Saturday, May 31, 2008

A bee swarm!

So we go over to husband's parents house this afternoon, as we do most every afternoon, to feed the horses.  DD10 gets done and I'm chatting with my MIL, when DD10 comes up and tells me that Grandpa's honey bees have swarmed.   I jumped in the car and went back home for my camera and downed a Benadryl just in case (as I'm highly allergic to insect bites!).

Here are pictures of my FIL removing the swarm and taking it to their new home.

The Swarm

Taking to new home
close up
shaking into new homeIn their new home

I just love that you can take advantage of lots of cool things when you homeschool!

My FIL started beekeeping because of our homeschooling, really because of Five in a Row (FIAR).   He'd had an interest for a long time and one summer we rowed The Bee Tree by Patricia Polacco.  Our local beekeeper's association was doing a demo of honey extraction, so I had decided to row the book and take advantage of the demo.  I invited my FIL along.   He talked to the various beekeepers a long time that day, and few months later, he started his own beekeeping!

Hey, if you are interested in bees, Homeschool Share has a free honey bee lapbook!    We have lots of other free lapbooks, literature-based unit studies, and notebooking pages on there as well, so be sure to poke around the site!  And also be sure to come back in July, when we'll have oodles more after we update the site with all the cool new goodies we get as a result of our annual Blast contest!

Friday, May 30, 2008

I do set my bow

Genesis 9

 12  And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations:

 13  I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.

 14  And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud:

 15  And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.

 16  And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.

 17  And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.

One day, a week or two ago, it rained and then the sun came out.  Because we so often see many rainbows from our place, the girls and I immediately started looking out over the back of our property.  God did not fail us....before long we saw:


Then clouds came in....

and another storm came


But then the sun came out again,
and God treated us to another spectacular site....

...only this time, it soon became a double!


Thank you, Lord,
for sending us rainbows.


Pictures from our visit to the Zoo

Just Plain FancyWe named this one "Just Plain Fancy"...
anyone know why?
Just Plain Fancy2

MoonjelliesNight of the Moonjellies, anyone?

LionfishOne of our favorite fish

HammerheadGotta love hammerheads, too!

AquariumI wish saltwater aquariums
weren't so hard to keep!

Polar BearWe had a lot of fun watching the
polar bear playing in the water.
Polar Bear2

OttersThe otters were entertaining, too!

I better quit now--we took several hundred photos! 

Fin and the Zoo!

Fin, the 25 foot fiberglass salmon that's traveling across America, came to our neck of the woods.  Sorta.  Wasn't exactly close, but we made the trip to Pittsburgh this week to see Fin.  It was the closest he was going to be to us.

We got to meet some of the folks with Save Our Wild Salmon.  They seemed pretty excited that one of the top four winners of their recent art contest made the effort to come see them.

After visiting with them, and receiving a copy of the calendar that dd10's drawing is in, we went on into the zoo to make the most of the day.  (BTW, the calendar will be for sale sometime in June at their website.  18 months and 20 pictures from youth all over America.)

I'll post pictures of Fin here, then put the several zoo photos in another entry.

Can you imagine see this 25 ft. fish
going down the highway?!

Inside Fin1The inside of fin is beautifully painted,
showing all the animals wild and free.
Inside Fin2

Chicks sure do grow fast!

A friend (Hi, Wende!) said they'd change quick, but I wasn't expecting to see changes from night to morning almost every day!  The girls and I have been having a lot of fun watching them change!

Here are a few pictures of them as they grew in May.

May 3Almost asleep in dd10's hand.  Wing feathers
starting to grow.

May 5A couple days later.

May 5We were fascinated with how fast the wings grew.

May 8A couple days later, and they were flying to the top of the waterer.

May 27How they look now, one month old.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What are you reading that's encouraging/inspiring you?

For me, it's "Fixing Ourselves First" from Raising Godly Tomatoes, which you can read on-line here, and Mitten Strings for God:  Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry

Both are books I want to own.  And I think I'll add them both to my "Must Read Yearly" list, which also includes Terri Camp's Ignite the Fire! (most of which can be read on-line here.)

So, what's encouraging or inspiring you right now?

Psst....check out my new "Shelfari" over on the right, under the list of friends and blogs--------------------->

Monday, May 12, 2008

2nd Annual Riding for Those Who Can't....YET!

I'm excited about Steve Morris' second fundraiser for The Myositis Association!

It's TMA's 15th anniversary and Steve is trying to raise $15,000 for myositis research.   Read his story here.   And if you feel led, please donate a bit for myositis research.  If you go to his website, there's a link to donate through TMA.   Myositis has been getting some much needed coverage--Oprah, Ellen, the New York Times.

For those who don't already know, I have dermatomyositis.  I wrote my story a couple months ago, I guess I'll finally publish it here. 

This is my fourth year of living with the diagnosis of two autoimmune diseases.  One is called dermatomyositis.  Derm relates to the skin, myo relates to the muscles, and the itis means inflammation.   The other disease is interstitial lung disease.  In both cases, my body's immune system has gone haywire in the sense that it won't shut off when it's supposed to and so it starts attacking various parts of the body that it shouldn't.  Prior to being diagnosed I thought an autoimmune disease was one where the immune system wasn't working when it should.

Anyway, I'm creating this entry as a reminder...for myself.  You see, God has brought me so far along the journey that I quite often forget just what it was like those first several months.  So if you'd rather just skip reading this entry, that's I said, this one's for me.  It's probably going to be a long one anyway!

So where was the beginning?  I'm not really sure.  I remember in January or February of 2004, I would wake up so stiff.  Hobbling around a bit and opening and closing my hands would work it out.  I started taking MSM with chondroitin.  It worked very well for a month or so, then the stiffness seemed much worse.  I noticed too that when I sat for any real length of time that I stiffened up then too.  I also noticed that the knuckles on my hands seemed red and I had faint red streaks from the bottom knuckles up to the middle knuckles on almost every finger.  I just lived with it at the point, not making any appointments to see the doctor, trying to hide it from the family.

That July, I scheduled to have my wisdom teeth removed.  My dentist and been telling me for years to have it done, that I didn't have room for them.  But I'd never had a problem with them, so why bother.  Then I got to thinking about the fact that I used to have a gap between my two front teeth and that gap was now gone.  Yea! It looked much nicer now!  But I wondered if the wisdom teeth made my teeth closer together and would they continue to do so, eventually making my teeth crooked?  I had the wisdom teeth removed.  I had an awful time with the nerve pain for a couple weeks! It hurt so bad.  My nerves were still sending signals to the missing teeth and nothing really helped except the numbing gel the doctor gave me.

Prior to the wisdom teeth removal, my muscles were starting to become sore and by late summer they were extremely painful each morning.  I felt as if my leg muscles weren't quite long enough anymore and I needed to stretch them out before walking. Each morning, I would hobble out of bed and down the steps and into the bathroom.  It hurt so bad to walk.  Within a half hour or so, I'd be OK except the muscles were still sore.

On top of this, a week after the wisdom teeth removal, I started having eye problems.  My eyes began pulling outward!  I thought the problem was connected to the teeth removal and I went back to the eye doctor, thinking it must be the pain medicine and/or the nerve gel he gave me, but he had no clue.  I went to my optometrist and he referred me to a specialist.

At this point, I began wondering if the extremely painful muscles and the eye problems were related....after all, eyes have muscles.  I thought surely I must have some kind of autoimmune disease.  My mom has two (Sjogren's and interstitial lung disease) and I knew there was a higher occurance in families with at least one person having an AI disease.  Researching the Internet did not help--first off, many of the AIs have very similar symptoms, and second, the Internet net is quite a scary place when researching anything medical.  Seems like you find mostly info on the horror stories of medical problems!

I finally made an appointment with my family doctor.  He agreed--it was very likely an autoimmune problem.  Bloodwork confirmed something was going on.  He referred me to Mom's rheumatologist, where I got more blood work done.

I also went to the eye specialist.  After determining that I did NOT have a particular autoimmune disorder that involves the eyes, he said that this was a latent problem that affects many children, lazy eye.  That if anyone in my family had a lazy eye, then that was definitely the problem.   And when I asked if it could be connected to all the other muscle problems I was having, he gave an adamant "No."  He completely dismissed that there could be *any* connection!   He wanted to do eye surgery--to cut the stronger muscles of the eye thereby eliminating its pulling the eye outward.  I said I'd get back to him.  I left thinking....Yeah, right, you can't tell me that I suddenly develop an eye  muscle problem and it's not related to all the other muscle problems I was having!  There was no way he was going to cut perfectly good muscles!  (I am especially happy that I did not have the surgery, because about a year after that, I was only still having problems with one eye and was turning INward!!!

By this time, every muscle in my body hurt pretty much constantly.  Other muscles became affected, including the esophagus, the intestines.  I tired very easily.  My energy was zapped quickly.

One day, Columbus Day, we went out to supper at Ponderosa.  When we left, I felt like I ate way too much.  I felt so full I couldn't catch my breath.  After that I often felt like I just wasn't getting enough air.   I mentioned it to the rheumy. 

More tests and more blood work was done and it was narrowed down to one of two autoimmune diseases that affect muscles.  One more blood test to determine which.

At last I had an official diagnosis.......dermatomyositis.  Then came the kicker, the one I wasn't expecting....I also had interstitial lung disease.  The same lung disease that my Mom has.  I'd had no symptoms of it until the day I went out to supper that one day.

When Ritch and I went in to receive my diagnosis, I was determined I wasn't going to take medication for it.  I'd researched enough to know that most AIs are treated similarly and that I'd very likely be on the same drugs Mom was.  I knew how it affected her body, her eyes, her liver, etc.  I felt surely I could some more natural, herbal route.   That changed with one sentence from the doctor......."If you don't, you'll be dead in two years."  The lung disease was the culprit.

I had a 4 year old and a newly turned 7 year could I not take the prescriptions?   And so I started the traditional treatment of steroids and cancer medications.

As the saying goes, things get worse before they get better.  That certainly held true in this case.  Before things started to get better some 4 months later, things got a whole lot worse.

I lost 40 lbs.   This was a good thing, since I was 40 lbs. overweight, but I wasn't even trying to lose, so it was quite scary.    The doctor suspected cancer, since with DM there is higher chance of developing some kind of cancer.   He'd never heard of anyone on high doses of prednisone not eating themselves out of house and home and gaining oodles of weight.  He never found cancer.  \o/ God!    Must have just been the stress of the diagnosis and/or just my body's reaction to the meds.

I also lost a ton of hair.  Never to the point of needing a wig, but boy, I wondered.  I probably lost at least half.  I never understood when my hairdresser said I had a lot of hair!  To me it was thin.  Well, I found out that yes, I had fine hair, but there really was a lot of it....most people really didn't notice that I'd lost so much hair, but I did.  It came out by the handfuls, daily.  I've since, with the help of Nioxin shampoo, regrown some of it.

Also during that time, I often choked on foods or drinks due to the DM affecting the epiglottis and esophagus muscles.   I hated drinking anything at that time--I became anxious prior to taking a drink, which usually made it worse.

All my muscles continued to grow weaker.  I could barely lift my head of wet hair up out of the bathtub and I eventually had to give up bath's altogether as I didn't have the strength to get out of it once I just kinda fell in.  I was exhausted by the time I got out of the shower.  Lifting my arms up to wash my hair and then to dry and comb it out was soooo tiring!  I had to rest in between.  Walking across the house wore me out.  Taking a gallon jug of milk out of the fridge, it took all I had to get it to the counter that was only about 3 feet away.  At bedtime, I would stand at the bottom of the steps and say "OK, Lord, you're going to have to get me up these things!"  I never knew 13 steps could be so much!  If I got up in the night to get to the restroom, I didn't have the strength to do the steps again and I'd spend the rest of the night in the chair or on the couch.  I got to the point where I didn't even turn over it bed unless I absolutely couldn't stand that position any took too much effort to turn over.  Anytime I'd worked my leg or arm muscles to the point of exhaustion, which happened quickly, they would tremor.

Schooling slowed to a crawl.  Most of my days were spent on the couch.  But I thanked God that I had found, long before this, a curriculum that could be done from a couch!  From almost the beginning of our homeschooling journey, I used an awesome literature-based curriculum called Five in a Row.  When I first read about it, I think I fell in love!  At the very least, I knew--without yet seeing it--that it was a perfect match.  It did what we had been doing all along--reading to our children and then discussing the story.  I went full tilt, hook, line, and sinker into it.......I used a Buy-it-now option on ebay and purchased a package deal that included the first three manuals and many of the books used in the program.   When I became ill, it was a God-send, a true blessing!  Yes, FIAR really can be done from the couch by a mom could barely do anything!

Well, I think that's about it.  What I remember from that first six months or so.   Now, I wear sunscreen a lot and, in the summer, a dreaded hat (I hate hats!) and try to listen to my body when it's tired.  I've been off the prednisone for several months now and hope to someday be off this last nasty medication I'm taking.