March 2014


After we ran out of outdoor projects that could be accomplished in the frigid temperatures, we decided to bump one of our summer projects up–a complete kitchen renovation.  This is something I have longed to do for YEARS.  I can’t really say why, but I have hated our kitchen since we bought this farm.  It just seemed claustrophobic, dark, and cramped.  There were center dividers on every cabinet front that I constantly banged my knuckles on, there was no storage space for a family of 7, the oversized fridge stuck out into the middle of it, and we were always getting in each other’s way.  Although S was perfectly fine with the current kitchen, he wasn’t opposed to pleasing me (he likes his home-cooked dinners after all!), so he agreed, and our kitchen planning began.

HOLY SMOKES!  Do you have ANY idea how much new cabinets cost today?  Yeah, neither did we!  And the quoted prices were based on the idea that we were doing the work ourselves.  Our dreams of that perfect kitchen got smaller and simpler each time we got a new quote.  YOWSERS!  I could buy a small house for some of the quality kitchen basics I wanted.  Dreams of wood trimmed counter tops, under cabinet lighting, custom-fit utensil trays, and other non-necessities quickly got discarded so I could get my slide-out pot and pan drawers, hidden waste cans, and dairy/egg cupboard.

Finally, we settled for the most basic, inexpensive kitchen we could, yet that would still provide me with the essentials I had deemed priorities.  We aren’t finished quite yet, as it has to be done in stages, but I am LOVING the results so far!  We are still waiting on the new counter tops and the flooring, so I will have actual before and after pics later, but here’s a taste of what we have so far:

First, we had to move some old cabinets out, which meant stashing our food in another cabinet that could stay a little longer.  When children help with this job, the result is something like this.

First, we had to move some old cabinets out, which meant stashing our food in another cabinet that could stay a little longer. When children help with this job, the result is something like this.

Then, a dividing wall gets evaluated for tear down and kitchen expansion.

Then, a dividing wall got evaluated for tear down and kitchen expansion.

Kids come in handy when it comes to the destruction part!

Kids came in handy when it came to the destruction part!

Everybody had a part.

Everybody had a part.

Wall is down and pantry gone!

Wall is down and pantry gone!

Kitchen is one big room now.

Kitchen is one big room now.

The rest of the cabinets were removed, and plumbing connections redone and cleaned up.

The rest of the cabinets were removed, and plumbing connections redone and cleaned up.

Linoleum removed from floor and glue scraped up.

Linoleum removed from floor and glue scraped up.

New cabinets arrived and got stored in the living room.

New cabinets arrived and got stored in the living room.

New cabinets begin to get installed as walls are painted.

New cabinets begin to get installed as walls are painted.

In addition, S did some rewiring to set up new outlets and light switches for me, and current light fixtures were switched to LED.  As soon as we get the new floor and counter tops installed, I will show you the final result.  Let’s just say I can’t wait!

Most of you know that I am a Type 1 Diabetic, and have been for almost 30 years.  As a plug for my book, I authored a book several years ago, called “Diabetes:  Overcome Your Fears” which can be purchased on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and other retailers, or directly through me (if you’d like an autographed copy).

In this book, I discuss all that I have learned about diabetes over the years, my experiences with different equipment and alert dogs, having children, finding doctors, and so much more.  With 2 biological children, I knew the statistics of them getting the disease, and could only hope and pray that our lifestyle would delay or prevent the onset.  Our firstborn, JR, has been part of a trial study called TRIGR since he was born.  At birth, he showed the genetic markers.  While this was no guarantee he would develop the disease, it did mean he had a drastically increased chance.  By the time he was 4, he was showing all the necessary antibodies for the condition, but was still free of diabetes.  We can only hope our lifestyle contributed to the this fact.  Last fall, however, his annual blood results showed a rise in his A1C results.  Again, it was no guarantee, as nothing is certain in the development at this point, as the actual trigger for the condition is as yet unknown. However, these latest results meant we had to watch more closely for symptoms.

In early February, JR began having some trouble sleeping.  It was somewhat random though, so I chalked it up to the winter cold preventing him from being as active, thus as tired, as normal.  He became increasingly emotional and sensitive, but again, we were all driving each other a little nutty locked inside as we were due to the single digit temps outside.  He began complaining of excessive thirst, but I was also drinking a lot due to the dry winter air we were experiencing, so again, I ignored the symptoms.  Finally, 2 weeks ago, I came home from a long day on the road.  It was long after JR’s bedtime, and he was crying because he couldn’t sleep again.  He said he didn’t feel good.  I knew they had waffles and syrup for dinner (a very high carbohydrate meal), so on a whim, I decided to test his blood sugar with my meter.  Rather than the usual number reading, the meter gave me the message “Blood Glucose not readable.  Over 600.”  I felt the sinking feeling in my chest, knowing what this likely meant.  I hoped, however, that he had residual syrup or sugar residue on his hands from dinner, so I sent him to the bathroom to wash his hands.  He returned and I tested him again.  I got the same reading. For once in my life, I used an almost-swear word.  “CRAP!”  I knew our lives and his life had just taken a major turn.  I didn’t like it, he knew what his future held (at least as much as a 9 year old can), and we had to get that sugar down before he became very ill.

I woke S, told him what had happened, and immediately drove JR to the hospital, 30 minutes away.  We walked into the ER, I explained the BG results to the intake nurse, and she immediately sent him to triage.  He quickly became the center of attention for a ridiculous number of doctors, nurses, and medical interns.  For the next 24 hours, he was admitted, put on insulin, given education and classes, met with one medical professional after another, and finally, we were discharged to go home.

IMG_1999

So begins a new phase of life for our family.  I am not just a diabetic, but I am also the parent of a diabetic.  We are able to laugh at it sometimes–like in church, when I felt weak, turned to test, sat up and discovered JR doing the same.  I was low, he wasn’t, so I “won.”  Other times, I get sick of hearing “Mom, I’m low!  What should I eat this time?”  I’d rather go back to a month ago, when he was free of disease, and had a future free of shots and finger pokes.  That is no longer the case.  Thankfully, he is a mature, responsible kiddo, and often finds the blessings in life.  He looks forward to having an alert dog like I used to.  He already does all his own testing and injections.  He is considering whether he wants a pump or to stay on shots.  He is learning what to eat and how much, and how exercise affects his bg levels.  I have no doubt his future is as bright as it ever was, only with the addition of this all-too-familiar thorn in his side to keep him humble and remind him of his mortality.  Even now, he acts like a fairly typical child, except at bedtime, when his newfound insecurities show up.  He is terrified to fall asleep many nights.  He is so scared of a having a severe low.  Although he has never seen me experience any such thing, he is a smart kid, and knows what a bad low can do.  It scares him that his insulin might take him too low one night, and he might not wake up.  He is doing better, but only with the reassurance that I will test him at night.

As a diabetic mom of a newly diagnosed child, I have wanted to cry for him many times, but the tears just won’t come.  I know the frustrations life holds for him, the humiliations he will likely experience in time, the fears of finding a wife who will love him, or the decisions of whether he should have children and risk passing on the genetics.  I hope he will never blame me for what he goes through, and that he will allow God to walk with him through those tough times.  I hope I can teach him thankfulness in all things by my example, and that he will accept his disease as part of the result of mankind’s sinful nature and not something he himself did.  I can only hope.

By the way, I will throw out a request.  We have promised to help him train an alert dog.  Alert dogs are amazing and wonderful aids for diabetics, and especially for children.  They tend to give children more confidence to go places without their parents, and to simply fall asleep at night, because the dogs are trained to detect lows and highs an act accordingly.  Will, my retired alert dog, has just gotten too old to return to service.  The poor dog can hardly get off his bed sometimes, so there is no way he could keep up with an active little boy.  Therefore, around late spring/early summer, we will be looking for a puppy to train.  Our ideal dog would be a medium-breed, labrador, golden retriever, poodle, or cross-breed.  I am not too picky about the breed itself, but I am very picky about the puppies (and parents’ if available) characteristics and will have to expose the puppy to several “tests” to see how it reacts.  The breeds listed have simply had the greatest success rates as alert dogs for children.  Other breeds have included Australian Shepherds, Welsh Corgis, Beagles, and many cross-breeds.  In fact, my first was a rescue that I re-trained.  We could take a puppy up to about 4 months of age, due to other considerations we have.  I am really preferring something that will mature to less than 50 lbs, as the dog must sleep with JR, and because JR is rather small for his age.  A smaller size would just be a better match for him.  I say all this to ask, if you know of anyone who breeds for pups that might be good for a task of this nature, we will be looking.  I would greatly appreciate any info you can offer that might help us find a good candidate to work with.  If the puppy could possibly be donated, that would be an incredible blessing for our family.

In the mean time, perhaps the rest of you could offer up a little prayer on our behalf, as we go through these early “honeymoon” phases, try to get his insulin and blood sugars leveled out, learn to immerse this into our already-busy lifestyle, and soon begin the search for that perfect dog that will become JR’s personal, 4-legged guardian.  We’d greatly appreciate it.

I am counting down the days until our farm is officially draft-powered.  In other words, the real work around here–that work which requires solid, unwavering, brute strength–will be supplied entirely by 2 large….make that VERY large….Belgian geldings.  The horses are supposed to come home the last Saturday of March.  That isn’t long from now.  In fact, just yesterday, the teamster we are working with to purchase and train with them sent me a photo:

Belgians

Sorry it isn’t a very good photo, but it gives you some idea anyway.  For the record, the handlers on either side are averaged sized young women.  These horses’ withers are almost 6 feet high!  They look on the thin side because they are still young and somewhat gangly appearing.  They still have growing and filling out to do.  Yes, I confess, that intimidates me a little.  However, they have supposedly been used almost daily for almost 2 years now, and have basically “been there, done that.”  We get to see them in person for the first time and try them out next week.

In preparation, and to keep them in shape once they arrive, we wanted something for them to pull other than the huge number of logs we have in mind.  I got online, did my research as usual, and finally found an almost-brand-new-but-with-used-price Pioneer Classic Wagon.  It looks identical to this:

Pioneer Classic

This is our new ATV, SUV, log-hauler, RV, and transport into town.  It’s big enough for the whole family, strong enough to haul a LOT of logs, hay-bales, straw-bales, wood chips, or whatever, pretty enough to haul passengers, Christmas-y enough for holiday parades, and light enough for 2 horses to pull.  Now, it is sitting nicely in our barn, under a cover to protect from dust and kitty claws, waiting patiently for its double motor (the horses).  I am so excited!!

Have you ever experienced that uncomfortable and strange feeling of someone knowing way too much about you?  It’s a feeling I encounter with increasing frequency.  Most often, it’s because I run into someone–usually a stranger– who has been secretly following our blog for some time.  I have been caught off guard too many times to count, when some stranger walks up and says something like, “Sorry to hear about your calf,” or, “What was the result of your rabbitry experiment?”

With my blog being the last thing on my mind when I am out and about, I usually respond with something like, “Huh?  How do you know about that?”  Duh.  Because I wrote it and published it for all of cyberspace to see.  That’s how.

Well, it happened again.  S and I were out to dinner on a rare, childless date the other night.  Mind you, we live in a small town (around 2,000 pop.), and this was a humble little pizza shop with about 12 tables to choose from.  Another family walked in and sat at the table next to us.  One of the men at this table stood up, walked over to S, and asked, “Are you Red Gate Farm?”  (By the way, Hi Jeff!)

It happened again.  This gentleman knew all about our farm and our family, our journey from CO to IL, and the ups and downs of learning to be farmers.  Word spreads fast in a small town, but as it turns out, he hadn’t learned about us from town gossip.  Rather, as he began his own farming adventure last year, he found us on Google.  Turns out, we live a town apart!  Then, he politely let me know I needed to kickstart myself back into gear and get to writing again!

Honored to know someone actually missed me, I am taking that as my motivation to get back to it.  I will do my best to post regularly as a result.