Monday, December 28, 2009

ACL Reconstruction Pre-Surgery Rehabilitation

October 16, 2009

Well it took until today to fit in an appointment at North Lake Physical Therapy North Lake Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation where Big Country has gone before for rehab. After a thorough evaluation, their plan includes an exercise bike to get the motion and strength going again. Measuring his thigh they noted that he had already lost two inches in its girth from inactivity. Amazing, but it did reflect two weeks of inactivity. Along with the three times per week therapy sessions, he was given a pass to the Nautilus club where the physical therapist practice operates out of and told to come in on the other off days and do specific work on his own to hasten the conditioning of the knee. It was interesting to hear them talk of the only way that the fluid and blood cane be removed from the knee allowing it to regain its full movement is by the lymph system. Now what exactly is the lymph system? Time for some more research.

October 17, 2009

Did some research on the lymph system today. Did you know it is second in importance to your blood stream? Lymph is the fluid that surrounds your cells. Its job it to take away toxins and wastes and run through your lymph nodes set up along the system and ultimately through the liver. Through exposure to environmental toxins, excessive wastes being handled by the lymph system, and accumulation of “junk” in your body, your lymph system can become overworked and the nodes plugged. As well, your liver may be under strain from filtering all of this garbage. The lymph system is also your body’s carrier system for the immune system as well. A simple Google search turned up loads of information. It was enough information that I decided to visit our local General Nutrition Center and purchase an herbal liver support nutritional supplement containing primarily milk thistle, an herb which has been used for liver cleansing for ages. My thought is to get DS15’s lymph system healthy and free from obstructions so that it can do its job of ridding his knee of the pooled blood and fluids as efficiently as possible. A detox of his liver will make sure that it’s running well too.

October 19, 2009

The physical therapist today asked DS15 which ACL reconstruction he was going to have: patella, hamstring, or cadaver. What? Not being as informed as I should have been at this point in the game, I had just assumed the ligament would be stitched back up…similar to how DH’s was 18 years ago when he tore his Achilles tendon. Back to Google or more accurately, Swagbucks. Yes, there are three methods, and they are reconstructions. You do not repair an ACL. It is replaced from either the middle third of your patella tendon along with bone pieces at either end or a hamstring tendon is removed. Using a frozen cadaver part is sort of a last resort option, so I didn’t research that any further. There doesn’t seem to be a large consensus as to whether the patella or hamstring reconstruction are preferred. DS15 has some patella tendinitis in the same knee, so I’m guessing that might not be the best option for him. More questions for the surgeon when we meet on November 3rd I guess.

October 23, 2009

Physical therapy appointments every day after school are getting old at least on my end as they are taking a huge chunk out of the day. Not really enough time to go home…and a needless use of gas…but I can only go to Fred Meyers so many times a week. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday DS15’s meeting with the therapist and goes through their routine. The other days of the weeks he goes in and uses a stationary bike to work his knee. In one week, it has straightened considerably. It looks like he should be ready when we talk to the surgeon next week. A fellow varsity football player, also a sophomore, injured his knee during the last football game. They are wondering if he damaged any of his ligaments as well.

October 24, 2009

Being a bit of a research junkie, I decided to do a YouTube search for ACL reconstruction. These videos are not for the faint of heart, but I did find a really nice surgery animation site showing a patella reconstruction. Very, very informative. It also looks like some surgery centers use a continuous motion machine for 23 out of the first 24 hours following the surgery to slowly move the new ligament immediately after surgery. That would appear to me that an overnight stay at the hospital would be required. Yes, more questions for that November appointment.

October 28, 2009

DS15 told me that Luke did tear his ACL. They were both at the physical therapists office today riding the stationary bike together. How sad/pathetic/??? is that. There is also a freshman player that tore his ACL and is rehabilitating from his surgery right now. What a common injury for such young kids. A friend stopping by the house today also proceeded to tell me about his ACL tear and of another common friend of ours who had reconstruction surgery as well. One of them used the patella method and the other the hamstring. It seems that taking the ligament from the patella seems to produce a little more pain during recovery but not that much of a difference.

October 30, 2009

Today we meet with the physical therapist for the last time before meeting with the orthopedic surgeon to determine whether DS15’s knee is in shape for the surgery. By now I don’t even notice any hesitation is his gait, and he showed me that he has just about full range of motion. We’ll see what the therapist has to say tonight.

October 31, 2009

Received a clean bill of health and okay to perform surgery on the ACL from the physical therapist yesterday. There is still a need to keep the knee moving on the stationary bike all weekend and Monday before meeting with Dr. Feinblatt on Tuesday after school. DS15 happened to be at the therapist at the same time after school with Luke and found out that his ACL reconstruction surgery is scheduled with Dr. McWeeney on November 10. A great day to have it as the following day is a school holiday. Wouldn’t that be a hoot if the boys could have surgery the same day, recover in the same hospital room, and work their therapy sessions together. I will certainly be asking at Tuesday’s appointment.

November 1, 2009

DS15 remembered to tell me that the therapist had picked up a magazine to show the boys during their appointment on Friday. It was an article showing how the hamstring tendons are harvested in preparation for ACL reconstruction. Of course the article came with an abundance of photographs. Apparently it was a little more graphic than the boys wanted to see!

November 3, 2009

Remembered to call into high school attendance office to excuse DS15 at 1:50 p.m. so that we can make it on time to his appointment with Dr. Feinblatt.

Interesting information from the surgeon. But first things first. Surgery is scheduled for November 11 with an 8 a.m. sharp check in. Normal protocol of no food or drink after midnight. That will be fun for DS15. We talked about the options for the reconstruction: harvesting his own hamstring tendon or using a frozen tendon from a donor cadaver. The latter risk runs a 1 in 1.2 million chance of posing the risk of contracting hepatitis or HIV. Why would anyone use that option? As it turns out, statistics show that there can be a 10-20% loss of hamstring strength in the leg that had the tendon harvested. In a young person they are known to regenerate to some extent but are usually not as strong as the original. Dr. Feinblatt jokingly referred to it as the starfish syndrome. We will obviously do some more research in that department before making the final decision. Other than that, the surgery is done on an outpatient basis, and DS15 will be sent home with an ice-type brace (know there is a technical term for it) that will circulate cooling for the knee to reduce swelling. Dr. Feinblatt will also administer a femoral block in that leg to reduce the associated pain upon coming out of surgery. DS15 will be using crutches until the next post-op appointment and can plan on being medicated up for a few days...hence a surgery on a no-school holiday resulting in missing the two following school days and then having an additional two days from the weekend to recuperate before heading back to school on Monday. No rest for the weary.

November 5, 2009

DH has talked to quite a few people over the last few days and has come to the conclusion that most individuals, including the physical therapist that is currently working with DS15, that athletes who are strong to begin with do not seem to suffer from any hamstring weakness or slowness in speed after the reconstruction. The therapist also commented on how they have been really strengthening the two boys' hamstrings on the affected leg for that very purpose to have them in top shape before the hamstrings are harvested. With that in mind, there seems to be no reason to opt for the cadaver tendon.

November 6, 2009

The pre-op from the hospital called today to give me the low-down on what to expect the day of surgery. There were reminders to bring DS15's photo ID, crutches, and leg brace as well as no food or drink after midnight. She talked about the check-in procedure and where each step of the stay would take place. Anesthesia these days does not include Demerol as it did when I had my wisdom teeth taken out, and apparently you wake from surgery just about the time they withdraw the medication from your IV. Dr. Feinblatt will be giving a femoral block which will keep that leg numb for anywhere from 8-30 hours depending on how fast his body metabolizes the drug. After that she said it is extremely important to give him pain medication the minute he starts to feel pain so that he can keep his 1-10 scale at about a 3. She said he will be able to negotiate stairs but would be best off staying on just one level. As I will still be doing school with the girls upstairs and his room doesn't have a TV, I think I will have him stay in our downstairs bedroom with access to a TV and DVD player and bathroom just a few feet away and plenty of quiet. That way he'll also have someone close to fetch and carry for him in the middle of the night. Due to H1N1 threats, only two visitors are allowed per patient which will put a bit of a kink in our family and with his friends, but we'll just have to trade off and on throughout the day I guess.

Friday, November 27, 2009

ACL Tear and Meniscus Damage Injury and Diagnosis

October 2, 2009

After fighting the flu this week, Big Country was pretty anxious to be able to play in the varsity football game this evening. He had managed to only miss one practice this week and was feeling better by Friday, raring to go. Just before half time, Big Country went in for a tackle. Seeing that the player was already down with a pile on top, he began to swing his leg to jump over the stack of tangled players. As his right leg came up, he was hit by friendly fire...a team mate going in for the same tackle dove towards the pile mistakenly tagging Big Country on the outside of his left knee with a helmet shot. Pop went the knee and Big Country hit the ground...knowing that something was not right.

As we were sitting on the visitor's stands fairly low, I couldn't see past the line of players to actually see the play. I had been attempting to video tape the game from my poor position and was about to the point of bagging it since it was too hard to see over the sidelines. Casually putting away the camera, I wasn't even aware of the delay of game and finally hearing the mention of who #44 was around me. Suddenly I realized they were talking about a downed player...Big Country. Looking up I could see the field taking a knee and then began to get worried. Camo Queen who was watching the game jumped up in a flash to tear down to the tape around the field to see if it indeed was Big Country. I stayed put with H-Bob and maneuvered myself so I could see what was happening on the field.

The trainer for the team had Big Country stretched out flat and was adjusting his leg, obviously accessing the damage. They finally helped him up, and he hobbled over to the sidelines. Great! An obvious injury. As typical he was taped up with ice and had a seat along the edge of the field. Within minutes, the whistle blew for half time, and he slowly walked off the field with the team.

By the time they returned from half time, Big Country was definitely having trouble walking...lagging way behind the team which began to bother me a bit. It didn't look like just a bad bruise or strain. After the game, which by the way had the most exciting finish a high school team could ask for, I spoke at length with the trainer. She had performed several tests on the field immediately after the hit which are valuable in determining if there had been ligament damage...tests that are more difficult to perform later once swelling starts in. She couldn't come to any conclusions that would positively indicate a torn ligament and had hopes that he would be 100% the following day after some significant icing this evening. With instructions to check in with her after school on Monday, we went home.

October 3, 2009

As the weekend progressed, Big Country elevated and iced his knee continually. The swelling was definitely becoming an issue and his greatest complaint was his inability to straighten his leg. The motion just wasn't there. Forcing it in either direction caused pain, and interestingly enough the only pain he even had associated with the injury. Sunday came and went and there was no improvement. This perhaps was not a simple bruise or strain.

October 5, 2009

As the health of Big Country's knees are the lifeblood of his hopes to some day play Division I or II football as well as a body part you don't want to deteriorate early in "old age", I begged for an immediate appointment with our local orthopedic office, Oregon Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Clinic whom we have gotten to know quite well. An appointment for Tuesday was scheduled. We visited with the high school trainer after a long line of athletes streamed into her office for various tapings and injury evaluations. We are fortunate to have an on-site trainer available after school and present at games to be there to assist the coaches in evaluating injuries and coordinating rehabilitation between the coaches and the athletes’ doctors. Melissa of ProActive Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy went through another set of evaluation tests and provided us with a more specific speculation...a damaged meniscus (knee cartilage). She was thankful that he had an appointment already scheduled with the doctor as his situation definitely warranted further investigation.

October 6, 2009

Today I hauled Big Country off to visit with Dr. Feinblatt of Oregon Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Clinic to go over the injury to his knee and hopefully find some answers as to why there had been no lessening of his swelling and to see what his consensus was as to the outlook. As expected, he gave a thorough exam of the leg and sent Big Country down the hall for an x-ray. I've learned to bring plenty of reading material with me on appointments like these as you never know exactly how long you'll be there. Today was no exception. With x-rays in hand, Dr. Feinblatt went over them with us and showed where they did not indicate any bone chips or obvious impediments that would affect Big Country's ability to straighten his knee. His conclusion concurred with Melissa's that there was probably damage to the meniscus, and that perhaps a flap of the torn cartilage was flipped up as often occurs keeping the knee from operating properly on a mechanical level. He gave us the option of scheduling surgery or performing an MRI to get a better look at the soft tissue structures before going in. We chose the MRI as that would most conclusive. He hoped that a MRI could be performed that week and asked us to schedule a return appointment in one week. And the big bomb...the surgeon wanted Big Country on weight on the knee at the event pressure could further damage the torn meniscus.

So the phone calls the insurance company, to the MRI facility to determine their insurance participation, back to the insurance company, to my husband who was out of town hunting, to the orthopedic office, and on it went. Finally with a bit of persistence, I had a MRI scheduled for the next day.

October 7, 2009

Neither Big Country nor I had any idea what is involved with an MRI and so went to the appointment after school pretty blind. We were just happy to have it performed soon enough so that the scheduled appointment with the surgeon would not have to be postponed. The timing of the appointment was also critical as Big Country didn't want to miss any school realizing how hard it is to make up missed lectures and notes in his AP classes, and we were able to get one late enough in the day and at a time that DH could also attend once he returned to town. After confirming the Big Country had no metal parts in his body, which we got a big laugh out of, they took him off for his scan. Apparently they needed to straighten his knee in order to strap it into place, but not wanting to tell them how difficult it was to straighten it, Big Country gritted his teeth and endured the pain as it was in the brace for the three or five minutes the scan took hoping he wouldn't pass out. He did admit though that he could move it a little bit further after that. Odd I thought. Perhaps they pushed the torn meniscus out of the way. One could only hope.

October 8, 2009

Getting along on crutches at high school with a 50 pound back pack is not fun for Big Country. Now he complains of terribly sore arm pits. But he did get an elevator key pass so that he can negotiate getting to the second level of the school for classes. Fortunately we have a medical supply source locally, so after dropping him off at football practice...yes, injured players still attend all practices...I purchased a set of fleece arm pads for the crutches. They had belonged to DH after his Achilles tendon surgery about 18 years ago and were pretty deteriorated. Fluffy fleece pads on a football player's crutches? Yes, he had to take a lot of guff for that one.

October 9, 2009

Big Country and I are both tired of these crutches now. Somewhere, somehow the deteriorated foam pads slipped off the crutches without his knowledge, so off to the medical supply store again. Fortunately, they had a single package of replacement parts in stock but in two different sizes. Taking a wild gamble, I purchased the set I thought would fit and headed off to doctor up the crutches. The sales associate did have some good advice about the height of the crutches though and arm pain. The height should never touch the underside of the arm and the hand piece should fall about the wrist area. Big Country's were adjusted all wrong. So here's hoping for a better fit and a little more comfort.

October 10, 2009

With the weekend here, it was time for a little research homework and see what all this meniscus damage could mean. It would appear that a meniscus tear can be fixed pretty simply. Once you start talking about it with people, they have either had the surgery performed on themselves or know of someone personally who has. If the damage is to the front, live tissue of the meniscus, however, it needs repair and that repair takes time. Time to heal, time to rehab, and time away from athletics. Big Country was not liking the sound of that option.

October 12, 2009

The big day. The reading of the MRI. It rather felt like you were about to go before a judge and be handed your sentence hoping it would be a light one. Dr. Feinblatt pulled up the MRI on his computer screen, which is a pretty impressive way to look at an MRI if you ask me. He showed us the meniscus and how there appeared to be no damage at all. Perfectly intact. We all exchanged glances and gave a big sigh of relief. Then there came the BUT word. "But it would appear that his ACL is torn." What! How could that be! I would have loved to have had our expressions video taped. I'm sure they would have been a text book example of a "fallen countenance". Dr. Feinblatt went on to show us in detail where the two stumps of the ACL were and that the ligament was no longer attached. He looked at the two exterior ligaments and found that they were perfectly fine. It was hard to find the right questions to ask. He did a pretty good job of filling in the blanks. Surgery was optional. Rehabilitation and time to get back into athletics could be up to nine or even twelve months. Forty percent of ACL surgeries do not result in 100% pre-injury performance. Not a pretty picture. It was pretty obvious to all of us that surgery would be necessary to reconstruct the ligament. It was obvious that Big Country would miss the remainder of the football season and that he would not be playing varsity basketball this winter either. And that there would be a lot of appointments and physical therapy down the road.

Dr. Feinblatt explained that before the surgery would be performed, he would want Big Country to attend physical therapy sessions three times a week for the next three weeks so that the fluid and blood that had accumulated in the knee at the time of injury could be removed. Full motion of the knee was necessary so that it would not be compromised before the surgery. There was some good more crutches. The more movement the better. Would have been nice to know that a lot sooner! He gave Big Country a knee brace to wear for stability and as a sign for others to be aware of his injury. He must realize that high schoolers don't think twice before doing stupid stuff like chucking a backpack towards someone forgetting about their injury and possibly doing further damage. He set a follow up appointment for three weeks, and off we went feeling pretty glum.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fourth Meal

I don’t think Taco Bell has anything on our family. We’ve been having a Fourth Meal for way too long around here. Perhaps it started with trying to eat as a family after various evening extra curricular activities or it could have been eating too early before said activities and then needing something later on. Regardless…the Fourth Meal habit appears to be here to stay at least while we have 2.5 teenagers eating at home (12-year-olds count as a half, right?)

A semi made from scratch dinner is served most every night. Nutritious, filling, and healthy. It may not go over well with some family members, but it is what we routinely eat. Dishes are cleaned up. Leftovers put away. The over-used dishwasher is loaded to the hilt one more time. A few hours pass, and then those stomachs start to grumble again. Out comes some leftover dessert; perhaps nachos are made or an ice cream shake is whipped up; it could be some stove top popcorn. Whatever ever the snack, it seems that everyone needs something. Plates are pulled from the cupboards. Dishes are filled. Utensils used. And of course more cups are out on the counter. Now multiply all of this by six household members. Regardless of whether they clean up after themselves or not, the fact of the matter is there seems to be a sink full of dishes by the time morning arrives the next day. Sigh. What’s one to do?

Well, short of padlocking the refrigerator…not a good idea since I do want them to eat up those leftovers…I’m thinking of other creative ways to limit the sink full of dishes that await me every morning. There is nothing like unloading a dishwasher and then turning around to fill it again first thing. Growing kids with active lifestyles do need to eat and frequently, so I won’t begrudge them their food, but it’s just the side issue of the residual dishes that result because of their Fourth Meal. So I believe my answer is going to be PAPER…paper cups and paper plates exclusively after dinner. Whether that is a green option or not is beside the point at this time.

So now that my shopping list is going to have some paper goods on it to purchase this coming week, it will be up to staff sergeant mom to enforce the new code. But hopefully the family will see that a happy mom is a happy home. Any other families with Fourth Meal dilemmas out there? How ever do you cope?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Goat's Milk Ricotta Cheese at Home

Do you ever wonder what can be done with goat's milk other than drinking it? Well baking and cheese making ranking pretty high around here as well. The simplest cheese on the face of the planet to make has to be ricotta. In fact I had no idea that I could have been making my own ricotta even from grocery store milk all along. It was one of those revelation moments such as I had when I started preparing my own buttermilk.

Here's how I go about making our own fresh, creamy ricotta cheese. Heat two quarts goat's milk to 180 degrees on the stove top stirring frequently but gently to distribute the heat. As it nears the 180 degree mark, stir in two tablespoons of either apple cider or white vinegar. As you continue to heat the milk, you will notice that the acid in the vinegar will begin to coagulate the milk and the yellowish whey will begin to separate. You may have to raise the temperature up to 200 degrees to achieve separate of curds and whey but do not let it go any further than that. If you have reached 195 degrees and there is no separation, add an additional tablespoon of vinegar and that should do the trick as it continues to climb to the 200 degree mark. Once you see the curds really begin to form, remove from the heat and allow to cool. The curds should float on the whey and form a semi-solid mass. For the creamiest ricotta, allow to cool undisturbed for a half of an hour. You can then gently lift the curds off of the whey with a slotted spoon and place them into a container. You may occasionally need to drain extra whey from your container as you fill it with the warm curds. Refrigerate and use within the week.

That's all there is to it. Once you're comfortable with making your own ricotta, next thing you know you'll be hankering for some semi-soft cheese as well. It's easier than you think and more rewarding as well. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Flu Update

So far, the nasty flu that Camo Queen came down with over the weekend has kept itself to her and her alone even though our high schooler, Big Country, is currently fighting a nasty cold. Yesterday, after over three days running a temperature that varied from 99 to the upper 101's, she woke up fever free. Her first comment when I had woke her in the morning was that now she felt like she could sleep comfortably even though she has been sleeping most of the weekend. When that fever breaks, you just feel relaxed.

She's still battling a cough though it's hard for her to tell whether it is coming from her chest or whether it is caused by dripping nasal passages. No matter what illness befalls her, an attack on her sinuses usually follows. I always blame that on me for having to return to work and not knowing enough to continue nursing her in the evenings. Her immune system never has been what the other three kids are fortunate to have who had the advantage of being nursed for a great length of time.

Afraid to miss any more of her veterinary technician classes at her college a good hour's drive away from home, she armed herself with cough drops and set off to school this morning...not quite prepared for the two tests that she was too ill to study for over the weekend. A phone call back home 45 minutes into her drive to let me know that she was stuck in a massive traffic jam gave me the impression that she's still pretty exhausted. There's a pretty good chance she will be entirely late to her first class in which her test was scheduled first off. It's hard to tell a perfectionist student to stay home and rest when they really do feel much better than they did.

Unfortunately, it usually takes her several weeks to completely combat whatever illness she encounters. And in today's environment we unfortunately do not seem to take the luxury of time that is required to completely heal ourselves before we launch back into life. Perhaps that is why it seems so foreign to us to read historical novels in which patients were confined to bed for weeks convalescing before they were allowed to do much of anything. There's something to be said for getting up and moving, but where to draw the line between staying at home and returning to your normal schedule is difficult at times. One of life's never ending questions I guess.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Garlic as a remedy

Although we have a fully stocked medicine cabinet at home and dip into it quite frequently, I am all for natural remedies that have worked throughout the world for centuries. Garlic is one of those. Research has found garlic to have anti-viral and antibiotic properties. The catch is it must be crushed and consumed raw and within a few minutes so that its allicin and sulfur compounds are preserved. So based on this information, I have recently started to dose up my kids with raw garlic at the first sign of a head cold or the flu of which we seem to have had plenty this year.

Raw garlic? And kids will eat it? Not exactly…but they have started even asking for it. Here’s the trick. Even I wouldn’t chomp down raw garlic. I am sure it would burn my tastebuds for a week, and I’d imagine as well leave a nasty taste in my mouth. At our local store’s nutrition center, I purchased a bag of clear gel pill capsules…the kind that separate so that they can be filled and closed again. I peel a clove of garlic and with a sharp paring knife, slice it vertically, turn it over 90 degrees and slice it again vertically making sure the cell walls are being crushed. I’m left with thin, match stick size pieces just about the length of the pill capsules. I begin to slide them down into the long half the capsule and layering them in until no more will fit. Usually a small length will be hanging out the top which will be enclosed once the cap is placed back on.

Voila! Enclosed raw garlic with no taste. Down the hatch it goes! One clove will usually fill about three of the capsules. I will tell you to not let them set long as the moisture from the garlic will begin to soften the gel capules and make them soggy. Not what you want to attempt to swallow. And as well, the garlic will coat your fingers as you handle it and impart a slight garlicky flavor to the capsules as you are working with them. No one has experienced much in the way of after taste or burping garlic afterwards, so we’re all happy.

I can’t scientifically prove that the garlic is making a difference. but it certainly can’t hurt. The more I read about natural health remedies, the more I’m convinced that as a parent I can give our family even a slight edge over the ills that face us in life. Once we have implemented garlic as a basic arsenal in our medicine cabinet, it will be time to move on a try another remedy. Have you had success with something in particular? Please share. We can all learn a little something new.

Swine flu...H1N1...seasonal flu...It's all yucky!

We've just entered the third round of flu to hit our family this year. And I consider us to a fairly healthy family. What's up?

This past March, our then 18-year-old daughter came down with a high fever and flu symptoms for three or four days just as swine flu, as it was then referred to, had hit our state. The other three children soon followed suit with similar symptoms. One's mind does begin to wander and consider the idea that it could have been swine flu and that hopefully we might have gotten off lucky and it passed through the kids fairly mildly. I have since learned that fever with a sore throat probably isn't indicative of the swine flu. Camo Queen had even made a trip to the doctor to rule out strept throat as it was so inflammed.

Then at the end of September, our twelve-year-old, Goat Princess, was hit suddenly with a high fever. Her symptoms persisited for three days before her fever broke. Soon to follow were the other three although their symptoms were not as severe as hers? H1N1? There were so many kids sick at the high school where our fifteen-year-old attends, that I seriously considered it could be.

But now that Camo Queen was hit again with the flu, only two weeks after this last bout, I'm beginning to think this might be the real deal...sudden high fever, no sore throat, immediate deep chest cough, chills and sweating, aching all over. She's into 48 hours with this flu and is feeling far worse than the other two incidences this year. Whatever she's been nailed with this's nailing her pretty hard. And so soon after this last round, I'm sure her immune system is down.

So her arsenal this time around is plenty of liquids, taking a capsule form of a cough expectorant to keep her cough productive, ibuprofen only as needed for sleeping comfort so that the fever can do its job, and raw garlic placed into empty gel capsules that can be swallowed with no taste. Supportive care and all the sleep that she can get follows the typical flu-care regime. Let's hope she pulls out of it and doesn't need to miss too much of her college classes this week.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Peppermint Tea

I have to admit...I used to think of tea as something grandmothers sipped. A rather narrow minded perspective to be sure, but the truth just the same. It wasn't until a few years ago that I decided to take a new look at tea and why people enjoy it. While reading about the benefits of herbal teas, I began to realize that there are so many components that make up the composition of plants - which are the basis of teas - that have been discovered to provide micronutrients that our bodies need. I decided to take one herbal tea and see what all it could do for my family and me...peppermint.

My bulk peppermint tea came from a local northwest company that has since become my source for teas, the Stash Tea Co. I generally brew it up by bringing to boil two cups of water and then letting two teaspoons of the loose peppermint tea brew for as long as it takes for the water to cool to drinking temperature. I found a Bodum tea strainer that I simply slip inside any mug that I happen to be using that works like a charm. The resulting drink is warm, steamy, and has a bright, clean flavor...a flavor that needs no sweetening at all.

Now here's what I found out about peppermint. Its main use is as a great digestive aid, which I why I now prescribe a cup of it for anyone in the family whose stomach is feeling a little off. And it does work. As an example this week, a few of us in the family seemed to be fighting some sort of an intestinal flu...bloating, cramps, just general discomfort. A cupful of that peppermint tea before bed eased those symptoms and let us sleep peacefully.

So I'm pretty confident that peppermint tea is here to stay in our house. I do have some peppermint plants growing in one of my flower borders that I will now take the time to harvest at their peak growth in the spring next year. My own supply of fresh, organic peppermint will be a treasure in the kitchen for sure.

Have a favorite tea? For a particular reason? Let's hear about it.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Tomatillos from the Garden

We're busy using up our produce from the garden as fast as we can before the rains and cold weather sets in. Head on over to our hobby farm site and grab our Roasted Tomatillo Salsa recipe. It's tasty!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Drop Spindle Spinning

Ever heard of "mother culture"? This time, it doesn't refer to cheesemaking. I first came across this term while immersing myself in the Charlotte Mason style of home education. In short, it refers to mothers taking it upon themselves to not let their own educations lag. That might mean always having stimulating reading material on hand, learning to do something that you've never done before, or any way in which you are continuing to enrich your life beyond that of providing for the needs of others.

As some birthday money has come my way this month, I have decided to take a portion of that and invest in my own "mother culture". I will be dropping my dd12 off at a birthday party in the community that just so happens to be hosting a Flock and Fiber Festival this weekend. It's my hope that someone there will be selling a drop spindle. Yes, I have always wanted to learn how to spin. No,I don't have sheep or fiber goats, but the roving that is used to spin with seems to be easily obtained without the need for your own producing animal. I am so excited you can't believe it. I first saw a drop spindle in action at our County Fair this summer, and the women there assured me that anyone can master it. Now, I don't know when I'll find time to tackle this new hobby, but with winter setting in and more time indoors, I think it can be done.

Being the research junkie that I am, I'm sure that heading to and searching for drop spindle will turn up plenty of resources to see instructions first hand. A few searches also turned about a ton of resources. It seems there are plenty of folks out there more than willing to share and pass on a little bit of their own mother culture to others like me who are wishing to broaden their horizons. I'm not sure if I'll ever get enough fiber spun to actually make something, but the possibilities are certainly tantalizing enough to keep me interested for awhile I'm sure.

If you've got spinning tips for me, I'd love to hear them. I'd also like to find out what other things you've delved into to develop and further your own mother culture. You never know when you, like the women this year at the county fair, will be an inspiration to others!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The History of Italian Food

Wow...I feel as if I'm guest posting on someone's blog. Perhaps I should become more familiar with my own blog. But on to the meat of this....

I'm not too much in for heavy literary reads these days, but to my surprise, I find that I'm somewhat enjoying Delizia! The Epic History of the Italians and Their Food by John Dickie. I really only started out to reserve some books from the library on Italian cooking. But it's hard to know what you'll end up with when you show up at the reservation desk to pick up your holds.

Delizia! is a fairly thick book which seeks to explore the culinary history of the country and culture of Italy. I must admit that I've been skimming it in rather large chunks, hoping to find tidbits of interesting information regarding the Italian cuisine I love. In reality, I'm finding out that what we Americans often think of Italian is not actually Italian at all. Here are some interesting finds too:

* Some of the rough, early recipes that John Dickie has unearthed hardly sound edible and they are primarily constructed from animal parts considered refuse here.

* Many foods were heavily spiced as well as heavily sweetened...including meats.

* Italians did prepare pasta made of durham wheat themselves and did not pick up the idea from Marco Polo's journey to the Orient. Yes, they had noodles but they were constructed of rice.

* Polenta for centuries has been considered food barely fit for peasants.

* Pizza is a fairly recent culinary institution.

* Spaghetti and meatballs is a purely American dish created by Italian immigrants designed to show that they were succeeding here in America and could afford the luxury of pasta and meat in one meal.

* Meals in Italy are eaten sitting down and with proper fork and knife.

Not only did I gain a new appreciation for the Italian's basic love of their food, but I learned how the forces within their country even during war times shaped their choices. A book entitled Living Well in Difficult Times: How Women Face up to Economic Crisis(1933) by Fernanda Momigliano caught my attention. I wonder if the title is still available. The reference to this book hinted at its purpose in creating a sanctuary at home during difficult times so that the family could just be a "family" once behind the door of the home using and cooking with real ingredients. I can imagine it might be a good read during our own time of economic unstability.

Another misconception was set straight for me. I did not quite realize how the Italian food we see today is actually a national cuisine that was not available to most Italians before the 1960s as their recipes were definitely regionally based on what was available to them in their locale and climate.

The book concluded with the thought that even though there are many institutionally produced foods becoming more and more available through Italian supermarkets, the people of Italy still see the importance of eating good food and have not dropped to the level that we in America have at times by choosing to trade real food for convenience.

My hope is that I can continue to research true Italian cooking and not just learn to prepare an authentic Italian dish but to be able to carry on the mindset of growing or purchasing real food and preparing it from the heart.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Where Has the Summer Gone?

Well as you can see I have had only two posts this month. I wonder why summertime seems to get so busy for our family. So much happens, so little actual school happens, and so little time to record and blog about it. Definitely need to figure out how to blend it all.

I blame it partly on our Northwest weather. When it's cold, dreary, and raining outside...we hibernate inside. Nothing grows...minimal chores are's dark at 4:30 p.m. on the shortest of days...why there's a ton of time to spend indoors. Once the sun comes out, I like to garden...the kids play with the goat kids...time seems to slow down in some sense...but there seems to be less of it even though the sun shines long into the evening hours. I guess we're thoroughly enjoying ourselves, and it's hard for me to come inside to chronicle our lives.

Until I figure it out, however, I have determined to keep an online journal as you might have noticed from my last posting Daily Journal Entry. It has been updated every day and at least gives me a way to look back at the whirlwind summer we experience every year. I've also been posting our daily harvest over at our hobby farm site, Abernethy Creek Farm. So come take a look at what we've been up to. Perhaps summer is your time to relax or it is your time to catch up from the winter months. I'd love to hear how summer is unique to your family too.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Daily Journal Entry

There are some days that I just really wonder where the day has gone to. Lunch comes and goes, and then it's dinner, and before you know it, it's dark out. The cycle just keeps cycling. And because I don't feel that anything has gotten accomplished other than just "living", I've decided to keep a bit of a daily journal...just penciling in what I have been doing.

I know in my heart that a lot does get done obviously. Perhaps being able to go back over my notes will help me see that. It also may be an eye opener as to where I can become more efficient or lasso in some extra help from the kiddos. So if you're at all interested, I'll have a link on the left post column. You're welcome to poke around and see what's there.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Pesky Fruit Flies

I'm not sure of how many folks I've met that enjoy insects of one type or another cohabiting in their homes with them. Flying or crawling...we just don't care for them.

The "bother factor" of some insects, such as flies for instance, depends on whether you live in proximity to livestock. Those who live in warmer climates I've heard have other nuisance bugs. But as long as we're bringing commercially grown produce into our homes to start the cycle, I think we've all had to battle with....fruit flies.

They seem to proliferate in the warmer weather. They're too small to swat...although I've been known to swing wildly at them with my battery-powered fly zapper. But that's info for another post entirely. If you keep your fruit covered, then it ripens too quickly. I don't like bananas kept in the refrigerator as it ups the ick factor with dark skins for my kids. I've even gone to keeping fruit in the garage to try to combat them. Never works. And when garden tomato season starts, they seem to have a hay day.

Until now. I opened a side kitchen cupboard door and reached for my white wine vinegar. Pulling out the bottle I realized that the lid was missing. Oh well, I figured. No harm. But what I saw inside was a revelation...floating fruit flies....dead of course...drowned. No, I did not go ahead and use that vinegar, but a light bulb did go on in my head.

As par for the course, I had probably left the bottle on the counter for a day or two waiting for the lid to show up before shelving it. I know fruit flies are attracted by scents such as very ripe fruit. Vinegar gives off a similar attractant as even sourdough starter does. The flies with their expert sense of smell entered the bottle through the pouring lid and never made their way out. The lid I believe will be the secret to my new fruit fly trap. Those perforated holes make it pretty difficult for them to escape.

So to test my new fruit fly trap, I set the same bottle out on the counter where I have the most trouble with fruit flies. By morning there was several trapped inside. A few swirls of the bottle washed them off of the sides and down into the vinegar to never fly again.

I'm going to use this as my plan A for the remainder of the year. Once the liquid in the bottle starts looking too "unattractive" with its drowned flies, I will probably pop off the plastic insert and try a piece of banana or something else tempting to see how that does too. While you are using a trap, you do have to remember to make a conscious effort to remove any other source of fruit that would be more tempting than the trap liquid though. No saving bananas for banana bread sometime later in the week. It won't work that way. But this way sure beats getting out the vacuum hose and trying to suck them up while they're flying through the air, doesn't it?

If you've found a way to combat fruit flies in your house, I'm all ears. Please comment.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Room Makeover Completed

The smile that spread across DS15's face as he walked into his room was worth it. During Big Country's time away from home at football camp, we finally got around to fixing up his bedroom that we had started almost two years ago. All we had accomplished was to put down a coat of light gray paint. As you can tell from my earlier post, his room was nothing special and messy to boot.

Here's what we ultimately did:

Purchased a silver collapsible dirty clothes hamper to keep with chrome/metal theme from Ikea. Cleared off shelf and removed miscellaneous things hanging from it.

The top of his chest was simply cleared off. Amazing what removing a little clutter will do.

He had several wire racks and clothes storage units throughout his room that were not in the closet because....we had our 'junk' in there. After getting our stuff off his shelves and out of the closet, his clothes could actually fit in there. Clearing off the shelf left room for shoes and larger sports equipment items.

A major change happened here. We painted one wall black and used spray paint to coat his cork bulletin board. Also cleared off old school notices and many years worth of team sports photos to clear up the look. We purchased a small desk set and garbage can from Ikea to organize his desk top. Drawers were cleared of ancient garbage so that the stuff piled on top of the desk that wasn't used frequently could be stored inside.

Also from Ikea I purchased a set of black sheets and a red duvet cover for the bed. Plans are to install two chrome knobs above his bed and to hang two jerseys from his collection there. I picked up some nice black wrapped suit hangers for that very purpose.

From KMart I purchased a couple of sports posters and hung them with a couple Big Country already owned to start a mural of sorts on his largest wall. We wanted to find a nice sports car print but still haven't been able to track one down. Black and red are his high school's colors which was why we used that theme. A stadium throw in those colors made by a friend of his worked just perfect for his bed.

His book case was pretty much left the same except for some storage containers from Ikea for the top shelf to corral loose toiletry items. Amazing how much better things look when they are inside of something instead of scattered all over.

His dormer had a major overhaul. More clothes storage boxes for his sisters were dealt with and removed from the room. I purchased three metal bins from The Container Store to keep football, basketball, and workout specific items in. Home Depot had a Rubbermaid ball container that was ideal for his sports balls as well. If the chrome knobs to hang his sport jersey collection turns out well, there is room on the one wall for additional display.

The final touch for the room is to either stencil or purchase a wallpaper border with a chrome diamond plate border. This will be placed at the top of the wall next to the ceiling. The stencil would be done in red while I'm not sure what colors I'll find if we use a border.

Overall, I'm pleased with the way it turned out still using all of his existing furniture but just adding lots of color and plenty of storage containers. We're still working with Big Country on keeping his room looking like it did the day he camp home from camp, but....he is a teen boy. They're a work in progress.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Childhood Indulgences

I indulged this evening on a high fat, white flour, sugar laden treat. Why, you ask? Not necessarily because I wanted to share with my children one of my favorite memories from childhood, but because I wanted to experience it again for myself. Whatever could rank so high?

Fresh, homemade white bread with real butter and strawberry freezer jam. Yep, nothing too far out. Pretty easy to accomplish. And absolutely satisfying.

I don't remember too many specifics about the food we ate while growing up. My mother was a stay-at-home mom as was fairly typical in the late 60's and 70's, and she prepared simple foods as much as I can remember. She supplemented them with quite a bit from her garden that produced nearly year-round in southern California. But oh, I do remember her strawberry freezer jam from her strawberry patch. On the days she would make the jam, she would bake from scratch a loaf of white bread. That in itself was special to us as we generally ate whole wheat. And she always served real butter, nothing imitation.

So today after u-picking 14 pounds of local strawberries, I set to work turning them into freezer jam for our family. Then I cheated by using my one-hour cycle on my bread machine but turned out a pretty respectable loaf of homemade bread. I set these out on the table with butter and and watched my family devour. It's just one of those foods that goes down easy, slice after slice after slice.

I believe I satisfied my stroll down memory lane, and it was every bit as good as I remember forty-plus years ago. Have you ever gone out of your way to recreate a food from childhood? It would be fun to share what others remember as well.

As for me...I'm headed downstairs to see if anyone left a last slice of bread for me to slather up with butter and strawberry jam.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Locks of Love

I must confess that I am the one that probably stalled letting DD7, H-Bob, get her hair cut. DD19 and DD15 have lost their long tresses over the past year and have returned from the stylist with lovely layered styles. No one has opted for anything above the shoulders but still have departed from their childhood, waist-length hair.

There was a time when I wanted H-Bob to whack all of her hair off as we struggled to keep it tangle free, especially during the time frame when she wore her cow-print, hooded pajamas to bed. Tossing about all night with long hair stuff inside and rubbing against polar fleece was a disaster in the making. Mornings were a nightmare. No amount of leave-in conditioner or detangler would spare H-Bob from tears. We moved on beyond that and resorted to the nightly braiding of her hair. I was happy...and she still looked like my little, long-haired country girl.

But alas, all things change. H-Bob began to wish herself for a shorter hair length, but of course I wasn't too keen on that idea any more. Why not keep her long flowing hair? When a friend of CamoQueen's heard that H-Bob had suggested that she too get her hair cut as her sisters had done, she suggested that she donate her length of hair to Locks of Love. I had heard of Locks of Love but had never really researched what the organization did. Here is a direct quote from the website. They are really quite the organization.


Locks of Love is a public non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children in the United States and Canada under age 18 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis. We meet a unique need for children by using donated hair to create the highest quality hair prosthetics. Most of the children helped by Locks of Love have lost their hair due to a medical condition called alopecia areata, which has no known cause or cure. The prostheses we provide help to restore their self-esteem and their confidence, enabling them to face the world and their peers.

Yep, that was the ticket that justified it all to me. For the good of others, I would gladly let H-Bob lose her hair. We checked in as to the requirements and found that a ponytail ten inches long was needed. Measuring her hair at home, we realized that she still had a little ways to go. We were able to convince H-Bob to wait it out...while I secretly wondered if the sudden notion to get her hair cut would go away.

But after the course of several months, her desire was stronger than ever. After one especially trying morning when she got pancake syrup stuck in her hair, we decided it was time. So off to the local walk-in SuperCuts we went. They confirmed she had plenty of hair to donate, bundled it in a ponytail at shoulder length, braided the remainder and banded it at the bottom. Then came out the shears as they literally had to hack their way through her hair above the first band.

Off it came. It was a little disconcerting to see it laying there on the table, but the deed was done. Working with the remaining hair, the stylist suggested an A-line cut with layers in the back to disguise the jagged lines remaining from the original cuts.

H-Bob sat in that chair and grinned from ear to ear repeating over and over again how excited she was. Her enthusiasm for her new look made all the difference in the way I felt. If she loved it, so would I. We have since remarked that the style fits her carefree personality and shows off her sun-bleached hair beautifully. As for me, I'm glad we were able to do our part and help others less fortunate than ourselves. Perhaps H-Bob will let her hair grow out and repeat the process. Until then however, her new-found freedom in her new style simply makes me smile everytime I see her.

your life your blog

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Teenage Son Room Makeover

I'm not going to try to get clever with this post title...the following pictures are pretty teen son is in desperate need of a room makeover. As I am of the born-organized persuasion, looking in on this scenario every day just grates on my being.

Perhaps it's a little his fault and perhaps it's a little ours, but the fact is this room contains more stuff than necessary, the stuff has no proper home, and it just plain lacks personality. As BigCountry left today for a four day varsity football camp with his high school football team, I am planning on surprising him with a room makeover. Not only have we talked about this and have just never done it, I'd like to give him something other than a monetary appreciation for finishing his first year of public high school with a 4.0 grade point average.

As you can see, his walls are painted gray and the predominant color if you can find it is red and black, his high school colors. I plan on sticking with that color scheme. The majority of his wooden furniture belonged to both sides of his grandparents originally and is not something that my husband wants to part with. It doesn't particularly work with the clean lines I'd like to use, but every room needs a challenge to work around.

Here's the game plan:

*Replace hodge-podge bedding with black and red color scheme.

*Find something in that color scheme to organize his desk top and completely purge his desk drawers (no, I don't feel this is'll all go in storage totes for him to sort through later) as it would appear he does not use them to store the stuff that is accumulating on his desk surface. As decorators always say, everything needs a place to call home.

*Use large storage containers of some sort to store his sports equipment in. He plays three sports a year, and the equipment and accompanying minutia that comes along with it seem to multiply every year. I actually would prefer if they were out open in his room because then they will be other words, easy access.

*The closet isn't too bad other than we have stuff stored on his top shelf which needs to be removed so that infrequently used items can be placed up there.

There needs to be some way to entice this child to contain his dirty laundry. That may be my biggest challenge.

Probably his shelf with team memorabilia may be the only item in his room that I will leave alone.

Depending on how the shopping goes for the above items, additional touches would be locating some peel and stick vinyl striping (I'm not sure if it even exists) and the possibility of painting a large chalkboard area on one wall (hoping he wouldn't consider it childish but more of a two-way conversation area for visitors and even our family.

Now that I've officially published my intent, I'm committed to following this through. The current state of affairs will never do, and with a great room to come home to every day, we can only hope he'll take a little more pride in it than he currently expresses. But then again, we are talking a teen boy here. Check back soon. The after-pictures will be coming!

For the rest of the story and photos of the completed room, please jump to the Room Makeover Completed post. You'll be amazed.

your life your blog

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Homeschooling the Lapbook Way

As usual I'm always up for investigating new and inventive ways to spice up our homeschooling studies. I recently posted about our experience using Sue Patrick's Workbox System which we are absolutely loving. It's a fabulous technique for organizing your study space and time.

But what has caught my eye recently is Lapbooking. There are so many forums, sites, and blogs out in cyberspace dealing with this subject that there is no way I could begin to narrow them down to reference them. Running a simple internet search will almost baffle a newcomer such as myself. Lapbooking is the process of using small books of various formats to record information in a narrative or graphic style to reflect on learning that has happened. These books are mounted inside of file folders that open up to reveal an eye catching display. They mesh perfectly with unit studies or homeschool formats that use narrative reflections as opposed to textbook only curriculum. The entire process reminded me of the extensive collection of notebook studies I had done with my now DD19 and DS15 in their earlier years.

In teaching multiple aged children recently, I had gotten away from the unit study approach and relied on more traditional methods. But change is in order with DD7 in order for accommodate her style of learning. Lapbooks are going to be the ticket. As well, I plan on using them with DD12 but perhaps by combining their functionality with keeping a notebook on studies similar to our oldest two children.

As a visual, global learner I decided to put together a reference lapbook of several of the styles of mini books available to that I could grasp the concept easier myself. What a difference that has made in my ability to plan which mini book to use in conjunction with what I want to help DD7 accomplish.

I had planned to develop DD7's first lapbook around our family, but once she saw the sample mini book layout, she immediately asked if she could make books like those for our goat kids born this year. I jumped at the chance and started reserving additional goat and dairy related books from the library, and we're officially starting our first lapbook.

It feels good to go back to how we originally were homeschooling...the schooling that I believe gave such a great foundation to our oldest two. There is a season for all things including homeschooling styles. It looks like we're heading down a familiar path again.

Do you have a homeschooling style you'd like to share? If it weren't for the sharing of other homeschool families, I don't think I would have been exposed to some of the great tools that we have gathered in order to enhance and spark learning in our children's lives.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

May Coupon Savings

I must say I'm pretty excited this morning. I finished entering my grocery store receipts for the month of May, breaking them down in order to determine how much I am saving on our monthly grocery bill by shopping sale items, by using store and manufacturer coupons, and by stacking these savings together for maximum benefit. We shaved a whopping 38% off of our bill last month or a total of about $400. Now I am sure there are others who are way more successful, but for just starting off with a concentrated effort to produce savings, I'm feeling pretty good about it.

Coupon savings for May were about $20 greater than they were for April. Considering that I had probably only saved about $50 at best in prior months, the most important factors would have to be purchasing when items are on sale not when you need them and by stacking coupons with advertised savings. My previous post talked about the strategies I have learned, and they do work! In order to get started by purchasing more on-sale items than items I would have typically needed for a week's menu, I employed a tactic from the Hillbilly Housewife by using her $45 per week Menu Planner for one week to cut down on meal expenses a bit while starting to stock up on sale items. Within a week or two of filling pantry shelves with sale items, I didn't find this necessary and could go back to my normal shopping habits.

To be honest, we haven't been tracking our monthly grocery expenses, and the total spent even with coupon savings struck me as high. A little background information might be helpful to determine what we actually purchase during a month. We eat mainly unprocessed foods, do have game such as venison and elk in our freezer, eat most of our meals at home including our four children, but I wouldn't consider our diet limited in any way. A typical receipt at the grocery store might include household cleaners, health and first aid, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics - for four females which can add up fast - miscellaneous office supplies, and the like. I've considering purchasing those items on a separate receipt just so I can see what our true grocery costs are. Our after savings receipts total $670 which works out to about $165 per week including our other non-grocery items. It will definitely be interesting to track just food purchases and see where we come out at. I would love to connect with other similar families and compare grocery costs. I would imagine there is more I could learn about reducing our grocery expenses even further.

Enough for today. I hope you've started the couponing habit. You can follow links here, here, and here to my original posts explaining how I got started. In the meantime...time to head downstairs and start my shopping list from the grocery ad flyers that just arrived yesterday. Happy clipping!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Be Careful What You Wish For

I had a hard time deciding on an appropriate title for this post, but I think this says it all. I'd like to introduce you to CamoQueen, my DD19, and first born of our family. Being a redhead and the first grandchild on my side of the family and first granddaughter on my husband's side of the family started her off on the fast track for popularity. Being first born, she naturally developed the traits so commonly attributed to that birth position - confidence, outgoing personality, and can-do attitude.

She was followed by the birth of her brother three and one-half years later and two more siblings after that, but her story really begins with our decision to homeschool her starting with the second grade. We had a couple of years of focused learning at home and then began to branch out.

Here comes wish number one: to find a great group of fellow homeschoolers to spend time with. An opportunity came to meet with a couple of families we met through her community children's choir to pursue a Little House on the Prairie sewing club. Not long after that, the group branched out and started a 4H club. We developed some wonderful friendships with that group and amazing opportunities opened up: competing in 4H competitions, producing our own theater productions, and friendships so critical during the junior high year.

Soon we were not only involved in foods, sewing, and photography but were introduced to the possibilities of joining a livestock club. Here comes wish number two: an intense desire by CamoQueen to work with and possibly own her own livestock. Well, as timing in our life dictated, we purchased property outside of suburbia proper and began our family's journey of "living in the country". We soon found ourselves owners of poultry, goats and horses. These provided CamoQueen with more opportunities to become involved with 4H, FFA,and the local high school equestrian team. But the wishing didn't end there for CamoQueen.

CamoQueen took it upon herself to wish for a dairy goat. Wish number three. By working off hours for her 4H goat leader, she had the chance to purchase an Oberhasli doeling along with a two Boer market goat prospects. She was now officially hooked on raising goats.

Wish number four was to learn how to milk these dairy goats. As we only had kids, that wasn't immediately possible. Soon enough the opportunity developed to dairy-sit for our county's 4H goat superintendent. Here CamoQueen began to realize that you might want to be careful for what you wish for. After ten days of feeding, caring, and milking ten or so of her goats, she learned that a full-time dairy starts in the a.m. with milking and by the time you get through with chores that it is time to start milking again! Not only did she learn how to milk by just jumping in and doing, she found out how strong your hands need to be to hand-milk those dairy does.

Let's see now...yes, wish number five would be to learn how to show these wonderful animals and have a chance to take home one of those coveted chairs that Champion 4H Showmen were always awarded and then be given the opportunity to participate in the county's round-robin Master Showman Contest, which incidentally comes with a t-shirt that is probably more coveted than those showmen chairs. It took a few years, but before long, CamoQueen was competing in the top and was taking first place showman in her classes. By the time she was a junior in high school, CamoQueen again made it into the Master Showman Contest and took 1st place senior champion showman and became the proud recipient of a gleaming silver belt buckle. What more could one wish for?

Wish number six would have to involve her horse, Gus. He came to her as a green-broke Quarter horse that bucked at the canter and had no respect for anyone's personal space. She dutifully kept up with his training and from the start participated in all that the 4H horse program had to offer all the time wishing that she could have one of those top-notch, speed-demon gaming horses that she admired. The amusing part of this wish, is that by her last year on the high school equestrian team, she did place in the district's top five gamers overall, and she did it on a top-notch, speed-demon gaming horse...her own horse, Gus, that she took to that level through a lot of time and training.

With the equestrian world opening up before her, wish number seven was to expand beyond 4H with its equestrian classes and have a chance to participate in cattle events through the equestrian team and gaming rodeo events. She had a pretty lofty wish this take first place in the district in team penning and to break a record. Sure enough, the wishes started coming true. Her team worked their way up to an undefeated team penning year and took district champions. She's got the big ol' silver buckle to prove it too. And the record she wanted to break, well she did that too by breaking the district record for steer daubing...with a time of one point two-three seconds flat. The chance to compete in junior rodeos and run flags in the Molalla Buckeroo came along too. And yes, she did it all on her original horse, Gus.

CamoQueen's ninth wish seemed pretty impossible. She wanted to become involved with FFA which surprisingly is not offered by our school district. Out-of-district tuition payments were the only way she could get in. But as you might have noticed, she has a blessed life. About this time, an opportunity to join a charter school opened up for her that would provide dual enrollment for both high school and community college. This charter school happened to be located in an adjoining school district that offered animal science classes and FFA. She was in!

CamoQueen had such a full schedule, you wouldn't think she would have time to dream and wish. But that didn't stop her from wish number nine which was to raise and show a beef steer for our county's livestock auction through FFA. For two years in a row, CamoQueen purchased and raised a beef steer, halter breaking it and learning how to fit it for a show and feed it for market. Her second year at the auction found her taking first place champion market steer and making a nice profit at the auction. Her learning curve was steep, but as with all things that CamoQueen undertakes, she took it all in stride.

Now to wish number ten. Having been exposed to so many livestock opportunities, CamoQueen really wanted to show a sheep. She'd handled cattle, goats, horses, and other small livestock, but a sheep sounded like fun. So she used proceeds from her other auction animals in prior years, purchased a market lamb, worked on handling and fitting it for show, and made it happen. Nothing too wrong with this wish other than not having a purchaser for the lamb at the auction. In other words, we have a freezer full of lamb. But it is good lamb at that and has made me reach out of my cooking 'comfort zone'.

And before I forget another big wish of hers, I should mention number be a crack shot and hunter. Yes, the CamoQueen has bested her father in the hunting department. He has taken her since she was old enough to get her Hunter Safety Permit at age twelve. Since then, she has bagged more deer and elk than you can count. And having to be careful for what you wish for, she nabbed an antelope tag the first time she applied for it. Yep, she was successful. She's the first hunter in our entire family to be the proud owner of an antelope rack, and incidentally but not surprising based on her wishes, she can also lay claim to ownership of the biggest deer rack hanging in our house.

Well now what else has she wished for? There are probably half of a dozen or more to account for: junior superintendent at county fair, top placing in FFA contests, a chance to attend the National FFA Convention, purchasing her own car, getting a real job, finishing what she hopes is the last math class ever in her life with an 'A', singing for our church's youth services, graduating with an Associates Degree at age 19, being a great friend to all who know her... The list really could go on. For 19 years she's made the wish and then made it happen with perseverance and blessings from above. We couldn't be prouder of her.

But she'll have even more monumental wishes to make ahead of her. Her next biggie is acceptance into a local college's Veterinarian Technician program. Her final interview is this week. From there she'll have wishes that we may hear about or those that she keeps to herself. But irregardless, my wish for her is a long, healthy, and happy life full of meaningful relationships with special people and her God. She deserves it. I will leave her with one thought be more selective in some of her random, general wishes because with her, they tend to come true.

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