts of berries as well-you can do u-pick for about 3/4 of the year there…As well, there is an on-site bakery, fruit ‘stand’ (a store really), antiques shop and cider mill. You can spend the day there!

For our field trip the kids started with a tour of the orchards where they were taught how the apples were grown, what kinds there were, how the pickers knew they were ripe, how they were picked, what they were made into and what happened to the excess or apple waste! Whew. They then picked a bushel to take home, a job made quick by the fact apples are so large-if you aren’t careful you can pick quite a few in thirty minutes. At an u-pick farm that can add up quickly-apples are much heavier than berries! 🙂 This was followed by a tour of the apple sorting, washing and packing facility and the cooler. We watched a batch of apple cider being made (the non-alcoholic kind) and then it was off to the bakery! My favorite part-they were making apple pies with mounds of apples! Yum. Once the tour was done, apple pie was on our menu-before lunch even!

The day was so full it seemed foolish to push anything else into the schedule, however with all those apples it also seemed silly to not create! Apple pie, applesauce, apple butter, dried apples…we came up with a lot of things to make in the next week. A lot of apples were munched up in hand-really one of the best things about an apple; a quick snack, loaded with fiber, pectin and more! The ones we picked were small too, a perfect snack for little hands-big ones too.

So besides baking and preserving, lots of other things can be done with apples. Apple themed math of course-weights and measures, graphing, even addition and subtraction. For literature, we made apple books-large apple shapes, colored to reflect the child’s favorite apple and enclosing enough pages for them to draw and write inside. (A journal would work too, especially for old kids) These books were devoted to the exploration of apples, including poems, Journaling about the field trip, observations of apples… We cut apples in half different ways and made botanical drawings showing the seeds and stem along with the flowers. As well, I pulled out all the books I could find, plus more from the library with information about apples, or apple themes. It is amazing what you can find! (That was in pre-internet days too!) We covered history, famous people, stories both true and fiction-I don’t think we exhausted the subject either!

Crafts are fun done with apples. There is printing with halves-gift wrap, bags, aprons. Cinnamon-applesauce ornaments. Apple heads 🙂 which are hysterical when done-they start out all nice and plump then become wizened and wrinkled. Apple pomanders. The four seasons of an apple tree using tissue paper on a rail road board-draw four trees, color then add the foliage and flowers, or apples. Fun!

It’s easy to do this yourself. Call around to local orchards, many have tours or would be happy to have you come out. Much of what we did was just pulled from our bookshelves or various places around the house-it doesn’t have to be expensive. I ‘ve provided some links for you below-more can be found by searching for different phrases. Don’t forget your local library either-it can have a ton of resources and books (fiction and non-fiction) available, fun to look through and read. I’ll rustle up some of my favorite recipes and ideas and post them next!

About that Green Thing…

7 May

Being green is what a frog does, or a lawn, or a shamrock, or even beer on St. Patrick’s Day, but alas, it has also become the code word for “into saving the planet by reducing use of resources in daily choices”. My first thoughts were, Please give me a break, I grew up doing all of this, it was (and is) just common sense! Then I thought it was funny, and now I am just really tired of it all since most “Green” people seem to be a really pale shade of green, say, by buying green cleaning products, shleping them home in a green sack and then using paper towels to clean up spills. (personally, I have used and reused cloth for years on just about anything and I am here to testify that yes, we have stayed healthy!)

You see, I grew up in a one wage earner family where mom made clothing, used a clothes line, and vacations often meant visiting people. Simple stuff. We ate whole foods too, as in, roast chicken. Then you take the left overs and make sandwiches or soup or… My mom was (is) big into lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, olive oil, and so on. Her ingenious way of using up left-overs was to make what she called goulash. It involved some leftover meat(s), noodles, sour cream (or not), tomatoes (or not) and so on. It actually tasted pretty good too. So when it comes to using a laundry line, I am following the examples set before me!

When my dry broke the other day it got me thinking about all the things my mom, my aunts and Grandma Vodvick taught me about living frugally, er excuse me, Green. Laundry was one of them…the sun is a great dryer and whitener. It can take stains out with a little help from a lemon (and now oxyclean), and it helps create fresh smelling clothing with the help of the air around us. It is also green aka free and easy to use (well, unless its winter, and then I have (really) strung lines in the garage and house.). Believe me, with a family of five, 3 of them male, we really used that 5 line pull out a lot! So when I see articles on how to save money in these tough economic times, or how to be more Green, I roll my eyes and shrug. What is old is new again, I guess. It is good that a whole new group of folks are being introduced to an old way of taking care of things in a low impact way on both our enviroment and ourselves. I just wish they would not feel the need to make it so pc, so code worded, so silly.

God gave us much on this earth to use wisely for our lives, for others, for ourselves. To be a good steward is to try to do that when we can, but to also realize He gave someone the idea for a dryer so that is a great thing too! When buying one we can look for the best use of materials and the least use of energy. Perhaps buying a clothes line at the same time for those times the wonderful invention fails isn’t a bad idea either, actually, a really frugal idea! Just keep it away from the creative ones in the family! I should know….

From the Garden, a wee bit of Heaven….

1 May

Graham Thomas, a glowing yellow scented rose

So, the merry Month of May is also Mary’s month for those who still follow tradition…crowning statues of Mary with rings of roses and other flowers, the extra heaped about her feet. A beautiful bower to be sure!
It is also the time when weddings start gearing up with the glory of the weather and garden and bird song, and May Day-something we celebrated growing up in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Due to the huge population from Scandinavian countries, we inherited their wonderful customs and foods (Danish Pastry is The Best!). We would learn dances and preform, the climax being the dance around a May Pole with its multicolored ribbons-beautiful. Then we feasted on all the goodies brought by families, oh it was glorious!

To celebrate this wonderful month, here is a bouquet of roses, picked in the morning before the rain had a chance to make the blooms soggy…

Sitting on the wagon seat…

A little bit of Heaven, right in my

A parting view, over the wagon seat…pay no attention to the weeds, they belong to my neighbor! 🙂

(NOTE: Sorry about the CopyRights, but it had to be done. I do sell the photos, so if interested, contact me @ helenrr @ sbcglobal.net (must remove spaces). Thanks!

Golly, a month goes by fast!

1 May

It seems so silly, to promise to blog, and then…not blog. Ha. I have a life, really, and it seems to take all those really good ideas and trash them. Sigh. Oh well.

So, I am, with God’s grace (the only way really) going to try to blog more…not just about kids, or flower pictures, but other things…like the state of the world and how I feel about it. Or recipes. Or food, and my thoughts on eating. 🙂 Or chocolate and wine (which go together very nicely thank you!)

So let May begin! Mary’s month….

Looking back…reviewing our homeschooling days…

3 Mar

Looking back at the past 16 years, well longer really, 22 years, I marvel at how much my children did on their own, that was not part of a curriculum, class or other scripted educational exercise. We started homeschooling when my daughter was 5 (and a half) since she was already well past the area kindergartens, and the private schools were well past our means. Even with her younger brother in tow, we managed to blow through the kindergarten math, reading, phonics et cetera and play, enjoying the world and seasons. Eventually, I managed the knack of “after the fact” recording, where I would figure out where everything fit in the assignment forms after the children did something, built something or we went somewhere, or….Looking back at those assignment sheets, they are crammed-yes, there is math, English, science, etc-but the projects, the art, the life experiences! WOW

(Least you think my children are out begging on street corners – my daughter graduated with a BA in psychology from SFSU, and is looking to work on her graduate degree, among other things. My middle son has graduated from high school and is living on his own and working on a cattle ranch as a cowboy and doing general all around work including welding. My youngest entered the only local high school (that we’d consider ) and made it into GATE classes. Not bad for having fun homeschooling!? eh?) (Alas, none of them are social misfits, and have friends and an awareness of the world that puts “PAID” to the whole socialization myth.)

My 3 managed to cram a lot into every day and week. They still do, too. My middle son is the child who basically taught himself through unschooling, while the other two were close behind…as a matter of fact, none of them are afraid to go and figure out how to do what they want to do and to find the funding or materials for it. Which is good because my bank account is not a bottomless pit of money, it is just a pit ….without much in it 🙂 Of course, my yard and house were pretty much a hopeless mess, but lets not dwell on that, shall we?

So for this post I thought I would pull out some recent examples of their creativity…and what was learned through each experience.

First the middle child…
Who decided to grow corn. What was impressivee was that he did all his own research, found his field, bought or got materials donated, and even made this handy plow (left) out of found materials. He eventually had a crop, that is until the deer came and ate it-even replanted three times. Sadly, we never saw the corn harvested and he never found out if he would have had the finances come out the way he figured. Possibly, had he invested in deer fencing he would have come out in the red, at least last year. Then this year he would have perhaps made a bit. Life changes though, and he is now too far away to maintain the field.

Some may think that this project was a failure, after all, he never harvested a crop. However, he learned a lot, and applied a lot of collected knowledge to make the corn field work, at least until the deer won. He learned perseverance, that there is more than one way to water corn (or that there is more than one way to approach a project), he learned to utilize found lumber and other things to build a fence and make a plow, he even used knowledge from an agriculture class to prepare the field and find seed and drip tape. No crop of corn was harvested, but a crop of learning, of experience and lessons in life was harvested, and that is what his life, our life, has always been about. It will carry into the future with him and help him be a can do type of person, something that is getting very rare indeed.

As for my other son, here is an example of what happens when you give a child room to imagine, to just play with out directions. Well, and a huge collection of Lego’s 😉 He loves Star Wars, but also adventure and fantasy. So one day they all morphed into a Indian Jones meets Star Wars sort of stage setting.

Here you can see what I mean, the rough and ready are taking on the droids. I believe the light and dark blue is water while the figure in the middle is a ‘statue’. Oh, and here is a knight just in to help-see him there on the far left, emerging from the watery depths?

What I find fun is that he uses Lego’s in ways my brother and I never thought of, such as the knight coming up from the deep.

The next photo shows Indiana Jones taking out a droid…ouch.

Again, someone may say, so? all kids play with Lego’s. True, yet many don’t go past the usual play and kits. Some, like my son spend hours planning, building sets or models, photographing them and publishing to Lego sites. They chat with other Lego hobbyist about anything Lego, and beyond. My son is much more aware of events taking place in the world today than many adults I know of, which makes him much more astute, especially of the political and economic climate. In discussing these current events with him, I have found him to be much more questioning of decisions made by the current crop of politicians, which is a good thing to learn early on. I want to stress I don’t force these conversations, but do remind myself to stop and listen when he wants to talk. We have a lot of lively conversations, that is for certain!

So there is just a very small piece of our journey. Next post (which will be soon, I hope!) I will share some of our favorite ways to learn through homeschooling and unschooing….hopefully they will help someone else find joy in their children and the journey of learning in life.

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