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We’ve been having fun over in our neck of the hill.

Micah’s at home now on Mondays and Fridays for homeschool – a nice compromise between full time homeschooling and full time school. We’re seeing how it goes, and so far, it’s been great! He’s built his own computer, he’s working on coding it, he works with Mikey on truck-fixing projects, zooms through more Harry Potter, practices art with Mack (who is also home on Mondays and Fridays), and jumps on the trampoline.

I like it because it’s cool to see him really taking off with things he likes, and still be able to go to school, which he also enjoys.

That’s Blue, our crazy-making Blue Heeler, trying to chase cows, who are getting really pissed off with her.

Mack got to close the cattle gate for the first time. He was thrilled.

Country life is awesome.

When there is a break in the rain, we go for it. The kids and the dogs respond exactly the same way – if I say, “let’s go!” they race for the door.

Mack and Moxie hold hands while they run. I swoon.

Micah’s back to bike riding. I remembered what a stellar rider he was before, but he hasn’t been able to ride much recently on account of our hills (we don’t live in a “hilly place”, indicating there are some flat spaces; we live ON A HILL, which means it’s all about a hill and more hill). Solution? Walk down to where it’s flat and roll!

It’s totally working. He’s diggin’ it.

This is a road! Haha. Glad most of us have high-clearance vehicles out here. right?

I love it here

Fresh air, pure water. Healthy kids who are thriving in the light.

Sometimes I think back to the ‘me’ that I was, what, 15-20 years ago? You couldn’t give me enough concrete! I was in joy over all those rail tracks in Tokyo, and I lived for big city, big time.

Polar opposite now, baby.

I guess it goes to show that you just never know about anyone.

I mean, look at this guy! On our second date, he told me didn’t want to have kids!

And here he is, the ultimate Daddy-Man, doing the family thing from The Good Dinosaur. Cuz he does stuff like that now.

I know. I married well. Stop being jealous; just come on over and he’ll bake you some bread too.

These guys are tight.

When Moxie’s at school on Mondays and Fridays, he draws pictures for her. When they are in school together on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, he picks flowers at school for her, and can’t wait to see her again (even though their classrooms are next door to each other, their schedules are different).

He adores her. And the feeling is mutual.

She’s being a goat. See the shells on her head?

She thinks it’s a riot.

So of course, he does, too.

And it really IS pretty funny!

That’s our simple little life right here, right now.

Mikey and I jokingly say that we have 4 types of friends: the type who don’t visit. The type who visit and leave the next day (usually because of kids and incredibly uncomfortable guest quarters), the type who who visit more than a day (even with incredibly uncomfortable guest quarters), and lastly, the type who stay more than a day (in the incredibly uncomfortable guest quarters) and then come back (to the same or even more uncomfortable guest quarters!).

My friend Stefanie is the rare breed of the latter.

Meriah Nichols Friends Visit-17She and I became friends a million years ago when we were both working in the disability field (she, with legal advocacy and me, with career counseling) and yeah, man. We gelled!

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The funny thing is, so have our boys.

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I get the warm fuzzies when I see them together. There is something wonderful about your kids being real friends with your friend’s kid, you know?

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Meriah Nichols Friends Visit-9And seeing your own friend playing with your kids.

Meriah Nichols Friends Visit-10Stefanie is some kind of kid-whisperer.

Meriah Nichols Friends Visit-16I was flabbergasted by the way she can diffuse and whip situations around.

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Meriah Nichols Friends Visit-81Because all of these happy pictures weren’t always happy.

Meriah Nichols Friends Visit-91The thing is, she sort of zeros in and figures out what the key issue/desire of the child is, then redirects it.

After I saw her redirect this really normal situation that Moxie and Mack get into (splashing/screaming/crying/fighting), I sputtered out a “WHAT are you doing?? HOW DO YOU DO THIS????” She said she tunes into this thing called “A-Ha Parenting” – it’s all about peaceful parenting, connecting and coaching, rather than controlling. Even Mikey was super impressed, and both of us are on board with taking the A-Ha Parenting course.

There is nothing – nothing!!! – like seeing a pro in action, actually diffusing and redirecting the explosions that your kids have daily, to make you a convert.

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Meriah Nichols Friends Visit-96Not to make this post all about “A-Ha Parenting.” I just felt that as your friend, I really should mention it because, WHOAH.

Meriah Nichols Friends Visit-12Hey cutie!

Meriah Nichols Friends Visit-14You are pretty cute, too.

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Meriah Nichols Friends Visit-15We had a lot of fun at the river.

When I first moved here, a mom said that the river here is like Chuck E. Cheese to other places – lots of birthday parties held there. It’s also the easiest place to just go and chill out. The water ranges from deep to super shallow, and it’s knock-out stunning.

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Meriah Nichols Friends Visit-90The kids are all either swimming or learning to swim.

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Meriah Nichols Friends Visit-90Know what else this Kid-Whisperer did? She brought a big-ass trampoline up (last year) and set it up with her husband (this year).

THANK YOU STEFANIE!!!!

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Meriah Nichols Friends Visit-81Sooooo grateful for this.

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Meriah Nichols Friends Visit-93The duo power of the trampoline and the play structure are totally priceless.

As are these precious people.

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Meriah Nichols Friends Visit-21We love you.

Come back soon, okay?!

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I missed Grandma so much while I was sitting on that bench, remembering how Grandma was sitting next to me the last time I was there.

Meriah Nichols-8She kept calling me “Diana,” (I look a lot like my mom now; I’ll take that as a compliment). She wanted me to fetch her a banana from the toy co-op. I said, “Grandma, it’s not a real banana” – she said she didn’t care, she’d still like to have it. I said I couldn’t give it to her because this was part of the play museum. She shook her head, laughed with those dimples popping, and said, “well, I’ll be… what is this?!”

Meriah Nichols-9It’s a different world, Grandma, that’s what it is.

It’s a world where we pay to have things nice and tidy for our kids, things that smack of learning and education and fair play. It’s not the one where you ran free in Oakland with your cousin and some pennies and watched movies in theatres by your own small selves.

It’s also a world with anatomically correct dolls.

Meriah Nichols-7I had gotten a little flustered the last time I was there because Moxie had a blowout in her pullups, Grandma was mad because I was gone (cleaning up Moxie), and she also wanted to go to the bathroom, then I was worried about her in the bathroom alone. I checked on her. Okay. Then Mack had to go, and his was all about poop too. I hadn’t slept much the night before – Grandma needed to get up most of the night – I felt worn at the ends, frazzled, drained, and I didn’t mind it at all because I knew that each moment with Grandma – crazy or not – was a gift.

I am grateful that I felt that.

When I was sitting on the bench last week, I was glad that my memories aren’t laced with any recollections of feeling annoyed with Grandma, or impatient, or anything. I am glad I only remember how much love for her I felt on that day, on every day that I was around her.

My Grandma loved me best.

Oh, okay, maybe she actually didn’t (?), but she always made me feel like I was her favorite, that I was the best thing since sliced bread. There is so much comfort in that. I think more than anything, I want everyone to know what that feels like. To know that there is one person in your world, in your life, who thinks your shit doesn’t stink. Or if your shit does stink, there’s probably some marvelous reason for it stinking, because you are essentially just the most marvelous person, ever. No matter what.

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Last week Moxie bolted out of the Discovery Museum, and of course it was a moment in which I wasn’t looking. This little gaggle of concerned mothers came to me as I was downloading something onto the iphone and said, “your daughter just ran out of the door” (which they had to repeat, like 5 times because I couldn’t hear them or read their lips well). I writhed in shame. Bad mom, horrible no-good, tech-obsessed mom.

Moxie was back in (on her own) by the time they were done being concerned with me, and I took her gently by the shoulders and said, “you just can’t run out, honey.” She said, “why?”, I said “because we are in here – you need to stay with me. We are playing inside here, now. ” She said, “ok” but I have no idea how much she actually understood. I asked her if she wanted to leave. She said, “no.” So then I said that if she didn’t want to leave, she needed to stay inside. If she wanted to go, just tell me; we’ll go. Okay? “Okay.”

But I put the phone completely down and away. Just in case.

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I was proud of how she played and basically covered every living inch out of every single item there. Puppet show? Check

Kaleidescope? Check. Ball-over-blast-of-air? Check. Bike-powered stoplights? Check. Golf-ball-ramp? Check. She didn’t waste time. She literally played with EVERY SINGLE THING. I can’t say that about anyone else there.

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Back to Grandma.

meriah nichols grandma-5The death of someone loved isn’t just a loss; it’s an absence. It’s the not being there, the physical space that was once occupied by them, now empty. It’s my Grandma’s chair blanket that once made her butt warm, it’s her cat, Hester, that is still so sad, looking everywhere for Grandma’s bright smile and kind, petting hands.

I try not to think of her absence. It sounds really cheesy and all new-agey to say this, but I try and focus on the fact that I lost her in her physical form, but I’ve gained the best damn angel-protector-guardian anyone could ever have. Nobody’s going to watch over me like my Grandma!

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Who loved me best, haha!

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PS

For those of you who like my kinda-controversial disability-related posts, I have a new one up on Two Thirds of the Planet – “Hey ‘Special Needs Parents’! Where’s the Outrage Over “Me Before You”?”

A tree branch was blocking our direct satellite link to the sky. That is, a tree branch was blocking it when the wind was blowing, so that meant that if the wind wasn’t blowing – or moving at all, really – we’d have internet access and if there was any kind of puff at all, there was a fresh hunk of nada moving across our router, with an endless “connecting” circle playing.

The internet guy told us all this, while he moved his little device (that looked a lot like a tricorder from Star Trek) around and found “readings.” I was impressed. I was even more impressed that he fixed it, and also maybe most impressed that he found our place all on his own.

Meriah Nichols-11Our place is not an easy one to find.

Meriah Nichols-10My own niece can’t find it.

I ask her why she never visits me, her poor old auntie all out on the hill by herself, besieged with children and animals and longing for adult-niece company, and she says, “cuz you live out in the middle of nowhere and I can’t find your place.”

Meriah Nichols-8Hurumph.

Meriah Nichols-9Mack came flying inside when he spotted the “ca-ta-pi-wah”, just squirming in excitement because he wanted to see it change to a “bu-tah-fwhy” and wanted me to take a “pik-cher” of it before it did, but to be extremely careful not to hurt it – “DON’T TOUCH IT, MOMMMMMYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!” he bellows, and I’m marveling partly at how well his teacher has taught him the life-cycle of these things (because I sure as hell didn’t), and wondering at where he got this idea that I’m some kind of Caterpiller Crusher? What’d I ever do to make him think I’d like, reach over and whack that cute and furry critter?!!!

Sheesh. Kids.

Meriah Nichols-18“KISS ME”

Meriah Nichols-14Fur-kid.

Meriah Nichols-13California Poppies are all over the place and I do believe my heart melts when I see them.

I remember when I was really little on our sheep ranch in Cloverdale (before we moved to Fiji). I had been told in school that picking California Poppies was highly illegal. One day after school, I was wandering around our ranch and I surreptitiously reached out and plucked one. I held it in my (probably really grubby) hand and waited for either God to send over a bolt of lightening or for swarms of helicopters to swoop down, cuff me and lead me away.

Thrill seeking, hick-kid style.

Meriah Nichols-15This kid gets her thrills by bolting!

This is a Down syndrome thing that I’ve gotten into hot water by talking about in the past. It’s like, ‘zero impulse control’ – which is to say, when she wants to go, she just GOES. She doesn’t think about the consequences sometimes, doesn’t do anything other than GO.

It’s a real pain in the butt and a total nerve-wrencher. Imagine living out here with a kid who just bolts, when you know there are things like, scorpions, bobcats, mountain lions, snakes, bears and wild boar (with tusks and stuff) out there, and moreover, you know it’s not some “talk of wild animals”, it’s like, you’ve actually SEEN them (and EATEN some).

Plus side is that she’s older so she will reason sometimes.

Sometimes the “Moxie, come back NOW or Mommy will spank you and put you in time out and you will NOT LIKE THAT” sinks in and she returns. The other week, she slipped out and ran over to the next hill – through the valley of poison oak! – and I only know this because the dogs were with her, and herded her back a bit. Then she got stuck in blackberry brambles and I had to find her and unravel her.

I was not pleased.

But I had also been so scared shitless that I was completely pleased, just to see her precious face and hold her in my arms and tell her over and over to not do that, please, it’s so scary for Mommy, please don’t do that, no, no, no. I can’t take it, honey.

Meriah Nichols-17Kids.

Mack likes to drive and have Moxie ride next to him. Meriah Nichols-16He says, “Moxie is my lady”

Meriah Nichols-19He says, “you are Daddy’s lady, Mommy, and Moxie’s my lady”

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I don’t buy that many toys for the kids, but I’ve started to buy more than I have in the past, because it’s fun to watch them play (right, it’s all about me?! haha)

Meriah Nichols-5This helicopter thing was a total winner.

$25 as Micah’s birthday present, and all 3 kids just soaked the living sauce out of it!

Meriah Nichols-4So. Much. Fun.

Meriah Nichols-2Mikey wanted his turn too.

He just about broke the thing – I might need to get him one for his birthday, too.

Meriah Nichols-1Over and out.

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Great tidings today from our yurt:

THE DECK IS FINALLY GETTING BUILT!

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Yes! Taking advantage of a break in the rain, my brother sent up a crew of guys to hammer it on out

deck-5Nothing about construction up here is easy. I mean, you take the normal hard stuff related to construction and times it by 3 – because you have to get the materials up here by way of some pretty fierce roads, and then deal with building off the grid (which means limited power supplies, no phone lines, etc). Oh, and the weather. It really did rain around 17 inches last month.

deck-2-2These guys are going to be putting in a deck, and most likely, a washroom and shower. They might even do some more?!

deck-4All of the kids were in school today – the first time in around 2 weeks because of spring break last week and the pre-school schedule for Mack and Moxie.

That means I sat by the window with half-bated breath and watched the deck emerge (while working on A Day in the Life with Down syndrome and Down syndrome Blogs – stay tuned, because cool stuff will be coming out of that site!).

deck-3It’s like, every time I look at it, I feel like smiling, but then I’m scared to smile in case Something Happens

deck-1-2They were prepping u the area by our front door, where a mud room is planned.

Anyway, that’s it, but I just wanted to tell you about this because it’s just every kind of exciting for me.

(more butterflies looking at that half-finished deck – ack!!!)

 

Random:

I was brushing Micah’s hair on  the morning of School Photo Day, trying my best to create a less “mad scientist” look for him when he turned to me and said, “you know, you love my creativity so I don’t think you should be brushing my hair, Mommy.”

huh?

“Yeah, my hair is attached to my hair follicles and those are attached to the creativity in my brain, so when you brush my hair, some of my creativity is lost with the hair coming out and some of it is all swished around and gets disorganized inside my head.”

Random:

Meanwhile, his Daddy grabbed a shoe and killed a mouse with it – it may as well have been a cockroach. I mean, sheeeeeeeesh.

Random:

Mack adopted a large stuffed chicken while I was gone on my Momcation. I guess he needed something large, soft and squawwcking to drag around and replace Mama? He calls is Bawk-Bawk and it has to go with him everywhere, or else we all face the Wrath of Mack.

Random:

Our freezer is full of deer  and wild boar that WE KILLED. The kids look up at trees to see what they offer and the bear meat we ate last night was sauteed with kale and basil from the garden.

Real life, when you remove the grocery store packaging and distance from point of origin, is full of such brutality.

And is so breathtakingly beautiful.

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In the next few months, I know we’ll have some fabulous adventures – it is what we do best, after all. But we will miss our backyard.

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We were actually originally planning on leaving at the end of October. We delayed it first because of Halloween, then because of my Momcation. Then for the last time because of School Picture Day. We really wanted the kids to be a part of that and to be able to see themselves in the school yearbook when they are adults and pissed off because we dragged them around so much – we’ll point to the yearbook photos and be all, “what are you talking about?! you are RIGHT HERE!”

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The extra benefit to delaying our departure by a week was once last Horse Therapy session for Moxie.

I haven’t updated you much on how that’s been, but basically, in a nutshell,

IT ROCKS

You know how half-assed and on the fence I am about all therapy for Moxie, right? I mean, I am NOT “Flashcard Mom”, I am NOT about  “the more therapy, the better” or buying into everything that every therapist says.

That was the first thing Moxie taught me by having diffuse fetal hydrops and heart holes while she was growing inside me, and when the doctors were telling me I should abort her because she’d have no chance of being born alive. She taught me that THEY ARE OFTEN WRONG.

Like, REALLY, really, completely WRONG.

So back to horse therapy.

I am on the fence about therapy, I’m very cautious about dipping my proverbial toe in it’s waters. Horse Therapy though, which is the practice of engaging Moxie in therapy while riding a horse, has been far and away, leaps and bounds, better than anything that we have done with her to date.

It is astonishing to see how she is pre- and post- session. Pre session, she does not talk. Post session, she does.

Jennifer Belkin said once that therapy is like a bra, it’s not once size fits all. Besides sizes, some people need running bras, others need wire support or nursing, etc. It’s a great analogy and I think for Moxie, it’s true that horse therapy is IT for her – it works, it’s her size, it’s her fit. It might not be the case for all kids with Down syndrome, but it certainly is for her.

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Mack loves the horses and usually is allowed to ride for a little bit at the end of one of Moxie’s sessions. He didn’t for this last one, preferring instead to just play with the goats, rabbits, swings and toys.

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Not a bad life for a kid.

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We’re leaving today.

Our hearts stay here on the Lost Coast and we’ll put on our adventuresome caps (or pants, or shoes or whatever you want to call it) and head on south.

Maybe we’ll see you there.

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