Kids


I have always loved horses, so it was only natural that M became passionate about horses a few years ago.  Not long after, so did R.  Interestingly, although R is not biologically related, her birthmother also happens to love horses, and has owned a couple over time.  Nature or nurture?  Only God knows for sure.

Nonetheless, we decided it might benefit the younger kiddos to have their own equine to play with, albeit one that was a bit safer, and less potentially deadly like the larger horses. When an acquaintance’s children outgrew their miniature horse, we decided to buy him.

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Clyde, aptly named due to the fact he was raised on a Clydesdale farm, was such a character!  He was a 6 year old registered mini gelding, already fully trained to pull a cart and be ridden.  We also didn’t have to stress too much about introducing him to our little herd, since he already knew his way around big horses.

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A and N played with Clyde a little every now and then, but R absolutely loved him!  She often begged me to show her how to do things, and over the months, became quite good at picking up his feet, cleaning his hooves, and with a bit of help from big sis, they would braid his hair, and generally play with him.  And, of course, she would ride!  She rode every chance she got.  Sometimes she rode bareback, other times she liked to saddle up and join us on the trail.

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JR actually took a liking to driving Clyde, so he would occasionally have me harness and hitch up and tag along on a ride through neighborhood streets.

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Unfortunately, as the months passed, JR’s interest waned a bit, while R’s interest soared.  However, as she became a better rider, she also grew….FAST!  We had expected Clyde to suite her for at least a couple of years, but she hit a growth spurt over the summer, and it was clear that Clyde was being outgrown all too quickly.

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We debated hanging on to him and training him to be a work horse for the kiddos, but R’s passion was riding, and she really had little interest in driving.  The boys didn’t have much interest either.  So, rather than let such a great, kid-safe horse sit around and go to waste, we decided to pass him on the next lucky children.  He’ll be missed, but we had a lot of fun with him while it lasted!

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If you recall a couple years ago, I did a post (here) about Hunter, the dog we were training to be a Diabetes Alert Dog for JR.  I never told you the result of that.

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Hunter was truly a fun dog!  He ran around the farm all day, helping JR with chores, and generally finding entertainment in anything a good, farm-breed working dog would.  He also LOVED having a job to do.  He bonded very closely to JR, which was great, and by the time he was just around 7 months old, he began showing signs of alerting and scent recognition.  He was well on his way to being an alert dog.

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Sadly, though, as with many service-dogs-in-training, there is so much more to creating an all-around service dog than just achieving a specific task.  In Hunter’s case, he was so full of energy, he was usually like a spring just waiting to explode at any second.  On the farm, this wasn’t a problem.  In public, however, it could’ve turned into a problem.  No one in the general public had a clue, as by all accounts, he seemed to be a very well-trained pup, on his way to being a service dog.  He would calmly walk alongside JR, or lay up under a table in a restaurant, or whatever we asked of him.  The waiting however, was just more than he could comfortably bear.  As a habit, I always have a foot or leg touching a pup I am training in public, so I always know what they are up to.  In Hunter’s case, I could feel him just trembling with pent-up energy, and ready to leap out at the first temptation to play.  It broke my heart.

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Some issues can be outgrown.  It is possible that Hunter would have outgrown this one.  However, there comes a time when selfless and practical decisions must be made.  First, and most importantly, I want to know that a dog is truly happy and enjoying his life–while at work or play.  In Hunter’s case, he was a naturally happy dog, but I think having to remain calm in public was not something he enjoyed at all.  Secondly, even though he could possibly have outgrown the energy, from a practical standpoint, I couldn’t risk it taking several years to have him able to qualify as a service dog.  I learned in my past training that a good alert dog should be ready and able to pass a full exam such as the Canine Good Citizen Award by the time they are about 18 months old–preferably earlier.  Hunter wasn’t even close.  So, instead, we found Hunter a farm home with other mini-Aussies, where he was able to herd livestock and play and generally exert energy to his heart’s content.  Last I heard, he was adapting beautifully, and the photos they sent showed a very happy dog indeed!

Giving up Hunter was a little harder for JR, as he was very attached.  In fact, he slept with Hunter’s dog tag and a photo for several months after he left, and there were a few nights where he cried himself to sleep.  That being said, he seemed to fully understand that it was truly the best decision for Hunter.  JR knew he wanted an alert dog, not a pet, and we couldn’t have both at that point in time.  Furthermore, we all agreed that Hunter’s presence was certainly not in vain.  He had helped JR overcome some major fears he had developed with his new diagnosis.  Since learning he was diabetic, he was always scared to leave S or I, fearing he would have a low blood sugar and not know what to do.  For many weeks, he even slept on our couch, rather than going upstairs to his bedroom.  Hunter gave him the confidence he so desperately needed to go back to living life as normal.  For that, we will always be thankful to Hunter!

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….well, actually, 7-year-old M can see clearly now.

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Several weeks ago, M began complaining about her vision and not being able to see well.  We pointed out things throughout the day, and were puzzled that, sometimes she could see them fine, and other days she seemed to have trouble.  I took her to an optometrist, assuming maybe she was near-sighted like me.  As it turned out, she can see just fine.  In fact, she has perfect vision.  We discovered, however, that she is somewhat cross-eyed.  It isn’t noticeable except to her.  Essentially, when her eyes get tired, they begin to drift inward, causing her lose focus.  Thus, she was prescribed what basically amounts to reading glasses.  The rule is that she has wear them anytime she is looking at something that is close enough for her to reach out and touch (like when doing school or reading books).  If it’s further than that, she doesn’t need her glasses.  The glasses simply reduce the strain on her eye, preventing them from drifting and losing focus.  So far so good, and she loves her new look!

M is realizing more and more that she truly has a little guinea pig sister.  I don’t know if she has just gotten tired of playing Lincoln Logs  and Leggos with her brothers, or if she is coming of age, but dangly earrings (thanks to Nana!) and nail polish are the choice right now.  The fact that she has a little sis willing to let her practice on her makes things even better!

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I grew up in a home well versed in medical needs.  My father was an EMT for many years, so we rarely went to a hospital with an injury.  I was a Type 1 diabetic, so I was very familiar with blood, needles, proper hygiene, and knowledge of physiological processes.  I spent many years working as a vet tech, and because veterinary medicine is similiar in many ways to human medicine, I learned a great deal.  My parents took in foster children for many years, some of which were medically-needy, and one who came complete with 24-hour nursing care.  I learned a tremendous amount getting to know her nurses, as they suctioned mucus, worked on therapy, monitored her breathing tube, ventilator, and G-tube (for feeding).  I majored in biology, further increasing my training and understanding of physiology.  Later, when I became a storm chaser with the weather service, I took a full semester course to train as a First Responder, as we were often the first on the scene after a severe storm or tornado.

I just had no idea at the time that God was preparing me for my 5 children!  Frankly, we have been blessed.  So far, after 5 children and 8.5 years, none of my children have suffered a broken bone or major issue in which I didn’t know what to do.  For a long time, I suspected it was in preparation for A, who has had several injuries.  M had a couple pretty good injuries as well.  N, while escaping injury, thanks to his cerebral palsy, has managed to involve me in his fair share of therapies and medical issues.  R isn’t quite old enough for major-injury causing freedoms yet.

JR, despite his boyish antics, has always been a typical first-born.  He tends to be on the cautious side, watches out for his siblings, and has developed a passion for helping me with more adult tasks and responsibilities.  He has managed to escape major injury so far.   Until yesterday, that is.  Cooking and preparing food is one of his favorite chores.  Over time I have given him careful instruction on proper use of the stove and food preps.  He has become quite proficient at cooking eggs and bacon, hot cocoa, making cookies and waffles from scratch, and of course, making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  The catch there is that we bake our own bread, which means he first has to slice the bread before he can butter it.  I have given him many sessions of training, instruction, and supervision, and he has always been very careful and very responsible with a knife.

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Today, I was planning to make some PB&J sandwiches for lunch.  Unbeknownst to me, JR decided to surprise me by beating me to the job (a common thing for him to do lately).  Only today, he couldn’t find the bread knife, and decided to use the much longer and more awkward meat-slicing knife.  Next thing I knew, he was standing there beside me with a slightly bloody thumb–no big deal.  He wasn’t crying or carrying on.  Nonetheless, I told him to go to my bathroom while I got the first-aid kit.  I got upstairs and looked closer, only to realize it was a pretty bad slice.  He had almost removed the top portion of this thumb.  The skin was all attached, and the blood had thoroughly cleaned it out, so I knew the finger would be fine with a bit of pressure just to hold the flap in place until it healed.  The problem was, I had 4 other concerned children gathered around, in the way, and somewhat upset by the blood.  There was also a very sharp knife on the table where he had been slicing the bread.

First things first….I attempted to rinse the finger in cold water, but the blood wouldn’t stop.  I told him to hold pressure on his thumb while I retrieved ice.  I set him up with ice, and told him to hold it firmly and up, to cool it.  In the mean time, since he seemed calm enough, I ran to the table, finished the sandwiches, got the other kids seated and eating, put M in charge of their welfare, made sure things were safe, and finally returned to JR.  He was crying slightly, but seemed pretty calm otherwise.  Unfortunately, the blood was still flowing, and I couldn’t get the steri-trips (my home “suture” of choice) to stick.  So, I told him to hold his hand way up over his head while we continued to apply pressure.  Suddenly, he said softly, “Mom, I think I’m going to pass out.”

OK, as a trained first responder, I knew to evaluate the situation.  The blood was mild–we hadn’t even filled up 1/2 a gauze.  I also have a melo-dramatic child who likely wouldn’t have a clue what “passing out” feels like.  So, like any good mom, I just brushed it off and reassured him that he was OK, and his injury really wasn’t that bad.  We just had to get it to stop bleeding.  I talked to him calmly as I finally just put a gauze and tape wrap on for the time being.  I figured that would hold the flap in place, apply enough pressure to control the bleeding, and allow to start healing.  When my temporary wrap begins to wear off, then I will replace with the steri-strips and a bandaid.  Then, just I was putting the tape in place, he limply collapsed against me, barely supporting his weight with his legs.  Hmmm.  I used my free hand to tilt his face toward me.  His eyes were rolling, and his face had turned white as a sheet.  His lips were grey, and he was clearly going into a mild state of shock.  This wasn’t going well.  The phone was at the other end of the house, and M has not had as much training on 911 calls as JR, who was pretty useless at present.  Again, though, I knew that his injury was not serious, so it had to be more psychological.  I have been through shock personally, knew the signs, and remember how the hospital treated me.  So, I quickly reviewed the steps I had been taught.

I dragged him over closer to my bed, laid him on the floor, told M to continue holding his hand up in the air, I grabbed a pillow, and propped his feet higher than his head.  He was still conscious, but clearly weak.  Now, I want to emphasize that normally, you would not ask someone in shock to eat or drink.  In this case, though, I was very confident that, for the most part, this was a mental situation rather than a physical one.  Furthermore, he has shown some mild signs of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in the past, and excitement can bring this condition on. There was just no reason other than the sight of blood, possibly a bit of panic on his part, and perhaps a slightly lower blood sugar.  My mommy instinct told me that what he needed was a good distraction.  The idea of blood-donation centers popped in my mind.  They treat woozy patients with juice and a cookie.  So, I left M to watch him while I poured a small glass of juice.  I didn’t want him to choke if he really was weak, so I also grabbed a small twisty-type straw that would make him work a little for it, also preventing him from taking too big of a swallow.  I asked him if he could sit up, and he did, though he was clearly weak.  I held his glass as he slowly sucked.  Without any encouragement, he drank the whole glass, and the sugar rush took about 60 seconds to kick in.  He opened his eyes, the color returned to his face, and he was out of the danger zone.  I helped him up and checked that his thumb was OK.  My wrap seemed to have worked, as there was no sign of blood.  JR asked to lay on the couch for a little while, but he was obviously feeling better.  So, I helped him to the couch.  By the time I got the other children in bed for their afternoon naps, JR had found his way to the table and was eating his peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Oh, a day in my life.  It certainly isn’t predictable from day to day!!  Though, I do predict another review on knife safety in the immediate future!

Oh, the moment every parent dreads….the BIG talk.

S and I have discussed this event on numerous occasions, and the importance of explaining it in such a way that the children would understand that Biblically-founded marital intimacy is a wonderful, God-designed, and God-intended thing.  Like most parents, though, it was a very mature topic we weren’t exactly looking forward to discussing with the children.  Because of the many pregnancies of animals and friends the children have been exposed to, we have described pregnancy in detail.  We just kinda left out the actual conception part of things.  They understood the basics–girls have eggs all the time (that’s why hens lay them for us to eat).  It takes a boy to make the eggs fertile, which is why there are no chicks without a rooster, and no baby bunnies or goats without a buck.  In the beginning, it was easier to allow the children to make up their own ideas as to how conception occurred.  For the most part, early on, they believed a girl just didn’t get pregnant until God blessed her with a man, and they got married.  For some reason, they didn’t link humans and animals at first.  However, I suppose it was inevitable seeing as how JR has been heading up our rabbit program for about a year now.  I still handled the actual breedings of the rabbits, since JR was clueless as to the details of how to know when the breeding was successful, but I have been ready to hand that over to him for some time no.  Miraculously, despite all the children being witness to rabbit and goat breedings, certain, um, details, remained (thankfully) hidden from view.  As time went by, though, questions began arising….

“Why does he have to mount the back end?  Why can’t she get pregnant if he mounts the front end?”  (“umm, That’s just the rule. Hey, did you finish your schoolwork?”)

“Why do we have to actually wait until the rabbit squeaks and falls over?”  (“umm, That’s his way of telling us he’s finished. Hey, did you finish cleaning your room?”)

We quickly learned short answers to specific questions were key, and then distraction worked wonders.   Then, of course, we experienced our first open adoption, where the kids have gotten to know a single birth mom.  JR caught on really quick.  The other evening, as we sat down dinner, he asked, “I don’t understand…animals don’t get married, and since a girl doesn’t really have to be married, and she just has to be close to a boy, then how does she know she won’t get pregnant while sitting in church and boy sits next to her?”  OH BOY!  He HAD to ask at the dinner table, in front of all the other siblings, and he HAD to select church of all places as his example!!

I looked at Daddy, who agreed, nonchalantly, to chat with him about it later, and we changed the subject.  We quietly told JR to stay up when the other kids went to bed.  After tucking the other kids into bed, Daddy took JR downstairs to have THE talk.  I made myself very busy, of course ensuring I could eavesdrop on the conversation.  I had no clue what to expect from such a conversation.  Shoot, my folks managed to hide the facts from me until I was well into my teens, and then gave me a book to read that contained the details.

JR, age 8. Photo by A Better Image Photography

JR, age 8.
Photo by A Better Image Photography

I won’t offer details, but Daddy explained the principles behind it, how God intended things to be, how sometimes people mess up that intention, and then related it to JR’s rabbits.  Finally, he emphasized that discreetness was needed out of respect for other parents and children who didn’t know.  This was a very special adult subject, and  children should only know about it when their parents thought they were ready.  JR was surprisingly mature about the conversation.  He asked a few questions, and we could tell the little wheels in his head were spinning as he absorbed the information.  Behind his eyes, we could tell he was fitting all the pieces of the puzzle together, and things were finally making sense to him.  About 10 minutes later, the discussion was over, we all exchanged hugs and kisses and sent him off to bed.

Surprisingly, though, JR hasn’t brought up the subject since.  It’s as though all his questions were finally answered, he feels all the pieces of the puzzle have fitted together, and he is totally content with that.  Out of respect to his siblings and our wishes, he has never even eluded to the topic with them.  Now that we have crossed this major milestone, we have one down, four to go.  I have a feeling it won’t get any easier.  Our plan has long been that I will talk to the girls, and S will talk to the boys.  I guess it’s my turn next, but I confess, I’m sure glad we have only 2 girls and 3 boys!!

What do you get if 2 children come running around a corner from opposite directions?

A major collision of heads, which can potentially result in the older, thicker-headed one having a minor goose-egg on his forehead, and the younger having……. well, see for yourself:

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And this looks good compared to the day it happened!  Within a few minutes of the collision, poor M’s face swelled up and turned all sorts of shades of blue, red, and purple about 3 inches from her eye in every direction.  She didn’t actually hit her eye, just the bone surrounding it.  I can’t help but wonder if she fractured it a bit due to the swelling and colors.  Not much you can do for a fracture in that area, and she didn’t complain of any headaches or vision trouble, so we just iced it well and kept a close eye on her.  The swelling was down some the next day, but the colors intensified.  By day 3, when this photo was taken, the swelling was almost gone, but the bruising was starting to drain down around eye, and the area surrounding it had turned a nice shade of olive.  This girl is one tough cookie, and hasn’t uttered a word of complaint.  She hardly cried when it happened.  I saw it happen, but neither kiddo made a fuss, so I continued what I was doing.  Then I heard a muffled sound, and walked over to check on her, to find she was actually injured.  She isn’t a complainer by nature, so I have to watch her very closely and ask very specific questions to find out just how bad an injury is with her.  Guess that’s partly a result of being a woman 😉 and partly the result of having 3 brothers!

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